Tahoe Prosperity Center gets grant for broadband study | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Tahoe Prosperity Center gets grant for broadband study

INCLINE VILLAGE – Tahoe Prosperity Center is getting a $167,000 grant to study broadband needs in the Lake Tahoe Basin. The money comes from the California Public Utilities Commission advanced services fund and a Gold Country Broadband Consortium. According to the Tahoe Prosperity Center, the grant will pay for a two-year project to map broadband infrastructure; assess community-wide broadband needs and speeds; determine un-served and underserved areas; and help interested Internet Service Providers write infrastructure grants to the CPUC for broadband expansion projects in un-served and underserved areas. Community needs assessments and speed tests will be done in both the California and Nevada sides of the Tahoe Basin, but the resulting infrastructure grants will be restricted to California. The Tahoe Prosperity Center will explore additional funding sources for broadband expansion projects as part of the project. Tahoe Prosperity Center has hired Bev Ducey to manage the broadband project. A former board member for Tahoe Truckee Unified School District, Ducey has more than 20 years of experience in project management, marketing and communications, 12 of them as vice president at Charles Schwab & Co., according to the Tahoe Prosperity Center. Ducey also has worked with the Tahoe Prosperity Center for the last year on grant writing and compliance and project management. "We are thrilled Bev decided to take on this new challenge with the TPC managing the broadband initiative full-time," Heidi Hill Drum, executive director of the Tahoe Prosperity Center, said in a press release. "She has the experience and knowledge to help our communities determine their future broadband needs and to help find funding to implement the infrastructure development required." Starting in August, the Tahoe Prosperity Center will ask community members to participate in both home and work speed tests of their Internet connections and complete a survey about current Internet Service Providers. Speed test data will help identify gaps in connectivity, determine priority areas for consideration for future broadband expansion and provide real-time statistics on the overall picture of a "connected or not-connected Tahoe Basin," according to the Tahoe Prosperity Center. For more information visit http://www.tahoeprosperity.org.

Channel change in Tahoe

Charter Communications, Inc., which serves more than 4,000 cable subscribers in Tahoe Paradise and Meyers, will buy several AT&T Broadband cable systems in three regions, including the Lake Tahoe, Reno and Carson City operations. The deal in Nevada alone will amount to a 156,000-subscriber gain for Charter’s 6.4 million customers nationwide. AT&T Broadband will receive cash, Charter stock and cable systems worth a combined $1.79 billion. The transaction is expected to close in the second or third quarter. It’s subject to certain closing conditions and regulatory review. The programming picture is up in the air. “I don’t think anyone is going to know what the region or programming is going to look like,” Charter Properties General Manager David Jordan said Friday from his Sacramento office. Jordan’s Northwest Region was left out of the St. Louis-based corporate negotiations. He did indicate that AT&T Broadband’s South Lake Tahoe operations, which serve more than 15,000 subscribers on the South Shore, run about 85 percent of the same programming as Charter’s southern Tahoe operations. “With significant residential growth and pent-up demand for broadband services, Reno, the 111th ranked market (in the nation), is an excellent addition to Charter,” President and Chief Executive Officer Jerry Kent said. Charter Communications has expressed a desire to buy more cable operations, while AT&T is focusing on metropolitan areas such as Los Angeles, San Francisco and Sacramento. “We’re concentrating on the metropolitan areas,” AT&T Broadband’s regional spokesman Brian Dietz said from his Sacramento office. “It’s cost prohibitive to run a fiber line from Sacramento to South Lake Tahoe.” Dietz called the sellout part of a “clustering strategy” of AT&T Broadband. The business unit of AT&T is the nation’s largest broadband services company, serving about 16 million customers nationwide. Other areas which will be affected in the deal include the St. Louis, Miami and Birmingham, Ala. markets.

