Cook County FTTP RFP

Cook County recently posted a Request for Proposal looking for “qualified firms to submit a proposal for the design and construction management of a planned FTTP network. This RFP is specifically for engineering services to design a fiber network throughout the County and to then manage the construction of the network.” You can learn more on the Cook County web site. Good luck!

Final Minnesota Ultra High-Speed Task Force Meeting: A Consensus

blog_taskforceToday was the final Task Force meeting. The recommendations will be published one week from today. Six months ago, I wasn’t so sure that this report was going to be finished in time. But it is. One of the most impressive aspects of the task force and the recommendations has been that they have been reached through consensus.

Today one member defined consensus as that means none of us agreed with everything – but it also means that everyone at least agreed enough to consent. Attending the meetings has been a study in consensus and collaboration. There was only one time where it felt like the conversation dipped into unfriendly tones – despite the fact that the topics covered were often close to the hearts of the members and the opinions were at polar ends of the spectrum.

There weren’t any actual votes on issues. To gauge support for an issue they did informal hand count and talked through potential hot buttons until they reached an solution that stood somewhere in the middle.

Some members would like to have seen higher speeds promoted, some people aren’t as interested in an ongoing broadband entity, others supported a strong statement of symmetry – but they compromised.

Here are the notes from the last session:
The Task Force has worked with consensus. Today should be a day for combing through to make sure that we agree with what’s in the report – and that shouldn’t be a stretch since we’ve been working with consensus.

There has been compromise. There are areas where each of us might feel we’ve gone too far or not far enough – but that’s part of compromise.
• Primary interest is connectivity for students. I think the report accomplishes it. There was a nice paragraph on this – we ‘ll want to put back in.
• There are some grammar changes
• Need available, affordable access
• print is small on map pages – because the maps come from the Connected Nation wall maps
• Did we take out the idea of having a staff to support broadband? No, just moved.
• Need to post archived reports on the Task Force web site; Mike O will be adding a report from the MCA in 1985
• Changed titles and corrected names
• Question on symmetry – did we want to add a sentence? Didn’t we have a sentence?
• We had talked about bonding as a possible funding issue – should we pull that out in the exec summary
• Add Minnesota ranking to charts where MN isn’t included – or otherwise find a way to call out the comparison to MN – that opens a can of worms in regard to quality of reports. Per capita stats can be misleading
• There is some concern about how the report will read to urban legislators. Perhaps we should have had a session in Frogtown.
o One concern is that the urban areas tend to have access to broadband but affordability and computer ownership are the issues.
o Broadband access doesn’t necessarily mean access for a community
• Need to get folks to recognize that broadband is available for communications and as a way to transport goods and services. Adding that spin will help garner support from the transportation folks. “BB access to the Internet has traditionally been communications; the TF has come to understand that the Internet can also be thought of as part of our transportation infrastructure.
• Most legislators will read the cover letter and the executive summary.
• What about adding fixed wireless? It’s growing especially in rural areas.
• Maybe we need to explain what IP address per capita would matter.
• We trash the FCC and state our minimum speed is 10 Mbps at 2015; we need to make sure that we add that year.
• Do we expect to see a map of access in the future?
• Spin the trashing of the FCC and try to be more encouraging.
• We should have built in MN’s early leadership with such things as gopher
• Page 60 – add the Blandin quote. Their response to the recommendations was quite good. (That’s a direct quote.) “The Blandin Foundation appreciates the hard work…”
• The pictures are from Minnesota.
• This is definitely a consensus report; although I disagree with having an ongoing board
• Maybe there’s a way to indicate the nature of consensus means no one member agrees with every portion
• We need to cite sources so that legislators realize that we did not come up with them – especially when it comes to projections

Ghoulish tale of Net Neutrality

old_phoneThe folks at the Daily Yonder are so good. Wally Bowen has written a timely history of Net Neutrality. Timely because of the FCC’s movement towards Net Neutrality and timely because of the ghostly Halloween twist. I love the image of early lack of Net Neutrality when all of the phone calls came through the local operator and if she liked you, Mable could send all of the calls to you and none to your competitor. Apparently that need for neutrality spurred a Kansas undertaker to create the first telephone switch to bypass Mable. Bowen also tells the story of the Carterphone and how one man’s early remote phone started the discussion of the incumbents opening up their wires to competitors.

NTIA/RUS grant announcements in December?

Last week I heard something about the NTIA/RUS planning to make grant announcements on November 7. That seemed ambitious to me. Turns out it was ambitious. According to Broadcasting & Cable, NTIA head Larry Strickling said Tuesday: “We’re going to take a few more weeks here to get this right…I will not fund a bad application.”

