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FRANKFORT, Ky. – A new public-private partnership will develop a robust, reliable, fiber “backbone” infrastructure to bring high-speed Internet connectivity to every corner of the Commonwealth – with the critical first components scheduled to be operational in less than two years.
Governor Steve Beshear and U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers announced the partnership with Macquarie Capital today.
“We are on an aggressive timeline and believe that the Macquarie team’s technical capabilities and history of innovative solutions are the best fit for this important project,” said Gov. Beshear. “Kentucky’s Internet speed and accessibility have lagged behind the rest of the nation far too long. This partnership puts us on the path to propel the Commonwealth forward in education, economic development, health care, public safety and much more.”
This infrastructure project is unlike any other seen in Kentucky in the last 50 years. Broadband, now considered an essential utility service, will improve Kentucky’s dismal connectivity and slow speeds to some of the fastest and highest capacity service in the U.S. – all with the potential to lower consumer costs and improve coverage as well.
Just as important, this project will be paid for up front by leveraging private capital at no additional cost to Kentucky taxpayers.
“If we were to rely solely on state government funding to get this project off the ground, it would take years, if not decades. Those kinds of tax dollars just aren’t available,” said Gov. Beshear. “In this technology-dependent economy, we can’t afford to wait another minute. That’s why this partnership is so valuable – it ramps up this project to the speed of the private sector without any additional burden on our taxpayers.”
The first stage of the project is to build the main broadband fiber lines across the state. These major fiber lines are called the “middle mile.” The “open access” network will allow the private sector to use the fiber to deliver services into communities. Once complete, other Internet service provider companies, cities, partnerships, or other groups may then tap into those “middle mile” lines to complete the “last mile” – the lines that run to individual homes or businesses.
Where already in place, the project will take advantage of existing infrastructure, thus partnering with local telecommunications companies, municipalities and major carriers to deliver the network more quickly and reduce construction costs.
Improved cell phone coverage is anticipated as part of the initiative. Cell phone companies may choose to use the state’s “middle-mile” fiber network to add capacity and broaden coverage areas throughout the Commonwealth that have traditionally had poor cell phone reception.
When completed, the more than 3,000 miles of fiber will be in place across the state. This “middle-mile” fiber infrastructure is key to reaching much of Kentucky’s large rural population.
Fiber will be available in all 120 counties, and the underserved eastern Kentucky region will be the first priority area for the project. The Center for Rural Development in Somerset will partner with the Commonwealth, focusing on communities east of Interstate 75. The Center will also host education workshops to help communities learn how to connect to the new network.
The push for reliable, accessible high-speed broadband is one recommendation that emerged from SOAR, the “Shaping Our Appalachian Region” initiative.
“We’re laying the first bricks for what could be ‘Silicon Holler.’ This new Super I-Way is the cornerstone of SOAR’s mission to diversify the economy in eastern Kentucky with improvements in business recruitment, fast-tracking telemedicine in the mountains, and adding high tech advancements in education,” said Congressman Rogers. “I commend all of our federal, state and local partners for working together on this project that will undoubtedly chart the course for a better future in the coalfields and across the Commonwealth.”
Over the past several months the Commonwealth, in conjunction with the Center for Rural Development, released the request for proposal solicitation and negotiated with private sector vendors including Macquarie Capital.
Macquarie Capital has assembled a team of market-leading specialists to design, develop and operate the network over the next 30 years. While the private sector partners will bear developmental and operational risks of the project, the Commonwealth will retain ownership of the network.
Macquarie will begin work immediately on phase one to design the overall statewide system and determine the project’s scale. The design and cost estimates are due by the end of February 2015 with construction of the first segments expected to begin in the summer and completed by April 2016. The total cost of the project will depend upon the ability to leverage existing infrastructure versus deploying new routes, which will be determined during the design phase. Overall, the project is estimated to cost between $250 million to $350 million, and will be supported by approximately $30 million in state bonds and $15 to $20 million in federal grants.
Work along I-75 from northern Kentucky to Williamsburg will form the “spine” of the network, with work in the priority region of southeastern Kentucky occurring simultaneously. More than 100 key facilities will be connected, including universities, state government buildings and community and technical colleges.
The initiative will be a partnership of government at all levels and the private sector. The public-private partnership – often referred to as a P3 – allows the state to leverage resources to fill service gaps. In this case, private capital will be used to build the network at no additional cost to Kentucky taxpayers. This project likely would never be undertaken with traditional state financing methods.
