Bloglines - Broadband Gaps Persist

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Fun With Broadband

Broadband Gaps Persist

Minorities, rural users still not wired. The digital divide is still very much alive when it comes to broadband, according to a new study from the Commerce Department. While the number of broadband connections doubled from 2001 to late 2003, rural areas and minority users (1 in 7 blacks an..


Firm aims to bring Bush Alaska up to speed online

Firm aims to bring Bush Alaska up to speed online

By Margaret Bauman Alaska Journal of Commerce
Publication Date: 11/21/04

© The Alaska Journal of Commerce Online


Stanley Edwin installs a dish to be used for high-speed Internet access in Bethel. PHOTO/ Courtesy of Village Telecom Management Services

Two years ago Jim Stevens watched as an exasperated resident in a small Bering Sea village tried to download several lengthy government documents from the Internet.
The process took so long that the phone line was disconnected before the download was completed.

"Why can't a village get better access to the Internet?" he asked.
After some investigative efforts, Stevens found out the technology was certainly available, and he could deliver it.

Stevens formed Village Telecom Management Services LLC, and started presenting his proposal to rural Alaska communities. His firm formed Bethel Wireless, which is currently installing high-speed wireless services for private residences and businesses in Bethel. The cost to residential customers is $24.95 a month, he said.

Titan Technologies, the other partner in Bethel Wireless, is currently busy doing demonstrations for potential customers, he said.

Stevens is also talking with other rural entities, including tribal governments, about the advantages of owning and operating their own telecommunications company. An example is the village of Anvik, on the Lower Yukon River, where the Anvik Traditional Council plans to own and operate its own high-speed wireless services. Construction is to begin in January, he said.
A $280,310 grant from the Department of Agriculture's Rural Development program will help the federally recognized tribal government foot the bill, Stevens said.

Through its contract with Village Telecom, the tribe will become the Internet and telecommunications services provider for all residents, businesses and institutions in the village. Violet Kruger, administrator for the Anvik council, said the new system would give the community real advantages.

"It's more outside information that the community could have access to," she said. Right now the only Internet access for this community of 105 people is at the council office or local school, she said.

Village Telecom is also bidding on a contract to service one sprawling western Alaska school system and plans a demonstration project for a major regional nonprofit Alaska Native corporation to show numerous uses of high-speed Internet, including a video component for distance delivery of specialized teaching services.

"Our idea is that instead of every village having an IT (Internet technology) person, we will provide maintenance," he said. "This will be a tribal enterprise, selling Internet service. We will provide support for three to five years, and then they can just take it over."

"Very little stands in the way of tribal governments who wish to assume control over the delivery of affordable, reliable services within their respective communities," Stevens said in an informational memo.

"We have found that the wireless Internet systems have evolved to the extent that speed, reliability and durability are not compromised by Alaska's harsh environment, and that satellite delivery of Internet access, through dynamic bandwidth allocation, has significantly reduced the operating costs to Internet service providers."

Tribal ownership of Internet service providers has four major advantages, he said. First, it eliminates state regulatory oversight, allowing for greater flexibility in sharing bandwidth between user groups. Second, the Federal Communications Commission has adopted initiatives to promote tribal ownership of telecommunications companies, including the elimination of regulatory barriers. Third, tribal bodies have greater access to grants for purchase and deployment of equipment. Fourth, the tribes can control content delivery to local users in a way that boosts economic and educational opportunities, and reduces exposure to deceptive, fraudulent or pornographic sites, he said.

Many predominantly Alaska Native villages have been paying thousands of dollars a month for Internet services for schools and health clinics. Most of the bill has been paid in the past through the universal service fund, distributed through the Universal Services Acceptances Corp., which is affiliated with the FCC, he said. Now that those federal funds are temporarily frozen for schools, rural school districts are out shopping for competitive proposals to fill the gap, he said.
Stevens grew up in Fairbanks, and has traveled extensively in rural Alaska. His father, Walter Stevens, had a degree in engineering and his mother, Betty Stevens, served as assistant superintendent for elementary education in Fairbanks public schools. The younger Stevens studied business at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and said his real knowledge of computers was confined to being an Internet user.

His most recent business venture, before telecommunications, was running an architectural and engineering firm which helped rural residents get contracts to build roads in their own communities. Two years ago, his employees bought him out and he began forming his latest firm, he said.

His latest venture sprang from what he saw as a need to improve rural economies. "If this can be done, why not do it?" he said.

"As the technology progresses, things become easier to use," Stevens said. "Wireless technology has advanced, and the cost and maintenance has come down."

