Monday, September 22, 2008

Moved Again

Another new job means another new blog site. This time I set up a personal blog so there will be no more moving around. I've shortened it to Community Technology Advocate and set it up on my own domain. (Changed my name also.) So for community tech blogs with an Ohio perspective, visit me at

Sunday, December 17, 2006

I've moved

With my new position at, I'm now blogging at

Sunday, June 04, 2006

A Telecom Bill Senate Vote... From IL?

I finally got to ask a Senator how he would vote on the telecom rewrite bill in the Senate (Communications, Consumers Choice & Broadband Deployment Act of 2006) and I got the answer I wanted. Here's the crazy part... He was not from Ohio. And he happens to be the one of the most popular senators in decades - Barack Obama. I'm telling you, it was like getting a few minutes with a rock star, people are crazy about this guy. Here is my story...

I was invited to sit at Barack Obama's Blogger's table at the Ohio Democratic Party 2006 State Dinner (yes, Obama actually sponsored a blogger's table at the dinner for which he was the keynote speaker). You can make whatever suppositions you would like to about what this means :-) but at face value it conveys the obvious --- that Obama is a blogger and understands the power of blogs. And what it told us, up close, is that all the hype is for a reason. He is charismatic, intelligent and down to earth. He actually has a tongue in cheek letter to Stephen Colbert on his website.

The ten of us at the bloggers table received 15 minutes of Obama's time. As soon as he sat down our table was immediately swarmed. Our questions and discussion was interrupted continually by "fans" wanting his autograph (I kid you not). And there was a rotation of people standing behind him getting their picture taken of them with/near Obama while he was speaking with us. It was a circus.

Most of our 15 minutes was spent dicussing the intersection of blogging and politics. The other bloggers detailed the conversation in their blogs Redhorse, Chris Baker, YellowDogSammy, Cindy Zawadski, Eric Vessels, Scott Piepho, Jill Miller Zimon and Buckeye State Blog . I wanted to discuss the multiple issues within the telecom bill but knew I could not because of the time constraint so I went with the question of "Are you familar with the telecom rewrite bill?" Obama responded with "I support Net Neutrality". I asked "How will you vote on the bill in the Senate?" He responded again with a statement about supporting net neutrality. I pressed again. He stated he would vote against the bill. Mission accomplished. Four hours at the dinner for 15 circus minutes and this one question. What a night.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Ohio Digital Divide Working Group Policy Positions

In the midst of the telecom bill's rewrite, what do we hear a lot? A lot on net neutrality. A little on PEG funds. And tiny clips on local control and build out (mostly from the National League of Cities) In Ohio, we believe we need to confront the telecom bill on all of these fronts while also proactively looking for solutions.

Below are the Ohio Digital Divide Working Group’s positions in response to the rewrite of the proposed federal telecom bill, the impending federal farm bill and the state owned fiber network in Ohio.

Rewrite of Federal Telecom Bill

  1. Require telecoms to build out video services equitably just as the cable companies did when they first established service.
  2. Include strong network neutrality language.
  3. Include a community’s right to network, with no mandates requiring pre-approval from the incumbent provider.
  4. Include a state’s right to open their state owned fiber network to private ISPs, municipalities and community organizations.
  5. Establish new source of community technology funding since local franchise negotiating is being removed.
    • Possible ideas -
      1. Provide Digital Inclusion funding via the Universal Service Fund (would most likely require additional moneys go to the fund)
      2. In addition to the set asides for the local governments and PEG, cable and telecom providers would also set aside 1% of revenue for local Digital Inclusion programs.

Expansion of Rural Broadband through Federal Legislation

1. Utilize the Universal Service Fund for increased rural broadband deployment (which may require increasing the funding USF receives);

2. Within the farm bill, improve the USDA Rural Telecom Program which is currently too cumbersome and reliant upon matching funds resulting in discouraging applicants from applying.

