Monday, July 30, 2007

ONE Ohio gathering gets early look at Strickland Broadband Council order

More than fifty technology activists from Coshocton, Mansfield, Dayton. Cleveland, Steubenville, Toledo, Cambridge, Cincinnati and a dozen other communities showed up at the State Library of Ohio for ONE Ohio's second statewide gathering last Friday.

The day's big news was the release of Governor Strickland's executive order creating a new Ohio Broadband Council. From the press release:
The order directs the Ohio Broadband Council to coordinate efforts to extend access to the Broadband Ohio Network to every county in Ohio. And the order allows public and private entities to tap into the Broadband Ohio Network – all with a goal of expanding access to high-speed internet service in parts of the state that presently don't have such service.

...The Council, to be co-chaired by the state Chief Information Officer and the director of the Ohio Supercomputer Center, will consist of representatives from several state agencies, four state legislators and the director of the Governor's Office of Appalachia or his designee. In addition, the governor will appoint representatives from Ohio's business and labor communities, local governments and the general public to serve on the Council at his discretion.

The governor has charged the Ohio Broadband Council to extend access to the Broadband Ohio Network so that state agencies in all 88 counties can be linked to the nearest connection point on the network. In addition, the order authorizes governmental and non-governmental entities to access the Broadband Ohio Network.

"This is the first step in bridging the digital divide in Ohio, and I look forward to working with industry providers, businesses and our local communities to take additional steps to provide superior broadband access to all of Ohio's 88 counties," Strickland said.
Here's the whole Executive Order 2007 - 24S: Establishing the Ohio Broadband Council and Broadband Ohio Network (.doc file).

Here's the Ohio Broadband Council website.

ONE Ohio gathering participants got copies of the just-released documents "hot off the press", and a thorough briefing on the Governor's plan from the state's Chief Information Officer, Steve Edmonson, along with Pankaj Shah of the Ohio Supercomputer Center. We also shared some local broadband deployment success stories, discussed ONE Ohio's broadband access mapping project, and did a whole lot of networking.

All in all, a successful and informative gathering.

Monday, July 23, 2007

State CIO Edmonson to speak at July 27 gathering

R. Steve Edmonson, Governor Strickland's Chief Information Officer, will be a featured presenter at ONE Ohio's second statewide gathering this Friday, July 27.

Edmonson will discuss the strategy and status of the Governor's "Broadband Ohio" program.

The gathering will take place from 10 am to 2:30 pm at the State Library of Ohio in Columbus (directions here). It's free and no pre-registration is necessary, but box lunches will be available for a modest charge only if you pre-order one by tomorrow, July 24. Email Bill Callahan at

Thursday, July 12, 2007

State helps fund three more community broadband projects

From a July 9 Development Department press release:
Lieutenant Governor Lee Fisher today announced that the Governor's Office of Appalachia (GOA) has teamed with the Ohio State University (OSU) to sponsor the Connecting Rural Ohio Wireless Neighborhood Initiative to deploy broadband to community-owned wireless networks to several communities within distressed Appalachian counties. Up to three communities will be selected to receive a community learning center that will include six computers and a networked printer available at no charge for public use.
This is the next step of a strategy devised by Alan Escovitz and his colleagues at OSU. The first application of the idea was deployed in New Straitsville in Perry County in 2003; the second has been famously up and running in Chesterhill in Morgan County for more than a year. The third CRO project is now being rolled out in the village of Vinton in Gallia County. As the DOD press release says, the Connecting Rural Ohio team is looking to develop two additional sites in the near future.

To learn more contact Dr. Escovitz at OSU's Office of the CIO.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Second ONE Ohio gathering planned for July 27

ONE Ohio will hold our second statewide gathering on Friday, July 27 beginning at 10 am at the State Library of Ohio.

Our first meeting in February brought together eighty-five representatives from sixteen counties to meet, network and discuss local and statewide broadband initiatives.

This time we'll have:
... a six-month update on broadband developments in Columbus
... deeper presentations on some local strategies
... a report and brainstorming on ONE Ohio's new Broadband Map Project
... and -- of course -- another opportunity to network with kindred spirits.

There's no charge and parking is free. But this time we're going to have to charge something for the box lunches, so please RSVP to Bill Callahan if you know you're coming and need one.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Cleveland posts RFP for wireless broadband network

The City of Cleveland has just posted the Request for Proposals for Mayor Jackson's planned citywide wireless broadband network.

Excerpts from the RFP's "Objectives" section:

The purpose of the RFP is to select a private-sector partner (a single Provider or group of partnering Providers) to own, fund, design, construct, operate, manage, maintain, repair and upgrade a wireless mesh broadband Internet network infrastructure. The wireless network will be used for the express purpose of increasing the broadband availabilitythroughout the City to improve the quality of life for our citizens, businesses and visitors ...

