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January 28, 2008

California Broadband Council ... Lessons for Ohio

In a year when the political agenda will be dominated by the run for the White House, it is important that champions of a national broadband strategy caucus on attempting to advance this long overdue 21st century infrastructure investment policy.

At the same time, as I have outlined before in this blog, the probable pragmatic approach to a national broadband strategy will likely come in the form of a quilt of super-regional broadband architectures addressing regional priorities. The FCC, the legislative branch and the executive branch of the Federal government can certainly accelerate the policy debate and adoption of national standards, the more likely scenario is a patch quilt of initiatives across the country.

This past fall, Ohio Governor Ted Strickland initiated the Ohio Broadband Council with a charge to "...ensure that all Ohio’s citizens, businesses, governments, educational institutions, non-profits and healthcare facilities have viable access to superior broadband services. Full participation in the digital society is crucial so that Ohio emerges as a global leader in: economic development, education, healthcare, innovation, world-class research and efficient delivery of state services; thereby powering Ohio’s economy and connecting to world markets."

A laudable goal, the Ohio Broadband Council is being co-chaired by the State CIO and OSC's Executive Director. Largely made up of public sector stakeholders, the Ohio Broadband Council sees its work as a coordinating body to achieve the objectives above. I read with interest the annual report of California's Broadband Council, co-chaired by a Cisco Systems executive and a senior member of the Governor's Cabinet. The composition of California's Broadband Council is organized around 6 working groups (build out, economic development, community development, education, health care, and emerging technology). The members of the California Task Force is heavily biased in favor of senior leadership among the end-user community and includes only 3 State Officials. The mission of the California Broadband Council is focused and designed to be "composed of public and private stakeholders with the expertise to advice policymakers on a framework for making California a global leader in the telecommunications revolution. The Task Force [is] responsible for delivering two reports. The first report ... describes administrative actions that state government can immediately act upon to increase broadband availability and adoption in California...The second report contains a comprehensive assessment of the state of broadband in California."

I've excerpted parts of this year's annual report below. I think the report serves as a reasonable guide for States like Ohio that are just underway with this effort as well as the many regions of the country that are still focussed exclusively on the build-out piece of the challenge. NEOhio's effort, known as OneCommunity is another useful approach to complement the work underway at the State level as it too focuses on the how to leverage technology to address regional community priorities. OneCommunity's governance model parallels the California approach and the outcomes outlined below by our colleagues in California are largely underway here in NEOhio.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger commissioned the California Broadband Task Force (CBTF) to “remove barriers to broadband access, identify opportunities for increased broadband adoption, and enable the creation and deployment of new advanced communication technologies.” The governor also requested that the CBTF “pay particular attention to how broadband can be used to substantially benefit educational institutions, healthcare institutions, community-based organizations, and governmental institutions.”

The CBTF adopted three key goals:

• California must ensure ubiquitous and affordable broadband infrastructure, made available through a variety of technologies to all Californians.

• California must drive the creation and use of applications that produce the greatest economic, educational, and social benefits for California’s economy and communities.

• California must construct next-generation broadband infrastructure, positioning California as the global economic leader in a knowledge-based economy.

Through analysis of CBTF’s broadband mapping project and independent research, the Task Force determined that California is better positioned than most states on broadband availability and adoption, yet the state lags behind key foreign competitors. Specifically, the CBTF found:

• 96% of California residences have access to broadband.
• 1.4 million mostly rural Californians lack broadband access at any speed.
• Barely more than half of Californians have adopted broadband at home.
• Only half of Californians have access to broadband at speeds greater than 10 Mbps (including both upstream and downstream speeds).
• Broadband infrastructure is deployed unevenly throughout the state, from state-of–the-art to nonexistent.

Just as California has invested in other critical infrastructure such as roads, electricity, and water, the CBTF believes that the state must seize the opportunity to promote private-sector investment, leverage public private partnerships, and lead the effort to increase broadband availability and adoption. But unlike roads, electricity, and water, California’s investment in broadband should not be limited to physical infrastructure, but instead should include policies to increase adoption of broadband technologies. Increasing both access to and use of broadband will build economic capital, strengthen public safety resources, improve living standards, expand educational and healthcare opportunities, and raise the levels of civic engagement and governmental transparency. In addition to growing consumer needs, business, research, government, education, library, healthcare, and community institutions require high-speed connectivity to:

• Share information;
• Promote environmentally friendly technologies such as telecommuting, video conferencing, and high-quality video collaboration;
• Provide distance-learning opportunities;
• Enable remote analysis of medical information; and
• Foster a greater civic discourse.

The CBTF recommends seven key actions to help our state achieve fast, reliable, and affordable broadband service:

1. Build out high speed broadband infrastructure to all Californians. Advancing new incentives for deployment and improving existing programs will create a world-class broadband infrastructure in California.

2. Develop model permitting standards and encourage collaboration among providers. Developing a public-private partnership between local governments and broadband providers to endorse permitting standards will improve the speed with which broadband is deployed.

3. Increase the use and adoption of broadband and computer technology. Expanding the opportunities for Californians to access, use, and learn broadband, at home and in the community, will provide the foundation for a digitally literate society that is able to fully benefit from broadband technology.

4. Engage and reward broadband innovation and research. Promoting innovative uses of broadband technology and encouraging wider e-government use will result in quality of- life improvements, while increasing demand for a robust broadband infrastructure.

5. Create a statewide e-health network. Implementing a sustainable statewide e-health network will improve quality of care across the state and simultaneously increase demand for broadband services.

6. Leverage educational opportunities to increase broadband use. Ensuring high-capacity broadband connections coupled with a robust technology support system, relevant curriculum, literacy standards, and off-campus educational partnerships will provide California’s students with the skills they need to compete in a 21st century economy.

7. Continue state-level and statewide leadership. Continuing the California Broadband Initiative and supporting the creation of Community Broadband Leadership Councils will strengthen the statewide leadership necessary to drive broadband access and adoption across California.

Ohio is well positioned to be an early adopter and join California in a well delineated, outcomes focused effort with the Ohio Broadband Council.

Lev Gonick
Cleveland, Ohio
January 21, 2008

Posted by lsg8 at January 28, 2008 09:54 AM and tagged

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