Group seeks to accelerate deployment of transformational ultra-high speed connectivity to all Americans
Washington, DC, June 23, 2013 – On the heels of a sold-out Kansas City conference of 400 local leaders that showcased the economic and social benefits of gigabit connectivity, the Fiber to the Home Council Americas (FTTH Council) today challenged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to establish a Gigabit Communities Race to the Top program, which would demonstrate new models for communications investment and jumpstart the development of ultra-high speed applications so critical to economic growth and social interaction. Modeled on the Obama Administration’s successful Race to the Top education initiative, the FTTH Council petition sets forth a competitive program of matching grants of up to $10 million for projects in Tier II and Tier III markets where communities working with service providers develop innovative proposals for bringing symmetric gigabit connections to community anchor institutions and their neighboring communities.
On Friday, the FCC voted to modernize the Commission’s E-Rate program by supporting proposals to bring ultra-high speed broadband into the nation’s bandwidth-strapped schools and libraries. The Gigabit Communities Race to the Top program is a logical complement to this effort, empowering communities outside major markets to bring ultra-high speeds to vital community institutions and their surrounding areas. By demonstrating the great value of an environment with unlimited bandwidth for residents and businesses, the program would propel gigabit connectivity for residents and businesses throughout the country. Much like the Department of Education’s Race to the Top for states, the Gigabit Communities Race to the Top program would give competitive grants to support deployment and innovation in areas of the country often left behind, allowing local creativity to plot a path forward. The FTTH Council’s initiative further advances the goals laid out in the National Broadband Plan and in former FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski’s Gigabit City Challenge.
Many community anchor institutions are eligible to receive funds to support their broadband needs through separate mechanisms—schools and libraries through the E-Rate Program and hospitals and clinics through the Rural Health Care Program. The petition filed today asks the Commission to devote a small portion of existing Universal Service funds to reward communities who address these multiple community connectivity issues holistically, ensuring the most “bang for the buck” by making that planning and deployment more efficient and cost-effective.
For community anchor institutions, ultra-high speed networks will allow them to use and develop applications that cannot operate as envisioned on today’s slower broadband networks and will open doors to as-yet-undreamed-of advances in healthcare, education and public safety. In addition, these test-beds will help drive demand for next generation services and the improve business case for the deployment of more complete networks in the communities where they are located.
“We are entering into the age of the unlimited bandwidth – finally,” said FTTH Council Americas President Heather Gold. “We passionately believe these networks will lead to the creation of a new generation of transformational applications that will promote more rapid investment in and deployment of ultra-high speed networks across the country. We know because we’ve already seen it in those select areas with all-fiber networks. Now we need to ensure all communities in the U.S. get it.”
Elements of the Gigabit Race To the Top Program
• The FCC would hold annual competitions in which facilities and service providers, working with local governments and community anchor institutions like schools, hospitals and libraries would present proposals to deploy gigabit networks and provide services at discounted rates to anchor institutions and surrounding neighborhoods. • The facilities and service providers could be either private or public entities. • The Commission would select the most meritorious proposals and provide winning applicants with up to $10 Million in funds, to be matched by state and private sources, to support the proposals. • The program would be funded by unused support in the current Connect America Fund programs targeting areas serviced by price cap local exchange carriers and would be distributed each year for 5 years beginning in 2014. • Applications would have to describe in detail a proposed project to provide (symmetric) gigabit service to anchor community institutions and neighboring areas in a given area, including a description of which anchor institutions would be served, the nature of the institutions, what links between anchor institutions would be created, the existing and contemplated level of broadband services in the surrounding communities to be served and how the project would serve as a catalyst to drive new applications, additional network builds and community development. • Projects will be favored if they serve a broad range of anchor community institutions – and interactivity among those anchor institutions – as well as the surrounding neighborhoods. Projects that are selected should be transformational and drive urban and civic improvements and economic growth and innovation and job creation in a way existing programs have not.
About the Fiber to the Home Council Americas
The Fiber to the Home (FTTH) Council Americas is a non-profit association consisting of companies and organizations that deliver video, Internet and/or voice services over high-bandwidth, next-generation, direct fiber optic connections - as well as those involved in planning and building FTTH networks. Its mission is to accelerate deployment of all-fiber access networks by demonstrating how fiber-enabled applications and solutions create value for service providers and their customers, promote economic development and enhance quality of life. More information about the Council can be found at www.ftthcouncil.org.