The City’s private-sector partner (s) would be expected to provide:

• A dedicated and free wireless network for Internet access for the City’s safety and mobile workers to improve worker productivity. The wireless network will enable the City to use modern technology and applications to improve their productivity and deliver better government services more cost-efficiently and effectively. This means the network will be used for public and private purposes with appropriate separation and security for City use as required by the City.

• Affordable, universal Citywide Internet access will be available to citizens, businesses and visitors. Cleveland’s wireless broadband network must reach every neighborhood, every populated area. The City is seeking a proposal that offers free to low-cost service options to every Clevelander and visitor. In addition, non-profit organizations should receive special pricing.

• Free access in parks and other designated public places. Every designated public park, spaces with high-traffic, popular neighborhood destinations (i.e., airports, stadiums, arenas, Public Square, downtown) and other designated destination sites in the City will have free access to the new network.

• Free access in the Recreation Centers, CLIMB (Computer Learning In My Backyard)/CTC Centers or other designated programs, which help to increase Digital Literacy in our neighborhoods and close the gaps of those with access and those without access to modern technology. Building on the success of “Cleveland CTCs and the CLIMB initiative,” the new network must include support for these centers to offer more robust applications to support mobility and digital equity in underserved communities. This includes support for community-based applications, which are meaningful and include computer ownership for low-income households. The City expects a financial commitment to support these types of digital inclusion programs.

• Support for open access to multiple commercial, e.g., ISPs, or institutional service providers. The winning provider will allow other companies to participate in a wholesale model. The winning wireless provider is expected to market wholesale services and market directly to the residential, business and other government subscribers.

Proposals are due on May 19.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Athens County JFS gives away 2000th computer

Via an emailed press release from Tracy Galway at Athens County Jobs and Family Services:

Athens County Job & Family Services, in partnership with Hocking College, gave away its 2000th personal computer this past week. The project began in 2001, as an effort to minimize the gap between those with regular, effective access to computer technology and those without access. Through the program at Athens County Job & Family Services, families are able to receive a personal home computer refurbished by Hocking College’s Computer Connections program, complete with software, printer, a year of Internet access and basic training to use the computer, all for free.

I understand the county JFS in Washington County is doing something similar.

Now if we could just get all these folks affordable broadband access...

(Cross-posted from Callahan's Cleveland Diary)

Friday, March 16, 2007

Wireless broadband for Tuscarawas

From the Times-Reporter, March 9: Tuscarawas County inks deal to bring high speed wireless.

Tuscarawas County commissioners finalized a deal Thursday with Light Speed Internet of Berlin to allow the Holmes County-based company to install wireless receivers on the county’s 911 towers.

As a result, county offices will receive free Internet access for a savings of nearly $800 per month on its current Internet contracts, and Lightspeed’s business will offer high-speed wireless services to Tuscarawas County residents.

Light Speed's website.

(h/t Chris Henney)

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Mayor Jackson commits to citywide wi-fi in Cleveland

In his "State of the City" address today, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson said:
I am pleased to announce today that Cleveland will move forward with developing a Citywide WI-FI network, potentially the first in Ohio. This network will provide wireless access throughout all 77 square miles of the City and position us for the future. We will increase our broadband penetration, and begin bridging the digital divide that has adversely affected low-income communities. Cleveland will be recognized as a city of technology. We will have an environment that promotes innovation, and we will be able to compete globally.
No other details have been announced. A wireless planning process involving a number of public and private organizations has been under way at Cleveland City Hall for several months.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

House Bill 72 would create Broadband Task Force

A bipartisan group of fifteen Ohio House members, led by Representative Clyde Evans (R- Rio Grande), has introduced House Bill 72 to create the "Ohio Broadband and Wireless Telecommunications Task Force".

The Task Force would "examine and make recommendations on the availability of broadband and wireless telecommunications in Ohio and any economic impact such availability creates, the present or future availability of broadband and wireless telecommunications in all Ohio counties, and any other issues the Task Force deems appropriate". It would have a year to complete its work and issue a report to the leaders of the Ohio Senate and House and the Governor.

Task Force members would include
  • two members each from the Senate and House (two Republicans, two Democrats);
  • representatives from the Departments of Development, Natural Resources, and Commerce, the PUCO, the Office of Consumers Counsel, the Ohio Municipal League, the Ohio Township Association and the County Commissioners' Association; and
  • seven other members appointed by the Governor, of whom four would represent provider industries.
Besides Evans, co-sponsors of HB 72 include Republicans Cliff Hite, Jimmy Stewart, Eric Combs, David Daniels, Jim McGregor, Gerald Stebelton, Diana Fessler, and Shawn Webster, and Democrats Jennifer Garrison, Dan Dodd, Kathleen Chandler, Allan Sayre, Michael Skindell, and Lorraine Fende.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Columbus to host forum with FCC Commissioners, Copps, Adelstein and McDowell

While this may not appear to be a broadband issue on the surface, I believe there is a connection to be made between our efforts for universal affordable broadband and the Columbus FCC fact-finding hearing on media ownership to take place March 7th.

