Monday, February 13, 2012

White House to Honor 3 Broadband Stimulus Awardees

3 Exemplars of the Program Previously Awarded Total of $212 Million in Stimulus Funds; 
2 Middle Mile RENs, 1 FTTP Project Honored 02/13/2012 San Francisco - Three awardees of the Obama Administration’s broadband stimulus program will be honored as Champions of Change in a White House ceremony this Wednesday, February 15. The event, which will highlight recipients of federal broadband and transportation infrastructure investments, is part of the national Winning the Future public relations campaign of the Administration. Winning the Future is the branded title of the fiscal year 2013 federal budget released by the President today. 

Key personnel at North Carolina’s MCNC Golden LEAF Rural Broadband Initiative, Merit Network, Inc. of Michigan, and South Dakota’s Venture Communications Cooperative will each be designated as a White House Champion of Change in an afternoon program. The Champion of Change effort, coordinated by White House Senior Advisor and Obama confidant Valerie Jarrett, was launched separately last year. 

North Carolina’s MCNC

“MCNC is honored with recognition by the White House as a Champion of Change.  MCNC’s work is greatly supported by our Governor, North Carolina’s General Assembly, the NCREN Community, the Golden LEAF Foundation, and by a great team at MCNC,” said Joe Freddoso, President and CEO of MCNC in a statement to this publication of today.

Gov. Purdue (l) with MCNC 's Joe Freddoso at project ground breaking
of October 8, 2010. Photo: CommScope

“Two members of the MCNC team have really led our work that led to receiving this recognition; MCNC’s CFO Patricia Moody and VP of Network Initiatives Tommy Jacobson deserve special recognition. MCNC’s two BTOP projects working as the Golden LEAF Rural Broadband Initiative is and will continue to provide the broadband infrastructure required to help our state be successful and remain competitive now and for years to come,” concluded Freddoso.

The MCNC chief, a veteran of the North Carolina high tech sector, has been the driving force behind the successful stimulus-funded expansion of the state research and educational network (REN) by the administration of Governor Bev Purdue (D-NC). While Purdue announced last month that she is not seeking reelection, the statewide expansion of MCNC will be one of the signature technology projects of her tenure. Like her Democratic colleagues Deval Patrick in Massachusetts and Jay Nixon in Missouri, Purdue has taken a hands on role in state broadband developmental initiatives, especially the federal broadband stimulus effort under Obama.

The North Carolina initiative was funded with two broadband stimulus middle mile grants totaling $104 million from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) of the U.S. Department of Commerce, and further matched with $40 million in locally raised funding. MCNC won $28.2 million in funding in Round 1, and $75.5 million in Round 2 of the federal program. 

Michigan’s Merit Network, Inc.

Similarly, Michigan’s Merit Network, Inc. is an existing statewide REN which is being expanded to be an open access middle mile network, with $102.928 million in grant funds also issued by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) of Commerce as part of the stimulus package. Like MCNC, Merit receiving grant monies in both Round 1 and Round 2 of the program. 

"I am grateful to have Merit recognized for the work we are doing," said Merit's CEO Dr. Don Welch in a statement issued this afternoon to this publication.  "Our vision of equal opportunity for access to information regardless of  geography is coming to fruition and this reinforces our belief in the importance of this effort," said Dr. Welch, who has headed Merit since 2006.

Merit CEO Dr. Don Welch (l) and then Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm
at August 2010 event announcing Round 2 award to Merit Network.
Photo: Melanie Maxwell,
"Projects like this that create 21st century infrastructure will have benefits far beyond just the laying of the fiber and those who dig the trenches," said then Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm (D-MI) at a ceremony in August 2010 announcing the funding round 2 award of $69.6 million.

"This will be huge for Michigan's future in terms of education, giving all children access to the globe, and in terms of entrepreneurship, by giving everybody the chance to transact business online. There are so many corners of Michigan that up to this point have not had that opportunity", concluded Granholm, who now teaches at the Goldman School of Public policy at UC Berkley.

South Dakota’s Venture Communications Cooperative

At the White House event this Wednesday, Ms. Janelle Jesson will receive a Champions of Change award on behalf of Venture Communications of Highmore, South Dakota. Jesson has been doing the all important work providing the internal accounting function for federal funds used in Venture’s funded fiber network expansion project.

                           RUS Administrator Jonathan Adelstein, Randy Houdek – Venture, RUS                                                    State Director Elsie M. Meeks, Bryan Roth – TrioTel, and then U.S. Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-SD-AL) at the 2010 award event. Photo: USDA
Venture, is a member-owned telephone cooperative organized in 1952, just 3 years after Congress and the Truman Administration allowed federally funded rural electric cooperatives to move into telephone network construction using federal subsidies. 

The cooperative received a total of $5.230 million in grant and loan stimulus funding from the Rural Utilities Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (RUS) to build out a Gigabit Passive Optical Network (G-PON) Fiber to the Premises (FTTP) network.

Venture is matching the federal investment with another $1.7 million in locally secured capital. The grant / loan combination award was announced by RUS Administrator Jonathan Adelstein at the annual convention of the South Dakota Telephone Cooperative Association (SDTA) annual convention on August 26, 2010, within days of the end of Round 2 awards cycle. At the time, the Administrator also awarded a separate $12.3 million grant / loan combo package to TrioTel Communications of Salem, SD.

The cooperative is now constructing the FTTP system in the exchanges of Cresbard, Faulkton and Orient, serving the rural communities of Faulkton, Orient, Cresbard, Wecota, Burkmere, Norbeck, Millard, Devoe, Miranda and Polo.
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