The state chose to use a P3 for several reasons. The P3 model is well-established and enables projects to be completed on an accelerated timetable while transferring risk to the private sector partners. These partners also bring expertise, innovation and flexibility to the project.
Bringing private sector investment to build the network significantly decreases the time needed for design and construction, making broadband access available sooner for families and businesses. Finally, with the state’s oversight of the main broadband lines, consumer costs may be lowered by eliminating the need for private providers to build duplicate network infrastructure; that means Internet service providers can instead invest in cell phone service or “last-mile” service.
“Macquarie Capital and its partners are extremely excited about the opportunity to develop this network under the public-private partnership model, bringing together a team of market leading specialists focused on implementing the network as quickly as possible,” said Nick Hann, senior managing director at Macquarie Capital. “We believe that this project will be the centerpiece of Kentucky’s long-term economic infrastructure, demonstrating the core principles of value for money and risk transfer to the private sector that will translate into a successful long-term partnership with the Commonwealth.”
Macquarie’s consortium partners include First Solutions, Fujitsu Network Communications Inc., Black & Veatch, and Bowlin Group.
In today’s economy, high-speed Internet is no longer a luxury, but is as essential to a community as water or electricity.
A modern, high-capacity fiber infrastructure allows businesses to compete globally, educators to expand their use of rich teaching resources, students to access the knowledge of the world, health care entities to collaborate and first responders to communicate easily in emergency situations.
The project scope is similar to building other public utilities. Consider the broadband fiber lines to be like the main water lines in a community. The largest water lines are built in central community areas, and then smaller lines branch off the main line. Finally, someone connects the street line to an individual home or business. The broadband project will act in much the same way. The first phase of the project is to build the main broadband fiber lines across the state, then construct branches off the main line to deliver into communities. These major fiber lines are the “middle mile,” and other Internet service provider companies, cities, partnerships, or other groups may then tap into those lines to complete the “last mile” – the lines that run to individual homes or businesses.
The project will leverage state government’s existing Internet networks to build a kind of high-speed delivery line throughout the state.
One of the most important features is that the network will be truly “open access,” meaning many other Internet and cell phone service providers can lease portions of the network. More important, those leases will not be limited to one provider per county or community; several groups may lease the network, which will give consumers a choice in purchasing their broadband. By partnering with the network, providers will be able to reduce their costs when building out “last mile” service to customers. That competition should result in lower consumer costs.
Kentucky ranks 46th in broadband availability and 23 percent of rural areas in Kentucky do not have access to broadband.
Most households in the state have access to an Internet Service Provider (ISP), but that’s not the same as high-speed broadband. High-speed broadband is capable of carrying much larger amounts of information to a larger group of users at much faster speeds.
As the federal definition of broadband changes, and minimum speed increases (often in megabits per second, or MBS), Kentucky falls further behind because the service available to citizens does not meet these minimum qualifications.
Today, only about half of the state’s households use broadband service, and nearly one-quarter can’t access broadband at all.
Over the weekend, Republicans slammed President Obama for that they called a weak-kneed response to the North Korean hackers who are suspected of targeting Sony in a major data breach. In interviews with CNN and CBS, Sens. John McCain (Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (S.C.) called the hacking "a new form of warfare" and "terrorism," respectively, and criticized the White House's characterization of the incident as "cyber vandalism."
All this Washington hand-wringing over verbiage is more or less politically motivated. But the theatrics risk obscuring a key point: Like terrorism, cyber warfare has a specific military definition. Calling the intrusion into Sony's network a definite act of cyber war not only makes it harder for the United States to distinguish between actual national security threats and inflated ones, but it also makes it harder for America to shape crucial international norms about how and when to use cyberweapons — norms that could help ward off the next North Korean hack.
You may know that the Pentagon has an entire glossary of terms when it comes to waging war in cyberspace. This should make total sense. Just like in physical war, linguistic ambiguity and confusion lead to mistakes, and mistakes get people killed. Especially in a field as new as cyber, you don't want to be messing around trying to define your terms when the bombs start to fall.
So how does the Defense Department define cyber warfare?
cyber warfare (CW): Creation of effects in and through cyberspace in support of a combatant commander's military objectives, to ensure friendly forces freedom of action in cyberspace while denying adversaries these same freedoms. Composed of cyber attack (CA), cyber defense (CD), and cyber exploitation (CE).
