Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Telco Point/WiscNet Counterpoint

In light of this 12/19/2011 memo to Wisconsin State Senators and Assembly Representatives.....

...and the Wisconsin Library Association's efforts as part of a broad coalition to promote a bill to delay WiscNet changes... should review these talking points developed in response to a 6/7/2011 Access Wisconsin news release.

Access Wisconsin statement:  The UW created WiscNet despite a statutory prohibition and staffs it with $1.4 million per year in UW-Madison employees. 
Counterpoint:  WiscNet was created by the UW in 1990.  Any possible statutory prohibitions did not pass the legislature until fifteen years later (July 2005).  The $1.4 million is funding that WiscNet pays to the UW for technical support.  It is NOT a UW subsidy to WiscNet.  (Sidebar:  WiscNet has been providing Internet access and related services long before most telephone companies even heard of the Internet.)   

Access Wisconsin statement:  Nothing in the Jt. Finance action prevents the UW from meeting its own telecommunication needs.
Counterpoint:  Point #25 in the Jt. Finance Committee action clearly prevents the UW from being a member or partner with any other entity that provides telecommunications services or information services.  Taken at face value, this prevents the UW from even having basic Internet access or  access to advanced research networks, like Internet2.   

Access Wisconsin statement:   Taxpayer money should not be used to subsidize a government agency such as UW-Extension to duplicate and compete with our services.
Counterpoint:  Access Wisconsin members and other telecommunication carriers in the state already get a subsidy of over $90 million annually in taxpayer money from the federal Universal Service program. Evidently a taxpayer subsidy to the private sector is OK, but a subsidy to the public sector is not OK? 

Access Wisconsin statement:  On the UW grant, to add insult to injury, the UW planned to hire an out-of-state firm to lay the fiber optic cables.
Counterpoint:  The UW reached out to numerous Wisconsin phone companies, including Access Wisconsin members, seeking their partnership on the grant.  None agreed to participate.  

Access Wisconsin statement:  The UW grant would harm the BadgerNet network, which already offers reliable, affordable broadband services.
Counterpoint:  While being very reliable, BadgerNet is NOT affordable to many community institutions.  For example, a 100Mbps service is $6,000 a month and a 1,000Mbps service is $49,500 a month.  These costs will likely drop with renewal of the BadgerNet contract but this has not happened yet and even when it does, the costs will likely still be too high.  The UW grant clearly shows a return on investment of 3.5 – 4.5 years.  After that an institution will be able to get 1,000Mbps service for about $10,000 annually vs. $594,000 annually, the current BadgerNet rate.
We want to make clear that BadgerNet is a beneficial network for many of our schools and libraries but it is only “affordable” because it is heavily subsidized ($16.8 million annually) by state funds (which is also an indirect subsidy to the telecommunication carriers.)  This subsidy is limited and as schools and libraries need more affordable bandwidth not supported by the subsidy, they must look for other options besides BadgerNet.  Also, this subsidy is not available to municipal governments, hospitals, etc.

Access Wisconsin statement:  UW’s grant claims to serve rural areas but it will also serve more urban areas like Wausau.
Counterpoint:   As stated above, BadgerNet is NOT affordable to many community institutions, be they in rural areas or urban areas.

Access Wisconsin statement:  At a time of limited pubic resources, these types of wasteful spending (i.e., UW grant) are unacceptable.
Counterpoint:  What is wasteful is requiring public institutions to spend huge amounts of public tax dollars on high-cost BadgerNet circuits.  

Access Wisconsin statement:  We understand the need for affordable broadband service and are investing every day to ensure this.
Counterpoint:  The carriers have been making this “investment” statement for years but they fully supported a decision in February by the current administration to return $23 million in federal funding to invest in the  buildout their networks as part of BadgerNet.  Our community institutions need affordable broadband NOW.  How many more years are we supposed to wait? 
 [Not attributed]

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