Thursday, March 31, 2011

NTIA & RUS Say Unspent Broadband Stimulus Funds Go Back to Treasury

It Isn't Really About the Money to Treasury...The Perception and Reality of Grant Fraud 03/31/2011 San Francisco - The two agencies of the Obama Administration tasked by Congress with management of the $7.2 billion broadband stimulus program state explicitly that unspent funds from the initiative will be returned to the U.S. Treasury.

The agency statements first published here largely remove a rhetorical argument from leaders of the Republican Majority of the House Energy and Commerce Committee who have voiced criticism of the program.

Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR-02) of the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology will hold a Committee markup session tomorrow on his bill to mandate the return to Treasury of unspent Recovery Act broadband funds. The session is scheduled to immediately follow the broadband stimulus program oversight hearing which Walden will gavel open at 10:30 AM (ET). The mark up will work off a new staff draft of the initial legislative proposal  circulated by Walden the first week in February. 

The two lead managers of the Obama Administration’s broadband stimulus program – Jonathan S. Adelstein of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Lawrence E. Strickling of the Commerce Department -- will be the witnesses at the Walden hearing tomorrow morning.

Adelstein Statement for RUS
“We cannot use any of the returned funds,” said Administrator Adelstein in a telephone interview with this publication. Mr. Adelstein, a former FCC Commissioner appointed by President Bill Clinton, is the Administrator of the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  “All funds coming back will be returned to the Treasury,”

Mr. Adelstein’s agency is now disbursing $3.5 billion in stimulus grant and loan awards for 320 projects in rural areas. We had referenced the handful of publicly reported stimulus “give backs”, and asked if RUS managers thought such monies could be “reprogrammed” to finance the ongoing broadband efforts of USDA.

Strickling Statement for NTIA
Yesterday afternoon Administrator Strickling’s agency, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) released a statement to this publication saying, “Funds that are declined by the grantee are returned to the Treasury. NTIA does not have the authority to make new BTOP awards or otherwise to obligate these funds.”

NTIA is working to spend some $4 billion on 233 infrastructure projects as its part of the Obama Administration broadband stimulus effort. NTIA Administrator Strickling said in response to our questions to staff about the return of funds issue said, “NTIA is working closely with grantees as part of our vigorous oversight process to ensure that taxpayer dollars are invested wisely and broadband projects are completed on time, within budget, and deliver the promised benefits to communities.”

It Isn’t Really About the Money to Treasury...
So the agencies running the program say they are returning the unspent broadband stimulus funds to the U.S. Treasury, just like Chairman Walden’s bill directs them to. Game over, right?

No. Saying that this issue is really about the money going back to the Treasury from unspent “give backs” and “clawbacks” is like saying Mrs. Lincoln had a bad evening at the theater.

This is about the perception,  and in a handful of cases, the reality of federal grant fraud.

Chairman Walden and the Subcommittee’s Ranking Member, Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA-14) have the ability and the chance to move beyond the partisan play book at tomorrow’s hearing. Both understand the issues at a detail level. One hopes they each do the right thing to focus Congress on the problems of the program. One hopes in doing so we can all take a "lessons learned" view, as Mr. Adelstein has done with programs in his wheelhouse.

The integrity of and political support for federal broadband support programs going forward requires no less.

Next Up: How Much Money Is Going Back, Where to Look for Fraud

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

$1.445 Billion in Federal Rural Telecom Funds in Jeopardy 03/30/2011 San FranciscoA full $1.445 billion in federal funds slated this year for rural telecommunications project capital subsidies is now in jeopardy. The risk of steep cuts to 4 programs within the U.S. Department of Agriculture, each of which is now open to funding applications, is part of the partisan battle over the larger federal budget.

Neither the total dollar amount involved, nor the magnitude of possible project impacts has been reported previously.  This is despite a series of cautionary statements issued by USDA over the past several weeks as funding application windows were announced for 3 of the 4 programs.

Sources at USDA tell us they are unsure what levels of appropriations will be finalized for the nearly $1.5 billion target figure. The possibility exists for deep cuts to all 4 funding lines.  

A senior government affairs manager at a trade association representing rural telecom interests has confirmed for us this potentially bleak picture, although the possibility is not widely seen today at rural carriers or at the equipment manufacturers that supply them.

As of this writing, inquiries made to the Republican Majority and Democratic Minority staff of the House Appropriations Committee have gone unanswered.

