Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Does Your Netflix Work Yet?

Frank Ohrtman got it right with the title of his very helpful book I'll Vote for You If You Make My Netflix Work. Netflix now publishes monthly rankings of major ISPs based on their actual performance across all Netflix streams.
You will note, the rankings are:
  1. Fiber to the home
  2. Cable Internet
  3. DSL
  4. Mobile/wireless services.
Fiber to the home isn't an easy problem to solve in rural Colorado but it is certainly one of the tools in the suite of solutions being considered. Fiber to the home does not take significantly more resources than rural electrification and we have significantly better construction methodologies than we did in 1936.
  • "At the time the Rural Electrification Act was passed, electricity was commonplace in cities but largely unavailable in farms, ranches, and other rural places."
    Doesn't that sound familiar?
  • "In the 1930s, the provision of power to remote areas was not thought to be economically feasible."
    Doesn't that sound familiar?
  • "REA crews travelled through the American countryside, bringing teams of electricians along with them. The electricians added wiring to houses and barns to utilize the newly available power provided by the line crews."
    One of the failings of most projects being executed by the stimulus broadband initiatives is the failure to provide the means for the common household to take advantage of new broadband service availability. The focus is too highly on middle mile; last mile and on premises use are not well balanced.
  • "At most, one outlet was installed per room, since plug-connected appliances were expensive and uncommon."
    A common argument I hear from the incumbents who have failed to provide real broadband to most of America and in particular to rural broadband is that they will provide service when demand exists for the service. They say the "build it and they will come" model never works. To that I say, "Except for when it does."
Municipalities, counties, regional governments, the federal government, and others need to step up to the plate and facilitate the deployment of true broadband to all Americans.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Central Colorado Telecom virtual ribbon cutting

Yesterday I attended a "virtual ribbon cutting" (it takes a snow cat to reach the actual tower and the wind chill factor as about zero degrees) for Central Colorado Telecom, the Chaffee County version of Crestone Telecom, LLC at the annual Chaffee County Economic Development Corporation awards banquet. The event was hosted by Mt Princeton Hot Springs Resort which has suffered from pathetic internet and cellular services.

What is significant about this event is that Crestone Telecom has been in operation for about 9 months and is almost cash flow positive. Through multiple invitations (and local investors plus a loan from the community bank) from anchors in Chaffee County (just north of Crestone over Poncha Pass), Crestone Telecom launched Central Colorado Telecom and has now completed microwave backhaul of one Gbps + into the county reaching anchors such as Monarch Ski Resort, mt Princeton hot Springs, Heart of the Rockies Medical Center, towns of Salida and Buena Vista.

Community leaders gave praise to founder Ralph Abrams for taking the initiative.

Whats the significance?  Just another example of successful implementation of the 3-part mantra: a) the best solutions are local b) no one size fits all and c) it does NOT cost $ millions to bring broadband to even the most remote communities. The Local Broadband Planning Team initiated by the Chaffee County Economic Development Corporation followed the 5 A's:
1. Aggregate experience: they got the right people on the team at EDC
2. Assess broadband environment: took many speed tests and inventoried service providers and infrastructure
3. Assess and aggregate demand: got community anchors on board to give their their business to alternative service provider if that provider would come to the county
4. Adopt existing resources and solutions: used existing towers to bring microwave middle mile tot he county; distribution through some new towers with support from local citizens in donating land for tower space
5. Adapt for sustainability

this model is no hard to replicate. See other examples at http://www.illvoteforyou ifyou make my netflixwork.org

Friday, December 7, 2012

$100 million EagleNet grant suspended


Thursday, December 6, 2012

Western Colorado needs fiber optic investment to fill in the gaps.  SECOM is
wrapping up a lit-services deal with NTIA that will conservatively save EagleNet $10
million by avoiding further overbuilding.  Senator's Udall & Bennet need to hear
this savings should be re-deployed to Western Colorado to support our regional

Please direct correspondence to:

Monisha Merchant  (Bennet)     monisha_merchant@bennet.senate.gov

Erin Minks  (Udall)                        erin_minks@markudall.senate.gov

And Cc:

