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Investigation into R1.3bn broadband buyout takes political turn

Investigation Into R1.3bn Broadband Buyout Takes Political Turn

The DA-led COJ is investigating the R1.3 billion price tag attached to the buyout of the city’s broadband network.

City of Joburg (COJ) mayor Herman Mashaba believes the motion of no confidence against him and the speaker of council is motivated by the decision to institute an investigation into the previous administration’s decision to take control of the Johannesburg BroadbandNetwork (JBN) project.

In March1, Mashaba confirmed a thorough investigation will take place as a result of the “astronomical costs” incurred by the city after taking over the project. In 2015, under ANC leadership, the COJ agreed to pay R1.3 billion to buy itself out of the JBN project deal. After establishing the investigation, the COJ confirmed that a senior official from the Department of Economic Development had been suspended pending a disciplinary hearing into allegations of misconduct relating to contracts and payments linked to the broadband network project. Although a complete report of the investigation is yet to be released, Mashaba says: “Preliminary findings of the report indicate that a number of high-profile individuals associated with the ANC have been linked to the city’s decision to purchase the fibre network.”

The executive mayor is of the view that the preliminary findings have influenced the interest of the ANC’s Umkhonto We Sizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA) in the tabled motion of no confidence against him.

See alsoIn a statement, Mashaba says: “I have been advised that the city will soon receive a full report based on an independent forensic investigation into the previous administration’s decision to purchase a 900km fibre broadband network at a cost of R1.3 billion.

“Specifically, it would appear that two senior members of the MKMVA held an interest in the companies benefiting from the purchase of the broadband network, benefiting almost R200 million. Why was this permitted?

“The preliminary findings also strongly indicate the same senior members of the MKMVA were, from the outset, deeply involved in manipulating the city’s tender process with respect to the deal.”

Investigation Into R1.3bn Broadband Buyout Takes Political Turn

Joburg mayor Herman Mashaba. (Photograph by the COJ)

Initiated in 2006, the JBN project aims to provide access to broadband services to improve the city’s delivery services, realise ICT-related savings, and provide communities and businesses with more affordable Internet.

The contract to build and operate the 900km broadband network was initially awarded to Ericsson SA, which won it in 2010, but later ceded it to CitiConnect Communications. In 2015, the city decided to acquire the fibre network and establish a municipal-owned entity, the Metropolitan Trade Company, to take over the running of its R1.3 billion broadband network. Under the initial agreement, the city would have paid an annual fee for the building and operation of the network.

After 15 years, it would have taken over ownership of the network. According to Mashaba, the aim of the JBN project was to provide access to broadband services which would improve the city’s service delivery, realise ICT cost-related savings for the city, and give communities and businesses across Johannesburg more affordable Internet access. Despite the astronomical costs, few of these benefits have been realised, necessitating a thorough investigation of the decision, he concludes.

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Investigation Into R1.3bn Broadband Buyout Takes Political Turn


References

  1. ^ March (www.itweb.co.za)
  2. ^

Readsboro Getting More Broadband Service

Gov. Philip Scott addresses local officials, residents and 7th and 8th-graders from Readsboro School at the Bullock House on Friday. The governor and Al Scaia share a laugh during Scaia’s tour of the town’s historic highlights. Scaia points to the town’s state Rep. Laura Sibilia. Omar Smith of the Broadband and Cell Phone Committee. Robert Briggs of the Southern Vermont Broadband Collaborative. Sue Bailey, Selectmen Chairwoman Helyn Strom Henriksen and Nancy Bushika of Stamford bring greetings. Readsboro Getting More Broadband Service

Gov. Scott said his administration was focusing like a laser on the state’s economy to attract workers and businesses.

READSBORO, Vt. — More than 150 homes in Readsboro and Wilmington will have access to broadband thanks to public/private partnerships and grants and the work of volunteers.

Readsboro officials also touted some of the efforts of the Hometown Redevelopment Committee in restoring some of the shine to what was once called the “jewel of Vermont.” Gov. Philip Scott on Friday was given a tour by local historian Al Scaia and greeted by committee Chairwoman Sue Bailey at the historic E.J. Bullock Building, which is undergoing renovation.

“This work demonstrates the value of working together finding common ground to a common goal,” Gov. Philip Scott said on Friday.