You may recall the tremendous public backlash in 2003 against proposed rules to weaken ownership limits. Commissioners Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein led the way by holding informal hearings around the country to get public input. Well, the FCC is at it again. On June 21, current FCC chairman Kevin Martin issued a draft proposal -- called a Further Notice of Proposed Rule Making, or FNPRM -- that kick-started the latest effort to permit further media consolidation.

The upcoming Columbus hearing will be significant because it will be the first hearing attended by a majority Commissioner, Robert McDowell. According to organizer Amanda Ballentyne
"having McDowell attend the hearing is a very big deal, as he is appears to be the possible swing vote on the issue of broadcast ownership at the FCC. There are 5 commissioners at the FCC, three republicans (the majority) and two democrats (Copps and Adelstein). Copps and Adelstein have been outspoken on these issues, pressing the FCC not to allow further consolidation. McDowell appears to be undecided. This forum will be an excellent opportunity to impress McDowell."
The broadband connection?

Some ask, "who needs public interest obligations for broadcasters when anyone can use the internet to get and publish information?" This audience knows very well that not "anyone" or everyone can do that.

An official FCC hearing was held in Harrisburg, PA yesterday. US Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) sent a letter to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin for inclusion in the record. His comments should sound familiar, and underscore the importance of diversity and meaningful public interest requirements for broadcast media:
Some media companies and associations have asserted that the internet’s potential ... is sufficient justification for the Commission to relax its media ownership rules. [Former] Chairman Michael Powell made the mistake of acting as if the internet was an independent source of national and local news- a mistake repudiated by the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals when they remanded the Commission’s rules on this very point.

An open and free internet could be considered the first truly accessible tool to make the spirit of First Amendment come alive for everyone in the country. But without an internet available to all that guarantees fast speeds to anyone’s content, that potential is just a promise.

The reality of the Internet today for most Americans is not really comparable to its potential. The reality is that the FCC considers 200 kbps as broadband-a speed so inadequate that even video optimized for slower connections like that provided by YouTube requires 500kbps — 150% faster — to run in real-time. The reality is that broadband isn’t available — even at those low speeds — to tens of millions of Americans.

The reality is that only small percentages — 11% of respondents in a recent survey — use the internet as a frequent source of local news and information. The reality is that the websites of local TV stations and local newspapers account for about half of the sites these Internet users visit most frequently.

Until [the web] is as pervasive as broadcast media and newspapers — and until new websites truly compete with those traditional media outlets (and the web sites they control) — the web’s existence should not be used to justify media consolidation.

While bloggers and some websites cover local news extremely well, many are centered on opinion, food and theater reviews — or they simply aggregate links to websites of broadcasters or newspapers. The fact that most of these websites generate significant content reacting or responding to content produced by local broadcasters or newspapers underscores the internet’s importance as a complement and a supplement — not a competitor — to traditional media outlets.
The particular hearing in Columbus is considered an "unofficial" hearing, meaning it six not among the six designated by Commission Chairman Kevin Martin to address the specific proposed rulemaking. That fact gives the public more latitude in bringing issues before the commissioners.

Think the rulemaking eliminating local franchising stinks? Let them know. Think our measure of broadband access stinks? Tell them that too.

In my mind the most important statement to be made is that our communications infrastructure is too important to our democracy, economy and culture to have its rules written by the companies entrusted to occupy it.

Here is a promotional flier you can circulate. For more information, visit or contact Amanda Ballantyne,, 612-849-0195.

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Toledo gets two wifi bids

Yesterday was the deadline for companies to respond to the City of Toledo's request for proposals to build and operate a citywide wireless network.

From today's Blade:

The city of Toledo and Mayor Carty Finkbeiner asked for the world when they put together a proposal for citywide Wi-Fi.

What they got may be closer to an asteroid.

Although hoping for several bids to provide the city with free Wi-Fi service, Toledo received only two Wi-Fi proposals by its 2 p.m. deadline yesterday, one from Buckeye CableSystem of Toledo, and the other from MetroFi of Mountain View, Calif. - neither meeting the city's request for free wireless Internet service for city government operations.

What MetroFi dangles in front of the city is free Wi-Fi service for every city resident willing to look at advertisements while they browse the Internet. Residents who prefer ad-free viewing would pay $19.95 per month for the service.

