National Broadband Plan? Think Globally, Act Locally.

It’s been almost two weeks, and we’ve seen a couple thousand news articles plus an avalanche of blogs on the FCC’s national broadband plan. Heaven knows I don’t want to babble down the same worn paths as all those other folks, so I’m going to come at this thing a little differently than most.

I want to look at this plan from the perspective of the small town, an urban center, a rural county. What exactly does the NBP (we geeks need an acronym for everything, don’t we) do for these communities directly, in some real way that they can touch? More importantly, what can communities *do* (action steps) to derive some benefit from the plan?

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Nat’l Broadband Plan – Too much, Too Little? Just Right?

Last week someone asked me if I thought, based on what I had seen so far of the FCC’s national broadband plan, the plan is too ambitious, or not ambitious enough.  Oh boy, that’s a nice open-ended one you can take in a dozen directions. But I’ll try to put a narrow point on this.

I believe the plan is too ambitious for many inside Washington to fully embrace in terms of executing legislation and making funds available. The average lawmaker, particularly with elections coming up this year, could care less about broadband. These are the ones most susceptible to lobbyists’ attempts to neuter the plan, which make no mistake, they are in full Destruct mode. The telecom and cable industry will mine the lofty rhetoric while trying to kill anything they feel threatens profits.

On the other hand, the plan is not ambitious enough for some when you consider one glaring vulnerability. In some people’s mind, they feel it does not grab by the throat the main source of our many problems with broadband – the lack of competition and the ease with which the incumbents can kill competition. As I read the executive summary, I worry that what steps are in the plan to tackle the competition issue may not survive the long knives of lobbyists and their industry-friendly Congressional allies.

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Take It to the Bridge!

Morning folks,

Today’s hitting 10.5 in the Insanity Scale as NOFA 2 ambles toward the extended finish lines in one part of D.C. while the FCC preps for the rollout of the national broadband plan in another part of town. It’s so bad, I woke up three columns and two blog posts behind.

One (of many) good thing you can say about the Obama administration is that 14 months ago, broadband was a term maybe .5% of the population even heard used, let alone knew what the heck broadband is. After this week, as we take it to the bridge between NOFA 2 and national plan, even James Brown’s gonna come back and yell “Broadband? Jump back! Make me wanna kiss myself. Hit me!”

So how crazy is it around here? I’m so overwhelmed I’m going to turn over my space to Broadband Lawyer. As I mentioned in my last post, Broadband Lawyer is one of those do-gooders behind the mask who we don’t know, but know we love to have around. B L has some insights on the D.C. dance that’ll probably add to your gray hairs if you care about broadband stimulus or the national plan.

Hit me, B!

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Final Tips on Surviving Broadband Stimulus March to Madness

[This is really long. Print it out for the train ride home]

There are two large incumbents in the Cape Cod, MA area. OpenCape is the nonprofit-driven public/private partnership that just won a bunch of BTOP stimulus grant money to build a massive middle mile network. And here is a total random event that typifies one reason why they won despite the incumbents’ presence.

A few days ago in the outer Cape, a tree fell on an electrical cable that in turn started a fire involving a piece of telecom infrastructure. The fire took out all communications in five towns. Everything. There was no phone, Internet, 911, cable. Zip.

The Cape area is, for practical purposes, an island. A couple of bridges link it with the “mainland” across the canal on the Cape’s northwest side. One bridge carries the single communications pipe that both incumbents use to bring service to the area. In OpenCape’s vision, one day there ideally will be two big pipes plus the current one.

The primary reasons I’m bullish on OpenCape is their patience in planning, and their savvy in understanding that you plan first for the business success of the network, and then you worry about winning the grant application. Doing the reverse severely reduces your chances to succeed at either.

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Death and Broadband Taxes

So, just when you think the road to broadband stimulus rewards couldn’t get any bumpier, here comes the tax man. Seems like in all the hubbub of complex rules, sleepless nights, crashing Web servers and due diligence hell, everybody overlooked a random stimulus FAQ hinting that those grant winnings could be <gasp> taxable.

Oh, the humanity!

Ever reach that point in your life where so much crap is rolling downhill that eventually a story hits and triggers an uncontrollable laughing fit? I won’t laugh (don’t need the hate mail), but this is one of those moments. I mean, talk about a nest of ants at a picnic. You manage to make it to the top of the heap, you’re starting to contemplate the fruits of your labor and here comes a tap on the shoulder and “hey, you forget about us?” Damn!

It’s probably not accurate to say that we didn’t know taxes would be an issue. But the topic was definitely at the far back corners of our minds, as well as those of the media and other observers.Truth be told, it might not even have bubbled to the surface yet hadn’t some smart-grid stimulus winners started making noise about their money not showing up and it’s been months since their awards were announced.

So the big question is, now that we’ve been splashed with the cold waters of imminent, if not confused, taxation requirements at both the federal AND state levels, what next?

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