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Gigabit Internet for North Central Ohio Schools
According to eSchoolNews, Consolidated Electric Cooperative will provide 15 school districts with gigabit connectivity. The school districts will then have greater access to online resources and be better able to comply with mandated online testing in Ohio. In the article, Doug Payauys, vice-president of information systems for Consolidated Electric Cooperative, described the need for improved Internet access in schools:
"Technology is creating a shift in today’s classroom, and it’s transforming the way teachers educate and students learn. As the country becomes a more digital-based society, schools must work to transform lesson plans and accommodate new technologies”
The gigabit broadband will also improve the Wi-Fi in the school districts, providing more bandwidth for wireless learning devices. Wireless connections almost always depend on wireline backhaul to ensure each access point does not have a bottleneck between the user and the larger Internet. With better Wi-Fi, the schools hope to support an online curriculum for students to learn at their own pace.
Consolidated Electric Cooperative also intends to offer the gigabit connectivity to local businesses. They already offer some broadband connections to businesses through their Enlite Fiber Optic Network. They first began to develop this network in 2010 with some costs covered through the Broadband Initiatives Program created by the stimulus effort. Since then, they have expanded the network which now consists of 200 miles of fiber optic cable from Columbus to Mansfield, spanning five rural counties in North Central Ohio.
GAO Report: Government Telecom Investments Help Local Businesses
The Government Accountability Office released a report today examining economic development and government-spurred broadband deployment. The report, titled Telecommunications: Federal Broadband Deployment Programs and Small Business looks at the effects of stimulus projects on opportunities for small business.
According to the press release:
“GAO’s investigation confirms the success of the Recovery Act’s broadband programs," said Rep. Waxman. “In rural and urban areas across the country, small businesses are benefitting from higher speeds and lower prices thanks to federal investment in this essential infrastructure. Expanding broadband access and quality is critical for American competiveness in the 21st century global economy. These were public dollars well spent.”
The report reviews communities around the country where either federal dollars have been invested in networks or local governments have made such investments. The results were consistent with our findings over the years - municipal networks create a business-friendly environment and contribute to economic development.
According to the report summary:
According to small businesses GAO met with, the speed and reliability of their broadband service improved after they began using federally funded or municipal networks.
Regarding competition, the GAO find that municipal networks spur competitor investments:
For example, following the construction of a fiber-to-the-home municipal network in Monticello, Minnesota, the two other broadband providers in the area made investments in their infrastructure to improve their broadband speeds. One of these providers stated that all of its networks undergo periodic upgrades to improve service, but upgrade schedules can change in order to stay competitive when there is a new service provider in a particular market.
Rural Broadband Stimulus Project in New Mexico Threatened, Saved
A last mile broadband project in Taos, New Mexico, encountered a temporary snag and appears to be back on track. The situation highlights the potential conflict created between federal and state entities. State officials acted to show their support and now expect the project to continue.
Kit Carson Electric Cooperative (KCEC) was awarded a $45 million grant and an accompanying $19 million loan from the American Recovery and Reinvestment (ARRA) stimulus funding. The project is expected to span about 3,000 square miles of New Mexico and will include smart grid technology in addition to high speed broadband to rural communities. From a story on the USDA website:
The Kit Carson Electric Cooperative (KCEC) “fiber-tohome” project will allow greater bandwidth, providing the quality necessary for applications such as telemedicine, teleconferencing and video sharing for education, business and entertainment. Once completed, the co-op’s project will make broadband service available to 29 communities, reaching about 20,500 households, 3,600 businesses and 183 community institutions, including hospitals, schools and other government facilities. Two Native American pueblos will also receive broadband service once the project is complete.
In September, 2011, the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission (PRC) included as part of a rate order that KCEC spin off its broadband business into an independent company. J.R. Logan covered the story in the Taos News:
The PRC's original order stated that Kit Carson must create a separate Internet subsidiary to protect electric ratepayers from potential losses, or explain why such a separation was not feasible.
According to the article, KCEC received communication from the RUS looking for clarification on whether or not the order was entered and would be followed. The RUS wanted a definitive answer because divestiture would violate the terms of the agreement between KCEC and the RUS. The entire project was in jeopardy.
SMBS Will Expand with 4G Wireless
We have shared updates on Southwest Minnesota Broadband Services (SMBS) as they roll out their fiber routes in Jackson and surrounding towns. Now, we want to share info about their use of wireless to compliment the fiber network. According to the U-reka website, LocaLoop, Inc. and its subsidiary, SynKro Southwest, will soon be working with SMBS to expand SynKro 4G wireless fixed and mobile broadband Internet service to eight rural communities in the region.
SMBS and SynKro Southwest collaborated on a six-month trial installation in Bingham Lake. Additionally, the pair continued to build out the network in seven other nearby rural communities. From the U-reka article:
"Coming off the Bingham Lake trial, we look forward to delivering the same high quality network performance and user experience to underserved rural areas across the SMBS service territory,” said Carl-Johan Torarp, founder and CEO of LocaLoop. “We are expanding the network to complement SMBS’s broadband service as well as providing their customers with mobile broadband Internet.”
SMBS received $12.8 million in BIP funds to develop an FTTH network to Bingham Lake, Heron Lake, Jackson, Lake Okebena, Round Lake and Wilder. This latest endeavor will offer even more coverage to the local residents. Maps and more on the SMBS website.
Rachel Maddow: Public Investment in Broadband is Important
The idea here behind spreading broadband to America`s rural areas is the same one behind the rural electrification program from the 1930s. The idea that even if it`s not profitable for private industry to extend the basics of modern economic life, electric light then and the Internet now, even if it`s never going to be profitable to some private company to extend those things to every last home down every long dirt road in America, it is worth it to America, worth it to us, that everybody has access to those things. That we`re all plugged in. It is the right kind of jobs investment for the country to put people to work laying those lines and connecting those Americans to the grid and it is the right things to do for the rural parts of the country so that people and businesses in every part of the country can compete economically.Extremely glad to see Rachel devoting time to this important issue.
RUS Stimulus Program, BIP, Greatly Favored For-Profit Companies with Grants
We are noted critics of federal policies that prioritize subsidies and support for private companies over the public sector (broadly defined to include local government, nonprofits, and cooperatives). When we analyzed the stimulus rules, we were horrified at the reversal of Congressional Intent, which was clearly to prioritize publicly accountable entities over private entities.
Telecompetitor brings our attention to an RUS report summarizing awards from the BIP stimulus program. Download the report here [pdf].
As we feared (and previously wrote here), the private sector was heavily prioritized by the Rural Utility Service. For-profit companies won more awards and received more funds than entities that are structurally accountable to the community. While we are not opposed to profits per se (we are strong allies with local businesses in the many aspects of our work), the history of private companies owning infrastructure (thereby making the rules) has taught us that communities do best when they have a strong voice over essential infrastructure.
Further, in the rural areas that RUS oversees, networks that are focused on profit have refused to upgrade to modern networks and often offer poor customer service. Throwing more public money at the private sector is a terrible long-term solution that will require ever larger subsidies over time when policy should encourage self-reliance and a lessening need for subsidies over time.
These charts are snipped from the RUS Report linked to above.