Larry Strickling (NTIA)                        lstrickling@ntia.doc.gov      

Laura Dodson (NTIA)                        ldodson@ntia.doc.gov

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Club 20 Building Toward Broadband for Colorado Conference – Federal Communications Commission

November 15th and I am spending the day at the Club 20 “Building Toward Broadband for Colorado” conference.  I will provide posts about much of the content.
Patrick Halley, Deputy Director Office of Legislative Affairs for the FCC and former advisor to the Wireline Bureau Chief joined via tele-conference.
Mr. Halley spent some time talking about the structure of the Universal Service Fund.  The USF comprises four programs: 1) the high cost fund, 2) low income subsidies, 3) E-Rate, and 4) rural health care.  The presentation then focused on the high cost fund.  The high cost fund was designed to ensure all Americans could have access to dial tone.  Now the FCC is working to extend broadband access to all of America.  Simultaneously, the Commission is working to correct structural concerns with their disbursement mechanisms.
The resolution to the USF high cost fund is through the Connect America Fund (or CAF).  CAF is intended to: 1) provide universal service, 2) to do so in a fiscally responsible manner, and 3) to accommodate business realities – that is to accommodate the status quo as much as possible.  The CAF will have access to about $4.58 billion per year to address: 1) fixed locations, 2) mobility, and 3) very remote or very high cost areas (probably going to be served by satellite).
Some facts from the presentation:
·        220,000 people in Colorado without access to fixed broadband (4 Mbps down/1 Mbps up) of which 178,000 are in rural areas.
High cost funds are not available to state open access builds.  There does not seem to be any current reasonable hope USF will be made available to state sponsored builds - especially those that are overbuilds.
When we had the OIT presentation, they indicated the National Broadband Map was the correct place to ask for corrections.  Mr. Halley pointed out that the National Broadband Map is a compilation of state maps.  As a population, the State should challenge OIT to offer a state challenge and map data updating process.

Club 20 Building Toward Broadband for Colorado Conference - Colorado Telecom: Challenges and Opportunities Provider Panel

November 15th and I am spending the day at the Club 20 “Building Toward Broadband for Colorado” conference.  I will provide posts about much of the content.
The panel included:
  • Tim Kunkleman – Colorado regulatory director for CenturyLink.
  • Pete Kirchhof – Colorado Telecommunications Association.
  • Russ Elliot – Brainstorm.
  • Dan Reno – Hughes Net.
  • Melissa Shannon – Optimum Government and Public Affairs.
  • Aaron Bailey – Xiocom Wireless/CityNet.
During the panel, Pat Swonger stood to speak briefly on behalf of EAGLE-Net.
Unfortunately, many of the opinions expressed by some of the panelists got my dander up and my notes are less than effective.  To summarize, the general opinion in the room seems to be one that favors changing the regulation or the subsidization models for the status quo model of private ownership of the natural monopoly element.  The status quo model – with various regulatory regimes and subsidization schemes – will not serve to resolve the broadband problem that pervades the United States and has left rural Colorado isolated from the 21st Century economy.  Colorado does not need new regulatory schemes to force those networks that are subsidized with tax dollars to provide service.  Colorado, as well as states and municipalities across the nation, needs to recognize that telecommunications infrastructure is a natural monopoly and should be treated as such.  We should build open access infrastructure as a public utility and allow multiple service providers to offer service.  Doing so significantly reduces the need for regulation or subsidization of private companies with public money.
Interestingly, the provider panel does not include state network owners.
Mr. Kunkleman argued that municipal entry is simply overbuilding and wasting money.  He argues that we should pay CenturyLink to close the cost gap.  Unfortunately, this method has been unsatisfactorily tried with both MNT and Colorado Tele-Health network. 

Club 20 Building Toward Broadband for Colorado Conference - Broadband Service & Provider Availability

November 15th and I am spending the day at the Club 20 “Building Toward Broadband for Colorado” conference.  I will provide posts about much of the content.

The second session was presented by Brian Shepherd and Megan Chadwick of OIT.

The map was started through the ARRA grant process.  The map is compiled from data provided by the various service providers in the state.  Most of the offices efforts are put into collecting and validating data.  The office does collect speed test data and other performance measures.  These performance measures are used, in part, to validate service provider provided data.
Mr. Shepherd answered a question about what value this map data has by talking about the fact that broadband is an unregulated service.  The overall question of today is, “What is the role of government?”  Most of the conversation revolved around government regulating or subsidizing incumbent network owners.  Some of the conversation touched on state provided infrastructure (in particular, dig once policies and the Arizona digital highway law).

