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Big Broadband Bang

To start the 4th of July holiday weekend off right, President Obama today announced that 66 broadband projects across the country have been awarded $795 million in grants and loans from stimulus funds that Congress set aside last year.  This is good news, helping to connect dozens of communities and institutions to high speed internet access. 

The grants are part of a $7.2 billion broadband stimulus initiative led by two agencies – the Rural Utilities Service in the Department of Agriculture (RUS), and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration in the Department of Commerce (NTIA).  

Why broadband? If you’re going to inject public dollars into the economy, then make that investment in a way that generates economic growth. Broadband fits the bill nicely – the networks that will be built to unserved and underserved areas can be used by businesses, to grow jobs, to improve education and healthcare, and to connect residents to high speed Internet access.

So how are the agencies doing? NTIA has spent about $2 billion and RUS has spent about $1.4 billion to date.   

You’d think that leaves about $3.8 billion left to be awarded, but Congress is moving to reclaim $600 million of the balance to offset other spending.  The House has acted, and now the Senate must agree.

If the amount shrinks, some worthy projects won’t be funded. The long fuse, lit last winter when applications were due, will in some cases fizzle and burn out.  And that means some unserved areas will continue to wait for the arrival of broadband connectivity. 

But that’s for tomorrow. For the moment, let’s celebrate the projects that received grants and loans today, and enjoy the fireworks!


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A fundamental of smart grid policy

On the same day that Cisco unveiled a new touch-screen gateway device to manage home energy usage, the U.S. Department of Energy held a public forum Tuesday examining a critical set of policy issues raised by a smart grid. The focus?  “Empowering Consumers and the Smart Grid: Data Access, Third Party Use, and Privacy.”

At the forum, Cisco’s Jeff Campbell made our perspective clear:  Electricity consumers should have secure access to their energy usage information and should have the power to choose which technologies will give them control over managing their home energy use in a way that reflects their personal preferences and priorities.

Other panelists agreed: Government should not pre-determine through policy or regulation what consumers want to do – or not do – with their home energy use data.

All agreed that government can – and should – play an important role in making sure that utilities and third-parties protect the privacy of consumer information, and in sharing policy frameworks and best practices to ensure that customers have access to energy usage information, if they want it; to enforce privacy protections, if needed, and; to educate consumers about how the benefits of smart grid ultimately flow to the consumer.

Clearly, giving consumers the tools to participate in smart grid will go a long way towards engaging consumers and earning their support for smart grid.

Home Energy Controller

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Obama’s Moon Shot

The only President to ever carry and use a Blackberry today announced an ambitious plan that will allow people and things to communicate using new IP-based wireless technologies on a scale never before seen. 

This is a huge step in the right direction.

In Cisco’s view, a new era of visual communications is upon us. Americans will use video to communicate with each other, ensure the safety of our citizens and critical infrastructures, for information gathering and collaboration, and in ways that we cannot even imagine.

Like President Kennedy’s goal of putting a man on the moon, President Obama’s 10-year spectrum initiative promises to put the United States at the forefront of technologies that will be needed to support a very different communications system than the one that exists today. 

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Superfast Broadband in the UK?

“Within this parliament we want Britain to have the best superfast broadband in Europe.”

An ambitious goal given the progress in Finland and the plans in Germany and France, but this was the target set out by the new UK government through Jeremy Hunt, the Culture Secretary. 

So how are they planning to do it? 

Building on pre-election Conservative party policy, the approach is largely based on stimulating private investment by opening access to passive infrastructure, such as ducts and poles, not only of the incumbent BT, but also of other telecoms providers, the sewers and utility networks.  They have also announced three market testing projects for high-speed broadband in rural areas and plans to use part of the underspend on digital switchover to bring basic broadband to all.

The best in Europe.  A welcome aspiration – let’s hope they show the commitment necessary to meet it.

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Global Demand for Broadband

Wondering what the future holds for video and broadband growth worldwide?

Check out Cisco’s own Dr. Robert Pepper, Vice President, Global Policy and International Government Affairs, on Talk2Cisco June 8 at 1:00 p.m. PT.

He will be taking questions about the growing global demand for broadband – and how the growth is driven by video. Watch the replay below:


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