All Post-Stimulus Funding Programs in Limbo
The federal telecom funds cannot be legally issued by USDA to America’s rural communications service providers as budget negotiations between the Obama Administration and Republican leaders on Capitol Hill remain stalemated. The programs in question are managed by USDA’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS), headed by Administrator Jonathan S. Adelstein.

The funds involved are independent of the broadband stimulus efforts of RUS, based on separate appropriations and authorizations of Congress.

RUS saw current year funding for parts of its broadband loan programs cut to zero in the first continuing resolution (CR) budget of last fall. The Administration announced recently that it is attempting to leverage $400 million in previous funds from the 2008 Farm Bill for the Rural Broadband Access Loan Program into $700 million “program level” funding. Program level funds are those monies, inclusive of loan leverage, that actually move to projects in the field. The $400 million appropriations target and the $700 million program level both remain caught in the budgetary crossfire.  

Observers thought the annual funding for the USDA’s Rural Telephone Loan Program, distinct from the Broadband Program, was safe from the budget battle. The Rural Telephone program is now budgeted for a program level of $690 million.

Administrator Adelstein told us in a recent interview, “We have had, and last committed, $690 million in loans under our annual loan program. The program is now going ahead, as it does each year. We don’t need issue a specific notice, as the funding continues from year to year. The program is open, carriers are applying, and we are doing loans.”

As proof of the changing situation, USDA communications staff however subsequently clarified the program’s status in response to our questions. The “$690 million will be available under the CR if Congress makes no changes, but the budget is not yet finalized”, staff wrote to us.  
An unprecedented sixth CR which temporarily funds operations of the federal government expires on April 8. Various national media reports cite an increasingly contentious negotiating cycle between the Obama White House and Republican leaders.

Four Grant and Loan Programs
The 4 grant and loan programs of RUS, with their program level funding are listed below.

Based on our review of the budget process, and off the record discussions with officials, believes all of the programs are at risk of potentially substantial cuts:

Total RUS Rural Telecom Grants & Loans: $1.445 billion      

Subtotal, Grants:                                                $    55 million,     4%
Subtotal, Loans:                                                 $ 1.39 billion,    96%
Community Connect Grants:                           $   25 million

Distance Learning and Telemed. Grants:     $   30 million

Broadband Access Loans:                               $ 700 million

Telecommunications Loans:                            $ 690 million, total
  Direct Loans, Hardship Loans                       $145 million, subtotal                      
  Direct Loans, Cost of Money Loans              $250 million, subtotal
  Guaranteed/Insured Loans                              $295 million, subtotal 

For RUS, No Good Deed Goes Unpunished
In the current risk to the rural telecom funding of RUS there is a tragic irony, a strong sense of no good deed going unpunished.

The vast majority of funds now being held – 96% of the $1.445 billion - are authorized as loans, to be secured by the credit facilities and low loan default rate of RUS. The actual appropriation needed to secure the full program level figure is significantly less, given the loan leverage rate.

Adelstein’s RUS is now disbursing $3.529 billion in grants ($2.357 billion) and loans ($1.191 billion) for 320 projects funded by the $2.5 billion portion of the broadband stimulus program issued to his agency by Congress. The $1 billion difference in program disbursements over appropriations comes from that same leverage ability.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Adelstein suspended the troubled Broadband Loan program, which they inherited from the Administration of President George W. Bush, in order to spend the stimulus monies as mandated by Congress.

They adopted a lessons learned posture, applying insights to their reform of the Broadband Program. These insights, together with the recommendations from past audits by the General Accountability Office (GAO) and the Inspector General of USDA, are seen in the Program’s newly proposed Interim Rule.

On top of these reforms, Administrator Adelstein described for us more changes now rolling out in the RUS broadband – telecom programs. Branded as the Build-Out, Build-On initiative, the effort is marked by better coordination with all USDA economic development programs in the field. We further describe the new imitative in our interview with Mr. Adelstein to be published Friday.  

Now, as the lessons have been learned, reforms put in place to correct the Bush era dysfunctions, and further improvements for the coordination of USDA’s field force are made, even the Farm Bill funds of 3 years ago are effectively suspended.

No good deed goes unpunished, indeed.
Our Take: It is now up to the players and participants in the emerging rural broadband ecosystem to take a stand. Hundreds of RUS “legacy borrowers”, stimulus awardees, and the communities they serve have benefitted from the programs now at risk. Thousands of American jobs are created by the U.S. based manufacturers that produce the network equipment, the cable, and all the other materials that are needed to Build-Out, Build-On networks in rural America.

