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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

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January 15, 2008

ICF Announces the 2008 Top Seven Intelligent Communities of the Year

ICF Announces the 2008 Top Seven Intelligent Communities of the Year

(Honolulu, January 14, 2008 - 6:30 PM) - The Intelligent Community Forum announced today its list of the Top Seven Intelligent Communities of the Year, each a model for economic development in the 21st Century. The announcement, the second stage of ICF's annual Intelligent Community awards cycle, was made during PTC'08 in Honolulu, Hawaii.

The Smart21, announced last October, were honored during a reception hosted by ICF with generous sponsorship from Korea Telecom, Metrocomnet and Globecomm Systems. ICF co-founder Louis A. Zacharilla announced the highly anticipated Top Seven during the reception, noting that, for the first time, the Top Seven included three American communities, plus three from the rest of the world that were named to the list a second time. Listed in alphabetical order, the 2008 Top Seven Intelligent Communities of the Year are:

* Dundee, Scotland, United Kingdom. This former industrial center known for "jute, jam and journalism" has transformed itself through intensive government-academic-business collaboration and broadband deployment into a UK center for life sciences and digital media. An innovative smart card for citizens was so successful that the Scottish Government asked Dundee to run its national program. With rising net job growth and business starts, Dundee has created a Digital Observatory to track its future progress as an Intelligent Community. (Top Seven 2007)

* Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada. This community of 50,000 was a broadband "have not" until the City Council led an effort to aggregate public-sector, university and business demand and created e-Novations, its own fiber carrier, then launched the Fred-eZone wireless network offering free connectivity across the city. Today, Fredericton contains 70% of the province's knowledge-based businesses and is using ICT to substantially reduce its carbon footprint.

* Gangnam District, Seoul, South Korea. With only 2.5% of Seoul's population, this district produces 25% of the city's economic activity, and has invested its wealth in the next generation of e-government. Since 1995, a relentless digital drive has reduced the cost of government while delivering online services, education, quality of life programs and e-democracy to citizens. Over 70% of citizens have received ICT training through schools, community centers and a TV GOV program. (Top Seven 2007)

* Northeast Ohio, USA. The communities of this region are rising from the ashes of deindustrialization to recreate the entrepreneurial business, political and social culture that produced its first wave of prosperity. A successful fiber network deployment by OneCommunity has been leveraged by government and nonprofits to jumpstart new investment, improve healthcare delivery, bring the best in culture and education to urban schools, and engage tens of thousands of area leaders in collaboration over regional economic development.

* Tallinn, Estonia. A suggestion by Estonia's president in 1995 that schools be connected to the Internet led to an ICT revolution that has linked 100% of Tallinn's secondary schools to the Web and established over 600 public access points. More than 100,000 adults have received ICT training, while e-government programs have produced one of the most advanced smart card systems in Europe and a middleware program that slashes the costs of e-government. It was not until 2004 that the last Russian troops left the country, yet today, Tallinn receives 77% of all foreign direct investment into Estonia and seven out of ten in its workforce are in the service sector. (Top Seven 2007)

* Westchester County, New York, USA. This suburb of New York City was largely ignored by broadband carriers until it amassed demand from public agencies and built a multi-gigabit fiber network that now serves over 3,500 companies. Determined to maintain the quality of life that is its most compelling advantage, the county has invested in promoting business growth, improving the skills of its workforce and fighting digital exclusion in a community that has seen new immigrants become 35% of its population.

* Winston-Salem, North Carolina, USA. Powerful government-business-academic collaboration led by Wake Forest University permitted this former "tobacco capital" to build a fiber network that spurred demand and led to an 88% broadband penetration rate. The partners have used this digital foundation to develop free computer labs across the region, create an e-government portal that is number three in the nation, and build a sustainable ICT skills training program. The city and county now count 37,000 biotech employees as residents and will fund a program to put PCs and broadband connections into the homes of low-income students.

ICF's coveted awards cycle concludes in New York City on May 16, 2008 during the annual Building the Broadband Economy summit, where one of the Top Seven will succeed Waterloo, Ontario, Canada as Intelligent Community of the Year.

The full press release as well as more information on each community and blog postings on the awards process can be found on the ICF Web site.

Lev Gonick
Cleveland, Ohio

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