For planning, the reported data has a number of deficiencies:
  • It focuses on census blocks – these geographic blocks do not reflect real service availability.
  • It does not survey backbone or middle mile infrastructure.
  • There is no mechanism on the state’s site for reporting unserved areas.

Club 20 Building Toward Broadband for Colorado Conference - Telecommunications Fundamentals

November 15th and I am spending the day at the Club 20 “Building Toward Broadband for Colorado” conference.  I will provide posts about much of the content.

The first session is “Telecommunications Fundamentals” by John Sluder of Western Colorado Community College.

Mr. Sluder provided a quick overview of the history and technology of voice and data.  A critical point he made in his presentation is that the twisted pair infrastructure in place in Western Colorado (and throughout much of the nation) is based on a 4 Kbps sampled analog voice signal (64 Kbps sampled digital voice).  One constraint suggested by our telecommunications history is that our telecommunications is, in some ways, constrained by design decisions made in the 19th Century.  Unfortunately, our imagination is also constrained by historic business models.

Moving into a wireless discussion, Mr. Sluder suggests 4G and LTE are powerful technologies with significant bandwidth potential.  However, they are 1st shared and 2nd constrained by the fact that they must connect to the rest of the world through wired networks.  Wireless is critical for mobility. 
After an introduction to the history and technology of the telecommunications, Mr. Sluder turned to some of the business decisions associated with deploying broadband.  He suggested broadband business decisions revolve around cost, distance, and density.  As part of the presentation, Mr. Sluder turned to a discussion format.  The discussion emphasized the fact that rural Colorado depends on subsidies.

Mr. Sluder suggested Telecom 101 as a good introdction to telecommunications book.

Mr. Sluder suggests that DS3 (about 45 Mbps) is the best we can do on copper – but fiber is virtually unlimited.  As we talk about new construction – especially state sponsored construction – we should be talking about fiber construction.
Mr. Sluder said, "Competition is a relative term because if there is not a revenue stream the competitors are not going to build out a system.”  Open access networks help resolve this situation.  One of the faults in our current model of delivering competitive broadband to rural Colorado is the insistence that the service provider and the network owner are the same person.  This creates an environment where funds are spent inefficiently.  Couldn't the state provide the infrastructure as a public utility and allow multiple service providers to compete?

Broadband News From FremontConnect

The news from FremontConnect, the Local Broadband Planning Team for Fremont County, CO

FremontConnect held their regular meeting this past week in Canon City.
Updates include:

1. Secom will be offering middle mile services via fiber in Fremont
County in the next few months (middle mile provider #2)
2. Optimum (Cablevision) will be offering middle mile services via
fiber in the next few months (middle mile provider #3
3. EagleNet will be offering middle mile services via microwave some
time in the next year (middle mile provider #4)
4. Last mile providers, vendors from the local telecom value network
and community anchor institutions are eagerly awaiting middle mile
services that are: "redundant, abundant and affordable"

FremontConnect has been meeting for less than one year (first meeting FEB 2012) and it appears they are well on their way to solving their middle mile problems. Rather than wait for someone in Washington, Wall Street ofr Denver to solve the issue (good luck with that!), the citizens of Fremont County formed a Local Broadband Planning Team, applied the "5 A's", and are now well on their way to fixing the broadband deficit. For more info, see http://www.illvoteforyouifyoumakemynetflixwork.org

Sunday, November 11, 2012

We could learn a lot from Kansas

In its 2011 session, the Kansas legislature passed HB 2309 which called for an audit of the state's research and education network, Kan-Ed. Like many such networks administered by state governments (in Colorado, its the Colorado State Network, in Oklahoma its OneNet, etc, etc), it consists largely of T1s (1.54 Mbps up and down) from the telephone company. The upshot of the audit is to determine if the network in its current configuration, offerings, speeds, etc is adequate to meet the needs of the state's public schools and institutions of higher learning in a 21st century global economy.

