Let’s go local

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by Ann Treacy • If nothing else the economic stimulus package has stimulated conversation. Wistful if I won the lottery talk has turned into, if I could spend the stimulus money. The theme in my reading today seems to be if I had a check, I’d spend it locally.

Blandin on Broadband offers information on broadband use, access, and trends especially in rural Minnesota. Sponsored by the Blandin Foundation and their Broadband Initiative.

The folks at the Daily Yonder featured an article that focuses on broadband money for local networks. It was written by Wally Bowen, the executive director of a local ISP in North Carolina – and he says, “No tax dollars for broadband infrastructure should go to absentee-owned networks, unless no local network is available for this taxpayer support.”

Bowen urges that the large providers aren’t good matches for the stimulus funds for the following reasons:

1. In his experience the large companies are not interested in providing broadband in rural areas. Rural areas generally do not provide quick or high return on investment. They don’t make the best business cases.
2. He’s afraid take money to expand access to new areas and use it to enhance services to existing areas.
3. Big providers outsource overseas, which would not lead to local jobs.

Local providers are a better bet and, he points out, they probably have shovel-ready projects “on the drawing boards of local planning agencies and state broadband initiatives.”

Then I read a more local piece talking about the FTTH plans in North St Paul. The author, Samuel Greenholtz of Telecom Pragmatics – points out that one reason we’re lagging behind in fiber deployment in the Midwest is that the predominant provider isn’t interested in providing ubiquitous service. Greenhotz applauds the “90 independent telcos in Minnesota” for stepping up.

Karl Bode also alludes to large providers who are suddenly interested in providing access to States, when they have previously “spent millions to prevent cities and towns across the country from wiring themselves with broadband.”
Originally published 1/29/09

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