The Connected Nation Blog: July 2008

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Connected Nation Joins the Ranks of IIA Broadband Ambassadors

Today, the Internet Innovation Alliance (IIA) announced two important initiatives to better support broadband in the United States: Broadband Ambassadors and the National Broadband Strategy Initiative. The efforts are intended to continue to bring attention to the US’s need for broadband policy and goals to encourage broadband adoption by every citizen.

Connected Nation is excited to be part of IIA's efforts. Brian Mefford, Connected Nation CEO, is serving as a Broadband Ambassador for IIA. Ambassadors are leading Internet executives and academics across key industries and will regularly address the value of universal broadband.

Other ambassadors include Gary Smith, CEO of Ciena Corp. (NASDAQ: CIEN); Dr. David Brailer, Chairman of Health Evolution Partners; Tom Rogers, CEO of TIVO (NASDAQ: TIVO); Bruce Hahn, President of the American Homeowners Grassroots Alliance and the American Homeowners Foundation; Michael Gallagher, CEO of Entertainment Software Association; Russell S. Lewis, Senior Vice President of Strategic Development at VeriSign, Inc. (NASDAQ: VRSN); Mark McLaughlin, Former Executive Vice President at VeriSign, Inc.; Craig Moffett, Senior Analyst at Sanford Bernstein; and Bret Swanson, Senior Fellow and Director of the Center for Global Innovation at The Progress & Freedom Foundation.

For more information about IIA’s efforts, click here.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Broadband Technology Helps Chattanooga Land Volkswagen Plant

Chattanooga, TN – The recent announcement that Chattanooga had been picked as the site of the new $1 billion Volkswagen U.S. plant marked the beginning of a new chapter for the city of Chattanooga, Hamilton County and the entire state of Tennessee. The decision, which was finalized on July 15th, was the result of months of hard work on the part of local, state and federal officials. What many people don't know, however, is that a key element that went into helping Volkswagen (VW) officials make their final decision on the site location was broadband technology.

Last year, Volkswagen announced plans to build a new U.S. plant and began assessing various sites for potential locations. While many sites were considered, Alabama, Michigan and Tennessee took the lead earlier this year and became the final three contenders. After VW and site consultants paid a visit to the proposed Chattanooga location, they decided more work needed to be done on the site. That's when the Chief Information Officer for the City of Chattanooga, Mark Keil, suggested they set up live web cameras that would allow remote users to view the work as it was happening. Shortly thereafter, three cameras were set up on poles that allowed VW officials to watch the site in real time. "The cameras were a pretty convincing piece of evidence that we were serious," explains Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield.

Chattanooga officials were able to set up a system where the web address, along with passwords, was sent to the VW group. VW officials were even able to control the cameras to view the portions of the site that they wanted to see – all the way from Germany! "Volkswagen could view the site from Germany on their computers in real time," says Mayor Littlefield. "It was just one of those extra things that made the site real and tangible."

The new plant will be located right outside downtown Chattanooga in the Enterprise South Industrial Park and should be completed by the end of 2010. And while the plant's presence is initially expected to bring around 2,000 direct jobs to Chattanooga and the surrounding areas, Mayor Littlefield says the positive ripple effect will be felt for a long time to come.

"Over the next decade, this plant will probably be responsible for bringing 25,000 jobs to the area," he says. "This is the big break Chattanooga has been praying for and waiting on for years."

Production at the plant is set to kick off in early 2011.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Wall Street Journal Special Report - featuring ConnectKentucky

The Wall Street Journal today issued a special report on locally driven economic development in “Success Stories: A look at seven places that took different approaches to economic development—and came out ahead.”  The seven include six cities (Kalamazoo; El Paso; Kobe, Japan; Wismar, Germany; Omaha; and Colorado Springs) and one state— rural Kentucky via the ConnectKentucky program. I encourage you to read the seven stories, but pay close attention to what can happen in rural areas with a comprehensive program that considers broadband a vital component of economic development, even in rural areas.

Brian Mefford
Chief Executive Officer
Connected Nation

Friday, July 25, 2008

Not the Horse's Mouth

It appears that Art Brodsky with Public Knowledge is once again trying his best to manufacture some "gotchya" on Connected Nation. Earlier this year, Brodsky sought out the few voices in Kentucky that have opposed ConnectKentucky since its inception and who will go to great lengths to protect their own business model from a contrived fear of "private sector broadband."

