News

Posted October 18, 2017 by Matthew Marcus

In Detroit, AT&T is facing a formal FCC complaint accusing the telecom giant of deploying discriminatory “digital redlining” tactics. This is the second such complaint filed against the telecommunications giant since the first of the year.

Demanding Equality in Connectivity

The complaint filed by civil rights attorney Daryl Parks says the FCC violated the Communications Act which forbids unjust and unreasonable discrimination. A month earlier, Parks filed a similar complaint on behalf of three Cleveland residents. In both instances, Parks and community members maintain that AT&T is withholding high-speed Internet from minority neighborhoods that have higher poverty rates.

These complaints fall under Title II of the Communications Act, which contains not only net neutrality rules but important consumer protections regarding discrimination. Title II SEC. 202. [47 U.S.C. 202] (a) clearly specifies:

It shall be unlawful for any common carrier to make any unjust or unreasonable discrimination in charges, practices, classifications, regulations, facilities, or services for or in connection with like communication service, directly or indirectly, by any means or device, or to make or give any undue or unreasonable preference or advantage to any particular person, class of persons, or locality, or to subject any particular person, class of persons, or locality to any undue or unreasonable prejudice or disadvantage.

The first complaint filed in Cleveland last March was prompted by a report from the National Digital Inclusion Alliance and...

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Posted October 17, 2017 by lgonzalez

Maryland may be home to our nation’s bustling, urban capital, but on the other side of the state are the Appalachians and many rural communities that struggle with poor Internet access. One of those communities is Garrett County. Residents, businesses, and institutions have limped along for years using outdated connections.  Some people don’t have any access to the Internet; all that is changing.

In episode 275 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast, the county’s Natural Resources Business Specialist Cheryl DeBerry and county CIO Nathanial Watkins join Christopher to discuss the initiative that is changing the local connectivity landscape.

Cheryl, Nathaniel, and Christopher discuss the project that combines fiber, fixed wireless, and TV white space technologies in order to reach people and businesses across the county. They also talk about how a significant portion of people in the rural community simple can’t afford the high cost of satellite and how mobile Internet access just doesn’t cut it in a rural area like Garrett County. Cheryl describes how the project is an economic development initiative and Nathaniel shares more details about their need to combine technologies and the results.

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 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.

Posted October 17, 2017 by Matthew Marcus

Approximately 30 miles separate Morristown and Newport, but the two are joining forces to better connect local businesses and residents as entrepreneurs take up residence in the region's newest high-tech work space.

An Incubator for Innovation in Morristown

SkyMart Venture Place is a new cooperative workspace stirring innovation in the quaint downtown district of Morristown.

Morristown was on the forefront of implementing city-wide Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) back in 2006. Today their gigabit network MUS FiberNET is fostering innovation in this thriving co-working space and helping neighboring communities bridge their connectivity gaps. Lynn Wolfe explains that the new space has helped support her in the early stages of her business. “[SkyMVP] gives me a place—with super-fast internet—to come and do my internet marketing, and it has been very beneficial for that and being able to upload my training videos,” Wolfe said.

SkyMVP’s doors opened in August of last year and it’s become a hub for local entrepreneurs. The space allows members to hold workshops, rent office space, and network with other professionals.

Similar incubator projects are underway in Virginia’s Roanoke Valley and Indianola, Iowa. SkyMVP is yet another example of how gigabit connectivity can spur positive transformations for local communities. Morristown’s decision to invest in FTTH infrastructure is emboldening their local economy and potential for small business growth in the area is promising. Sky MVP has even begun offering a course for budding entrepreneurs and a handful of free workshops.

Expanding the 'Net in Newport

...

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Posted October 16, 2017 by Kelsey Henquinet

 

Colorado

Letter: Municipal broadband connects us all by Zach Shelton, The Coloradoan

Broadband is the glue that connects all of us in the medical field and has increasingly become an equally important tool in our doctor bag. Please vote yes on 2B to ensure we have the opportunity as a city to improve our internet infrastructure to meet the needs of our clinic and many other businesses and individuals in Fort Collins.

