Dialogue about the ‘Wireless Cloud’

This morning, noting this post and the comments on it, Cindi sent a note to Gordon and Mike, whom she knows from past lives (Gordon was my boss when I was Cindi’s boss when she was a reporter 20 years ago; Mike Cakora was one of our "community columnists" when we had that program on the op-ed page several years back):

Good morning Gordon and Mike

    I hope you’re both doing well.
    I’ve just been reading over your comments on Brad’s blog, and it occurred to me that if y’all read the legislative study committee report that is the backdrop for the news release he posted, 1) you might find it interesting and 2) you might be able to help me think through this — either via e-mail or through a continued discussion on Brad’s blog, whichever you prefer.
    I think the report should shed additional light on precisely what is being considered. In short, the majority report recommends hiring a consultant to further think through what to do with the ETV licenses; the minority report says this is plan is a recipe for losing a valuable state resource, which will revert to the feds if we don’t have a plan in place in less than a year.
    My initial, uninformed take is to agree with the minority report, written by Rep. Dwight Loftis. By way of background, Sen. Jim Ritchie — who along with Loftis first got this conversation going in the State House a year ago — had been spinning me in advance on the importance of the state taking action. He’s a proponent of a laptop for every student, by the way, a plan I am not sold on….
    I feel like this is something our editorial board needs to weigh in on at some point….
    Also, since Rep. Loftis has added me to his broadband e-mail list, I have received a handful of articles on the topic that I would be happy to share with either or both of you if you’d like.


Gordon urged me to post the report Cindi referred to on the blog so we could have a discussion here. Here’s the report.

Mike also answered as follows:

To the extent that I can contribute, I will.  After my first scan of the report, I want to look at the FCC deadlines that the minority report is concerned about.  I need to get clear on FCC terminology too. 

Environmentally speaking, Clearwire looks to be involved with Sprint and Intel in trying to rescue WiMax according to breaking news. 

Thus Clearwire’s role as a proponent in some of the BTAs in this state is interesting.  I pulled the latest lobbyist report and found that while all the usual players — Sprint Nextel, Intel, Time Warner, etc. — have lobbyists, Clearwire does not. 

Mike Cakora

So if you’re hip to the highly technical issues involved, here’s your chance to jump in. Personally, I’m depending on Cindi to figure it out and help me make up my mind. This is your chance to help Cindi — and Mike and Gordon as well.

Back before I started this blog, people like Dan Gillmor told me that the Blogosphere was chock-full of people who knew more about various issues (especially technical ones) than I or any other journalist did. While that is occasionally the case, it hasn’t been as often as I’d like. This seems like a good opportunity to realize the true potential of blogging.


27 thoughts on “Dialogue about the ‘Wireless Cloud’

  1. Mike Cakora

    Folks wanting a bit more background can visit the South Carolina Broadband Technology and Communications Study Committee’s website. You can find meeting minutes, background papers, and even the the list of questions (MS Word format) the committee sought to answer in its report. (The responses it got back are here (MS Word format).
    If you really want to know all about BRS & EBS Radio Services and what the FCC is up to with them, click here. I liken it to trying to take a sip from a fire hose.

  2. Brad Warthen

    Here’s an example of the kind of valuable feedback I’m getting on this, beyond the usual:

    Hey Brad,

        I read your blog’s posting and comments on Educational Broadband ("The Wireless Cloud"), and H. 4692.
        I know there’s some confusion about what this technology is and what it can really do. It’s an exciting opportunity for the state, and I’d be happy to chat with you to review what ETV has proposed, and exactly where we are at this point.
        We have a short four-minute video on Educational Broadband and a list of FAQ’s on our web site:
        ETV also produced a report more than a year ago with much more detail– I’d be happy to send that along.
        Let me know if you or the editorial board would like to talk about this sometime– I think y’all would find it very interesting.


    Maurice "Moss" Bresnahan
    President & CEO
    South Carolina ETV

    And this provides me with an opportunity to perform one of the main missions of this blog, which is to provide a window into the workings of The State’s editorial board: I will leave it up to Cindi whether it’s necessary to meet with Moss and the other various stakeholders involved in this issue. She’s the board member assigned to help the rest of us be smarter about this issue. Our rule of thumb is that if we’re confident we can get all we need without the meeting, that’s the way we go. If we need meetings, then OK. And I have a feeling that on this one, it would indeed be meetings, plural. For that reason, in the course of triaging our very limited time, we will try to exhaust other avenues first.

