OneWeb Brings Fiber-Like Internet for the Arctic in 2020

Space Daily has the details:

OneWeb, whose goal is to connect everyone everywhere, today announced the details of its Arctic high-speed, low-latency internet service. OneWeb will deliver 375 Gbps of capacity above the 60th parallel North. With service starting in 2020, there will be enough capacity to give fiber-like connectivity to hundreds of thousands of homes, planes, and boats, connecting millions across the Arctic.

The dense, flexible coverage of OneWeb’s polar-orbiting satellites coupled with its high-speed service and low latency capabilities will provide a superior connectivity experience to the 48% of the Arctic currently without broadband coverage. In fact, OneWeb most recently proved its system’s capabilities through HD video streaming tests last month with its first six satellites that showcased extreme low latencies under 40 milliseconds and high speed services.

A global network, OneWeb’s Arctic service will be deployed significantly earlier and provide 200 times more capacity than planned systems. Substantial services will start towards the end of 2020, with full 24-hour coverage being provided by early 2021, supplying unprecedented blanket coverage to every part of the Arctic Circle.

Continue reading HERE.

Good place to start, where there is no competition.

 

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In South Dakota Today (09-05-19)

SOUTH DAKOTA FIELD TRIP — Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) is today convening a Senate Commerce telecom subcommittee field hearing in Sioux Falls to discuss the best ways to expand broadband connectivity to rural communities. Expect plenty of talk about the benefits of internet access, with representatives from local broadband and telemedicine providers, wireless tower builders and university officials as well as Republican FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr, the agency’s point person on 5G wireless matters. (He’s been traveling South Dakota since Tuesday).

Source: POLITICO Morning Tech

 

Northeastern and Upstate California Connect Broadband Update

Published in Center for Economic Development News, Summer 2019

The Northeast and Upstate California Connect Consortia continues working throughout its 10-county region with the goal of improving high speed internet connectivity throughout rural Northern California. Led by Consortia Manager David Espinoza, the team has been actively engaging its communities to gather necessary data and information to meet the needs of its businesses and residents. Below are the most recent highlights of Consortia activities over the last quarter:

  • Consortia continue working with local governments to discuss potential CASF infrastructure applications in priority areas and to discuss best policy approaches for counties and towns to support expansion of broadband infrastructure and services. Consortia attended a Lake County Economic Development Meeting in Kelseyville (April 17th and June 25th, 2019) to discuss a Master Broadband Plan for Lake County.
  • Consortia worked to identify CASF priority unserved areas in each consortia county (using latest CPUC broadband availability data from March 1st, 2019) and shared these priority unserved areas information with incumbent, competitive and new entrant ISPs assessing potential project applications for CASF infrastructure grants and complementary USDA Reconnect Program grants.
  • Consortia reached out to ISPs in all 10 counties and provided detailed information on the rules and application process along with relevant data/information which helped ISPs to carry out business assessments. Also generated detailed maps of eligible areas including potential funding eligibility score (from 60% to 100%).
  • Additionally, consortia reached out to CAF2 grantees that might be interested in complementary CASF projects in unserved priority areas next to CAF2 areas.
  • Consortia provided assistance to ISPs to prepare CASF Infrastructure Applications, including providing data/information (broadband and demographics) relevant to geographic project areas and requesting letters of support from local governments, elected officials, anchor institutions and community based organizations.
  • As a result, of these efforts, two ISPS, Frontier Communications and Plumas Sierra Telecom, filed a total of six projects to serve around 1,100 unserved households in hard to reach rural areas in the counties of Modoc, Lassen and Plumas.
  • Consortia was present in the following broadband meetings in Sacramento: CETF Board of Expert Advisors Roundtable (March 7th, 2019), California Broadband Council Meeting (March 21st and July 18th, 2019), CPUC CASF Workshop (April 29, 2019), CPUC CD En Banc (May 20, 2019) and CETF-CAFWD Digital Inclusion Roundtable.

How YOU can help:

Gathering accurate information regarding internet speeds from businesses is critical to proving the case that improved broadband service is needed in rural California. You can help by  download the CalSPEED application to your desktop computers and run the CalSPEED speed tests daily.   CalSPEED desktop data validates internet speed and capacity, information that is critically needed to move potential projects forward.