Letter: Broadband represents Fort Collins' future by David Austin-Groen, The Coloradoan

FAQ: Fort Collins broadband on the November ballot by Kevin Duggan, The Coloradoan

 

Florida

Commentary: Cable competition? Winter Park considers it, and Spectrum gets nervous by Scott Maxwell, The Orlando Sentinel

For consumers, though, fear and competition can be good.

Don’t take it from me. Take it from consumer-advocate groups like the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, which is cheering on Winter Park and other cities, encouraging them to invest in technology and become less reliant on cable and internet providers that have near-monopolies in many markets.

Of course the cable companies will protest, said Christopher Mitchell, the president of the Minneapolis-based Institute. “They’ve fought it in every single city,” he said. “But this is like Starbucks telling a city they shouldn’t have their own coffee machines.”

 

Idaho

SDN Streamlines Virtualized...

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Posted October 16, 2017 by lgonzalez

Torpedo legislation aimed at municipal network initiatives don’t usually appear in October, but Michigan’s year-round legislature is making 2017 atypical. Last week, Freshman Representative Michele Hoitenga from the rural village of Manton in Wexford County introduced a bill banning investment in municipal networks.

HB 5099 is short; it decrees that local communities cannot use federal, state, or their own funds to invest in even the slowest Internet infrastructure, if they choose to do it themselves:

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF MICHIGAN ENACT: 

SEC. 13B. (1) EXCEPT AS OTHERWISE PROVIDED IN SUBSECTION (2), A LOCAL UNIT SHALL NOT USE ANY FEDERAL, STATE, OR LOCAL FUNDS OR LOANS TO PAY FOR THE COST OF PROVIDING QUALIFIED INTERNET SERVICE. (2) A LOCAL UNIT MAY ENTER INTO AN AGREEMENT WITH 1 OR MORE PRIVATE PARTIES TO PROVIDE QUALIFIED INTERNET SERVICE. (3) AS USED IN THIS SECTION, "QUALIFIED INTERNET SERVICE" MEANS HIGH-SPEED INTERNET SERVICE AT A SPEED OF AT LEAST 10 MBPS UPSTREAM AND 1 MBPS DOWNSTREAM.

The exception allows local communities to engage in public-private partnerships, but the bill’s ambiguous language is likely to discourage local communities from pursuing such partnerships. As we’ve seen from partnerships that have successfully brought better connectivity to towns such as Westminster, Maryland, communities often took the initiative to invest in the infrastructure prior to establishing a partnership. Typically, the infrastructure attracts a private sector partner. If a community in Michigan wants to pursue a partnership that suits the exception of HB 5099, they will first have to grapple with the chicken and the egg dilemma.

Rather than put themselves at risk of running afoul of the law, prudent community leaders would probably choose to avoid pursuing any publicly owned infrastructure initiatives.

Munis Gaining Ground In Michigan

seal-michigan.png Michigan already has a significant state barrier in place; municipalities that wish to improve connectivity must first appeal to the private...

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Posted October 13, 2017 by lgonzalez

You may have noticed two new writers at MuniNetworks.org lately. Welcome Christopher Barich and Matt Marcus to the Community Broadband Networks team. Chris and Matt will be contributing to research, writing stories, working on resources, and helping keep up with all the developments in this sphere: 

 

Christopher Barich: Before joining ILSR, he interned with the U.S. Department of State and the Hudson Institute. He is a current MN Army National Guard officer and veteran. Christopher holds a Master’s of Public Policy in Global Public Policy from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota.

You can find him on twitter at: @chris_barich

Matthew Marcus: Matthew has a BA in Political Science and International Relations from CUNY Hunter College. Before joining ILSR, he worked as a Communications Associate at Medha Learning Foundation in Lucknow, India. He is a freelance writer, avid music collector, and lover of short fiction.

He’s on twitter at: @matthewmarcus91

We feel lucky to have both Christopher and Matthew aboard to help us share the news about publicly owned networks and telecom policy.