  3. Brad Warthen

    OK, a dialogue is continuing among Cindi, Gordon, Mike and Moss via e-mail. I was sort of hoping it would happen HERE, and maybe it still will.

    But to catch you up, Moss has added the following to our knowledge of ETV’s position:

    Hey Cindy,

    Just a follow-up to Brad’s email…here are some bullet points you might find interesting….

    –As ETV converts its distance learning channels to digital Educational Broadband (EBS), the opportunities for South Carolina are unlimited. EBS can break down barriers to academic achievement, assist public safety, and advance economic development.

    –The closed-circuit educational channels currently in use for instructional videos in every school district would be transformed into a high-speed wireless broadband network. So, students, teachers and staff could utilize ETV’s array of content and programs on-demand at school or at home, anytime.

    –Through an RFP and bidding process, a winning telecommunications firm would be selected to construct a statewide wireless network using ETV’s licensed spectrum, at no cost to the state. The firm would lease 90 percent of the channels’ capacity from ETV for commercial WiMAX services.  This would bring a new generation of wireless products to consumers in SC.

    –ETV would then use the remaining 10 percent of capacity for educational and public services. Students could participate in curriculum at home or on the bus; or public service officials could file reports or media from the field, or download critical information.

    –This high-speed wireless broadband network would connect students in every corner of the state to ETV’s state-of-the-art educational content. This would enable students for the first time access to instructional videos, virtual courses, and digital content outside of the school building.

    –It would allow virtual schools to reach students in every corner of the state, including the most rural areas of our state currently without broadband.

    –EBS would make ETV’s extensive teacher training, public safety training, and state agency training available to all regions, which in terms of burgeoning economic and budgeting challenges, will become increasingly important.

    –The availability of WiMAX would help close the digital divide in rural areas unserved by traditional broadband, and provide added competition in other regions. Wireless broadband makes the services more affordable in rural areas.

    –The lease agreement between ETV and the WiMAX company would generate revenue—possibly millions of dollars a year—for ETV’s educational content and services. This would allow ETV to create and acquire virtual classes and interactive content made for web delivery especially for today’s digital learners. The Internet offers better facilitation of learning, and provides accountability– two main requirements of all educational institutions.

    –A unique, statewide wireless WiMAX cloud, used for education, economic development and commercial services, would project an image of South Carolina to the nation as innovative, cutting edge and committed to high technology.

    –A statewide WiMAX cloud would allow enhanced government and educational services, such as hotspots for highway patrol, tourist services, information services.

    –As WiMAX is deployed globally over the next several years, a statewide WiMAX cloud in South Carolina could assist economic development in several ways.  South Carolina companies could be leaders in developing new wireless services, and then market them globally. (BMW in Greenville is already planning to test a WiMAX connected car.)

    –For businesses in rural areas, this new network could help them connect with the knowledge economy. The economic “world is flat,” and by creating access to the internet, anywhere, anytime, businesses in the rural counties would have access to all the same tools and expertise that major corporations enjoy.

    Both the technology and politics of this are fascinating. Call me with any questions!


    Maurice "Moss" Bresnahan
    President & CEO
    South Carolina ETV

    And so far, Gordon Hirsch has had this to say about that:

    Actually, this helps a lot. It suggests that specific deal terms already have been discussed.  … They propose a 90/10 lease to the highest bidder, with SC getting "free" service in return. Sounds nice, but I’d rather have their cash and a larger share of the bandwidth. It’s a giveaway.

    Now, let’s continue the dialogue. Here, if y’all don’t mind.

  4. Gordon Hirsch

    This is essentially a public auction of excess broadcast bandwidth belonging to ETV, Trident Tech and Greenville Tech, all of which are supported by tax dollars. Simply put, the old educational broadcasting system frequencies now have value as a platform for delivery of wireless Intnernet. That means the state can sell excess bandwidth to telecoms and keep what it needs for “education.”
    So, this is that rarist of opportunities: A NEW SOURCE OF REVENUE, and they’ve already decided to spend it on a statewide “wireless cloud.”
    Bidders will be companies like Sprint that offer services such as WiMax, a longer range digital signal. Nobody really knows what the state’s leases are worth, how much the cloud would cost to implement, or how much money the telecoms can earn from us.
    Next step is for a consulting company to define terms of the bidding process. Meantime, a lot is being made of the project’s educational value, rural Internet service potential, technological leadership, and the like. No discussion yet on other potential uses of the money, like lowering tuition.
    In reality, the bottom-line question is: Will SC be compensated fairly for sale of these broadcast leases? Or will we let the telecoms take us to the cleaners with offers of “free service.”
    And do we want to spend it on a cloud.

