Submitted by acohill on Mon, 05/23/2011 - 08:29
Governor Perdue of North Carolina has indicated that she will not veto the anti-community, anti-economic development, anti-jobs, anti-rural anti-broadband bill recently passed by the North Carolina legislature. Instead, she will signal her "displeasure" by allowing it to become law without signing it.
This may not be the end of the world, but it is certainly a catastrophe, first and foremost for rural communities in North Carolina, who have been thrown under the bus by their own representatives, and second for other states and rural communities in the U.S. Expect that the incumbents, emboldened by this success in North Carolina, will try to purchase more laws in other states.
For those that remain unconvinced this is a problem, read this letter from a major North Carolina high tech software firm (the hugely successful Red Hat Linux). Here is the bottom line from the article:
"...One of the most difficult and expensive line-items in this multi-million dollar project was securing a broadband link to the site in rural Chatham County. I spent more than two years begging Time Warner to sell me a service that costs 50x more than it should, and that's after I agreed to pay 100% of the installation costs for more than a mile of fiber. .... Community broadband initiatives reach more people faster, at lower costs, leading to better economic development. Take it from me: had I been able to spend the time and money on community broadband that I spent in my commercial negotiations, there would be more jobs in Chatham County today."
Submitted by acohill on Thu, 05/19/2011 - 13:07
The nDanville Medical Network has won the Intelligent Community Forum Founders Award. The Medical Network is part of the larger nDanville fiber initiative, which was the first municipal open access network in the United States; the network began adding its first customers in 2007. Medical customers on the network have averaged 30% less cost for connections while being able to double the amount bandwidth, for a total overall cost reduction of more than 50%. The high performance fiber has enabled transmission of CT and other medical imaging scans between the hospital and the medical imaging center in another part of the city.nDanville is a client of Design Nine.
Submitted by acohill on Wed, 05/18/2011 - 08:23
If it seems like I am writing a lot about the situation in North Carolina, it is because the broadband fight there has national implications. This short article from DSLReports does a good job a summarizing just how awful the situation is. Right now, only the Governor can stop it, as the legislature (both houses) has passed this monstrosity.
Submitted by acohill on Tue, 05/17/2011 - 11:14
Via Stop the Cap!, some Lithuanian broadband customers are getting bandwidth increases that can range has high as 300 megabits, up from the current 100/40 bandwidth for the Premium plan. There is no price increase for the improved performance.
Since the U.S. Broadband Plan targets 4 meg as entirely adequate, we can imagine a catchy slogan: American broadband! 1/75 as good as Lithuania!
Submitted by acohill on Tue, 05/17/2011 - 10:10
The dire situation in North Carolina with H129 (effectively bans community investments in broadband infrastructure) continues to attract national attention. Well known legal expert Lawrence Lessig has issued a plea to petition the governor to veto the bill.
Submitted by acohill on Thu, 04/14/2011 - 08:09
The usually excellent Stop the Cap! has a report on the truly awful anti-broadband bill making its way through the North Carolina legislature, but they lost me when they started blaming "free markets" as the problem. Uh, no, the problem is crony capitalism, where the incumbents spread campaign donations liberally to representatives of both parties, to obtain the best laws money can buy. That's not free markets.
When Stop the Cap! indicts "free markets" as the problem, the incumbents win, because that's the line the incumbents use to confuse the issue. Most incumbent telecom providers are, in fact, utterly opposed to free markets, because they lose their de facto monopoly status in a free market.
This distinction is absolutely critical to winning the debate. Community broadband efforts are going to lose every time if the community broadband pitch is "we don't like free markets." Community broadband is all about free markets and competition, real competition, of the kind we see in open access projects like Utopia with seventeen (17) providers on the network--that's an open market, and that's what communities want and need.
The proper response to "It's important to let the free market prevail..." in a discussion about telecom is to agree. "Yes, we agree completely. We fully support free markets. We want buyers of telecom services to be able to buy from a wide variety of telecom providers, not just one or two acting as a local cartel."
The "free markets" argument is a red herring. Community broadband advocates need to vigorously applaud free markets, then point out where they don't exist.
Submitted by acohill on Fri, 04/08/2011 - 12:34
WiredWest, the consortium of 47 towns in western Massachusetts that has been developing an ambitious plan to take fiber to every home and business that requests service in the WiredWest region, has released a powerful and superbly produced and edited video that makes a strong case that "little broadband" is not adequate today and will not be adequate in the future, and that the lack of big broadband is already affecting the region's ability to attract jobs and maintain adequate levels of economic growth. Watch the whole thing, and the entire North Carolina legislature should be locked in a room and made to watch it. Disclosure: WiredWest is a client of Design Nine.
