This is Episode 27 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast. Lisa Gonzalez presents highlights from the first 25 episodes. Listen to this episode here.
Lisa: Hello, and welcome again to the Community Broadband Bits podcast presented to you by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. This is Lisa Gonzalez with a short holiday treat for you this week. We've produced over 25 episodes of the podcast, and every interview has been memorable. Our guests have talked about technology, economic development, digital inclusion, savings to the community, and many, many other topics. This time we want to share some of their voices and some of their thoughts. These voices describe the challenges faced by communities and individuals that don't have meaningful broadband access. We also hear from local leaders who describe how communities take connectivity into their own hands and use it to shape their futures. Enjoy.
Speaker 2: This is critical infrastructure, and everybody deserves access to it. If we're going to do it, we need to do it in a way that creates a long-term asset that is a responsible use of municipal dollars. That last part may come from the fact that so many of us have been marginalized by the lack of service for so long that we really believe that having a community, an asset that operates in the best interest of the community while still being financially sustainable, is a really important value.
Speaker 3: These are the areas where these large companies have admitted publicly they have no interest in serving them. I've heard them tell rural county managers that, "Hey, your homes and your county are too far apart and your people don't make enough money for us to invest." What we're seeing is parents having to drive their kids everyday 20 minutes away to find a cell tower where they can use an AirCard and upload their kid's homework, everyday and then 20 minutes back. I've had people who won't let me talk about their situation because they're worried that if it gets out that their home doesn't have broadband, they won't be able to sell the house. There are school districts that know that parents are sitting in their parking lots, feeding off of the WiFi. Those school districts are tempering their adoption of digital training in their curriculum because they know that even while they're giving these kids free computers, the kids are going home and they can't use them.
Speaker 4: Early on when we started talking with communities across the country, one of the things that percolated up through the story, which of course people knew in real terms but they didn't talk about in policy terms, was that broadband, or internet access in particular, had become so important that it was now a prerequisite to social economic inclusion. We talked to community members from across the country who gave very specific instances of how internet had moved from this luxury to a necessity. They needed it for MFIP. They needed it for to apply for Food Stamps. They needed it to regulate their immigration or refugee status. They needed it to apply for job. We had this framework of internet being a necessity not just a luxury.
Speaker 5: We have gone through a major transformation from an innovation perspective in incubating new startup companies, from really teachers and students from our University of California Riverside that does research. A lot of those are electing to stay here in Riverside, start their companies here. We've recently attracted some larger companies to the region like, SolarMax, an example, is bringing 1000 new jobs to Riverside. We're excited about those companies, especially the technology ones that recognize the benefits of infrastructure that we have here, and also recognize that people want to live and have their kids go to school in those type of geographies where broadband access is available to everyone.
Speaker 6: We have gigabit service, and the monthly fee is roughly $649 to a site. You might have several users at a site. We might have an after school program, a county health program, and a school all at one site. They can share that fee and all share in that gigabit bandwidth. You can see that we've really made it affordable for our schools and libraries. A commercial rate for a similar type service when we looked into it would have been somewhere in the neighborhood of $2200 or more per month.
Speaker 7: Comcast offered to give us an incremental cost increase, which was of about 6%. By the summer of 2010, the price would rise to $20,000 a month, and then the price rise again to 34,000 for the second, and then 45,000 for the third, and then 98,000 per month for 4th and 5th year. At the time, our original estimates, if we were to build completely from the ground up, were about 9.8 million. If we compare the cost of leasing a network, the life of a network that we would build, and the cost of that network, it was easy to see that after 10 years, or less than 10 years, we would recover the cost of leasing at $1.1 million a year. We went back to Comcast and said, "No way, we're not going to do that. We're going to go build our own network."
Speaker 8: You don't see it any different than building streets and bridges and letting anybody drive on them to say, well ...
Speaker 9: No city would imagine having its roads run by private entities. For us, this broadband infrastructure is just roads; it's nothing more, and it's nothing less. As such, it's necessary and we had to make it happen.
Speaker 10: The majority of our large employers in the city saw the tremendous benefit of that fiber connectivity and have taken that service. We've got one company, for example, that does aeronautic manuals. They build and maintain these manuals for planes, for private jets, and stuff like that. They actually have an offsite facility in Costa Rica that they use our fiber connection to do hot replication of their server farm from Sandy to Costa Rica. It's amazing, and we love getting testimonials from that business owner because he says, "Without SandyNet, we wouldn't be able to do this." It's fabulous. The price that we're able to do that at for our business is typically cheaper than a T1 connection for a full 100 megs to the internet.
Speaker 11: A gig to a resident, let alone businesses that can get it, is substantial and we do have people that are already using it. One of our gig users is a movie producer who worked on a lot of Pixar, Pirates of the Caribbean, those kinds of things. He can show you how dynamic his needs are from the broadband perspective where he's transferring files that are so large, such significant, many of them at one time back and forth between different partners et. cetera that he needs this type of work. He can work more effectively here at Utah than he can next door in Hollywood.
Speaker 12: They were needing 1000 megabit of connectivity to their new customer location. Everything was promised to them, "Yes we'll do exactly what you need." Fine, the deal was done. They're moving 400 jobs at that time. Carrier said, "I'm sorry, I'm not going to be able to get that. It's going to be 60 days out further. Expedia came back to us and said, "This is what we need. Can you do it?" "Absolutely." We did it; they haven't left. There were 400 jobs starting, 800 or 1000 jobs today.
Speaker 13: We don't ever want to force the community to build a network if they're not interested-
Speaker 14: No!
Speaker 13: Then we want the decision to be made locally.
Speaker 14: Absolutely. For some communities it'll make sense and for other communities it won't make sense. I actually spoke with some folks from the state government last week, Senator Bennet's office, Senator Udall's office. I said, "This isn't about the federal government mandating that the states doing anything. It's about the federal government or state government saying, 'You are free to make the decision, do what's right for your community.'"
Speaker 13: Right. I see exactly it.
Lisa: That was 9 minutes of some fantastic moments from the Community Broadband Bits podcast in 2012. Regardless of the community's size, demographics, or location, they should have the freedom to make local decisions. Each place is unique, and those who live with the results should be the one who determine their own path. We believe this tenet applies to much more than broadband, and we see successful examples everyday as communities exercise their right to shape their own futures.
If you have any questions or comments, please send us a note. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our handle on Twitter is @communitynets. This show was released on December 25th, 2012. We want to wish each of you a great holiday season, and thank you for listening. Thanks also to the Mojo Monkey's for the music, license to using the creative commons. The song is called, "Bodacious."