Utah Education Network, the only public TV licensee to receive a federal broadband grant and to join the national US Ignite project to develop broadband apps, has appointed a Utah school superintendent, Ray Timothy, as its c.e.o. and executive director, effective Oct. 1. Timothy is superintendent of the Park City School District, former super of the rural Millard County district and a former deputy super of the state Office of Education. He succeeds Mike Petersen, who took a faculty position with Utah State University. Since Petersen left in January, the network’s interim chief has been Eric Denna, co-chair of the UEN Board and chief information officer of the Utah System of Higher Education and the University of Utah.
The state-operated Utah Education Network and several municipalities are among about 100 members of US Ignite, a new partnership creating services for future broadband networks running up to 100 times faster than today’s Internet. This White House announced the partnership this morning, and President Obama will sign an executive order streamlining the approval process for building broadband infrastructure on and under federal property and coordinating excavations. It will reduce costs, for instance, by permitting broadband construction during highway-building. For a vivid demo of the power that the new networks make possible, John Underkoffler of Oblong Industries, showed off a video of G-speak, a commercially available human-machine interface based on Oblong’s design for the Wii-like technology used in the Tom Cruise movie Minority Report. The press conference kicked off a day-long series of sessions and other events.
Native Public Media, a minority consortium incubated within the National Federation of Community Broadcasters for seven years, is striking out on its own, establishing itself as an independent nonprofit and pursuing big new opportunities to expand media access for Native Tribes through broadband and mobile technologies. With the realignment, announced early this month, the Native group strengthens its ties with the New America Foundation in Washington, D.C., its partner for the last several years in research, policy analysis and advocacy to redress huge and historic shortcomings in access to new and older means of communication for Native tribes. Among the collaboration’s most significant achievements so far is last year’s FCC ruling giving tribes higher priority in competitions for radio channels near Indian lands (Current, Oct. 18, 2010) — a policy that the FCC looks to expand on broadband and wireless platforms.
The commission intends to unveil new initiatives during its meeting on March 3, which it designated “Native Nations Day.” According to a tentative agenda, the FCC will discuss options for lowering barriers to communications services and expanding wireless Internet on Native lands, and expanding Native radio under the new tribal priority. By aligning with New America Foundation as its fiscal agent, NPM gains access to a “remarkable think tank and brain trust that’s able to provide the kind of research and data that can make a small company like NPM more effective,” said Loris Taylor, executive director.
Why everyone but public broadcasters is making federal policy for public media
The FCC’s recent National Broadband Plan and its Future of the Media initiative have highlighted a chronic problem in U.S public broadcasting: The system has no long-term policy planning capacity, and therefore it always has had great difficulty dealing with the periodic efforts by outsiders to critique and “reform” it. Public broadcasting ignores most media policy research, whether it originates in academia, think tanks or federal agencies, and it often seems out of touch with major national policy deliberations until too late. That disengagement is highly dangerous because it allows others to set the national legal and regulatory agenda for communications without assuring adequate policy attention to public-service, noncommercial and educational goals. Such policy initiatives also can negatively affect the funding and operating conditions of every public licensee. This article, the first of two, examines the history and recent serious consequences of that disengagement.