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Connected Nation's $134 Billion Fish Tale?
Editorial: Lets make sure we adopt the RIGHT national broadband policy....
by Karl Bode 12:00PM Friday Feb 22 2008
Last month Public Knowledge penned a piece that suggested that Connected Nation, a group supposedly created to push a national broadband policy, was actually now essentially a baby bell lobbying effort. The allegation was that what started as a real, local Kentucky effort to map U.S. broadband penetration, has ultimately been hijacked by baby bell lobbyists, and now exists primarily as a way to protect those companies' interests under the guise of a national broadband deployment model.

If true, it's absolutely ingenious in a robustly amoral way.


But the group's CEO, Brian R. Mefford, insists that those allegations aren't true. In a letter responding to Public Knowledge's criticisms, Mefford denied any influence from AT&T, and proclaimed that "There are far more individuals who would rather criticize than there are individuals who are willing to become change agents and risk failure."

This week finds Connected Nation getting ample press for a new study by the group that claims a national broadband policy (which most of us can agree we lack completely and would benefit from) could help boost the U.S. economy to the tune of $137 billion.

According to the group, just a 7% spike in broadband adoption would save $6.4 billion in vehicle mileage, and $662 million in health-care costs ($217 per person). The 2.4 million jobs created to fuel this spike in adoption would result in a $92 billion economic surge. The group also insists that this 7% spike in adoption would result in $18 million in carbon credits associated with 3.2 billion fewer pounds of CO2 emissions per year.

Sounds wonderful! What do we need to do?

Click for full size
The group wants each State to adopt (and pay for) their "Connect Kentucky" model, which they claim resulted in Kentucky broadband adoption growing 83% from 2005 to 2007, while the national broadband adoption rate grew only 57%.

Of course given that Kentucky consistently ranked near the bottom of most penetration rankings, even a slight improvement in penetration would make it appear they were doing something a more wired state like say, California, wasn't.

The Connect Kentucky model consisted of using $7 million in state funds to map penetration, then using local outreach to push private service into under-served areas. But if Art Brodsky's report is to be believed, the group's mapping efforts use rose colored glasses, and the outreach program is little more than a sales call for small scale AT&T DSL deployments, or if DSL is not financially viable, AT&T-resold Wild Blue satellite service:
quote:
The second major piece of Connect’s program is its formation of “leadership teams” to go to each of Kentucky’s 120 counties to preach the word of the necessity of broadband. Sources who have been in those meetings aren’t impressed with Connect’s expertise. One Kentucky source said a Connect community session he attended “reminded me of an Amway meeting,” comparing it to the direct-sales company. Connect gathers together people from health care, education, industry and local government to persuade them that broadband is needed in their community. The preferred provider is not an independent ISP or a local CLEC. Instead, the service being pitched is BellSouth DSL. Think of the presentation as a state-sponsored sales call for AT&T (the former BellSouth) low-speed DSL.
In addition to having to pay a $20,000 entry fee to join Connected Kentucky's group of preferred providers, local ISPs say they're given virtually no help from, and in some cases found their existing relationships harmed by, Connect Kentucky:
quote:
Although purportedly striving to bring broadband, as opposed to BellSouth broadband, to unserved areas, Connect hasn’t provided much help to other companies, and in some cases has been downright hostile by bringing in would-be competitors when a local ISP has already started talking with local officials. It has assisted in setting up some meetings and providing minimal guidance to Federal grants, one source said. But many other promises went unfulfilled, from help in negotiating discounted rates on cell towers to assistance in obtaining permission for siting competitive wireless sites on tall structures, to funding for smaller companies. The results of the “leadership team” meetings are more often than not simply a “pretty, glossy document,” with no follow up, one meeting participant said.
Click for full size
The problem is we haven't seen substantive, independent confirmation of any of Connected Kentucky or Connected Nation's claims. Leichtman Research says that Kenutcky is 46th out of all U.S. States in broadband penetration. The FCC's data on broadband penetration, as we've stated repeatedly, is not reliable.

