Broadband Bits by Christopher Mitchell

Community Broadband Bits is a short weekly audio show featuring interviews with people building community networks or otherwise involved with Internet policy. You can listen to the shows via your browser below or by downloading the shows from iTunes to put on a portable media device.

See our index of all shows and links to transcripts. Please send us feedback here. A good way to keep up with new developments is to subscribe to our one-email-per-week list sharing new stories and resources.

Put this link into "Subscribe to podcast" in iTunes or your preferred podcast manager.

Policies to Make Markets Work - Community Broadband Bits Podcast 250

The larger focus of our work in the Community Broadband Networks Initiative is to ensure communities have the networks they need. Our guest for Community Broadband Bits episode 250 is an expert in how markets break and the policies that make them work. 

Gary Reback is a well known Silicon Valley lawyer and Of Counsel at Carr Ferrell LLP. He also wrote an excellent book, Free the Market: Why Only Government Can Keep the Marketplace Competitive that I fully recommend. Reback has had a front-row seat to the failings of government policy that has allowed a few technology firms to garner so much market power today.

We talk broadly about markets and monopoly rather than focusing on broadband and telecommunications. This is a good introductory conversation for people unfamiliar with the real threat and harms of monopoly. 

A related conversation is my interview with Barry Lynn in episode 83.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

This show is 25 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed.

You can download this mp3 file directly from here. Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Thanks to Arne Huseby for the music. The song is Warm Duck Shuffle and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.

Rural Electric Co-ops as Reluctant Warriors for Broadband - Community Broadband Bits Podcast 249

As we continue to cover the growing movement of rural electric cooperatives to bring high quality Internet networks to their members, we wanted to bring Alyssa Clemsen-Roberts back on the show. Alyssa was last on the show for episode 109 and has since moved from the Utilities Telecom Council to Pedernales Electric Co-op in Texas.

Though Pedernales is not considering a major broadband investment, Alyssa's insights from her years working with many electric utilities are valuable in understanding what electric co-ops have to consider before making a network investment. 

We start off by discussing the recent legislation in Tennessee that finally allows electric co-ops to offer Internet access before we move on to the real considerations a general manager has to examine before getting into telecom. We also talk quite a bit about the interplay between rural electric co-ops and telecommunications companies.

Read the transcript of the show.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

This show is 32 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed.

You can download this mp3 file directly from here. Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Thanks to Break the Bans for the music. The song is Escape and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.

LanCity Connect Partnership Brings Gig to Southeast Pennsylvania - Community Broadband Bits Podcast 248

Located in southeast Pennsylvania, Lancaster will soon have some of the fastest Internet access in the entire state due to its partnership with a local telecommunications firm, MAW Communications. We reported on many details about this approach here, but Community Broadband Bits podcast episode 248 offers an in-depth look.

Lancaster Business Administrator Patrick Hopkins and MAW Communications Operations Director Brian Kelly joined me to talk about the history of their partnership and the next big step: a citywide gigabit fiber-optic network. 

We also talk about the risks to the public sector from trusting a private company with essential infrastructure and the potential challenges for a private sector company to work with a local government. Both sides are going into this arrangement with their eyes wide open and offer tips for what others should consider before they try to replicate the model. 

If you missed it, last year we released a major paper about considerations in public-private partnerships. We did not discuss LanCity Connect, but many of themes apply.

Read the transcript of the show here.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

This show is 29 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or via the tool of your choice using this feed.

You can download this mp3 file directly from here. Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Thanks to Break the Bans for the music. The song is Escape and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.

Using Fiber for Smart Grid and the Pole Problem in Nashville - Community Broadband Bits 247

While at the annual Iowa Association of Municipal Utilities Broadband Conference, I forced Ken Demlow to be our guest on Community Broadband Bits Podcast 247. Ken is the Sales Director for Newcom Technologies, where he has worked with many different fiber-optic deployments on the ground and is a fun guy to talk to more generally.

Our discussion focuses on two main topics - the benefits of using fiber-optic connections to smart-grid applications rather than relying on wireless and the challenges that Google faced in getting on the poles in Nashville to build its fiber-optic network (which seems to be stalled). 