The article goes on to detail a Senate Commerce Committee’s Communications Subcommittee oversight hearing on the NTIA/RUS broadband stimulus funding process. They asked some good questions: Was the definition of remote appropriate? Should the funding come after the National Broadband policy? They aren’t new questions – but they are good.

NTIA/RUS applications: recommendations and critiques

StimulatingBroadband is gathering recommendations and comments that states are sending to the NTIA/RUS for broadband stimulus projects in their area. Minnesota has elected not to share this list. So I wanted to see how other states have ranked some of the national projects. I won’t pretend that I read the 20 or so applications word by word, but I scanned them and thought they were very interesting.

Some states gave very long lists of recommended projects, such as Virginia with 66. Some states really whittled the list; Massachusetts narrowed it down to three. One state decided not to offer recommendations (Alaska). Most states seemed to focus on infrastructure. Some states seem to have been involved with the broadband stimulus project from the onset, such as Vermont. Some states had detailed descriptions of the considerable constraints of the recommendation process (no metrics, uneven applications…); other states, such as Kansas, shared their own metrics for judging applications.

I didn’t see a lot of national applications mentioned in the mix. I noticed a couple of states mentioned Connected Nation projects (Kansas and South Carolina). I saw Level 3 (CA, FLA, GA, KS, TX) was mentioned a few times. I saw a lot of wireless projects and a few fiber networks. I saw some rural areas and some not-so-rural places mentioned. I saw some local resources partner with national resources such as the National Education Foundation’s online courses and on-site instructors. Lots of libraries and schools got involved. (I have notes on the specific state recommendations below.)

While I was looking at the state recommendations, Minnesota’s Freedom Foundation was looking at the Minnesota applications. MinnPost ran a recent article on findings from the Freedom Foundation, which “actively advocates the principles of individual freedom, personal responsibility, economic freedom, and limited government”. They call out a few proposals where they feel that too much money is being requested for “dubious projects”. It’s great to know that someone is looking at government costs; I’d love to see them take a different approach on the funding and track the potential return on investment or what’s the cost of not investing in some projects? Looking at ROI in terms of jobs created and economic development is a fair assessment of applications for stimulus funds; in fact some of the states’ recommendations specifically called out jobs created in the metrics they used to recommend applications.)

Below are notes on recommendations from the State. I grabbed what was easy to grab for my own comparison. I thought they might be of interest, so I’m sharing my notes but the info provided is uneven – often due to format more than discrepancy in information provided. Continue reading

Ultra High Speed Task Force meeting October 30

blog_taskforceThe Minnesota Ultra High Speed Task Force will have its final working meeting next week on Friday, October 30, 2009. The meeting starts at 9:30 and end at 1:15 or until necessary.

They are meeting at Thomson Reuters. The public is welcome. I will be there taking notes. Here is the agenda:

9:30 – 9:40 Opening comments; review meeting agenda
Approve meeting minutes from October 16th meeting

9:40 – 9:50 Public comment

9:50 – 10:00 Group photo

10:00 – 11:00 Review and approve final version of report

11:00 – 11:15 Break

11:15 – 11:45 Signing ceremony

11:45 – 12:00 Review rollout activities (FYI for TF Members)

• Report Rollout at the Capitol – November 6th
o 10:00 – 11:00 am Press conference with Governor’s office & Committee Chairs (Room 181 State Office Building)
o 11:00 am – 12:30 pm Joint Legislative Hearing
(Room G-15 State Capitol)
• MHTA-sponsored breakfast meeting with technology & business leaders –November 9th
o 7:30 – 9:00 am at ADC in Eden Prairie – Panel
• Blandin Conference in Duluth November 19th 10:45-11:35 a.m. – Panel

12:00 – 12:45 Lunch – Lunch tickets provided, seating in Alcove

12:45 – 1:15* Closing comments, adjourn final meeting
*In the event we need more time, please do not make plans for earlier departures.

TDS offers 50Mbps in Monticello

Here’s the news from DSL Reports:

Wisconsin-based TDS Telecom (see our user reviews) today announced that the company will soon launch 50 Mbps downstream and 20 upstream upstream fiber service in Monticello, Minnesota. According to the company, the service will cost customers $64.95/month when bundled with local phone service. For those who don’t want to bundle, the company also offers a nice looking “Broadband Raw” tier, that includes 50 Mbps service and local access to 911 services for $49.95/month.

As DSL Reports points out, the road to ultra high speed broadband in Monticello has been long and winding – but they now have great speeds and a good price. It seems as if competition has been good to the residents and businesses in Monticello.