Monday, February 22, 2010

Ties that Bind: RUS, NTIA and Congress

An interesting observation from a colleague earlier last week (before the most recent announcements.)

16 of the states that had members on the Senate Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet received 22
awards. Analysis of the equivalent House committee couldn't be done at this stage due to limited information on the website.

John Kerry, MA: BTOP, Sustainable Broadband Adoption AND BTOP PCC
Daniel Inouye, HI: BIP, Last Mile Remote Area
Byron Dorgan, ND: BIP, Last Mile Non-Remote Area AND BIP Last Mile
Non-Remote Area
Maria Cantell, WA: BTOP, PCC AND BTOP, Sustainable Broadband Adoption
Claire McCaskill, MO: MIP, Last Mile Non-Remote Area
Amy Klobucharm, MN: BTOP, PCC
Tom Udell, NM: BTOP, Sustainable Broadband Adoption
Mark Warner, VA: 2 from press release AND BIP Last Mile Non-Remote Area
Mark Begich, AK: BIP, Middle Mile AND BIP, Last Mile Remote Area
Olympia Snowe, ME: BIP, Middle Mile
Jim DeMint, SC: (one wasn't on the list, but in an NTIA press release re:
PCC award)
John Thune, SD: BIP, Middle Mile
Johnny Isakson, GA: BTOP, Middle Mile
David Vitter, LA: BIP, Last Mile Non-Remote Area
Sam Brownback, KS: BIP, Last Mile Non-Remote Area
Mike Johanns, NE: BIP, Last Mile Remote Area (CO also part of grant)

Frank Lautenberg, NJ:
Mark Pryor, AR:
Roger Wicker, MS:
John Ensign, NV:
Bill Nelson, FL:
George LeMieux, FL:

Thursday, February 18, 2010

NTIA Broadband Mapping Bubble Chart

Sara Wedeman and I are working on a number of visualizations for the ARRA broadband awards. Here is a sample of the Broadband Mapping and Planning awards. Let me know what you think via a comment or via twitter. You'll need a Java plugin in your browser to use the interactive function.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Go Big. Go Gig. Kudos to Google and One Community

It has been a banner month for Big Broadband.

First, OneCommunity announced its gigabit broadband rollout to the 25000 homes and now Google has announced a pilot project for one or a set of gigabit regional networks in the US.

This is an historic moment.

Ever since a number of us started "thinking Gig" in the early 2000s (after some nagging from the White House's Tom Kalil), it has been a uphill battle to capture the imagination of politicians, businesses and consumers. While we see other countries racing past the US to offer gigabit broadband for US$50 monthly, the US politicians and corporations continue to focus their work on 1990s broadband capabilities.

Mark Ansboury from the Knight Center for Technical Excellence operated by OneCommunity has wisely said, "To quote the “Great One,” Wayne Gretzky, you should “go to where the puck’s going, not where it is.”" Both projects create the opportunity to change the conversation: to explore where our country should head and to prove that the deterrents to deploying affordable one gigabit broadband to every home, school and business are not technical, but political and administrative.

FirstMile.US congratulates OneCommunity and Google for their vision. With any luck and some really hard work, FirstMile.US's vision of Big Broadband Everywhere can happen in the US.

OneCommunity in Ohio is expanding its community-centered broadband activities in a powerful way through the enthusiastic cooperation of many diverse organizations. They have spent many years overcoming the typical corporate and political objections that stop big broadband deployment.

Google's actions create the opportunity to get people to recognize that big broadband is what we should aspire to, NOW. Their goal to create open communications infrastructure in a local environment with strong local leadership and support is exactly the prescription for a big broadband everywhere in the US, the exact mix that OneCommunity has perfected over the years.

All of us should stop and rethink our definition of big broadband and embrace "Go Big. Go Gig."

Yes, we can!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

What Congress Needs To Do To Fix The Broadband Stimulus Program

There is an urgent need for action on your part regarding the broadband stimulus program. Please take 5 minutes right now and help by following these steps. This is your industry and your money. I believe that, together, we CAN make a difference in the outcome.

Three Easy Steps for Immediate Action:

1. Read through this message and then forward it to 5 of your friends and colleagues.

2. Contact your two Senators and your Member of Congress. Easiest way to do this is to search for their web site and click through to the Contact section. They will ask for your address to verify that you are their constituent.

3. Paste the suggested text below or create your own. Do this right now.

Suggested text:

Round 2 of the Broadband Stimulus program is shaping up to be a travesty. The commentary below from Peter Pratt contains excellent suggestions about immediate actions that are needed from Congress to fix the Broadband Stimulus program. It has been very frustrating to see how the two agencies are handling the programs and it seems that, without the actions suggested herein, there will be very dire consequences for many Round 2 proposers. We’ve already seen the entire broadband deployment world freeze in its tracks, with concomitant job losses, while waiting for stimulus funding/information.

