News

Posted August 16, 2017 by lgonzalez

In a record high turnout for a non-general election, voters in Lyndon Township, Michigan, decided to approve a bond proposal to fund a publicly owned Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network. The measure passed with 66 percent of voters (622 votes) choosing yes and 34 percent (321 votes) voting no.

Geographically Close, Technologically Distant

The community is located only 20 minutes away from Ann Arbor, home to the University of Michigan and the sixth largest city in the state, but many of the Township’s residents must rely on satellite for Internet access. Residents and business owners complain about slow service, data caps, and the fact that they must pay high rates for inadequate Internet service. Residents avoid software updates from home and typically travel to the library in nearby Chelsea to work in the evening or to complete school homework assignments.

Lyndon Township Supervisor Marc Keezer has reached out to ISPs and asked them to invest in the community, but none consider it a worthwhile investment. Approximately 80 percent of the community has no access to FCC-defined broadband speeds of 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) download and 3 Mbps upload.

“We don’t particularly want to build a network in our township. We would rather it be privatized and be like everybody else,” Keezer said. “But that’s not a reality for us here.”

When local officials unanimously approved feasibility study funding about a year ago, citizens attending the meeting responded to their vote with applause

A Little From Locals Goes A Long Way

The community will finance their $7 million project with a 2.9 millage over the next 20-years, which amounts to a $2.91 property tax increase per $1,000 of taxable value of real property. Average cost per property owner will come to $21.92 per month for the infrastructure. Basic Internet access will cost $35 - 45 per month for 100 Mbps; speeds will likely be symmetrical. They estimate the combined cost of infrastructure millage and monthly fee for basic service will be $57 - 67...

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Posted August 15, 2017 by lgonzalez

When policy and decision makers discuss how to improve connectivity in the U.S., they often compare Internet access in other parts of the world to connectivity in America. We can learn from efforts in other places.

Benoit Felten, CEO of Diffraction Analysis, has analyzed business models, approaches, and infrastructure development all across the globe. His company has studied infrastructure and Internet access from short-term and long-term perspectives through the multi-faceted lens of international economies. Benoit joins us for episode 266, his second appearance on the Community Broadband Bits podcast.

In addition to development of infrastructure, Christopher and Benoit get into competition, quality of services, and how it varies from place to place. Benoit has recommendations based on his years of analysis from different communities and cultures around the world. Be sure to also check out episode 21, in which Benoit and Christopher discuss Stokab.

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

This show is 40 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 August 15, 2017 by lgonzalez

For the past year, six municipalities along with local colleges and universities have collaborated to lay the groundwork for fiber optic infrastructure in the greater Asheville area. The group, West Next Generation Network (WestNGN), is now ready to find a partner to begin hammering out details in order to realize the concept. They’ve released the WestNGN Broadband Request for Negation (RFN) and responses are due September 21st.

The plan closely resembles the North Carolina Next Generation Network (NCNGN) in the Research Triangle area of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill. WestNGN will include the communities of Asheville, Biltmore Forest, Fletcher, Hendersonville, Laurel Park, and Waynesville - all of which belong to the Land of Sky Regional Council. The Council has helped with administration and in drafting the RFN aimed at improving local connectivity and boosting regional economic development.

Strategic Alliance Partnership

WestNGN’s RFN states that they want to establish a Strategic Alliance Partnership with a single ISP or a group of ISPs that possess an interest in both providing service and in deployment. WestNGN puts negotiation of ownership of assets and use of those assets at the top of the list for discussion points, signaling that rhey aren't set on a fixed approach. Similarly, they hope to negotiate matters such as management, operation, and maintenance of local networks; ways to speed up deployment and reduce costs; and ways to better serve low-income residents.

Goals For The Network

WestNGN plans to bring gigabit connectivity to residents, businesses, and community anchor institutions in the region. They specifically state their priority for this level of capacity, but note that their future partner will have time to gradually implement it, if necessary. They also stress the need for symmetrical service speeds. Several employers in the region have determined that upload speeds - from their offices and for their employees at home - are increasingly desirable. The consortium has recognized that home-based businesses in the region are also multiplying every year.

WestNGN states that they want to increase the amount of dark fiber available to lease to all providers. Potential partners should be willing...

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Posted August 14, 2017 by Nick

Colorado

Fort Collins broadband faces long road ahead by Kevin Duggan, The Coloradoan

Fort Collins voters are a step closer to deciding whether the city may provide high-speed internet service to homes and businesses.

However, there are a lot more steps to be taken before the proposed service becomes a reality.