After studying telecom-related propaganda for the better part of the last decade, the bubbly, plasticine enthusiasm that surrounds Connected Nation gives me slight pause. As does the rabid support for their program coming from groups like the Alliance for Public Technology, a PR group tied to both AT&T And Verizon, as well as Verizon's public relations magicians at Issue Dynamics.

If Connected Nation is a for-profit incumbent lobbying and sales vehicle dressed up as a national broadband policy, it would be one of the most ingenious business ploys in the history of telecom. It would kill multiple birds with with stone by preventing more progressive and substantive policy changes from taking root, funneling state funds away from local providers and into the hands of incumbents, and allowing the nation's largest carriers to game penetration statistics to mask half-hearted rural broadband deployment.

All on the taxpayer's dime.

It's absolutely true that the country needs some kind of national broadband policy, and perhaps the group genuinely does have the welfare of the typical American consumer at heart. However, one can't read the recent criticisms of Connected Nation without at least thinking that much deeper investigation is warranted. Let's proceed with healthy skepticism before embracing Connected Nation's specific vision, or fielding their claims on faith.

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S_engineer
Premium
join:2007-05-16
Chicago, IL

1 recommendation

If thats true....

If telcos are setting up bogus, or semi-legit organizations to spew their propaganda, then shouldn't they be under the scrutiny of local public utility commissions?

This should go for cablecos too!
--
"There is no such thing as public opinion. There is only published opinion."....Winston Churchill
SilverSurfer1

join:2007-08-19

Re: If thats true....

said by S_engineer:

If telcos are setting up bogus, or semi-legit organizations to spew their propaganda, then shouldn't they be under the scrutiny of local public utility commissions?

This should go for cablecos too!
You mean in the same manner bogus, quasi-legit orgs spew propaganda for seemingly grass-roots/consumer/citizen-oriented issues are "scrutinized"?

Keep dreaming. Most people are idiots and believe whatever their religion/the TV tells them. There isn't a patch for stupidity.

wifi4milez
Big Russ, 1918 to 2008. Rest in Peace

join:2004-08-07
New York, NY

There's a problem with this argument

The article states that in many cases the group goes to rural or under served areas and pitches broadband as a way to improve various situations. However, it then goes on to say that instead of pitching a CLEC or local ISP, they are pitching Bell South DSL. The reality of the situation is that there probably isnt a local ISP or CLEC in Bumblefork Kentucky, so the argument holds no water.
--

me in ky

@kvnet.org

Re: There's a problem with this argument

Hate to disagree but I disagree. Most of the areas do have local ISP's but Connect Kentucky would still push the Bell's. Don't know where Bumblefork kentucky is at is that close to Sorryweain'tuptosnuff New York?
satellite68

join:2007-04-11
Louisville, KY

Re: There's a problem with this argument

Man, I'm sure sick of hearing BFE or "Bumblefork" Kentucky...those who say that have obviously never been here.

wifi4milez
Big Russ, 1918 to 2008. Rest in Peace

join:2004-08-07
New York, NY

Re: There's a problem with this argument

said by satellite68:

Man, I'm sure sick of hearing BFE or "Bumblefork" Kentucky...those who say that have obviously never been here.
When did I ever say I had been there?? I simply pointed out that in some cases there is no local alternative to Bell and that its not some huge conspiracy that Kentucky Connect recommends them. What part of that is hard to understand??
--
Expand your moderator at work
nutcr0cker

join:2003-04-02
Chandler, AZ
kudos:2

McCain might get lucky again

Who says money is everything for McCane all it takes is a lobbyist in the bed )
lesopp

join:2001-06-27
Land O Lakes, FL

Re: McCain might get lucky again

I've heard eloquent plagiarized speeches work just as well.

gaforces
United We Stand, Divided We Fall

join:2002-04-07
Santa Cruz, CA

Welfare of consumer?

They are a for profit business arent they? Its more likely they are advocating for their own interests more than incumbents.
--
~ Don't you ever give up, Don't ever give in. Were going to make it ~ Damian Marley

SlickEnW
Premium
join:2003-01-21
Seattle, WA

Wow how long

has this group existed? Apparently they arn't doing much cuz the US Still sucks when it comes to broadband.