From Peter Pratt at

An important Subcommittee of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee opens its oversight hearing of the Commerce Department's portion of the $ 7.2 billion broadband stimulus program on January 28th.

Given the forward rushing events that define the program, the following is our list of critical directives which the Subcommittee and other appropriate Committees on the Hill need to give to the 2 Departments - Agriculture, and Commerce - charged with managing the $ 7.2 billion program.

Yes, we know our civics and constitutional law about how specific legislation needs to be crafted to 'direct' the Executive to do anything. Hopefully that is why the people holding the power of the purse, on Senate Appropriations, are having a hearing. Powerful Committees of Congress often suggest things that mere agency mortals ignore at their peril.

Unless these items are implemented by the appropriate agencies (NTIA and RUS) immediately, broadband stimulus applicants will not have the needed information nor time to make rational decisions about how to apply for and spend public dollars. The risk of programmatic waste, fraud, and abuse -- a risk already reported to Congress by the GAO -- will escalate.

Frankly, the list is tedious, longer than it needs to be, and more detailed than it should be. It is so given that general pledges of "a fully, open and transparent process" don't cut it any longer. Even those pledges made by agency chiefs in congressional testimony haven't been carried out. More pledges, more promises, won't work. Only action taken by Congress at this point will work.

Congress should order the two Departments, and their applicable agencies (NTIA and RUS), to:

1. Direct the Publication of an Immediate Round I Application Pipeline Update
In no venue has either agency released any coherent information about how many applications in total have been moved into the due diligence phase by gross counts, let alone by each program (BIP vs. BTOP), or by each project category (Middle Mile, Last Mile, Public Computer Centers, Sustainable Adoption). Some media reports have given scattered information, when some of us are able to nail done some numbers , numbers which quickly go out of date as the Round I award cycle progresses.

Confirmed information has been so difficult to determine that an Editor atGigaOm, one of the nation's leading tech sector publications , could not account for the program's total appropriations as Round I's first awards were announced.

The Update should be changed daily as pre-due diligence phase rejections, due diligence phase rejections, and final awards are made.

2. Direct A Minimum 30-Day Period Between Round I Final Awards and the Round II the Applications Filing Deadline
As per current confirmed media reporting, based on attributed statements from official agency spokespeople, there will be only a 2 week window between the time all Round I awards are announced and the Round II application filing deadline. The rules of both agencies explicitly state that (leaving aside allowable minor 'overlap areas') no Round II proposed service area will be eligible if a Round I award was made for the same territory.

As recently pointed out by the online publication Fierce Broadband Wireless , two weeks is simply not enough time to target proposed areas and write a legitimate application for them, based on the Round I award information. This is particularly true of the large scale middle mile projects, with their Comprehensive Community Infrastructure (CCI) requirements directed by the new NTIA rules (BTOP NOFA).

No one can seriously believe that 2 weeks is sufficient time to target a service area and write a legitimate application, especially since as broadband fiber advocate Geoff Daily points out the experience of Round I providers and public sector entities demonstrates that the application process can span into months of time and tens of thousands of dollars.

3. Direct A Minimum 30-Day Period Between The Public Release of Data, As Specified Below, and the Round II Applications Filing Deadline
Given the inability or unwillingness of the agencies to release transparent data needed for program transparency, Congress needs to direct that a 30-day standstill period occur after the agencies have finally released their information, and prior to the Round II application filing deadline. The agencies need to be given a disincentive for continued noncompliance with what should be a transparent approach to the spending of public funds.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has already reported to Congress that the tight time frames and present lack of adequate national broadband mapping "may pose risks of waste, fraud, and abuse." (Report: .PDF ) Continued withholding of what should be public data by the agencies only increases these risks.

4. Direct the Immediate Release of All State (Gubernatorial) Recommendations to NTIA Made in Round I
Despite the efforts of several of us in the sector, 6 - 10 states and territories still have refused to release for public inspection the recommendations made by state and territorial governors to NTIA for Round I projects. This critical information needs to be made public immediately by NTIA, without acceding to further foot dragging by a handful of recalcitrant governors, at least some of whom could care less about broadband in their states to begin with .

5. Direct the Immediate Release of All Awarded and Rejected Round I Applications, as Such Awards and Rejections Are Issued
Round I applicants, and entities considering Round II filings, need to understand what worked and what did not in Round I. As of now, the agencies are still not releasing even the non-proprietary data from either awarded or rejected applications.

6. Direct the Immediate Release of All Agency Scoring and Other Review Information Relative to Rejected Round I Applications
Akin to # 5, above, prospective applicants need to understand the details of why certain applicants received awards, and and why most did not. AsGeoff Daily suggested this week , the best information to inform these questions is retained by the agencies as scoring data produced by the review process itself.