3. Within the farm bill, expand funding for the USDA Rural Telecom Program.

Within Ohio

1. Open up the Third Frontier Network (a state owned fiber network) to private ISPs, municipalities and community organizations to expand rural broadband to unserved areas.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

The Senate's Telecom Bill

The Senate has come out with its own version of a telecom bill. It is being refered to as Steven's Bill. Its 135 pages, if you want to know wants in it, I'd skip to this analysis.

My 2 cents...
1.) Like the house bill it also has no build out requirements. I have heard talk of a build out amendment and I have asked for more info.
2.) The senate bill restricts localities to creating networks only if they partner with a private provider. Any hoops a locality must jump through slows the advancement of broadband and is a possible deterrent.
3.) Net neutrality is only going to be "studied" by the FCC.
4.) The bill creates a separate broadband fund of $500 million a year to provide broadband to unserved areas. This is great. The House bill had nothing like this. The language mostly says the FCC will set the rules for distributing the funds.

Monday, May 01, 2006

COPE Act Talking Points and the Broader Broadband Picture

I'm in DC. On behalf of the Ohio Digital Divide Working Group, I'm talking to legislator's staffers about broadband access, digital literacy, and the COPE Act (ie. telecom bill). When discussing the COPE Act, I bring up the current lack of build out requirements, the faint net neutrality language, the bill's support for community networks and the evaporating source of community technology funding in Ohio. This is what I say...

Lack of Build out Requirements
The bill as is, allows phone companies to choose where to provide fiber (with the purposes of providing video on demand). The argument is that this will increase competition. Telecoms are beholden to their shareholders. Where do you suppose they will place the fiber? If no incentive is given to encourage them to build out the networks in less profitable areas (that is low income and rural), we have no reason to believe those areas will ever receive the fiber. In order to provide low cost competition in a wealthy neighborhood, how do you think the company will recover their cost? 10-1 the answer is to recover the cost through their other services that are provided in all neighborhoods (phone, DSL). So the result is that the poor will be subsidizing the high speed fiber of the rich.

We need to encourage equitable build out of fiber within a city (cable did it and is still making a profit... we know it can be done). A separate but related issue is the lack of broadband in rural areas. It is reasonable to ask telecoms to build out in a less profitable neighborhood within the same city that they just laid fiber for in a profitable neighborhood. Not as reasonable is to tell them to also lay fiber in rural America. We need to find a way to encourage broadband expansion in rural areas. This means we need to be creative. Some of this may happen in the COPE Act. Some of it may happen elsewhere. Either way, it still needs to be discussed.

Possible ideas -
1. Utilizing the Universal Service Fund for increased rural broadband deployment (which may require increasing the funding USF receives);
2. Make sure communities have the right to create their own community networks;
3. Open up state owned fiber networks to private ISPs, munipalities, regional coalitions, community organizations and any others who want to use the fiber network as a backbone for a new broadband network (possibly include language in the telecom bill to support a state's right to open up their network); and
4. Not related to the telecom bill --- Improve the USDA Rural Telecom Program which is currently too cumbersome and reliant upon matching funds which discourages applicants.

Faint Network Neutrality Language
The COPE Act barely gives support to network neutrality. We have a level playing field on this amazing instrument we call the Internet. Why would we allow discrimination? The telecoms say giving them the right to form partnerships and offer "improved" services to certain partners is not discriminatory. But anytime preferential treatment is given, others are left behind. Who will be left behind? Smaller content providers (which most brick and mortar companies are these days) and consumers. Most organized intelligent effort on this issue is Save the Internet of which OCCN is a charter member.

Support for Community Right to Network
The COPE Act does support a community's right to network, or in other word's a state cannot take away the right from a municipality or community organization looking to form their own network. We just need to watch to make sure this portion of the COPE Act, usually refered to as Title 4, actually stays in the bill.