Ken had a front-row seat to the work in Nashville to get Google Fiber on poles but our conversation focuses on what is publicly known. We aren't breaking any insider secrets, but this is a very good discussion about the tremendous challenges of dealing with attachments on over 100,000 poles when contemplating a citywide metro fiber build. For people who haven't done it, this will explain why encouraging private sector competition at the physical network level is very difficult. And we keep it interesting - from possibly the worst idea for a sci-fi antagonist ever and how make-ready could fit into Greek myths.

Read the transcript of the show here.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

This show is 29 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or via the tool of your choice using this feed.

You can download this mp3 file directly from here. Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Thanks to Break the Bans for the music. The song is Escape and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.

Feasibility Study? How to Start a Community Network - Community Broadband Bits Podcast 246

After discussing this issue time and time again, with community after community, we finally recorded our thoughts on how communities should get started when considering a community network. Eric Lampland, the guy behind Lookout Point Communications, is our guest on Community Broadband Bits podcast episode 246. 

We talk about common mistakes and the importance of developing a comprehensive vision when evaluating an investment or partnership to improve Internet access. 

We also talk a little about the importance of some technical knowledge and having at least one person championing the effort. This is not something a consultant can do for you - someone in the community has to take ownership and responsibility. 

These are very important considerations for any community considering what it should be doing in the modern era.

Read the transcript of the show here.

Eric has also been a guest on Episode 128 "Open Access and Incumbent Challenges" and Episode 84 "Justifying a Network with Indirect Cost Savings."

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

This show is 33 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or via the tool of your choice using this feed.

You can download this mp3 file directly from here. Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Thanks to Break the Bans for the music. The song is Escape and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.

netBlazr Offering Blazing Fast Fixed Wireless - Community Broadband Bits Podcast 245

Like other urban centers in the U.S., Boston is filled with multi dwelling units (MDUs) and buildings that house multiple business tenants. Obtaining high-quality connectivity in such an environment can be a challenge, especially if choices are limited to just one or two incumbents with little or no competition. With the advancement of new fixed wireless technologies in recent years, however, residential and business subscribers now have better options.

This week, Christopher talks with Brough Turner, the founder and Chief Technology Officer at netBlazr. The company provides high-quality fixed wireless Internet access to residents and businesses across the city. Listeners who enjoy our occasional deep dives into the technical side of wireless connectivity, you’re in for a treat.

Brough and Christopher also discuss the company and the challenges they face working in a market traditionally reserved for the big incumbents. The guys spend time discussing the future of wireless and what Brough, who has extensive experience in this field, expects to see both in the short and long term.

Read the transcript of the show here.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

This show is 35 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or via the tool of your choice using this feed.

You can download this mp3 file directly from here. Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Thanks to Break the Bans for the music. The song is Escape and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.

West Plains Builds Network to Preserve Jobs - Community Broadband Bits Podcast 244

West Plains is one of the many population centers of rural regions that have been left behind by big cable and telephone companies. Located in the scenic Ozarks of southern Missouri, they are taking their digital future into their own hands with a modest fiber-optic investment.

City Administrator Tom Stehn strolls by our podcast this week to discuss what they are doing and why with a municipal fiber network that will connect anchor institutions and local businesses with high-quality Internet access.

We discuss the need, how they are financing it, and why the state legislature should not enact new barriers to local solutions. The community has already been placing conduit as part of a larger undergrounding effort, which will help them to expand the network over time.

Read the transcript of the show here.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

This show is 17 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or via the tool of your choice using this feed.

You can download this mp3 file directly from here. Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Thanks to Break the Bans for the music. The song is Escape and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.

What's NEXT In North Arkansas? - Community Broadband Bits Podcast 243

As an increasing number of rural electric cooperatives are working to bring high-quality Internet access to their members, we’re learning more about new projects and the people behind them. This week, we talk with the CEO of the North Arkansas Electric Cooperative, Mel Coleman. As an added bonus, we get Mel’s insight as President of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA).

Mel and Christopher discuss the cooperative’s new NEXT pilot project to bring high-quality Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) to members. Residents can get symmetrical gigabit connectivity for $79.95 per month. Mel draws parallels between the ways rural electric cooperatives brought electricity to rural areas in the region and now how the cooperatives are meeting the demand for broadband.

