$84M federal grant to improve rural Internet access in Washington state

Kyung Song, Seattle Times

A third of all American households lack high-speed broadband Internet access, and nearly 5 percent rely on interminable dial-up modems to surf the Web.

An $84 million federal grant to Washington state is aiming to help bridge that digital divide. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke was in Seattle on Monday to announce the grant to expand broadband access to rural and other underserved areas in Washington. Locke was accompanied by U.S. Sen. Patty Murray and U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Bainbridge Island.

The grant is among $800 million awarded to 24 states so far from $7.2 billion in stimulus money to hook up homes, libraries, health clinics and others to high-speed Internet networks. The grant was given to a consortium led by Tacoma-based Northwest Open Access Network (NoaNet), a nonprofit wholesale telecommunications company. Individual awards range from $9.8 million to Port of Whitman to $298,000 to Black Rock Cable to extend fiber-optics Internet access to parts of Bellingham.

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Connecting the telecom dots behind net neutrality (it's about the money)

Art Brodsky, Public Knowledge

The Pew and the American Life project came out with a pretty scary report last week. The words, “Pew” and “scary” aren’t often used together, but in this case the description is apt.

Pew’s latest study on the future of the Internet asked in technical terms whether the Internet over the next 10 year will be controlled by consumers. The specific question was: Will the Internet still be dominated by the end‐to‐end principle? The “end-to-end principle” that was built into the Internet at its early stages means that consumers at one end of an Internet connection had a direct, one-to-one relationship with the online destination – a chat site, music site, shopping site, news site, whatever you want and wherever you want to go without interference or influence from the company making that connection for you – the Internet Service Provider (ISP).

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NTIA Chief: Net Needs a Ref

John Eggerton, Multichannel News

The Obama Administration's chief communications-policy adviser last week said the government should definitely be involved in sorting out the policy tension between competing Internet interests -- such as the dust-up over network neutrality.

In a speech to the Media Institute here, Assistant Commerce Secretary for Communications and Information Lawrence Strickling, head of the National Telecommunications & Information Administration, said that a hands-off policy was the right approach in the Internet's infancy, but suggested such a regime was more suited to the last century.

He also took a shot at the "broadband ecosystem" metaphor that Federal Communications Commission officials, including chairman Julius Genachowski, have been using with increasing frequency.

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Unions blast Comcast-NBC merger proposal

John Eggerton, Broadcasting and Cable

Union representatives had plenty to say about the proposed Comcast/NBCU merger, according to a copy of their prepared testimony for Thursday's House Antitrust Committee hearing.

Larry Cohen, president of the Communications Workers of America, which represents some Comcast employees, said the deal would likely mean "the loss of good jobs, the erosion of employee rights, and undermine living standards in the communications and media industries."

He said that given the $8 billion in new debt NBC will be taking on day one, there will be "intense pressure" to cut costs.

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At FCC Workshop in Columbia, South Carolinians demand access to the airwaves

Prometheus Radio Project

Tuesday s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) workshop on broadcast ownership was transformed when South Carolinian supporters of low power radio flooded the public comment sessions calling for an expansion of the low power FM (LPFM) service.

Any discussion of broadcasting and media ownership in South Carolina should include the need to expand and strengthen low power radio, said Stephen Varholy, general manager of Columbia, South Carolina s low power WXRY-LP.

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Case closed: why most of US lacks 100Mbps net connections

Matthew Lasar, Ars Technica

Excitement about the approach of the Federal Communications Commission's National Broadband Plan, due March 17, is inspiring ever more dramatic calls for greater high-speed Internet connectivity in the United States. This month, FCC Chair Julius Genachowski declared that the agency wants 260 million Americans hooked up to 100 Mbps broadband by 2020. Not to be outdone, the Media and Democracy Coalition says that by that same year consumer access to "world-class networks" should equal the present rate of telephone adoption (90%+).

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Broadband access gap remains large

eSchool News

Roughly 40 percent of Americans do not have high-speed internet access at home, according to new Commerce Department figures that reinforce what some educators believe is causing some students to fall behind.

“There’s lots of talk about digital literacy. That’s something that should be built into the curriculum,” said Charles Benton, chairman and CEO of the Benton Foundation.

“The three R’s alone are not sufficient for today’s needs. We’ve got to be using today’s tools. It’s an old point, but we’ve got to keep beating that drum until we get the funding.”

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Qwest profits sag 39%

Roger Cheng, Wall Street Journal

Qwest Communications International Inc. reported a 39% slide in fourth-quarter earnings as a result of severance costs and the continued deterioration of demand in its traditional phone services.

The Denver telecommunications company faces further decline in its so-called legacy business as more consumers drop their landline in favor of a wireless connection, or get their phone services from the cable companies.

Unlike its larger telecom-carrier peers, Qwest doesn't own its own wireless business to offset the losses. Instead, it looks to its burgeoning business services division, as well as its limited fiber-optic network upgrade project, for growth.

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Minority groups ask FCC to vote on 'dozens' of ownership proposals

John Eggerton, Multichannel News

A collection of 23 minority-targeted organizations have asked the Federal Communications Commission to get off the stick and vote on some of the "dozens" of minority ownership proposals that have been put in front of it.

That came in a letter to FCC chairman Julius Genachowski, with copies sent to key legislators and filed as comments in various open FCC dockets. They gave the chairman a shout-out, but had more than one bone to pick.

"From your eloquent letter of January 5, 2010 to Henry Rivera, Chair of the Advisory Committee on Diversity for Communications in the Digital Age, we know that you share our concern for the fact that minority ownership and employment in our industries are de minimis and in many respects nearing extinction," they wrote.

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