Thursday, February 25, 2010

LD 1697 Killed in Maine Legislature

On Feb 23, 2010 the Utilities and Energy Committee of the Maine Legislature unanimously voted "ought not to pass" on LD1697 "An Act To Protect Universal Service", sponsored by Representative Stacey Fitts.  The bill sought to set new rules with respect to University of Maine System provision of telecommunication services to UM campuses and related sites.

The intent was, at least in part, an attempt to head off what was seen as unfair competition between governmental organizations and private communications providers -- in particular FairPoint.  Misconceptions of the role of UMS in the roll out of the Three Ring Binder Project also seemed to be at work.  Discussions within the Committee, comments from affected parties made to the Committee, and extended discussions involving UMS and FairPoint representatives appear to have clarified matters for all concerned.

Maine is a small and a poor state.  There is far more to do in provision of high quality telecommunications infrastructure than any of the parties can manage on their own, now and especially as needs expand in the future.  There is room for everyone's best efforts in rolling out services to Mainers with no current broadband options, and regularly improving services to those already with modest link.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A Word About Ads

You may have noticed a few text ads tucked in and around Maine Broadband News posts.  I hope you do not find them intrusive.  I am experimenting with Google's ad service, without much anticipation of financial payback.  As a writer and a retiree I am not at all philosophically opposed to the concept of being paid for writing. 

My first principle, however, is to write whatever I wish without any consideration of what is being advertised.  If any of the inserted ads appear inappropriate, please contact me.  I think I can exclude particular advertisers if I wish...

Maine Fiber Company Hits Wire Services

Can't help noting that the Maine Fiber Company news release that formed the basis of the firm's presentation to the ConnectME Authority, reported here on January 29, just hit the wire services on February 9.  How's that for latency?  Such sluggish coverage of such an important topic is part of the  reason for this blog.  Just saying...

Monday, February 1, 2010

What Is Three-Ring Binder Impact on Libraries & Schools?

My background is in library technology.  Former colleagues have asked whether the Three-Ring Binder Project (3BR) will help libraries libraries.  I think it probably will, but not directly and not immediately. It may have more relevance as a "next generation" platform by which libraries and schools gain access to connections much faster than those currently available. 

Some background... Currently, most public libraries and school buildings, some 1100 or so in all, have access to the Internet via the Maine School and Library Network.  It was developed in the 1990's, in part as a resolution of a telephone rate case before the Maine Public Utilities Commission and in part as an extension of  the "universal service principle" to public and educational access to online information.  Federal dollars have played a large part in sustaining the service.

MSLN links have evolved from 64 kbps Frame Relay to nominal 1.5 mbps links as use has burgeoned.  Some sites have left MSLN for locally available alternatives that provide even greater bandwidth at an affordable price.  Relatively few sites have the luxury of such alternatives, however. 

As time goes by, more and more information services with richer and richer content will migrate to the Internet.  This is inevitable and guarantees year over year increases in required network performance.  This climbing demand curve nicely intersects with the vastly increased bandwidth available to customers linked to the 3RB fiber network.  Fiber to the premises will likely be an option for many.  Without 3RB, fiber might be a far more remote possibility.

The key thing is this: 3RB deploys into rural Maine an infrastructure for advanced, high-bandwidth services that in most locations would not exist for many years.  HOWEVER, 3RB does not provide the services themselves.  Established and new telecommunications carriers will have the opportunity, on an equal and open access basis, to "light up" the dark fiber in the 3RB and run the "last-mile" links to libraries, schools, businesses and individuals.  Link speed and price will be set by these last-mile carriers.  Competing firms may well offer similar services for very different prices.  Some may offer special deals for non-profits, community institutions and/or schools.  Others may not. 

Whether or when it will make sense to move from MSLN to a 3RB-enabled service is an open question.  Same for the question of whether MSLN might somehow ride this new fiber in a few years.   As the network is built and last-mile carriers begin to offer services, the possibilities and the end-user costs will become much clearer. 

What we have right now is massive possibility and question marks.  To call this "uncertainty" is to take a "glass half empty" view.  I think the high probability of a big leap forward in connectivity in a year or two is truly a glass half, or perhaps 3/4 full.