Wednesday, July 10, 2013

MountainConnect 2013: Outline for Colorado Strategic Broadband Plan

MountainConnect 2013, the third annual gathering of Colorado's rural broadband activists was held in Breckenridge, CO JUN 17 and 18 and once again an overwhelming success. With over 130 attendees and over a dozen speakers, the event provided an outline for Colorado's Strategic Broadband Plan. Of note:
1. Power Points of speaker presentations can be found at
2. Topics covered:
a. carrier neutral locations (CNLs) for rural broadband
b. crowdfunding for rural broadband
c. distributed antenna systems (DAS) for rural broadband
d. fiber to the home from rural electric cooperatives
e. aerial fiber for community anchor institutions' broadband
f. E-Rate for rural school districts and service providers
g. Digital Economy index
h. Online statewide testing for schools: train wreck or opportunity for improvement?
i. Big Phat middle mile: 8 Gbps microwave middle mile; transmission lines as alternative middle mile; rural electric cooperatives as alternative middle mile
j. High Cost Fund Reform

See also:

Sponsors included:

$3,000: Viaero
$1,500: Tri-States Generation and Transmission, Skywerx, Mid State Consultants/OHIvey, Epitome Design
$500: Grand County, Crestone Telecom, Colorado Central Telecom, advoda, CGAIT, KNS, Region 9 Economic Development District, NW CO Council of Governments, Fasttracks, Arona Enterprises

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Free Webinar on Rural Broadband in Colorado

’ll Vote for You if You Make My Netflix Work  - Broadband Economics Lessons from Colorado
Thursday, April 11th, 1pm ET

Mere entertainment value has been back-seated as a driver for broadband services. Today, it’s the lifeblood necessary for communities of all sizes to prosper.

Remote healthcare, education, commercial transactions, and public safety are just a few examples of applications that need reliable, high-speed, and affordable access to modern broadband service.

Recent government programs funded construction of middle-mile facilities in many corners of the U.S. But now what? How do states and local governments ensure the economic vitality of their communities through continued development of modern communications systems?

In this webinar, broadband activist Frank Ohrtman, and Ciena’s Chris Janson, will describe the experiences of broadband deployment in Colorado and offer lessons that can help communities across the U.S.

Attend and learn how:
Broadband is an essential utility, needed for economic prosperity in ALL communities
The “five A’s” of community broadband help you develop a locally optimized solution
Financing the network comes in many, sometimes non-traditional, forms

If you’re looking for new insights to help your community, this webinar is for you! Register today

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Broadband Communities Summit Dallas April 16-19

Hi All!

Anybody who is anybody in rural broadband activism will be at the Broadband Communities Summit in Dallas, TX April 16-19. For agenda see:

Of note, I'm on a panel discussing "collaboration in rural broadband" highlighting the example set by Crestone Telecom, LLC.

Price-wise, it doesn't get any better than this!

Click the first button, for CODE HOLDERS.
A box will open up below for your VIP Code
Enter RTC195 to register for $195 — a $700 savings off the regular rate.

Hope to see you there!

Frank Ohrtman

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

First “public” FirstNet board meeting

I attended the first “public” meeting of the FirstNet board of directors yesterday on the US Department of Commerce’s campus (NTIA, NIST, NOAA, others) in Boulder, CO.  The board provided an overview of FirstNet goals. The board meting was followed by a press conference. Attendees were then treated to a tour of the PSCR labs where potential FirstNet platforms were being tested.

The board of directors proclaimed that the vision was for local control and use of FirstNet assets/operations by law enforcement and public service entities. State governments are directed to “create the table” for participation by public safety entities in their respective states.

On a technical note, the FirstNet network will cover “every square meter in the United States” with an in-building presence in every major building using some 30,000 cell sites. There are some 1,300 technical requirements for the launch of FirstNet and 5,000 for long term operations of the network.

There are 5 guiding principles for the FirstNet network:
1. Reliability of the public safety network is job #1.
2. The network will cover “every square meter in the United States”.
3. The network will meet or exceed public safety technical requirements.
4. The network must be as economical to build and operate as possible. Even the poorest fire district, for example, must be able to afford the construction and operation of the network.
5. The network must be available as soon as possible using existing assets where possible.

The board meeting was followed by a press conference where it appeared to me that all members of the press allowed into the board meeting conference room were from the public safety industry press (no Denver Post, Boulder Daily Camera, etc).  One question revealed that FirstNet would release a business plan for the technical part of the network in April 2013.

Following the press conference, attendees were invited to a tour of the Public Safety Communications Research labs which consisted of 700 MHz LTE gear: a) base stations and b) subscriber devices. PSCR personnel emphasized (quite rightly) that the presence of vendor gear in the labs represented no endorsement or indication of endorsement from PSCR. Having worked in vendor sales in the past, I can assure you a) it's a tough job to get your demo gear into any one’s lab and b) that is no guarantee of a purchase order. Subscriber devices (smartphones, tablets, in-car devices) on display included Harris and elektrobit ( Base stations, small cell vendors included Harris, Alcatel-Lucent, Motorola Mobility, NEC, Public Wireless and IPWireless (General Dynamics).

There was no tour of the lab for core platforms (routers, switches).


While I support FirstNet’s goal of a nation wide interoperable, state-of-the-art network, I am skeptical of its ability to cover “every square meter in the United States” (I gather no board member has visited the Flat Tops Wilderness Area recently) plus in-building presence in every major building any time in the next decade.  Where do the 30,000 cell sites come from? Are those 30,000 cell sites new construction or use of existing infrastructure? A new 4G cell site costs at least $500,000 times 30,000 equals $15 billion. How do you fund $15 billion from a $7 billion projected budget (most of it to come from a spectrum auction for which no date has been set)?

Why do I use quotation marks around “public”? The board meeting was held in a conference room and the “public” was invited to view proceedings remotely in a near-by auditorium. When I think of the word “public”, I think town hall or better yet, trade shows where even the highest and mightiest CEOs on panel discussions have to smile and swap business cards with the hoi poloi. There were less than 100 members of the “public” in attendance and appeared to consist of members of the vendor community. I spotted no uniforms from Colorado’s public safety community (Colorado Patrol, county sheriffs, any police or fire department.

There was no mention of what, if any, data was being used for network planning. The State Broadband Initiative funded through some $250 million of ARRA grants to states did not collect middle mile data. Is NTIA planning on building a FirstNet-only middle mile to support the 60 Mbps downloads to handsets the lab mentioned? How will the bandwidth get to “every square meter in the United States”?

Here in Colorado, we have a less than satisfactory experience with NTIA’s infrastructure efforts:

I hope FirstNet doesn’t do to public safety what EagleNet has done to public education in Colorado. I urge all sheriffs, chiefs of police and fire, county commissioners and state legislators to be “eyes, ears, nose and fingers in” on any FirstNet planning process. Failure to do may result in  waste of public money and your community may have nothing to show for billions of FirstNet dollars.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Save the Date! Broadband Communities Summit APR 16-19

I'm on a panel. Hope to see you there!


First Public FirstNet Meeting in Boulder next TUES!

Hi All!

The very first public meeting of the FirstNet board being held next TUES in Boulder at the NIST Building 325 Broadway 9:30 - 12:30

Good opportunity to find out just how real or not real FirstNet is at this point.


Friday, February 1, 2013

We could learn a lot from Washington State

Washington State made a series of grants to their Local Technology Plannings Teams:

NTIA is allocating $135 million to state governments for FirstNet planning.  Why not allocate those funds where they can do the most good, to the Local Technology Planning Teams?