Who should build the next generation of high-speed networks?

by Jennifer Vogel, Minnesota Public Radio

Rural Minnesota

Image by Zach K via Flickr

Windom, Minn. — Dan Olsen, who runs the municipal broadband service in Windom, was just about to leave work for the night when he got a call. The muckety-mucks at Fortune Transportation, a trucking company on the outskirts of town, were considering shuttering their office and leaving the area.

“They said, Dan, you need to get your butt out here now,” Olsen recalls. “I got there and they said, ‘You need to build fiber out here. What would it take for you to do it?'”

Fortune, which employs 47 people in the town of 4,600, two and a half hours southwest of the Twin Cities, relies on plenty of high-tech gadgetry. Broadband Internet access figures into how the company bids for jobs, communicates with road-bound truckers, controls the temperatures in its refrigerated trucks and remotely views its office in Roswell, New Mexico. Fortune even uses the Internet to monitor where and to what extent drivers fill their gas tanks in order to save money.

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American Tower Joins Rural Cellular Association

Rahul Gaitonde, Deputy Editor, BroadbandBreakfast.com

WASHINGTON March 10, 2011 – American Tower, the Boston-based wireless and broadcast infrastructure company, announced Thursday it had joined the Rural Cellular Association.

“American Tower is glad to join RCA, and we support their mission — advocacy for rural and regional wireless carriers,” said American Tower’s Steven Marshall, Executive Vice President and President, U.S. Tower Division through a statement.

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N.C. Girds For Fifth Round Of Muni Broadband Battle

A battle over the right of municipalities to offer broadband services has erupted for the fifth time in four years in the North Carolina State Legislature.

This time, there’s both a bill that could curb the ability of cities to offer broadband to their residents and an opposing pro-muni bill that would expand the right to offer broadband to county governments. For the first time in the now long-running battle, however, it appears that the anti-muni broadband bill stands a reasonable chance of passing, says N.C. State Rep. Kelly Alexander.

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New N.C. Bill Would Restrict Muni Broadband

pic for NC population

Image via Wikipedia

by Wendy Davis

A lawmaker in North Carolina proposed a bill that would curtail communities from building their own broadband networks. The move marks the fourth time since 2007 that a state legislator has attempted to limit cities’ ability to create municipal broadband networks.

The most recent proposed measure — “An act to protect jobs and investment by regulating local government competition with private business,” would impose a host of restrictions on cities that want to create their own networks. Among others, the law would curb cities’ ability to fund broadband networks, advertise them, or price the service below-cost.

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Dem amendment cuts broadband funding in spending bill

By Sara Jerome

The spending bill approved by the House on Saturday includes an amendment that would defund a broadband grant program at the Agriculture Department.

Rep. Jim Matheson (D-Utah) introduced an amendment to defund the Community Connect broadband grant program, which pays for broadband infrastructure projects and community computer centers in rural areas. The program had a budget of around $13 million last year.

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The Flaw in Obama’s Wireless Plan

Main Street in Ten Sleep, WY

Main Street in Ten Sleep, WY

The President hopes an increase in Internet access will result in more economic development. Fiber networks would do that better than mobile broadband

By Brendan Greeley

The residents of Ten Sleep, Wyo., know the meaning of rural. They didn’t have phone service until the 1950s, when Tri-County Telephone Assn., a municipal cooperative, used federal subsidies to string copper wire to every home. In 2005 the co-op upgraded to fiber-optic cable, giving the town’s 300 residents Internet access at 20 megabits per second. For the technically unfamiliar, Chris Davidson, Tri-County Telephone’s general manager, describes this as “smoking fast.”

Even President Barack Obama is impressed. On Feb. 10 he rolled out a national wireless plan, pointing to Ten Sleep as an example of what he wants to replicate nationally: Because of the town’s high-speed fiber network, one company has been able to hire locals to teach English to Asians by video chat over the network. Obama hopes his plan will result in more such economic development by providing 98 percent of Americans with access to high-speed wireless Internet. “Ten Sleep,” Obama mused. “I love the name of that town.”

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Obama Likens Broadband To Electricity, Rails In Michigan Speech

Northern Michigan University Seal

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Jonathan Charnitski, Managing Editor, BroadbandBreakfast.com

WASHINGTON, February 10, 2011 – President Obama drew comparisons between high-speed Internet, the railroads and the electric grid during a speech in Marquette, Michigan on Thursday afternoon, commenting on their essential nature to the economy and calling for a renewed investment in broadband infrastructure.

The administration’s Wireless Innovation and Infrastructure Initiative (WIII) comes on the heels of the President’s State of the Union address last month, during which he pledged to facilitate high-speed wireless networks that reach 98 percent of Americans.  The program also aims to free up radio spectrum to alleviate an impending spectrum crunch, create a nationwide interoperable wireless network for public safety and drive innovation in the wireless broadband sector.

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