  5. Lee Muller

    I agree with Gordon. It looks like the legislature is rushing to spend every cent of what they see as a windfall.
    I think we should look at what other states have been doing with their ETV and with direct satellite, since 1980, when they leapfrogged SCETV. I have taken engineering graduate courses from JPL, Caltech and GA Tech. Meanwhile Clemson offers none, USC made you drive to a TEC campus, and now Sorensen has shut down continuing education.
    I don’t see how this state can seriously expect to compete with GA and NC, much less the world, when its educational resources sit idle 16 hours a day. It is easier for a working executive in Columbia to get an MBA from Duke or Wake Forest than from USC.
    Educational TV had, and still has a great unrealized potential for ECONOMICAL delivery of quality teaching. Why do the legislators and agencies always try to figure how to spend as much money as they can, rather than how to get the most value out of what is at their disposal?

  6. Mike Cakora

    The minority report portion of the SC Broadband committee urges the state to hurry up and figure out a way to use proceeds from leasing out ETV’s excess capacity to fund something like the Wireless Cloud that that Brad blogged about earlier. Note that one of the Wireless Clouds sponsors, House Republican Dwight Loftis is also one of the authors of the committee’s minority report.
    If you wade through the input from those who commented in writing to the committee (see this 138-page MS Word document), you get a feel for the players, the technologies, what the lobbyists are up to, the tradeoffs, in short, the politics.
    What’s clear is that if something isn’t started soon, we’ll miss the FCC’s May 2011 deadline for a built-out system and lose the potentially lucrative ETV licenses.
    The build-out involves converting ETV’s existing Educational Broadband Service (EBS) licenses and associated spectrum from analog to digital. Replacing all that transmission equipment is expensive, but going from analog to digital frees up 80% more capacity that can be used for some other purpose The idea is to lease that capacity to a broadband provider who would pay the costs of ETV’s conversion, getting reimbursed and making a profit by re-selling the excess capacity. The favored technology is WiMax, which you can think of as long-distance Wi-Fi: high-capacity (broadband) Internet access that could cover the state given the large number and location of ETV spectrum licenses.
    Can the state put together a procurement package that attracts enough bidders to get a good price? Does the state need a consultant or some sort of public-private entity to research the market and provide expert advice in putting the package together? Do all the licenses get sold as one package or are they split up? If the latter, who’s going to want the rural parts.
    And what is a good price, anyhow? Who gets to decide what to spend any income on? ETV? The legislature? Education is important, does that mean all students, all teachers / professors, all administrators — everyone involved in any aspect of education — are to get free broadband and laptop or desktop computers? What about public services like libraries, healthcare, law enforcement, government at all levels, and taverns with a wide selection of beers on tap. Do they get a taste of the revenue stream or at lease free broadband access? Such mandates might lower the price and reduce competition for the procurement package.
    So what else is there not to like? Well, the telephone companies are already providing broadband (DSL), ditto for the cable folks, so they have issues about competition and losing existing customers. And some want to move deliberately, others immediately.
    I urge interested folks to read the 138 pages to get sense of the issues and players involved. While I tend to side with the minority, euphoria is a big part of that Wireless Cloud.
    The technology itself has suffered from fits and starts here in Vespucciland. Last summer some of the geek magazines were petrified that Sprint was going to wipe out the competition with its WiMax initiative. But Sprint’s difficulties in swallowing Nextel and stockholder concern about the WiMax spending led to the CEOs ouster and slowdown in that spending. As the link above indicated, Sprint and Clearwire have some Intel money to play with, so WiMax lives!

  7. Lee Muller

    Back to your first observation about the lack of content from ETV, why not spend some of the revenue to produce content, and most of it to make ETV more self-sustaining, by reducing its support from tax monies?
    Without content, ETV is just another Internet provider, like Comcast, Time-Warner, and AT&T. In that case, just sell them off and totally privatize ETV.