In the MetroFi plan the city would pay at least $2.2 million over five years as the "anchor tenant" of the wireless network. But costs could reach $4.3 million if the city chooses to add a licensed frequency for city safety services, something that was done when Riverside, Calif., deployed its Wi-Fi network with MetroFi. Public safety is Toledo's No. 1 reason for seeking a Wi-Fi contract.

Brian Schwartz, the mayor's spokesman, said city officials would have no comment on the proposals until they were reviewed.

Earlier potential bidders who chose not to submit proposals were EarthLink, AT&T, 20/20 Communications, which is installing a Wi-Fi network in Wash-tenaw County, Michigan, and CISP, a Toledo Internet provider.

The Buckeye proposal approached the city's request for proposals as an invitation to begin an analysis of what the city needs. Buckeye is owned by Block Communications Inc., which also owns The Blade.

More here and here.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

House subcommittee to grill FCC on local franchising

[Note: As noted in the comments, the hearing was postponed. Still time to get your calls, letters and emails in.]

The House Commerce & Telecommunications Subcommittee is scheduled to hold a hearing today, Thursday, Feb. 15th, to review the FCC. Among the many issues of concern is the FCCs December 20th FCC Ruling on Video Franchising. The ruling:

(1) imposes a 90-day shot clock for new entrants with existing rights of
(2) requires the grant of a new entrant’s franchise after 90-days;
(3) limits the scope of a new entrant's build-out obligation;
(4) authorizes a new entrant to withhold payment of fees that its deems to be in excess of the 5 percent cap;
(5) undermines support for public, educational and government (PEG) access channels PEG and local, institutional networks (INET);
(6) authorizes a new entrant to refrain from obtaining a franchise when it is upgrading mixed use facilities that will be used for the delivery of video content.

FCC Commissioner Adelstein offered these dissenting comments:
“The policy goals of this Order, to promote competitive video offerings and broadband deployment, are laudable. But while I support these goals, today’s item goes out on a limb in asserting federal authority to preempt local governments, and then saws the limb off with a highly dubious legal and policy scheme that substitutes our judgment as to what is reasonable for that of local officials – all in violation of the franchising framework established in the Communications Act.”
Commissioner Copps dissented and wrote:
"My goal was to encourage an item that preserves a local authority’s statutory right to seek specific and far-reaching build-out requirements, protects each community’s ability to negotiate for PEG and I-NET facilities, and maintains truly meaningful local ability to deal with the huge companies that are coming into our cities and towns toPublish build important infrastructure."
Save has a online letter writing tool you can use to voice your opinion with the key house members of the subcommittee.

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Monday, February 12, 2007

Chicago's Principles for Digital Inclusion

Chicago Digital Access Alliance Has developed a set of principles for "every city engaged in expanding digital inclusion." Check out the full text at

Here is are the ten points (Sorry for the CAPS. I cut and pasted):

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

John Dingle on National Broadband Strategy

entitled affordable broadband for everyone. He writes:
there is significant concern that our ranking, by whatever measure, in the global information economy is less than it should be. While the overall number of United States households adopting broadband is growing, our relative position in the world is worsening. Consumers in other countries enjoy broadband connections that are faster, cheaper and offered by more providers.
Apropos to my previous post

we must examine whether the current measure of broadband speed in this country is adequate. In 1996, Congress directed the Federal Communications Commission to encourage the timely deployment to all Americans of capability enabling users “to originate and receive high-quality voice, data, graphics, and video telecommunications.” Curiously, the FCC continues to rely on the high-speed definition it set in 1999 as just 200 kilobits per second (kbps) in only one direction.

There is universal agreement that this is insufficient for cutting edge applications such as streaming video (1 mbps), medical monitoring (2.5 mbps) or videoconferencing (6 mbps). One need only ask any child playing educational games online whether our current broadband standard is too slow.

Next, we must consider how effectively we measure the level of broadband penetration in this country. Frankly, the FCC’s current zip-code method of measuring broadband is neither useful nor accurate. A realistic assessment that maps actual deployment and adoption will better enable policymakers to identify gaps in availability, price, and speed.

His solutions:

Encourage infrastructure investment: Telephone and cable companies are actively upgrading their existing infrastructure, but even services like DSL have limits presented by old legacy networks.

Promote competition: We should promote deployment and demand at the local level by any entity using any technology, including municipalities.

Manage spectrum wisely: Greater spectrum demands require us to continue to find ways to increase access and efficiency while protecting existing licensees.

Modernize universal service: We must carefully probe the stewardship of the nation’s universal service policies and consider supporting broadband service, especially in rural areas.