What is unfortunate for everyone – most notably consumers – is that Brodsky continues to hide under the guise of a "consumer advocate," while he sits in his office concocting conspiracy theories and not just misrepresenting the truth – but altogether distorting the truth into complete fabrications. It is an utter disservice, and quite frankly an embarrassment, to the real consumer advocates who actually work on behalf of the consumer.

Meanwhile, letters to the FCC are streaming in from local officials around Kentucky who want to tell their stories about how ConnectKentucky brought together the people and the tools to fill the broadband gaps. Strange that Brodsky didn't mention all those letters. Since it might be helpful for consumers and policymakers to see some of these letters that have been filed, their links are listed here:

But the real kicker is the fact that Brodsky obviously didn't even read the Connected Nation filing that he refers to. If he had, surely he wouldn't have knowingly reported complete inaccuracies such as his claim that Connected Nation does not explain how it gathers network data. Or his claim that Connected Nation has no verification process for identifying gaps in the data. Or his claim that "the information stays in private hands, not public ones for all to use." Anyone who has read Connected Nation's filing would have seen that it clearly sets forth – in 56 pages of great detail – the methods and specific processes that Connected Nation uses to 1) gather network data by working in the field with providers and local officials, 2) verify the data through systemized and continuous communication with thousands of local leaders and consumers, and 3) make the broadband data transparent to the public through an interactive, fully searchable and zoomable, web-based map that all consumers, policymakers, economic developers and anyone else can check and use. And thousands of individuals do this on a regular basis. They not only check the data, but just as importantly, they use the data to:
  • Generate a list of broadband providers serving a particular address
  • Determine where within a neighborhood broadband does and does not exist
  • Overlay demographic and infrastructure data such as household density or proposed roads to understand what broadband network is most viable for a particular area

The list goes on and on.

As soon as Brodsky claims that Connected Nation doesn't explain its techniques, he then states, "Of course, the federal government could use the same techniques, and perhaps improve upon them." Yes, the federal government could use some of the same techniques. The FCC could put people on the ground in every local community in America to gather data that doesn't otherwise exist by climbing towers, gathering GPS coordinates for equipment, conducting engineering assessments for cities and counties, translating the data into GIS format, promoting map verification in every community and responding to every consumer call and email to understand how to modify the map daily so that it is accurate to the household level, constantly customizing local maps for city and county officials with overlays of consumer adoption data, demographic data, infrastructure data, and so on.

On the other hand, there are some Connected Nation techniques that the federal government cannot use or improve upon because the federal government is limited by FOIA laws that restrict the level of data which the government can release to the public. And this restriction means that Connected Nation can and does release much more granular data than the federal government is able to publish under law.

Of course, all of these techniques represent only the mapping portion of Connected Nation's work. The rest of Connected Nation's programs are built on the accuracy and granularity of these maps.

And speaking of Connected Nation's programs, it's odd that Brodsky never mentions some of Connected Nation's celebrated programs such as No Child Left Offline and Computers 4 Kids. These programs use public funds and private sector donations to distribute computers to low-income and foster children.

So when Brodsky questions the "semi-sacred status of the 'public-private partnership,'" perhaps he should ask the thousands of children who have received computers what they think of "public-private partnerships." Since Brodsky apparently didn't feel the need to interview these kids, here is a link to one of their testimonies:

Finally, although it is unclear as to what Brodsky is attempting to demonstrate through his listing of Connected Nation board members, we appreciate the recognition of our diverse and high caliber board. In addition to these board members, Brodsky may want to investigate the make-up of the state steering committees for Connected Nation's state programs. These committees include representation from multiple state agencies, public universities, economic development organizations, along with private sector companies which include broadband providers as well as other businesses. The requirement for inclusion on the steering committees is a contribution to the state program, which is usually met with in-kind donations of support such as donated computers, software and printers that go directly to children.

And because Brodsky goes on to argue that he can't figure out "how much of the 'private' part of the equation and how much of the 'public' is represented," we will gladly point him to the Connected Nation filing on the record that he must have missed – the letter from Connected Nation CEO Brian Mefford to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin on July 11. In this letter, which corrects a number of misstatements by the APPA, Connected Nation's structure of 80% public funding and 20% private sector funding is clearly set forth. What is most puzzling is how Brodsky attempts to use this "private sector funding" point against Connected Nation, when it is this very structure that encourages the private sector to bear a portion of the cost for technology literacy programs, computer distribution programs and local research. These private contributions are the reasons that states – and by extension, consumers – pay significantly less to build these programs and services than they would otherwise. The conspiracy theory on "private sector influence" that Brodsky has cooked up is such an obvious effort to divert attention from the real work of Connected Nation that it's really very laughable. Is he next planning to go after all the other hundreds of nonprofit organizations around the country who work to obtain both public and private foundational and corporate funding to serve America's people?

