Wireless broadband network set to launch next year

U.S. schools, businesses, and consumers might get more options in wireless service starting next year, with the launch of a new wireless broadband network that aims to provide competition to the incumbent phone companies, reports the Associated Press. Private-equity firm Harbinger Capital Partners on July 20 revealed details of the launch of its wireless network, LightSquared, which should cover 92 percent of the population by 2015. But there are financial and regulatory hurdles to overcome. And in another wrinkle, LightSquared won’t initially be offering conventional cell-phone service, just data. It’s possible to send phone calls over data connections, but that technology is not fully mature or standardized. Still, LightSquared represents a rare new entrant in the wireless market. Only two other companies, Verizon Wireless and AT&T Inc., have firm plans to build nationwide networks using the same, fourth-generation network technology that LightSquared will use. Sprint Nextel Corp., through its Clearwire Corp. subsidiary, is building a third one with a different 4G technology that’s likely to get less support from equipment makers. Consumers won’t buy service directly from LightSquared. Instead, it will sell access wholesale to other companies that can resell it to consumers. LightSquared plans to start providing service in the second half of 2011 in Las Vegas, Phoenix, Denver, and Baltimore…

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Education goals in National Broadband Plan revealed

Broadband access provides educational opportunities
Broadband access provides countless educational opportunities, FCC officials say.

Upgrading the federal e-Rate program to provide more connectivity to schools and libraries, removing the barriers to online learning so that more students can take advantage, and unlocking the power of data to personalize learning and improve school decision-making are three key recommendations to help education prosper under the National Broadband Plan that will be released next month, Federal Communication Commission (FCC) officials said during a Feb. 18 broadband meeting.

Meanwhile, the FCC took its first step toward changing the e-Rate’s rules to make it a better vehicle for delivering broadband access to all citizens: A Feb. 18 FCC order allows school systems to let members of their community use e-Rate funded infrastructure after school hours for the 2010 program year.

At the agency’s broadband meeting, officials revealed what they called “working recommendations” for the broadband plan in sectors such as education, health care, government, security, and job training.…Read More

Broadband access gap remains large

With 40 percent of U.S. homes without broadband, educators continue the push to close the digital divide.
With 40 percent of U.S. homes without broadband, educators continue the push to close the digital divide.

Roughly 40 percent of Americans do not have high-speed internet access at home, according to new Commerce Department figures that reinforce what some educators believe is causing some students to fall behind.

“There’s lots of talk about digital literacy. That’s something that should be built into the curriculum,” said Charles Benton, chairman and CEO of the Benton Foundation.

“The three R’s alone are not sufficient for today’s needs. We’ve got to be using today’s tools. It’s an old point, but we’ve got to keep beating that drum until we get the funding.”…Read More

Google to build ultra-fast web networks

The U.S. ranks 28th in broadband internet access, according to a report released last summer.
The U.S. ranks 28th in broadband internet access, according to a report released last summer.

Google Inc. plans to build a handful of experimental, ultra-fast internet networks around the country to ensure that tomorrow’s systems can keep up with online video and other advanced applications that the company will want to deliver. The internet search giant’s plans could help rural schools and colleges hoping to expand broadband web access to students and faculty.

The Google project, announced Feb. 10, is also intended to provide a platform for outside developers to create and try out all sorts of cutting-edge applications that will require far more bandwidth than today’s networks offer.

The company said its fiber-optic broadband networks will deliver speeds of 1 gigabit per second to as many as 500,000 Americans.…Read More

Schools weigh in on national broadband plan

School stakeholders have several suggestions for how the e-Rate can be a part of the National Boradband Plan.
School stakeholders have several suggestions for how the e-Rate can be a part of the National Broadband Plan.

To help provide broadband access to more citizens, the Federal Communications Commission should expand the eligible uses of e-Rate discounts to include after-school programs and community centers, many school leaders and education groups say—but only if the $2.25 billion-a-year funding cap also is raised.

The federal stimulus package that Congress passed last year directed the FCC to submit a National Broadband Plan to lawmakers by Feb. 17, but FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has asked for a one-month extension so the agency can comb through the vast number of public comments it has received over the past year as it has gathered input on how to make universal broadband a reality.

Several dozen of those comments come from education stakeholders, who responded to the FCC’s call for feedback on how it might leverage the e-Rate in its national plan.…Read More