Foster innovation: The power of the Internet as an entrepreneurial medium for individuals and businesses, however small, must be preserved. Consumers should continue to go where they want, when they want, over the high-speed connections of their choice.

Protect consumers: Above all, we must remember that communications networks run over public resources such as spectrum or a community’s local rights of way. Our policies should demand that service providers adhere to appropriate social responsibilities that serve the common good such as public safety, law enforcement, privacy, and universal access.

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Monday, February 5, 2007

New FCC report: Ohio 28th among states in home broadband lines

(Rich James referred to this in his last couple of posts...)

Last Thursday the Federal Communications Commission released its semi-annual report on High-Speed Services for Internet Access. This one surveyed the number of "high speed" connections by state, user type, provider type, etc. as of June 30 2006. (I'm putting quotation marks around "high speed" because the FCC threshold is a paltry 200 kbps in one direction. But trust me, most of what they're counting is regular DSL and cable modem service.)

Table 13 tells us the number of residential high-speed Internet lines by state, with the District of Columbia and a couple of territories thrown in. If you take these figures for the fifty states and D.C. and line them up against the Census Bureau's 2005 household counts, here's what you find:

  • Just 40% of Ohio's 4.5 million households had broadband Internet access in June 2006. This leaves three out of five Ohio homes -- 2.7 million -- without broadband Internet access, even by the FCC's ridiculously low standard.
  • This rate of household broadband penetration puts Ohio 28th among the fifty states -- 29th if you include D.C. in the ranking. Our state's rate is 5% below the national average.

I've posted the whole state-by-state spreadsheet here.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Got Broadband?

While the recent FCC broadband report -- ranking Ohio 28th out of 50 states for connectivity -- and the testimony shared at the One Ohio gathering may paint a discouraging picture, it is not the full story

Recently, the Center for Public Integrity (CPI) filed a little reported lawsuit against the FCC to force it to release data from the Form 477 filings that telecom companies provide detailing where their service lines are deployed. The CPI requested the data under FOIA in late August. When the agency did not respond, the CPI filed suit.

The CPI wants to take a close look at how the FCC comes up with its broadband data. As I learned doing a local broadband survey with the Center for American Progress in 2005-6, a telco is given credit for serving a community even if there is only one connection within that zip code. So are there really 1.4 million households connected in Ohio?

According to CPI's statement:
Knowing the identities of the companies would also allow the public to better gauge the reliability of the FCC's own database. In a report released in May 2006, the Government Accountability Office discussed "information [received from the FCC] on the companies providing broadband service in ZIP codes throughout the United States." The GAO's analysis of Form 477 data allowed it to conclude that the median number of broadband providers within a ZIP code was two, rather than eight, as the FCC's analysis of the data found.
Additionally, the FCC sets a very low standard for broadband: 200kbps. With bandwidth ceiling this low it is near impossible to access many media files. And while you may have purchased a plan promising a fast connection you are unlikely ever to receive that top speed. Why? Because that bandwidth capacity was sold to you and 49 of your neighbors. If the majority of you are surfing YouTube your speed will drop precipitously.

Want to know your connection speed? Try this tool from Speakeasy:
Speakeasy Speed Test

Speakeasy measures both download and upload capacity. Upload capacity is vitally important if we are to use our computers as communications devices and not just as interactive televisions.

Other testing sites include Bandwidth Place and Windows User Group Network which has a nice graphical interface that measures upload and download speed.

Are you getting what you a paid for? Tell your story in the comments.

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Saturday, February 3, 2007

Higher Education and Universal Broadband

I am excited the energy and level of interest I saw at the February 2 One Ohio gathering. I have not seen that many people in one room discussing broadband since the National Media reform Conference.

I want to share my thoughts on why universal affordable broadband and CTC support should be important to higher education.

First, here is some of what I heard:

According to the FCC's most recent report on national broadband penetration, Ohio ranks a mediocre 28th out of 50 states. As the day went on we heard what this means in real terms for Ohio:
  • communities struggling to keep and attract businesses because they are unable to offer simple broadband connection;

  • farmers, a significant economic sector in Ohio, unable to monitor agricultural markets;

  • citizens, both urban and rural, unable to use a computer to do things connected citizens take for granted such take online classes, search and apply for jobs, access political, consumer and cultural information.
These simmering frustrations are now finding a voice thanks to political leadership provided by Governor Strickland. And it is clear that in the in area of training and education, the administration wants state higher educational institutions to take the lead.

What's at Stake for Higher Education

This is why I think universal broadband community-based education should be important to us.

  • Where I work at Columbus State Community College, our distance learning enrollment is growing at 20% clip. We, like other colleges and universities, need to recognize community broadband is part of our educational infrastructure.