Financing deployment of wireless systems has become attainable through the availability of federal and private grants, as well as lease-purchase options. Operating support from the Universal Service Fund assists locally owned Internet Service Providers to earn a profit, ranging from $50,000 to $100,000 a year, while still providing service to residential and commercial customers at affordable rates, he said. In fact, a tribally owned Internet Service Provider can provide better, faster Internet service than what is currently being offered for half the current rate structure, he said.


YKHC Media Release - DeltaNet

YKHC Media Release - DeltaNet

Valerie Davidson, YKHC Exec VP

Val Davidson, YKHC's Executive Vice President, Speaks in support of DeltaNet. Steve Hamlen, President of United Utilities, Inc., listens in the foreground.

Global warming, higher costs disrupt DeltaNet development
[YKHC - 11-08-04]

During the Alaska Federation of Natives convention week, organizations desiring the continuation of a broadband Internet project in the Y-K Delta, which began construction this summer, gathered at the Regulatory Commission of Alaska (RCA) offices in Anchorage and requested support for supplemental funding for the project.

The presentation was before Ms. Kate Giard, program administrator for the Rural Alaska Broadband Internet Access Grant Program.

Last year, United Utilities, Inc. (UUI), a Bethel-based telecom, was awarded a $2.5 million broadband Internet access grant to begin infrastructure development for a terrestrial wireless communications network in 11 Y-K Delta communities. The 11- community effort is the first phase of the build-out of a region wide terrestrial wireless network referred to as “DeltaNet”.

But a report by UUI, which was presented during the testimony, stated that problems began arising during construction which were unforeseen when the grant was first submitted. These included the discovery that permafrost was warmer due to global warming, by as much as four degrees since the early 1970s, especially in the Kuskokwim River sites. Other factors included the escalation of world steel prices, a fuel surcharge increase due to higher energy costs, and regulatory reasons.

Like ice, permafrost loses rigidity as it warms. To remedy such problems, state-of-the-art technology for placing structures on “warm” permafrost (30.5 – 32 degrees), is being deployed to ensure the structural integrity of the DeltaNet towers, said Steve Hamlen, President of UUI. “This is the same technology that has been used during the construction of the transAlaska pipeline,” he said.

The new tower design, increases in steel prices, and increases in transportation costs have more than doubled costs. UUI has requested $4.7 million in supplemental funding while contributing $5 million of its own funds to the project.

Hamlen said that Phase I construction will link 11 communities to Bethel and offer Broadband Internet and other services to Upper and Lower Kalskag, Tuntutuliak, Eek, Kwigillingok, Kipnuk, Kongiganak, Chefornak, Nightmute, Tununak and Newtok. UUI is also planning on adding Quinhagak, Mekoryuk, Toksook Bay, and Aniak to the Phase I build-out.

DeltaNet will also support telemedicine, distance learning, emergency services, KYUK radio broadcasts, and other telecommunication services. “The quality of terrestrial networking provides significant improvements in performance and reliability over satellite services, which suffers from latency (delay) and sun-outage problems,” said Hamlen.

UUI is planning on completing Phase I of the DeltaNet project by December, 2006. “Our relationship with RCA is positive up to this point,” he said. “We are hopeful that the RCA will recognize the value of the entire DeltaNet project and approve UUI’s supplemental funding request.”

Hamlen added that UUI is especially thankful to the stakeholders that traveled to Anchorage to give “awesome” presentations to the RCA in support of DeltaNet and UUI’s funding request.
Val Davidson, YKHC’s Executive Vice President, was one representative of Y-K Delta agencies testifying before the RCA, who spoke on YKHC’s need for improved communication capabilities.

“We support this project because we need better communications services to improve and maintain quality health services in the Y-K Delta,” she said.

“We also have distance-delivery training needs and this project would also support economic development in the Y-K Delta,” added Davidson. “We have many young people in our region, so it would create I.T. (Internet Technology) jobs for them as well as enable our people to sell arts and crafts on the Internet.”

Greg Moore, a professional engineer representing the Statewide Telecommunications User Group, said all nine Native health organizations in Alaska are experiencing some problems in communications. “This project would help telecommunications get off satellite,” he said. “DeltaNet will reach very remote areas of Alaska. Schools, clinics, colleges, agencies and governments will achieve services similar to those in the lower ’48.”

Carlton Kuhns, Director of Yuut Elitnarviat, said that one of the highest unemployment rates in the country, at 30.2 percent as of June 2004, is found in the Y-K Delta. “We also have a 37 percent poverty rate, but the irony is that we have 350 job openings at the Bethel (state) job office but the skill level of applicants for those jobs is not adequate,” he said.

