Monthly Archives: December 2017

Broadband: Who Will Pay For It?

Eric Frederick says Michigan is lacking in broadband internet access, particularly in rural areas. Photo by Nick Hagen By Sheila O.

Schimpf Online is where almost everybody wants to be these days. But in Michigan, not everybody can get there.

Last year, more than 380,000 state households were not wired to have high-speed internet access, known as broadband. “Absolutely we need more broadband,” said Eric Frederick, a vice president at Connected Nation and Connect Michigan, nonprofits that advocate for broadband expansion. Those lacking high-speed access are “mostly in rural areas, outside of small towns,” he said.

The Legislature this year is expected to consider allowing townships to pay for broadband with special assessment districts and to exempt broadband equipment from some taxes. AARP Michigan supports both proposals. Expanding broadband in a community helps older adults as well as the rest of the population, said Melissa Seifert, AARP Michigan associate state director for government affairs.

Besides providing access to information about job openings, the internet can also aid in socialization and education and serve as a resource for caregivers, she said. “Our world has shifted from a paper world to one of high-speed internet,” she said. In the Upper Peninsula, Northern Michigan University is spending £6.5 million from a state economic development agency, and £3.2 million of its own money, to help more people get online, said R.

Gavin Leach, the university’s vice president for finance and administration. NMU will use subscriber fees to pay the state back. The university’s students can get internet for free, while a household with no children, for example, can get broadband for £34.95 a month if someone participates in one university-sponsored learning activity a year.

NMU is working with Upper Peninsula Health Plan to develop health-related courses, such as managing diabetes, Leach said. Farmers need to connect
Frederick said that while internet connection speeds “have increased dramatically in recent years in densely populated areas, the expansion into rural areas has not kept pace.” Matt Kapp a government relations specialist with the Michigan Farm Bureau said farming is a business that needs the internet.

“If I’m a farmer and I want to know what the corn price is and I want to know if I should sell corn today, I need internet access to find out what the commodity prices are today,” Kapp said. Farmers need internet to order parts. And their kids need internet to do homework, he said.
“The failure of public policy to address this critical need must be addressed,” the Farm Bureau, the state’s largest general farm organization, said in a statement.

In Sharon Township, in rural Washtenaw County, no one has broadband, said Supervisor Peter Psarouthakis. “I have a business out of my home,” said Psarouthakis, a licensed professional investigator. “I need access to the internet, and I need it high speed. I find myself having to take my laptop and drive into a town that has it.”

He buys lunch at a coffee shop and sets up his laptop. His high-school-age children have to stay late at school or get driven to a place that has internet access to download their homework. Sharon Township will vote in May on whether residents should pay for the installation of fiber-optic cable, which allows for high-speed internet.

Psarouthakis is in favor of the millage proposal. If the measure is approved, the average homeowner would pay about £23 a month. “There’s a strong possibility it will pass,” he said.

Sheila O.

Schimpf is a writer living in East Lansing, Mich.

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Rural broadband advocates announce formation of coalition

After the release of Governor Terry McAuliffe’s 2019-2020 biennial budget, which includes an increase in rural broadband funding, advocates of rural broadband announce the formation of the Virginia Rural Broadband Coalition (VRBC). The VRBC represents the many stakeholders who have a role in developing policies to encourage broadband expansion across rural Virginia. Members of the steering committee include: Erv Blythe, vice president emeritus for information technology and cio of Virginia Tech (retired); Jeremy Bryant, director of planning and zoning, Amherst County; Paul Elswick, president and CEO, Sunset Digital Communications; Rob Jones, CEO, Alliance Group – coalition director; Mike Keyser, CEO, BARC Electric Cooperative; Joe Lerch, director of local government policy, Virginia Association of Counties; Casey Logan, vice president of engineering, Price George Electric Cooperative; Laura Loveday, AICP, special projects and grants administrator, Culpeper County; Susan Seward, Chair of Sussex County Board of Supervisors; and Tom Swartzwelder, county administrator, King and Queen County.

Today, many individual localities are working hard to expand broadband access. These independent efforts are important in highlighting the severity of the problem for state and local elected officials. However, they lack the impact of a single voice for greater broadband connection across rural Virginia.

With the absence of a single voice to champion this issue, there has been less urgency for policymakers to move quickly in solving the problem. Virginia Rural Broadband Coalition members include business, government, electric cooperative and education leaders. Blythe said that “to compete in today’s global economy, rural Virginia must have access to reliable and fast internet services, otherwise we are not in a position to keep much less attract businesses and families to our rural regions of the commonwealth.”