Posted October 13, 2017 by Matthew Marcus

When your community needs better connectivity, the best place to start is with a feasibility study, but each community's needs vary and what should you expect from such a study? What kinds of question should you ask? What should a consultant offer your community?

There is no single answer, but the best way to prepare is to seek out information on feasibility studies and determine what is right for your region or town. For communities in the planning phase of developing a municipal broadband network, Vantage Point Solutions is hosting the webinar: “Feasibility Studies for Municipal Broadband: The Good, the Bad, and the Best Practices.”

From the invitation:

When it comes to developing and expanding municipal broadband networks, there is no one-size-fits-all model. Proper planning will ensure the right solution is identified before significant time and money is invested.

In this webinar, Vantage Point Solutions will provide you with best practices and guidance on what you should do during the planning phase of a broadband project - and what you can save for later. This session will help you avoid pitfalls that create delays and problems and maximize the success of your planning process.

The webinar discussion will be led by Dusty Johnson and Lori Sherwood on Wed Oct. 18th at 3:00 pm. Register here.

Learn more about the art of the feasibility study from some of our Community Broadband Bits podcast episodes: 

Posted October 12, 2017 by ChristopherBarich

Mount Washington, Massachusetts, is set to light up its new Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network this month. By “building our own Fiber-to-the-Home broadband network, we are taking an important step in securing our community’s long-term vitality and sustainability,” says Selectboard Member Gail Garrett

Mount Washington Recap

Mount Washington is nestled within the forested Taconic Mountains area located in the southwest corner of the state. The roughly 150 full-time residents have been frustrated with the lack of connectivity. "Everybody's had it with their current connections” said Garret and believes the town “deserves the same opportunity to connect to the internet as those in larger communities.” 

The final estimates for the network came in at $603,000 but the town planned for any unanticipated make ready or dig costs and prepared for a high estimate of $650,000. To fund construction, Mount Washington authorized the use of $250,000 from their stabilization fund in 2015, received $230,000 in federal and state funds from the Massachussetts Broadband Institute (MBI) earlier this year, and established a plan to borrow the remaining $400,000 through a state loan program. This spring, received an additional $222,000 grant from the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development, which will allow them to pay down the debt sooner and have the network paid off within five years.

The FTTH network is set to provide residents who opted in, over 60 percent of the town, with up to 1 gigabit of upload and download speeds. To opt in, residents deposited $300 per household and committed themselves to three years of data and telephone service on the FTTH network.

map-Mount_Washington_ma_highlight.png According to Mount Washington’s Broadband Business Plan, the town will be charging $75.00...

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Posted October 11, 2017 by christopher

Mason County Public Utility District 3 covers a large area with a lot of people that have poor Internet access. If "PUD" didn't give it away, it is located in Washington State on the Olympic Peninsula and had already been investing in fiber as an electric utility for monitoring its internal systems.

Mason PUD 3 Telecommunications & Community Relations Manager Justin Holzgrove and Public Information & Government Relations Manager Joel Myer join us for episode 274 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast to discuss how they are expanding their open access fiber optic network to the public after seeing tremendous support not just for Internet access but specifically for the PUD to build the infrastructure.

logo-community-bb-bits_small.png We talk about how they are financing it and picking areas to build in as well as the role of the Northwest Open Access Network, which we have discussed on previous shows and written about as well. We cover a lot of ground in this interview, a good place to start for those interested in open access and user-financed investment.

Read the transcript of this show here.

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

This show is 38 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...

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Posted October 11, 2017 by lgonzalez

Another rural electric cooperative is set to bring high-quality connectivity via fiber optic infrastructure. Volunteer Electric Cooperative (VEC) in Tennessee will be investing in a pilot program in Bradley County by year’s end.

A Learning Process - The Pilot

When it comes to fast, affordable, reliable connectivity via publicly owned Internet infrastructure, Chattanooga is typically the first location on everyone’s lips. Unfortunately, neighboring Bradley County has struggled with chronically poor connectivity. Even though Chattanooga would very much like to expand their reach to serve Bradley County residents and businesses, restrictive state law prevents the city from helping their neighbors.

