Monday, August 31, 2009

The Value of Rural Broadband, from Ars Technica

Great case study, and one more reason why spending stimulus funds on expanding rural broadband is a net positive for America. Just so we are clear:

Better Connectivity = Higher Productivity
Higher Productivity = Greater Net Revenue
Greater Net Revenue = More Taxes Back to Uncle Sam

"'One specific example of the impact that fiber optic network capacity can have on a business is Northwood DNA, Inc. This is a business operating in a very rural area, Becida, MN, that provides DNA sequencing and genotyping services globally. The services they provide require receiving and sending large data files electronically. Prior to the deployment of the fiber optic network, their business was only able to report two to three test results per day. Today, with the benefits of the all fiber optic network, they report over 50 test results per day.'"

From excellent article here: Fiber gets nimble: small telcos weaving fiber web - Ars Technica:

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Benefits of Rural Broadband - The Boston Globe

This Boston Globe piece has a nice roundup of benefits that flow from rural broadband:
"Providing broadband to the 43 Western Massachusetts towns that lack it entirely or in part could kickstart the economy of a region that has suffered from the decline of basic industries like paper and electrical equipment. According to federal figures, communities with broadband add a percentage point to their employment growth rate. The state estimates that extending broadband in the western counties will create 1,360 jobs in construction alone and at least 1,680 additional jobs through use of the network.

That figure could prove low. Once broadband is added to the region’s other advantages - a relaxed lifestyle and relatively low living costs - Western Massachusetts hill towns could become a magnet for self-employed consultants, Web designers, and other professionals. High tech startups that might have shunned the region because their employees in outlying towns lacked broadband service for telecommuting might give it a second look."
Broaden access for broadband - The Boston Globe

Friday, August 28, 2009

Otsego County, New York, Hopes for Fiber Optic Loop With Wireless Outreach

Yes! This is exactly what the Obama-Biden plan had in mind: Last week we learned that Otsego County has applied for about $5.89 million in federal stimulus money to build a fiber optic loop around the county, according to The Daily Star.

Carolyn Lewis, the county's economic developer, said she believes "the loop will help bring prosperity to the countryside as firms, large and small, and residents, even on back roads, are able to operate smoothly on the Internet." Citizens of the county are strongly supportive of the project and prepared to pitch in to make it work to everyone's advantage.

(Surprisingly, even in Otsego County, a rural New York county that voted for Obama in the 2008 presidential election, some people don't realize that the "Obama-Biden Plan" placed a priority on rural broadband way before the stimulus package. In fact, it was in the works even before the presidential debates last Fall--attentive viewers will have noted that Obama spoke of the need to bring true broadband service to rural communities during the first debate.)

Support for this project today is bipartisan and pretty much across the board, from schools to hospitals, from companies and colleges to farms and families. According to Lewis, when it is built, the fiber loop would be available to colleges, hospitals, businesses and telecommunications service providers, which would be encouraged to reach the county's most remote areas with wireless devices that tie into the loop. This raises the exciting prospect of farm-wide wireless broadband service, a huge boon to farmers in this important dairy-producing region (New York is America's third largest producer of dairy products).

The county-owned network would be operated by a limited development corporation, a not-for-profit agency made up of members selected by the Otsego County Board of Representatives, according to a memorandum from ECC Technologies of Liverpool, the county's consultant on the project. Within six weeks, the county should have a preliminary indication of how its application was received. An official announcement is scheduled for November 7.

If it goes forward, the project is likely to be a big hit with local residents who for years have been exasperated by costly and unreliable satellite service while unable to get companies like Verizon, AT&T or Time Warner Cable to supply them with affordable Internet connectivity. Many thanks are due to Lewis and the county workers who helped complete the very demanding application, including Marybeth Vargha, the county's GIS coordinator, and County board Chairman James Power.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Why Rural Folk Feel 3.6X Angrier About Broadband, TV, and Verizon

Guest Blogger Stephen Cobb writes:

Right now it hurts to watch New York City's Channel 4 NBC news if you live just a few hours outside of New York City in the rural areas that supply the metropolis with its dairy goods and fresh produce. Why?

The NBC 4 New York sports section is sponsored by Verizon FiOS and Verizon FiOS spots are all over the show, advertising an $80 per month deal on high speed Internet, plus television and phone service. That's $80 for all three. What do you have to pay if you live outside the city? $290.

That $290 "deal" is what rural folks must pay to get service that is not even as good as FiOS at $80 or even FiOS at $160. Yet some of the fiber optic cables that make FiOS possible pass right through these rural fields and valleys. Here's how it breaks down in the many areas that phone and cable companies chose to ignore:

$80 for HughesNet satellite Internet
$75 for Verizon land line phone service
$135 for DirecTV satellite TV

Yep, it adds up to $290, about 3.6X what city cousins pay. Bear in mind that the rural dweller's $80 rate for satellite Internet only gets him, if he's very lucky, download speeds of 1.6Mbps and upload rates of maybe 128Kbps, with latency that is much worse than dialup. And daily traffic is capped at 425Mb (in other words, one hi-def movie download or operating system upgrade and you're done for the next 24 hours).

Yet the current 3-way FiOS package from Verizon, which "serves" most of these rural areas of New York state at a much lower grade, gives the subscriber phone service, plus TV service, plus broadband Internet access at 50Mbs upload, 20Mbps download. That is more than 25X what you can get in the country, with a bandwidth cap that is at least 1,000X greater than the cap on satellite. So, Verizon gives city dwellers a level of service that is massively better than what they offer their rural customers, at about a quarter of the cost rural customers have to pay.

If the situation were reverse and it was rural customers getting that deal, surely there would be riots in the streets of the city. No?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Guest Post Anyone?

Agrilan would like to encourage those with an interest in rural broadband issues to submit posts to this blog. Please email us at mail at agrilan dot com for more information.