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Home | Development | Telecommunications Industry Association, Danielle Coffey
 
Danielle CoffeyRural Rollout

Danielle Coffey, Senior Director of Government Affairs at the Telecommunications Industry Association talks to Intercomms about their support for rural broadband deployment

Danielle Coffey is the Senior Director and General Counsel of Government Affairs for the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA), a leading trade association for the information and communications technology industry, with over 600 member companies that manufacture or supply the products and services used in global communications.

Since joining TIA in 2004, Danielle has advocated member companies' positions on policy issues, including broadband and broadband-enabled services, content regulation and antitrust issues, accessibility regulations, spectrum availability and use, public safety issues, international development, and other important regulatory and legislative matters inside the beltway and abroad. She is responsible for informing and educating government representatives of member companies' technologies and TIA policy proposals.

Before joining TIA, Danielle attended Catholic University (CUA) Law School, during which she interned for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the Office of Chairman Powell, the Wireline Competition Bureau, and the Media Bureau; the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA); and the Federal Regulations and Public Policy Division of MCI.

Danielle is licensed by the California Bar and is certified by the Communications Law Institute of CUA. She obtained her undergraduate degree from San Diego State University, where she was born and raised.

Q: How important is rural broadband deployment to the TIA?
A: It's one of our initiatives for this year but rural broadband deployment is just an aspect of the TIA's involvement in broadband deployment in general. Our biggest focus is broadband because it is the thread that ties all our member companies together. It is the common denominator and it is going to be our number one priority.

In promoting and encouraging increased broadband deployment, obviously you look at an area where it is not being deployed, which in most cases means rural broadband deployment across the country. In more metropolitan areas there is a denser deployment, irrespective of whether it is fibre, DSL or alternatives. In rural areas, we find that there still needs to be a lot of work done. As a response to this we came up with the Broadband Deployment Recommendation to identify where it is not being deployed so that we can find out which technologies are best deployed there.

Q: How is weakness in rural take up, impacting overall broadband adoption?
A:
We have looked at the OECD rankings and from that you can see that the US is lagging behind. We do however take issue with a lot of the rankings because they don't take into account enterprise adoption amongst other factors, which is a major part of our members business. There are already several existing Federal initiatives to encourage uptake. One of them is the Rural Utilities Service Initiative, created over two years ago. They have $1Bil for the broadband loan programme which is administrated by the US Department of Agriculture. The problem we see with that is that the management of it and the definition of it and the qualification criteria for the loan programme, need to be reformed. That $1Bil is designed to bring broadband services to people in areas that actually already have a broadband service. It doesn't make sense to us that you should have the RU fund a second provider in one area, while others have none at all. We feel the RU fund needs to rework their definition of an underserved or unserved areas. We are all for competition and choice but not when some go without.

Q: That's the problem. What's the TIA's answer?
A: We don't really need something new. Our answer is that that there are already a lot of programmes that can look after rural deployment. The US has the Universal Service Fund (USF) - another fund that is supposed to pay out to take care of these rural areas. That however, is not going to bring us into next generation broadband technologies that compete with other countries, if we are continuing to pay out for copper and yesterday's technologies. If Federal Government doesn't start looking to tomorrow and paying

for next generation fibre, satellite and other competing technologies that are often better suited for rural areas, the US is are not going to advance in the broadband market.

A suggestion or solution would be to expand the Universal Service Fund to include these newer broadband technologies because actually, it doesn't include broadband at all today. That is not good, especially because it is meant to support voice and more and more and more voice is travelling over our IP backbone. It should also cover all flavours of broadband. We also first need to see where broadband is being deployed. That needs emphasising because it is essential, you need to see where the gaps are before you can find out what areas need to be checked, where there are opportunities for new technology, where satellite can come in, where wireless can come in where Wimax eventually can come in to fill those gaps. There also needs to be disclosure to customers, of prices and speeds and what alternatives available out there.

Q: What's the good news?
A:
What we see as good and what is going be the driver for broadband especially in rural areas services such as education and especially Health IT in rural areas. Our member companies make the technology that allows you to do a lot of these things at home, such as Panasonic's home monitoring or Telecordia's new system for the use of health services in your home. Those all ride over the broadband network, so the more people who access those services that are provided over an internet backbone, the more it is going to perpetuate the need for internet broadband in general. Services are what caused the original demand for internet services such as Ebay during the earlier Boom phase.

Connect Kentucky shows state-level success. That looked at where there was broadband deployment in Kentucky, what flavours of broadband were out there, how much it cost and where there were gaps. The state government then supported firms in exploiting opportunities in filling those caps. It brought the percentage of households in Kentucky that are able to subscribe from 60 to 93 percent by 2006. They are hoping to reach 100 percent by the end of 2007. That is an outstanding number and awareness of the gaps is the first step in meeting that demand.

Q: How did they do it?
A: They simply saw where there were gaps and made the business case. This is what Connect the Nation - a Federal approach - is trying to mimic. They had their focus on those companies who wanted to offer broadband and had a business model which they encouraged through a state competition programme. Companies want to offer broadband if they see the demand. Kentucky has an E-rate service so that libraries could obtain information using the USF so that libraries and education institutions can get money from government for providers to build out their facilities for those purposes. There is government funding left and right, once you figure out where there is an area that needs to be serviced and people are demanding services.

Q: Is Kentucky's example being copied by other states?
A: States are learning the lessons and they are learning from what Kentucky did. Just recently several states have initiated similar programmes.

Q: What have been the indirect and direct economic benefits of Connect Kentucky? Is it too early to point to growth?
A: It's already significant. There were entire communities in the state of Kentucky that have been hit hard by manufacturing job losses that were able to regroup and adjust their community business plan around Connect Kentucky. Over the last two years, over 14,500 technology jobs have been created in Kentucky. Also in the same two year period, in the IT sector alone, Kentucky jobs have grown at a rate thirty-one times the national average.

It is important to note there has also been a 50 percent increase in the number of out-ofstate students who remain in Kentucky. When you have the technology and advanced services that are brought into a state - or a country for that matter - it allows that demography and geography to thrive both from a business perspective and socially. Technology attracts commerce. There is no way around that. Ecommerce is becoming a means of encouraging public consumption of goods. It is of benefit all round.

Q: To what extent are you technology neutral in this?
A: We are technology neutral but at the same time we are also realistic and practical, fibre is obviously able to thrive in dense metropolitan areas but when you get to the rural states we see that old saying is true, 'there's a lot of dirt between telephone poles'. The topography is just different. WiMAX, satellite wireless are going to better alternative technologies in these areas and keeping that in mind, we also see that there are appropriate spectrum allocations for those various technologies where broadcasters or license devices are just not going to thrive. We are huge proponents for technology and the TIA is a standards development organisation too so we obviously work on the technical side of this. We see that 2.1GHz and 5.8GHz are the most realistic place for rural wireless or WISP services. We are huge proponents of that because although we are technology neutral, we see that those are the spectrum allocations and are where they will thrive in rural areas where fibre isn't realistic. For example, Motorola has the Canopy service that is going to service rural areas in the 2.4 and 2.5MHz bands.

"The lack of broadband deployment in the US is very much a function of our expansive geography, and we need to encourage technologies that overcome that."

For more information visit:
TIA website at www.tiaonline.org or email us on imartinez@tiaonline.org

 
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