Broadband Data Improvement Act approved by House

This is just a super quick note to say that the House of Representatives approved the Broadband Data Improvement Act, (S. 1492). The Senate approved the bill last week.

The next step is for the House and the Senate to get together to resolve any differences and then it goes to the President for his signature. I’m not a policy expert; I have to hum I’m Just a Bill any time I try to figure out what’s going on with resolutions so I don’t know what the timing will be.

I’m hoping that it will hit the President long after the Wall Street issues have been resolved.

Broadband applications for home use

For our crafty readers, the Fergus Fall Daily Journal just published a fun article on holiday gifts you can create at home using your computer and often requiring a broadband connection.

If you’re looking for homemade presents this year and baking a fruit cake isn’t your cup of tea you might get some good ideas. But really I wanted to share it because I think this is a sign of ubiquitous need for broadband if not ubiquitous coverage.

Once the local paper assumes that the crafty readers can upload video to their blog you we’ve reached a critical mass.

Demo of Telepresence

Yesterday Bill Coleman and I got to tour the videoconferencing tools at Video Guidance. I wrote about them about a week ago and that scored us the invitation.

First I have to saw that I see very little HD anything in my real life. I might have to save up for an HD TV! First we saw their regular (HD) videoconferencing tools and they were pretty good. The picture and sound were clear and you could focus the camera (of the people you were looking at) remotely. But it was the telepresence that was really cool.

I took a video. While I love my FlipVideo – I’m the first to admit that the quality isn’t the best but I think it gives the impression enough to share…

(Sorry, video removed upon request of Tandberg, the Telepresence providers.)

We met with Dustin Artwohl, who works primarily with schools and government agencies. It was also fun to hear about some of his projects – such as the school project where districts can remotely save and store video. It seems as if it works like a Video on Demand works at home. They store the video centrally and anyone is the district can access it. So they can save commercial videos (with a site-wide license) and/or save videos of their own making. So say you had a native Mandarin speaking teacher, you could save all of her classes to use now and in the future.

Lakewood Telemedicine update

Happy Fall!  We are enjoying beautiful fall weather here in central MN.  Our telemedicine program is off to a great start already improving the quality of care provided to our customers.  Our six telemonitoring units are deployed and on active duty, monitoring daily vital signs and assisting the nurses in tracking their client’s health status.  One “win” we have had so far occurred after the nurse noticed her client’s heart rate was getting slower and slower during the week.  The nurse contacted the client, who at the time denied symptoms, but after checking with the MD, a heart medication was found to be the culprit.  The client was taken off the medication and the heart rate returned to normal.  Without this monitoring, the client may have had a number of days of dizziness, general malaise, or worse before the cause was determined. 

The next phase of our project will be marketing.  The telemedicine project manager and I have met with our marketing department to determine the best strategies for getting the word out about our new service.  While there are a few agencies in the area that have telemonitoring, there isn’t anyone that has this kind of technology which includes the Lifestream application- a content-management platform allowing access to information from any internet connection and disease specific content management.  The idea is that in the future, families separated by great distances will be able not only to call on the telephone, but actually see data showing that Grandma is doing well, or Dad answered on his monitor that he is having problems breathing, so he better have someone check on him. 

We are excited to be able to make a difference in health care!

light speed communityThe Blandin Foundation is supporting four standout broadband programs through the Light Speed program. The program’s purpose is to stimulate the deployment of bandwidth intensive applications that connect local institutions to area resident’s home. This post comes from a Light Speed community leader.

Senate Approves Broadband Data Bill

OK I’m a little late on the uptake for this one but the Broadband Data Improvement Act (S. 1492) passed in the Senate last week (September 26, 2008) in traduced by Commerce Committee Chairman Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii) and others (including AAmy Klobuchar (D-Minn.). The goal is “to improve the quality of Federal and State data regarding the availability and quality of broadband services and to promote the deployment of affordable broadband services to all parts of the Nation.”

The Broadband Data Improvement Act (according to the Senate press release) specifically would:

  • Direct the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to conduct inquiries into the deployment of advanced telecommunications services on an annual, rather than periodic, basis.
  • Direct the Census Bureau to include a question in its American Community Survey that assesses levels of residential computer use and dial-up versus broadband Internet subscribership.
  • Direct the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to develop broadband metrics that may be used to provide consumers with broadband connection cost and capability information and improve the process of comparing the deployment and penetration of broadband in the United States with other countries.
  • Direct the Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy to conduct a study evaluating the impact of broadband speed and price on small businesses.
  • Establish a program that would provide matching grants to State non-profit, public-private partnerships in support of efforts to more accurately identify barriers to broadband adoption throughout the State.

The Senate bill sounds a lot like the the “Broadband Census of America Act” (H.R. 3919), sponsored by Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), which passed in the House last November.

Advice for the Broadband Task Force

I’ve been asking folks in rural areas if they have any advice for the Minnesota Broadband Task Force. I started at the Blandin Broadband Strategy Board retreat. These are people who have been working with the Blandin Foundation on our broadband initiatives so they spend time thinking about broadband.

Next I went to Minnesota Development Conference. I spoke to people who live in or work with rural areas; they had some good advice too.

Google’s not happy with FCC White Space tests

Last month I wrote about the FCC tests on broadcast white spaces – the spaces between the channels that folks (such Google) want to use for wireless broadband.

Well, on Wednesday Google co-founder Larry Page went to the FCC to say that he wasn’t happy with the FCC testing. The tests were supposed to help the FCC determine any potential conflicts with other broadband channels if you open up the white spaces.

Here’s a description of the suspect testing from the Google Policy Blog:

Those tests were intended to assess whether white space device prototypes could sense the presence of wireless microphone signals. However actions suggest that wireless microphone operators actually transmitted not on their normal channels but instead on channels occupied by TV broadcast signals. For instance during the Fed Ex Field test, wireless microphones were improperly used on the very station that carried the broadcast of the game. As a result, the white spaces devices naturally could not detect the microphone signals, as they were hidden by the much more powerful TV signals. The White Spaces Coalition, of which Google is a member, offered a filing with the FCC in late August pointing out what had happened in the test.

It seems as if some folks are OK with the testing that was done and some aren’t. No surprises on who thinks which way – but Google was at the FCC pleading the case for White Space. The FCC is expected to come out with some news regarding White Space soon.