The carriers and the communities most impacted by the current posture of the Republican controlled House are concentrated in the congressional districts of those same Republican leaders. Those carriers, communities, their associations in Washington, and the suppliers that sell into them need to mobilize now to make sure the promise of broadband for rural America is delivered.  

Rural Telecom Funding provides a link to our Mailing List for updates on the dynamic realm of changing budgets, program rules, and funding flows for telecom in rural America. 

Copyright 2011 PrattNetworks LLC
No part of this content may be reproduced, excerpted, or republished without express written permission. Permission Requests Here.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

AireWire and WindChannel Merge to Create Systems Integrator with Wireless Focus

Airimba Subsidiary Leads Strong MDU Market Presence 03/29/2011 San Francisco - AireWire, Inc. and WindChannel Communications announced today that they have concluded a merger agreement to create an expanded and diversified portfolio of network integration, outsourcing, and operations services. Operating from headquarters in Atlanta, the firm to be called AireWire, Inc. will be a leading regional systems integrator and network operator in the Southeast.

AireWire has traditionally focused on engineering and deploying complex, high capacity transport, middle mile, and access networks for carriers, cellular companies, LECs, municipal, and commercial customers mainly in the Southeastern U.S.

WindChannel with its subsidiary Airimba Wireless is a leading provider of wireless broadband services to multi-dwelling properties across the country including apartments, condominiums, and student housing.  Airimba Wireless operates in 100 locations across multiple states with a current total of 11,000 subscribers.

WindChannel also provides wireless mesh and backhaul networks for public safety, surveillance, transportation, and government customers across the Southeast.

“We are excited about this opportunity to take AireWire and Airimba to the next stage,” stated AireWire CEO, Walt Henley.  “Previously, our companies shared customer similarities in the tier two and tier three markets, but we concentrated on different types of customer needs.  By bringing together the WindChannel and AireWire experience and capabilities, we are now better equipped to respond to a broader range of opportunities while strengthening our ability to service many more customers.”

WindChannel CEO Jim Szyperski added, ”AireWire’s expertise in designing and building large wireless backhaul networks directly complements WindChannel’s more localized wireless applications for municipalities and retail Internet users. The combination creates a comprehensive end-to-end design, construction and operating capability that will provide great value to our collective customers.”

About WindChannel
WindChannel provides government entities with wireless technology solutions for high-speed broadband, surveillance, public safety, transportation, ISP, and commercial applications.  With offices in Atlanta, GA and Raleigh, NC, Airimba operates in ten states and continues to deliver on its vision of a world without wires.  With its wireless technology implementation expertise and operational capabilities as a complete retail service provider, WindChannel is uniquely positioned to respond  to the rising demand for secure, reliable, and flexible bandwidth solutions.  

About AireWire
AireWire is a network engineering, integration, and operations firm with over 15 years experience in deploying carrier-grade wireless and wire line networks across the country.  With offices in Atlanta, GA and Pensacola, FL, AireWire serves customers mainly in the Southeastern US.  AireWire concentrates on delivering best-in-class network infrastructure, packet management, and network operations solutions for enhanced telecommunications, government, and commercial applications.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Calix Solidifies Lead in Broadband Stimulus Sweepstakes

Our Estimate: 50 Announced Vendor Contract Wins by Summer, 
Total Includes Occam’s Acquired Wins 03/28/2011 San Francisco - Calix, Inc. (NYSE: CALX) this morning announced that broadband stimulus awardee Red River Telephone of Abercrombie, North Dakota has selected the Calix C7 Multiservice Access Platform (MSAP) and 700GE family of optical network terminals (ONTs) as part of the provider’s expansion of its network funded by the federal broadband stimulus program.

Red River Telephone was awarded a $9.088 million loan/grant combination package by the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture which the provider helped secure with a "local match" of $1 million.

Why Calix Leads the Broadband Stimulus Sweepstakes
Today’s announcement further solidifies the clear lead that Calix holds nationally in the number of announced equipment contracts funded with broadband stimulus monies.

This leadership position in announced wins is partially the result of larger major network equipment makers and material suppliers avoiding the public spotlight relative to the federal program. The fact that their largest customers, AT&T, Inc. (NYSE: T) and Verizon (NYSE: VZ) have disparaged President Obama’s program cannot be discounted in this regard.