AirTegrity Wireless makes top 10 for being so cool

Stateline-based AirTegrity Wireless, a company dedicated to developing industry-leading wireless broadband communications solutions for global applications, has been named one of Telecommunications Magazine’s “10 Coolest Companies” for 2005. The publication will honor AirTegrity and the other nine firms at an awards ceremony next month at SUPERCOMM 2005 in Chicago. The 10 Coolest Companies Awards focused on vendors with strategies that embody the business of technology. According to Telecommunications Magazine, the “10 Coolest Companies” winners were selected because of their business focus, which helps them directly address technology refinement, product development and the business needs of their service provider customers. AirTegrity was selected for the company’s innovative AirVantageT WiMax-in-a-BoxT solution for secure wireless broadband functionality. WiMax is a new wireless broadband technology that provides all of the speed and performance of wired broadband networks over a wireless connection. It dramatically lowers the costs normally associated with the installation and operation of broadband voice and data networks. AirTegrity has been developing WiMax-enabled technology solutions for the past four years and announced AirVantage as one of the first commercially available WiMax-ready solutions in February. “Perhaps the most critical part of capitalizing on the business of telecommunications is the courage of your convictions, which AirTegrity has continually demonstrated to the masses since its inception,” said Editor-in-Chief Bob Wallace. “There will always be critics and naysayers when you attempt something new or different. The best way to silence them is to deliver products for service providers that prove your strategy through profit.” AirTegrity Wireless is a privately held company specializing in the development of wireless communications solutions for global applications. The company develops and manufactures a complete broadband wireless communications system that reduces the cost of ownership and deployment for high-speed wireless networks regardless of physical location. AirTegrity products provide last-mile, high-speed, secure voice/data/video delivery in a flexible hardware solution that can be used by virtually any telco, service provider or enterprise network. “We are delighted to be recognized by such an important publication for this award,” said Greg Phillips, chief executive officer of AirTegrity Wireless. “We are grateful to our talented and hardworking staff that helps us make a system like AirVantage possible. If we’re ‘cool’ it is because of them.” AirTegrity Wireless can be reached by calling (775) 588-8800 or visiting http://www.airtegrity.com.

California home foreclosures climb as risky loans sour

SAN DIEGO – Foreclosure proceedings against California homeowners jumped by more than 140 percent in the first quarter, the result of risky loans during boom times, a real estate research firm said Tuesday. At the same time, the number of homes lost to foreclosure also reached levels not seen since at least the 1980s, according to DataQuick Information Systems. Lenders sent homeowners 113,676 default notices from January through March, up 143.1 percent from 46,760 during the same period of 2007 and up 39.4 percent from 81,550 during the last three months of 2007. The first quarter numbers marked the highest foreclosure level since DataQuick began keeping track in 1992. Default notices mark the first step in the foreclosure process. Trustee deeds – which represent loss of a home to foreclosure – totaled 47,171 during the first quarter, up 327.6 percent from 11,032 during the same period of 2007 and up 48.9 percent from 31,676 during the previous three months. It marked the highest level of trustee deeds since DataQuick began keeping track in 1988 and was more than triple the number during the nadir of the previous cycle in 1996. The foreclosure activity also reflects a drop in home values, as owners in a financial pinch were unable to sell properties to cover payments, said DataQuick analyst Andrew LePage. Most loans that went into default originated between August 2005 and October 2006, according to DataQuick, which said the market was shaking off its ” ‘loans-gone-wild’ activity” during that time. The median age of a defaulted loan was 23 months. Homeowners in default now are more likely to lose their homes, according to DataQuick. Only 32 percent receiving default notices prevented foreclosure by catching up on payments. A year earlier, 52 percent of those in default were able to avoid foreclosure. Many homes were financed with multiple loans, which makes it more difficult for homeowners to escape foreclosure. As a result, the 113,676 default notices sent in the first quarter were recorded on 110,392 residences. The numbers are the latest indication of how badly California has been hit by foreclosures, a result of many homeowners taking loans that their incomes could not afford. The state ranks only behind Nevada – and just ahead of Florida, Arizona and Colorado – in the percentage of households in foreclosure in March, according to RealtyTrac, a research firm. The foreclosure glut has depressed housing prices overall. Some analysts expect it will worsen as low, introductory interest rates expire on other loans that originated in 2005 and 2006. One of every three resale homes sold in California from January through March had been foreclosed at some point during the previous year, up from 3.2 percent a year earlier, DataQuick said. In San Joaquin County, foreclosures accounted for two of every three homes that were resold. In San Francisco County, they made up only 5.1 percent. Mortgages were most likely to go into default in the central California counties of San Joaquin, Merced and Stanislaus, DataQuick said. They were least likely to go into default in the San Francisco Bay area counties of San Francisco, Marin and San Mateo.

