Egan is Hiring a Broadband Consultant

Earlier this month, Eagan City Council voted to hire an Internet consultant to help them make broadband a priority in their city.

Wow! What a smart idea. It seems so simple and obvious – but lots of communities don’t go this route. In fairness, you have to have the money to hire someone but I have to think that it’s an investment that pays for itself quickly and in the long term.

In an article in the local Eagan paper, the city council pointed out that they need someone with more experience and/or expertise with broadband than they the city council or broadband task force currently have and they cannot rely on volunteer support.

Eagan’ broadband task force has been meeting for at least a year. They have talked with the incumbent providers with differing levels of success – but they recognize that they are impasse and the wisest way to move forward is to get help to make decisions that will create solutions that last. I’m sure that hiring a consultant will be another step in the right direction.

Map of Fiber Areas in MN

OK I have finally done it. I have created a map of fiber areas in Minnesota based on information I gleaned from an earlier blog post. I was hoping to find an easy way to paste the map into the blog post but I failed. However, the map is only a click away: MyMaps at MapBuilder.net

I have tracked the communities with fiber in red, the communities with partial fiber or that are planning fiber in yellow, and communities with wireless (community-wide wireless) in blue. Just click on the marker for a brief description of broadband in a given area.

If you have any additions or comments please, send them my way. Thanks!

Greater Minnesota Telehealth Broadband Initiative

telehealthYesterday I spoke with Karen Welle, who was gracious enough to talk to me on the day after Christmas about the Greater Minnesota Telehealth Broadband Initiative.

Our conversation left me feeling very positive about the future of telelhealth in Minnesota and reminded me about the good, the bad, and the ugly of receiving federal funds.

A quick background:

In November (2007), the FCC dedicated more than $417 million for the construction of 69 statewide or regional broadband telehealth networks  in 42 states and three U.S. territories under the Rural Health Care Pilot Program (RHCPP).

In Minnesota, the Greater Minnesota Telehealth Broadband Initiative was submitted by an alliance of the Minnesota Telehealth Network, Medi-sota Network, North Region Health Alliance, SISU Medical Systems and Minnesota Association of Community Mental Health Programs, New Connections. Their plan was to build upon an established vision of a strong integrated rural telehealth care delivery system supported by a telecommunications infrastructure that will ultimately allow any patient in any community in Minnesota and bordering states to connect to any provider in Minnesota and beyond. The goal is to promote technical standards and operational best practices to reduce costs, boost performance, and improve user-friendliness of telehealth application. Continue reading

Bill Moyers Special on FCC Recent Vote

OK I wasn’t going to post until after Christmas but I just found out that Bill Moyers has a great special on the FCC media vote. I ran into because I was watching an even better Bill Moyers special on American democracy and capitalism. (It was an early Christmas email from my dad.)

The Moyers special is pretty damning to Chairman Martin and his “Republican commission” and how he put into play the effort to provide greater power to media monopolies. I think the discussion really focuses on the newspaper ruling more than the other issues – but the 10 minute video episode is very interesting!

I hope everyone is having a great holiday.

MN’s Jaguar Communications featured in ISP Planet

ISP-Planet recently featured (Jaguar Communications’ Rural Fiber Network) a Minnesota-based company, Jaguar Communications.

Jaguar is a local ISP that provides (according to their web site) Local, Long Distance, and DSL service to (the article talks about the fiber service they provide but I didn’t find descriptions on their web site yet:
• Albert Lea
• Austin
• Blooming Prairie
• Chatfield
• Faribault
• Glenville
• Northfield
• Owatonna
• Rochester
• St. Charles
• Stewartville
• Waseca

According to the article, Jaguar just connected the first customers in a rural network that will deliver the same triple play services (voice, TV, and data) that customers can already get in the major cities. In 2006, they received a $4,641,000 USDA Rural Development loan.

The article does a good job of detailing the process that Jaguar founder, Donny Smith, went through to the process he went to start his company and the challenges he ran into with incumbent providers when he was providing phone service and later when trying to lay fiber, which he started in 2001.

I love the story of their first fiber customer:

The first residential customer was connected to fiber in August of 2006, Smith says. “This customer had no copper lines to their home and the phone company wanted $30,000 to hook up the line in winter, so fiber from us cost less.”

Sadly these insane fees seem all to commonplace in rural areas.

Apparently service costs $119.99 per month for: local calling, numerous phone features, 3.0 Mbps / 768 Kbps internet, 5 e-mail addresses, anti-spam and anti-virus, and 80 channels of digital TV. Installation of fiber from curb to the home however is $600 with a 1-year contract; it’s free with a 5-year contract.

Visit the article for more information on the network plan and even a list of equipment they use. Smith provides a lot of detail on the technology – for those who like tech details.

National Broadband Goals Met?

The Benton Foundation recently called to task the Bush Administration and Acting NTIA Administrator Meredith Baker for claiming that we’re there as far as universal broadband goes.

Just like my 3 year old who is not faster her older sisters – the administration seems to think that if you shout “I won” as loud as you can that’s what counts.

As the folks at Benton point out – in 2004 President Bush set out a goal to have universal, affordable access to broadband by 2007. According to a September 2007 report by Pew Internet & American Life – about half of all Americans half broadband at home, which might indicate that broadband is neither universal nor affordable.

For more information – Benton’s report, Broadband for All is definitely worth the read. The stats and stories are not necessarily new – but they have put an interesting historical spin on our situation in the US and the need to act soon or be left behind. (I love the analogy of French using water power to build fountains for the rich and the UK used it to create jobs for everyone.) Continue reading

Brownsville is Going WiMAX

Thanks to Ann Higgins for sending me the fun article on Brownsville Texas and their plans to go with WiMAX (BrownsvilleTexas, Gets the WiMAX).

Brownsville lans to unveil their WiMAX system this fall. The reasons they chose WiMax were security and stability. As the article points out, “Because WiMAX uses signals at licensed frequencies not open to the public, the city can count on its data moving quickly and privately without interference.”

The network is for municipal traffic, not the general public. It was (or is being) built by IBM. The article (in Government Technology magazine) does a nice job of talking about the specifics of the network, the funding, and the reasoning behind the decision. I think it’s interesting reading to anyone who might also be in a position to be investigating network options for their community.

You can learn even more about the project in Brownsville in the following articles:

IBM Gets $4 Million Wireless Contract From Brownsville Texas (Mar 2007) – from the IBM perspective and explains the choice of WiMAX

Gulf Coast town disaster proofs with backup data center (Mar 2007) – an interesting perspective on how the new network got started.

Brownsville Turns to IBM to Build Wireless Internet Service Provider Network Using WiMAX Technology (Mar 2007) – more from the city’s perspective and what they plan to do on the network