Even when proposed network projects reach toward $100 million price tags, neither agency has agreed to release the scoring information to the public, or even to applicants. The need for fully transparent data in this regard is especially clear as it is today impossible to determine what weight was assigned to the many Public Notice Filings by incumbent carriers against Round I applicants. Although the NTIA Administrator has testified to Congress that 'the incumbents do not have a veto,' we have no way to confirm this has been the case during the review process.

7. Direct the Publication of the Application Database Census Tract Information to Verify Proposed Service Territories
As the Wireless Communications Association International (WCAI)petitioned NTIA and RUS in a letter of last week , the federal online application mapping tool "is of limited utility to potential applicants. Withrespect to granted applications, it does not identify which areas are covered by Middle Mile projects, and which are covered by Last Mile projects." Many broadband mapping specialists and grant applicationconsultants have complained for months that the mapping tool simply does not provide information of sufficient granularity to support the application process.

The wireless trade group goes on to state, "Moreover, with respect to pending applications, the mapping tool does not specify the number of applications pending for a given area or identify the applicants. Thus, the potential applicant for a given area cannot make a rational attempt at assessing whether a pending first tranche application will be denied, making the area available for second tranche funding."

WCAI has suggested to the agencies a simple and readily available solution to the application mapping tool's obvious problems: release data in-hand at the agencies, as contained in the Public Notice Filing database "...which was blocked once the 30-day response period passed."

Full Disclosure:
For the first time in nearly a year of attempting to objectively report on the details and strategy of the program, today in advance of the first oversight hearing of 2010 relating to broadband stimulus, I have stepped out of what I hope has been for most of our readers an objective reporting and analysis role.

I do so to call on Congress to save the program from itself.

I do so given the legitimate and serious concerns that many of us in the "bbstim" community have with the current choices NTIA and RUS have made to engage in public information practices unworthy of an Administration dedicated to openess and transparency.

I do so hoping that Congress starts to do its job, and brigs true oversight to an important federal effort that needs immediate fixing. I do so because the agencies running the program simply are not listening to those of us most involved in the grant and loan application process -- to those of us that have called, implored, and written about these issues.

I surrender to no one my place as a huge booster of the federal broadband stimulus program, of the Recovery Act, and of the Administration of President Obama. I have spent an entire career in both competitive (yes, that means non-Bell System) cable and telecom, and in the policies and politics of the Democratic persuasion. No one could be more thrilled about the spectacular effort the President, and the Democratic Congress, are making to finally advance the national interest in ubiquitous broadband availability and adoption than I am.

Although some of us who are both of the Democratic persuasion, and from Massachusetts, may feel compelled to proverbially shoot each other in the life boats right now, my goal here is just the opposite. Those of us who believe strongly in the agenda of our President to aggressively deploy ubiquitous broadband facilities for the benefit of our nation need to stand up with constructive criticism, and detail level suggestions to fix the glaring problems with the broadband stimulus program. I have attempted to do so here.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Telemedicine Saves Lives, But Clinicians are Resisting

While I was at the ConsumerElectronics Show last week, I ran into the easyhealthmd.comfolks who have created a telehealth system that one can access from home for real-time video consultations with doctors. Nice solution for keeping one out of the waiting room filled with H1N1 coughers.

Then, today, I see this article. Wowza. If we truly want telemedicine, we need to work on doctor/nurse attitudes.

Here's a mind-blowing snip from the article.

"While the researchers ultimately found that telemedicine could significantly improve survival among the sickest of I.C.U. patients, the resistance of on-site clinicians made it nearly impossible to assess the broad impact of such technology on quality of care.“Perhaps we never reached telemedicine’s full potential in this study because we did not have adequate acceptance,” Dr. Patel reflected. “You can’t just randomly assert some technology. You need a significant infrastructure to use it effectively, and that includes widespread acceptance.”

That acceptance will first require redefining the patient-doctor relationship in light of this new use of technology. Telemedicine and the idea of unseen clinicians in a remote “control room” doling out care isscary. But with dire predictions of physician shortages,particularly in rural regions, and insufficient numbers of critical care specialists even in large metropolitan areas, telemedicine likely has an important role in improving the quality of patient care."

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Email is for Old People

A few years ago, my then-teenaged daughter announced to me that "email was for old people." Apparently, researchers are now proving this. A NYT article, The Children of Cyberspace, points out some interesting new research.

Here is a fascinating excerpt:
"One obvious result is that younger generations are going to have some very peculiar and unique expectations about the world. My friend’s 3-year-old, for example, has become so accustomed to her father’s multitouch iPhone screen that she approaches laptops by swiping her fingers across the screen, expecting a reaction."


Monday, November 16, 2009

Xbox Live Players Set Record: 2M Simultaneous Users

Didn't I say last week that we should ALL start looking at videogames as a predictor of our future? The folks at PC World are confirming my prediction. Not only was Call of Duty the biggest entertainment launch in history, it created a record 2 million simultaneous connections at Xbox Live (biggest day in their history.) Who knows what could have happened if the Xbox Live folks had better connectivity?