Last summer, VEC saw an opening when the state legislature changed existing barriers that prevented electric cooperatives from offering broadband access or from applying for state grants to deploy the infrastructure. VEC is currently in the process of preparing grant applications through the state’s economic development commission. 

The purpose of the pilot, according to VEC President Rody Blevins, is to determine the level of interest in Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) connectivity in Bradley County. Areas VEC chose for the pilot include homes where there is no service and premises were there are more than one option.

"We are doing that to discover how many would choose our services who have no options as well as those who do have a source for broadband service already available," Blevins said. "That helps us looking at the bigger financial model."

"If we have real low response, that's going to hurt us," he added. "We are not for- profit, so this thing has to pay for itself overtime. If I show my board it will never pay for itself, we can't do it. But, I don't think that's going to be the case."

Blevins told the Cleveland Banner that the cooperative estimates the cost to cover 75 percent of Bradley County would be approximately $40 million. He went on to say that if 50 percent of households in the pilot areas chose to sign up, “we would be in pretty good shape.” 

Working...

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Posted October 10, 2017 by ChristopherBarich

On August 1, 2017, the Franklin County Infrastructure Bank awarded Grove City, Ohio a $2 million loan to support their construction of a municipal fiber optic network. 

The Grove City Plan

According to the city’s Request for Proposal (RFP), the city is focused on first establishing an institutional network (I-Net) and plan to expand it to serve local businesses over time. The initial fiber optic network will connect Grove City to the South-Western City Schools, the townships of Jackson, Prairie, Pleasant, and the Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio (SWACO). The goal is to create a network with a baseline of ten gigabits symmetric service, ten times the speed of current connections provided by Spectrum (formerly Time Warner Cable).

According to Mayor Richard “Ike” Stage, the increase in network speed will attract businesses and will generate a 100 new jobs for the city. Josh Roth, Senior Program Coordinator for Economic Development and Planning, has said “that Grove City has committed to one hundred jobs over the next three years.”

During the August 1, 2017 general session, the Franklin County Board of Commissioners  passed the resolution to authorize the loan to the city of Grove City. 

Franklin County Commissioner Kevin L. Boyce celebrated the project:

“[T]he fiber optics really makes a difference because companies will look at whether to expand or move there [Grove City]. It could be a deciding factor. Those are jobs that are retained that you may not see."

For more information on the positive relationship between publicly owned Internet network infrastructure and reyaining or...

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Posted October 9, 2017 by Kelsey Henquinet

Arizona

Contentious broadband meeting by Alexis Bechman, Payson Roundup

 

Colorado

County agrees on plan to finish broadband project by Niki Turner, Herald Times

 

Idaho

Unique Model Makes Citizens A Funding Partner In Broadband Network By Craig Settles, The Daily Yonder

The Ammon Model by Bryan Clark, Post Register

Participants in Thursday’s conference praised a revolutionary model that uses upfront public investment in order to create a marketplace where residents benefit from intense competition between private internet service providers, competition that’s rarely seen elsewhere in the market.

“Ammon has inspired many other communities around the country,” said Chris Mitchell, policy director of Next Century Cities. “… Ammon has one of the most replicable models (for municipal fiber-optic systems).”

 

Pennsylvania

Slow internet plagues rural areas of Erie County by David Bruce, Go Erie

 

Virginia

Orange County Broadband Initiative Moves Forward by Jennifer Walker, NBC 29

This grant will lay the foundation for future internet plans in the Orange community and act as an additive to programs that are already in place.

“Through the partnership that we’ve been able to establish with the county, we can expand that service out beyond the schools to the community and that’s what’s really important about this...

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Posted October 9, 2017 by lgonzalez

You may not have been able to get to Ammon, Idaho, to attend the official lighting ceremony of the community’s open access fiber network. Perhaps you weren’t able to watch the stream to the event either; life is demanding and sometimes we just can’t fit everything into our day. But you can still watch the event at your own pace because we’ve broken down the presentations and panels for you.