As the President of NRECA, Mel sees how other regions of the country are turning to rural electric cooperatives for better Internet access. While many are just getting started and others are well on their way, some have chosen to wait to take the plunge into offering telecommunications services. Why is that? Because just like local communities, cooperatives reflect the unique appetites and needs of their members. Mel explains why the North Arkansas Electric Cooperative feels offering better connectivity to their region is a necessity.

Read the transcript of the show here.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

This show is 16 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or via the tool of your choice using this feed.

You can download this mp3 file directly from here. Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Thanks to Break the Bans for the music. The song is Escape and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.

Susan Crawford's Road Trip - Community Broadband Bits Podcast 242

Susan Crawford has come back to the podcast to tell us about her recent travels in North Carolina and Tennessee, talking to people on the ground that have already built fiber-optic networks or are in the midst of figuring out how to get them deployed.

Susan is a professor at Harvard Law, the author of The Responsive City: Engaging Communities Through Data-Smart Governance and Captive Audience: The Telecom Industry and Monopoly Power in the New Gilded Age, and a champion for universal high quality Internet access.

We have an informal discussion that ranges from what is happening on the ground in North Carolina and Tennessee to the role of federal policy to why Susan feels that municipal wholesale approaches are important to ensuring we have better Internet access.

It was a real treat to have Susan back on the show and to just have a discussion about many of the issues that don't always come up in more formal presentations or media interviews. We hope you enjoy it! Susan was previously on episode 125 and episode 29.

Read the transcript for the show here.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

This show is 21 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or via the tool of your choice using this feed.

You can download this mp3 file directly from here. Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Thanks to Break the Bans for the music. The song is Escape and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.

The Cable UnBundling Challenge - Community Broadband Bits Podcast 241

One of the most recurring complaints about cable television is the bundles - people resent having to pay for channels that they do not watch. Especially when those cable prices go up consistently. The cable companies tend to absorb most of the blame and anger for this model, but they aren't entirely responsible.

To explain how the cable industry works, Public Knowledge Senior Counsel John Bergmayer joins us for Episode 241 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. We talk about overlapping monopolies, market power, and how the cable companies themselves are somewhat imprisoned by content owners. 

As fits with our focus, we also talk specifically about how smaller firms (which includes all municipal networks) are particularly harmed by the status quo and even more harmed by the ongoing consolidation of the largest cable companies becuase they then have far greater negotiating power. 

Read the transcript of the show here.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

This show is 30 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or via the tool of your choice using this feed.

You can download this mp3 file directly from here. Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Thanks to Admiral Bob for the music. The song is Turbo Tornado (c) copyright 2016 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. Ft: Blue Wave Theory.

United Fiber Tackles Missouri's Most Rural - Community Broadband Bits Podcast 240

The most rural area of Missouri is getting a Fiber-to-the-Home network from the United Electric Cooperative, which has created United Fiber and is expanding across its footprint and to adjacent areas that want better Internet access. Chief Development Officer Darren Farnan joins us to explain why his co-op has taken these steps.

We discuss how they are rolling it out - focusing on areas that need the service while respecting the telephone cooperatives that are within their electric footprint. The project has benefited from a broadband stimulus award and also incorporates fixed wireless technology in some areas.

We discuss some of the economics behind the project and are sure to clarify that though the utility has needed some capital subisides to build the network, it does not need any operating subsidies to continue - it runs under its own revenue. And we talk about the demand for better, faster connections - it is much higher than most realize.

Read the transcript of the show here.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

This show is 30 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or via the tool of your choice using this feed.

You can download this mp3 file directly from here. Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Thanks to Admiral Bob for the music. The song is Turbo Tornado (c) copyright 2016 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. Ft: Blue Wave Theory.

Small Cells, Fiber, and Local Governments - Community Broadband Bits Podcast 239

After last week's podcast on Lincoln and its small cell policy, we wanted to offer a longer discussion about small cell wireless technology and the policy around it. Crown Castle is a firm focused on enabling wireless solutions and Acquisitions Manager in Corporate Development Strategy Duffy Newman joins us for episode 239 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast.

We explore what small cells are and how important they are to the future of improved wireless access. These devices are usually connected by fiber and allow an existing wireless service to improve bandwidth and reliability. Duffy offers the example of Philadelphia during the Pope's visit as a particularly good example of small cells in action. 