The focus of Virginia Rural Broadband Coalition’s work would be to champion efforts to connect rural Virginians to the internet (business, government and residential customers); educate national, state and regional officials about success stories in Virginia that are being deployed to connect rural communities; identify funding pools for greater deployment of broadband in rural Virginia; engage business and civic leaders as champions for coalition initiatives; and educate coalition members on broadband types that can be provided in rural Virginia.

With the leadership of the VRBC, General Assembly and the governor’s administration, along with the investments in communities, businesses and infrastructure, rural Virginia can continue leading the way – strengthening the commonwealth’s economy, small towns and rural communities VRBC officials said in a statement.

Subscriber base of broadband to grow 44%: Study

MUMBAI: Surging demand for data is likely to fuel about 44% growth in the number of wireline broadband subscribers in India in the next four years, according to a market research firm, and trigger intense competition among telecom operators, cable TV providers and standalone broadband service providers for a share of the rapidly growing pie.

Although consumers are inundated with offers of data on their mobile phones at lower tariffs, demand for data at higher speed in places such as homes, small enterprises, education institutes and offices makes the wireline segment equally relevant in the country. Counterpoint Technology Market Research has said that it expects the country’s wireline broadband subscriber base to swell to 26.2 million by 2021 from 18.2 million this year, at an annual growth of about 7.6%, with most of the additions likely to be backended as infrastructure expands. Wireline broadband includes broadband internet[1] connectivity over fixed cable lines (DSL/ADSL) or fibre optics (fibre to the home or FTTH) networks.

“Heavy data usage of hundreds of GB a month at affordable prices is leading to the growth in wireline subscribers at 4-5% a year,” said Rohan Dhamija, head of India and Middle East for Analysys Mason. For instance, some subscribers consume about 200 GB a month to watch long videos such as films instead of short videos that are viewed on mobile phones and for which 10-15 GB that telcos offer is sufficient. “Competition comes from big telcos entering the segment, other ISPs (internet service providers) and local cable operators. With only 6-7% wired broadband penetration in India, there is enough opportunity for everyone to grow in this market,” said Bala Malladi, CEO, Atria Convergence Technologies (ACT).

The company, a broadband service provider, saw its subscriber base grow from 0.9 million to 1.27 million in about 18 months. “Lower data prices (on mobile phones) have not had a significant impact on our target customer segments,” Malladi said. ACT offers download speeds of 40 Mbps to 1,000 Mbps, compared to the 4G speed of 20 Mbps on average.

Telecom operators are competing in this segment as well, claiming to offer speeds comparable to ACT’s. Bharti Airtel[2], India’s largest telco, has more than two million broadband (DSL) customers. It has seen a 5.5% year-on-year growth in its broadband customers as of September, but has seen pressure on revenue as it lowered rates ahead of Reliance Jio[3] Infocomm’s expected formal entry into the segment.

Last month, the telco extended its data rollover facility to its home broadband customers, under which its customers will be able to accumulate up to 1,000 GB data. It is expanding its broadband presence rapidly, offering higher speeds. The company recently sold a 20% stake in its DTH arm to Warburg Pincus for abo-ut Rs 2,300 crore, as it looks for a more integrated play in the home segment.

Jio is currently testing its fibrebased broadband services which are expected to be rolled out early next year. According to reports, the 4G entrant will bundle its television service with FTTH broadband to tap into more than 100 million TV households across cities, including those in the tier II and tier III categories. Vodafone India, the second biggest telco in the country, is also looking at the broadband segment to strengthen its home broadband and enterprise portfolio.

The operator has posted a double-digit growth in the enterprise business annually for the past three years and will bank on its acquisition of FTTH company YOU Broadband to enter homes and reach out to small and medium enterprises, and startups. India is way behind many other countries in this respect, according to analysts. “There is a lack of fiberised backhaul; the government needs to look at it like (in the) infrastructure sector.

We have not even touched the tip of the iceberg and there needs to be more participation from OTT (over the top) players and telcos,” said Sanjay Kapoor[4], a former chief executive of Bharti Airtel’s India operations.

The laying down of cables or fibre is a slow process and telcos have asked the government to look into the right of way (ROW) permissions for laying down fibre cables on the same lines as that for electricity or water pipelines.

“India is still a quite small market in terms of size when you look from networking equipment perspective, though there is high growth opportunity for the likes of operators, public sector, education sector or players such as Google, Facebook ,” said Neil Shah, research director, device and ecosystems at Counterpoint Technology Market Research.


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