I have no idea what the audit might turn up, but I salute the Kansas legislature for asking the right questions.

We could learn a lot from Arizona

We Could Learn a Lot From Arizona: Aggregating Highway Rights of Way for Middle Mile Fiber Optic Cable
Arizona provides a shining example of how Colorado could aggregate existing resources to improve the broadband environment for rural and remote communities across the state. As the demand for digital Internet speed increases exponentially, many of Arizona’s rural residents and businesses found they either did not have high capacity digital services available at all, or the available services did not provide sufficient capacity to support new video intensive Internet services such as eLearning, Tele-Health, Telework and IPTV, etc.  These shortcomings have been limiting factors in the availability of jobs, educational opportunities, public safety and healthcare services in such areas.  The passing of Senate Bill 1402 in 2012 allows for the spread of significantly higher-speed broadband access to citizens statewide, accelerating economic growth, education, public safety, healthcare, and digital government in Arizona.
Specifically, the bill expands existing rules governing Arizona Department of Transportation’s (ADOT) management of state rights of way (ROW) to include transportation-of–information as well as vehicles. When funding is provided to ADOT, from a fund to be managed by the Digital Arizona Project, ADOT will be requested to bury multiple empty fiber-optic conduits along specified state highways-using existing ROW wherever possible. These multiple separate conduits will be leased to broadband providers by the Project on a cost recovery basis. Providers must contract to install fiber before conduits are constructed.  The outcome of the Project will be streamlined access to the ROW at significantly lower costs to providers for constructing long distance digital capacity to reach rural communities. These lowered costs are expected to encourage new investments by provider’s thereby accelerating and improving availability of high-capacity digital services in poorly served areas of Arizona. It is expected to take a number of years to fully implement this program throughout the rural areas of the state.

Municipal Wireless in Eagle county, CO

I spent most of this past Friday in Vail getting the cook’s tour of the reinvigorated municipal wireless network. I was most impressed!

Lets go back a few years when municipal Wi-Fi appeared to be the wave of the future in terms of ubiquitous internet access. Since then, no fewer than 19 state legislatures (including Colorado) have banned municipal internet anything much less Wi-Fi or broadband.  Fast forward to 2012 and Town of Vail in partnership with the ski corporation, Aspen Wireless and Crown Castle International has reconstructed a form of municipal wireless that underlines the “Vail experience”. That is, not only does the visitor’s Netflix work, so do all the apps on the iPhone. Contrast that with some other ski towns where the telecommunications infrastructure fails to meet the demands of a seasonal influx of urbanites who expect a digital experience on a par with their home cities (think Lower Manhattan or the Bay area). Fail to meet those expectations and the high margin clientele will not return.

Before being spun off to CenturyLink, the Vail Wi-Fi network had 18 nodes of which only 1 survives. The new network not only offers ubiquitous, free Wi-Fi, it also has a cellular distributed antenna system (DAS) to ensure cell coverage everywhere in the Vail Village. This DAS is somewhat akin to an open access network where any cellular provider that wishes to participate, makes a small contribution in hardware to ensure their subscribers are cared for.   

So how does this project line up with the “5 A’s” of Colorado Community Broadband (see http://www.illvoteforyouifyoumakemynetflixwork.org ):

1.     Aggregate experience: partners include Crown Castle (one of top 3 tower companies in the world); Town of Vail (they’ve been here before and have more sales tax revenue than you know who, not to mention a real smart IT manager, also the savings in moving the town telecom off wireline and onto wireless) Aspen Wireless (they’ve been in the business for over a decade), Vail Resorts (the “Vail experience”) and the Big 5 cellular providers.
2.     Assess the broadband (wireless) environment: would big names like this be doing this if there wasn’t a clear need?
3.     Assess and aggregate demand: would big names like this be making this investment if there wasn’t a clear business case?
4.     Adopt existing resources and technologies: there are no “unsightly” cell towers, generators, etc; the devices fit neatly into the architecture. Speaking of resources, a ski corporation and high end lodging vendors can come together for the common good in building a muni wireless network that benefits their tourism-based economy, “its for the visitors (economy), stupid!”
5.     Adapt for sustainability: given the deep-pocketed partners and the fact that these players came back to the muni wireless models years after CenturyLink took it over and killed off the network, its plain to see the community commitment (yes, a publicly traded company like Vail Resorts is a member of our rural Rocky Mountain community!) to the network points to long term sustainability. I expect the other ski towns to read, weep and make plans for their muni wireless networks soon.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Jeff Gavlinski from Durango and SW Colorado Local Broadband Planning Team reports:

Frank, here in Region 9 we are also relatively new as a group but have cemented a diverse group and are starting to make some progress.