The Calix stimulus victories also indicate the firm thrives in the sub-sector of the U.S. telecom market populated most heavily by independent wireline service providers and telephone cooperatives.  This sector has been heavily favored with awards under the federal program, only exceeded by the total dollar volume of disbursements’ now flowing out to optical fiber-based middle mile networks.  

Mostly Calix’s stimulus win track record is testament to the proactive approach that the company has taken in working with the rural telecom sector to explain the Obama Administration’s initiative, and to provide guidance as applicants worked through the program.  

Our Estimate: On to 50 Announced Wins
The Petaluma, CA based manufacturer of multiservice access platforms confirmed for us that it has now won and announced a full 36 equipment supply contracts from broadband stimulus program awardees. At the company’s present rate of frequent multiple contract announcements per month; we estimate the firm will reach near 50 stimulus fueled project contracts by June or July.

To date in 2011, Calix has made 8 stimulus announcements for a total of 9 projects.

A company spokesperson also confirmed for us that today’s total of 36 project wins includes contracts initially won by Occam Networks. Calix completed the acquisition of Occam on February 23 of this year. At the time it stated that the combination of Calix and Occam stimulus financed wins equaled “83% of publicly announced vendor selections for Broadband Stimulus projects amounting to over $630 million (of which a portion is access equipment)”.

By the company’s calculation, the 36 projects have been awarded a total of “approximately $678 million in Stimulus-related grants, loans, and private investment for plant engineering, materials, labor, and other costs, including access equipment.”

We estimate that of the $678 million awarded projects with disbursements partially flowing now to Calix; some $210 million is in stimulus projects previously announced as funding vendor wins by Occam.  

The percentage share of each awarded project which can be estimated as flowing to Calix vendor contracts varies by project size and type. Calix wins come from both RUS awards and those made by its sister federal agency managing the program, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) at the Department of Commerce. 

RUS awards comprise the lion’s share of funds moving to Calix selections. 

Red River Telephone
Red River Telephone, a rural telephone cooperative formed in 1951, accepted its first federal loan from the Rural Electrification Administration (REA) in 1953, 4 years after Congress amended REA’s charter to allow for federal support of rural telephone systems. The cooperative was awarded the broadband stimulus loan/grant package on September 13, 2010 by RUS, REA’s successor agency at USDA.  

"A project of this scope would take us 10 years or more to complete using just our own general funds, and we knew that the deserving citizens of our region couldn't wait that long," said Jeff Olson, general manager of Red River. "With this initiative, we will be making a strategic investment in the future of our member communities, stimulating economic development and allowing the residents and businesses of our region to keep pace with the demands of a global economy."

Red River will be using the RUS loand/grant combination package to expand broadband services across its footprint that includes communities in Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota. The cooperative will use gigabit passive optical network (GPON) technology to enable ultra high-speed Internet services as well as voice services to subscribers in six counties.

The project “will place approximately 690 route miles of fiber optic cable in the proposed communities, covering an area of 918 square miles. Red River will be leveraging GPON and gigabit Ethernet (GE) technologies delivered via the Calix C7 MSAP, North America's leading MSAP, and 700GE family of ONTs, part of the industry's broadest portfolio of ONTs”, according to a Calix press release of this morning.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Zhone Sees Success in Launch of FiberCell Backhaul-FTTx Solution

Solution Aimed at Dynamic Independent Carrier Backhaul Market 03/25/2011 San Francisco- ZhoneTechnologies, Inc. (NASDAQ: ZHNE), is reporting success in its launch of its Zhone FiberCell portfolio at this week’s CTIA Wireless 2011. The FiberCell portfolio is a carrier-class mobile backhaul solution which integrates with the company’s multi-service MXK platform to help service providers manage higher traffic loads on their existing network infrastructure.
Zhone’s Manish Matta, Senior Marketing Director told us from CTIA the venue “was an ideal launch platform for Zhone FiberCell Mobile Backhaul solution as service providers we have been in discussions with acknowledge the true benefits of leveraging their deployed MXK OLT to fulfill their backhaul needs.” 

“Backhaul is a major bottleneck today,” said Matta “and the Zhone dual step approach via Ethernet and Fiber to provide the needed backhaul capacity and bandwidth provides network flexibility, higher performance and superior investment protection.”

