Small Providers in the Big Picture of FCC Broadband Initiatives

Monday I stopped by Oakland Children’s Hospital & Research Center to catch up with FCC Chairman Genachowski who was announcing the Healthcare Connect Fund (HFC), and giving a shout out to those in California who are advancing telehealth initiatives. The purpose of the HCF is to expand broadband access to healthcare providers, as well as to patients seeking healthcare services.

FCC Chairman Genachowski (l) with Children's Hospital President & CEO Dr. Bert Lubin (c) and Alex Briscoe, Dir. Alameda County Health Care Services Agency

FCC Chairman Genachowski (l) with Children’s Hospital President & CEO Dr. Bert Lubin (c) and Alex Briscoe, Dir. Alameda County Health Care Services Agency.                   Photo by Erin Goldsmith

I was fortunate to score a two-minute walking (literally) interview on the Chairman’s way to a tech demo at the hospital after his remarks. I wanted his take on an issue that ISPs (WISPs) frequently bring up, such as during this Gigabit Nation interview.

The Wireless ISP Association (WISPA) feels that FCC regulations inadvertently keep WISPs out of the broadband financing programs, such as HCF and the Connect America Fund (CAF), by heavily favoring ILEC’s at least in the first phase of these programs. I asked Chairman Genachowski if there is a way to create rules that result in more WISPs becoming a part of communities’ broadband solutions.

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National Survey Report – Broadband’s Impact on Economic Development: The Real Deal

Every two years, the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) and I team up to survey economic development professionals and others nationwide to learn how broadband is impacting economic development efforts. This year, 301 individuals participated, and their feedback has been particularly revealing (Read the full report here).

The 2010 survey is “The Real Deal” as it digs beneath the hype surrounding broadband’s potential to influence local economies, and extracts data from those who deal with these issues daily. We also present for the first time the comments respondents offered to help implement broadband projects that produce economic development results. And on October 13 (2:00 p.m. EDT), I’m conducting a Webinar to give you steps for moving forward with a strategy after you’ve read the survey report.

Respondents’ peers as well as government policy makers need to read and heed both the data and the comments. Several results of the survey argue sharply against directions that some government agencies, politicians and private industries appear to be leading 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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Drive Kicks Off to Move 1000 Communities to Broadband

Weary of the wait for broadband, and wary of Congress’ recent efforts to help, Communities United for Broadband (970+ members) has teamed with Broadband Properties Magazine to empower communities to deliver their broadband future now.

Next week, with the goal of assisting 1000 communities to move forward with broadband projects by 2011, Communities United for Broadband begins a program to give project teams basic broadband planning skills. Watching Congress spar with the FCC over the agency‘s effort to implement its far-ranging national broadband plan, an increasing number of communities believe the only way to get broadband that is sufficient to meet their needs is through local action. However, quite a few are uncertain as to how to proceed.

Pulling lessons from gigabit broadband offered today by Wilson, NC and Santa Monica, CA as well as from other similarly impressive networks, strategy expert and Communities United for Broadband Co-Director Craig Settles helps communities create their best solutions. Starting July 7, his series of Webinars guides project teams through the processes communities must address to be successful, from broadband needs assessment to resolving the myriad political challenges communities face.

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“What’s Next After Broadband Stimulus?” and Other Valuable Webinars

A couple of weeks ago I made a swing through D.C. to meet with some folks and continue building support for Communities United for Broadband. I also delivered “What’s Next After Broadband Stimulus?” at the New America Foundation. You can watch the presentation here.

This session helps you understand a little better what local communities’ role in national broadband strategy should be. The event included a strong panel representing community perspectives via people from cities that are making broadband happen:

  • Bryan Sivak, Chief Technology Officer of the District of Columbia,
  • Joanne Hovis, President-Elect of NATOA and President of Columbia Telecommunications Corporation
  • Gary Carter, Analyst at City of Santa Monica Information Systems Department will respond to Mr. Settles’ presentation.

I highlight key lessons from my book, Fighting the Next Good Fight: Bringing True Broadband to Your Community, in the context of national policy discussions on broadband. Actually, some days the discussion is more like a barroom brawl from the old westerns, with local communities cast as the damsel in distress whose fate depends on the outcome of these guys duking it out. No speaking role of note, just the prize for whoever wins.

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Communities United for Broadband: Picking Up Where Google Leaves Off

Anybody here doubt for a minute that Google has lit a fire for broadband under a lot of folks? With just a handful of staffers, a Web site and probably a PR firm (all of whom, btw, deserve a 4-week all-expense-paid vacation to Cancun), they turned legions of people of all stripes and from all walks of life into rabid broadband fans.

The real question today, though, is not who might win Google fiber, but how do you harness this energy, creativity and the collective realization that “broadband really can make a difference to our community?” Over 1,100 cities responded to Google’s RFI and nearly 200,000 people nationwide submitted letters to the company. These numbers represent power, but it’s fragmented. Or rather, it was.

Last Friday, Greensboro, NC broadband advocate Jay Ovittore and I felt too much has been done for it all to end now. We believed Facebook was the key to moving people forward. Facebook pages enabled hundreds of communities to each attract thousands of supporters. Can you imagine these forces unified? Communities United for Broadband is our Facebook answer.

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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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