  • For students, broadband is an opportunity cost for their education. Because of their life circumstance, online learning is the only option that meets the learning needs of many students. How many do not take advantage of this because they cannot afford a connection or they endure an economic hardship to do so?

  • Broadband may determine the quality of online education. Working in instructional design, I know that some methods of content delivery, instruction and interaction are simply not viable without a robust broadband connection. And some newer collaboration tools -- often dubbed "Web 2.0" technologies -- require a degree of comfort and experience to utilize. But what we see emerging is a cultural divide between those who have access and those who do not: the saavy and nonsaavy. So we end up making educational decisions that conform to a lower common denominator. We should be making decisions based on pedagogy not technology.

  • Ohio's competitiveness depends on this. Our world is changing at a rapid clip. Our students will have multiple careers. In fact, we are training students for jobs that don't yet exist, using technologies that haven't been invented. To keep up, we will all need to be able to rapidly learn and renew skills to stay viable. Much of that learning will have to be facilitated online.

  • Ohio's low college enrollment reflects a serious cultural divide that can only be bridged at the grassroots level. Community-based education, through community technology centers, is where we can begin to turn-around Ohio and bring life-long learners into our institutions
The momentum to use broadband to turn around Ohio appears to be on our side. With the leadership of our colleges and universities, we can make Ohio a prosperous and creative place to live and work.

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ONE Ohio statewide gathering

Rich has already posted about it, and Donica' has posted her pictures, but I guess I should report "officially" that the ONE Ohio Statewide Gathering yesterday was a smashing success. Eighty-plus people turned up from at least sixteen counties, including most of Ohio's big cities as well as lots of rural towns and townships. They included local public officials and development officers, legal services attorneys, library administrators, college and university representatives, private broadband developers, and dozens of community technology and community media activists. We also had folks from the PUCO, the Farm Bureau, USDA, Ohio State's Supercomputer Center, and other statewide groups and agencies including the Governor's office.

We covered a lot of ground in four hours. Dave Matusoff of Whiteboard Consulting brought everyone up to speed on Governor Strickland's "BroadbandOhio" strategy and the role of community-based training in the plan. We met Terra Goodnight, the Governor's Special Assistant for Economic Development, whose "portfolio" includes the BroadbandOhio plan. In a session called "What's your digital divide?", the whole gathering spent an hour making a list of the various digital gaps, goals and opportunities that need to be addressed in our varied communities across the state. Three energetic breakout discussions looked more closely at issues in rural broadband development, big-city network plans, and digital inclusion training collaborations among, CTCs, colleges and libraries around Ohio.

Most important, a whole lot of one-on-one networking happened.

We'll be posting the whole attendance list, along with notes from the plenary and breakout sessions, at the Ohio Community Computing Network website as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, thanks to everyone who came, to all the people who worked on this, and to the folks at the State Library of Ohio for their hospitality.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Coshocton CTC leader featured on PBS blog

Sue Shipitalo of the Coshocton County Resource Network was featured last week in a post about the broadband divide on PBS's Media Shift blog.

Beyond the political rhetoric and research numbers, there are real people stuck on the wrong side of the digital divide in communities around the nation and the world. Sue Shipitalo, who is trying to help bridge the divide in rural Ohio, wrote to me about her own personal experience having to use dial-up.

“I find the issue of broadband access important in so many ways, the unequality of accessing basic information,” she said via email. “Those who have high speed access can’t imagine living without it. For me when I hear ‘go online to view the rest of this segment’ or ‘access our podcast,’ I know that those things are out of reach for me. I feel left out. My kids are left out.”

In an editorial in her local newspaper, Shipitalo made an eloquent case for universal access by mentioning three times she could not access information online — from government sites — because she was using a dial-up line. While she has worked hard to bring attention to the problem, she has grown tired of all the talk with little action:

So, we have need and we have talk. Who does the issue of equal access to the Internet fall to in our area? Where is the leadership going to come from to pursue this issue which is so important to economic development and the personal development of the residents of Coshocton County [in Ohio]? How important is coordinating the efforts, both public and private, to best research and utilize the resources available to us?

Our volunteer groups have worked hard to illustrate the need for improved technology services. However, I believe that resources need to be dedicated to developing a strategic technology plan for our Coshocton County. More importantly, there needs to be a central coordination of efforts where information can be exchanged and utilized for the benefit of all.
Read the whole post -- it's a great review of the issue with lots of useful links.

(h/t Benton Foundation Headlines)

Friday, January 19, 2007

Toledo announces wireless broadband initiative

Toledo Blade yesterday:
The city of Toledo could become the first major city in Ohio to have wireless Internet access citywide under a proposal presented yesterday by Mayor Carty Finkbeiner.

