Posts Tagged ‘Qwest Communications’

Feds Broadband Bill Disappoints Nearly Everyone

January 17, 2009

Last night, BusinessWeek published a story I co-wrote with my colleague Arik Hesseldahl about the broadband stimulus measures contained in the $825 billion stimulus package released by the House Democrats. The story, Broadband Bill Disappoints Nearly Everyone, is already generating a heated debate on my Facebook page so I thought I’d post the beginning of it here to see if anyone wants to add to the discussion.

Broadband Bill Disappoints Nearly Everyone
Critics say there’s not enough money in the bill and that distributing funds through grants instead of tax credits will hamper job creation

By Spencer E. Ante and Arik Hesseldahl

The initial stab by the U.S. government to promote high-speed Internet access has something to disappoint nearly everyone.

Most communications companies and consumer advocacy groups say the $6 billion in broadband stimulus measures contained in the House Democrats’ $825 billion economic recovery package are a good first step. But they warn that the money won’t be nearly sufficient to meet incoming President Barack Obama’s objective of providing affordable high-speed Internet access to all U.S. households.

“I was incredibly impressed how quickly the House moved,” says Shirley Bloomfield, senior vice-president for federal relations at Qwest Communications (Q), a Denver-based communications provider that serves 14 Western states. “They’ve got some good concepts. But $6 billion is not going to get you to ubiquitous broadband.”

Communications providers and various advocacy groups have pegged the cost of creating universal broadband in the tens of billions of dollars. A December 2008 report by the Free Press, an organization devoted to reforming the media, estimated that a broadband infrastructure development program would cost $44 billion over three years. Similarly, the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation (ITIF), a Washington (D.C.) think tank, projected that providing Internet service to much of the unserved territories in the U.S. would cost about $12 billion. “It’s definitely not enough money,” says Robert Atkinson, founder of the ITIF.

Read the rest of the story here.


Rocky Mountain High Tech

August 31, 2008

When you think of Colorado, startups and venture capital don’t come to mind. Snow-capped mountains, Birkenstock-clad hippies, and the Denver Broncos are more like it.

So it came as a pleasant surprise when I met Colorado-based venture capitalist Seth Levine during the Democratic National Convention. Patrick Ward, a New York transplant who founded tech PR firm 104 West Partners in Denver, was nice enough to set up a meeting with Levine and I at the swanky Capital Grille in the city’s attractive downtown district.

[Driving to Denver from the airport, a few miles outside of town.]

By the time lunch ended, I came away with the impression that Colorado had a lot more going on technology-wise than I realized, and I think it’s role will only grow in the future as the New West takes on an increasingly prominent role in the tech economy. Colorado Governor Bill Ritter, who was quite active during the DNC, is trying to position his state as a leader in developing a post-fossil-fuel economy. (Ryan Lizza’s feature in The New Yorker, “The Code of the West,” is required reading that nails why the West is becoming an growing force in green energy and Democratic politics.)

Last year, Levine and a few of his associates split off from Mobius Venture Capital (they are closing out the management of one Mobius fund, though) and launched Foundry Group from Boulder, Colorado. Yes, that Boulder. The rustic foothill town where poet Allan Ginsberg set up Buddhist-inspired Naropa University, and hippies ruled the earth. When I drove cross country in 1990 and stopped in Boulder I don’t recall seeing one computer in the whole patchouli-smelling town.

Now, Levine tells me that over the last 15 years Boulder has become a bit of a tech hotbed. His best argument: After acquiring @Last Software in 2006, a Boulder-based software company, Google recently set up an office in town with 200 people, Levine is proud to tell me.

“Entrepreneurs got their feet wet during the 1990s,” says Levine. “There were a few home runs. Today, there is a good and steady stream of solid technology assets coming out of the area.” Among the big wins: In 1999 Exodus Communications acquired Service Metrics for $280 million, and in 2004 IAC acquired ServiceMagic for reportedly several hundred million.

[Denver from the 50th floor of the Qwest building with the Pepsi Center and Invesco Field in the foreground.]

Foundry Ventures is one of a new breed of back-too-basics VC firms that are focused on funding early-stage tech startups. By the end of 2007, the firm had raised an impressive $225 million, $50 million more than its initial fund-raising target. Foundry’s strategy is to invest in certain themes. Its top themes are human computer interaction, gaming and infrastructure software.

In addition to Foundry, Boston-native Levine noted that Colorado boasts several area VC firms, including Boulder Ventures, Vista Ventures, High Country Venture and two older Denver-based firms, Centennial Ventures and Meritage Funds.

Besides a growing pool of venture capital, Colorado also enjoys some of the other key ingredients for creating a Silicon Valley-like economy: several good universities, a rising number of entrepreneurs, an appealing climate and lifestyle, and hub of larger established tech companies, including Qwest Communications, Echostar, Level III, and the former TCI.

To nurture the entrepreneurial community, last year Foundry helped launch TechStars, a Colorado-based tech incubator. Among the first class, says Levine, seven of the 10 companies that participated received some type of funding.

If you want to learn more about the Colorado venture scene, a good place to start is Venture Capital in the Rockies (VCIR), a conference that has been running for 26 years. Next spring, in the mountains at Beaver Creek, Colorado, about 20 startups will be there to tell their stories, along with a great cast of speakers and moderators. Not bad, eh?