1. We are now attempting to validate the Colorado Broadband map of assets in our region to include wireline, wireless, and mobile broadband. We believe that, in order to identify underserved areas of our region, we must know what we have/don't have and where our current ISPs have submitted incorrect or exaggerated coverage and available speeds.

2. Via the City of Durango and their license agreement with Mobile Pulse, most of our team is contributing to a study of mobile data usage across our region. This is most useful on many fronts and we are fortunate to have usage across the incumbents.

This first item above will keep us very busy as a group for a while.... Hope this was informative and useful.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Has any one heard anything about new legislation? I have not. Last year we heard a lot about SB-157 which would have channeled High Cost Fund $ to broadband infrastructure. There is frequent talk of "tweaking" SB-152 to allow more public sector involvement in telecom services especially broadband. However, I have not heard of any legislator pushing any legislation.

Let us know if you hear anything. Or, what initiatives can we be pushing?

San Luis Valley Broadband Cooperative update: Yesterday (OCT 24, 2012) I attended the regular meeting of the San Luis Valley Cooperative in Alamosa. I was very pleased to hear of some of the new developments in broadband environment:

1. GoJade's fiber route from Walsenburg to Alamosa is complete. GoJade is also deploying new Canopy fixed wireless infrastructure that can deliver downloads of 90 Mbps!
2. CenturyLink's new route north out of the Valley will be complete soon.
3. Eaglenet's route along US 160 will mark the 6th middle mile route into the Valley constructed over the last two years
4. Crestone Telecom will add their 300th subsciber some time in the next few days which is the break even point for this 6-month old operation. This would have been very difficult without a $116,000 loan from the San Luis Valley Development and Resource Group. Work by Ralph and his team os on-going in Chaffee County in partnership with Skywerx.
5. San Luis Valley Rural Electric Cooperative will soon launch their strategic plan for fiber to the meter which includes a fiber to the home San Luis Valley wide (they are the electric provider for the the whole valley except for Alamosa). The fiber will be deployed as aerial fiber on power poles in an open access network. Fiber to the home is available in Costilla county from GoJade Communications.
SUMMARY AND ANALYSIS: 6 middle miles into the Valley could make it a hot spot for data centers and other high tech industries. This is especially true if some of the power generation initiatives can deliver very low cost electricity. The cooler temps in the Valley can also be attractive to the data center industry.
I note that fiber to the home Valley-wide as well as fixed wireless 90 Mbps downloads beats the Denver and Front Range communities where fiber to the home is not available and 100 Mbps downloads from the cable TV providers are available only in select communities.
Long story short: no other part of the country is improving their broadband environment as quickly as the San Luis Valley of Colorado!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

