The Connected Nation Blog: March 2011

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Google Network to Launch in Kansas

By Sarah Graham, Communications Specialist, Connected Nation

ay, Google announced that it would deploy its first ultra-high speed fiber network in Kansas City, Kansas, after receiving applications from 1,100 cities around the country. Kansas City residents will have access to the 1 gigabit per second (Gbps) service beginning in 2012, according to news reports. In addition, Google will be providing free access to schools and other city facilities as the network is launched.

This will provide an impressive boost for Kansas community anchor institutions, as only 28% of these institutions that reported their broadband connection to Connect Kansas in 2010 reported using fiber.

For Connected Nation and its Connect Kansas program, this new fiber netwo
rk is welcomed and exciting news. Already, Connect Kansas, along with other Connected Nation states, has researched and documented speed and platform data in Kansas as part of its comprehensive broadband mapping and planning program.

“At Connected Nation and Connect Kansas, we are excited to see this level of private investment going toward the infrastructure of the future,” said Brian Mefford, CEO of Connected Nation. “For Kansas City residents, businesses and schools, the ability to connect to an ultra-high speed network is an economic game changer in many respects. We look forward to measuring the impact and to helping everyone achieve more with this new community asset.”

The Google network promises to deliver ultra-high broadband speeds of 1 Gbps at competitive prices. According to Connect Kansas data, only 3 percent of Kansas households have access to broadband networks with download speeds of 100 Mbps, one-tenth of the speed of the Google network.

According to Connect Kansas’ 2010 Residential Technology Assessment, the average download speed reported by broadband-connected Kansas households is 5.7 Mbps, which equals about 0.006 Gbps. In fact, about 56,000 Kansas households report that they do not subscribe to broadband because it is not available at any speed, and 147,000 report that price is a barrier.

Google’s announcement of high-speed fiber (and its 1 Gbps speed) will not only change how fast Kansas residents can use the Internet, but also what kind of technology they use to do it.

According to 2010 data, approximately 4 percent of Kansas residents have access to a fiber connection, and fiber accounts for approximately one in twenty home broadband subscriptions. By comparison, 87.3 percent of households have access to digital subscriber line (DSL) and 77.3 percent have access to cable broadband.

These numbers from Connect Kansas certainly show an interesting starting picture of broadband speed and the platforms available in Kansas. Google’s commitment to Kansas City will certainly change the picture dramatically and we are excited to watch and document these changes.

To learn more about the Google fiber project in Kansas City, check out

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Friday, March 25, 2011

Connected Nation Weighs in at FISPA/WISPA Service Provider Summit with State Perspective of National Broadband Map

Today, Terry Holmes, a senior technologist for Connected Nation, provided a state perspective on the National Broadband Map at the FISPA/WISPA Service Provider Summit in Orlando, joining Andrew MacRae from the NTIA on the panel.

Holmes provided the state mapping perspective, addressing issues related to wireless providers. The focus of the panel, he said, was to gain greater participation of fixed wireless providers in the state mapping projects, which, in turn, make up the National Broadband Map.

Today was Holmes’ second day at the provider summit, which has more than 300 attendees. He said it was interesting to watch smaller last-mile providers working together to determine best practices.

“Clearly, the WISP industry is taking shape, building cohesiveness and gaining a voice in the provider community,” he said.


Friday, March 18, 2011

Nearly One-Half of American Adults Rely on the Internet for Their News

According to the 2011 State of the News Media report released this week by the Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism, 46% of American adults say they get their news from online sources at least three times per week, while only 40% say the same thing about newspapers. In fact, this is the first time in this annual study that online news sources outpaced newspapers. To put this in perspective, approximately 46.1 million adults living in states/territories served by Connected Nation read online newspapers or other news sources.

A related finding from the Pew Internet and American Life Project and the Project for Excellence in Journalism shows that 56% of American adults who own cell phones or mobile devices (or 47% of all American adults) get local news and information on their mobile devices. As is often the case, this survey shows that early adopters of mobile news applications tend to be younger, in the highest income brackets, with the most education, and living in urban or suburban communities. Unlike broadband adoption trends, though, Hispanic adults and non-Hispanic black adults tend to outpace Caucasians in the use of this and other mobile applications. By contrast, a 2009 report by Northwestern University’s Media Management Center reported that only 6% of digital newspaper employees are African American, and 7% are Hispanic. This suggests that there are opportunities for news outlets to diversify their reporting staff to better reflect their readership, especially as online media becomes more and more central to attracting new subscribers.

