U.S. Virgin Islands takes another step into the 21st century

Yesterday Governor John de Jong (D-USVI) signed into law a bill that would authorize the U.S. Virgin Islands to issue bonds to finance a $70 million broadband initiative. Part of the funding comes from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Broadband Technology Opportunity Program.

Broadband, although technically available in the territory, is not affordable and is subject to the slowest speeds in the United States. Concerns about staff salaries for the Virgin Islands Next Generation Network, the entity that will oversee deployment of the middle mile facilities, and confusion over how the matching funds would be used almost torpedoed the initiative.

Virgin Islands politics make stateside politics look squeaky clean. I ought to know. I’m from there.

Anyway, kudos to VINGN’s chief executive, Julito Francis, for pushing through an initiative that Governor de Jong rightfully describes as “critical to the economic, educational, and social development of the Virgin Islands.”

West Virginia short on broadband infrastructure

Posted April 29th, 2011 in Broadband, economy, Internet and tagged , , , by Alton Drew

I used to drive once a month from Frederick, Maryland to Dayton, Ohio to see my son. Two things I noticed about whenever I crossed into West Virginia: the speed limit and the quality of the roads. On I-70 the posted speed limit is 70 miles per hour. I could tell the truckers loved it, even though they were limited to 65 mph. I would say to myself, “This is a state that appreciates commerce.”

The quality of road, at least along that stretch, was pretty good, too. That further confirmed that West Virginia wanted traffic to come through its state.

Unfortunately, the state appears not to be taking that view toward broadband. According to CityNet, an Internet service provider in West Virginia, that a technology deficit is keeping West Virginia from reaping the rewards of job growth. CityNet’s chief executive officer, Jim Martin, told the state’s gubernatorial candidates that the state will never shed its 48th out of 50 state ranking on high-speed Internet access if it doesn’t address its middle mile issue.

Martin cited the Commonwealth of Virginia’s $50 million investment in broadband, middle mile infrastructure which, allegedly, has garnered the state $2 billion in economic development and a bunch of jobs.

Come on, Mountaineers. It’s time to invest in that other highway.

Colorado’s SB262 impact on broadband deployment unclear

The Denver Business Journal yesterday reported that the Colorado legislature is considering a bill that would regulate voice-over-Internet providers.  They would be required to put money into the rural phone service subsidy pot.

On the flip side, according to the article, the bill would also call for phasing out the rural subsidy over the next twenty years and reducing intrastate inter-carrier compensation rates.

Without rural subsidies, expanding broadband to underserved areas will be tricky.

What’s the matter, Sprint? Can’t compete on price?

Posted April 27th, 2011 in AT&T, FCC, Government Regulation, mobile telephone, wireless communications and tagged , , by Alton Drew

Sprint’s Dan Hesse says that the proposed purchase of T-Mobile USA by AT&T cannot happen. It would stifle competition.

As a consumer, I am really getting miffed. On the one hand, you hear these companies talk about innovating and competing. On the other hand, they are helpless while facing the big, bad wolf. What ever happened to swagger? Whatever happened to competing based on quality and price? Whatever happened to carving out a market niche and serving it?

Listening to Sprint whine about the possibility of AT&T becoming the number one carrier in the United States makes me question how Sprint even got to be number three versus number ten.

Yes, I expected that Sprint would ask the FCC permission to see AT&T’s market information. What I didn’t expect to hear from Sprint was all this public whining.

What I would expect is for Sprint to say, “Okay, AT&T. I’ll call your bluff. You wanna take T-Mobile’s dirt cheap calling plans off the market by buying them up, cool. I’ll just replicate T-Mobile and force you to raise your hand. Yeah. I’m calling your bluff.”

That’s what capitalists do. That’s what free market proponents do. That’s what believers in the expansion of consumer welfare do. That’s what companies who give a damn about shareholder wealth do.

They act. They don’t whine.

Mark Lowenstein understands

Just read a very insightful post from Mark Lowenstein. Mr. Lowenstein argues that the Federal Communications Commission needs to be more consumer oriented in its approach to wireless communications. Including its review of the proposed AT&T purchase of T-Mobile USA.

To summarize, consumers want a reliable, high-quality network that provides anytime, anywhere, high-speed access at an affordable price. Sure we want choice, but as Mr. Lowenstein points out, would you rather seven or eight mediocre service providers or three to four lean and hungry providers who are willing to constantly innovate on services and pricing because they know the other guy is trying to out serve them via good customer service.