The state of Oregon earlier this week awarded its contract for broadband mapping under the stimulus law. The news in the announcement is that the winner was not Connected Nation. Instead, the winner was a consortium headed by One Economy, including New America Foundation, BroadMap, Navteq, and BCT Partners.
It doesn’t appear as if Connected Nation even bid on this one. The One Economy’s $1.6 million bid won out over six other competitors. So far, the One Economy group has won in Hawaii, Guam and Samoa, in addition to Oregon. The bid will combine New America’s new crowd-sourcing technology with One Economy’s Digital Connectors youth corps while aiming to be more transparent than Connected Nation. The group promised a heavy emphasis on demand-side mapping, along with a live and updateable data base.
The consortium promised in its response to the state RFP: “Importantly, broadband mapping is a public resource and must be treated as such. The user interface must be easily accessible and useful to business ventures, non-profits, policymakers, academic researchers and the public. It must be transparent with data sources flagged and holes in the data understood. It is critical to utilize the best in class companies to provide the best user experience in accessing this data for both decision makers and consumers.”
In addition, the group said in its proposal that it wouldn’t be dependent on data from telecom carriers: “Finally, while it would be easier to rely primarily on data from broadband providers, this information can be incomplete and limited in scope. Carrier-provided data is an essential starting point, but needs to be verified and supplemented with other sources. We emphasize data collection from a state’s consumers themselves. Broadband user experience and short-form survey data can be “crowd-sourced” in large numbers online, producing useful feedback to citizens’ in the process. More in-depth supply- and demand-side data is collected as well through longer-form surveys, such as by One Economy’s Digital Connectors.”
Meanwhile, Kentucky is about ready to issue a Request for Proposals for stimulus-funded broadband mapping. The new RFP will not be a gift to Connect Kentucky, the original organization from which Connected Nation developed. Greg Haskamp, executive policy advisor for the Finance and Administration Cabinet, told us that the state will be the primary agency for the stimulus funds, and that a “competitive RFP” will be issued for the mapping. Haskamp said the bidding will be “open to anyone. We would welcome an open process.” Haskamp said the state will look closely to make certain that anchor institutions, such as schools and libraries, have good broadband connections.
Despite those assurances, however, some sources in the state said that Connect Kentucky is not out of the picture, and indeed is working hard using political connections to get the mapping contract. Giving CK a contract would be a dramatic reversal, because Gov. Steve Beshear vetoed CK’s $2 million appropriation in April, and the legislature didn’t override it.
In addition, Kentucky state government will work with its universities to review the data originally collected by Connect Kentucky, Haskamp said. That job will involve reviewing maps and perhaps some field testing, he added. As is becoming normal, telecom carriers are resisting calls for more specific data to be reported. Haskamp said he was told by carriers in the state that collection of carrier-specific data was “the first step toward regulation.”
Connected Nation’s mapping is now causing a controversy in West Virginia. According to the Charleston Daily Mail, there is some concern that Connected Nation’s earlier maps may keep the state from receiving broadband stimulus funds. The story quoted Dave Armentrout of FiberNet as saying that Connect West Virginia’s maps show few remote areas in the state that aren’t served with broadband.
According to the newspaper, “The way ‘remote area’ has been defined by the federal agencies overseeing the program has eliminated most of West Virginia, ‘which we all know is ridiculous because West Virginia ranks in the top 47 or 48 states un-served by broadband,’ Armentrout said.” The story quoted Connect West Virginia as saying broadband is available to 81 percent of state residents.
The next state to make an announcement on a broadband mapping contract could be Iowa, which received three bids for its mapping project. One agency in the state originally wanted to award the contract to Connected Nation on a sole-source basis, but the staff of Gov. Chet Culver (D) made the bidding competitive instead.