 

Florida

Commissioner Justin Troller says he will push for action on Lakeland broadband service by Christopher Guinn, The Ledger

 

Kansas

Gigabit City Summit shines national spotlight on KC Smart City by Meghan LeVota, Startland News

 

Michigan

Lyndon Township broadband vote passes two to one by Ben Fineman, Michigan Broadband Cooperative

 

General

Broadband economic benefits: Why invest in broadband infrastructure and adoption? by Roberto Gallardo and Mark Rembert, The Daily Yonder

Maybe Americans don't need fast home Internet service, FCC suggests by Jon Brodkin, ArsTechnica

Commissioner Mignon Clyburn objected to several aspects of the notice of inquiry, including the failure to increase the home Internet speed benchmark and the consideration of mobile as a replacement for home Internet service.

...

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Posted August 14, 2017 by htrostle

Native nations are building community networks, owned and operated by tribal governments to ensure that Indian Country has high-speed Internet access. In July 2017, the Fond du Lac Band of Ojibwe announced a plan to build a Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network to 900 homes that only had access to dial-up Internet service.

The Duluth News Tribune reported that the Fond du Lac tribal government is putting more than $2 million towards the venture and has secured about $6 million in federal grants. We spoke with Jason Hollinday, the Planning Director, to get more details on Fond du Lac Communications and what it means for the community. 

Fond du Lac Connectivity

The Fond du Lac reservation, “Nagaajiwanaang,” covers about 150 square miles in northeastern Minnesota, and the FTTH project will encompass most of the area - about 120 square miles. The network will offer voice, video, and Internet service.

Anyone, including non-tribal members, will be able to get connected within the service area. Prices have yet to be determined, offering affordable rates is a priority. In a recent Pine Journal article, Band IT director Fred Underwood pointed out that "Connectivity is available anywhere, but is it affordable?" and added that affordability in rural areas is often hard to find. Connectivity for the FTTH network will include a program to connect low-income residents and installation fees have been waived for any subscriber who signed up before July 31st.

Community centers and public buildings will all be connected and receive two years of free Internet service. The goal is to make sure that the network will be a community asset benefiting everyone.

logo-fond-du-lac.jpg Hollinday mentioned how excited people are to have high-speed Internet service at home for the first time. Several have already expressed their anticipation at being able to enjoy Netflix and take online college courses. As the project got underway, the community...

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Posted August 12, 2017 by htrostle

The Latticework podcast invited Elliot Noss, CEO of Tucows - the parent company of Ting - to discuss his work at Tucows and his thoughts on the future. The conversation touches on everything from the idea of post-Democracy to how companies build Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) networks.

Noss previously joined us for the Community Broadband Bits Podcast in 2015. In that episode, Chris and Noss discuss Ting's approach to FTTH and wireless networks and how that intersects with community networks. That podcast is available here.

Ting has a public-private-partnership with the city of Westminster, Maryland, and has started projects in a number of other cities including Holly Springs, North Carolina; Centennial, Colorado; and Sandpoint, Idaho. We discuss the Westminster partnership in our 2016 report, Successful Strategies for Broadband Public-Private Partnerships.

Listen below to the Latticework podcast (22 minutes):

 

Posted August 11, 2017 by lgonzalez

With the FCC taking another look at the advancements in network neutrality rules passed during the Obama administration, the topic has been on the lips of many segments of the population. Many of us consider a free an open Internet a necessity to foster innovation and investment, but the words from the lips of the big ISPs are changing, depending on whom they’re talking to.

The Internet Association, who went on record in 2015 in support local authority for Internet infrastructure investment, recently released a video about the fickle financial reporting of Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon. 

The Internet Association describes the situation like this:

In our latest video, Internet Association takes a look at what Internet Service Providers (ISPs) told the government about net neutrality’s impact on investment and what they told their investors about its impact. They don’t quite match up.

Something to keep in mind: when companies like ISPs talk to their investors, they’re legally obligated to tell the truth.

The question of infrastructure investment is an important one because network investment helps the entire Internet economy grow and thrive. Innovative websites and apps fuel consumer demand for the Internet, which in turn fosters further network investment, which then fosters further innovation by websites and apps.

At Internet Association, we believe that the only way to preserve the free and open internet – and this cycle of innovation – is through strong, enforceable net neutrality rules like the ones currently on the books.

Check out the video and hear the contradictions from the lips CFOs who head up these big ISPs. What’s the real story here?

Posted August 10, 2017 by htrostle

Electric cooperatives have the potential to build next-generation networks to provide high-speed Internet service, and they are stepping up to the plate. In episode 26 of the Building Local Power podcast from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR), Nick Stumo-Langer sits down with Christopher Mitchell and Hannah Trostle to discuss how electric cooperatives are improving Internet access in rural communities. 