  8. Gordon Hirsch

    Good stuff, Mike, particularly the “euphoria” observation. Brad’s caught up in the cool factor, as I was by advent of WiFi — until I learned it meant I could work in more places, including those where I was just starting to learn to relax. Airports, for instance. It’s sort of like mobile phones. You can run but you can’t hide. … I also want to know who’s going to buy computers for our rural folk, equip them with the right NICs, and pay for the airtime. Internet access is just one piece of the pie; Intel has another; and more players will find a way to get theirs.
    … Another thing. Let’s assume that SC cuts a great deal with Sprint and starts to earn a share of paid WiMax services. Is it right for the State to profit from residuals gained at the expense of its citizens? That’s what Moss envisions. … The lines between government and private enterprise are getting blurry again.

  9. Mike Cakora

    Gordon – As for your last point, the procurement package would likely require a fixed lease payment from the provider, so how much or how little it makes selling its services to the public is not a direct interest of the state and poses no conflict.
    As for the rural folks, it’s possible that no one will be happy. If there’s only package for all the licenses that cover the whole state, the winner could bid a winning price with the plan of selling wireless broadband at a higher price in the rural areas. That would reflect its higher costs in the sticks. Meanwhile its pricing would be lower in areas where it has to compete with cable, DSL, or existing wireless broadband from AT&T and Verizon.
    I don’t know if you saw Joanne C. Wilson’s presentation (1.7 MB PDF) and follow-up (29KB MS Word). She probably scared a lot of folks with her solid technical discussion. But she did fairly characterize (in her last reply) the fact that WiMAX has not been proved viable:

    Mobile WiMAX in the 2.5 GHz band, based on the IEEE802.16e-2005 standard, is being trialed by both Clearwire and Sprint Nextel. While both companies have announced their planned deployments, as of today neither company has gone into full commercial operation of a system that is compliant with the IEEE 802.16e-2005 standard and certified as “Mobile WiMAX” by the WiMAX Forum.

    So easy on the euphoria.

  10. Gordon Hirsch

    Thanks, Mike. I’ve just started the 128 pager, so Joanne will be next. And I’m no euphoria fan. In fact, my goal is to be truly wireless someday — unplugged altogether.

  11. Lee Muller

    Rural residents can already receive high speed internet and phone service and HDTV over the existing telephone lines. The consortium of rural telephone companies has already put it in place. Abbeville County, with only a few thousand telephones spread over a very rural edge of the state, has HDTV and Internet all the way to its extremeties.
    ETV should think outside their own box, and focus on their alleged mission of providing education, rather than on being a transmission line for commercial content. ETV could partner with the AT&T and the rural telecom companies to put the best teachers into every school, and to let Clemson and USC offer graduate courses and continuing education courses to every home.

  12. Doug Ross

    Go visit one of the supposed high tech high schools in Richland 2 sometime to see how much “bang for the buck” we’re getting for millions of dollars of technology spending.
    Basically, technology is used 95% of the time to create ugly Powerpoint presentations, Word documents, and to surf the web. My daughter tells me the majority of the kids she sees on the internet at school are using it to access Youtube via proxies to get around the blocking software.
    Until technology is integrated into the curriculum, we should not pursue this boondoggle.
    What we need are high tech vocational high schools (like the one I graduated from in 1979) to teach kids how to use technology in a way that provides them with career opportunities. I was in a program where we spent five full days in a computer lab every other week for three years — doubling up on math and english and science classes in the other weeks.
    Word documents and Powerpoints aren’t going to help much (unless they are planning to go into Marketing 🙂 )
    Wireless is a red herring. We need content.
    Content is king.

  13. Gordon Hirsch

    I’m with you 100% there, Doug. Solid content, combined with curriculum-based use of computers in the schools, likely would be of greater educational value. The sizzle of a wireless cloud has little to do with learning.

  14. Gordon Hirsch

    Mike … Still trying to sort out how all this would work from an operations standpoint. Would ETV and its tenant(s) operate separate networks on common hardware, but each managing its own services and subscription models? … Or would there be duplication of infrastructure for each network (same way some mobile carriers share towers but maintains separate equipment on those towers?) On the landside, do we own all the fiber that ties these towers together? I know SC has a bunch in place already. Can there be common switching and admin staffing for all networks on that fiber, or is staffing and switching duplicated for each network? Who’s in charge? ETV, or are they giving up control to tenants in return for their 10% of bandwidth. … The only thing clear to me at this point is who owns the licenses.