The hard evidence on all of these points is not hard to find. Unfortunately for Brodsky, it is everywhere, and it's not Connected Nation saying it. Rather, it is found in the testimonies of state and local government officials, community leaders, children who now have computers, and of course, consumers who now have broadband.

Laura Taylor
Chief Analyst
Connected Nation

Horse's Mouth

Connected Nation is blessed to work with many great people across the country. Regularly we receive letters from city and county leaders offering thanks for our work to help their communities realize the promises of technology. Recently, several of these local leaders filed letters of support at the FCC and I wanted to share some excerpts to provide witness, as we say in Kentucky, "straight from the horse's mouth"....Brian

From Henry Bertram, County Judge ExecutivePendleton County, Kentucky

Dear Chairman Martin:
Without the ConnectKentucky maps and the work of ConnectKentucky staff in the field to keep the maps current and accurate, Pendleton County would never had had the tools to develop our network, and we would very likely still have more than half of our residents without broadband…. I understand the FCC is considering doing this type of broadband mapping. As you contemplate this process, I urge you to leave broadband mapping in the hands of publicprivate partnerships such as ConnectKentucky. Many government entities have tried, and failed, to produce accurate and comprehensive broadband availability maps. Fortunately, there are groups out there who can bring together local leaders and broadband providers of all sizes and technology types to accurately map broadband in a way that is useful for all of us. Pendleton County is proof that this process works. More from Judge Executive Bertram

From Jiten Shah, Executive DirectorGreen River Area Development District

Dear Chairman Martin:
I write to urge you to consider a cooperative, public-private approach to mapping national broadband availability….As you and your colleagues at the FCC work to develop national broadband policies, I encourage you to find creative ways that you could use theConnectKentucky model. Thank you for your work to ensure all Americans have access to broadband. I believe that ConnectGRADD proves that this goal is possible, if we work together to make it happen. More from Jiten Shah

From Dennis Atha, MayorCity of Monterey, Kentucky

Dear Chairman Martin:
I saw firsthand how the process works – ConnectKentucky works with providers – big and small – to gather information on where broadband service exists, and then they work with local communities, businesses, and citizens to make sure the map is correct. And then ConnectKentucky produces these maps and all kinds of related tools on its website for all to use. To say that these maps are not transparent or not useful is an injustice - and is utterly ridiculous. This process for cooperative mapping is a model that should not only be heralded, but should be used again and again for the rest of America. More from Mayor Atha

From Hal Goode, Executive Director Springfield-Washington Economic Development Authority

Dear Chairman Martin:
As an economic development professional of a Kentucky county that has recently implemented a public broadband project, I believe it is my duty to give you a first-hand account of the support and assistance that ConnectKentucky has brought to our municipality and the rural citizens of our county. I understand there are allegations that ConnectKentucky does not support municipal broadband projects; however, this is simply untrue.... As you work to determine the best course for FCC action in mapping broadband availability, I encourage you to develop policies that will encourage public-private partnerships like ConnectKentucky to continue to thrive. These grassroots-led programs not only do an excellent job of mapping broadband availability, but they also provide a tremendous resource to local governments as we work to find information technology solutions for
our citizens. More from Hal Goode

From Brent Graden, Director of Economic DevelopmentCity of Prestonsburg, Kentucky

To Whom It May Concern:
It is my opinion that ConnectKentucky and other programs like it are an invaluable tool to help communities help themselves. Their invaluable leadership and knowledge base helps to create a public-private partnership that stimulates the local economy, promotes education, increases tourism and development, and offers increased access to broadband in underdeveloped or rural areas… As the Director of Economic Development, it my job to find new and affordable ways to grow the local economy while not breaking the bank. More from Brent Graden

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Friday, July 11, 2008

Gamers mean business

Gaming has taken the nation by storm. There are conventions, all-night gaming sessions, and gamers playing others half a world away. My how things have changed since the days of Pac Man and Atari... Now a broadband connection is crucial for the entire gaming experience.

Dedicated to the common goal of universal broadband, Connected Nation and the Entertainment Consumers Association have partnered to bring increased awareness to the plight of Americans and gamers without a broadband connection. For more information about the partnership, click here.