April 17, 2009

A part of the Stimulus I can really get behind

One aspect of living in the country sucks. Broadband -- the lack of it -- to be specific. It seems that Washington, DC is taking a page out of the 1930's Rural Utilities Services playbook and is putting some serious Benjamins toward getting rural broadband. We are talking $7.2 Billion worth. A wonderful turn of events brought the Mountain Area Information Network to my attention as they are operating the same sort of system that I would put in if we had the backing and, they are making all of the work they went through available for anyone to use for building their own network. MAIN's Local Network Cookbook is an excellent resource, outlining hardware options as well as what to expect to pay for the various components:
Local Network Cookbook:
A Recipe for Launching a Local Broadband Wireless Network

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act includes $7.2 billion in stimulus funding for broadband deployment in unserved and underserved communities. This funding will be distributed by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) over the next 12 months. NTIA is an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce; RUS is an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. A summary of federal broadband stimulus funding can be found at: Baller Herbst Stimulus 2-19-09 (PDF)

Most of this federal broadband stimulus funding is earmarked for nonprofit organizations and government entities. Commercial providers must receive special permission from the director of NTIA. It is not yet clear whether RUS will adopt this funding approach. Grant application windows are expected in June, November, and May, 2010. These are approximate dates until an official request for proposal (RFP) is issued.

This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for local nonprofit organizations -- especially community media centers -- to become Internet service providers and begin developing new revenue streams. It's also an historic opportunity for advocates of Internet Freedom. The proliferation of community-based, broadband networks would be a huge step toward creating the critical "third pipe" alternative to the cable/telco duopoly, thereby generating market pressure to force the major carriers to restore �net neutrality� protections for broadband users.

The broadband stimulus opportunity opens the door to a vision for a new Jeffersonian Internet comprised of a �network-of-grassroots-networks� where civil liberties and quality journalism are valued over Wall Street business models.
An excellent guide and resource. Our local Chamber of Commerce has been working with a spin-off group called the Community Development Authority and one of the key tasks of the CDA is to see how feasible broadband is for the East County. I just emailed the members a couple links to this and it will be interesting to see the reply emails tomorrow... The other thing that MAIN is doing is that they use some of the profits from their broadband services and web hosting to fund a Low Power FM radio station serving the community. This is something that has been of interest to me as well -- I worked as a DJ while living in Boston and loved it. Not something you can do and hold down a real job though so I switched first to running a large multi-line BBS for ten years and now, I blog... The application window for LPFM stations is closed these days but if the FCC opens up again, I'll be there... Posted by DaveH at April 17, 2009 8:45 PM

Hi Spork

Only problem is that we don't have cell service out here either. I use satellite and the service is spotty for $80/month.

The same local group (CDA) that is pushing for broadband is also pushing for cellular - we are close to the Mt. Baker ski resort and lots of times, a cell phone would have been crucial. The resort has satellite phone for emergencies but no cell.

Posted by: DaveH at April 18, 2009 9:03 AM

If you haven't looked into it already, look at cellular for rural internet. That's the only thing (outside of dialup and satellite) that I can get... and I was surprised at how well it worked and how little latency there is. Most carriers give you 30 days to try it and give it back... and most have semi decent coverage maps to determine if you can get broadband.

Posted by: Spork at April 18, 2009 5:44 AM
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