The Zhone FiberCell portfolio offers alternative backhaul options that give operators the flexibility to choose between copper and fiber, including Ethernet in the First Mile (EFM), Gigabit Passive Optical Network (GPON) and Active Ethernet (AE).  By leveraging the operator's existing and new infrastructure, Zhone FiberCell offers a cost-effective and high-performance solution for optimal backhaul capability. 

The FiberCell launch marks Zhone’s entry into the market for wireless backhaul solutions that integrate with FTTx infrastructure to allow providers to scale network capacity as they anticipate a fast evolution to next generation 3G and 4G networks and services. 

The company pointed us to the recent statement of Michael Howard, principal analyst at Infonetics Research, saying "With the moves to fiber by mobile backhaul transport providers, Zhone's new FiberCell products will make their MXK customers and other service providers take note. FTTx solutions such as this can help protect operators' network investments long-term."

"Packet backhaul is absolutely a necessity in today's world of smart devices and increased bandwidth demands," explained Brian Caskey, chief marketing officer of Zhone. "The mobile operators investing in backhaul services rely on IP-based platforms like Zhone FiberCell to offer added flexibility, deliver higher speeds, share resources, ensure seamless management and provide cost-effective scalability. 

Timing is critical in mobile backhaul and Zhone FiberCell is designed to provide seamless service."In the initial phase of the product launch, the Zhone FiberCell portfolio will feature three new products, including:

      Zhone FiberCell MXK Uplink Cards providing integrated timing over packet support, including IEEE 1588 v2 and the ability to accept standard-based timing over Ethernet (SyncE) and external sources including GPS Clock input via the MXK.

           Two Zhone Network Interface Device (zNID) Optical Network Terminals (ONT) (zNID-GE-9480 and zNID-GPON-9480) providing 9 Gigabit Ethernet (GE) LAN, 8 T1/E1, and IEEE 1588 Timing Recovery.

In addition, Zhone customers benefit from the Zhone's advanced management capabilities viaZhone Management System (ZMS) upgrades and Zhone EZ Touch Provisioning.

Our Take: The Rising Tide of Independent Carrier Backhaul
Zhone launched its FiberCell suite this week into a market with continuing buzz from manufacturers AdTran (NASDAQ: ADTN), Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU), and Calix Networks (NASDAQ: CALX). All have have had products out for a while.

The bigger buzz at CTIA – the $39 billion proposed takeover by AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) of T-Mobile USA – will have a lot to do with how healthy that market is for multiple backhaul solutions. That is especially true in the small and more rural markets that Calix and Zhone are highly competitive in. Independent cable operators and telcos predominate in that sub-sector.

The proposed acquisition will have an impact, even though the national footprints of AT&T and T-Mobile often leave out these lower density areas. A new wireless mega-operator holding upwards of 80% of the market will produce a significant net consolidation of backhaul circuits. That will,  at least temporarily, put a damper on continued supercharged growth.

Will the rising tide in demand for 3G and 4G mobile services be great enough to lift all boats for  rural carriers and for the gear makers like Zhone that sell into them?

This demand, together with the impacts of the stimulus money now rolling out, the Obama National Wireless Initiative, and new tranches of federal CAPEX subsidies are today creating a new rural broadband ecosystem. Zhone’s new FiberCell suite will live in this space. 

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Correction: Infinera Has Fourth Broadband Stimulus Funded Sales Win

Optical Transport Equipment Maker Announces Fourth Win, Has More in the Works 03/24/2011 San Francisco - Infinera Corporation (NASDAQ: INFN) on Tuesday of this week announced what is the firm's fourth sales win with a broadband stimulus-funded project. This publication was in error, based on our misreading of an earlier Infinera announcement, when we stated the company's award by North Georgia Network (NGN) was its third stimulus supported win.

Following a review by Infinera triggered by our inquiry of yesterday, and a cycle of communications between this publication and the company's media relations staff, We were  mistaken in issuing an undercount of the company's stimulus wins.

We did so as a result of our incorrect interpretation of Infinera's press statement of September 7, 2010. In that release the equipment manufacturer based in Sunnyvale, CA announced the formation of a partnership with the large national research and educational network (REN), the United States Unified Community Anchor Network (U.S. UCAN). 

UCAN is the recipient of a $62.540 million broadband stimulus grant under the BTOP program of the National Information and Telecommunications Administration (NTIA). The award was one of almost 70 such projects jointly announced by President Obama on July 2, 2010. UCAN is an affiliate of the national Internet2 non-profit consortium of inter-networked RENs. 