From Washington to Missouri, many rural folks already have high-speed Internet service through cooperatives. Hannah describes how the cooperatives did that, and then Christopher dives into some of the barriers to local investment. Check out a summary of their research on the resource page Cooperatives Build Community Networks -updated monthly. 

This conversation also builds on Building Local Power podcast episode 12 with Karlee Wienmann. Hannah and Karlee discuss how cooperatives work on both Internet access and renewable energy. That episode is available at ILSR.org along with all the other Building Local Power podcast episodes.

Listen to Nick, Hannah, and Christopher in episode 26, Connecting Rural America: Internet Access for All.  

 

Posted August 9, 2017 by lgonzalez

The clock is ticking as the city of Burlington examines bids from entities to buy or partner to operate Burlington Telecom. The community has narrowed down what sort of characteristics they want in a buyer, but there is also some debate about the process as city officials move toward the final process.

On To The Next Step

The community received eight bids, none coming from large national telecommunications companies. Early in July, the Burlington Telecom Advisory Board (BTAB) reported that the highest bid was two and a half times the lowest, but they did not make dollar amounts public. They’ve eliminated some of the bids and on July 31st, the finalists are scheduled to make presentations to the City Council in an executive session. 

While price is a factor that the city and the BTAB are considering, it isn’t the only criterion that matters. Last year, the BTAB released a report based on community input, recommending the city first look for a locally based entity. Many people in Burlington like BT as a locally controlled asset and fear it may eventually be swallowed up by one of the large, distant carriers. 

Keep BT Local formed when city residents banded together to create a cooperative. They started in 2012 and have recruited members committed to keeping BT in the hands of local residents. Keep BT Local was one of the entities that submitted a bid.

How Much Public Input?

Keep BT Local is the only bidder that has publicly acknowledged its decision to bid on the network and city officials are still undecided about how much information to release to the public about bidders. Mayor Miro Weinberger has indicated he would prefer the bidders and their bibs remain confidential until after city officials make a final decision.

“Each bidder is working hard to convince the city they can meet those criteria, and they don’t fully know how they stack up against and what the others are offering,” Weinberger said. “That dynamic creates a strong...

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Posted August 8, 2017 by christopher

It shouldn't be surprising that the city that is home to CalTech and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory needs high-quality connectivity. Those institutions are part of the reason Pasadena began investing in its own fiber network.

To learn the other reasons and how they went about it, Pasadena's Telecom & Regulatory Administrator Lori Sandoval joins us on Community Broadband Bits podcast 265. 

The original business plan focused on connecting community anchor institutions and leasing dark fiber to private sector providers. They wanted to facilitate more private sector investment and competition in addition to meeting the internal needs of the city and the municipal electric utility.

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 21 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 August 8, 2017 by lgonzalez

With a growing need for fast, affordable, reliable connectivity, an increasing number of schools are constructing fiber optic infrastructure to serve their facilities. In some cases, they partner with local government and a collaboration eventually leads to better options for an entire community. Schools in Orange County, Virginia, will be working with county government to build a $1.3 million network.

Quickly Growing Community

Orange County’s population of approximately 34,000 people is growing rapidly, having increased by 29 percent between 2000 and 2010. Nevertheless, it’s primarily rural with no large cities. Gordonsville (pop. 1,500) and Orange (pop. 4,800 and the county seat) are the only towns. Another community called Lake of the Woods is a census-designated place where about 7,200 people live. The rest of the county is filled with unincorporated communities. There are 343 square miles in Orange County of rolling hills with the Blue Ridge Mountains to the west.

Manufacturing and retail are large segments of the economy with 65 percent of all business having four or less employees as of 2013. Agriculture is also an important part of the community, including the growing local wine industry.

Working Together To Connect The County

The county and schools have teamed up to commence a multi-step project that begins by connecting the Orange County Public Schools’ facilities. A 33-mile wide area network (WAN) will connect all eight buildings. Federal E-rate funds will pay for approximately 80 percent of the deployment costs and Orange County and the school district will share the remaining costs from other funding. The partners plan to deploy extra capacity for future uses.

Once the first phase of the network is complete, the county hopes to use the excess capacity to improve public safety operations. Sheriff, Fire, and EMS services need better communications so the county intends to invest in additional towers, which will also create an opportunity for fixed wireless and cellular telephone providers.

The OCBbA wants to eventually use the new infrastructure to improve access for residents and businesses. The network will be made available to ISPs interested in offering services in...

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Posted August 7, 2017 by Nick

California

LA's lack of high-speed Internet options hinders students, studies show by Jason McGahan, LA Weekly

 

Colorado

Atteberry: Reliable Internet necessary for Fort Collins' future by Darin Atteberry, The Coloradoan

In today’s digital economy, reliable, high-speed access is a necessity, not only for the tech industry, but also for our health care systems, educational institutions, and thousands of other companies and their employees who work here.

