TMCnews Featured Article

August 27, 2009

360networks Files for ARRA Broadband Funding

By Vivek Naik, TMCnet Contributor

360networks has reportedly filed an application for federal stimulus under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) 2009 to expand the reach of its broadband access to Internet-starved regions of the Western US.

In a released, officials at the company claim that the application has clearly illustrated a plan that would open access to numerous underserved populations by creating points of presence, or POPs, at strategic and proposed rural, unserved and underserved amplifier and regeneration sites along the its cable backbone.
The ARRA was signed into Law on February 17, 2009 and reportedly has set aside $7.2 billion for the development of broadband and Wi-B in USA and $350 million from this fund reservoir is earmarked for Broadband Data Improvement Act of 2008. $2.5 Billion of the $7.2 billion is set aside for low-interest loans, loan guarantees and grants at United States Department of Agriculture's Rural Development and Utilities services Program (USDA RDUP or RUS) Broadband Initiatives Program (BIP’s) discretion and that the remaining $4.7 Billion is allotted for the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s (NTIA’s) Broadband Technology Opportunities Program to decide on grants to deserving companies and technologies via its Broadband Technology Opportunities Program.
In addition, there is another $1.3 billion reportedly set aside in the form of loans and grants to enhance broadband and telecommunications services in rural areas within the federal budget for the fiscal year 2010. Most of the above mentioned funds have been designated to help expand broadband access to unserved and underserved communities across the United States.
RUS will reportedly not fund more than one project to serve any given geographic area, and its bylaws deem that grants, loans or loan guarantees, can only be used for projects wherein at least 75 percent of a funded area is in a rural area that lacks sufficient high speed broadband service to facilitate economic development.
360networks (News - Alert) claimed that its ‘middle mile’ plan can reach out to communities in a 10 mile radius along its existing 1,011 mile fiber optic route extending from Chicago, Illinois to New Orleans, Louisiana, and since this route is claimed to be diverse to most national fiber backbones, it thus creates a cost effective alternative for broadband providers from most existing backhaul solutions. This covers a theoretical potential, and staggering, area of 10,110 square miles.
The ‘middle mile’ in fiber optics generally refers to the portion of the backbone that remains uncut for hundreds, occasionally thousands, of miles and it carries signals effortlessly at very high speeds. The main challenge comes in the ‘last mile’ (also ‘first mile’) when operators have either to maintain or generate signal strength and continuity because of possible legacy endpoints such as copper signal conversion, and existing fiber endpoint complexities.
360networks claims that has been working with several service providers for quite some time prior to the proposal to deliver a package that not only offers connectivity to the nation's fiber backbone but turnkey product solutions for last-mile providers including local cable companies, local exchange companies, and wireless providers.
The company added that since the project is mainly centered around its existing infrastructure it is cost effective because new cable, equipment labor and installation is significantly reduced, if not eliminated. The project proposal also offers a ready FCaaS, or ‘Fiber Cable as a Service,’ solution to third party broadband service providers looking to invest low on infrastructure.
Connected Nation (News - Alert), NTIA and RUS had recently reportedly presented their progress, status and recommendations reports about facilitating every American citizen with broadband infrastructure as per the directives mentioned in ARRA 2009 to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet.
The overall agreement reportedly was that the best and most progressive results happened when the government and private companies collaborated to expand and set up broadband related infrastructure. There was also a heavy emphasis that collaborative efforts would enable companies and countries to come out of financial tailspin that the entire world is in, and it was listed as one of the seven critical Consumer Electronic Show 2009 guidelines.
The five core purposes reportedly defined in Section 6001 of ARRA to establish a national broadband service development and expansion program were: To provide access to broadband service to consumers residing in un-served areas of the country; To provide improved access to broadband service to consumers residing in underserved areas of the country; To provide broadband access, education, awareness, training, equipment, and support to community anchor institutions such as schools, libraries, medical facilities, or organizations and agencies serving vulnerable populations such as low-income, unemployed, aged, or job-creating strategic facilities located in state or federally designated economic development areas; To improve access to, and use of, broadband service by public safety agencies; and, To stimulate the demand for broadband, economic growth, and job creation.
RUS will favor funding projects that can, among other things, commence construction promptly and demonstrate technical and financial feasibility, organizational capacity, and compliance with other Administration priorities.
The Rural Mobile Broadband Alliance of the United States of America (RuMBA USA) had reportedly launched the RuMBA (News - Alert) American Broadband Bill of Rights (ABBoR) that throws the voice of the people behind the ARRA initiative, which primarily desires that all Americans, especially unserved, rural and underprivileged citizens must have the maximum possible continuous access to wired broadband and Wi-B as soon as possible since broadband is gaining in popularity and it is expected to expose potential users to the same wealth of information, ideation and opportunity that existing users experience.

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Vivek Naik is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of Vivek's articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Patrick Barnard