Tahoe Prosperity Center CEO receives ‘citizen of the year’ award

The North Lake Tahoe Resort Association/Chamber/Convention and Visitors Bureau named the CEO of the Tahoe Prosperity Center as its "citizen of the year" award. Heidi Hill Drum, a South Lake Tahoe resident, received the award earlier this month at the 63rd annual community awards banquet. "I was very surprised and I am grateful to be recognized, but I am just the messenger. Our dedicated board of directors and staff are just as deserving of the honor recognizing the importance of our work in the region," Heidi noted at the ceremony accepting the award, according to a press release. The Tahoe Prosperity Center aims to strengthen regional prosperity. Some of the center's current projects include: Connected Tahoe The Tahoe Prosperity Center is expanding high-speed internet and cell phone coverage in the region through a variety of collaborative projects. Every resident should have access to affordable broadband. Workforce Tahoe TPC is helping regional businesses find the workers they need, working with schools to provide training for that workforce, and ensuring residents have access to good jobs and the housing needed to live and work here in Tahoe. Measuring for Prosperity The Measuring for Prosperity Report is the only compilation of economic and community demographic data for the Tahoe region. It ensures facts are used to make policy decisions in the region. AlertTahoe TPC is working with the University of Nevada, Reno, Seismological Laboratory (UNR) in a public-private partnership to ensure fire cameras are placed in strategic locations around the Lake Tahoe Basin. These cameras have a 24/7 view of the forests and ensure rapid detection and response to wildfires to protect our communities from fire. Visit http://www.tahoeprosperity.org for more information on the Tahoe Prosperity Center.

FCC Chairman talks telemedicine during South Shore visit

On Monday Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski visited Barton Health in South Lake Tahoe, a California Telehealth Network site whose telemedicine program has grown significantly since it started in 2007. Telemedicine is the marriage between technology and medicine, allowing doctors to provide health care at a distance. A dermatologist in Reno can diagnose a patient at the South Shore with one of Barton Health’s cameras that capture even the smallest blemishes on film. Barton Health is one of the FCC’s Rural Health Care Pilot Program sites. According to the FCC website, the pilot funding program is meant to create a nationwide broadband network dedicated to health care and connecting rural and urban providers. “The program that we have that the California Telehealth Network has relied on, our rural heath care program, is something that we’re really excited about. We’ve been very busy on various elements of universal service and broadband,” Genachowski said. California Telehealth Network is a California coalition that aims to improve heath care access for medically under served and rural Californians by providing broadband across the state. The network gives Barton access to fast transmission speeds that have allowed the health care system to expand its telemedicine patient services. It’s what Barton Health Telemedicine Coordinator Ann Truscott calls the “medical autobahn through the state of California.” According to Truscott, the telemedicine program has grown significantly, allowing local patients to visit specialists from their local doctor’s office. A CTN press release stated that, since the start of services in 2009, Barton has an average of about 75 telehealth patient visits a month. “A lot of these specialists are available up in Reno. Even if you do have insurance, we figured it costs the average South Lake Tahoe resident $388 just to go for the one time visit up to Reno for a specialty consult,” Truscott said. Genachowski said he thinks telemedicine, and work like what’s being done at Barton, is one of the most exciting developments in broadband in the country. “I was sworn in for this job by President Obama in the Oval Office, and he said, ‘Tell me something that I should be really excited about when it comes to broadband.’ And I said, ‘Telemedicine.’ We talked about exactly the kinds of opportunities that you all are working on bringing to life. It’s so exciting to see it operational,” Genachowski said at the end of his visit.