Evaporating Source of Community Technology Funding In Ohio
Community technology in Ohio has received the bulk of its funding from agreements between the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) and the telecoms. With deregulation the current focus of the PUCO, we do not expect any additional agreements to result in community technology funding. Cleveland City Council negotiated a lump sum of $3 million from Adelphia to fund the Neighborhood Technology Fund in the 2000 agreement between the City and Adelphia. The current COPE Act provides national franchising rights which translates into no negotiating between the city and cable provider (be it a cable company or telecom). So, with current funding streams dried up, we need a new solution for funding community technology in Ohio.

Possible ideas -
1. Provide Digital Inclusion funding via the Universal Service Fund (would most likely require additional moneys go to the fund)
2. In addition to the set asides for the local governments and PEG, cable and telecom providers would also set aside 1% of revenue for local Digital Inclusion programs.

The National League of Cities has come out against the COPE Act. They have an excellent one pager that includes bullets on where the telecoms will provide this "competition". Ah yes, finally, we are not the only ones talking about equitable build out issues.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Ted, maybe a yes vote was not the best idea...

On April 26, 2006 Bill Callahan posted ...
The entire "COPE Act", essentially unchanged from what the subcommittee marked up two weeks ago, was just approved by the full Energy and Commerce Committee 42 to 12. Eleven Democrats and one Republican voted against it.

Rep. Sherrod Brown and Rep. Ted Strickland voted for the final bill.

Yes,the bill that effectively wipes out community oversight of the cable industry. The bill that will allow nationally franchised video/Internet providers to redline neighborhoods and create "tiers" of Internet service. The bill that undermines net neutrality and threatens to "end the Internet as we know it." That bill. They voted "yes".
Both Brown and Strickland did vote for the amendment that would strengthen the net neutrality portion of the bill but it got voted down.

Am I surprised they both voted for the COPE Act (ie telecom bill)? Yes about Strickland. No about Brown. Getting face time with a congressman/gubernatorial candidate is not easy. It does not seem that Brown's staff gets the issues in the telecom bill so no, I am not surprised. But Strickland? We chat with his office staff. We chat with his campaign staff. They get the issues we bring to them. His broadband platform is good. Really smart people worked on it.. I know because I was there. So what happened? Most likely the telcos is what happened. Very unfortunate. I was recently told "ah the telcos aren't that powerful... politicians have constituants to worry about". Really? Hmmm, anybody tell Strickland?

When Bill Callahan asked Ted Strickland for a response to why he voted for the telecom bill this is what he got...
---------- Forwarded Message ----------
"On Wednesday, I voted for an amendment to the Communications Opportunity, Promotion and Efficiency Act of 2006 (COPE) to ensure "net neutrality" which ultimately failed. I also voted for the final version of the COPE Act in committee.

"My vote for the COPE Act was an effort to facilitate competition in the video market so that consumers have more choices and can benefit from lower cable prices. This bill, despite the regrettable exclusion of net neutrality language, will provide consumers with choices and savings that were, to this point, very difficult to realize under current guidelines.

"I continue to strongly support efforts to ensure net neutrality, and would stand with any effort to ensure fair and comprehensive access to the internet. There is still time to fight and win this battle, and I will be a voice on the front lines fighting to preserve equal access to the internet for all consumers and content providers."

Jesse Taylor
Director of Online Communications
Strickland for Governor

What's missing? The explanation on how the telecom bill is actually going to support Strickland's ideas on broadband expansion in Ohio. Oh, wait that explanation doesn't exist. The bill does nothing of the sort. The bill is about competition, not expansion to underserved areas. Strickland responded to the net neutrality issue but not the build out issue.

There is a huge backlash from the bloggers in Ohio on this issue. Here are some...
The Plain Dealer's "Tech Link" blog

Callahan's Cleveland Diary

Defend Your Voice

Have Coffee Will Write

Ohio 2nd Blog

Brewed Fresh Daily

Buckeye State Blog

Word of Mouth