The Middle Mile/Last Mile Disconnect

Last Thursday Washington, DC announced they’re powering up a 100-gig network, funded in large part by broadband stimulus money. If I’m not mistaken they’re the only urban area to get money for an infrastructure project. That’s kind of a pity since urban areas have some pressing infrastructure needs that get ignored by the media. But more on that in a future post.

This week I tackled another challenging issue represented by the DC deal that gets ignored by much of the media, and probably policymakers as well. What do you do about connecting all of these middle mile projects to last mile (or first mile, as my UK friends regularly remind me) projects? Huh. You say you haven’t heard about a lot of projects connecting consumers and businesses to those stimulus-funded middle mile buildouts? That’s my point.

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Interview with Jonathan Adelstein on New $700 Million Broadband Program

The USDA’s Rural Utilities Services (RUS) recently announced they’re hoping to make $700 million available for broadband projects through the agency’s Farm Bill Broadband Program. While not as substantial as the BIP program, nevertheless this is a sizeable enough payload to make a big difference in a fair number of communities. However, the actual money hasn’t been appropriated yet, so RUS is doing a Notice of Solicitations of Applications (NOSA). NOSA = send us an application to hold your place in the queue so you get money when we get money.

This is strictly a loan program, no grants involved. Big plus – it’s open to everyone including communities and public private partnerships. Other good news is that the baseline for what constitutes broadband is 5 Mbps symmetrical for wireline networks, and 3 Mbps symmetrical for wireless. You can read details on the program here.

I caught up with RUS Administrator Jonathan Adelstein by phone to ask a few questions and get some additional insights into RUS’ latest efforts to bring broadband to unnerved communities. There are a couple of key differences between this and the BIP program, plus useful information to help you get a handle on how to approach the loan process. I’ll have my own analysis here tomorrow.

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After the Stimulus, Now What – Sound Marketing Maybe?

Last Monday I participated in a Broadband Breakfast panel in DC that examined the effectiveness and shortcomings of the broadband stimulus program. It was a pretty good session since there was one person representing a winning project team and one whose team did not come away with an award. Charles Benton, head of the Benton Foundation, and I represented the thought leader crowd.

We each evaluated the program, which yielded a couple of B’s, a couple of A’s and a C. I gave a high grade for intent and good execution considering the near-impossible task NTIA and RUS faced, but C+ for uncertain results in the communities since I’m not sure how many of these awards are going to pan out.

In further Q & A, there were feelings expressed by most of us that the crop of awardees could produce a mixed bag of wins and losses. However, we all offered advice on what communities everywhere can do to move broadband forward, whether or not they won stimulus money or submitted to outlandish craziness in order to snag Google gigabit gold. You can watch the event here. It’s well worth the time.

One crucial “where do we go next?” answer is marketing. Everyone who’s involved in broadband needs to come to grips with this realty – if you can’t mount an aggressive, creative marketing campaign with a strong PR component, you’re hosed.

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Sel-te’s Inferno – Where Winning Broadband Stimulus $$ Can Be Its Own Special Hell

Welcome to Sel-te’s Inferno. A short take on the recently concluded broadband stimulus awards. Ye award winners who enter this post need not abandon all hope, but you might want to brace yourself because winning the big bucks isn’t all happy days and peaceful nights that you might expect.

Each round of awards brought with them the popping of champagne corks or wailing and gnashing of teeth, depending on where your application fell. But what about those winners? What awaits them? Come walk with me, Virgil, and you’ll see. From these lessons on unexpected (unprepared for) outcomes, I’ll pluck out some broadband tips for the rest of us.

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RUS in a Post-Broadband Stimulus World

Rural Utilities Services (RUS) Administrator Jonathan Adelstein and I have had a couple of opportunities to chat at events where one or both of us delivered presentations. Since we’ve had some interesting exchanges I decided to go for a formal Q & A with the one of the three central figures in the broadband stimulus program (NTIA’s Larry Strickling and the FCC’s Julius Genechowski being the other two).

My big interest is in what’s next on the agenda for RUS once they wrap up their part in the program. Many of those rural communities not fortunate enough to get a piece of the stimulus still plan to push forward for broadband in their respective areas, so it’s important for them to understand that RUS’ role doesn’t end September 30.

Administrator Adelstein’s comments are followed by my short assessment. This adds a coda to my recent analysis of RUS’s first group of Round 2 stimulus grants.

As a bonus to my loyal readers, I tossed in at the end here an interesting tidbit for some of you sports fans. The actual first time Administrator Adelstein and I shared a public venue was almost three decades ago and totally unrelated to technology.

Check back tomorrow for a re-cap of my recent meeting at the FCC. If I’m not careful, D.C. is going to become a second home.

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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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