 

Deb Socia (NCC) & Jeff Christensen (EntryPoint) Introduce Ammon Mayor Dana Kirkham :

https://youtu.be/YvBTjaoPRuc?t=35m30s

 

Mayor Dana Kirkham :

https://youtu.be/YvBTjaoPRuc?t=43m46s

 

State Senator Brent Hill :

https://youtu.be/YvBTjaoPRuc?t=47m38s

 

Keynote: How Does the City of Tomorrow Get ‘Smart’? 

Glenn Ricart, Founder and CEO, US Ignite :

https://youtu.be/YvBTjaoPRuc?t=53m5s

 

Panel - How do we make ‘smart cities’ a reality?

logo-next-century-cities.jpg

  • Glenn Ricart, Founder and CEO, US Ignite
  • Shawn Irvine, Economic Development Director, Independence, Oregon
  • Aarushi Sarbhai, Graduate Research Assistant, University of Utah
  • Jeff Peterson, CTO, EntryPoint Networks
  • Moderated by Deb Socia, Executive Director, Next Century Cities

https://youtu.be/YvBTjaoPRuc?t=1h14m20s

 

Bobbi-Jo Meuleman, Chief Operations Officer, Idaho Department of Commerce :

https://youtu.be/YvBTjaoPRuc?t=2h27m29s

 

Policy Discussion: Does government have a role to play? 

Christopher Mitchell, Director, Community Broadband Networks :

https://youtu.be/YvBTjaoPRuc?t=2h29m58s

 

Economic Feasibility: Is it time for a New Model?...

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Posted October 6, 2017 by lgonzalez

Over the past several decades, the population of Somerset County, Pennsylvania, has incrementally jumped up and down, but today's population is the same as it was in 1960. In order to boost economic development and encourage growth with more jobs, community leaders are deploying fiber for better connectivity in several industrial areas.

Financial Help For Fiber Connectivity

In May, U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) announced that they would provide a $569,000 grant to the county to help fund the project. The EDA consider the project worth while because they expect the project to retain 20 existing jobs, generate 42 new jobs, and stimulate $25 million in private investment.

County officials intend to combine the EDA grant with an additional grant they received in January from the Appalachian Regional Commission. The ARC grant of almost $949,000 will allow Somerset County to dedicate approximately $1.5 million to run fiber four industrial parks. The County will match the grant award in order to fully fund the 22-mile network, which will expand existing Somerset County fiber infrastructure. View a map of the proposed expansion here.

Lack Of Meaningful Connectivity In Rural Pennsylvania

Recently, the County Board of Commissioners approved a contract with a firm to oversee the project. Long-term goals are to improve connectivity for approximately 1,100 businesses and 3,900 households along with local community anchor institutions (CAIs) and other entities. Approximately 18 percent of the people in Somerset don’t have broadband as defined by the FCC (25 megabits per second (Mbps) download and 3 Mbps upload) according to Form 477 data. The number is likely much higher, however, because Form 477 data tends to overstate coverage, especially in rural areas. Shortly after the county received the EDA award, two local Internet service providers expressed interest in delivering services via the new infrastructure.

The largest community is the county seat of Somerset with...

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Posted October 4, 2017 by lgonzalez

If you can’t make it to Ammon to attend the launch of the city’s ground breaking open access fiber network, you can still enjoy the festivities. The event will be livestreamed starting at 10:30 eastern at this link:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCmATax9osBK4K2ZUiAtjXmQ/live

Ammon’s Mayor Deb Kirkham, State Senator Brent Hill, and even former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, in a video address, will share thoughts about the city’s pioneering infrastructure and what it means for this Idaho city of about 14,000 people. Christopher is in Ammon to celebrate with the community and speak on the significance of this local project.

If you need to brush up on Ammon’s software defined network (SDN) and the ways it has already improved life in the community, read our coverage before the event on October 5th. You can also take a few minutes to listen to episodes 259, episode 207, episode 173, and episode 86 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast to listen to conversations that describe the evolution of Ammon’s network.

Lastly, check out our video about the network and hear from the people in Ammon who are early adopters:

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