  15. Mike Cakora

    One big political issue is who gets to call the shorts: ETV, the state CIO, or whatever. This will be hassled out in the legislature where they’ll build the box that this is to operate in.
    The big box contains all the licenses. It looks like some in the legislature want to create one procurement package for leasing ETV licenses with the winner to pay the costs to convert ETV’s equipment from analog to digital. I assume that any new fiber strung would belong to the winner, as would new ETV equipment and, of course, the broadband equipment. But the procurement package could direct otherwise, making the ETV equipment a deliverable to ETV. As I understand it, operationally ETV has separate requirements that what a vendor would use for wireless broadband. In other words, it’s a pure analog to digital conversion that has the added benefit of reducing bandwidth requirements, thereby enabling leasing out that surplus bandwidth.
    So one part of the big box is the ETV conversion. The other part, the Wireless Cloud, is the controversial part. Everybody thinks it’s a big cash cow generating enough to pay for the ETV conversion and much, much more.
    The Wireless Cloud has two pieces: a commercial aspect selling licenses to the public and, in the minds of many, a subset of “free” licenses to be dedicated for education. The winning vendor would equip and manage the Wireless cloud; ETV appears to believe that it should allocate the free stuff. Does that make ETV the manager? Who should be the manager?
    Let’s look into the bidders’ mindset. Each provision in the solicitation will affect what bidders are willing to bid. With ETV conversion as a cost common to all, the bidders have to do a bit of calculus in figuring out how much revenue will be generated by the solutions they might propose and what their overall costs will be, and the free stuff will end up as a cost. The committee wants to hire an expert or create an expert entity to figure this out so that we can come up with the best procurement package. That could interject some reality into the discussion.

  16. Lee Muller

    I am currently involved engineering a wireless environment for a business, which encompasses only a few hundred acres, and I can tell you that this ETV proposal has a lot more technical and financial complexity than the legislators imagine, and can become much more complex if the state starts adding contractural requirements before it understands the implications of each. They could easily scare off most bidders, and be left with those who do bid factoring in the uncertainty and risk in the form of much lower bids that are possible.

  17. Moss Bresnahan

    Thanks Brad for using your blog to facilitate this discussion. Many of the comments raise many good questions, but I can also see some misperceptions– which is perfectly understandable given the complexity of the issue.
    Let me address a few of the questions raised here, and hopefully follow-up further into the discussion. Also, I hope folks will feel free to email me at bresnahan@scetv.org.
    –The “wireless cloud” is not as mysterious as it sounds. It is simply a new generation of service, a natural evolution of Wi-Fi and G3 cell phone service. ETV envisions that this would not cost the state anything, and in fact, it would generate revenues to be used for ETV’s educational content for teachers, students and lifelong learners.
    –There are formulas to determine a fair market value of spectrum, based on population density and the capacity of the network, or throughput. Build-out requirements will also impact revenues. But ultimately the value will be determined by the actual bidding process. Several companies have already indicated interest in bidding.
    –Content is absolutely king—- and it is ETV’s vision that lease revenues would support a new generation of virtual classes and digital content to assist breaking down barriers to academic achievement at all levels. With ETV’s new Streamline Internet video service, ETV is more highly utilized in the schools than ever before since it is curriculum based and easy for teachers to use. In fact, we have now been utilized millions of times by teacherss in classrooms. However, ETV’s funding is lower now than it has ever been when adjusted for inflation, so it is our vision that lease revenues could fund a new generation of educational services—- a good example of a state agency generating revenues to support what it’s supposed to be doing.
    –There is really no blurring of government with the private sector here. Pretty much all wireless telecommunications service—from TV to cell phones—- are offered on licensed spectrum regulated by the FCC. For instance, the FCC is currently auctioning the 700 MHz band for new commercial services. The big difference here with ETV’s 2.5 GHz band is that the revenues will go to South Carolina rather than the US Treasury, and the system will be designed to benefit South Carolina, not a national footprint. Most likely, ETV would utilize retained cpacity on a single network for its educational services.
    –ETV is not selecting Wi-MAX. The private sector has selected it. Intel, Motorola, Sprint, Clearwire and hundreds of other companies are placing their bets on the viability of this new wireless broadband standard. Like any new technology, there are questions about whether the public will adopt it or not. But at this point we know Wi-MAX services will begin appearing all over the nation, and there’s no reason to deny South Carolinians access to these commercial services (services that have already been proven to work in Europe). It should be emphasized, however, that the companies are taking the risk, not ETV or the state. And it is likely broadband will be offered by Wi-MAX operators in rural regions not currently served by any ISP provider.
    I hope this helps—- although I’m sure it raises additional questions….