For additional information about the Upstate California Connect Consortia, visit www.upcalbroadband.org

For more information about the Northeast California Connect Consortia, visit www.necalbroadband.org. Or, contact the Consortia Manager David Espinoza via email at despinozaaguilar@csuchico.edu.

RCRC: Democratic Presidential Candidates Release Rural Platforms

Democratic candidates for the 2020 presidential election continue to rollout their policy platforms for rural America.  Several presidential hopefuls spent the past week and a half in Iowa and are seizing the opportunity to appeal to rural voters across the United States.

Mayor Pete Buttigieg from South Bend, Indiana released his rural policy proposal this week which centered around an $80 billion investment in rural broadband.  Buttigieg’s call for investment in rural internet access echoes his competitors’ platforms including Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York), who each promised massive investments in rural broadband if elected into office.  Buttigieg’s plan for rural America would also invest in improved broadband mapping and several economic development programs to foster job growth in rural areas.

These policy proposals inform rural voters how each candidate’s administration would benefit rural America.  The inclusion of rural broadband is a noticeable trend among policy platforms from 2020 candidates, suggesting that rural broadband deployment will be a significant issue for rural voters.

Yes, broadband access is becoming a significant political issue, but I would not put a lot of stock in campaign promises, they seem to be forgotten once the election is over.

RCRC: Rural Broadband Mapping

A few weeks ago, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai sent letters to members of the House and Senate who raised concerns about the accuracy of the broadband mapping used by the FCC to measure households with access to broadband internet.  Chairman Pai wrote to inform the members that the FCC would implement a new order that would “result in more granular and more accurate broadband maps” through the creation of the Digital Opportunity Data Collection (DODC).

The DODC will require broadband providers to report areas they offer service below the census block level.  This reported data will then be independently verified by the Universal Service Administrative Company.  The DODC approach will be used by the FCC to administer $20 billion over the next ten years to rural broadband deployment through the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund.

FCC Chairman Pai addressed his letter to members from rural states and districts who will be scrutinizing the FCC’s new method for broadband mapping closely.  While the DODC is a much needed step in the right direction for broadband mapping, the data collection process remains overly reliant on data from nationwide carriers.  It will be critical for the future of rural broadband deployment to measure the success of the DODC program and hold the FCC accountable.

The best of good intentions often go arie, and this is just another opportunity for the government to screw up.  Yes, hold the FCC accountable, do your own speed testing and report the results.  If you do not have a broadband connection report the failure of the local providers to support your needs for 21st Century Communications directly to the DODC.

New Research Finds 31% of U.S. Households Without Broadband

Nearly one third (33%) of U.S. households do not have a broadband connection providing download speeds of 25 Mbps or faster, according to new research from NPD Group’s Connected Intelligence advisory service. The “vast majority” of households without broadband are in rural areas, researchers said. In the most rural areas, less than 20% of households have a broadband connection, they said.

Continue reading at Telecompetitor

 

The Pew Charitable Trust Broadband Policy Explorer

The Pew Charitable Trusts’ state broadband policy explorer lets you learn how states are expanding access to broadband through laws. Categories in the tool include: broadband programs, competition and regulation, definitions, funding and financing, and infrastructure access.

As you choose categories, a 50-state map illustrates which states have adopted such laws. The state broadband policy explorer includes state statutes related to broadband as of Jan. 1, 2019.

Download the Explorer HERE.

PEW also published:  No One Approach Fits All States in Efforts to Expand Broadband Access Activities, regulatory authority, funding vary by jurisdiction

Here is a screenshot of the California listing with some useful URLs:

Screen Shot 2019-08-02 at 1.16.49 PM

The Census Could Undercount People Who Don’t Have Internet Access

Slate.com has the details:

There has been no shortage of debate about the upcoming census. For weeks, we had a steady stream of “will they or won’t they” as the White House, the courts, and advocates grappled with the addition of a citizenship question on the 2020 census form. But lost in this back-and-forth is another problem that could lead to the undercounting of the population of the United States, which would affect how billions in federal funds are distributed. It involves broadband.

For the first time in our history, the U.S. census will prioritize collecting responses online. In practice, this means that most households will get a letter in the mail directing them to fill out a form on a website. For households that do not respond, letters with paper forms may follow, and a census taker could eventually be sent to collect the data in person. But in light of the effort to increase internet responses, there will be a reduced effort to call on homes, knock on doors, and get responses in the mail. In fact, the Census Bureau has planned to hire 125,000 fewer staff members than during the last go-around 10 years ago, because it is counting on this online effort, in conjunction with local resources, to secure participation.
At first glance, this makes sense. In the digital age, wearing out shoe leather to survey the population seems more than a little antiquated. Plus, a technology-first approach will save scarce resources and better reflects how so many of us live our constantly connected lives. But it also creates a problem for communities without reliable access to broadband.

