Data shows bad economy couldn't stop broadband growth

Matthew Lasar, Ars Technica

The Federal Communications Commission's new status report for high-speed Internet services indicates that broadband adoption in the United States grew in 2008 by ten percent, to a total of 77 million fixed-location broadband connections. That's in contrast to 2007, when fixed broadband subscribership rose by 17 percent.

You can read 2008's slower pace as a sad commentary on the nation's oft-lamented rate of broadband penetration. Or you can interpret it as good news, considering that consumers kept buying relatively fast Internet connections through a year when the US Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate, well, didn't grow, to put it politely. GDP began at a tepid 2.1 percent in January of '08 and dropped to 5.4 degrees below zero by January '09, then got even worse in the next fiscal quarter.

Meanwhile, the unemployment rate began its unpleasant march from 4.8 percent in March to 7.4 percent in December of that year, then got even worse (as you doubtless noticed).

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FCC sets goal for 100 million to have at least 100-megabit broadband by 2020

Mark Hachmann, PC Magazine

The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission set an aggressive goal of delivering 100-Mbit/s broadband service to 100 million Americans by the year 2020, the same day that a U.S. Department of Commerce study found that a significant portion of U.S. consumers were still not online.

Chairman Julius Genachowski, speaking to the NARUC conference in Washington D.C., said that the agency was finalizing a national broadband plan that the FCC began working on last year. He warned that the U.S. risked falling behind other countries, both in wired and wireless broadband availability and speed.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Commerce, working off U.S. Census data, found that "too many Americans still rely on slow, narrowband Internet access or do not use the Internet at all," according to Lawrence E. Strickling, assistant Secretary for Communciations and Information at the Commerce Department.

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Open Internet groups declare national day of action

James Temple, San Francisco Chronicle

Against the backdrop of the net neutrality debate and the developing National Broadband Plan, community groups across the country have declared Monday a "National Day of Action for Affordable, Open Internet."

Under the Feb. 15 initiative spearheaded by the Media Action Grassroots Network, advocates will visit members of Congress and sponsor discussions and "teach-ins" on the topics.

Open Internet advocates argue the Web should be an unfettered platform where users can reach all legal content and services in the manner of their choosing, without any influence or interference by their Internet access provider. The groups are calling on the Federal Communications Commission to pass a more stringent set of regulations to ensure this.

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A New civil rights mandate: champion open networks to close the digital divide

Malkia Cyril, Huffington Post

There's a reason why the more than 100 organizations of the Media Action Grassroots Network are taking action on February 15th, 2010.

As the Federal Communications Commission moves to quickly finalize a National Broadband Plan that many hope will ensure Internet access for all and create opportunity for innovation and economic security, community groups from around the country are hosting delegation visits, direct actions, and community events to ask the same question I am. Namely, why are Telecom companies and their beltway allies asking poor communities and communities of color to choose between fair representation and access to high speed Internet networks? Why can't we have both?

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Seattle announces plans to seek fiber partnership with Google

City of Seattle

Today Mayor Mike McGinn announced that the city of Seattle will respond to Google’s Request for Information (RFI) to build ultra-high speed broadband networks in communities across America.

Google’s vision of a fiber-to-the-home network with open access is very similar to McGinn’s plan to connect every home and business in Seattle with a fiber broadband network. McGinn has already created an internal city government task force of utility and technology leaders to create a plan for realizing this plan. That task force will also prepare a response to Google’s Request for Information.

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Why public access TV is important and you should fight for the CAP Act

Tracy Rosenberg, Huffington Post

In May of 2009, I became a public access television producer. Couldn't have picked a worse time.

Not because I don't enjoy hosting and co-producing Media News. It's a great joy to interview guests and try to shed a little light on the issues closest to my heart including: net neutrality and the digital divide, coverage of turmoil abroad and at home, the loss of local public affairs coverage and the rise in citizen journalism. I feel privileged to bring voices that need to be heard onto my local TV dial.

The reason it was bad timing is that the nation's more than 3,000 public access centers are on the verge of extinction. Yours may go next week, next month or next year, but their days are numbered due to statewide cable franchising.

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Google's fiber initiative: it's fast, but is it enough?

New America Foundation

Sascha D. Meinrath, director of the New America Foundation's Open Technology Initiative, made the following statement after Google's fiber-to-the-home network prototype announcement today.

"Google's fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) network sets a new standard for speed and transparency," explained Meinrath. "The network should have open, symmetrical architecture that facilitates high-speed communication for users within the network, including schools, hospitals and the local government and data collection to spur Internet research. The benefits of 1 gigabit-per-second connectivity are not maximized simply by getting data in and out of the community, but by creating vibrant digital commons that supports applications, resources, and communication within the local network."

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Close the broadband gap? Phone and cable giants just say 'no'

Tim Karr, Save the Internet

When it comes to getting everyone connected to an open, affordable and fast Internet, the big phone and cable companies seem to have a motto: "Just Say No."

When the Obama administration called for a stimulus plan that included billions in grants to reach parts of the country that were struggling to get connected, the companies said "no" -- refusing to apply for money to close the broadband gap.

When Congress made open Internet conditions a part of the broadband buildout, they said "no" -- filing objections in a push to block efforts to give these communities unfettered access.

And now that the first grants are being made available to applicants, companies including Comcast, Time Warner Cable and AT&T are trying to stop funds from reaching groups that have plans to connect Americans stuck on the wrong side of the divide.

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Fiber optics, not magic beans: rural Idaho hopes for broadband stimulus

Gavin Dahl, Boise Weekly

Bruce Patterson is the one-man IT department for Ammon, a small town of 13,000 near Idaho Falls. He is fed up with companies overlooking the town when they discover the cost of Internet is prohibitive.

"There's a tremendous business in medical imaging and legal services in Idaho Falls, a city of 50,000 that has municipal fiber optic. But we can't attract any of those businesses," he said. "Metro areas are the dominant market for the big companies. A lot of communities are facing that we will be the last served."

So three years ago, Ammon began planning a project to reach 4,500 unserved and underserved Internet users with a high-speed "virtual broadband gateway" run by the city.

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Google to launch experimental fiber broadband networks

Google Blog

Today Google announced a new initiative to build and test fiber broadband networks in a few trial locations around the United States. Here's their announcement:

Imagine sitting in a rural health clinic, streaming three-dimensional medical imaging over the web and discussing a unique condition with a specialist in New York. Or downloading a high-definition, full-length feature film in less than five minutes. Or collaborating with classmates around the world while watching live 3-D video of a university lecture. Universal, ultra high-speed Internet access will make all this and more possible. We've urged the FCC to look at new and creative ways to get there in its National Broadband Plan – and today we're announcing an experiment of our own.

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The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. -John Dewey