Blandin Broadband initiative gets nice recognition

We have fun news to share for the Blandin Foundation and the many people who help the Foundation promote and support ultra speed broadband. Governor Pawlenty sent a nice letter commending Blandin Foundation, among others, for leadership in laying groundwork that led to the establishment of an ‘Ultra-High Speed Broadband Task Force’. The Task Force will make recommendations to the Governor and legislature regarding the establishment of a high speed broadband goal for the state and a plan to implement that goal. This is the legislation that Jim Hoolihan commended in his commentary published May 8 in the Pioneer Press. Establishment of such a Task Force has been a key objective of Blandin’s Broadband Initiative.

Phoenix Center says US is on track internationally with broadband

Phoenix Center ReportThanks to Ann Higgins for sending me info on the Phoenix Center report, The Broadband Efficiency Index: What Really Drives Broadband Adoption Across the OECD?

They reshuffle OECD numbers to claim that the US is holding its own with broadband adoption when you figure in mitigating circumstances. So, that makes me doubtful – although if you jump to the recommendations they win me over.

The recommendation is (and I’m taking great liberties here) to invest in the mitigating circumstances such as education and computer ownership. They also allow that the answer will be different for each country depending on what the local mitigating circumstances are.

So they come up with a prediction for broadband adoption for a country based on “income, income inequality, education attainment, age, and so forth”. Then they compare the prediction with the actual broadband adoption.

Using their equations, the US fares better. “Significantly, the United States has an efficiency index of 96.7%, which is slightly higher than the purported “broadband miracles” of Japan and Korea (96.3%, 95.8%).” There are a few poorer countries that also do much better with this method of calculating broadband success.

In the end it reminds me of every quote I’ve ever heard about statistics – but as I said they won me over in by recommending that we take a look at the roots of the problems – the mitigating circumstances – to improve broadband adoption.

Also they bring up a good point by recognizing that each country has different mitigating circumstances. People try to dismiss the OECD ranking because of one factor or another – such as population density. Well this report demonstrates that sometimes population density is a factor and sometimes it isn’t – so to focus unilaterally on population density to dismiss the OECD rankings, doesn’t work. In that respect this methodology is more inclusive.

I looked into the Phoenix Center a bit. They are a nonprofit think tank that strives to promote free markets. The Phoenix Center President is Lawrence J. Spiwak, former senior attorney with the Competition Division in the FCC’s Office of General Counsel.

Notes for the Blandin Broadband Strategy Board Meeting

Bill Coleman has asked me to post materials for the Blandin Broadband Strategy Board meeting. I believe that the meeting is today.

So here is a PowerPoint presentation and 4 handouts:

  1. A look at possible broadband board priorities
  2. Text on S.F. No. 1918 – the bill on the High Speed Broadband Goal Task Force
  3. Information on Intelligent Community Forum competition
  4. Cook County Review

I assume that these documents are open to the public – if not you may find them gone tomorrow.  I found them to be interesting and suspect that others might be as well.

A lawsuit in the works in Monitcello

Thanks to Lynne Dahl-Fleming for sending me the following update on the Get Broadband project in Monticello. It will be interesting to see what happens with the lawsuit. Things have gone so well in Monticello that I’m sure this will be just a pebble on the path to broadband – and hopefully an opportunity for other communities to learn how to handle the situation as lawsuits from incumbents seem to be on the rise.

(There have been some nice articles in the Monticello Times on this story – but unfortunately they’re not online yet. Update: thanks to Lynne for the link to the stories, which are now online! I really enjoyed the editorial (I’d include the link when/if I can – again thanks to Lynne for the udpate link!) from Mike Shoemer who while clearly a fan of TDS calls their lawsuit and accelerated plan for FTTH “shady”. Like many incumbents in other areas, TDS has taken a “wait and see” approach to network upgrades, letting the municipality do a lot of their business and market development and trying to take the lead once the municipality has already invested time and money into a public network.)

On May 21st the City of Monticello obtained commitments from private investors to purchase revenue bonds sufficient to finance the establishment of a city owned and operated telecommunications utility called “FiberNet Monticello”. Obtaining investor support for the FiberNet Monticello business plan is a true demonstration of the financial viability of the project and a key milestone in development of the system. An important factor in the success to date is the overwhelming support of the citizens as reflected in the 74% favorable vote In the September 2007 referendum.

On May 22nd the City Council was prepared to meet to vote on authorizing sale of the bonds. Less than 48 hours prior to that intended vote TDS Telecom through its subsidiary Bridgewater Telephone served a lawsuit against the City claiming that state laws do not grant the right to use revenue bonds for establishment of a telecommunications system, despite express language in the statute allowing revenue bonds to be issued for revenue based “utilities and public conveniences”.

