More problems with Mapping – due to short deadlines?

Thanks to Cor Wilson for sending the heads up on an article in Public Knowledge on the problems with mapping based on the experience in Texas and Tennessee.

The problem in Texas was that the State was that the RFP was done too quickly, it was open to nonprofit organizations only – and worst of all, that nonprofit status requirement was not clearly stated. (There’s more but that’s the Reader’s Digest version.) In the end, the contract went to Connected Nation.

In Tennessee, there wasn’t a RFP – the contract was simply awarded to Connected Nation – because they had done a good job with Kentucky and this was a similar project. Naturally “good job” is in the eye of the beholder. Also once you look at the contract it focuses on branding as being as much a primary goal as mapping.

So that’s the article from Public Knowledge.

All of this reminds me of how quickly the stimulus funding applications will go as well and how that gives the advantage to the slick – not necessarily the ones who need it. Now it’s been a big game of hurry up and wait for potential applicants – but once the NOFA is out (and shouldn’t that be today if they want to hit the before July 1 deadline?) it will go fast.

A huge part of the process is how you write the application – and I am concerned that the best and/or most deserving projects won’t have what it takes to get the best application done in time – after all that’s part of what made them the un- and underserved in the first place. If they were slick – they’d have better broadband already!

I hope that we’ll see more partnerships like the Blandin Foundation, Lake County and Hiawatha Broadband where folks with NOFA (or at least proposal) experience are partnering with the folks who need the help.

Hayfield Broadband moves forward

According to the Rochester Post-Bulletin, Jaguar Communications, a competitive local exchange carrier based in Owatonna, will soon be offering FTTH in Hayfield, Minnesota.

It’s interesting to compare Hayfield’s path with a community such as Lake County. In Lake County, there is a community push. In Hayfield, Jaguar has taken the lead. I want to include a couple of paragraphs from the Post-Bulletin story, I think they’ve done a great job of describing the trials and tribulations a commercial provider may have to overcome before getting permission:

The final installation of the network is surprisingly easy; the planning to get to this point took years.

A new utility company must obtain permission from many state and federal agencies as well as each county, township and municipality in its territory.

In appearances at Claremont city council meetings, Hayfield city council meetings and Dodge County planning and zoning meetings, representatives from Jaguar have estimated they have dealt with more than 100 agencies or entities to get to this point.

I’m not advocating a community versus commercial approach or vice versa – I think the answer will be different for each community – but it sure seems that with both approaches the road could be smoother.

Hearing Jaguar’s story reminds me of the many conversations with the Ultra High-Speed Broadband Task Force on the role of government. It’s a challenging conversation for the Task Force – but clearly even if you can’t define it – government does play a role in broadband deployment.

Lake County Broadband moves forward

According to the Lake County News Chronicle, the Lake County Board passed a resolution that authorizes the chairman to sign and the county to submit a Rural Broadband Access Loan and Loan Guarantee Program Application with the Rural Utilities Service.

The County Attorney still needs to approve it, but it’s on its way! You can learn more about the project on the Lake County web site.

Irish broadband rocks

I really enjoyed the recent article in BroadbandCencus praising Ireland’s approach to broadband – partially because I’m in Ireland this summer.

So I thought it might be worth adding my own two cents having lived here before and being super happy with my broadband this time around. Last time I was here I used Eircom, the main broadband provider in Ireland. We lived in suburban Dublin for a year, so finding a provider wasn’t tough.

This time around we’re doing more traveling. For example this week I’m in Dromahair – a town 10 miles outside Sligo. The population is about 500. I heard sheep on my morning walk. We’re staying at a friend’s house. He has broadband; DSL with a wireless network throughout the house. But even if that didn’t work out I was able to get mobile broadband fairly cheaply – with no long contracts.

I have mobile broadband through Meteor. I have a month-long pass for 20 euros; however the gadget I needed was 60 euros. (A daily pass is 5 euros.) While the connection was definitely faster in Dublin, it works here too.

More than anything that’s what I’ve liked here – the options for nomads and visitors, which means access with no long contracts. In the past we have confined traveling to anywhere with a hotel where I could get broadband – this has opened us up. It’s a great equalizer.

New FCC Team

The new FCC really started to take shape late last week. On Thursday Julius Genachowski was confirmed as FCC Chairman. As the Benton Foundation reported, that wasn’t the end of the good news for the Obama Administration. They also confirmed Commissioner Robert McDowell for a second FCC term. And Larry Strickling is now named assistant secretary of Commerce for communications and information.

Acting FCC Chairman Michael Copps will return to being Commissioner Michael Copps. Obama has also nominated Mignon Clyburn and Meredith Attwell Baker for the FCC.

And while I’m on the FCC, they have recently approved the merger of Centurytel and Embarq. The criticism is that the FCC haven’t put enough demands on the merger.

Telemedicine essential to healthcare reform

telehealthThanks to Ann Higgins for sending me word on a recent white paper, National Telemedicine Initiatives: Essential to Healthcare Reform.

This report details the value of telemedicine:

In our view, innovative telemedicine systems have already demonstrated the potential to:
• Redress the inequities in access to all levels of health resources (primary, secondary, and tertiary);
• Enhance health system efficiency, clinical decision making, and prescription ordering.
• Promote patient-centered care, at lower cost, and in local environments.
• Increase the effectiveness of chronic disease management in longterm care institutions, and especially in the home environment.
• Promote individual adoption of healthy lifestyles and self-care.

Looking at that list, telemedicine seems like a no-brainer, but there are barriers. There’s the inequity of access to broadband both in terms of access for providers and patients, there’s the cost of implementing technology solutions (or any new solutions) on the provider’s end, and (I think this is the most salient point) there’s a need to change the reimbursement scheme.

Providers are not compensated adequately for remote patient visits. (Maybe that’s why the Electronic Health Records seem to garner more attention within the healthcare industry.) So there are disincentives to promote or implement it – even though as has been pointed out telemedicine can enhance efficiency and increase effectiveness. Healthcare is sacrificing long term goals for short term compensation. One thing that strikes me when reading this is how well it fits in with the FCC’s Rural Broadband Strategy and the idea that broadband is interdisciplinary, not its own discrete subject – to use a school analogy. For so long broadband has been looked at a separate issue – it’s time to integrate.

We need to develop policies that promote the efficiency and effectiveness of telemedicine by providing adequate compensation. To me it seems like that would be time well spent. Yes it would take time and budget to assess and develop a new process – but I think the FCC Rural Broadband Strategy gives credence to the value of such strategic and integrated thinking and I think this white paper on Healthcare reform demonstrates the potential payback – both in terms of money and quality of life for patients.

Klobuchar applauds Red Wing’s broadband with road plan

Just a quick note on Senator Klobuchar’s letter to the editor in the Red Wing Republican Eagle. Red Wing promotes a policy of installing broadband conduits at the same time that roads are being torn up, which isn’t surprising as it’s a policy that she too has promoted.

It is a plan that makes so much sense – a little foresight and information sharing can save so much!