South Lake Tahoe chips in to support basin-wide Tahoe Prosperity Center

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — The City of South Lake Tahoe invested $10,000 in the Tahoe Prosperity Center on Tuesday, Sept. 15. The nonprofit serves as a basin-wide economic driver. Heidi Hill Drum, Tahoe Prosperity Center's executive director, said there is value in the city's investment. "We are the community and economic development organization for the basin," Drum said. She noted that Tahoe Prosperity Center is a good example of private-public partnerships in the Lake Tahoe Basin, and that its projects benefit South Lake Tahoe residents. "With its $10,000, when leveraged with funding from all the other jurisdictions, we can go much further than the city could on its own," Drum said. She added that the Measuring for Prosperity report, a $20,000 analysis of the basin's socio-economic situation, has value as well. The report, which was funded by Tahoe Prosperity Center, was recently released; and it's available online. "The city will benefit from that economic data through business recruitment and other economic development expansion efforts," Drum said. "It is also something that their previous economic development department used to do for them." Tahoe Prosperity Center spearheads projects like AlertTahoe and ConnectTahoe, which focus on fire safety and broadband Internet respectively. The organization asked for $10,000 from the city multiple times already this year, but they were asked to back the request with data. Both public and private organizations sit on Tahoe Prosperity Center's board of directors. Other public entities — like Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, El Dorado and Placer counties in California, and Douglas County in Nevada — invested in the center. ABOUT PROJECTS Mayor Hal Cole, who sits on Tahoe Prosperity Center's board, supports Tahoe Prosperity Center's initiatives, like AlertTahoe, a University of Nevada, Reno-led program. It helped increase fire safety in the Lake Tahoe Basin. AlertTahoe is a system of networked sensors designed to protect the Lake Tahoe Basin from catastrophic wildfires, earthquakes, and other natural hazards. The project has eight camera sites situated around Lake Tahoe to date; the network prevented several fires in the basin already. An additional four cameras sponsored by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management provide additional coverage in Western and Northern Nevada east of Carson City. "We are living in an unprecedented time of fire danger, and to have the Tahoe Prosperity Center take the lead on that is great for our basin," Cole said. Another project is ConnectTahoe, a study funded by the California Public Utilities Commission. Tahoe Prosperity Center is mapping the basin to determine gaps in high-speed Internet locally. Not all council members agree the city's $10,000 investment was a wise one. Councilwoman JoAnn Conner said the city should not invest money that could be used for another purpose, especially for an organization she said hasn't produced measurable results yet. "I'm very concerned that we are paying the salary of an employee that is not accountable to us," Conner said. For more information, visit http://www.tahoeprosperity.org.