As a member of the Federal Communications Commission, I know too many Americans lack broadband at home. According to the agency’s official statistics, about 21 million Americans live in areas without high-speed service, the bulk of them in rural areas. However, the situation is worse than official numbers suggest. The method we use to count which households have internet access and which do not has a serious flaw. It assumes that if a single customer can get broadband in a census block, then service must be available throughout the entire block. As a result, official data significantly overstates the presence of broadband nationwide. In fact, a study found that as many as 162 million people across the United States do not use the internet at broadband speeds. The gap between 21 million and 162 million raises big questions about broadband coverage. It turns the digital divide into a chasm.

Continue reading HERE. [Emphasis added]

Nevada County Supervisors Approves Last-mile Broadband Grant

YubaNet has some details:

At Tuesday’s July 23rd Board of Supervisors meeting, the Board unanimously approved a contract with the Sierra Business Council (SBC) for the administration of the Last-Mile Broadband Grant program, a grant for the development and expansion of Broadband in Nevada County. The grant will be funded by what the County receives for transient occupancy tax (TOT), a tourism-related tax charged to travelers when they rent accommodations for less than 30 days.

[ . . . ]

“The $225,000 Last-Mile Broadband Grant is a pilot program to leverage County funds to support the development of Last-Mile Broadband infrastructure in the unincorporated areas of the County to promote economic development. Last-Mile refers to connecting the enduser or customer’s home or business to a local network provider. The development of Last-Mile transmission networks is the most cost prohibitive component of broadband expansion in Nevada County.

[ . . . ]

It is a 2019 Board Priority to support job-enhancing economic development with an emphasis on creating infrastructure and community partnerships with organizations such as SBC. During the meeting, the Board approved a total of $250,000 investment into economic development and broadband. Of that funding, $25,000 going towards SBC’s administration of the pilot grant program and $225,000 that will be available for the grant.

The full report is HERE.
It will be interesting to see how the Sierra Business Council leverages this one time grant of $225,000. The last mile is like apple pie, as everyone supports it. However, fiber to the home is bloody expensive, like Google and Verizon found out and shut down their fiber to the home programs as too costly.

Fiber to the home is expensive costing between $1200 to $1500 per household, excluding any electronics needed to make the connection. That is the cost per connection when the fiber is in the street, in rural neighborhoods, the driveways can be quarter of a mile long. The primary cost component is labor to dig the trenches and lay the fiber. Or, hang the fiber on existing poles, which introduces another cost, rent for the use the poles which belong to other companies.

An alternative approach is to use wireless technology for the last mile connection. Wireless technology was used by the Beckville Network to tap the VAST middle mile network. The estimate network cost for ten homes was $10,000. That is $1,000 per connection. More here. As it turns out, the tall trees are limiting the expansion of the network to cover more of the neighborhood, requiring major network upgrades and more cost. The final cost per home is still unknown.

The Sierra Business Council was preparing a Broadband Strategic Plan for Nevada County to be published in August according to Peter Brown, the project developer. It will be interesting to see how symbiotic the Strategic Plan and the Nevada County Economic Development Grant are.

It is not clear how SBC should spend the broadband economic development grant, nor what the success criteria will be? How will citizens know the $225,000 resulted in economic development? How many last-mile connections, and at what cost? And, what wireless technology will best serve the community, as there are last-mile technologies in the market that cannot provide, the FCC minimum speeds of 25 Mbps down and 3 Mbps up.

Many of these questions could be answered when the Nevada County Broadband Strategic Plan is published. Stay Tuned.

Farmers Call for Better Broadband in Rural California

By Kevin Hecteman at the California Farm Bureau Federation

Having trouble reading this on your laptop or smartphone? You might be among the more than one-quarter of rural Americans with insufficient broadband service.

From equipment diagnostics to data transfers to irrigation control to simple text messaging, tech is becoming a way of life on the farm—but is only as good as the local internet connection.

“America’s farmers and ranchers embrace technology that allows their farming businesses to be more efficient, economical and environmentally responsible,” the American Farm Bureau Federation states in a policy paper on the topic, citing precision applications of water, fertilizer and crop-protection materials among the benefits of tech on the farm.

