C|NET: Why Rural Areas Can’t Catch A Break On Speedy Broadband

Everyone agrees on the mission to connect more people. But no one can agree on how to do it.

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This is part of CNET’s “Crossing the Broadband Divide” series exploring the challenges of getting internet access to everyone.

 

 

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In previous generations, communities thrived based on their proximity to infrastructure like roads, railways, airports and rivers to distribute goods. Today, it’s about having access to reliable, affordable high-speed internet. Communities without access will simply wither and die, says Jonathan Chambers, a former FCC official and partner at the Washington-based consulting firm Conexon, which works with electric co-ops looking to deliver rural broadband service.

People will vote with their feet and move away from places that do not provide high-speed internet access,” he said. “They will leave, and that community will not survive.”

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But the biggest barrier to getting broadband in certain areas of the country is low population density. Broadband providers simply won’t offer service if they can’t get enough customers to pay for it.

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The advent of 5G wireless, which promises to bring increased speeds and network responsiveness, is also unlikely to reach rural communities.

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Market forces are what will drive the deployment of 5G,” said Blair Levin, who oversaw the FCC’s National Broadband report in 2010 and who served as chief of staff to Clinton-era FCC Chairman Reed Hundt. “The 5G economics are very different than they are for 4G. And cities, because of their density, are in a much better position to drive 5G deployment than rural communities.”

[…]

“Even if you make it cheaper to deploy and invest in the network, if you can’t sustain a business because the population density is too low, it doesn’t really matter,” Brake said.

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. . . 5G, which needs hundreds of radios to cover relatively short distances, is likely prohibitively expensive to make sense for rural areas.

There’s also the use of unlicensed TV broadcast spectrum called white spaces. Microsoft, which holds several royalty-free technology patents for using this spectrum, announced a program in July 2017 to connect 2 million people in rural America by 2022 through partnerships with telecom companies. The company promised to have 12 projects up and running in 12 states in the next 12 months.

The FCC has set rules for the use of white space spectrum and established an administrator of a national database to identify channels that can be used by devices accessing the shared spectrum. But there have been problems with the database’s accuracy, and there’s not yet an ecosystem of devices, which means it could be a while before the technology is widely used by consumers.

Full Article is HERE.  Color highlights added.

 

 

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Houston, We Have a Broadband Problem

In real life, the quote was “Houston, we’ve had a problem.” phrase used by Jack Swigert to report an explosion in one of the Apollo 13 oxygen tanks during a flight to the Moon. The crew was forced into survival mode as the team orbited the Moon and returned to the Earth.

It became well-used phrase at our house to announce a problem to be resolved by the family. These problems were often introduced with a single sentence “Huston we have a problem.” thus grabbing everyone’s attention.

As I was watching Mark Zuckerberg sitting a Senate hot seat questioned by Senators who know little about the nuances of technology, and how the internet works. Political creatures who were threatening to regulate something they do not understand. As I watch the questioning, it became clear that many of our elected officials have little understanding of broadband technology and it’s economic and social impact. “Huston we have a problem.” was ricochet through my mind.

It was more than a failure to understand social media and the monetization of its users, which they made clear by the fluff ball questions and their hesitation as they stumbled over the notes provided by staffers. It was a failure to understand the that the internet, machine learning, the cloud and connected technology where are potent tools. That is powerful tools for those who have access to high-speed broadband.

My Huston problem was that large segments of rural populations do not have access to these culture and economy bending tools.This lack of access is the failure of Zuckerberg questioners to understand that broadband access has become an essential element of modern life. To be denied access is to cripple large segment of our rural populations.

FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel recognized the knowledge problem and is arguing for the reestablishment of the Office of Technology Assessment in Congress after Facebook hearings last week highlighted lawmakers’ knowledge gaps on tech issues. The OTA was established in 1972 to help lawmakers deal with technological developments. It was closed in 1995.

“We need real #technology experts in Washington…. It’s time for [OTA] to return,’ Rosenworcel wrote in a tweet. Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) also offered his backing for a move like this.

Source: POLITICO Morning Tech

We are not going to solve the broadband problem until our political leaders understand the technology and the how it will shape the future of our social structure.

RCRC Rural Broadband Update: FCC and Rural Utilities Service

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced that the next meeting of the Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee (Committee) will be held on April 25, 2018 at 9 a.m. The Committee will hear reports and recommendations of its working groups on broadband deployment and discuss strategies for accelerating broadband deployment by reducing regulatory barriers to infrastructure investment.

This week, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) released a report entitled Broadband Loan and Grant Programs in the USDA’s Rural Utilities Service. The CRS report highlighted multiple programs within the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) at the Department of Agriculture that are dedicated to financing broadband deployment. The Rural Broadband Access Loan and Loan Guarantee Program, the Community Connect Grant Program, and the Telecommunications Infrastructure Loan and Loan Guarantee Program provide financing for rural broadband deployment projects. In addition, the Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) grant program funds equipment and software (not broadband connectivity) in rural communities for telemedicine and distance learning operations.

The Fiscal Year 2018 Omnibus, signed into law by President Trump on March 23, 2018, provided $30 million to the Community Connect Grant Program, $29 million to the DLT program, and a total level of $690 million for the Telecommunications Infrastructure Loan and Loan Guarantee Program. In addition, the bill includes $600 million in funding to RUS to create a pilot loan and grant program for new broadband deployment projects.

The RUS and other rural broadband programs provide strategic financing for broadband projects in rural areas where private investors are otherwise unlikely to turn a profit due to low-population density.

AT&T Gigapower Fiber Coming to My Neighborhood

The focus of this blog is on rural broadband issues. However, AT&T has launched a fiber to the home project in my Sun City community. This fiber install provides an opportunity to observe the process and write about it, sharing issues that might arise out of this telecommunication infrastructure upgrade.

According to a technician who was marking the street for PG&E and Water Company to identify their utilities, the installation will be a neighborhood by neighborhood, until all 6,000 home in Del Web is connected. According to the door hanger brochure, each area will be under construction for approximately 30 days from the start date. Details HERE:

AT&T GigaPower

I sent an email with some technical questions to the contact email. When they answer, I will share the results.

CETF Report: Catalyst for Action

The California Emerging Technology Fund has published their annual report celebrating ten years of achievement.

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10 Years of Achievement in Closing the Digital Divide

The California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF) has been on a mission over the last decade to forge partnerships and foster public policy to close the Digital Divide. This work has been strategically-focused, results-oriented, and people-centered. CETF has been guided by a Strategic Action Plan adopted by the Board of Directors in 2007 after reviewing existing research and gathering input statewide from community leaders about what works to advance Digital Inclusion. It was peer reviewed by more than 60 stakeholders convened by the California Foundation on the Environment and Economy. It became clear through this fact-finding and listening process that the challenges were too great and the state was too big for CETF alone to get the job done—CETF had to become a “catalyst for action” by setting overarching goals for broadband deployment and adoption and then enlisting existing civic leaders and community organizations to help achieve them. We had to align efforts and leverage resources.

The Full Report is HERE.

I will do some analysis of each section of the report that is applicable to rural broadband. I did not agree with all the finding of past reports, as rural Sierra Counties were left out of the surveys. I am hoping rural Sierra communities concerns and issues are addressed in the report. Stay Tuned