A leading potential bidder is EarthLink, which operates the wireless or "wi-fi" network in Philadelphia, although Buckeye CableSystem, Inc., AT&T, and others are expected to bid for the citywide license.

Mr. Finkbeiner, who has boasted of Toledo's 2005 designation by Intel Corp. as the fifth "most-unwired" city in the nation, said his administration has distributed a request for proposals (RFP) for providers who could make wireless Internet service available throughout the city's 88 square miles.

... The mayor said the contract would not cost taxpayers a penny, but would provide plenty of benefits: free wireless service to city agencies, such as police and fire departments; free wireless access in certain public buildings and outdoor areas; and discounted wireless service for low-income people. Most people would pay an undetermined fee to use the service.

... He said the wireless network would make fast Internet speeds available to families that don't have high-speed telephone or broadband cable connections in their homes.

"When we talk about the lower income we're really talking about the children who need to do research, do their homework. They need access," he said. He said dial-up access to the Internet is so slow that many sites effectively are off-limits.

Ms. Scott said the cost to a regular subscriber is likely to be $20 to $25 per month, and half that to people who qualify for the low-income discount. It would be free in public housing developments.

... The RFP states that "although some indoor users may be able to connect to the system, the service is not intended to compete with commercially available Internet service and should not replace existing home or business Internet access."

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Verizon sells phone businesses in three NE states: Ohio next?

The New York Times reports that Verizon Communications has sold its telephone business in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. From the article:
The company has indicated that it may also divest local phone operations in more rural parts of the Midwest, though it was unclear whether any deals were in the works.
Back on May 10, Dionne Searcey and Dennis Berman reported in the Wall Street Journal (not on line) that:
Verizon Communications Inc. is fielding offers for two big packages of traditional telephone lines that could have a combined value of up to $8 billion, say people familiar with the matter. The possible sales are part of the New York-based phone giant's strategy to delve deeper into the wireless and broadband arenas, while getting out of the traditional phone business in U.S. areas that aren't slated for fiber upgrades -- which allow the company to sell more Internet-based services -- and therefore are less valuable to the company in the long run... Verizon also has been shopping a package dubbed "GTE North" that comprises about 3.4 million access lines in former GTE Corp. territories in Indiana, Illinois, Ohio and Michigan. [emphasis added]
Here's a PUCO map of Verizon's "GTE North" service territory in Ohio. Over 800,000 households in this territory were served by GTE when it merged with Bell Atlantic in 2000 to form Verizon. The company has been notoriously slow to roll out DSL to many of these households -- not just in its large rural service areas, but in cities like Oberlin as well.

Up for sale? Not "slated for fiber upgrades"? The new Governor (who represented a lot of this territory in Congress) might want to look into Verizon's intentions for high-speed service in Ohio.

2005 data: Half of Cleveland adults not on the Net

How serious is the digital divide in Ohio's big cities? There's not much local data about computer and Internet use, but we know from national surveys like this one from Pew/Internet that poorer and less educated Americans remain far less likely to be Internet users than the whole population. And we have this:

In 2005, Cleveland Digital Vision purchased recent survey data from consumer polling firm Scarborough Research for the seventeen ZIP codes in the city of Cleveland. (Scarborough conducts regular surveys of adult consumers in 75 U.S. metropolitan areas). The data we acquired on computer ownership and Internet use was included in testimony presented to the PUCO in its investigation of the merger between SBC and AT&T.

Here's how our testimony summarized what the data told us:
Only 55% of all Cleveland adults have computers in their homes. Only half are using the Internet at all, and barely 4 out of 10 have used the Net from home in the past month. Internet access of any kind falls to only 34% for adults with high school degrees or less, and to just 30% for those with household incomes below $25,000. The percentages are worse for African-Americans than for whites, and worse for residents of Hispanic origin that for either blacks or whites. Fewer than half of our households – possibly as few as 40% -- have Internet service at any speed, and only 20% have broadband connections.

Thus our survey data shows that Cleveland residents, especially those of lower income and educational attainment, remain substantially disconnected from the Internet, stuck on the wrong side of the digital divide and outside the communications mainstream.

... the Cleveland adults surveyed by Scarborough Research were significantly less likely to access the Internet than the national sample of adults polled by Pew, in every demographic category except the highest (i.e. college graduates and households making $75,000 or more). Adults in low income households, adults with high school educations or less, Black and Hispanic adults -- all show Internet access rates in Cleveland that are 10 to 20 percentage points lower than the national average.
Would the numbers look any better in Cincinnati, Toledo or Dayton? Probably a little better -- like their numbers for personal income and educational attainment, the two factors most closely linked to Internet use. But to the extent that other Ohio cities share Cleveland's problems of poverty and educational failure, it's a pretty safe bet that they share Cleveland's digital divide as well.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

USA Today: $10 broadband, $20 "naked DSL" from AT&T

There's an article in yesterday's USA Today about affordable broadband deals coming to AT&T customers, as part of the company's recent settlement with consumer groups to get FCC aproval of its merger with BellSouth.