Kuhns explained what the YE partners are doing to address the issues of joblessness and the lack of skills by building the YE Center. “We still won’t be able to bring in every person to Bethel because it’s just isn’t possible due to housing and travel costs. We’ll need 2-way (video) teleconferencing to fill in that gap.”

Myron Naneng, President of the Association of Village Council Presidents, said DeltaNet is needed for tribal government work. “Municipalities do not always have resources to deal with community issues and usually rely on tribal governments for support,” he said.

UUI is planning on completing the build-out of DeltaNet over the next five years. Once completed, every community through out the YK delta will have direct wireless connectivity to each other and Bethel within a communications pipeline that will support every imaginable voice, video, and data communication for years to come. Terrestrial wireless sites that already exist near Bethel include Kasigluk, Nunapitchuk, Atmautluak, Napakiak, Napaskiak, Oscarville, Akiachak, Kwethluk, Akiak and Tuluksak.

Other wireless systems include Mt. Village, St. Mary’s, and Pitka’s Point. When DeltaNet is complete, these sites will convert to the terrestrial system.

After listening to the testimony, Giard said although the project is exactly what the grant program would be funding, she found that the supplement request was unusual. "Therefore, RCA would have to follow a public comment process so that any additional award, whatever the amount, toward the project is made fair for everyone concerned," she said.

Giard believed that the public process should take no more than 30 days before a determination is made on the request. She also added that $10 million is still available in the grant program.


Alaska Telecommunications Users Consortium

Alaska Telecommunications Users Consortium

Who is ATUC ?
ATUC is a non-profit organization with a statewide non-profit membership composed of K-
12 schools, universities, health care organizations, libraries, research institutes, public
broadcasting, municipal governments, and state government.

What is ATUC’s purpose ?
ATUC is a non-profit organization with the mission of advancing education, science, and
government services, including health care, libraries, and public broadcasting, through
sharing of advanced telecommunications resources. ATUC is highly focused on content and
collaboration over advanced networks.

What does ATUC do ?
Parity. Like similar consortia in 42 other states, ATUC will be the organization for buildout
of Internet2 connectivity across Alaska. Using capacity purchased from regulated and
deregulated carriers, ATUC will be building a shared network – AlaskaExpress – in order
to link Alaska non-profits to each other and to the national Internet2 community. Alaska is
about 7 years behind the lower 48 in accomplishing Internet2 connectivity.

Sustainability. Like similar consortia in 42 other states, ATUC will be focused on
accomplishing connectivity for its membership at affordable rates. Alaska schools and
health care organizations are very dependent on the USF subsidies, and with the opening
of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 in the coming session, Alaska non-profits need a
collective voice.

Content and Collaboration. In the long term, ATUC is highly focused on content and
collaboration, within Alaska and with the national Internet2 community. As of October,
2004, more than 25,000 K-12 schools, libraries, and museums in 34 states have access to
the Internet2 network, along with over 200 universities in all 50 states. These non-profits
are actively sharing and developing content in education, health care, science,
broadcasting, and many other areas.

Alaska Telecommunications Users Consortium
P.O. Box 200009
135 Cordova Street
Anchorage, AK 99520
907-277-6320 :rings at ATUC desk, forwarded to G. Moore @ 522-3616
907-277-6300 :rings at Dave Geesin, APBI
907-277-6350 :APBI fax

ATUC Board of Directors

Wanetta Ayers, Executive Director
Southwest Alaska Municipal Conference (SWAMC)
Anchorage, AK

H.A. "Red" Boucher, Owner
Alaska Information Technology LLC
Anchorage, AK

Scott Christian, Director
Alaska Distance Education Technology Consortium
Juneau, AK

Richard DeLorenzo, Superintendent
Vice President, ATUC Board of Directors
Chugach School District
Anchorage, AK

Dr. Edna MacLean, President
Ilisagvik College
Barrow, AK

Ann Myren
Haines Public Library
Haines, AK

Jamie Waste, Executive Director
(to be seated, replacing Don Rinker)
Alaska Public Broadcasting Inc.
Anchorage, Alaska

Paul Sherry, Chief Executive Officer
Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium
Anchorage, AK

Eugene Smith, Chief Technical Officer
Maniilaq Association
Kotzebue, AK

Steve Smith, CTO
President, ATUC Board of Directors
University of Alaska
Fairbanks, AK

Barbara Weil, Director
Catholic Schools
Archdiocese of Anchorage
Anchorage, AK

Stan Herrera, Director and Chief Technology Officer
Enterprise Technology Services
State of Alaska
Juneau, AK