This Week on Gigabit Nation (June 29)

Seven-Point Game Plan for a Winning Broadband Co-op Strategy

Today’s show tackles the topic of co-ops. They are covered in my report on alternative funding, but a group in Colorado brings another dimension to this tactic.

My guest Frank Ohrtman, former manager in the Colorado Office of Information Technology, explains how his regional co-op unites the efforts of co-ops within 40 of the state’s 64 counties. Bringing these dispersed organizations under one umbrella enables all the communities to benefit from some economy of scale when it comes to planning, executing creative broadband tactics and leveraging best practices.

Ohrtman shares with listeners a 7-point strategic plan for maximizing the efforts of co-ops and other organizations working with community stakeholders to bring broadband to the area. He also gives our audience a few recommendations on how to build and effectively manage a regional co-op. Don’t miss this interview (the archive will be at this URL if you miss the live show).

How local businesses can fund your broadband buildout

Yesterday, listeners learned about the power of having local businesses fund broadband projects, particularly in urban areas where there’s a misconception that everyone in the big city has all the broadband they need. OSIsoft CEO Pat Kennedy describes how and why his company is underwriting a buildout in San Leandro, CA.

Are there several local businesses that care about your community economic development? They don’t have to be ISPs or even tech companies. Get three or four companies together that will benefit directly from a highspeed network, and who care about the community overall prospering, and present them with a vision of what broadband can do for your community. You’ll be surprised with the results.

Listen to Kennedy discuss what steps are important to make this tactic work. Though you have to work hard to get all the pieces to fall into place, this is a manageable process that can be just the ticket for generating necessary dollars for CapEx.

You can get gig service for under $100/months

You don’t have to live in South Korea to get 1-gig broadband speed for less than $100 a month. Gigabit Nation’s guest on Tuesday, CityLink Telecommunications CEO John Brown laid out just how you do that.

This show took on two misconceptions that appear to be holding some communities back from pursuing broadband. One is that the cost of deploying fiber is so expensive that you can’t keep the service affordable for most constituents. Brown contends that proper planning and effective cost management by ISPs can lead to a high quality network, and still give them room for generating profits from sub-$100 subscriber fees.

We also discussed the erroneous assumption that user-financed broadband networks cannot generate sufficient dollars for buildout, or to stay competitive over the long run. Brown presents listeners with insights from broadband projects that have residents and businesses paying for both the buildout as well as monthly operations.

Check out this broadcast and see how you can step up your cost management efforts without sacrificing quality.

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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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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Strengthen the FCC’s Hand through Third Party Validation

While it’s easy this week to get caught up in the Google-Verizon news and bemoan the end of the Internet as we know it (though I think the real news is that Verizon gave net neutrality advocates a HUGE boost), a little watched sub-plot is cooking in the FCC vs. incumbents Battle for DC Domination. The FCC may be waving the V sign soon, but for Validation. Here’s why validation can mean victory for communities wanting better broadband.

Implementation of the National Broadband Plan has kind of stalled in the face of a he-said/she-said argument of epic proportions. Communities, consumer advocates, a lot of policy wonks and a majority of the FCC have been vigorously stating that (summarized) “broadband in the U.S. sucks!” Incumbents and their allies have been stating just as vigorously “no it doesn’t suck and we’ll spend a ge-zillion dollars telling you it doesn’t. If the FCC issues a report, we’ll spend another ge-zillion telling everybody why the report sucks.”

Who’s right? More importantly, who is right enough to persuade the policy making machine in D.C. and influence broadband deployments locally. This is where the V-word comes in. Lack of independent validation (Connected Nation doesn’t count) is the Achilles heel of the broadband stimulus, those grants sent to states to develop broadband maps, the national plan, attempts at Congressional legislation and the role of the FCC as broadband regulator.

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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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Preliminary Analysis: First Batch of Stimulus Round 2 Awards

RUS, NTIA and the White House yesterday held a preliminary conference call to talk about today’s official announcement of the first batch of NOFA 2 (broadband stimulus) award winners.

No doubt the winners are popping champagne corks and started their 4th of July weekend fireworks early. The rest of the applicants and some of the rest of you probably want to get some sort of word on winners so crystal ball gazers can try to predict how the rest of this funding round will go.

I’ll try to help you out a little. Just last week I wrote an analysis of grants RUS awarded for NOFA 1 in case you want to get a little perspective before reviewing our first hint at what NOFA 2 might offer.

The conference call was a little light on detail, so tune in to catch the word from President Obama to get a broader picture of the program’s progress. But here are some highlights.

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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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Going for Google Broadband Gold (one NC community’s approach)

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Google recently turned the broadband world on its ear by announcing it’s going to set up fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) networks for a handful of lucky communities that will deliver 1 gigabit per second speeds. Dozens of cities large and small are lining up to apply.

I wanted to get a perspective on what’s motivating communities that survived NOFA 1 to endure a different frenzied race for broadband gold. Hunter Goosmann, General Manager of ERC Broadband in Western North Carolina, recently received their Opportunity to Re-Apply letter from NTIA and RUS. ERC’s not only going for Google gold, but also a chance at Round 2 funding (sleep must not be a valued commodity in that part of the world).

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