FCC Calling All Farmers

 

— FCC chief Ajit Pai said Monday he’s looking for a few good farmers (and ranchers, and broadband providers) for the new, 15-member Precision Ag Connectivity Task Force. The advisory group will focus on improving connectivity for agricultural producers, and will work with both the FCC and U.S. Department of Agriculture. The group’s mission includes identifying gaps in broadband availability on farmland, and coming up with policy recommendations with a goal of expanding reliable broadband to 95 percent of agricultural land by 2025. Nominations for membership are due July 17.

Sources: POLITICO Morning Tech

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Like Politics, All Broadband Policy Is Local

Craig Settles

Federal and state policymakers continue to ignore, weaken and, in some instances, block local input and control of broadband. This needs to stop if the country is to ever have viable, affordable broadband for all.

Even though community broadband has proven itself incredibly valuable and viable, broadband is taking a beating in some areas of the country thanks to what has become a siege against municipal broadband by the large telecom incumbents, including AT&T, Comcast and others. This effort has led to a backlash against muni broadband in some states, depriving communities of a well-tested option when it comes to high-speed connectivity to the Internet and the digital economy.

The only way we can fight back is to start with reliable, locally generated data from those in the trenches. This is critically important. Nobody knows about local economies like economic development professionals, community groups, elected officials, co-ops and other local organizations.

Right now, several crucial federal and state broadband policy decisions are being made that will benefit from local economic expertise, input and advocacy. Who better to help inform those decisions than local economic development professionals? If communities don’t have this expertise at the table in Washington, D.C., and state capitals, local broadband could lose big. So, if they won’t seat you at the table, bring a chair.

Continue reading HERE.

When a local official is not engaged in the promotion of broadband, like we have seen in some foothill communities there is no one to represent the local community. This is a double slap in the face of citizens in the need for broadband access for commerce, remote work, healthcare, education, and public safety. You should ask your County supervisor and City Council person, what are you doing to bring broadband to our community?

Race Communications Leases Nevada County Land for Bright Fiber Project

After holding a Community Town Hall in January on the fiber network down highway 174, Race Communications has started to move forward on the project. The Union has more details HERE.

There are almost 2,000 homes in the service area along Highway 174. In a January town hall officials said the project’s completion was set for May 2020.

If you live along SR-174 what are your thoughts?  Ready to sign up?

Comstocks: Slow Progress for Fast Speeds

 

Two years after partnering with Verizon, few Sacramento neighborhoods have 5G availability

Russell Nichols has the details in the June issue of Comstock’s magazine.

In December, Earl Lum spent the holiday season snooping around Sacramento’s eight city council districts, snapping pictures of city-owned street lights for evidence. The wireless analyst was on a mission to assess the status of Verizon’s 5G Home network, which launched in the capital in October 2018.

He came bearing questions: How many poles had the shoe-boxed sized 5G radios mounted on them? Were these fixed wireless sites only in wealthier neighborhoods? Did they target businesses? It took him three trips to map every pole. Each time, he scouted for two to three days from dawn to dusk. For an official launch of a network like this, Lum believes at least 2,000 sites with about 50 percent service coverage would be respectable. But what he found was some 200 small cells attached to street lights with broadband signals reaching less than 10 percent of Sacramento’s population.

“The network was extremely limited,” says Lum, founder of EJL Wireless Research in Half Moon Bay, who has analyzed wireless and mobile radio access markets for over 20 years. “There was clearly not enough sites to even do what I would call a real launch for a network.”

There are 40,000 city-owned poles in Sacramento with about 9,000 being suitable for wireless development, according to city officials. But Lum argues that those suitable poles only cover the main streets, and the distance of the signals from each site fails to fill the gaps. Another issue he points out is the millimeter wave technology, which is line of sight, meaning trees and rain can disrupt signals.

Two years after the city’s partnership with Verizon was announced, Lum’s findings – published in the report United States 5G Fixed Wireless Access Case Study, Verizon Wireless and the City of Sacramento, CA – paint a sobering picture. The city boasted of being one of the first four test cities for the telecom giant’s 5G network. Officials called the move a major step toward a future of lightning-fast speeds, smart meters and wearable technology, and, down the line, industrial automation and self-driving cars. They called it a “game-changer.” But if the game has any hope of changing, Lum says the city would need as many as 4,000 sites to provide full coverage, an undertaking that could take up to 10 years.

“Everyone did a lot of field trials prior to the launch,” Lum says. “[Verizon wasn’t] going into this whole thing blind. Part of this survey was to do a fact check on the reality.”

Continue reading HERE.

Russell Nicholes captures the struggle that Sacramento is going through to implement 5G.  Think about the struggle that your community would go through to implement mmWave 5G with the need to maintain the line of sight connections and the antenna spacing needed to provide full coverage. Does your community have unique street lighting infrastructure that would inhibit the use of standard mini-cell tower installations, such as these in historic downtown Nevada City?

