This month, both Frontier Communications and CenturyLink put the FCC on notice that neither company expected to meet deployment milestones related to Connect America Fund Phase II (CAF II). In total, rural households in 23 states will have to wait for connectivity that the two large companies were tasked with developing using federal subsidies.
Iowa has multiple rural communities where large national Internet access companies have not invested in high-quality Internet infrastructure. Iowans have adopted a self-reliant approach, however, and one look at the community networks map shows that publicly owned networks pepper the state. Osage, in the north-central part of Iowa, has offered Internet access to the community since 2001. In a recent announcement from the U.S.D.A, we learned that Osage Municipal Utilities (OMU) will receive almost $400,000 to continue their efforts to connect more premises in rural Mitchell County and connect people with fiber Internet access.
According to the announcement:
MuniNetworks.org offers a cache of resources for people who have a particular interest in publicly owned broadband networks. As interest in municipal networks has increased in recent years, connections between people can help those researching and organizing. We know that there aren't many places where our audience can have discussions with like-minded individuals, so the Institute for Local Self-Reliance has now established two mailing lists for folks who share our common interests related to municipal fiber networks.
Talkers, Organizers, a Meeting of the Minds
For folks who want to share thoughts on municipal networks with others, including new developments, news on projects, or trends and topics, they can sign up on our Muni Fiber Discussion mailing list.
The list will be lightly moderated and is not a place to dump links to stories; we expect people to share thoughts and ideas and to debate new issues and important developments.
Over the last few months, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has released a steady stream of awardee announcements for the first round of its ReConnect broadband program. Among the recently announced recipients is Valley Telecommunications Cooperative Association in Flandreau, South Dakota. The telephone co-op will receive a grant of about $9.5 million to connect nearly two thousand underserved households, businesses, and farms to it’s existing fiber network.
New map illustrates state’s rural broadband issue by Caroline Beck, Alabama Daily News
Fiber optic line, now being installed, expected to bring high speed Internet to rural Ouray County by Leslie Brown, Montrose Press
Georgia designates Evans County as broadband ready community by Juile Braly, The Claxton Enterprise
Last year, in celebration of the life of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we posted a few resources reflecting on the “I Have A Dream Speech.” This year, as the nation considers how Dr. King dedicated his life to raise awareness, we want to introduce readers to a resource that, thanks to technology, provides access to more documentation of the work of the man who led American toward a positive trajectory.
The Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute is a treasure trove of recordings, documents, and other resources working with The King Center in Atlanta. Coretta Scott King initiated the collaboration in 1985 through an invitation to Stanford University historian Clayborne Carson to become the project director.
According to a research study conducted by Fiber Broadband Association and RVA, LLC, fiber deployments in North America hit record highs in 2019. The broadband deployment initiative experienced a 16 percent growth or roughly 7,500,000 new homes now with fiber connectivity. More than 46.5 million houses have access to fiber Internet access compared to the 50,000 homes in 2002.
Here are some key findings from the report:
Over the past year, fiber broadband networks became available to 6.5 million additional unique homes — a record level of additions. Smaller providers accounted for 25 percent of these new home connections.
When his Twitter feed announced the “arrival of 5G” last December, tech reporter Chris Matyszczyk made a beeline for the nearest T-Mobile store and asked, “Can I have some of this 5G, please? I will become a much more desirable, admirable person if I have 5G!” From there, it was all downhill.
The Pain of the Hype
We aren’t the only ones who have pointed out the hype around 5G as telecom companies rush to outdo each other. In another case of marketing mayhem overtaking technical truth, Matyszczyk shares his rain soaked pursuit in the Bay Area. Expecting fanfare, he was met with a surprisingly subdued store:
I wandered into a T-Mobile store that was emptier than a politician's tweet.
In the spring of 2019, Houston, Missouri, sent out a call to citizens to share their thoughts on whether or not they'd like to subscribe to Internet access from a municipal network. Less than a year later, the city of around 2,000 people has forged ahead and has hired an engineering firm to begin work on their multi-phase fiber optic project.
When communities find that high-quality connectivity isn't up to par for everyone or they want better services that naturally flow from more options, local governments often take their first concrete steps with a plan. In December 2019, the gowing community of Moorpark, California, has selected Magellan Advisors as its partner in developing a Broadband Strategic Plan.
Businesses In Need of Fiber
Farmers depend on Internet connectivity like any other businesses for daily office tasks such as record keeping, reporting, banking, and marketing. This dependency stretches further as daily farming productivity depend on GPS-based applications that enable real-time data collection giving accurate information on soil fertility, field mapping, and other farm-related tasks. An October 2019 report from the United Soybean Board (USB) describes how poor connectivity is striking at the heart of America’s agricultural industry.
Profitability and Sustainability: Threatened
If you're a regular visitor to MuniNetworks.org, you may also be someone ideally suited for a position we recently learned about with the Minnesota Department of Commerce. They're hiring a Telecommunications Analyst. The position application period is open until January 23, 2020, so now is the time to apply.
Check out the position posting here, where you can learn more about qualifications, salary, and benefits.
From the job summary:
The federal government is about to spend more than $120 million on subsidies that, rather than improving rural connectivity, will make tens of thousands of families worse off. The Connect America Fund phase II reverse auction will distribute nearly $1.5 billion over the next 10 years to connect unserved rural residents. While some winning bidders committed to building out high-speed fiber optic networks, satellite company Viasat will rake in more than $120 million in subsidies to continue providing inadequate geostationary satellite connectivity to rural households that are clamoring for something better.