“These are only a few examples of how farmers use broadband connectivity to achieve optimal yield, lower environmental impact and maximize profits,” AFBF stated.

Or, as Siskiyou County farmer Brandon Fawaz put it: “Having faster internet now is no longer a luxury. It’s kind of just required in the normal transaction or running of the business.”

The trick, of course, is getting that service out to people who need it. Even California—home of Silicon Valley and its technical cornucopia—has issues with connectivity in rural regions, and Fawaz said it goes beyond broadband.

“We’re still hindered by the lack of good cell coverage,” said Fawaz, who grows hay and operates a fertilizer and crop-protection business. “I still rely a lot more on printing paper and taking that to someone driving a fertilizer spreader versus being able to send them certain types of data files straight from wherever I’m at to wherever they’re at. You’ve got a piece of equipment sitting there, and you know what needs to be given to the guy, but you’re having to take him a piece of paper or a USB stick for him to plug into the computer on the machine.”

That extends to soil sensors Fawaz relies on to take moisture levels and send the data to phones and computers, accessing how-to videos and other troubleshooting information on equipment manufacturers’ websites and irrigating crops from remote locations.

“Our pivots—our irrigation systems—are controlled on service that’s basically just text-message-level service,” he said. “I’ve had to drive a 36-mile round trip to go down and push a button, because the pivot wouldn’t receive the stop or start command.”

The issue, one of AFBF’s top priorities, is receiving attention at the federal level. On Capitol Hill, a House subcommittee held a hearing last week at which Missouri Farm Bureau President Blake Hurst drove home the need for broadband access.

“While most Americans take broadband for granted, 26.4% of rural Americans lack access to broadband,” Hurst told the hearing. “This is alarming, particularly when compared to the only 1.7% of urban Americans who lack such access.”

Broadband connectivity allows equipment such as cloud-connected planters, irrigators, tractors and harvesters to automatically change application rates for seed, fertilizer and more, Hurst testified.

Connectivity also is key to running the most basic of services in rural areas, said Chester Robertson, chief administrative officer of Modoc County.

“It’s a public-safety issue,” Robertson said. “It’s an impediment to government and education. And it also impacts our private-sector businesses.”
Wildfires, car crashes into telephone poles and even squirrels gnawing on lines have all interrupted service and made it difficult, if not impossible, for residents and travelers to conduct business and for first responders to do their jobs, he added.

“The average citizen doesn’t realize the implications to them when we don’t have broadband,” Robertson said. “And it’s getting harder and harder for us in government to procure services when you’re not connected to the cloud.”

He’s seen the effects on farmers and ranchers in his county as well, and noted capacity is getting to be an issue.

“As more and more of the ag community and a lot of the kids and other people go to using their cellphone, they’re using the same broadband backbone that government and the rest of us are using,” Robertson said.

“There’s a nexus between cellphone usage, which more and more the ag community is dependent on, and having a strong backbone of broadband,” he added. “As time progresses, this becomes less of an equality issue and more of an issue of public safety, and compromises ability for businesses and public entities to provide core mandated services.”

A U.S. Department of Agriculture report, A Case for Rural Broadband, found that fully deployed rural broadband would lead to nearly $65 billion in economic benefits annually. The report, produced as part of the American Broadband Initiative, cites benefits to row crops, specialty crops and livestock management and states USDA’s intention to work with other federal agencies to remove barriers to broadband deployment and ag tech innovation (See Comment).

The 2018 Farm Bill included the Precision Agriculture Connectivity Act, creating a task force to focus on connectivity and technology needs of precision agriculture. The Broadband Data Improvement Act, introduced by Sen. Shelley Capito, R-W.V., seeks to improve the accuracy of broadband coverage maps and better direct federal funds for broadband installation where needed.

In the state Legislature, Assembly Bill 488 by Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, D-Winters, would add the secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture to the California Broadband Council, to give agriculture a voice in finding ways to expand broadband. The bill is up for consideration on the state Senate floor.

“At this day and age, how do we not have better cell coverage?” Fawaz asked. “If you were to ask people here what’s most frustrating on this topic, it hands down would be cell coverage.”

(Kevin Hecteman is an assistant editor of Ag Alert. He may be contacted at khecteman@cfbf.com.)

Presented with Permission