Screen Shot 2019-06-08 at 6.32.17 AM
Nevada City Street Lights on Main Street

Here is a Chicago Mini-Cell Tower

Chicago_Verizon 5G minitower
Verizon Minoi-Town in Chicago 

“Deployment of 5G services using microwave and millimeter wave frequency bands is critical to the success of 5G in the United States. However, the limitations we have uncovered using these frequency bands should cause the industry to take a serious look at the return on investment for these types of 5G networks.” 

— Earl Lum Microwave Journal.

Jeff Bezos Explains Amazon’s Bet on Project Kuiper Satellites

Geek Wire has the details

For the first time in public, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos explained the rationale for his risky Project Kuiper satellite broadband venture, during a fireside chat that was interrupted when an animal rights activist jumped on stage.

[. . .]

When Freshwater asked Bezos to name a “big bet” that Amazon has taken recently, he focused on Project Kuiper, the plan to put more than 3,200 satellites in low Earth orbit for global broadband coverage. The project came to light in April, and seems likely to be based in Bellevue, Wash. Here’s how Bezos explained his bet:

“The goal here is broadband everywhere, but the very nature of [having] thousands of satellites in low Earth orbit is very different from geostationary satellites. … You have equal broadband all over the surface of Earth. Not exactly equal, it tends to be a lot more concentrated toward the poles, unfortunately.

“But you end up servicing the whole world. So it’s really good. By definition you end up accessing people who are ‘under-bandwidthed.’ Very rural areas, remote areas. And I think you can see going forward that internet, access to broadband is going to be very close to being a fundamental human need as we move forward.

“So Project Kuiper has that. It’s also a very good business for Amazon because it’s a very high-capex [capital expenditure] undertaking. It’s multiple billions of dollars of capex. … Amazon is a large enough company now that we need to do things that, if they work, can actually move the needle.”

Amazon has already turned on its global satellite control networks, mostly located at it’s Global Data Centers strategically placed around the globe. As a significant provider of cloud services, LEO satellite delivery systems makes good business sense. It is the last link to providing cloud services to every business on the planet, at a highly competitive rate, compared to competitors like Microsoft Asure, IBM Cloud and lesser-known cloud companies relying on existing fiber network infrastructure. Amazon will be able to reach more global customers faster with competitive cloud service rates. More HERE.

The top ten cloud service companies are:

Kamatera.
phoenixNAP.
Amazon Web Services.
Microsoft Azure.
Google Cloud Platform.
Adobe.
VMware.
IBM Cloud.

After Amazon, only Google has made a move toward having an LEO satellite distribution system, partnering with Telesat and adapting Project Loon to LEO applications

Loon adapting connection routing ‘network brain’ from balloons to low Earth orbit satellites

While I admire and root for SpaceX, who is building a top-down system, Amazon is taking a bottom-up approach, building on existing reliable infrastructure and capping it with a fleet of LEO satellites has a higher probability of succeeding.  The open question is can Amazon catch SpaceX and OneWeb who have birds in space.

RCRC Rural Broadband Update

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is under mounting pressure to re-evaluate the accuracy of the broadband mapping data used in the commission’s 2019 Broadband Deployment Report.  On June 2, 2019, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) became one of the loudest critics yet when he pointed to the disparities between the FCC’s report and a 3rd party study conducted by Microsoft.

In addition, Congressman Doug Collins (R-Georgia), Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, wrote a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai requesting the commission consider a more accurate and reliable approach to mapping broadband coverage.  Unreliable broadband coverage data from the FCC paints an overly optimistic picture of broadband coverage in rural areas and undermines the ability of policymakers to prioritize funding for areas that are truly underserved.  More members are calling for improvements to broadband mapping data to better address the digital divide and improve broadband coverage in rural areas.

Source: RCRC Barbed Wire Newsletter

Senate Passes Broadband Economic Impact Bill

Multichannel has the story:

The Senate has passed the Measuring the Economic Impact of Broadband Act, according to its co-sponsors, by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), who co-chair the Senate Broadband Caucus.

It was reported favorably out of the Commerce Committee May 15.

The bill is the latest effort in a political season where broadband access is an election issue–Klobuchar is running for President.

The bill was only introduced four weeks ago, but getting better broadband data is a bipartisan issue on the HIll.

Currently the FCC is collecting input on how to better gauge where broadband is or isn’t by collecting more accurate and reliable data. The bill’s goal is to gauge the effect of the digital economy and broadband deployment on the economy by collecting accurate data.

It would require the Bureau of Economic Analysis, with input from the Department of Commerce, whose NTIA arm is also charged with getting a better handle on where broadband is or isn’t, to conduct the study of “broadband deployment and adoption of digital-enabling infrastructure, e-commerce and platform-enabled peer-to-peer commerce, and the production and consumption of digital media.”

“Every family in America should have access to broadband internet connection, no matter their zip code” Klobuchar said. “The purpose of this legislation is to use accurate and reliable data to prove how critical broadband deployment is to our economy. I look forward to this bill being signed into law soon and getting one step closer to bridging the digital divide.”

It is hard to fix something when you do not know where is it broken. More accurate data collected and analyzed will benefit rural communities where the biggest coverage gaps reside. Once local policymakers fully understand the economics of broadband more will get on board and support the development of community networks.