Tag: "educational network"

Posted June 8, 2011 by christopher

Tony Evers, the Wisconsin State Superintendent, has voiced concerns about a provision in Wisconsin' budget bill that we discussed yesterday. It would force Wisconsin to return tens of millions in broadband stimulus awards intended to connect schools and libraries in a few communities while also raising prices for most local governments, libraries, and schools around the country by killing the coop that connects the communities. Evers wrote the following letter on June 7 in response.

I am extremely concerned and alarmed by the telecommunications provisions which passed the Joint Finance Committee Friday night and their impact on Wisconsin’s public libraries, public and private schools, the university system, technical colleges, and WiscNet. These provisions will have a devastating impact on the University of Wisconsin System campuses and our schools and public libraries. This language was introduced very late in the legislative process and there was no time for any public review, comments or feedback from those impacted by these provisions.

From the UW perspective, this will require it to return the $39 million in broadband grants to the federal government. In addition, it will prohibit any UW campus from participating in advanced research networks linking research institutions worldwide. You cannot have a renowned research institution, like the UW-Madison, without having access to such networks.

From the public and private school and library perspective, seventy-five percent of our public schools and ninety-five percent of our public libraries get Internet access via WiscNet - a not-for-profit network service under the auspices of the UW-Madison. The provision in this legislation will very likely make it impossible for WiscNet to continue offering Internet access. If our schools and libraries must use other Internet providers most will pay at least 2-3 times more than what WiscNet now charges. Furthermore, other Internet providers base their charges on how much bandwidth a school or library has - the higher the bandwidth, the higher the Internet costs. WiscNet’s funding formula is not based on bandwidth. Thus as schools and libraries continue to increase their bandwidth, their WiscNet costs remain the same. With our schools and libraries facing substantial budget reductions, how can anyone justify making them pay more...

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Posted June 7, 2011 by christopher

For the rest of the summer, Wisconsin could be the new battleground in the ongoing effort for big companies like AT&T and Time Warner Cable to secure their de facto monopoly positions.

In North Carolina, Time Warner Cable passed a bill effectively preventing communities from building next-generation networks offering services far superior to what TWC offered. Now AT&T and its allies in Wisconsin are trying to stop local governments, universities, libraries, and schools from using a buying coop -- called WiscNet -- to procure better connections than AT&T will provide, at lower prices than AT&T would charge. Why compete when you can outlaw the competition?

WiscNet is essentially a buying coop -- a public/private partnership connecting, among others, University of Wisconsin schools, local governments, libraries, and local public schools. As Barry Orton, Professor of Telecommunications at UW-Madison reminded me, buying coops are "great for buyers, not so great for the sellers."

In this case, sellers like AT&T want to kill the coop so local governments, schools, and libraries, are forced to buy the connections they need from AT&T or other incumbents. This will mean more tax dollars going to AT&T rather than educating students, connecting police stations, and generally allowing public sector institutions to function. From the Wisconsin State Journal:

The motion prohibits the UW System from taking part in WiscNet, the network provider for 450 organizations, including K-12 schools, libraries, cities and county governments.

No one has any doubts that AT&T and its allies are squarely behind this measure.

To be clear, this has nothing to do with last-mile connections. WiscNet is not providing connections to residents. This is a question of whether local governments can use a network they build and operate collaboratively with other public institutions like UW or whether they have to take whatever AT&T is selling (many small towns only have a single incumbent offering these dedicated access connections).

Last year, we wrote about Republican opposition to a broadband...

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Posted February 19, 2011 by christopher

The story about Wisconsin becoming the first state to return broadband stimulus funds has circulated quite quickly over recent days. The state, which is one of several to have recently swung far more conservative than it traditionally is, has returned other stimulus funds unrelated to broadband as well. In this case, they were apparently surprised at the previously well-publicized terms of the award for which they applied:

State officials are returning $23 million to the federal government, saying there were too many strings attached to stimulus money that was supposed to be for expanding high-speed Internet service in schools, libraries and government agencies.

We previously noted efforts by a few legislators to meddle in a different project to preserve AT&T's monopoly on providing over-priced services to schools and community institutions in part of the state. This is different, but related as Wisconsin has made it very difficult for the network used by the University of Wisconsin to be owned by the University, a gift to AT&T that just keeps on giving. Because the stimulus funds would have been given to AT&T to expand the network, the University would have to continue using that network for the 22 year period required under the conditions of the award. But the contract with AT&T is only for 5 years -- so Wisconsin complained about "strings" attached to the award. Stop the Cap! has published an excellent research piece covering various facets of this story.

Currently BadgerNet largely exists as an extension of AT&T’s network in Wisconsin. That is a critical point. Had BadgerNet initially been created as an independent entity, today’s stimulus rejection might never have happened. Wisconsin, no doubt at the behest of AT&T, built its network with a leasing arrangement, signing five-year term contracts to rent space on AT&T’s fiber-copper wire facilities. That kept...

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