Note the emphasis on "a combatant commander's military objectives." It might seem obvious that the Pentagon's business is to talk in terms of the military. But this is actually an important signal to the rest of the world that cyber warfare ought to be thought of as a military activity, conducted by military officials, for military purposes.
This is far from a consensus opinion. China, Russia and, yes, North Korea all have sophisticated military hacker units. To the extent Washington can prove it, these hackers' actions show they believe businesses, banks and other civilian institutions to be legitimate targets for cyberspace operations — or, as the Pentagon puts it,
The employment of cyber capabilities where the primary purpose is to achieve military objectives or effects in or through cyberspace.
What's really going on here is a battle to determine whether, in fact, the infiltration of corporate networks, exposure of business information and censorship of U.S. film studios is a legitimate military activity. Some foreign governments would probably like nothing better than for the definition of war to expand this way. But for those who believe civilians should be kept out of war as much as possible, blurring the line between cyber warfare and cyber crime (or espionage) is potentially a very bad thing. It expands the number of scenarios potentially requiring a military response, spreading resources thin. It puts pressure on countries like the United States to engage in reciprocal behavior — or suffer a growing disadvantage.
Obama has repeatedly come under criticism as being too cool in a crisis. Others have come to his defense, arguing that cooler heads make for less interesting headlines but better resolutions. The same pattern appears to be playing out today. And while we'll probably never know for certain, Obama's decision not to use the language of cyber warfare might be the best decision he can make right now.
Federal Communications Commission chairman Tom Wheeler is expected to propose a 62 percent increase in the amount of money the agency spends annually to wire schools and libraries with high-speed Internet connections, Edward Wyatt reports for The New York Times. The move would increase the FCC's annual cap on spending for school Internet from $1.5 billion to $3.9 billion. (NYT photo by Mark Holm: FCC chairman Tom Wheeler)
The move would most benefit rural areas, where "seven in 10 rural districts say none of their schools can meet high-speed Internet connectivity targets today," Wyatt writes. "Schools in affluent areas are three times more likely to meet speed targets as those in low-income areas, the FCC says."
"Libraries need upgrades too, and in low-income and rural areas, they are important because they often provide the only available Internet connection for many people," Wyatt writes. "Yet half of all public libraries report connection speeds of less than 10 megabits per second. Mr. Wheeler has said 25 megabits per second should be considered “table stakes” in 21st-century communications."
"The new spending would lead to an increase of roughly 16 percent in the monthly fee on consumers’ phone bills," Wyatt writes. "The fee is used to finance the Universal Service Fund, an $8.7 billion effort that provides phone and broadband connections for low-income populations, rural areas, and schools and libraries."
"FCC officials say consumers would pay less than $2 a year in additional fees per phone line, or less than $6 extra per household, on average; currently the average household pays about $36 a year," Wyatt writes. "But the amount an individual household pays can vary widely, with fees assessed on both home and mobile service. Businesses pay into the program as well." (Read more)
Written by Tim Mandell Posted at 11/18/2014
Facebook, the world’s electronic fishbowl, was the subject of arguments Monday before the U.S. Supreme Court about what constitutes a legal threat on the popular social media platform.
Local authorities say the case is important as the law tries to protect people from physical and emotional harassment.
The court’s ruling could come this summer.
Anthony Douglas Elonis, 31, of Lower Saucon Township, Pa., appealed his 44-month prison sentence for postings on Facebook four years ago. He was convicted of a federal law that makes it a crime to “transmit in interstate or foreign commerce any communication containing any threat to kidnap any person or any threat to injure the person of another.” He was convicted of five counts.
Elonis put messages on Facebook in the form of rap that threatened his estranged wife and an FBI agent.
“We would take the threat as to how the victim viewed it,” said Capt. Dominic Ossello, public information officer for the Western Kentucky University Police Department. “It would be as if someone would be standing face to face with the victim.”
He said the university police department has no control over what WKU students post on Facebook or what is posted about the university.
John Elwood, Elonis’ attorney, argued before the high court that the jury that convicted Elonis must not only determine a reasonable person would interpret the messages as a threat, but also that the man intended the words to be a threat. Federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald disagreed with Elonis’ contention that the messages were no more dangerous than explicit rap song lyrics. Fitzgerald said Elonis’ estranged wife perceived the threats as real.
“The degree of difficulty has always been what is the intent” of the person, with the key being “how did the victim take it?” Ossello said. “The court reviews both sides.”