While there may be some disagreement with the way EAGLE-Net is fulfilling its obligations under its stimulus grant, the Alliance is bringing fiber to some areas it does not currently exist and increasing capacity and redundancy in areas where it does.
Jason Wells of Silverton City was kind enough to share this letter from the Silverton School District, San Juan County, and the Town of Silverton to Senators Udall and Bennet, Representatives DeGette, Polis and Perlmutter, Larry Strickling, Representatives Walden and Lee, Jonathon Adelstein, Jessica Zufolo, and Tom Yenerell:
Dear Congressmen,
We are writing to you in response to your joint letter dated September 17th and directed to National Telecommunications & Information Administration ("NTIA") Administrator, Lawrence E. Strickling.  In this communication, you collectively called for an immediate halt to telecommunications build-out efforts currently underway across the State of Colorado through the NTIA-funded EAGLE-Net Alliance ("ENA") project.  In light of this request, we wish to advise you of our opposition to such extreme measures and of our general support for ENA's organizational mandate to bring enhanced telecommunications abilities to unserved and underserved areas such as ours.
Insofar as ENA has expressed its intent to complete a fiber optic build to our community where the entirety our communications systems has long subsisted via only a tenuous microwave link to the greater world, we feel that ENA's plans to complete this connection northward up the U.S. 550 corridor will not only serve the primary objective of affording our school system the use of much needed 21st Century technology, but also the secondary effect of providing our entire region with the infrastructure it needs to expand economically in these challenging times.  We thus feel that any cessation of ENA's progress in Southwest Colorado would necessarily dampen the prospects of positive growth in the region, thus placing us at a distinct economic disadvantage as other states and nations continue to build out their telecommunications networks in such a manner as to afford interests in both the public and private sectors crucial opportunities to succeed and aptly serve their constituencies in the global marketplace.
We recognize that ENA suffered wide criticism for purportedly not focusing resources more acutely in the most technologically disadvantaged areas of the state and we stand firmly with our other underserved mountain communities in calling for the organization to use this federal grant award as an opportunity to deliver state-of-the-art connectivity where the private sector has failed to do so.  But we feel that putting ENA's expansion plans "on hold," as you have called for, while the Department of Commerce undertakes an exhaustive audit of the program would be not only wasteful and inefficient, but counterproductive as such a measure would undoubtedly depress both the educational opportunities ENA seeks to afford as well as the secondary economic benefits that might be realized via a strong and redundant fiber connection from Durango to Grand Junction.
Though this build may not completely close what we have come to call the "Silverton Gap," its completion would mark a substantial step in that direction and stands to serve as a tremendous success story in one part of rural, underserved Colorado.  We thus view any attempt to subvert this effort and those in other underserved communities across the state as an impediment to our respective abilities to compete both educationally and commercially on a technologically even playing field.  So again, we object here to your call to put the ENA project on hold and will continue to oppose to any efforts to curtail what we view as substantial progress in the realm of telecommunications advancement.  We hope that in response to this plea, you will take our firm and united position under strong advisement as you continue to scrutinize the ENA build-out.
Local Broadband Planning Team Updates

1. FremontConnect  This team is making great progress. They have identified a carrier neutral location that is located on an existing fiber ring around Canon City. In addition, a redundant fiber connection to the outside world is planned.

2. ChaffeeConnect: One year after the first meetings, we are happy to report that Chaffee Telecom, LLC is busy constructing a redundant middle mile (Gbps+ microwave) into the county connecting Poncha Springs, Salida, Mt Princeton Hotsprings, Monarch Ski Mountain and Buena Vista. In addition, very fast (10 Mbps+) fixed wireless will be available in those markets as well.

3. CusterConnect: Six months after their first meeting this hard-charging team is exploring an aerial fiber solution to provide Westcliffe and surrounding areas with a redundant, abundant and affordable middle mile solution.

4. NW CO Broadband Cooperative: Articles of incorporation, by-laws, etc are ready to go on this cutting edge broadband team. Carrier neutral locations are planned for both Steamboat Springs and Craig. Grand County is plugged into the planning and is exploring a needs assessment.

5. San Luis Valley Broadband Cooperative: Saguache county now has a new fixed wireless service provider, Crestone Telecom, LLC building out county-wide including Center, Saguache, Villa Grove, Moffat, and Crestone. A redundant fiber link over La Veta Pass is complete (thanks GoJade!). A carrier neutral location is planned for Alamosa.

These are just the high points. I invite others to report in.

Frank Ohrtman

The Problem - Introduction

Many communities throughout Colorado recognize a need to improve telecommunications capabilities, capacity, reliability, and choice.  Much like the rail systems of the late 1800’s, today’s advanced communications infrastructures represent a means by which communities may participate in, or find themselves left out of, the global economy.  Many communities are discovering that critical telecommunications needs in their business and residential markets are going unmet.  Incumbent network owners consume limited public easement space with monopoly controlled networks.  Quarterly reporting requirements encourage these private incumbent network owners to maximize the appearance of short-term profits by delaying infrastructure upgrades and maintaining pricing models based on bandwidth scarcity. 
The financial market forces driving private incumbent network capital investment has dampened broadband availability across the nation and in, in particular, in rural areas.  Nationally, the Information and Technology Innovation Foundation has ranked the United States fifteenth out of the thirty advanced nations studied in a comparison of the quality of broadband connections based on the percentage of households with access, the speed of the connections, and costs[1].  Based on speed alone, the US ranks even lower – at 25th according to a survey by Speed Matters[2].  “Figure 1 – Global Broadband Quality and Penetration Leaders”[3] shows that while the US lags behind other developed countries in broadband measures of both quality and penetration.  In “The Global Competitiveness Report 2011-2012,” the World Economic Forum ranked the US 18th in Internet users/100 population, 18th in broadband Internet subscriptions/100 population and 26th in Internet bandwidth measured as kb/s/capita (p 363)[4].
Figure 1 – Global Broadband Quality and Penetration Leaders

