PacketFront Approved by USDA

PacketFrontWe like to keep an eye on our friends at PacketFront. Bernadine Joselyn just sent me some good news from them. Their Fiber-To-The-Home (FTTH) solution has attained Technical Acceptance by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS), this means that projects that receive RUS funding can choose PacketFront’s FTTH solution.

The RUS provides funding (generally loans, maybe only loans) to improve rural areas. The funding we’re talking about here is probably he Broadband Access Loan program, which provides loans for funding the costs of construction, improvement, and acquisition of facilities to provide broadband service to eligible rural communities.

Side note: The USDA proposed new rules to the broadband program earlietr this month.

Taken from the PacketFront press release, here are the highlights of their service:

The key component in PacketFront’s FTTH solution is the award-winning BECS control and provisioning system. BECS makes it possible for operators to build and run fully automated broadband networks with self-provisioning capabilities, in both open-access and retail business models. End users are able to self-subscribe to their own broadband services through a web-based portal, without any manual interaction between the service provider or network operator. This keeps operational costs low for the delivery and support of the services, while passing on to the consumer the savings from increased efficiencies. The PacketFront solution also consists of the SMT and HMT management tools for customer care and helpdesk responsibilities, as well as the ASR portfolio of Advanced Services Routers and the DRG family of customer premises equipment. The complete PacketFront FTTH solution has been Technically Accepted by RUS.

Universal Service Fund for Cell Phone Systems Capped

Matt Rezac sent me a great article today, from the Lincoln Journal Star (Funding for rural wireless faces threat).

The (optimistically) good news from the article is that apparently the FCC is planning to take a look at the Universal Service Fund. The USF is money collecting from telecommunications charges that goes to support telecommunications in rural areas. It’s a great to help an industry subsidize growth but the fund collection needs to change with new technology. (Folks with Internet phones are not currently charged.)

Until the reform is enacted (or planned) the FCC has proposed capping the amount of subsidies paid to improve cell phone systems in rural parts of the United States. This as the article states is bad news for rural areas, where providers need subsidies to build out their networks.

Rep. Lee Terry (R) has introduced legislation that would reform the fund in several ways, including a provision that would allow the fund to be used to subsidize broadband service to rural Nebraska.

Two facts from the article that I found specifically interesting:

  1. Since 1998 cell phone companies have received only $2 billion in subsidies compared to $24 billion for landline companies.
  2. In Nebraska, the number of cell phone lines exceeded the number of landline phones last year.

Celebrate Community Technology in Minneapolis! June 14th

Wireless MinneapolisIn Minneapolis on June 14, 2007, city officials, US Internet executives and other leaders will launch the effort to work with neighborhood and community groups to create six Minneapolis regional (Central, Downtown, North, Northeast, South, and Southwest) portals for the citywide wireless network.

This will also be an opportunity for the public to learn more about progress on construction of the wireless network, and give feedback about first regional portal page that will be established for downtown Minneapolis.

This event is free and open to the public; folks are encouraged to attend the entire event, or just the portions that interest them. Learn more on the Wireless Minneapolis web site.

US Can Still Welcome the Exaflood

“YouTube alone consumes as much bandwidth today as the entire Internet consumed in 2000.”

That’s just one quote I like from an Op Ed piece in the Minneapolis Star Tribune today (Treat coming data flood as an opportunity by Bruce Mehlman and Larry Irving). The article does a great job of outlining the growing demand of bandwidth and the exaflood.

The two points that stuck out for me include the fact that the army recently cutoff access to MySpace for soldiers because the drain on bandwidth. And the authors talk about bandwidth slowdown being the traffic jam of the future.

With such amazing weather over the weekend, I think that at least those of us in Minnesota took a few days off. I have had a deluge of email starting at about 7 am. Between that and the work required to delete the items from my in-box I have been frustrated by my own personal bandwidth traffic jam. (Aarrgh!)