Tahoe’s South Shore community collaborates to bridge workforce issues

Last week, March 15-16, an estimated 75 volunteers participated in the South Shore Business Walk coordinated by the Tahoe Chamber, Tahoe Prosperity Center, El Dorado County and the Lake Tahoe Adult Education Consortium to collect workforce data from local businesses. Tahoe Prosperity Center reported that Tahoe has double-digit unemployment and poverty rates, more than 60 percent of children are on subsidized meal programs at school, and housing costs are beyond the reach of many of residents. These issues, combined with a region composed of two states, six local governments and 198 plan areas, makes economic progress challenging. Through a collaborative effort, the South Shore Business Walk succeeded in conducting interviews with 300 businesses owners and managers from Meyers to Roundhill in a survey developed to gauge how business is doing, understand workforce challenges and opportunities, anticipate workforce needs in the next 3-5 years, and analyze broadband and wireless internet connectivity issues in the South Tahoe region. The survey included questions that asked business owners, managers and human resources professionals if they are finding the talent/employees they need to operate effective, what has been working well and what challenges they experience in the recruitment process, what skills they foresee needing in the next 3-5 years to keep their business fully operational and competitive, how important broadband is to their business, if their wireless access meets their needs, and what systems, tools, resources, or infrastructure would enable them to grow or maintain business in the next 3-5 years. At the volunteer briefing, participants discussed overarching impressions they took away from the interviews. These included the need for employees with basic math and critical thinking skills, better customer service training, and knowledge of technology and computers. Businesses also reported having a hard time with reliability, punctuality and steady work force, credited to Tahoe's transient culture, seasonal positions, and a younger work force drawn to Tahoe for its proximity to snow and adventure rather than career building and development. The businesses that have had success with employment recruitment and retention said they've been able to study the millennial workforce and change their efforts to better recruit the incoming generation and retain them by offering a positive work culture, incentives and flexibility. Most interviewees said business has been good, as the snow has brought in the necessary tourism numbers to meet their bottom lines. Many businesses, even those not directly tied to tourism, spoke to the importance of sustaining and growing tourism. However, some stated challenges they have with traffic congestion, limited parking, signage and poor Internet in the basin. Many are looking forward to future infrastructure development initiatives that will help their business by addressing traffic congestion, promote more walk/bike path use, and create affordable housing. Ideas from the volunteers on creating a stronger South Shore workforce included offering trade programs at LTCC, developing partnerships between businesses in a work-share program, creating a central job posting site, and training employers on millennial recruitment and retention. The survey results will be compiled and shared in the coming months and community members can expect to see not only outcomes from South Shore, but also the entire basin since the interviews will continue on North, East, and West shores in the future. The information collected from these surveys will be used to develop strategies to create a workforce that is trained to meet the needs of today's and tomorrow's employers. The LTCC Adult Education Consortium will use the data to begin planning courses and curriculum related to industry needs in the region, the Tahoe Chamber will continue to develop public workshops on customer service and leadership and support the business community in local government, and the Tahoe Prosperity Center is working to expand wireless connectivity and cell service throughout the region.

Guest column: No, Sen. Heller did not vote to sell your internet history

It looks like liberals are in the business of using billboards to promote their delusions. They have hijacked the truth and put it on Interstate 580 for everyone to see with a billboard making the ridiculous claim that Sen. Dean Heller voted to allow companies to purchase your internet browsing history. This claim is a far cry from the truth. All the Republican-controlled Congress did is restore the rule of law by repealing the political favoritism of the Obama administration's regulatory overreach. Your privacy is still intact and the liberals know it. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has protected internet users from violations of their personal privacy for close to 20 years. During this time, consumers have embraced the FTC model and the internet has grown well beyond our wildest expectations, moving from a novelty where you could talk to others in an online chatroom to an integral part of our lives. Thanks to the free market, companies now compete for your services, speed has increased exponentially, and access is widespread and growing. Despite this market success, or perhaps because of it, the Obama-era Federal Communications Commission (FCC) aggressively promoted an effort to transform the internet into a government controlled entity. To further this agenda in the final months of the Obama presidency, the FCC passed a so-called "privacy" measure over the objections of the FTC. This rule would have created a duplicative set of rules in conflict with existing privacy regulations. This would have meant consumers had different protections on different parts of the internet. The two-tiered system would have opened unsuspecting consumers to a myriad of cyberattacks. Congress rightfully decided that two sets of rules was not only wrong, but also threatened the future of consumers' privacy by handing out exemptions to favored special interest groups. The rule only applied to broadband providers, leaving data collectors like Google and Facebook untouched. That's why Congress rejected the FCC rules, an act that created an avalanche of inaccurate scare tactics declaring your privacy was now for sale. Liberal groups have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in a fruitless attempt to purchase the browsing histories of members of Congress, which was and remains illegal. As Jules Polonetsky, the head of the Future of Privacy Forum, said, "In no conceivable way is it legal … to sell the individual browser history of a person." The inability of these groups to purchase the data proves that every claim they are making is false. Yet, they forge ahead claiming that the recent actions by Congress allows privacy violations like this to occur. Instead of refunding the money and admitting they were wrong, which would have been the honorable thing to do, these groups pivoted and are now purchasing billboards alleging that members of Congress, including Nevada Sen. Heller, voted to allow your web history to be sold! They know it is a falsehood, but still allege in big bold letters that Mr. Heller "voted to let them [Internet Service Providers] sell your web history without your permission." The ironic thing is that what these groups are advocating for is even worse. Housing your personal information in a government agency would undoubtedly threaten your security, not foster it. There is still the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, and this information housing looks unconstitutional to this observer. Heller did the right thing by standing up to those seeking to transform the internet into a government-run monopoly. That would have decimated competition, innovation, progress and ultimately privacy. Thanks to Heller's vote, the FTC and FCC have agreed to work together to give consumers one set of rules for all of the internet, something that would have never happened without the actions of this Congress. If you are driving down the road and happen to see this particular billboard, you have been warned — the information on it is false, and sadly, its sponsors know it. In today's world, however, we should not expect anything less from a left wing that is slowly losing touch with reality. James Smack is the former Republican National Committeeman for Nevada.