THanks, though.

RadioDoc
Premium,ExMod 2000-03
join:2000-05-11
La Grange, IL
kudos:2

1 recommendation

"it's absolutely ingenious in a robustly amoral way"

It's the new black!

While I'm sure Karl Bode See Profile is right we also know his predilection toward incumbent hatin' (often justly earned) but this group seems to have co-opted itself.

Being absolutely ingenious in a robustly amoral way has been standard operating practice for US corporations over the last decade so it should not be a surprise to anyone that these puppet shows are funded by said corporations.
--
Toolmaster of La Grange.

djrobx
Premium
join:2000-05-31
Valencia, CA
kudos:2
Reviews:
·Time Warner Cable
·VOIPO

1 edit

Ah terrific, another study

quote:
according to the group, just a 7% spike in broadband adoption would save $6.4 billion in vehicle mileage, and $662 million in health-care costs ($217 per person).
And how have they determined that those 7% who "adopt" broadband are going to do something other than play FPS shooters and watch porn on their new connections? Not that there's anything wrong with either of those things!

Telecommuting is great, but very few companies actually allow it. And broadband has great potential for productivity, but it simply won't alter everyone's lives in such a staggering manner. Some, like me, depend on it for work, but for a large number of folks, it's simply a faster, more convenient form of internet access than dialup.

Maybe they should stop wasting so much money on these studies and use that cash towards getting actual connectivity to these underserviced areas.
--
Laser eye surgery rocks! I love frickin' laser beams.

FFH
Premium
join:2002-03-03
Tavistock NJ
kudos:5

Re: Ah terrific, another study

said by djrobx:

quote:
according to the group, just a 7% spike in broadband adoption would save $6.4 billion in vehicle mileage, and $662 million in health-care costs ($217 per person).
And how have they determined that those 7% who "adopt" broadband are going to do something other than play FPS shooters and watch porn on their new connections? Not that there's anything wrong with either of those things!

Telecommuting is great, but very few companies actually allow it. And broadband has great potential for productivity, but it simply won't alter everyone's lives in such a staggering manner. Some, like me, depend on it for work, but for a large number of folks, it's simply a faster, more convenient form of internet access than dialup.

I agree:
»Re: Wow
--
My BLOG .. .. Internet News .. .. My Web Page
garmst

join:2000-09-17
New York, NY

No "National Broadband Policy" is needed

Internet Connectivity is taking care of itself at a natural pace simply because the free market fills needs. The is no National Food Policy but everyone has plenty of food to eat, in countless versions and quality and in amounts to promote grand obesity.

I really hear no significant complaints in the general "masses" save a couple. The only large scale whining is in forums such as these. To spend $134 billion and likely much more (Government spending being as "efficient" as it is) for a handful of whiners is worse than the outlandish welfare spending to encourage most people not to work.

We already have significant private investment wiring, rewiring, overhauling, speeding up, ad nauseum out Internet. That it does not happen overnight is shows the lack of reality posesed by the whiners.

Nothing happens overnight, ESPECIALLY when done by the government.

New York City has been waiting 50 years for a subway tunnel to be dug on 2nd Avenue. And this is just a HOLE with concrete decoration. Almost 7 years and Ground Zero is still empty. The list is endless.

Everyday, more VZ techs lay fiber and connect netizens, same for ATT is a somewhat less desirous way, Cell systems upgrade, WiMax rolls toward completion, etc.

Read a few books, travel a little round the world, TALK to your friends and loved ones. One day you'll discover it has arrived.

