I’ll be blunt — this stinks!
“People are paying money in to go to college,” she said, “I don’t think any of that money should be used to subsidize the broadband effort that really is competing with the private sector.”
– Sen. Lisa Marrache, the assistant Senate majority leader
Oh, you are asking what’s the argument? The Univ of Mass is considering going into partnership with several communities and private enterprise in rural Maine locations to get broadband to these localities that are not being served now. The beef of course is that the University is competing with private enterprise. —
Marrache said constituents raised the issue with her after charges were leveled this summer that UMS is competing with private companies in the broadband business.
Severin Beliveau, an Augusta attorney representing FairPoint, blasted UMS at a meeting of the State Broadband Advisory Council, arguing their participation in a group seeking federal funds was improper competition with the private sector.
“I am concerned at what the university is proposing here, because it is receiving a form of subsidy, no they are in fact receiving a subsidy from taxpayers, in competing with the private sector,” he said.
Jeff Letourneau, associate director of information technology at UMS, said the university is part of a private-public partnership created to provide broadband capacity at a “wholesale” level and the university’s role is minor.
“The grant from the federal government went to GWI [Great Works Internet] and two private investors,” he said. “As for tuition subsidizing our broadband efforts, that does not happen and will not happen.”
I am a dirty stinking capitalist of the first order. There are not many $$ deals I won’t turn down. (Though there are moral ones I won’t touch.) But if private companies don’t want to service these areas; and that has been the case for Verizon, now FairPoint for years, then by God you have no right to complain. You were offered a franchise there Telcos, decided it was not worth your effort and now complain when your unopened candy bar is taken away from you. Pffft, tough. Capitalism works best when there is fair exchange going on. Capitalism does not work where monopolistic haunch sitting goes on and the citizenry suffer as a consequence.
Which brings me to the title of this missive. You have to ask yourself whose ox gets gored if UofMaine went thru with the deal? Why the resident Telco is who. That ladies and gentlemen has to be the back story. As a fellow conservative I know says — flare drops. This is only a cover to prevent competition.
Serve your constituents Marrache.
Alec Ross arrives today at the State Department, armed with a new set of diplomatic tools including Facebook, text messaging and YouTube.
Ross is a senior adviser on innovation to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton — a role created for the 37-year-old nonprofit leader, who quickly rose within the Obama campaign, helping to craft tech policy under top technology adviser Julius Genachowski.
His new job will blend technology with diplomacy in an attempt to help solve some of the globe’s most vexing problems on health care, poverty, human rights and ethnic conflicts. And it is emblematic of the expansive approach the administration has taken to the role of technology in advancing its domestic and global agendas.
Before I start I should lay down a disclaimer that I have never met the man. The considerations given are based on a Bio search of Mr. Ross’s career and public statements.
Alec Ross graduated from Northwestern with a BA. From what I can find he is not a technologist in formal training. (I hold a BS in Computer Science, for example.) His work effort followed with a 2 year stint teaching in inner city schools. (Surprisingly I spent a year doing the same thing.) He also has served as flunky to the CEO of The Enterprise Foundation. Subsequently he co-founded One Economy an NGO that fosters internet access for low income participants in the US and around the world. He has now been appointed as the Man on technical-social policy at the State Department.
Sounds like a pretty stellar rise for a 37yo guy right? Well maybe. But lets consider some facts. Look at One Economy’s 2007 charity summary. Their 990 summary here. CharityNavigator only gives them a slightly better than average rating on charitable efficiency. Their total revenues for 2007 were just a little under $20m. Their total employee count was 21-100 depending on which set of data you view. Still sound ok? Well consider this –
* The average regional McDonalds franchisee with 10-11 restraunts is grossing $20m per annum.
* Your typical WalMart SuperCenter typically grosses in the $18-25m range. That youngist looking guy or gal running the place has more at risk.
* An average long haul truck driver pushes $30m in customer assets just to meet expenses and payroll.
* Fact is there are tens of thousands of micro cap stocks in the $20-100m range in this country. All of them doing so the old fashion way — they earn it in the marketplace.
My point is there are a flotilla of individuals with not only better experience but are so with a technology background and understanding. What Ross brings to the table is connections and how to work the NGO system. I don’t consider that a compliment. Lets call it what it is — political patronage. It is what it is, good or ill. But it is payback for picking the right horse. The way the Washington Post gushes you would think he was the second coming of Geithner. (Which when I think about it, might be true. Not a compliment either.)
Do I fret about it? No. But this is like handing an undersecretary of state position whose sole claim to fame is ‘social entrepreneur’. Well Mr. Ross I have a challenge for you. Lets meet shall we? I will bring two PCs and 2 OS disks. The first one to get the system up and running in its stated role in a network environment is last man standing.
For a different perspective look here.