Network of cameras and high-speed connections could provide real-time data stream for Lake Tahoe Basin scientists

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – Imagine a bird’s eye-view of Tahoe on a sunny summer day – a wide expanse of blue speckled with boats. Imagine that same view, but over an area of stream-zone restoration as it morphs over time. Now imagine how the view would look in the case of a catastrophic wildfire, watching how the speed and direction of the wind influences the flames’ path. Scientist have tried for years to find funding for a high-speed network of sensors and cameras to monitor the basin. Through a recent partnership with a Sony Europe and a group of middle school students from Meadow Vista, Calif., that technology is now a reality. “We are excited about a future for Tahoe where Tahoe can get the best technology to study it and to protect it,” said Graham Kent, director of University of Nevada, Reno, Nevada Seismological Laboratory. On Tuesday, scientists from UNR and the UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center installed the first camera prototype in Tahoe City. A live stream from the 360-degree, solar-powered camera and wi-fi system is set to debut next week via the Internet from Copenhagen, Denmark, during the United Nations Climate Change Conference. While scientists from TERC and UNR looked to secure funding for a lake-wide monitoring system, Independent Home Study School students from Meadow Vista entered and won the international Climate Actions portion of the global First Lego League Children’s Climate Call competition in Copenhagen. The team’s idea to use constant monitoring of forest fires with cameras and social networking impressed Sony executives, who decided to produce the technology, according to a Sony release. At that time, the students’ teacher, Heidi Buck, and Kent got in touch and found common ground between the students’ project and Tahoe’s science needs. The Tahoe City camera is a prototype and will stay at its location until four permanent locations around the basin can be identified for that camera and three others. The cameras are provided by Sony free of charge, and the scientists involved are donating their time, said Geoffrey Schladow, TERC director. The First Lego team’s goal for the project is to monitor Tahoe forests for signs of forest fire by broadcasting the live stream to a public Web site. There, people can look at the video and click areas to report a forest fire. The information might also be available as a screen saver. The Web site is still being built, Kent said. Scientists can also use the images combined with weather information to help fire fighters determine the trajectory of the fire. “If there is a fire, then all the cameras can be trained on it, and we can see where the fire is and how quickly it is progressing,” Schladow said. “It really can save lives.” The technology can also be used for a host of other research purposes. With a high-speed broadband connection, researchers can program their equipment to report data in real-time that can be monitored remotely, Schladow said. Researchers can also use the photos to monitor the number of boats on the water and to aid with aquatic invasive species research, Kent said. The cameras can be used to produce time-lapse videos of stream-zone sensitive areas that have been restored, to discover how the area changes over time, Kent said. “This type of information could be meaningful to us in discussing land use policy,” said Shane Romsos, Tahoe Regional Planning Agency science monitoring and evaluation program manager.