We also talk about local governments and the role they can play in enabling this technology and why it is important to have each node connected by fiber. 

Read the transcript of the show here.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

This show is 27 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or via the tool of your choice using this feed.

You can download this mp3 file directly from here. Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Thanks to Admiral Bob for the music. The song is Turbo Tornado (c) copyright 2016 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. Ft: Blue Wave Theory.

Small Cells Yield Big Results In Lincoln - Community Broadband Bits Podcast 238

We’ve been covering happenings in Lincoln, Nebraska for several years now. The city’s Right of Way Manager David Young joins us for episode 238 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. David is a returning guest; this week, he’s here to talk about Lincoln’s new venture into small cell technology.

The state imposes restrictions on municipalities in Nebraska. Nevertheless, Lincoln has found a way to make a smart investment in conduit and public fiber to create a welcoming environment for providers. An extensive conduit network and smart local policies in Lincoln have improved competition, expanded access, and now the small cell program is improving mobile broadband.

David and Christopher get into the technology of small cells and why mobile carriers are starting to prefer it over older technology. David describes some of the challenges, processes, and the special considerations communities must address for small ell deployment. Better cell coverage was the first goal of the project, but David describes how improved coverage helps the Lincoln compete with other cities in several ways.

As a resource, David and the city of Lincoln gave us permission to share a Fact Sheet on the project, the Master Lease Agreement, and relevant attachments for the Lincoln small cell project. For local governments considering a similar venture, these documents can help you get started.

Take a few moments to review other advancements in Lincoln, by reading up on our earlier coverage. You can also listen to other interviews with David in episode 228 and episode 182 of the podcast.

Read the transcript of the show here.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

This show is 33 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or via the tool of your choice using this feed.

You can download this mp3 file directly from here. Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Thanks to Admiral Bob for the music. The song is Turbo Tornado (c) copyright 2016 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. Ft: Blue Wave Theory.

Kitsap Residents Demand Fiber - And Get it - Community Broadband Bits Podcast 237

When we first learned of the Lookout Lane fiber-optic project in the Kitsap Public Utility District in Washington, we knew we wanted to learn more. Kitsap PUD General Manager Bob Hunter and Telecommunications Superintendent Paul Avis join us for episode 237 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast.

KPUD has historically focused on water and wastewater services but they increasingly hear from residents and businesses that Internet access is a major priority. We talk about their approach and how neighborhoods are able to petition KPUD to build fiber to them. The first area to use this option had very poor Internet access from the incumbent telephone provider.

The discussion covers a lot of interesting ground, from how it is financed to where the demand is heaviest, and why public utility districts should have the option of using a retail model in some areas rather than continuing to be limited solely to wholesale-only by state law. 

For related information, consider our coverage of the Northwest Open Access Network.

Read the transcript of the show here.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

This show is 33 minutes long and can be played below on this page or via iTunes or via the tool of your choice using this feed.

You can download this mp3 file directly from here. Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Thanks to Admiral Bob for the music. The song is Turbo Tornado (c) copyright 2016 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. Ft: Blue Wave Theory.

Wilson Greenlight, Public Housing Authority Solve Access Gap - Community Broadband Bits Episode 236

From our research, we believe the municipal fiber-optic network in Wilson, North Carolina, has the best low-income Internet access program in the nation. Called Greenlight, the fiber network has led to job growth and been a financial success. And now it also offers $10 per month 50 Mbps symmetrical Internet access to those living in housing units owned by the public housing authority.

Greenlight General Manager Will Aycock is back again to tell us about this program and is joined by two additional guests: CEO and President Kelly Vick from the Wilson Housing Authority and Wilson Communications and Marketing Director Rebecca Agner. 

We discuss how the program was created, how it is funded, and how it is impacting the community in addition to public reaction to it. Wilson continues to set a higher bar for what a community can expect when it builds its own network and seeks creative ways to improve opportunity for its businesses and residents.

Read the transcript for this show here.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

This show is 23 minutes long and can be played below on this page or via iTunes or via the tool of your choice using this feed.

You can download this mp3 file directly from here. Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Thanks to Admiral Bob for the music. The song is Turbo Tornado (c) copyright 2016 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. Ft: Blue Wave Theory.