Technology Provides Crucial Touchstone to Victims of the Japan Earthquake

By Mandy Hale, Public Relations Specialist, Connected Tennessee

From the moment the massive 9.0 earthquake hit northeast Japan on March 11, the heartbreaking story played out in real time via Twitter and Facebook, with citizens around the world flocking to their computers for minute-by-minute updates. Within an hour, with aftershocks still rocking Tokyo, Google had launched its
Japan Person Finder to help people get information about their loved ones in Japan. And within 36 hours, its pages had been viewed 30 million times. Usage remains steady almost a week later, according to Google, and shows no sign of slowing.

The site allows anyone to upload information on individuals affected by the disaster. It now contains records on around 250,000 individuals caught up in the quake which is more than the combined total of the similar Person Finder sites Google launched after the Haiti, Chile, and New Zealand earthquakes.

Just three days after the quake and resulting tsunami that swept away cars, airplanes, and even entire villages, numerous Internet and phone providers began to step up to aid victims through the free use of their services.
Time Warner Cable is providing its subscribers with free calls to Japan (specifically from March 11 to April 15), while AT&T is offering free wireless calls and SMS texting to Japan – as well as credits for up to 60 minutes for landline customers – through March 31. Verizon Wireless has set up a way to quickly donate $10 via SMS to a number of different support organizations. They are also offering free calls to Japan for most wireless and landline customers until April 10. AT&T, Time Warner Cable, Cablevision, Verizon, and Comcast are also providing users with free ongoing access to Japan TV, after the 24-hour channel's distributor made the open feed available to all companies.

Once upon a time, social networking sites were used for connecting with friends, former classmates, and even old loves you had lost touch with over the years. Today, when a natural disaster leaves phone lines clogged and people unable to connect with the outside world, Facebook becomes a touchstone for ensuring the safety and even the whereabouts of the people you love. Following the earthquake in Japan, Facebook quickly became the first resort for many to get in touch online. Displaced people could log in from anywhere and tell all their friends and family they were safe with just one status update, without the need to remember dozens of e-mail addresses. On the day of the earthquake, Facebook counted 4.5 million status updates that mentioned “Japan,” “earthquake” or “tsunami.”

The Japanese Prime Minister’s Office even started an English-language Twitter account earlier this week, providing updates on the earthquake situation. The account,
@JPN_PMO, tweets translations from the Japanese disaster information account @Kantei_Saigai, which the Prime Minister’s Office created March 13, two days after the quake.

Within a day and a half of its launch, the @JPN_PMO Twitter page has more than 18,000 followers.

Twitter is even being put to use as an “Underground Railroad” to assist displaced earthquake victims. When most railways stopped in greater Tokyo on Friday evening, many office workers were left isolated and decided to either stay put or walk back home. Assistance was offered over Twitter by stores, restaurants, campuses, and even individual citizens along main roads who tweeted that help was available. Twitter even set some official hashtags to help identify the tweets, such as #jishin (general earthquake information); #j_j_helpme (requests for rescue or other aid); #hinan (evacuation information); #anpi (confirmation of safety of individuals, places, etc.); #311care (medical information for victims).

With thousands of casualties and an entire country in chaos, citizens in Japan and across the globe are turning to high-speed Internet connections to find assistance, offer aid, locate loved ones, and update the rest of the world on the conditions in the earthquake- and tsunami-ravaged areas. It is clear that the same technology that connects us to our friends and loved ones in our own communities also connects us with our global community, as donations continue to flood in through Google, the Red Cross, and other charitable organizations. Never before has it been more evident that a broadband connection is no longer merely a way to save time, but a way to save lives.

To find out how you can make a donation to the Japan earthquake disaster relief, please visit

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Thursday, March 17, 2011

FCC Moves Forward With National Broadband Plan Objectives: Eight of Twenty “Learning on the Go” Recipients are From Connected Nation States

Last week, the Federal Communications Commission named 20 institutions that will take part in its pilot “Learning on the Go” program. These institutions submitted innovative project plans that promote mobile broadband connectivity among their students, and the FCC will fund those pilot projects through the federal E-Rate program. Eight of the 20 chosen institutions are located in states served by Connected Nation. They include:

Connected Nation congratulates these inventive programs that will employ mobile tools like smart phones, tablet computers, and laptop computers to help students take their educational experience beyond the classroom walls.

