In the latter part of 2008 our industry association, WISPA – Wireless Internet Service Providers Association, heard about the ‘stimulus’ coming down the pike. We were told that they were allocating a big chunk of these monies to build-out rural America with broadband services. Of course we were excited, as we had the only technology in America that, effectively and cost specifically, could build out America, especially rural areas!
The FCC was touting our wireless technology as “More bang for the buck!” … I remember one fellow stating that these monies would so be so easy to obtain that we could “write our technical plan on a cocktail napkin and get an award, as they were so desperate for applications” …
Well, I was fortunate, as my company had already been surveying my neck of the woods. At that time, my business, St. Louis Broadband was only servicing business customers in St. Louis. I was called about a year prior to see if I could provide service in one of the lake communities in St. Francois county, Missouri – My hometown and the Leadbelt.
This area has always been depressed and taken advantage of. Mining was a major part of this community, which has dried up and left its cancerous tailings behind.
As well some of this area sits on mines and it is within the New Madrid Fault Zone. Which makes one know that First Responders are going to need all the help they can get.
All the reasons presented to myself, I decided I had to participate. I could deliver jobs, expand the 911 and bring broadband to rural America!
This was an exciting time in my life, speaking to communities about their needs, trips to Washington D.C., meeting politicians and heads .gov departments. It is pretty scary to be put in front of the heads of AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, et al, and NSA, FBI, FEMA … et al., and have to talk about one’s technology, I can say as a fact.!
The ‘project’ we were to build would encompass counties from St. Francois and south to Bollinger, then west to Texas and north to Washington county. This was the majority of the Missouri 8th Congressional District, a large swath of land.
Because ‘jobs’ was one of the main agendas of the stimulus, We had to figure out how to create them. Our project was going to cost millions of tax-payer dollars, and we had to be a good steward. We came up with an idea, and a software vendor in Canada. They created customer service applications. They also helped to staff these customer service jobs, most were outsourced overseas, but they were going to bring 5,000 of these jobs back to the states. We made and agreement to use their software for our network operations center – NOC. They, in turn, were to give us a thousand of these jobs! Win-win!
We were also working with the 911 services, so that we might expand their wireless footprint. We were including tower space for their equipment and even purchasing additional equipment for them. In the southeast portion of Missouri, the 911 communications, during this time, did not exist in some communities. This is very concerning as this area needs excellent communications because of the NMFZ.
We met with the county commissioners, as well, and got their input and support.
By the time we got everything on the drawing board, and it was a big job, the cost was getting close to $60MM. But in consideration for what this was going to do and actually, build out this area, the price was … “more bang for the buck!”
Well … enter Missouri and Jay Nixon. The states decided that they should have input on these monies and Jay Nixon started one of the biggest campaigns in the NATION! He spent, unauthorized monies, to hire a Telco attorney for the State of Missouri. He then created an organization called MOBroadbandNOW!
They were organizing networks that were going to interconnect in Missouri and creating, what we thought, was a fair and ethical forum, but in fact what I believe to be part of the ‘secondary’ network, that I believe will be used to take down our primary network, our Internet that you and I connect to. We will get to that …
To participate with the state meant that we had to first turn in our application to them, prior to the feds. We had to agree that the state could OWN our information, once handed in. I did not like this, as this was not their intellectual property, but I also had a duty to the folks in the MO8th to bring them jobs and broadband. Reluctantly, we submitted. The state chose not to support our application. However, of one of the wireless applications that was chosen, they used, what appeared to be our tower configuration!
One of the counties in our coverage was Iron county. Iron county boasts one of the highest points in Missouri. We had planned on using wind turbines for battery backup. The silly fellow that used this design used it in an area that had no wind, as he was in the Bootheel!
Well after that fiasco and learning ‘their’ discriminating process, then came round two!
Because there were so few participants the NTIA and USDA had lots of USD still in the basket. And here comes Gov Nixon, asking us to AGAIN submit a plan to them. So again, I looked to the folks in my area and felt the obligation. As well, this would be life changing to me, personally, as I was a single mom. So again to the drawing board.
It was during the second round that I found the software vendor and snagged those jobs, so I felt pretty good about our application. But I was concerned about the state, as I knew their shenanigans they pulled on us during the first round … so I did not disclose all, especially on our jobs.
Big River Telephone aka Big River Broadband had participated in the first round with the state and been selected by the state as a partner. We did not give them much consideration, as the wireless technology that they were to use was inferior to ours, and much more costly. As well as the fact that this company, at that time, had very little wireless experience. They were basically a reseller of AT&T wholesale. But they did own license in a specific frequency that they planned on building out in. Several WISPs and I discussed these licenses, in this geo-specific, area and scratched our heads …
We submitted our plan and jobs numbers to the state. Amazingly Big River Broadband matched our jobs numbers and a few more. I believe, in the first round, their numbers were around 140. While the cost of their project changed by very little their jobs jumped to 1,370! Good ole MOBrodbandNow! And of course Big River Broadband received the award.
To date Big River has failed to deliver these jobs, in fact, according to their most recent filing, they have created <100. As well, part of the requirement to be awarded these monies was to serve and area that did NOT have service. They expand in large communities, most likely stating they are not using tax-payer dollars for, but using their other corporation Big River Telephone. I don’t know their paper trail, but I do know there is a lack of oversight and pubic disclosure.
I don’t know if all of the broadband stimulus monies met the same issues that we did, here in the MO8th … All I know is that it was a very corrupt program in Missouri that leads me to question the September 30th deadline, 0bama has created to hand our Internet over to the U.N.
I also do not understand how the NTIA has now become the lead agency representing the U.S. within ICANN. Nor how ICANN has created a sublayer called IANA. Up until 2009 the NTIA was a ‘shell’ organization, is what I recall hearing. The two funding arms of the broadband stimulus was the USDA, for rural areas, and the NTIA for populous. But more on that later, as I have to sift through my old notes … Yes I am a geek, I have terabytes!