Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski traveled to Alaska in August to check the progress of $88 million in stimulus spending for broadband buildout in the state. Claims made by Genachowski, however, have not registered well with free-market advocates who say the buildout would’ve happened without taxpayer dollars.
Project Terra, the name given the stimulus project, apportioned stimulus grants to local telecom GCI for buildout in 65 rural Alaska communities. A portion of the funding for the project came from the Universal Service Fund, which telecommunications companies are required to collect as a fee on every U.S. customer’s phone and Internet bill.
Genachowski traveled to Dillingham, Alaska with U.S. Sen. Marc Begich (D-AK) in late August for a public celebration of the project.
Asserting Project Terra provides a successful telecommunications model for building infrastructure in rural Alaska, Genachowski claimed, “Public-private partnerships are necessary to achieve that goal. It won’t happen by itself.”
Access Above 90 Percent
Data provided by Connect Alaska—a nonprofit agency commissioned by the State of Alaska to work with each of the state’s broadband providers to create detailed maps of broadband coverage and assess the current state of broadband adoption, community-by-community, across Alaska—tell a different story, however.
Connect Alaska states that as of April 2011, “According to the most current information, 86.36 percent of Alaska households have access to terrestrial fixed broadband service of at least 768Kbps downstream and 200 Kbps upstream (excluding mobile and satellite services)—representing approximately 30,217 unserved households that do not have access to a fixed wireless or wired broadband service offering. With mobile broadband service included, 91.22 percent or 202,149 Alaska households have access to broadband service of at least 768 Kbps downstream and 200 Kbps upstream.”
Seton Motley, president of Less Government, a Washington, DC, think tank specializing in telecommunications issues, says the government stimulus program is unnecessary because private industry has done an impressive job of broadband and wireless buildout already.
“It took the telephone industry more than 70 years to provide landlines for 93 percent of the United States. In less than 15 years, the private sector of the telecommunications industry has been able to provide Internet service to 98 percent of our nation’s population,” Motley notes.
Bruce Edward Walker ([email protected]) is managing editor of Infotech &Telecom News.
Connect Alaska Web site: http://connectak.org/mapping/interactive_map.php98 percent
“FCC Chairman Sees Rural Realities in Southwest Alaska,” KTUU Channel 2, August 29, 2011: http://www.ktuu.com/news/ktuu-fcc-chairman-sees-rural-realities-in-southwest-alaska-20110829,0,5023053.story