Additionally, Ms. Anna Vue, authorized spokesperson for the company, told us that the firm's sales team continues to work the opportunity presented by the large expenditure of federal funds under the broadband stimulus program of the Obama Administration. In describing the NGN sales win to us she wrote, "There are several others we are working to announce this year," 

Our misinterpretation arose as we incorrectly discounted the meaning of the announced partnership as not being an immediate sales situation. Infinera reported to us otherwise, confirming that for all reporting purposes the UCAN announcement described equipment orders no less that the three other announced sales wins. Those three sales successes were described in our story of Tuesday.

As per the common practice of the industry in such cases, Infinera did not disclose the specific number of sales contracts nor the dollar amount of such contracts.

Infinera Corporation is a publicly traded firm closely watched by analysts and investors. The information given to us is highly credible. We regret the error.

Public Cable and FTTH Networks Mapped by Institute for Local Self-Reliance

Group Maps 100+ Local Public Nets, Wants FCC to Block Anti-Muni Net Laws 03/24/2011 San Francisco - Publicly owned networks are to much of the American telecom sector what public power entities were to the electric utility sector during the New Deal era. They are hated, except where they are not.

Click on map for link to ILSR mapping product
As debate raged over public power in places well served by shareholder owned utilities, federally subsidized rural power cooperatives brought the modern world to Americans fully unserved. A new subsector of the electric utility industry grew up in those areas and in that time. It is with us today.

Today public power is as much a part of the communities it serves as the local fire department. Some of those muni utilities also own networks. In most such instances the cable and telecom operations are well managed, financially sound, and popular in their jurisdictions. The debate isn't about what happens today in those systems. It is about the idea that those scattered examples could be, or should be, models to be replicated on a national scale.

One of the outposts that today advocates for doing just that is Minnesota's Institute of Local-Self Reliance (ILSR). The telecom section head of ILSR, Christopher Mitchell, just issued a new national inventory report and map of publicly owned networks.

"Even as AT&T tries to swallow up T-Mobile, further consolidating the telecom- munications sector, a new phenomenon is maturing that promises to give communities a vehicle for influencing their own telecommunications future: publicly owned networks," states Mr. Mitchell's press release of yesterday announcing the new map.

The map released by ILSR plots the location of one hundred plus communities "that have rejected the tyranny of existing carriers and built their own networks," in the words of the ILSR statement.  The inventory is based on presently operating systems of standard cable and fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) architectures.

“The Community Broadband Map reveals the depth and breadth of publicly owned networks,” says Mr. Mitchell, Director of ILSR’s Telecommunications as Commons Initiative. “Many of these were the first to bring broadband to their residents. Others offer some of the best deals available in the country.”

The Community Broadband Map lays the foundation for a new report released by ILSR, Publicly Owned Broadband Networks: Averting the Looming Broadband Monopoly. The report argues that "community networks offer the only potential form of future broadband competition for most Americans."

One piece of the Report is now being prayed for fervently by every member of the Federal Communications Bar Association with a child in college or wanting a second home. The report calls on the Federal Communications Commission "to protect the right of communities to build broadband networks by preventing heavily lobbied state legislatures from stripping their authority to do so."

The new publication by ILSR’s is a follow-up to the Institute's 2010 report entitled Breaking the Broadband Monopoly: How Communities Are Building the Networks They Need.

Our Take
We don't see publicly owned networks as being a panacea for the confounding issues that face us as we seek broadband for all Americans. 

Neither do we see public networks as being a threat to The American Way of Life.  There are some bad managers at some community networks, just like there are some bad actors at some private sector networks.

The vast majority of our national information infrastructure will remain investor owned. That doesn't mean that we don't have a lot to learn from community networks, good and bad.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Infinera Gets Third Broadband Stimulus Win with North Georgia Network

Correction: The number of stimulus-funded sales wins by Infinera is incorrectly undercounted in this story. See our correction and update here, published at 8:45 AM (ET), on Thursday, March 24. We regret the error. 03/22/2011 San Francisco - Optical transmission equipment maker Infinera Corporation (NASDAQ: INFN) today announced that it has been selected by the North Georgia Network (NGN) to provide its Digital Optical Network gear to power the rural middle mile 230-mile optical fiber ring.

The statement marks the company's third announced contract win for a project funded by the Obama Administration's $7.2 billion broadband stimulus program.

