Wednesday, September 22, 2010

US National Broadband Plan: E-Rate revisions so schools can use dark fibre

Revisions to the US E-Rate funding mechanism are likely to result in schools being able to access dark fibre, saving money and delivering better broadband services. From the FCC's statement by Chairman Julius Genachowski:
"This Thursday, the Commission will vote on, and I believe adopt, a major modernization of the successful E-Rate program. These changes will help bring fast, affordable Internet access to schools and libraries across the country, and help ensure that America’s students have the high-tech skills they need to compete and succeed in the 21st Century...The program has met its original goals set in a dial-up world, but needs to be taken to the next level. It needs to be updated for a broadband world...The FCC E-Rate Order will also help deliver on the Broadband Plan’s goal of super high speed anchor institutions in every community. We will give libraries as well as schools the ability to use E-Rate funds to connect to broadband in the most cost-effective way possible, giving schools and libraries the choice of contracting to light dark fiber already in the ground, or with existing state, regional, and local networks. With these fiber networks, schools and libraries can provide students and communities with cutting-edge connectivity - and save millions of dollars...the Tri-County Educational Service Center in Wooster, Ohio, which serves more than 30,000 students in 19 school districts, was able to save 50 percent through the use of dark fiber, while increasing network performance by 750 percent...E-rate has been a success, but it’s time to reboot it for the 21st century."
This opportunity was flagged at Rory Stewart's rural broadband conference on 18th September, with further coverage from the BBC here. The proposal underlines the benefits that ensue from grasping the nettle of local connectivity, as I've said before in a previous post:
"...the more you can get your hands dirty in planning and implementing your WAN, the greater the cost savings you can achieve by negating the need for more expensive managed services (which are themselves based on the same underlying products anyway). Folks "on the ground" have a detailed appreciation of local circumstances and opportunities, which can result in innovative bespoke solutions which wouldn't necessarily even have been considered by a telco."
Let's hope the FCC votes in would seem unlikely that it won't in the face of such evidence?

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