“I believe we can change the way we’re doing business, volunteers like these exist in so many of our towns throughout Vermont and are key to enhancing and growing the vitality of our rural areas,” he said. “The last mile in Vermont will require innovative public/private partnerships like these.”

Some 56 homes in Readsboro will be hooked up to digital subscriber lines (DSL) through Fairpoint Communications and another section of town will have its “last mile” covered wirelessly through a project with Stamford’s Southern Vermont Broadband Cooperative. More than a 100 homes and businesses will be connected in Wilmington.

“The main thing that seems to make it work is the local participation, getting people involved locally and working with the state agencies or the providers,” Omar Smith, a member of the Readsboro Broadband and Cell Phone Committee told the governor and other officials gathered in the Bullock Building. “That’s really the only way we can these kinds of projects off the ground.”

Vermont’s connectivity initiative passed in 2015 created the Division for Telecommunications and Connectivity under the Department of Public Services and awards grants through the Vermont Universal Service Fund. More than $550,000 in Connectivity Initiative funding was granted to target 466 underserved locations in a dozen towns including Readsboro. Fairpoint has received some $8.8 million federal Connect America Fund II grants, along with state and corporate grants to improve broadband service in the state. According to Fairpoint, it costs about $25,000 a mile to deliver internet service and another $50,000 to $75,000 in equipment.

“There are still a lot of areas in the town of Readsboro and other towns around that don’t have service and there’s not current project in there so this is just step one,” Smith said. “And we still have a lot of work to do.”

While Fairpoint is running lines to one side of Readsboro, SVBC is worked with Avangrid Renewables (Iberdrola) to site wireless transmitters on one of its meteorological towers and possibly a second one. In 2014, it had first entered into an agreement with Avangrid to locate communications equipment1 for public safety — Stamford Volunteer Fire Department for mutual aid and North Adams (Mass.) Ambulance Service, which covers both towns.

“We’re almost to satellite now but not quite,” joked Robert Briggs of the broadband collaborative. “Now North Adams Ambulance can be in your community and talk back to their dispatch center.

The communication has been paramount in improvements. … Avangrid has been a good neighbor.”

The height of the tower should allow coverage for a number of homes on the west side of the mountainous town with some small repeaters, he said. “We’re really excited about being able to work with you guys. Readsboro said ‘is there anything you can do to help?'”

Both town initiatives are fully volunteer efforts. The Stamford group came about in 2005, first using a wireless antenna from the school. Both its quality and capacity have grown in the interim.

“When we started the Connectivity Initiative two years ago, we didn’t even know they existed and we were shocked to find they were providing service,” Clay Purvis, director of telecommunications and connectivity, said. “Good wireless broadband service in Stamford on an entirely volunteer service.”

Purvis said it was important to get local input and data to bring back to providers to “really target a solution that’s going to the last-mile folks at the end of the dirt road.”

Readsboro’s group formed nearly two years ago to expedite issues surrounding coverage. They groups have worked together and with state and Fairpoint officials to identify underserved areas in the small town. Jeffrey Austin of Fairpoint said the last mile can be a real challenge and those local conversations are important.

“We partnered with the Department of Public Service several times, we’ve had 10 projects around the state that we’ve completed,” he said.

Nancy Bushika, town clerk in Stamford for 18 years, said the two top questions asked by people considering moving to Stamford was first about the school, and second was about internet access. That was nearly dozen years ago, she said.

Readsboro Getting More Broadband Service

Wilmington resident Dan Burgess said the lack of high-speed internet influenced his decision to locate his business in Utah.

But businessman Dan Burgess of Wilmington thought this was all “too little, too late.” He related his own problems trying to get a bonded line to his Vermont home and how he decided to locate a software company he bought to Utah, where he also lives, rather than Vermont because of the lack of economical high-speed service.

“This is the kind of business Vermont should be attracting but it can’t,” he said. “One of the reasons is because there’s no broadband.”

Scott said the ability to attract and retain workers in Vermont was critical to its growth. It’s losing six workers a day, with the number between the ages of 25 to 45 down 30,000 from a decade ago.

“You think about what they represent, that’s the workforce,” he said. They work, they buy homes and products, raise families, pay taxes. “We need more kids here, we need to keep them here.”