For broadband stimulus mavens, the North Georgia Network of the Georgia Network Cooperative will always be significant. Vice President Joe Biden announced the $33 million grant for NGN as the much anticipated very first award issued under the entire national federal telecom funding initiative. Five hundred plus awards have rolled out following Biden’s on the ground announcement in Dawsonville, Georgia on December 17, 2009.

The network’s fiber will not only tie together economic developmental and education sites across eight counties of the Peach Tree State, it will also link those community anchor institutions to Tier I and Tier II Internet Service Provider (ISP) points of presence in Atlanta and North Carolina.

As previewed in The Dahlonega Nugget, the local paper of record covering the network’s Lumpkin County area, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal (R-GA) highlighted the benefits of NGN last week. He keynoted an economic development summit at North Georgia College & State University which described the economic benefits of the federally subsidized NGN.

Vice President Joseph R. Biden talks with workers at Impulse Manufacturing
in Dawsonville, GA, following his announcement of the first group of broadband
stimulus awards on December 17, 2009. (White House Photo, David Lienemann)

The Nugget was our reporting partner as we together broke the news nationally of Biden’s then pending visit in late 2009.

At the summit last week, Bruce Abraham, the network’s CEO announced a ground breaking for the project which took place yesterday.

“We are excited to bring an unprecedented level of broadband services to North Georgia, and
we have selected the best vendors,” said Abraham.

“With an Infinera network, NGN will be sabble to deliver world-class high-speed Internet services that will be the equal of those avialable anywehre in the world", conbcluded the CEO of the Sunnyvale, CA company.

Third Broadband Stimulus Win for Infinera
Today’s announcement by Infinera marks the company’s third disclosed contract win in a broadband stimulus funded project. Last July the gear maker issued a statement with Virginia’s Mid-Atlantic Broadband Cooperative (MBI) announcing Infinera’s selection to light the new fiber routes constructed with the network’s $16 million stimulus grant from the BTOP Program of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). 

In December 2010 Infinera announced its contract win with the South Dakota Network (SDN). SDN, the statewide open access network of the independent telephone operating companies of South Dakota, received a $20.6 million BTOP grant. In August of 2010 SDN became one of the first broadband stimulus projects to begin construction.   

Terabit Plus Speeds Powered by PICs
“NGN chose an Infinera Digital Optical Network because Infinera’s speed, scalability, and ease of operation support for the middle-mile open access buisness model.

With the Infinera DTN network, NGN can deliver a wide range of services quickly, react quickly to customer demands, and offer more than a Terabit/second of capacity, while keeping operating costs low", according to the company's release of today.

“We are pleased to support the NGN network and help the people of North Georgia participate fully in today's Internet economy," said Infinera CEO Tom Fallon. "The Infinera Digital Optical Network's architecture supports broadband stimulus networks with a solution that is simple, fast, and flexible."

This network will deliver affordable gigabit broadband speeds to an eight-county area of more
than 334,000 people, laying the foundation for a new, technology-based economy in the North Georgia region outside of metro Atlanta.

NGN’s open access network model will enable service providers to interconnect and build their own fiber nets out to end users.

According to the company, the Infinera DTN is the first, and still the only, optical networking system powered by photonic integrated circuits. The Infinera DTN combines high-capacity DWDM transport, integrated digital bandwidth management, and GMPLS-powered service intelligence in a single platform.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Alert: Markey Calls for Congressional Hearings on $39 Billion AT&T Takeover of T-Mobile USA 03/20/2011 San Francisco - The Democratic dean of telecommunications policy issues in the U.S. House has issued a call for congressional hearings on the proposed $39 billion acquisition of T-Mobile USA by AT&T.

Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA-07)
Congressman Ed Markey (D-MA-07) minutes ago said that congressional review of the deal, which was jointly announced early afternoon today by AT&T (NYSE: T) and T-Mobile's corporate parent, Deutsche Telekom AG (DTEGY.PK), needs to take place. If approved by regulators the deal would create the  largest wireless operator in the nation by a large measure.

In a statement emailed to this publication in the last several minutes, Rep. Markey stated:
"I intend to evaluate the proposed merger of AT&T and T Mobile closely with a focus on how it would impact consumers, competition, and choice. While AT&T and T Mobile have determined that the merger is in their corporate interests, it must also be in the public interest. We should hold Congressional hearings to fully assess the effects of this proposed merger, and I look forward to actively participating in them with my colleagues."
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