Connected Nation also applauds the FCC in taking this early step toward revamping the Universal Service Fund, of which the E-rate program is a part. As part of the National Broadband Plan, the FCC recommended expanding online learning by permitting more online instruction, supporting research and development of online learning systems, and funding broadband-enabled online learning solutions, all of which can be accomplished through the Learning on the Go program. As Blair Levin pointed out last week, “[Broadband subscription] cost is an issue. But it is just one issue.”

Among households with children, monthly subscription costs are the most often-cited barrier to broadband adoption, but programs that address other barriers like digital literacy and computer ownership are needed to attract non-adopters. In the states/territories served by Connected Nation, over 7,000 households with children do not subscribe to home broadband service, and the lack of a home computer is the sole barrier to broadband adoption in approximately 1,000 of those households.

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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Marking an Anniversary

By Tom Koutsky, Chief Policy Counsel, Connected Nation

Today is the first anniversary of the National Broadband Plan, and already we’re seeing debate about whether the Federal Communications Commission is “on track” or “behind” in implementing the Plan. At one level, it is somewhat refreshing for the FCC, an agency whose decision-making process often used to bear a striking resemblance to a black box, to chart its progress and list its agenda.

But that discussion misses the fundamental message of the Plan. The purpose of the Plan was to set an agenda, point a direction, and change the way that government -- at all levels -- approached broadband. After all, it is a National Broadband Plan, not an FCC Broadband Plan.

Broadband technology is truly transformative to society, and we're seeing that power most vividly this year in Tunisia, Egypt, Japan, and beyond. Yet at this moment, American society is not fully utilizing the opportunities of broadband technology. Entire industries like education and healthcare lag the rest of the economy in terms of broadband use, and one-third of Americans risk falling even further behind in terms of opportunity by not adopting broadband.

Closing the digital literacy, adoption, utilization, and availability gaps will require government and the private sector to work together and make transformative changes. And this is why judging the Plan’s success by some checklist of what the FCC has done in one year is short-sighted. Because when you step outside the FCC, it is easy to see the Plan’s results.

For example:

  • even in tough economic times, the government of Puerto Rico is now funding public computing centers so its citizens can acquire digital skills and use the Internet;
  • dozens of school districts have established wireless networks that allow students to take school-supplied laptops home to do homework, allowing teachers to make broadband-based assignments without worrying about which students had access at home;
  • hundreds of libraries and community centers are opening their doors to Connect Ohio's Every Citizen Online digital literacy training program, showing that community anchor institutions can play a lead role in changing the digital future of their communities;
  • states like Iowa, Nevada, and Alaska have established broadband task forces, public-private partnerships with the charge of reorienting state and local efforts directed at increasing broadband use and adoption.

And that list only scratches the surface and does not even consider the steps that other federal and state agencies -- from Smart Grid deployments to broadband data collection initiatives -- are taking in response to the Plan’s recommendations.

These programs will expand dramatically over the next three years. If that momentum continues, and if policy follows course by facilitating and prompting such initiatives, the Plan will be a success --regardless of what the boxes on a checklist say.


Friday, March 11, 2011

History-making Broadband Meeting Now Underway in Alaska

By Jeremy Thacker, Communications Specialist, Connect Alaska

Connect Alaska is celebrating a history-making milestone for the Last Frontier State. Friday, March 11, marks the first meeting of Alaska’s first-ever Broadband Task Force. The 21-person team was announced last month by Alaska Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development (DCCED) Commissioner Susan Bell and will support the department in its mission to expand quality broadband service throughout the state.

“The inaugural convening of the new Broadband Task Force is especially significant in the state of Alaska where vast, rugged landscapes and remote, isolated communities offer connectivity expansion challenges that many states would consider unthinkable,” said Brent Legg, director of stakeholder relations and development for Connected Nation. “But it’s a challenge being met head-on by the new team.”

DCCED oversees the Connect Alaska program, a subsidiary of the national nonprofit Connected Nation, the designated entity developing a statewide broadband inventory map and the Alaska broadband plan.