  18. Lee Muller

    As on many issues, I say show you can do something with what you have, before asking for some grandiose new project.
    ETV has made no progress in the last 40 years. It has all sorts of potential if failed to exploit, and things it did do or have, it has failed to leverage.
    Maybe the best thing to do is just privatize ETV entirely. Sell the whole thing off. Maybe new management can catch up to commercial networks like TLC, National Geographic, The History Channel, and 100 others.

  19. Gordon Hirsch

    Moss, first let us say thanks for putting the issue in play here on Brad’s blog. Speaking for myself, I’m a longtime fan of ETV and the good people you work with.
    After reading the minority report, I think we’re all going to be watching for what The Yankee Group comes back with (or other consultantcy group, if that’s not final). And, assuming the RFP brings clarity to the bid specs, we’ll all be able to glean more detail from that effort.
    So, a couple of questions about The Yankee Group, after visiting their web site.
    — What exactly is their role, if any?
    — I didn’t see a client list on their web site. Will they (or any other consultancy) be required to disclose past/present associations with prospective bidders, such as Sprint, Clearwire, Intel, etc?
    — Have any specific deal terms been proposed to Luke Rankin’s committee by a prospective bidder, or discussed by members of the committee?
    — I know time is short and there is a sense of urgency here. How far along are you guys on defining end goals and the means by which you would like to achieve those goals?
    — How will revenues from these leases be received and managed? How much of the expected revenue has already been earmarked for specific projects or purposes?
    Any help would be appreciate with this admittedly complex subject.

  20. Moss Bresnahan

    I’m out of the office today, but want to respond quickly…
    The Yankee Group has not been seleccted, but their studies were often quoted during the broadband hearings, so the were mentioned by name to indicate that the study group wanted to hire a world-class telecommunications group that had extensive experience the the world of Educational Broadband and WiMAX. The Yankee Group is independent and not associated with any telecom as far as I know. They have extensive experience with telcom studies and projects, though I want to reemphasize they have not yet been selected.
    ETV has had an RFP drafted for almost two-years, but we expect the consultant’s findings will help us finalize the goals.
    The consensus so far has been that revenues would support ETV’s educational content for schools, teachers, and lifelong learners. But since we don’t know the exact terms of the lease, nothing has been finalized.
    For folks who only think of ETV as PBS or NPR, here’s a little “ETV by the Numbers” you might find interesting:
    K-12 schools and school related facilities served by ETV’s Instructional TV — 1235
    ETV’s PBS TeacherLine graduate courses taken by SC teachers — 798
    933 hours of training certification to 9500 SC Law Enforcement officials via ETV
    Over 1800 satellite downlink sites serve education, medical, city, county and state agency sites
    Percentage of South Carolinians who tune into ETV and ETV Radio each month — 84%
    Counties served by AMBER Alert and National Weather Service alerts via ETV — 46
    Web site views last year on ETV’s education web site (Knowitall.org) — more than 7 million
    Families who are members of the ETV Endowment — 35,067
    Distance Education Learning Centers (DELCs) broadcast 60,254 hours of instructional programming
    StreamlineSC users since November 2004 — 5.1 million with 100% of SC school districts using the ETV StreamlineSC service
    Teachers trained hands-on by ETV staff — 5200

  21. Lee Muller

    Mr. Bresnahan rattles off numbers, but I look at the ETV content and compare it with what it was in the 1960s, it it is not as good.
    I look for college courses and continuing education to extend USC and Clemson, the way GA Tech, NC State, Caltech and 400 other universities do…. an I see nothing.

  22. Gordon Hirsch

    Thanks, Moss. When you get back to the office, a couple more questions …
    — Can you pass your draft RFP to Cindi/Brad so we can see?
    — I’m no expert on state revenues, but why shouldn’t proceeds from these lease sales go into the general fund? Is it just assumed that ETV should get the money because it owns the broadcast licenses, or do you have some actual legal claim to the funds based on ownership of the licenses?
    — How about Mr. Muller’s observations? Any response?