Submitted by acohill on Wed, 04/06/2011 - 09:48
There is a significant push nationwide to simply let the cellphone companies "solve" the rural broadband problem by rolling out "little broadband" cellular data services in rural areas and proclaiming, "Job done!" This story from the Daily Yonder illustrates, unfortunately, it's not going to be that simple.
Customer service problems aside, the structural issue is that cellular wireless simply does not have now, nor will it ever have, enough bandwidth to support everything people want to do. Verizon is now having the same iPhone data/bandwidth problems that AT&T had when the latter company first rolled out the very capable iPhone four years ago. And AT&T has now moved to bandwidth-limited contracts because the company simply can't keep up with demand. Wireless broadband is very important in rural areas as a bridge technology to get homes and businesses off dial-up and onto something better. But like other "little broadband" technologies like DSL and cable modem services, WiFi/WiMax/cellular wireless networks can't do it all. Wireless networks are needed for mobile access, and fiber is needed for jobs and economic development.
Submitted by acohill on Tue, 04/05/2011 - 14:37
When an FCC Commissioner takes the time to tell your state that what your legislators are doing is foolish, your state has a problem.
FCC Commissioner Clyburn had this to say yesterday:
“Not long after the National Broadband Plan was issued, I had the privilege to visit North Carolina and speak about the goals in the Plan, and the importance of our nation using every available tool to address the broadband divide. I believe now, as I did then, that no American citizen or community should be left behind in the digital age. However, I remain concerned that when cities and local governments are prohibited from investing directly in their own broadband networks, citizens may be denied the opportunity to connect with their nation and improve their lives. Local economies will suffer as a result, and the communities’ ability to effectively address education, health, public safety, and other social issues will be severely hampered. Regrettably, North Carolina isn’t the only state considering such legislation. My home state of South Carolina has similar legislation pending, and the state of Arkansas is contemplating a complete ban on publicly-owned broadband facilities. I fear that preventing local governments from investing in broadband is counter-productive and will impede the nation from accomplishing the Plan’s goal of providing broadband access to every American and community anchor institution.”
The only good thing about this flurry of anti-jobs legislation is that economic developers in the states adjacent to North Carolina, South Carolina, and Arkansas must be dancing a jig.
Submitted by acohill on Wed, 03/30/2011 - 16:43
It was an easy decision. Kansas City is an electric city, so they own the poles. So no costly and long dragged out pole surveys, no make ready and no pole attachment fees, and the ability to take fiber anywhere in the electric service area at very low cost.
I'm sure that Kansas City also offered to hang all the fiber using their electric utility crews and buckets trucks.
No mystery here....it's a smart choice.
Submitted by acohill on Tue, 03/29/2011 - 10:43
It is unfortunate, but the issue of broadband in this country is becoming a political issue, when it should be focused more on economic prosperity, jobs, and business development. Witness this headline from the always excellent Stop the Cap! blog:
House Republicans Sell Out North Carolina’s Broadband Future to Big Telecom
The headline is a little misleading, as a bunch of Democrats also voted for this awful bill. This highly political fight in North Carolina may be good for candidates in both parties with respect to fundraising, but deliberately voting to cripple the future economic development of rural communities is, well, bad for business. Literally.
Much confusion is being sown by incumbents who are not explaining the difference between the current "little broadband" networks (DSL, wireless, cable) and "big broadband" fiber networks that are being built by communities to retain existing businesses and attract new ones.
Big broadband, simply, is about jobs, now and in the future. There are very few businesses left that don't need affordable high capacity broadband. I have written before about the deli owner who was losing lunch business because credit card verification over his DSL line was taking too long. Why politicians of any party think it is a good idea to cripple economic development in their districts is a mystery.
Submitted by acohill on Fri, 03/25/2011 - 10:09
Just when you thought you had heard it all, North Carolina legislators are about to pass a law declaring the state a broadband-free zone. An amendment to a very bad broadband bill will declare that "broadband" is any service that is "occasionally capable of achieving 768kbps downstream and 200kbps upstream." This is 1/5 of the feeble national goal of 4 megabits downstream and 1 megabit upstream. If there was ever a declaration of war against economic development, this is it. If it were 1920, it would the equivalent of outlawing paved roads, on the theory that "our daddies rode horses, and that's good enough." If it was 1930, it would be the equivalent of outlawing community sewer systems, on the theory that "I grew up using an outhouse, and that's good enough."
