Local Broadband News Summary

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything, let alone something about local broadband news. What can I say, I’ve been busy! Most stuff goes on Twitter these days because it’s fast. But there’s been plenty of broadband news and discussion lately, so I thought I’d gather some of that stuff together here. I’m sure I’ve missed things. Feel free to add to the information in the comments.

The Humboldt County General Plan Update continues it’s long and torturous process toward completion. The Planning Commissions will (I hope), be addressing a the new Telecommunications Element (soon to be changed to the Communications Element?)  at next week’s meeting on the 29th. The proposed document is worth a review if you have any interest in how the County might frame communications policies for the next 20 years. Folks from the Redwood Technology Consortium, Access Humboldt and the California Center for Rural Policy have been reviewing the document and are submitting written and oral comment. Access Humboldt has posted the most recent meeting where people gave oral support for the new element. Comments relative to the Communications Element begin around 1 hour and 11 minutes in to the video.

The highly hyped Highway 299 fiber build proposed by Broadband Associates a year or so ago has gone nowhere. As a result the grant from the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) that was supposed to help fund the project has been withdrawn, making the money available for other projects. According to Humboldt County Supervisor Mark Lovelace (see the video from RTC’s June 10th luncheon), there are players ready to take up the project and that the 299 corridor fiber build has a lot of support at the state level.

In the meantime a proposal from Redwood Telephone, a company formed through a coalition of local tribes has been tentatively approved pending a comment period and a final decision scheduled for August 12. This is an interesting proposal and it’s well worth looking at as it seems to have the ambition of providing broadband to much of the region, including unserved and underserved areas and even regions already covered by the incumbent ISPs such as AT&T and Suddenlink. It’s not clear to me how this will work. Would appreciate some input in the comments.

Meanwhile the proposed middle mile fiber build along Highway 36 by IP Networks appears to be moving forward at least as far as planning, rights of way, contractual agreements and funding (some of which is also coming from CASF). According to a newsletter put out by the Redwood Regional Economic Development Commission (RREDC), “The fiber optic project is scheduled for completion by the summer of 2011.” Apparently 101 Netlink is involved in providing some local wireless service feeds off this fiber line along that sparsely populated corridor. That’s a good thing. But it’s unclear if this fiber line will provide any blanket redundancy for our region.

We’re still waiting to hear if our regional proposal to Google’s Community Fiber program will go anywhere.

Finally, I have heard an unconfirmed rumor that Charter Communications that services Del Norte County and parts of Southern Oregon with cable and Internet is in talks with Suddenlink to purchase their Humboldt County system. If it does, the story goes, Charter would build another fiber line running north-south along 101 to connect it’s fiber in the north to AT&T’s line here.

I have no idea how any of these plans and projects will play out and whether any of them will lead to more stable service, higher speeds, more coverage, or lower cost for consumers. But one can hope.

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at&t Wins a Sweet Decision from the FCC

Thank goodness at&t revised its recently revised terms of service  so that I can once again feel free to write critically about the company (and all of its associates which is what, over 50% of the businesses in the world?). Just in time, too since at&t just won a sweet decision from the FCC that says it is free to charge whatever it wants for broadband service. Here’s a juicy quote from the article:

AT&T had sought relief from government imposed rules because it said that sufficient competition existed in the high-speed Internet, or broadband, market and therefore such price caps weren’t needed anymore.

And then there’s this: “…the agency’s two Democrats disagreed with the decision, saying the evidence to grant relief was “altogether underwhelming.” They added granting relief could lessen competition in certain areas.” Really? Certain areas like Humboldt  County, perhaps? As the sole provider of the sole fiber optic line, at&t currently has a choke hold on the region. Suddenlink already claims it pays more for it’s backhaul here than any other region they serve. Cox had the same complaint.

If multiple fiber outages weren’t enough to convince us that we need another connection to the Internet backbone, then perhaps the idea of increased competition with the behemoth telecommunications company may be just the extra kick we need.

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