 

Maine

For Maine islands, Internet means opportunity by Fred Bever, National Public Radio

Belfast to develop a community technology plan by FreePress Online

 

North Carolina

Rural broadband: How long must Orange County wait? by Bonnie Hauser, Durham Herald Sun

 

General

Cable lobby claims US is totally overflowing in broadband competition by Jon Brodkin, ArsTechnica

Connecting across the digital divide by KBIA Editor

Broadband & healthcare - just what the doctor ordered by Craig Settles, The Daily...

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Posted August 7, 2017 by lgonzalez

If you’re a regular reader at MuniNetworks.org, listen to our podcasts, or if you simply follow publicly owned network news, you know an increasing number of communities have decided to invest in local connectivity solutions in recent years. We’ve watched the number of “pins” on our community network map multiply steadily, but every now and then, a network drops off through privatization.

FastRoads Sold To N.H. Optical Systems

New Hampshire FastRoads received America Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), which combined with state funding, created the open access fiber optic network in the southwest section of the state. Over the next several years, the network expanded with private donations and local matching funds. Many of the premises that connected to the network had relied on dial-up before FastRoads came to town. But in part because state law makes bonding for network expansion difficult, Fast Roads will no longer be locally controlled.

The Monadnock Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), a nonprofit organization whose purpose is working to see like projects are completed that will improve economic development prospects in the region managed the project. MEDC contracted with another entity to maintain the network, which cost approximately $15,000 per month. Since they had achieved their core goal - the construction and launch of the network - MEDC had been looking for another entity to take over the network or to partner with them. They recently finalized a deal to sell the network to New Hampshire Optical Systems

logo-fast-roads-2017.png Back in 2013, Christopher spoke with Carole Monroe, who was the FastRoads Project CEO but has since moved on to ECFiber in Vermont. She described how the introduction of the network inspired incumbents to lower prices - a win for everyone, whether they connected to FastRoads or not. She also told us how community anchor institutions (CAIs) were getting better...

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Posted August 4, 2017 by lgonzalez

As the new administration’s FCC re-examines Network Neutrality rules, rural communities are wondering how any changes may affect areas in the U.S. that already have difficulties obtaining fast, affordable, reliable Internet service. In a recent Mountain Talk podcast, Mimi Pickering tackles the question by talking to several knowledgeable guests.

In addition to Christopher, Mimi talks with other guests who offer insight into why Network Neutrality is critical to rural areas as we move forward. Rural areas tend to feel impacts harder than urban areas. The show includes audio from past interviews, news reports, and events.

Making Connections News describes the show:

The Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) move to repeal Net Neutrality and classification of Broadband Internet as a Title II Telecommunications Service could have significant impact on rural America, where the digital divide is already the largest. 

In this edition of Mountain Talk, host Mimi Pickering explores potential impacts with economist Roberto Gallardo from Mississippi State University Extension Services and Christopher Mitchell, Director of Community Broadband Networks at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. 

We also hear from a 2015 interview with Edyael Casaperalta, representing the Rural Broadband Working Group of the National Rural Assembly, on the 2015 reclassification of Broadband as a Title II Telecommunications Service and its potential to reduce the digital divide, increase competition, and protect consumers. 

Finally, FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn talks about her work on the FCC to increase access and affordability for people of color, low income, and rural communities. Her term at the FCC will soon end but she promises to continue to speak for those who are not typically represented and calls on all folks to make their voices heard at the FCC at every opportunity.

Christopher joins the interview at around 30 minutes into the show.

Posted August 3, 2017 by lgonzalez

We’ve all been lied to, but when we’re lied to by those we rely on, it’s the worst. Right now, we are all subject to a lie about our Internet access. That lie is rooted in the idea that the best way to move forward is to allow the free market to dictate our access to the Internet, along with the quality of services, privacy protections, and competition.

The big ISPs try to tell us “it’s a competitive market,” then they tell their shareholders competition is scarce. They tell legislators they fear competing against relatively small municipal networks and cooperatives that only serve singular regions but they have subscribers in vast swaths across the country. Federal decision makers tout the benefits of competition, but approve consolidation efforts by a few powerful companies that are already behemoths. This reality is The Big Lie.

What can we do about it? First, understand the cause of the problem. Next, share that understanding. We’ve created this short video to explain The Big Lie; we encourage you to share it and to check out our other resources. Our fact sheets and reports are a great place to start if you’re looking for a way to improve connectivity in your community. Don't forget to check out our other videos, too. 

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