Submitted by acohill on Thu, 03/10/2011 - 14:55
I don't what is in the water in North Carolina, but some legislators seem determined to cripple the prosperity of towns and cities in the state. A bill to outlaw community-owned networks is working its way through the legislature, and the City of Asheville notes that the bill is so poorly worded that it would prevent the City from accepting money from the Google Fiber initiative and from Federal broadband grant programs like the the Department of Commerce broadband stimulus initiative. Muni Networks has more on the fight.
Submitted by acohill on Wed, 03/09/2011 - 09:42
The North Carolina-based Mountain Area Information Network (MAIN) filed a public comment to the FCC calling for more attention to community-owned broadband networks. MAIN's executive director, Wally Bowen, has been involved in community broadband initiatives since the early nineties, and is one of the true pioneers of the community broadband movement. Read the whole article.
Submitted by acohill on Fri, 03/04/2011 - 09:43
Via Stop the Cap!, some North Carolina legislators seemed determined to kill jobs and economic growth in North Carolina's communities by banning community-owned broadband. The cable companies hope to succeed in getting this legislation passed in North Carolina. If they are successful there, they will surely move the same tactics to other states. It will be devastating if they are successful, as it will leave rural communities without the telecom infrastructure needed to attract businesses and jobs.
Submitted by acohill on Fri, 02/18/2011 - 10:49
Via Stop the Cap!, a bill has been introduced in the North Carolina legislature to make it extremely difficult for communities to invest in broadband infrastructure. The article is excellent, with a detailed analysis of the issues, so I'm not going to try to summarize it here--just read the whole thing.
The bill is sponsored by a Republican legislator, but the ability of communities to decide their own economic future should not be a partisan issue, and I think both parties have a faulty perspective. Democrats tend to be friendlier towards community broadband, but too often, Democratic proposals focus on more regulation, which often has the unintended consequence of making it more difficult to get local projects started. Republicans, while they ought to be supporting free markets and competition, too often listen only to the incumbents, and get sucked into supporting things like this new NC legislation, which looks more like crony capitalism than free markets.
Banning communities from investing in broadband would be like banning water and sewer. Water, sewer, and broadband are and have become basic economic development infrastructure, and putting roadblocks up that keeps communities from attracting new jobs and retaining existing businesses makes no sense.
Submitted by acohill on Tue, 02/15/2011 - 15:10
The City of Chattanooga, Tennessee was recently selected by the Intelligent Community Forum as one of the Top 7 Intelligent Communities worldwide for 2011. This article by Robert Bell of ICF provides some of the back story and the amazing success of Chattanooga over the past couple of decades.
By the late sixties, Chattanooga, once a thriving manufacturing town, had the dirtiest air in America and was beginning to lose jobs. Despite heavy investments in urban renewal in the eighties and nineties, the city was not attracting jobs. But over the past ten years, as the City-owned electric utility began to invest in fiber, companies and jobs started to follow, and the pay off has been huge. Chattanooga won a Volkswagen manufacturing plant in part because of the city's investment in fiber. The city fiber is also being used to provide Smart Grid electric metering, which will lower utility costs for businesses and residents.
Submitted by acohill on Sun, 02/06/2011 - 11:45
SandMonkey, a prominent Egyptian blogger who was briefly detained by Egyptian security forces, advocates that opponents of repressive regimes should store all their documents, writing, and information (e.g. email addresses and data on compatriots) on a cloud-based service located in a different country. That way, if a laptop is confiscated, there are no incriminating documents on it.
It's a fascinating view of an emerging technology, and of course, terrorists can do the same thing. As always, technology is politically neutral. But there is no doubt that bloggers and the technology of the Internet is changing politics, mostly for the good, by making it harder to hide graft, corruption, nepotism, and incompetence.
Submitted by acohill on Mon, 01/31/2011 - 09:10
The Roanoke Times ran an article yesterday (Sunday) in the business section on two stimulus projects building fiber in the Blacksburg-Roanoke region. The two middle mile projects are not linked to any comprehensive last mile efforts, which is also the challenge for many stimulus-funded middle mile projects in other areas.
Submitted by acohill on Mon, 01/10/2011 - 11:54
It is still rare to have a politician address the issue of broadband in any sensible way, but incoming Governor John Lynch just set the bar a little higher by noting that ubiquitous access to "big" broadband is essential to jobs growth and economic development. Here is what he has to say.
Today, however, infrastructure is more than roads and bridges. Our companies and citizens need access to high-speed Internet to compete in this economy. Through the federal stimulus, we are leveraging more than $66 million in federal and private funds to build an expanded broadband highway for New Hampshire. A project that will support 700 jobs, improve communications, and make it easier to connect all parts of our state to high-speed and affordable broadband. Let us build the information highway of the 21st century. Let us bring affordable broadband to all of New Hampshire.
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