A new initiative focused on the communications needs of rural Americans, the Rural Mobile Broadband Alliance (RuMBA USA), was launched today to provide a single, clear and significant voice to government agencies that will be involved in choosing grant recipients in the recently enacted stimulus package. The agencies involved are the National Telecommunications and Infrastructure Administration (NTIA) and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Utilities Service (RUS).
RuMBA USA will seek to ensure that rural communities are offered the same affordable wireless broadband services available to urban and suburban areas, and equal access to wireless E-911 Phase II (location-based) coverage. The initiative was born out of a strong desire, by several broadband solutions providers to get the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to work efficiently for the communities the Obama administration is seeking to help in rural and remote areas. The Alliance is spearheaded by Texas Hill Country resident and community activist, Luisa Handem, a charismatic communications executive and founding PR Director of the Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) Forum - a similar initiative undertaken in the late 1990s to create the de facto standard for transmitting data over wireless devices.
“With the approval of $7.2 billion for broadband in the stimulus package, there is a great opportunity for all the players in the field to sit down and agree upon the adoption of the best and most affordable mobile broadband technology that will fully meet the needs of our underserved communities,” said Handem. “There is a true sense of urgency in getting this process right. Collectively, we need to help set an aggressive agenda for establishing a universal broadband strategy in the spirit of the stimulus Act, without falling prey to the old ways of addressing the communications needs of our rural neighbors.”
RuMBA USA will disseminate statistics on the impact on employment, social, economic, educational, health care and business opportunities arising from proposed stimulus package spending on mobile broadband in rural areas. The combined funding for broadband development, $7.2 billion, accounts for less than one percent of the entire $789 billion package signed by President Obama to stimulate the economy, spur job creation, and spread broadband coverage in rural and remote areas of the country. The grants are to be dispersed by the Dept. of Commerce - NTIA - and the Dept. of Agriculture, entrusted with $4.7 billion and $2.5 billion, respectively.
The Alliance is already in the process of signing up individuals and corporations with an interest in expanding broadband coverage to rural and remote areas. “We believe that a single voice, backed by hundreds of participants will break through the noise that will be generated in the halls of the Commerce and Agriculture departments,” said Luisa Handem, Managing Director of RuMBA USA. “The development of a broad and relevant coalition will provide a competitive advantage for American industry and – more importantly -- for our rural communities, increasing the speed of awards to those outlying regions and maximizing the amount of the awards,” she added.
In addition to receiving the funding to expand wireless broadband to rural locations, the Act provides an unprecedented opportunity to build America’s first Next Generation Mobile Network (NGMN) Grid across the US. Consistent with the goals of the Broadband Opportunities Program, the NGMN Grid has the potential to “leapfrog” third generation (3G) network build-outs and deploy fourth generation (4G) Internet-based network infrastructure, delivering the fastest and the most economical wireless high speed networks possible to rural communities.
Additional benefits of the NGMN Grid include: key public safety support, including E911 Phase II location services; Compatibility and rapid interconnection with nationwide carriers for roaming support, and rapid deployment capabilities to maximize grant awards.
Joining RuMBA USA will provide members with the best options for funding mobile broadband network development through sustainable growth. In the next 24 months, the Alliance proposes to ensure that construction begins in earnest for state-of-the-art, affordable, economically sustainable, wireless broadband networks, owned and operated by rural carriers covering 1.5 million square miles of territory, thereby doubling wireless broadband coverage and increasing E911 coverage four-fold.
“This initiative more than bridges rural America’s digital divide, it provides for a leap forward for rural America to advance to the next generation of mobile broadband while reclaiming America’s leadership role in the global telecom infrastructure business,” said Handem. The US ranks 19th in broadband penetration, according to the 2008 Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) annual report.