  23. Brad Warthen

    I just now got to this e-mail from the S.C. Policy Council, which was sent yesterday to my external e-mail account:



    You stated on your blog that you
    did not fully understand the proposed wireless

    The SC Policy Council just
    released an issue paper examining the background of this issue.

    I think it might provide a bit of
    context and perspective




    Very Truly




    Neil Mellen


    Policy Council

    I invited Neil to come here to continue the dialogue.

  24. Mike Cakora

    Full disclosure: I was a member of the SC Policy Council for several years, somehow I let my membership lapse, but I’m going to sign up again real soon because I find their research stimulating and, at my age (almost 58), I welcome any and all legal and moral stimulation. Also, my employer has had contracts with the Palmetto State that involve telecommunications, but we don’t do the kind of stuff associate with this, so I don’t have any conflict of interest.
    I think that the SC Policy Council’s paper seems more in line with the majority position of the committee’s report: let’s get some disinterested pros in to study the matter a bit more before solicitations are put out for bid. That seems more than reasonable.
    Why? To be blunt, a lot of folks assume that:
    – WiMax throughout the state will assure unspecified economic and education advantage;
    – The ETV spectrum licenses are inherently valuable to any enterprise seeking to install a WiMax or other wireless infrastructure:
    – The infrastructure costs will be far less than the costs to effect the ETV conversion.
    But we don’t know which, if any, of these assumptions are true. And, with all due respect to the ETV folks, they have a bias which could, er, cloud their view of the Wireless Cloud. The good news is that they want money to purchase hardware, software, and communications to educate our kids. The bad news is that they may have an unrealistic notion of where that money will come from and how much there is.
    So what if one or more of the assumptions above are not true? What’s the impact? The state will spend some indeterminate period of time evaluating bids that it eventually finds are not compliant and will be forced to generate a new procurement package. In the meantime, it loses the ETV licenses because the FCC’s May 2011 deadline for ETV conversion gets missed.
    Perhaps ETV should plan to do the upgrade on its own. With that out of the way, the state could auction off excess capacity and get a really good view, after the fact, of the revenue available and the Wireless Cloud potential, at least how vendors may see it.
    BTW, keep this in mind too: my role as a contracts manager is to be reactive and conservative in protecting the company – I do risk management. I tell coworkers that I represent “business prevention” (as opposed to business development). Obviously this sort of bias taken to its logical conclusion would put any enterprise out of business, but the good news (?) is that risk managers always have a job.

  25. Gordon Hirsch

    The Policy Council’s report rings true in several key areas:
    “Calls for ETV to guide the auction process, set terms for bids, and directly profit from the sale ignore the fact that ETV’s core competency is (and should remain) the production of South Carolina specific educational content.”
    “It is worth noting that high speed Internet access (commonly called broadband) is already available to consumers statewide through satellite television providers such as Direct TV. Also, terrestrial telecommunications firms are working to catch up with this wide coverage through private investments in improved WiFi and WiMax technologies … Recent testimony by technology experts and industry representatives indicate that 90 percent of existing telephone lines in South Carolina can carry broadband, and nearly 95 percent of existing cable lines already have the ability. Mobile wireless modems, which connect laptops to the Internet through cell phone towers, already cover half of the state. South Carolina’s public schools all have access to high speed Internet and the state is regularly cited for being the firt in the nation to develop such an extensive and ubiquitous system for educational access.”
    The private sector already offers us plenty of choices, and those will expand on their own as telecoms fight for larger market share in rural and metro service areas. The future of Internet access is about choice, not dominance of a single dubious technology such as WiMax. This is not government’s role or area of expertise, as the Policy Council points out.
    If SC can profit from leasing of excess bandwidth, without getting into regulation or subsidy of a specific technology, that has potential benefit to taxpayers as a new revenue sources. How the money is spent should be a larger discussion, of which ETV is just one potential beneficiary. We have many other needs, and new revenue streams are too rare to squander.

  26. Lee Muller

    Do you mean squander the opportunity to generate some cash from selling bandwidth, or to squander the money later on ETV projects?
    Boosters of this scheme seem convinced that ETV has a right to this revenue, instead of the General Fund, and that ETV can use it without legislative appropriation and oversight. They are wrong on both counts, from a legal standpoint.


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