“Alaska’s new Broadband Task Force is the critical link between pinpointing Alaska’s unique broadband expansion challenges and finally delivering the Internet’s life-saving and lifestyle-improving services to all Alaskans,” said Connected Nation Strategic Program Office Executive Director Ernie Wood. Wood was among the members of Connected Nation's senior leadership who traveled to Anchorage for the Task Force’s landmark meeting.

Alaska’s Broadband Task Force is charged with figuring out the best way to expand high-speed Internet service to all corners of the nation’s largest state. The group will make recommendations on policy changes that will encourage new investments in broadband and create a plan of action, including a timeline, to connect every Alaska community to quality broadband service.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

USDA rural broadband loan program updated

The USDA today released new information for applicants for its broadband loan program for rural areas. The program is designed to provide loans for the costs of construction, improvement, and acquisition of facilities and equipment to provide broadband service to eligible rural communities.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the USDA has issued a Notice of Solicitations of Applications and regulations implementing the 2008 Farm Bill for the broadband loan program.

“Broadband investments are an essential part of the Obama Administration’s effort to ‘win the future’ by out-innovating, out-educating, and out-building our global competitors,” Vilsack said in the announcement. “Investments in rural broadband networks create jobs and economic opportunity for rural America. Broadband is critical communications infrastructure of the twenty-first century, and it is vital to building vibrant rural communities.”

The notice is being issued prior to passage of a final appropriations act to allow applicants time to submit proposals and give the agency time to process applications within the current fiscal year, according to the USDA. Upon completion of a 2011 Appropriations Act, RUS will publish a subsequent notice identifying the amount of funding available for broadband loans.

The application guide to assist in preparing applications is available at:

USDA’s Farm Bill broadband loan program has invested mote than $1 billion over the past decade in more than 100 projects nationwide, according to the USDA announcement. RUS is planning to schedule training opportunities to educate applicants on new program requirements, and how to submit complete and competitive applications. Dates for the training will be published on the USDA website.


Thursday, March 3, 2011

Connected Nation Honored as One of the Best Places to Work in Kentucky

2011 winners at the Best Places to Work press conference at the Kentucky State Capitol.

Today, Connected Nation was recognized as one of the winners of the 7th Annual Best Places to Work in Kentucky awards. Connected Nation was honored in the small/medium business category.

The announcement was made by the Kentucky Society for Human Resource Management (KYSHRM) State Council, and the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, in a well-attended news conference in Frankfort. Several Connected Nation employees including Rene' True, executive director of ConnectKentucky, and Ernie Wood, executive director of CN’s Strategic Program Office, were in attendance.

Connected Nation employees (left to right) Heather Gate, Lauren Hightower, Phillip Brown, Rene True, and Ernie Wood smile for a group photo at the Kentucky State Capitol.

“Connected Nation is honored to be named as one of the Best Places to Work in Kentucky,” said Brian Mefford, Connected Nation’s CEO. “While Connected Nation’s work spans more than 30 states and territories from Alaska to Puerto Rico, our birthplace and permanent home is Kentucky. We have been fortunate to attract and retain a multitude of wonderful, hardworking employees and thankful for their commitment in making Connected Nation a success.”

Will Subsidized Rates for Broadband Spur Adoption? We're About to Find Out

By Tom Koutsky, Chief Policy Counsel, Connected Nation

Later today, the
Federal Communications Commission will formally propose a series of "pilot" programs to promote broadband adoption by low-income households. It plans to do this by shifting funds from the existing billion-dollar "Lifeline" and "Link-Up" programs, which now offer discounted telephone service to low-income households.

Will it work? Maybe.

There is no question low-income households don't adopt broadband at the same rate as middle- and high-income families.

Click image to enlarge

There is also no doubt that broadband adoption and use are absolutely vital to ensure high quality education for all our children, improve healthcare, and grow the economy. Overcoming this "adoption gap" is just as vital to the future of our society as the challenges of electrification and telephone service posed in the last century.

But while many households do not adopt broadband because they cannot afford it, study after study has shown that there are in fact multiple barriers to broadband adoption. While specific numbers vary, research by the
FCC, Department of Commerce, and Connected Nation have identified that among households that don't adopt broadband, three separate adoption gaps exist -- an "income gap,” an "ethnic/minority gap,” and a "digital skills" gap.

While programs that lower the cost of broadband may solve the income gap, the other two gaps may still persist.

