TMCnews Featured Article
October 13, 2009
Feds Should Change Definition of 'Remote': Broadband Stimulus Applicant
By Michael Dinan, TMCnet Editor
The federal government’s definition of “remote” in broadband stimulus applications must change in order for the closely watched program to be truly successful, according ot the head of a Airfield, Calif.-based company that connects customers in rural northern California with fast, reliable Internet connections that match even surpass traditional DSL and cable providers.
According to Ofer Tenenbaum, general manager and co-founder of Personal Network Computing, Inc. dba Valley Internet, the economics “are not there for the private sector to pay for the capital needed to bring broadband to rural areas, and loans don’t make sense there as well.”
“By flexing the remote definition you allow the applicant to apply directly for a grant only and make the whole thing a lot more reasonable,” Tenebaum told TMCnet in an interview, printed in full below.
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration – the U.S. Department of Commerce agency that advises the president on telecom policy – currently is reviewing an application from Tenenbaum’s company for about $3.1 million that’s expected to help deliver high-speed broadband Internet services to several counties, including about 8,000 homes that now are “unserved.” The NTIA is expected to grant an initial round of funding early next month, with about $4 billion awarded by Dec. 31.
During our interview, Tenenbaum noted that, in his experience, education isn’t really needed in terms of how to use broadband.
“Wherever we deploy the utilization goes through the roof within weeks,” he told TMCnet. “I have seen families that had no computer before we installed broadband, and within a matter of weeks, the kids are researching online for school projects, the parents are attending phoenix online, paper bills are gone, and things like Skype, eBay (News - Alert) and Amazon, as well as Hulu, and iTunes are part of the household jargon.”
Our full exchange follows.
TMCnet: We’ve read the Executive Summary of your application, and clearly the organization feels there’s a strong need for funding. Take us a little bit beyond the numbers. How will U.S. citizens, consumers and businesses benefit if you’re awarded this grant money?
Ofer Tenenbaum (pictured left): In 2009 Broadband Internet is no longer a ‘nice to have’ amenity, it is a necessity utility: no different than phone and electricity. I don’t think the ‘why’ needs to be explained although it can be stressed and reinforced.
Bringing broadband to the proposed areas will have similar impact to the areas we already brought broadband. That includes: instant increase in quality of life; in education, entertainment, and day to day chores; instant increase in property values; savings in gas and reduction of pollution, increased job opportunities and the list goes on.
We have experienced and witnessed first hand, real concrete and measurable improvements in the above categories, and the same will happen everywhere quality broadband is deployed regardless of the source of funding.
In my young years I used to play Sid Meier’s “Civilization” game. Anytime we build a new tower and take a community online, it feels like we added the ‘Leonardo’s Workshop’ or the ‘Newtons University’ to that valley.
TMCnet: How did you find the application process? What would you recommend the U.S. government tweak in the process, if anything?
OT: Considering the time these folks got to do what they did, I thought it was pretty good. They didn’t ask for anything that any investor would not ask!
1. Combining the BIP and BTOP applications is a good idea, but the redundancies and overlaps have to be eliminated, and there are many.
2. Mapping tool needs to allow KML and/or Shape file import.
3. PDF generator needs to recognize non-Adobe signatures and avoid rendering those. Any PDF that was not produced by Acrobat has a different header than Adobe. The web site renderer engine, most likely Adobe based, didn’t recognize non-Adobe PDFs and wanted to render them again which was a waste of processing time. I would also not allow to render the full application more than 4 times a day...
4. Definition of “remote” must change. The economics are not there for the private sector to pay for the capital needed to bring broadband to rural areas, and loans don’t make sense there as well. By flexing the remote definition you allow the applicant to apply directly for a grant only and make the whole thing a lot more reasonable.
TMCnet: What would you tell reviewers at NTIA about your organization if you could have one minute to talk to them moments before they looked at your application?
OT: Everything we wanted them to know is there. Our company is the real deal, just check out our reference letters. When I read the NOFA I thought it was written and tailored for us. I think broadband adaptation and other side kicks are important but in 2012, only after broadband is available everywhere. Right now we need to focus on bringing broadband to the far corners of this country. My gut and experience tells me users don’t need education on how to use broadband. Wherever we deploy the utilization goes through the roof within weeks.
I have seen families that had no computer before we installed broadband, and within a matter of weeks, the kids are researching online for school projects, the parents are attending phoenix online, paper bills are gone, and things like Skype (News - Alert), eBay and Amazon, as well as Hulu, and iTunes are part of the household jargon.
TMCnet: Tell us in plain terms how important it is for your organization to receive this grant money. If you do not receive government funding, what will you do to improve services in the way you’re seeking?
OT: If we get funded the proposed areas will be covered with high quality, low latency broadband – that is nearly 10,000 true rural households. 18 new jobs will be created, which means 18 families will have food on the table, not counting those that will be able to utilize the service to get online jobs, telecommute, and retain their job.
If we don’t get funded these areas will have to wait a few more years, and with the increase costs of doing business I’ll have to lay off three people or cut salaries further. We will not be able to afford any expansion. The economics are not there for the capital needs, which is why no telco has done what all of us Wireless ISPs have tried to do. If the government can invest the needed capital, the service revenue can be large enough to support the operation, maintain and grow it.
The $35,000 investment in a tower that only services 300 homes in the boonies, is more suitable for a government entity that has longer investment breath than the private sector, and can realize return on investment in non-traditional ways.
I don’t think it can be spelled out any simpler.
Michael Dinan is a contributing editor for TMCnet, covering news in the IP communications, call center and customer relationship management industries. To read more of Michael's articles, please visit his columnist page.
Edited by Michael Dinan