The City is confident that it is well within its legal rights to use revenue bonds to build a municipal network and that it will prevail against the suit. The City will vigorously oppose the law suit. Defense of the lawsuit is partially afforded through the City’s membership in the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust.

Both the timing and the grounds alleged in the suit lead to the impression that the suit was intended to interfere with the award of the bonds and create additional costs for the City project.

The City plans to move forward with the project and its bond managers will continue to prepare for the bond sale which will include a disclosure to investors of the existence of the lawsuit.

All other aspects of the FiberNet Monticello project have gone forward successfully on schedule including network engineering, construction planning and negotiating a management contract.

The goals of the FiberNet project remain the same: choice of service provider; competitive rates; local service; local ownership; economic development and economic returns to the community. We will need the continued support of the citizens of Monticello to overcome the legal obstacles TDS/Bridgewater Telephone is placing in the path of FiberNet Monticello.

Broadband Update for Wadena

Thanks to Dean Uselman for sending me an update for Wadena’s Get Broadband project:

Wadena has partnered with Minnesota State Community & Technical College, Wadena Campus to offer a series of Internet training classes, “Internet 101 Being a Better Internet User”. The first two classes have focused on a curriculum for the general public and beginners and have been a great success serving more than 50 new and learning Internet users.

A business-focused class was on May 21st called “Open for Business, Internet marketing 101”. The class targeted business owners and focused on marketing their business and online sales through high speed Internet. The class was well attended and several new websites for local businesses will come from it.

Tri-County Hospital in Wadena has completed the installation of a fiber optic line to their satellite clinic in Henning as a match of $7,500.00 of the Blandin Foundation Get Broadband Grant. According to Dennis Miley, Hospital Administrator and Cindy Uselman, Grants and Programs Manager, Tri-County Hospital has become the industry leader in providing telemedicine services and educating staff and physicians at hospitals throughout greater Minnesota and Eastern North Dakota on the implementation of telemedicine using broadband.

Dean also sent me a great take off on Abbott and Costello’s Who’s on First with a techie spin… Continue reading

Public Private Fiber-to-the-Home in Powell Wyoming

Thanks to David Russell of Calix for the head up on the progress in Powell, Wyoming. He is out west helping them celebrate.

The City of Powell has built a public-private partnership with network service provider TCT; and municipal-broadband- network facilitator U.S. MetroNets (USM) to build PowelLink – municipal Fiber-to-the-Home network.

The network will provide high-bandwidth advanced IP services to both residents and businesses, and will serve as a magnet for this community of 5,500 residents in northern Wyoming. USM is managing the service, the City is providing access to the network and TCT will be providing services.

It will be great to see how this works out. It sounds like a viable strategy to me. USM has been able to obtain private funding.

Broadband is economical and environmental

economic and environmentalThanks to Bill Coleman for passing on a paper by Joe Fuhr from Widener University. Bill saw Joe’s presentation at the Intelligent Community Forum and passed it (Broadband Services: Economic and Environmental Benefits) on to me.

His “study finds that wide adoption and use of broadband applications can achieve a net reduction of 1 billion tons of greenhouse gas over 10 years, which, if converted into energy saved, would constitute 11% of annual U.S. oil imports.”

Here are the potential savings:

  1. Email and other electronic communications reduce the need for letters thus reducing the need for paper. Reduction in first-class mail, plastics saved from downloading music/video and office paper from emails and electronic documents could reduce emissions by 67.2 million tons.
  2. Telecommuters use less gas to get to work thus saving gallons of gas. Over the next ten years that is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 247.7 million tons due to less driving, 28.1 million tons due to reduced office construction, and 312.4 million tons because of energy saved by businesses.
  3. E-commerce required less square footage for shop space thus saving the energy required to operate shops. Over the next ten years that is predicted to reduce greenhouse gases by 206.3 million (U.S.) tons.
  4. Teleconferences reduce the need for business travel – again saving gallons of gas for driving and/or flying to conferences and meetings. Over the next ten years that is expected to reduce greenhouse emissions by 199.8 million tons, if 10% of airline travel could be replaced by teleconferencing.

Joe points out that these savings will only be realized when broadband become ubiquitous. Right now I think cost is a big deterrent for many potential subscribers. Perhaps distilling the savings (monetary is probably better than environmental) to a family or individual level might help some potential subscribers find a way to shift expense from one bucket to another in the family budget to make broadband more affordable.

I like Joe’s paper even more than the Broadband Better than Roads report I read earlier this year.