Ag tech grows in an ecosystem of wireless connectivity

29 December 2020 by Steve Blum
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Salinas ag tech summit 13jul2018

Agriculture is increasingly dependent on bespoke agricultural technology applications and products, particularly in regions like the Salinas Valley where high value crops are grown. I’m often asked about where to find or how to get connectivity in the fields. The top line answer is: via wireless systems. If wireline connectivity is available, that’s wonderful, but it’s also rare.

So with due regard for the inevitable exceptions and hybrid technologies, there are five types of wireless providers to consider when speccing ag tech deployments.… More

Unfinished business will finish off California’s broadband subsidy program in 2021

23 December 2020 by Steve Blum
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Sick piggy bank 685

California’s primary broadband infrastructure subsidy program – the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) – ends 2020 with a dwindling account balance and many unanswered questions about how that money will be spent. Last week, the California Public Utilities Commission approved a $7.6 million grant to Race Communications for a fiber to the premise (FTTP) project in Williams, in Colusa County, and a $3.7 million grant to the Plumas Sierra electric cooperative for a project, also FTTP, in Lassen and Sierra counties.… More

California broadband plan is slow and soothing, particularly for monopoly model incumbents

Dorothy poppy field

In August, governor Gavin Newsom said all Californians should have, at the minimum, 100 Mbps broadband service. He didn’t say how that would happen, though. The job was delegated to the California Broadband Council, a talking shop dominated by state government information technology managers. The final draft (not the final-final version) was published last week. It’s long on high sounding words about the universal need for broadband service and the wonderfulness of the benefits it brings, but endorses a much slower standard than the governor called for and has little to say about how to achieve even that much.… More

Muni broadband ain’t a free lunch and taxpayers know it, Oregon study finds

17 December 2020 by Steve Blum
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Willingness to purchase ctc multnomah fttp study

People are economically rational about municipally owned and operated broadband systems. Emotions – hatred of incumbents or warm, fuzzy collectivist feelings – do not motivate consumers to switch ISPs or vote for tax-backed bonds to pay for a publicly provided gigabit. That’s my conclusion yet again, after reading yet another professionally executed muni broadband feasibility study, this one by Columbia Telecommunications Corporation for Multnomah County in Oregon (h/t to Fred Pilot at the U.S. Telecom Infrastructure Crisis blog).… More

Draft CPUC decision offers money to RDOF winners, but conditions present problems for most

14 December 2020 by Steve Blum
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Almost final rules for topping up federal broadband subsidies with money from the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) were published on Friday. The draft decision, authored by CPUC commissioner Martha Guzman Aceves, tracks with the most recent “kicker” program proposal floated by California Public Utilities Commission staff.

The big question remains: will it have any practical effect? The Federal Communications Commission’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) auction is over. The kind of broadband service providers the CPUC hoped to attract with its kicker program – gigabit-class fiber to the premise operators with open access business models and a commitment to low income and universal service obligations – are not well represented on the list of auction winners.… More

Incumbent friendly broadband pork bill drops in California assembly

10 December 2020 by Steve Blum
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The fight over California’s broadband future resumed in Sacramento on Monday, with the battle line unchanged from August’s stalemate. As expected, senator Lena Gonzalez (D – Los Angeles) introduced senate bill 4, which sunsets the current, anaemic California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) program, and replaces it with a more robust broadband bond program aimed at local agencies. It reflects the compromise between Gonzalez, her fellow senators and the governor’s office in the closing days of the 2020 legislative session.… More

WISPs are the big California winners in FCC’s broadband subsidy auction

8 December 2020 by Steve Blum
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Magic radio 685

Broadband providers won subsidies for nearly all of the eligible California homes and businesses in the Federal Communications Commission’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) auction, which concluded last month. But those subsidies total only a third of the theoretical dollars on offer. That’s pretty much what happened in the rest of the U.S., too.

Most of California’s winning bidders in the reverse auction were wireless Internet service providers (WISPs), and most claimed to be capable of delivering what the FCC calls “gigabit” service: 1,000 Mbps download/500 Mbps upload speeds.… More

Broadband reformers face off against cable, telco monopolies in California senate. Again

3 December 2020 by Steve Blum
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Liberty valance duke

Broadband infrastructure and financing reform will be one of the first policy initiatives out of the gate when bills start dropping at the California capitol on Monday. Senator Lena Gonzalez (D – Los Angeles) will introduce a measure that picks up where the effort to pass senate bill 1130 left off in September. Gonzalez and her fellow senators reached an agreement with governor Gavin Newsom on how California should subsidise broadband infrastructure and what minimum service levels should be, but SB 1130 died when assembly leaders killed it, as AT&T and cable companies pay them to do.… More

California’s deemed granted wireless permit battle begins as T-Mobile takes on San Francisco

1 December 2020 by Steve Blum
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Marina cell sites 625

Shot clocks only matter if a referee blows the whistle. California and federal laws, and Federal Communications Commission regulations set deadlines of anywhere from 60 days to 150 days for local agencies to approve or deny permits for construction or modification of wireless facilities, including cellular sites. In theory, when the deadline passes, the permit is deemed granted (or deemed approved, per California’s law). In practice, I’ve never seen a mobile company try to exercise deemed granted privileges in California.… More

Why traffic signals are lavishly lit but muni IT networks are frugal with fiber

30 November 2020 by Steve Blum
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Traffic lights

The classic make versus buy question asks whether it’s cheaper or otherwise more advantageous for a company to manufacture a product or create a service, or to buy it from an outside source. When municipal fiber is involved, the same metrics and equation apply, but the answers are sometimes surprising.

If a city wants to use fiber to connect facilities or for traffic management, make and buy are completely different scenarios. Public agencies have a tendency to favor solutions that are light on ongoing operating costs, particularly given the uncertainty cities in California face regarding revenue and the uncontrolled long term growth of contractual obligations such as employee pensions and health care.… More