In rural areas of the country, in rural Colorado, the quality of broadband connections and available speeds is significantly worse than in urban areas.  Recent ad hoc studies conducted by the Colorado Broadband Data and Development Program have demonstrated that bandwidth to community anchor institutions in the Denver metropolitan area is significantly higher than in rural southwestern Colorado, as depicted in “Figure 2 – Colorado CAI Bandwidth Comparisons”.
Figure 2 – Colorado CAI Bandwidth Comparisons
The state study also showed significant per Mbps cost differences between the Denver metropolitan area and southwest Colorado.  Reported costs for T1 like services in the Denver metropolitan area average $167 per month per Mbps.  In southwest Colorado, reported costs for these same services average $438 per month per Mbps.  For larger scale purchases, monthly cost per Mbps in the Denver metropolitan area can be as low as $1.25.  The lowest reported bulk purchase price in southwest Colorado was $12 per month per Mbps.

In sum, bandwidth is less available and more costly in southwest Colorado than in Denver and more costly and less available in the US than in many other advanced countries. 

So, does it matter?  It matters a lot because speed and cost determine the opportunities for using the Internet to create jobs and maximize innovations in telemedicine, education, energy conservation, and other areas.  The National Broadband Plan states:
Not having access to broadband applications limits an individual’s ability to participate in 21st century American life.  Health care, education and other important aspects of American life are online.  What’s more, government services and democratic participation are shifting to digital platforms. [5]
Rural and urban local governments across the county and throughout Colorado have recognized the value of broadband and have determined a policy of assisting with broadband deployment may be appropriate.  Some of the policy objectives these local governments hope to accomplish by implementing broadband include:

·         Encouraging economic development through the availability of 21st century telecommunications services,
·         Improving available telecommunications services through innovation and pricing driven by private competition,
·         Improving governmental efficiencies through enhanced online services and other network capabilities,
·         Improving quality of live by creating a richer communication and entertainment environment, enhancing home business opportunities, and improving telecommuting opportunities, and
·         Closing the digital divide making service reasonably available to all citizens.

Unfortunately, many Colorado communities are faced with barriers that seem insurmountable when looking to resolve common telecommunications issues.  Large and small communities throughout the state are unclear of the limitations placed on them by Colorado’s preemptive telecommunications laws[6], they lack clear success stories with successful business plans to model themselves after, and they need to find the capital to cover what can appear to a small community to be an overwhelming implementation cost.
These posts should not only define the broadband problem Colorado's rural communities face but should also pose solutions.

[1] Atkinson, Robert D., Daniel K. Correa and Julie A. Hedlund (May 2008).  “Explaining International Broadband Leadership.”  The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.  Retrieved 12 September 2011 from http://www.itif.org/files/ExplainingBBLeadership.pdf.
[2] Speed Matters (November 2010). “2010 – A Report on Internet Speeds in All 50 States.” Communications Workers of America; Washington DC. Retrieved 24 January 2012 from http://cwa.3cdn.net/299ed94e144d5adeb1_mlblqoxe9.pdf.
[3] “Figure 2 – Global Broadband Quality and Penetration Leaders” and the data supporting it come from the Said Business School’s (University of Oxford) “Third Annual Broadband Study Shows Global Broadband Quality Improves by 24% in One Year” published in 2010.
[4] Said Business School, University of Oxford (1 October 2009). “Global Broadband Quality Study Shows Progress, Highlights Broadband Quality Gap: Broadband Quality Improves around the World Despite Economic Downturn.” University of Oxford; London. Retrieved 24 Feb 2012 from http://www.sbs.ox.ac.uk/newsandevents/Documents/BQS%202009%20final.doc.
[5] The National Broadband Plan can be found at http://www.broadband.gov/plan/2-goals-for-a-high-performance-america/

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

What are the next steps for Colorado Rural Broadband?