The state’s institutions of higher education graduate 10,000 students a year. Keeping at least some of them here means affordable housing, affordable lifestyles and jobs, Scott said, pointing to the state’s $35 million housing bonds approved in June.

“Wireless I think is the future that’s why I keep saying we can’t keep our eggs in one basket and continue down this path because I think something’s going to change,” he said. “We have a laser on trying to develop the economy here in Vermont and we welcome any ideas you have.”

References

  1. ^ locate communications equipment (www.iberkshires.com)

Fixed Wireless Market Report: Subscribers to Double to 8 Million by 2021, Generating $5.2B

Fixed Wireless Market Report: Subscribers To Double To 8 Million By 2021, Generating .2BThe U.S. fixed wireless market is comprised of 2,000 network operators averaging 1,200 customers each, according to a new report from analyst firm The Carmel Group. Several major companies also have announced plans to offer fixed wireless service – including Google, AT&T, Verizon and Windstream, the authors note.

The report forecasts strong growth for the U.S. fixed wireless market, which is projected to grow from more than 4 million subscribers today to 8 million by 2021. The report contains a wide range of useful information and graphics, including details about various fixed wireless technologies, a map depicting where wireless internet service providers (WISPs) offer service and more:

Fixed Wireless Market Report: Subscribers To Double To 8 Million By 2021, Generating .2B

Source: The Carmel Group

The authors use the acronym BWA (broadband wireless access) for fixed wireless service, titling the report “Ready for Takeoff: The BWA Industry Report 2017.” Report sponsors include the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA1), the Wireless Communications Association 2and several fixed wireless service and equipment providers.

The U.S. Fixed Wireless Market
WISPs typically serve rural areas that lack higher-speed broadband options such as fiber-to-the-premises or DOCSIS offerings. Fixed wireless technology typically supports speeds of 5 to 50 Mbps, but speeds continue to rise, the report authors note.

The ideal area for fixed wireless service has 100 to 1,500 locations per square mile, according to the report.

Fixed Wireless Market Report: Subscribers To Double To 8 Million By 2021, Generating .2B

Source: The Carmel Group

Seven factors are driving increased demand for fixed wireless service, researchers note. These include:

  1. The economics of wireless technology enable network deployments at a fraction of the cost of wireline options.
  2. The economics of unlicensed spectrum and trends in spectrum regulation are favorable to fixed wireless.
  3. Consumer demand for broadband connectivity and associated applications, especially video, are surging.
  4. Global standards-based technologies such as LTE and a growing equipment ecosystem are being leveraged for fixed wireless use.
  5. Industry consolidation3 and a healthy funding environment from private and government sources are driving investment.
  6. New entrants and hybrid networks are validating the business model.
  7. New markets in urban areas and categories such as home automation, home security and the Internet of Things present further opportunities for fixed wireless growth.

The Carmel Group forecasts fixed wireless revenues to rise from $2.7 billion in 2017 to $5.2 billion by 2021.

Fixed Wireless Market Report: Subscribers To Double To 8 Million By 2021, Generating .2B

Source: The Carmel Group

Policy Issues
Some people expect fixed wireless to get a boost when spectrum in the CBRS band4 becomes available on a licensed and unlicensed basis – although the future of that spectrum band is in question now that CTIA – The Wireless Association has asked the FCC to change licensing rules5. Two other requests made to the FCC also could impact the future of fixed wireless. The Broadband Access Coalition6 has asked the commission to allow the use of spectrum between 3.7 and 4.2 GHz for fixed wireless use on a shared basis with the goal of spurring gigabit fixed wireless deployment.

And Microsoft7 has asked the FCC to make three channels in the 600 MHz TV white spaces band available on an unlicensed basis to support fixed wireless.

References

  1. ^ WISPA (www.wispa.org)
  2. ^ Wireless Communications Association (www.wca.org)
  3. ^ consolidation (www.telecompetitor.com)
  4. ^ CBRS band (www.telecompetitor.com)
  5. ^ change licensing rules (www.telecompetitor.com)
  6. ^ The Broadband Access Coalition (www.telecompetitor.com)
  7. ^ Microsoft (www.telecompetitor.com)