FSBC (the Flat Stanley Broadband Challenge)


See that yellow dome atop the John Deere cab? It enables everything from monitoring and diagnostics, to real-time repair assistance, to soil-sample tracking, to crop insurance record-keeping and more.

Stay tuned for more next Monday.


How to Crowdfund Broadband

I obtained a new BlackBerry last week, which I instantly dubbed my “2015 Crown Vic.” But, I didn’t select the BlackBerry when I entered a new wireless contract because I am old-fashioned (more on that later).

First of all, I’m not old enough to be “old fashioned.” And, second, even as I eschew use of the word “impact” as a verb (and I shudder every time I hear someone say “impactful”) and “invite” as a noun, those reactions have more to do with my proclivities toward the traditional use of the English language than my disdain for trendiness.

Which, I suppose, renders me “old fashioned.” Read more

Nebraska Study: Broadband Access Creates Job, Revenue

A study out of Nebraska confirms broadband access creates jobs and helps drive the local economy. The report is based on a survey, which was sent to 10,000 businesses and conducted by Strategic Networks Group, a group of broadband economists for the Nebraska Broadband Initiative,  a partnership of the Nebraska Public Service Commission, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Nebraska Information Technology Commission, Nebraska Department of Economic Development and AIM Institute.

The 1,124 survey respondents reported a net increase of 654 jobs due to using the Internet; as such, more than 50% of net jobs were attributed to online connections. Additionally, broadband use is also having a positive impact on business revenue with respondents reporting 25-45% of revenue from the Internet. It has also allowed businesses to achieve a cost savings averaging 4%.

Read more

KY Governor, Congressman Plan to Increase Broadband Availability in Commonwealth

At a joint press event held last week, Kentucky governor Steve Beshear and Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers announced the first steps in an initiative to bring high-speed broadband service to unserved areas of the Commonwealth.

The project, dubbed “Next Generation Kentucky Information Highway,” will be funded by $60 million in state bonds and $40 million from federal and private sources.

Phase I of the project will create an additional 3,000 miles of middle-mile fiber infrastructure. It is anticipated to take two to three years to complete. The project will make use of existing fiber infrastructure and has a goal of bringing speeds of up to 100 Gbps to the middle mile.

Kentucky currently ranks 46th nationwide in broadband availability, and nearly one-fourth of residents do not have access to broadband service.

“Access to high-speed and high-quality Internet is no longer a luxury, it’s a necessity in the 21st century economy,” said Governor Beshear. “Our communities that lack reliable high-speed access will lag behind in economic development, distance learning and advanced health technologies, and that’s unacceptable.”

“The new ‘Super I-way’ will level the playing field,” said Congressman Rogers.  “It takes away our historic barriers to better jobs, the difficult terrain, and isolation.  All of a sudden, the world is flat and the famed superior work ethic of our people will be able to compete with the world from home.”

Information Technology Council of N.D. Announces Plans to Improve State’s Broadband Infrastructure

The Information Technology Council of North Dakota (ITCND), a coalition of North Dakota business, government and education leaders, has announced an initiative to provide state-of-the-art broadband service to all state residents.

The undertaking, dubbed the Dakota Fiber Initiative, evolved out of a challenge issued by former Great Plains Software/Microsoft executive Doug Burgum at a conference earlier this year. Burgum challenged the government, industry and citizens of North Dakota to work together to create the highest quality broadband service in the world.

At a recent meeting, ITCND’s board agreed to take on Burgum’s challenge. The multi-phase project will begin with a broadband supply and demand assessment for downtown Fargo, examination of the economic impacts, and development of an implementation plan and budget for downtown Fargo. Future Phases of the Initiative will include a Fargo pilot program, and consideration of how to apply any lessons learned in Fargo statewide.

Baseball, Washington Style

Policy Perspectives

April 2013 158

In Washington, even the baseball games feature a Presidential race.

There is probably little doubt that the phrase “buzz kill” was invented to describe Washington, D.C. At a Nationals game last week, the ceremonial first pitch was tossed by…the acting administrator of the EPA. To be fair, it was Earth Day, and I do not intend any personal or professional affront to the acting administrator. But, only in Washington would bureaucracy be confused with celebrity.

I experienced another brush with the concept of substitution last week, also at Nationals Park. I took my family to the Nationals-Reds game, mostly because my former “hometown” Reds were in town. But, my enthusiasm for the Reds had dipped during a period of soulless management that coincided with the 1994/1995 strike, and the rebirth of baseball in D.C. over the past several years (and also energized by the Nats’ stunning regular season and wrenching post-season last year) made me somewhat ambivalent as I entered the first base gate. To the accurate meaning of the word, I had strong feelings in both directions: the white “C” on the Reds caps still affects me, yet on daily basis I still check for the Nationals scores first. An economist might ask whether (for me, at least) the Reds and Nats are effective substitutes. Read more

IP is Not the Internet

In a recently published letter, the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office denied Apple’s request to trademark the term “iPad Mini,” ruling that “mini” merely describes small things.

It is an interesting piece of news, and also reminiscent of the fact that while many users identify their device correctly, many others refer to any tablet as an iPad, much the way we often seek a Kleenex for a runny nose or a Band-Aid for a bloody thumb: products that capture great shares of their respective market often become eponymous with the product.

Such confusion can become a double-edged sword. Manufacturers enjoy loads of “advertising,” but risk consumer confusion of second-rate products with the original.

A similar risk attend current FCC proceedings addressing IP-enabled networks. Within the industry, those with whom we agree and those with whom we do not agree recognize the distinction between “IP-enabled” and the Internet — the former refers to technical protocols and the latter refers to the interconnected system of networks and, colloquially, the apps, contents, and services that run across it.  But more casual observers who deal in telecom regulation as well as any other number of legal or regulatory issues across multiple industries may from time to time equate “Internet Protocol” and the Internet. Read more

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