New leaders for FCC, RUS & NTIA

Thanks to Richard Dechert for the heads up on the changes at the federal level. Julius Genchowski has been nominated for FCC Chair. Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein has been named Rural Utilities Service division of the Agriculture Department. Larry Strickling has been nominated as new head of the National Telecommunications & Information Administration.

Here’s a little info on each:

Julius Genochowski – had been part of Obama’s transition team. He went to Harvard with Obama, has previously worked with the FCC and was the managing director of venture capital firm Rock Creek Ventures.

Jonathan Adelstein – “A life-long public servant, Adelstein has dedicated his career to fighting for the public interest. As a Commissioner, his approach is guided by the key principle that the public interest means securing access to communications for everyone, including those the market may leave behind.” (Taken from the FCC site.)

Larry Strickling – was the policy coordinator for the Obama for America, has worked for the FCC, and was Chief Regulatory and Chief Compliance Officer at Broadwing Communications.

Notes from MN Broadband Coalition Meeting

Last week a handful of Minnesota Broadband Coalition members met in St Paul. The meeting was informal and kind of spontaneous and mostly we talked about the stimulus funding and the Minnesota Broadband Task Force. (You can access the complete notes on the MBC site.)

The meeting went well. Amalia Deloney had just returned from DC so she knew what the feeling out there was/is. Mike Wassenaar talked about his Community Technology Empowerment Project, which has been successful in the Twin Cities in helping bridge the digital divide. A few of us had been to lots of the Task Force meetings – so we knew they were looking for content from folks with good ideas. It was a good lesson on how we’re smarter together.

It sounds hokey but it was like making stone soup – except the soup started with billions of dollars of stimulus funding. I think now is a good time to start thinking about and talking to the folks you could partner with to get funding.

Broadband not a big part of Eveleth’s Plan

Eveleth recently posted their plans for the future. The plan includes the following:

In the future, Eveleth will be a quaint, vibrant city of historical and cultural assets with quality businesses and recreational opportunities. Residents will enjoy a diverse housing stock, efficient transportation connections, and quality community facilities.

But as one sharp reader from the Minnesota Voices Online list points out, it seems to downplay the role of broadband:

Broadband Internet
Eveleth currently has broadband internet service in several areas throughout town, however some areas do not have access to broadband infrastructure. Broadband is a valuable asset that can encourage residential and commercial development.

Recommendation U5: Encourage the upgrade and expansion of broadband infrastructure in Eveleth.

What’s promising is that a group of citizens is getting together to talk about how they can improve upon the plan. You can learn more on the MVO list.

Minnesota Task Force Meeting Place Change

Here’s the latest on the Task Force meetings. I will plan to attend and take notes. I belive they will still be tkaing notes from the Public if you want to add your two cents.

The next two Broadband Task Force meetings will be held on Friday, April 24th and Friday, May 15th at the Thomson Reuters office in Eagan. The structure for these two meetings will primarily be report writing working sessions. We will break out into small groups to review and edit the work that has been submitted so far.

Chaska police use blogs to catch criminals

I’m not 100 percent sure how I feel about this story. The Chaska Police have started to post surveillance video of suspects on their blog. I caught the story last night on the Channel Five News.

The blog appears to be very new – and it appears as if one case has been has already been solved, presumably with help from a blog reader. I guess if it were my store that had been robbed, I’d like it; or if were my child that was abducted, I’d love it.

It kind of hammers on home the idea that Big Brother is always watching. I just feel like it might be opening the door to vigilantes or camera hungry criminals.

Blandin Broadband Strategy Board working on stimulus funding

Blandin FoundationYesterday’s Blandin Broadband Strategy Board meeting focused on the federal stimulus dollars for broadband. We all had lots more questions than answers as the federal agencies seem to be more focused on gathering information than dispersing it at this point. The consensus around the table is that announcements of Notice of Funds Available (NOFA) will be probably happen in May, possibly sooner, maybe later. It is expected that there will be three funding rounds at both NTIA and USDA.

The other consensus thought is that states and communities all around the country are getting prepared to apply for these funds, even in advance of the announcement of program rules. Partnerships between private sector providers and governments and between health, education and government are all being explored and developed.

Some of our board members explained how their organizations are preparing to compete for these funds. Our health care representative, Jon Linnell in Warren, talked about working with his 24 member hospitals. DEED Commissioner McElroy noted state government efforts and how Governor Pawlenty has tasked DEED and Commerce with the broadband areas of funding.

Eric Lampland of Lookout Point Communications talked about the evolving services that his firm is offering to help communities get ready to apply for stimulus funds for FTTP networks. The emphasis is on a quick process that positions communities with information on needs, competitive environment, preliminary engineering and finance.

Wait and see or move forward somewhat blindly. That is the question. Our board advises getting moving so that if your first applications are rejected, you will have additional opportunities to apply. Stand by for more information.

Domestic on-shoring possible with broadband

In my quest for good Minnesota broadband stories, I ran into Sylvia Wulf and CrossUSA. Sylvia works as a Systems Analyst for CrossUSA in Sebeka. Sylvia grew up just north of that area but ended up in Sebeka because her parents moved there.

Sylvia lived and worked as a programmer in California. When she got divorced, she moved with her two sons back to Minnesota. Her parents had left them a house in Sebeka. Unfortunately, she couldn’t get a job as a programmer in the area. So she got different jobs, working in retail or at a local hotel. Actually she often worked two jobs as she raised her sons.

In 1998 that changed, she was one of the first employees hired at CrossUSA and she has been there ever since. As Sylvia said, “It has been a Godsend and that is not stretching the truth.”

CrossUSA provides IT consulting staff to companies through-out the United States; generally the staff works offsite at a CrossUSA office, although some work onsite and a couple telecommute. CrossUSA is an alternative to off-shore resourcing. They are head quartered in Burnsville, MN and besides Sebeka also have a Rural Development Center in Eveleth, they employ about 15 people in Burnsville, 25 in Sebeka, and 30 in Eveleth.

Sylvia currently is a Team Lead at CrossUSA, she and her group support a legacy IBM mainframe system for UnitedHealth Group’s Corporate Systems, which is part UHG’s Accounts Receivable Department.

CrossUSA gets broadband from West Central Telephone Association. WCTA seems to be another local provider that’s doing a good job serving the needs of their customers. Here’s the info they sent me on Cross USA’s connection:

Cross USA-Currently have 5 Meg/5 Meg Internet Service, we are serving that Internet connection with a VLAN. Over that Internet connection they are using VoiP to connect to their other locations. They are planning an upgrade to their phone system this fall to an all IP based phone system which will also support TDM.

For Sylvia, having a job that meets her qualifications has made a huge difference in the quality of her life. She is down to one job and is working a job that meets her skills.

As Sylvia says, “We [CrossUSA] have had a very positive effect on the economy of Sebeka and the surrounding community. Most of us own our own homes, all of us near lakes and resorts and other recreation areas, away from the city and all it means.”