Yesterday, my friend Blair Levin, former executive director of the FCC's National Broadband Plan task force,
suggested that a range of alternative options should be considered instead of blindly subsidizing lower rates.

While I disagree with some of his ideas (such as tying subsidies to student grade-point averages, an idea that might only transform the adoption gap into an achievement gap), I do agree that experimenting with adoption is a good idea that should be encouraged.

And, while that experimentation is occurring, Connected Nation already is deploying a number of adoption programs addressing each of these gaps.

  • In Tennessee, Computers 4 Kids is working with the foster care system and Boys & Girls clubs to offer training and laptops to teenaged foster youths.

  • In Ohio, the Every Citizen Online program offers digital literacy skills classes at hundreds of libraries and community colleges statewide.

We have already seen that these and similar programs have improved broadband adoption and usage, but there is no silver bullet solution for closing the broadband adoption gap.

Expanded Lifeline and LinkUp programs may improve the chances of success, but we don’t really know. Only now are data being collected that will let us adapt and grow adoption programs in an efficient, effective way. The FCC's proposal to fund a series of low-income pilots is an important step forward, but the development should cause us to redouble our efforts to reach and teach those Americans who are not yet touched by broadband technology.

Mobile Is This Week’s Hot Topic

By Chris McGovern, Manager, Research Development, Connected Nation

There’s a lot of talk this week about mobile devices and how we use them. Steve Jobs just unveiled
Apple’s new iPad 2. A report from game developer PopCap Games estimated that over one-quarter of American mobile phone owners (28%) used their phone to play games in the past month (by the way, gamers, this study also found that we are being seriously outpaced by mobile gamers in the UK).

Last but not least, wireless strategist
Chetan Sharma reported that the wireless data market in Q4 2010 increased 5% from Q3 2010 and 23% from 2009 (no small feat in the midst of a recession). Connected devices like tablet computers and eReaders now account for 7% of the mobile data market and they represent the fastest-growing segment of mobile US subscriptions. In fact, for the first time ever, smart phone shipments outpaced the traditional computer segment (including desktops, notebooks, and netbooks) in 2010.

More and more Americans are going online via mobile devices, and demographic groups who have historically been less likely to own home computers (such as African Americans) are adopting mobile broadband at a growing rate. Across the states and territories served by
Connected Nation 23.4 million adults subscribe to mobile broadband service.
The NTIA’s recently-released National Broadband Map shows that 96.15% of Americans have access to terrestrial mobile broadband, and during a recent trip to Michigan (a state served by Connect Michigan, a subsidiary of Connected Nation) President Obama outlined his goal of expanding wireless broadband to 98% of all Americans .

Many analysts are asking whether these subscribers are getting the same value from their mobile devices as those who access broadband on a home computer. Is a smart phone adequate for a child to conduct research for schoolwork or an out-of-work parent to apply for a job? Is there an application gap between mobile and fixed broadband subscribers? Connected Nation intends to explore this issue in the year to come.

How do you use your mobile broadband service? Are there activities that are easier on your mobile device than on your home computer? Are there activities you would like to pursue on your mobile device but find it difficult or impossible to do? Tell us at

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

New Study: Americans Find Information and Support for Healthcare Issues Online

By Chris McGovern, Manager, Research Development, Connected Nation

E-health services have often been touted as a benefit of home broadband service, and in the states/territories served by Connected Nation, an estimated 51.6 million adults use e-health applications like communicating with doctors, interacting with their insurance provider, or searching for medical information.

Click image to enlarge

The Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project released an interesting report yesterday titled
Peer-to-peer healthcare that shows 18% of Internet users have looked online for others with health conditions similar to theirs. Of special note, 26% of respondents who are caring for a loved one, 23% of respondents with chronic diseases, and one-fifth of adults with disabilities said they have gone online to find others who are dealing with similar health conditions.

This inclusion of “peer to peer” health resources highlights the importance of Web 2.0 applications. Not only are Internet users passively ingesting information, but they are using social networking venues to share their own experiences. This can be an especially important to someone with a rare health condition who may not be able to find a local support group. Data from Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project shows that respondents find fellow patients, friends, and family members to be more helpful than professional sources in terms of providing emotional support for a health-related issue. Online social networking tools support patients and their caregivers not only by providing up-to-date medical information, but by providing emotional and spiritual support during stressful times.

Do you know of an online support group that deserves more attention? Let us know
here so we can help get people connected.