Article over in the UK Gaurdian from a Colonial over here about the need for Universal Broadband. I go on record as stating that universality in anything ends up being a boondoogle and coarsens the delivery of anything it touches. That being said, there are ways to foster competition to improve service and reduce costs. But I will let the man have his say –
We live in a civil society – a place where primary education is freely available to all, where anyone can enjoy a walk through our public parks or down our sidewalks and freely drive through the streets. Libraries across the country loan out books for free – literature that you can read on a spring day in our parks or beneath the streetlights on main street on a warm summer’s evening. You don’t have to tip the firemen who show up at your house or pay for police protection – in a civil society, public safety is freely available to everyone.
We enjoy myriad services and resources that we don’t pay for each and every time we use them. Yet each of these key facets of contemporary society was part of a new social contract, often adopted only after years of battle and turmoil to overcome a prior status quo (from private fire and educational services to for-fee libraries and parks). Eventually, however, new models are seen to provide such an enormous benefit to the entire population that we’re willing to invest in ideas that lift all boats. We realise that, as a society, each of us is better off when certain basic services are freely available to all.
At the dawn of the digital era, during this first decade of the 21st century, the most important new commodity is internet access. A growing canon of research has documented the enormous benefits that accrue to those with broadband access (and the increasing detriments faced by those without it). Within many civil societies, in much the same way the agrarian revolution helped eliminate famine, the industrial revolution brought manufactured goods into everyone’s lives and the computer era integrated machines (from laptops to PDAs and cell phones to iPods) into our daily regimes, connectivity is the currency of the information age. A new social contract that includes connectivity for all is not a particularly expensive endeavour – free broadband for everyone for life would cost a tiny fraction of the cost of the Wall Street bail-out and far less than the expense of one year of our war in Iraq.
The problem can be summed up in the gentlemen’s preamble — it should be free and available to all. Sorry but there is no free lunch. You pay for the streets with taxes or bonds. The fireman, librarian and policemen don’t have to be tipped because they too get paid by your taxes that you pay for. (And most likely have a better pension than you do working in the private sector.) So the panacea that broadband would be free is a farce. What?! Cisco is going to give the county the equipment for free? Perish the thought.
Am I against municipalities getting together and putting up a system? No. But lets do it right. Set up those municipal service authorities, build it out and pay for it out of user fees. Or have the county bid out the deployment and servicing to a third party. But it has to be a user pays model. Otherwise you end up with the ‘public commons’ problem of too many subsidizing the few that rape the system of bandwidth.
With some new Pols poised to take the keys to our collective bus in DC, we’re hearing a lot about he need for federal money to fix our digital infrastructure. We’re also hearing a lot of banter about natural monopolies, and economic stimulus from self appointed experts who are eager to allocate more dollars to to “create jobs and erase the digital divide”. If you think the new team driving the bus will fix anything, I have news for you. We’ve repeatedly tried to fund and regulate better communications networks from Washington, and failed every time. The time has come to quit feeding the porkers at the federal trough and take charge of our own infrastructure.
Technologist Brough Turner eloquently makes the case that we should own our dark fiber and be free to chose who lights it. With double strand fiber prices now in the 30 cents / foot range, a fiber pipe is less costly than the water, sewer, or electric that we routinely pay for. Instead of forking over billions for make work programs run by Luddites in Washington, why not do it closer to home? Opening the market for who lights the fiber will create more jobs that will continue long after the initial construction, and competition will provide better price and service with more options.
Brough Turner says, “Don’t fight for anything above dark fiber.” Changes in telecom tend to happen on a decade’s time scale so be careful what you ask for – it will be with you for a long time. His proposal for improving internet communications in the United States is based on the paradigm of owning the dark fiber ourselves or controlling who lights the dark fiber that comes into our homes. (IT Conversations)
The people of the smallish burg of Monticello, MN may actually be allowed to build and pay for their own fiber network after all. Defying all conventional logic, the local Telco expected the courts to enforce their total monopoly over fixed line broadband access. This time, sound judgment prevailed. Our corrupt Congress should take notes, and the duopoly should be put on notice. Until we open the market to real competition by private enterprise,we will be seeing more of this.
Just as a service provider should be free to offer whatever level of service it feels is appropriate (in this case relatively slow DSL), a municipality should be free to offer better if they feel that the incumbent is not offering adequate service. The Muni built network is a last resort solution that was arrived at after many attempts to have the monoploy deliver bandwidth that meets current deamnd. If the telco in question, TDS telecom, wanted to preserve its monopoly, they needed to provide satisfactory service instead of suing to force the public to accept less.
It’s clear municipalilites can benefit from wireless broadband. Chosing the right model and executing it as a business tool rather than a political one seems to be the difference between success and failure. There’s no reason to believe that this would not apply to Wimax as well as WiFi.
The city of Milledgeville, Georgia has contracted Clearwire to deploy a municipal WiMAX network to provide city-wide wireless internet access. The service will be subscription-based, with a number of different service tiers available. Funding for the project is coming from a USD862,000 grant awarded to the city by the Georgia Technology Authority in 2006. (Telegeography)
We’ll be watching this one attentively. Will the AT&T legal squad try to stop it?