Lawyers for Elonis said his posts in the form of rap lyrics under the pseudonym “Tone Dougie” were simply a way for him to vent his frustration over splitting up with his wife, The Associated Press reported Monday.
“I think he (Elonis) is trying to use his free-speech rights,” said Krisstal Clayton, an assistant psychology professor at WKU. “There are problems with cyberbullying, and people worry about stalking. He was trying to get at her any way that he could.”
The government argued the real test is whether his words would make a reasonable person feel threatened. In one post about his wife, Elonis said, “There’s one way to love you but a thousand ways to kill you. I’m not going to rest until your body is a mess, soaked in blood and dying from all the little cuts,” the AP reported.
“How does one prove what’s in somebody else’s mind,” said Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who was on the bench five days after she had a stent implanted to clear a blocked artery, the AP reported.
“As far as threats are concerned, we don’t deem a threat on social media any less serious than a threat in person,” said Officer Ronnie Ward, spokesman for the Bowling Green Police Department. “Most laws are written broad enough to cover electronic and traditional means.”
Ward said harassing communications (Kentucky Revised Statutes 525.080) and harassment in general (KRS 525.070) cover threats made either way.
Justice Antonin Scalia questioned whether Elonis’ comments about causing physical harm in the context of a marital dispute deserve First Amendment protection. He said the government’s standard “doesn’t eliminate a whole lot of speech at all,” the AP reported.
Elwood argued that Elonis had a disclaimer on his Facebook page that his comments were only for entertainment purposes. But Justice Samuel Alito seemed skeptical, the AP reported.
“This sounds like a roadmap for threatening a spouse and getting away with it,” Alito said.
The Obama administration says requiring proof that a speaker intended to be threatening would “undermine the law’s protective purpose,” the AP reported.
Song lyrics, as potential threats on social media, have received protection under the First Amendment, at least in Kentucky.
Last month, charges were dismissed against James E. Evans, 31, of Muhlenberg County, after Evans spent eight days in jail for posting violent song lyrics on his Facebook page, according to AP. Evans had been charged with terroristic threatening.
The lyrics posted by Evans on Facebook were from the song “Class Dismissed (A Hate Primer)” by California band Exodus. The American Civil Liberties Union said the post was free speech protected by the First Amendment.
First-degree terrorist threatening carries a potential jail term for up to 10 years upon conviction. Evans was arrested and jailed Aug. 26 and released Sept. 3.
The Supreme Court last looked at the question of a person’s intent in 2003, when it reviewed a Virginia law that regarded cross burnings. The court ruled cross burnings could be viewed as criminal intent if the intent to intimidate was proven, according to published reports.
By Chuck Mason
Bowling Green Daily News
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 11, 2014;
President Barack Obama said on Monday that because the Internet is as important in Americans' lives as electricity and telephone service, it should be "regulated like those utilities to protect consumers," Edward Wyatt writes for The New York Times. Obama said the Federal Communications Commission should make this change to keep broadband companies from slowing down legal content or allowing content providers to pay extra for a fast lane.
This discussion is especially important for rural areas, many of which do not have adequate broadband access to begin with. Also, innovation and start-ups can be particularly beneficial to rural people, so considering whether this change would promote that is important.
Many see the president's move as support of Tom Wheeler, F.C.C. chairman, who is working on a plan to protect open Internet—called net neutrality. "The debate may hinge on whether Internet access is considered a necessity, like electricity, or more of an often-costly option, like cable TV," Wyatt writes. Netflix, Democrats in Congress and consumer advocacy groups are the move's primary supporters, but leading providers of Internet access, Republicans and some investment groups do not like the idea and say this regulation is too heavy-handed and will hurt online investment and innovation.
Companies that make routers and servers, represented by the Telecommunications Industry Association, said they "strongly urge regulators to refrain from reclassification that will guarantee harm to consumers, the economy and the very technologies we're trying to protect." Senator John Thune of South Dakota said the effort "would turn the Internet into a government-regulated utility and stifle our nation's dynamic and robust Internet sector with rules written nearly 80 years ago for plain old telephone service."
U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell sent a statement in response to Obama's announcement about the regulations. He wrote that the Internet currently allows innovators to create and sell products people like and makes jobs "without waiting around for government permission." The President's decision "to abandon this successful approach in favor of more heavy-handed regulation that will stifle innovation and concentrate more power in the hands of Washington bureaucrats is a terrible idea. The Commission would be wise to reject it." (Read more)
Written by Melissa Landon Posted at 11/11/2014