Paul Recanzone and I were discussing this and here's a snapshot:

1. End pre-emption, ie SB-152: take away the "fear factor" for public officials to engage in the discussion of community broadband
2. Determine sustainable business models for community networks based on previous experiences
3. Identify capital sources; of note: "road retirement  fund" or 25 cents of every $5 of road maintenance monies go to a fund to build a community broadband network (could be a revolving loan fund) as one of many benefits might be taking white collar/creatives/clerical workers off the road thus decreasing demand for or wear and tear on roads. Any county or municipality with a road fund can start this as soon as they desire...


Frank Ohrtman

Several points:

1.  The FCC deregulated broadband, which, were it regulated, would be a utility as it would be subject to the Common Carriage obligations under the 1934 Communications Act.  This would mean, among other things, that (a) it would be subject to universal service; (b) providers would be subject to carrier of last resort obligations; (c) there would have to be some form of price control (and we have precedent for forward-looking cost-based pricing, which is the most reasonable approach from a public policy perspective); (d) anyone could attach any device they like to any network - wireless or wireline or cable - rather than being forced into buying device, software and services from the same vertically integrated mega-provider; and (e) would likely do a great deal of good for opening up the worst levels of market concentration we've seen in telecommunications in this country since 1912.

2.  Against this backdrop the FCC is attempting piecemeal deregulation of certain segments of the industry while gutting traditional universal service.  This is pushed very hard by AT&T (who is quietly abandoning landline), Verizon (who has sold off most of its rural/expensive landline properties) and Comcast, Cox, BrightHouse (who just sold off some of the most desirable spectrum in the country to AT&T and Verizon in exchange for tacit agreement that the AT&T and Verizon would no longer compete in landline markets) all of whom hate paying into a fund they see going primarily to the traditional incumbent landline carriers, who, like so many others, absolutely refuse to deploy fiber optic in the places where it is most needed despite being given enormous sums of taxpayer money.

3.  Overall, landline carriers are dying as a result of severely unbalanced regulation and subsidy system that let them harvest enormous direct and indirect subsides for years without having to invest and upgrade their network plant.

4.  Some smaller carriers, however, have done a pretty good job of upgrading their plant and running fiber optic.

5.  This leaves most rural communities in a bad spot; there are fewer and fewer funds available to upgrade and the subsidy systems are broken.

What this means is that we need real vision in this state.  Colorado is the nation's 8th largest state and one of the most diverse in terms of geography, climate, and population densities.  The Internet enables location-independent workers, particularly where reasonably priced, robust and redundant carrier-grade fiber optic facilities are available.  It is the very engine of economic growth and a critical input into any economy no different than road, running water, sanitation, electricity and public safety.  Given how strong the market concentration is right now, the worst thing that could happen would be for government funded entities to displace the remaining few communities and community-based providers who have upgraded their networks to fiber optic.

If this state can understand how we got to where we are while embracing a vision of investing in communications as a infrastructure rather than a business, then the government would be in a position of creating opportunities for existing carriers while also creating opportunities for community-centric economic development in ways that would serve as a model for the entire nation.

I look forward to continuing to support the carriers, communities and visionary public servants of this great state who are unafraid of the hard facts and have the courage and creativity to forge ahead with new solutions on new terms using new thinking.

The only limits are our collective creativity and courage.  As a result, I see nothing but upside for Colorado.

With every best wish,

Erik J. Cecil, Esq.
SourceLaw, PC
9769 W. 119th Dr.
Suite 32
Broomfield CO 80021
Hi All!

In case you haven't seen it, I have published my new book entitled "I'll Vote for You If You Make My Netflix Work" see http://www.illvoteforyouifyoumakemynetflixwork.org

I hope to use this blog as a means for our movement to communicate across communities and drive broadband environment improvement across this great state of ours.

If you don't have a copy of the book yet, drop me a line so I can forward an ebook to you.

Have a good read,

Frank Ohrtman