UBER update, September 2009
UNIVERSAL BROADBAND FOR A RURAL REGION
Dear UBER supporter,
“When will I have quality, affordable broadband where I live?” is a question I hear daily, so it’s time for this UBER Update. Our goal of extending broadband statewide took on new hope with the federal stimulus package that includes $7.2 billion in grants, loans and loan guarantees to extend broadband to un-served and underserved areas.
In August, 2200 proposals nationwide sought $28B or seven times the $4B available in a first of three broadband stimulus funding rounds. The good news is, of about 30 projects submitted for Wisconsin, several are relevant to our region.
BROADBAND STIMULUS PLANS RELEVANT TO OUR RURAL REGION
- The Wisconsin Department of Administration submitted a $28.7 million plan to provide optical fiber connection to 74 schools, 385 libraries and 8 higher education campuses not already connected on the BadgerNet Converged Network. See a summary of the grant and FAQ at http://dpi.wi.gov/pld/arrabbfunding.html.
- Dave Bangert of Reedsburg, owner of Wiconnect Wireless, submitted a proposal that would extend wireless internet service throughout Sauk and Richland Counties. Bangert's system currently serves areas of western Sauk and into Richland County.
- Hilbert Communications of Green Bay submitted a plan to extend wireless broadband to 26 rural counties including the entire southwest region. Under a plan with Sauk County, Hilbert may build off the county's public safety system of nine towers linked by fiber optic cable to provide wireless coverage countywide. On August 18, Hilbert President Steve Schneider told Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter Rick Barrett, "With or without stimulus money, we are pursuing broadband in rural areas."
- Wisconsin High Speed Broadband of LLC Little Chute submitted its “Powerband - High Speed Broadband for Rural Wisconsin” plan to provide high-speed fixed wireless broadband services to rural areas of the state including the southwestern region. Contact: Robert Galle 714-343-6570.
- Richland Electric Cooperative, Richland Center, submitted a plan to deploy WiMax (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access) wireless broadband service with 2Mbps speed within a year to un-served and underserved homes and businesses in Richland County. Contact: Shannon Clark 608-647-3173.
- The Reedsburg Utility Commission submitted a Reedsburg Fiber Optic Network Expansion plan to expand its existing fiber optic network and extend advanced communications services to rural areas having limited dial-up internet access. Services will include Light-Speed internet access, Cable TV, Telephone, and Multi-Megabit data services over secure, buried fiber optic cable to rural homes & businesses.
- The Wisconsin Public Service Commission applied for $3 million in stimulus funds to create a detailed broadband map. The PSC has picked CostQuest Associates (LinkAmerica Alliance) for the project according to Gary Evenson, PSC Telecommunications Administrator.
- Colorado based WildBlue Communications, a satellite broadband provider applied for stimulus funds to increase its broadband speed from around 1.5Mbps to 10Mbps.
I submitted a letter of support for each proposal requesting my support. It has become clear that Governor Doyle and the Wisconsin Public Service Commission have considerable influence in funding decisions and we can hope to hear some good news when this first round of funding is announced by year end.
NOTES ON THE FEDERAL BROADBAND STIMULUS PLAN
Stimulus Plan's Definition of "Broadband" is Slow
For a broadband project to be eligible for federal stimulus funds, the speed of 'broadband' was set low, at just 768 kilobits per second (.7 megabits) downloading, the minimum speed for low-resolution video and 200Kbps up. Compare that to some countries with broadband speeds averaging tens or hundreds of megabits and national broadband plans calling for speeds of a gigabit. An exploding use of video helps drive an ever increasing need for speed, but many web applications require more than 768Kbps.
Mapping the Need
Census blocks will be used in determining areas eligible for stimulus funds and for broadband mapping purposes. Nationally, the average census block has 50 residents or close to 25 households. This compares with a meaningless measure used today in which a zip code or telephone prefix area in which with just one household has broadband is considered to be served.
PLEASE BE IN TOUCH
Please let me know your questions, comments and topics for the next UBER Update. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Visit my UBER website for past UBER Updates and more: http://www.legis.wi.gov/senate/sen17/news/Press/2008/pr2008-053.asp
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