Wednesday, August 19
Today’s FCC broadband workshop tackles the subjects of broadband adoption and utilization. As for tomorrow, the agenda includes education and broadband opportunities for people with disabilities.
Both workshops are viewable via webinar at broadband.gov.
A new study from the United States Department of Agriculture examines the effect broadband has on rural communities:
In general, rural America has shared in the growth of the Internet economy. Online course offerings for students in primary, secondary, post-secondary, and continuing education programs have improved educational opportunities, especially in small, isolated rural areas. And interaction among students, parents, teachers, and school administrators has been enhanced via online forums, which is especially signifi cant given the importance of ongoing parental involvement in children’s education.
Telemedicine and telehealth have been hailed as vital to health care provision in rural communities, whether simply improving the perception of locally provided health care quality or expanding the menu of medical services. More accessible health information, products, and services confer real economic benefi ts on rural communities: reducing transportation time and expenses, treating emergencies more effectively, reducing time missed at work, increasing local lab and pharmacy work, and savings to health facilities from outsourcing specialized medical procedures. One study of 24 rural hospitals placed the annual cost of not having telemedicine at $370,000 per hospital.
The full USDA study, “Broadband Internet’s Value for Rural America,” is available on the department’s website.
There’s a new feature on the FCC’s broadband site: a blog. From Chairman Julius Genachowski’s inaugural post:
Like our unprecedented two-dozen public workshops and the upcoming fall public hearings, Blogband is part of the FCC’s commitment to an open and participatory process. Blogband will keep people up-to-date about the work the FCC is doing and the progress we’re making. But we want it to be a two-way conversation. The feedback, ideas, and discussions generated on this blog will be critical in developing the best possible National Broadband Plan.
Monday, August 17
Ever since the federal broadband grant rules were released, a controversy has brewed over the definitions of “unserved” and “underserved” communities, with officials in a number of urban areas worrying that the definitions, as currently worded, would leave their communities out in the cold.
Now, Business Week reports, the city of San Francisco—which despite being known as a technology hotbed still has areas in need of broadband access—is sitting out the initial round of grants:
To qualify for funding, applicants need to prove they’re catering to an “underserved” area. Yet the National Telecommunications & Information Administration (NTIA), which is overseeing the program, defines underserved as one where at least half of all households lack broadband, or where fewer than 40% of households subscribe to broadband, or a place where no service provider advertises broadband speeds of at least 3 megabits per second. In a densely populated city like San Francisco, where telecom providers like AT&T (T) and Comcast (CMCSA) widely advertise residential broadband all over the city, it’s hard to point to a place that technically meets the “underserved” definition.
Business Week contacted a spokeswoman for FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski and was told that the commission won’t comment on the broadband grants process. The NTIA was a bit more forthcoming:
Mark Seifert, senior adviser to NTIA director Strickling, says potential applicants should nevertheless file an application and make the best case possible. He says a good way to make the case is for applicants to take surveys among the local population to see what kind of service is available. But the priority, he says, is for bringing broadband to places where it’s either not available at all or only marginally available. “We know that this program alone will not achieve the President’s goal of broadband for everyone,” Seifert says. “We have limited dollars to invest, and we have a directive from Congress and the public record telling us to invest it in areas that are unserved or underserved.”
Wikiepedia, the free online encyclopedia built upon the research and knowledge of users, has reached three million English articles. The winning article: A brief biography of Norwegian actress Beate Eriksen.
Via earth2tech comes an interesting new study on how downloading music helps the environment:
[A] group of researchers from Carnegie Mellon University, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Stanford University, including longtime IT energy researcher Jonathan Koomey… have concluded that yep, in general buying digital music reduces the energy and CO2 emissions of delivering the music by between 40 and 80 percent compared with traditional CD distribution methods. That’s despite the additional energy used to download the music via the Internet, and thus the group concludes that “[O]nline delivery is clearly superior from an energy and CO2 perspective.”
The number of U.S. subscribers with broadband access on their smartphones and other devices has grown from 3 million in 2006 to 73 million in 2008.
Grant Gross, “US Broadband Ranking: Does it Matter?” NYTimes.com. June 5, 2009.
More facts about mobile broadband.
Friday, August 14
Even with the big carriers reportedly skipping the first round of stimulus grants, the flood of online applications for grants is still hammering NTIA’s and RUS’s servers.
Yesterday the deadline for online applications was extended by a week, and as IIA Broadband Ambassador Craig Settles, President of Successful.com, tells Telephony, the extension was a very necessary step:
“It’s been running slow all week,” Settles said in an interview. “People have been going to [the online application process] and having problems. There has also been an issue because everyone is super paranoid. It’s been clear from the beginning if there is a technical error, if you omit some data or it is not formatted correctly, your application will be rejected.”
As a result, Settles said, many of the applicants are actually submitting multiple applications to cover different parts of their broadband projects rather than putting all their eggs in one application basket and then seeing that application rejected on a technicality.
While the extension is a smart move, the question remains whether one week will be long enough.
Yesterday, news broke that Qwest—the nation’s third-largest provider—would not be applying for the first rounds of federal stimulus grants. Now, the Washington Post reports, major providers like Verizon, AT&T, and Comcast are planning on sitting out as well.
The Commerce and Agriculture departments say that the national broadband plan can still succeed without the big players, but some analysts aren’t so sure. From the Post:
“If you want to get broadband out, you have to do it with [those] who brought you to the dance in the first place, and in this case it is the incumbent cable and telephone carriers who have 85 percent of lines in the country,” said Robert Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a Washington tech policy think tank. “This is not basket weaving. This is really complex and intensive technical stuff that takes a fair amount of sophistication and scale to be able to do right and to continue to upgrade.”
Thursday, August 13
Qwest Communications has announced it will not be applying for the first round of federal stimulus grants. Reports Denver Business Journal:
Denver-based Qwest (NYSE: Q), the nation’s third-largest local phone company, sat out the first round and appears to have joined the ranks of telecoms that would like to see the rules changed for future rounds of the broadband stimulus program.
“We continue to support the use of program proceeds to facilitate the deployment of broadband services to unserved consumers,” said Steve Davis, Qwest’s senior VP for public policy, in a written statement. “However, upon evaluation of the funding opportunity and the various requirements for participation, we were unable to make the business case for filing an application for more rural opportunities.”