Or will you EVER be happy and satisfied..........
SilverSurfer1

join:2007-08-19

Re: No "National Broadband Policy" is needed

said by garmst:

The is no National Food Policy but everyone has plenty of food to eat, in countless versions and quality and in amounts to promote grand obesity.
Not everyone. Suggest you remove the rosecolored glasses, Pollyanna.
lvlorpheus

join:2008-02-17
Springdale, AR

1 recommendation

I hear what you are saying, and I was wondering if you could help me to better understand a few things. As I am sure you can see I live in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. At least that is what my mail, and area code say, but really I live about 5 miles out of town. I have talked to a few of the AT&T linemen, and they have told me that there is a fiber line at the end of my road, and a RT about a mile from there. Every time I see them at the RT and choose to stop and ask them if they are putting in DSL; they tell me "sorry no thats what everyone asks, but I don't think they will ever put DSL out here." After calling Cox 5 times and asking them how much it would cost ME to have them build their network to my home they said they had no plans to build out here, but if theydid it would be about $300,000 a mile. I also used to work for the cable company that took down Cox's old network, and they did not pay us anything like $300,000 a mile. I am sure I could get a few of my friends and we could ran out ten miles of their network for a generous $150,000 a mile, if they had plans to build out this way.

You probable do not know a lot about the area, but over a million people come to the area a year to vacation, and a lot of them ask if there is a broadband connection at the cabin they will be renting on the lake. The answer is no. Do you think they are just making small talk and really have no interest in a broadband connection while on vacation? The highway department is putting in a few hundred million dollar road to handle all the traffic. I also live about 30 miles from the corporate office of the #1 retail business in the WORLD "Wal-mart" that insists its vendor bring a office here to do business with them, and they do. A lot of those corporate employs live out my way.

So, my question to you is just how much more need does there need to be to have this natural pace manifest itself? When I am told by both local provider that they have no plans to provide service how can these statements be true?

"No "National Broadband Policy" is needed
"Internet Connectivity is taking care of itself at a natural pace simply because the free market fills needs."

Re: No "National Broadband Policy" is needed

said by lvlorpheus:

I hear what you are saying, and I was wondering if you could help me to better understand a few things. As I am sure you can see I live in Eureka Springs, Arkansas.

...

So, my question to you is just how much more need does there need to be to have this natural pace manifest itself? When I am told by both local provider that they have no plans to provide service how can these statements be true?

"No "National Broadband Policy" is needed
"Internet Connectivity is taking care of itself at a natural pace simply because the free market fills needs."
WildBlue is available today. From $50/month.

No need for the taxpayers to spend a cool million just to wire your house 5 miles outside of a town 30 miles from nowhere.

That may sound harsh, but we're already being taken by the USF and the Al Gore taxes; heck, it took us 100 years to get rid of the Spanish-American war tax. We don't need another "National Broadband Tax" to subsidize folks in Podunk, when satellite coverage is already in place.

If that doesn't cut if for you, then its time for you to form your own WiFi coop with your neighbors and share a T-1.

AllenC

@dell.com

There are better models

How about reporting on better models like »utopianet.org A non-profit company owns the fiber. A for-profit company does the infrastructure. There are currently 4 different providers. There isn't a big price difference, so they need to compete on service. Example service is $50 for 50mbps up and down with a 500 GB/month cap. $20 for additional 100 GB/month. All business and residential customers in a city are connected.

A major lobbying effort from the Qwest and Comcast kept the largest city out of the plan. The original plan had AT&T as the anchor tenant. Looks like they have bailed.

It would be interesting to see plans like that in more places.

Thanks--Allen

marbb

@insightbb.com

Art Brodsky is on target

I am closely involved with a KY ISPs who have firsthand knowledge of the research Art Brodsky has done.

ConnectKY absolutely is and has been a waste of money and they HAVE NOT brought that high percentage of penetration they claim. Their maps are totally inflated and are designed to make themselves look good.

Ask the ISPs in Kentucky who has been around several years and they will fill your ears about Connect KY. They have watched while control over telcos has been moved away from the state Public Service Commission and taken to the FCC under Kevin Martin's leadership. It is widely known Martin wanted and accomplished deregulation of the phone companies.

So anyone who tells you that Connected Nation is a good idea is flat wrong. It's parent, ConnectKY was created by one of the most corrupt administrations in the state's history and is purely political.

OnceIsEnough

@bluegrass.net

If AT&T is supporting this.....

If AT&T is supporting this, it sets off red flag for me. You had better get a tight hold on you money because AT&T will be coming for it.
History does repeat itself....