Back to the article – the authors seem to be very positive about American’s future in regards to the Internet. That was refreshing since most articles I read seem to focus on our decline in world – but these authors seem to feel that all is not lost yet. Their recipe for success is pretty simple: “Minimize tax and regulatory constraints and maximize competition.”

DigElogROCORI: Community Blog

DigElogROCORI defines itself as part newspaper, part radio show, part television – only all online. They focus on news in Rockville, Cold Spring & Richmond, MN.

It’s really a nice site that does a great job of including blog, podcast, and vlog technologies. There are stories on the local baseball games, local cultural events, and current events. It also includes profiles of local citizens and stories are sponsored by local businesses.

I particularly enjoyed the 5 minute video of Cold Spring Maennerchor trip to Ireland. (I have to admit I recognized the Dublin pub they visited for lunch.) The trip was from 1995, which I think is just great and reflective of the kind of community participation they are getting to supply content to the site.

DigElogROCORI also keeps their readership up on their stats, which is fun to see. From August 1, 2006 to May 25, 2007 they could boast 80,000 stories viewed or 263 stories per day.

It would be fun to know how many were new visitors and how many were regular readers. If you were looking for a place to live – wouldn’t something like this be perfect to give you the flavor of a town in a way that the Chamber never could? (The Chamber is important too – but this is a great addition.) 

Broadband Data Improvement Act

Senator InouyeI have been enjoying myself, checking out fun community uses of the Internet. Thank goodness for the Speed Matters, which has been keeping its eye on the broadband policy ball.

Friday they sent out a notice on Senator Inouye’s (D-HI) Broadband Data Improvement Act (S.1492). The bill seeks to require:

• The FCC to collect better data on broadband deployment in the US
• The FCC to reevaluate the current definition of high speed internet (200 kilobits per second)
• The FCC to create $40 million five-year matching grant program for organizations engaged in efforts to identify barriers to broadband adoption in their state
• The Small Business Administration to evaluating the impact of broadband speed and price on small businesses.

It seems like a step in the right direction to me. Here’s a quick view on what others are saying: (I just love seeing both sides of an issue!) Continue reading

Blandin Foundation Grant Program Workshops

Get BroadbandOver the past two weeks, I have circled the state of MN conducting pre-application workshops for two new Blandin Foundation Grant Programs. It was quite a bit of fun because the workshop attendees were very interested in the programs and thought that the programs could help them launch some new and improved services.

The first program is the Open Network Feasibility Fund; this program will provide grants to communities to, as the name implies, study the feasibility of deploying an Open Network. A hallmark of the open network is that a network manager serves as a wholesaler to multiple retail telecommunications providers. There are many examples of this strategy in Europe; here in the USA, the best example is the UTOPIA project in Utah. A number of cities were extremely interested in this program as they have been considering their telecommunications options for some time and are ready to move forward in their analysis of how to improve their telecommunications services. The Foundation has committed $100,000 to this program. Individual communities can apply for up to $25,000 and multiple community applications can be up to $40,000.

Gary Fields is lead consultant on this program and is available to help communities through the application process. He can be reached at glfields@comcast.net.

The second program is the Light Speed Program. The purpose of Light Speed is to help stimulate the deployment of new broadband intensive applications that connect from a local institution to the home. Applications can be for up to $50,000. Many attendees were excited about the possibilities of this program, especially those in the health care and education industries. Technology is having a big impact on home health care and we had lots of interest from home health care providers, both for the elderly and those with disabilities. Better connections from health care providers to doctors’ home was also volunteered as an application that would provide great benefits to patients and for doctors’ quality of life. Educators were interested in using technology in new ways to reach new students or recover ones lost to home schooling. There was some exciting discussion about using mobile technology to reach students where they live – which is, wherever they are connected!

Bill Coleman is the lead consult on this program and is also available to help people through the application process. He can be reached at bill@communitytechnologyadvisors.com.  

Both RFPs are available on the Blandin Foundation web site.