As the article says, AT&T now offers "naked DSL" (i.e. without voice phone service) for about $45 a month, so the settlement cuts its cost by more than half. 768 kbps DSL service with voice phone is now $15 a month, so $10 is less of a big deal -- and it's for new signups only, i.e. it's a marketing rate -- but every little bit helps.

In both cases, however, the new prices are good only where AT&T already has DSL enabled. It's not clear whether the agreement will require AT&T to extend DSL coverage to any more Ohio communities or households than are currently served.

Monday, January 15, 2007

National Conference on Media Reform

We are hot news. I spent a good amount of time at the National Conference on Media Reform talking about the One Ohio project. How could I not? Its a tremendous project. And a tremendous story. 1. A governor with a real broadband plan that includes 100% build out, intelligent consideration on how to get there, and funds for digital literacy training. 2. We were involved in the development of that plan. 3. We are taking the appropriate next steps to ensure the plan becomes a reality. Other states are working on broadband plans but do not have the community involvement that we have. Where they do have community involvement is in the development of municipal networks. Our statewide focus is unique. We are groundbreaking. Which is why we garnered a good deal of attention at the Conference and I easily recruited additional Ohio participants to our efforts.

And I must say the policy wonks at the Conference didn't miss the obvious implications that One Ohio was ready for the potential state video franchising bill. They understand we've thought it through and we have a diverse base of support. Yes, hot news we are.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Ohio farms have their own digital divide

The majority of Ohio farms still have no access to the Internet, and most of those that are connected still depend on dial-up phone modems. Farmers in every state are less connected than the general population, but Ohio's rural broadband and Internet penetration rates are among the lowest.

That's what the USDA's most recent (2005) survey of Farm Computer Usage and Ownership tells us. The study, summarized in a pdf version you can download here, found that:
  • Only 46% of Ohio farms had any kind of Internet connection in 2005, putting us firmly in the bottom quarter of all the states; and
  • even among that Net-connected minority, the share of Ohio farmers still stuck with dialup connections was the nation's third highest at 82%. Only 15% of Ohio's connected farms -- that's about 7% of all the state's farms -- had DSL or cable modem service.
Family farms are, of course, both homes and businesses. In many Ohio counties, agriculture is the first or second biggest business sector. It's an information-intensive business -- information about markets, about prices, about weather, about changing technology. And in many cases it's a business conducted far from suppliers and customers, so that modern e-commerce and communications tools can have a major impact on its competitiveness -- not to mention on its owners' quality of life.

So it's no wonder that concern about Ohio's lagging national position in rural broadband penetration transcends political parties. How long can state and community leaders of either party tolerate a broadband market that bypasses the major economic activity of many counties?

Statewide meeting on Strickland "Broadband Ohio" program

ONE Ohio will hold a statewide briefing and consultation on Governor Ted Strickland's "Broadband Ohio" program on Friday, February 2 at the State Library in Columbus.

The Broadband Ohio policy statement includes our new Governor's commitments to:
... bring the next generation internet to every one of Ohio’s 88 counties, connecting schools, colleges, and government while at the same time helping private enterprise or public-private partnerships in communities to offer competitively priced local services in areas that are currently underserved...
... take steps to close Ohio’s digital divide by supporting community efforts to bring the benefits of broadband and technology training to low and moderate income Ohioans.
The Ohio Community Computing Network and our partners in the Ohio Digital Divide Working Group have launched an effort called "ONE Ohio (On the Net Everywhere in Ohio)" to support these commitments. We're holding local ONE Ohio meetings with interested leaders and activists in communities throughout the state, to share information about broadband and digital divide issues and to discuss potential local intiatives to promote digital access and inclusion.

Our first statewide ONE Ohio gathering is a chance to meet many of these people -- from big cities as well as small towns, from all regions of the state, and from a variety of groups and constituencies -- who share the same vision of an Ohio that's fully and fairly connected to the Net.

It's also a chance to talk with the "Broadband Ohio" transition coordinator and other Administration officials about plans to implement the Governor's commitments... and how we can help in our own communities.

The gathering will begin at 10 am and should end by 2 pm. Directions to the State Library building are here. There's plenty of free parking.

We'll provide a (working) lunch. There's no charge, but we'd appreciate an RSVP by Monday, January 29 at the latest. You can email Bill Callahan at Digital Vision or Sunny Chen at the OCCN office .