Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The OH Senators Broadband Week

Last week turned into broadband week for Ohio Senators Mike DeWine and George Voinovich. Each held events highlighting federal broadband programs. DeWine's event on April 18 was billed as a broadband conference. I'd say it was more of a "how to apply for USDA Rural Development broadband loans and grants".

Two interesting things were said at the "Broadband Conference" (yes, only two). They came from Dave Matusoff from WhiteBoard Broadband Solutions and David Barber of the Ohio Board of Regents.

1.) Dave Matusoff thinks we’ll hear a sucking sound as all development of fiber takes place in first tier locations – which in his opinion are not rural areas. He expects this will likely create a new digital divide (hmmm, that sounds familar...). He suggests rural communities will need to advocate for themselves on the broadband front.

2) David Barber from the Third Frontier Network basically offered the Third Frontier Network as a launching point for municipal and community broadband projects. The Third Frontier Network is a fiber network that connects Ohio's universities and colleges. He was careful to note this is a “draft policy”. Presumably a formal policy requires a formal blessing from state leadership. I assume this will require an administration change. But its good that the Third Frontier staff realize the potential for the network. I'm told the network is currently being used at 3% capacity and that 3% is a high estimate. The Ohio Digital Divide Working Group supports the use of the Third Frontier Network to expand broadband access in Ohio. Hmm, use of a state owned resource to increase access to information? A more educated populace? Novel. Now we just need to talk the state's leadership into the idea.

Voinivich's event was a congressional field hearing for the Appalachian Regional Commission on April 20. The Marietta Times covered the story. Dave Matusoff was a busy guy this week. He spoke at both events. His ARC testimony is on his home page. Guess he's turned into the Ohio Broadband Guru. He also worked on the Strickland Broadband Platform. Maybe that title should be Bipartisan Ohio Broadband Guru.

I also testified at the ARC field hearing. My testimony talks about the importance of Community Technology Centers and broadband access in Appalachia. I made sure to throw in a statement about the digital divide not being closed. A few folks who have never visited a Community Technology Center seem to think the digital divide is a non-issue these days. I figured this was an opportunity to explain lack of technology access and training, what it means and provide suggestions for solving the problem. I also added a few statements about equitable build out in the context of national franchising and the importance of not stifling municipal networks. Hey, how many chances does a person get to provide congressional testimony?


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