News stories highlighting the breadth and depth of the digital divide and its impacts in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic have dominated the headlines in recent months, but a new report emphasizes the degree to which dozens of communities in one Canadian province have struggled with connectivity issues for years. The recently released Nunavut Infrastructure Gap Report [pdf] shows what broadband access looks like for the 35,000 or so mostly Inuit residents of the nation’s youngest province, and what solutions exist for closing the gap for tens of thousands who struggle to get online.
On Tuesday, Nov. 3, Kaysville voters, in this city of approximately 32,000, will not only cast their ballots in the Presidential election, they will also be asked if they want the city to move forward with Kaysville Fiber. If the ballot initiative passes, it will allow the city to deploy a Fiber-To-The-Home (FTTH) network. Similar referenda are being considered in Denver, Chicago, and Lucas, Texas.
Over the summer, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced a new program to bring high-speed Internet service to the alarming number of households who do not have reliable access within the nation’s third-largest school district.
Despite repeated reminders from the rest of us that Hollywood will only ever give the late night slots to guys named James, Stephen, or Conan, Christopher is determined that if he just hosts enough things he’ll be able to break into the business and leave us all behind. In that spirit comes a new series here at the Community Broadband Networks initiative within the Institute for Local Self-Reliance: Connect This!
This week on the podcast Christopher talks with Stacy Cantrell, Vice President of Engineering at Huntville Utilities in Alabama. Huntsville’s (pop. 197,000) municipal utility serves well beyond the city boundaries, and its electric department built a major network that gets close to every house within the city limits.
Stacy shares how the 1,100-mile fiber project unfolded, what it took to overcome challenges, and how things are going now that they’re nearly done. The utility uses its network for internal services to bring value to those living in the city, but providers, of which Google will be the first, can lease that network and attach homes to it.
At the end of August, Alabama rolled out what has been a unique state-level response to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and a decision by every school district to offer remote learning as an option for the current school year. Using $103 million in CARES Act funding, the governor’s office enacted the Broadband Connectivity for Students initiative to help low-income families pay for existing or connect new service via a voucher program that runs through December 31st of this year and is worth, on average, about $400 per family.
The Ohio Valley Regional Development Commission (OVRDC) has an ongoing RFP [pdf] to hire a Broadband Planning Coordinator to perform asset inventory, mapping, and an analysis of existing wireline and wireless network in a twelve-county region. It’s part of a $400,000 grant the commission received as part of CARES funding that will, in part, look for ways to expand and upgrade broadband connectivity options in support of manufacturing, telehealth, distance learning, and economic recovery in the region following the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Less than seven months has passed since the city of Anacortes, Washington (pop. 17,000) connected the very first subscriber in a pilot project for its municipal network. In the interim, thousands of households have signed up, construction continues at full-steam, and local officials are looking forward to years of providing fast, affordable, reliable service to those living on Fidalgo Island.
Along the banks of the Columbia River, Multnomah County (pop. 813,000), Oregon is considering a publicly owned Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network after being handed a study more than a year in the making. The report estimates that a countywide network reaching every home, business, and farm in a five-city area would cost just shy of $970 million, and bring with it a wealth of savings and other benefits to the community it serves.
A little over three years ago in Episode 232 we heard from Lyndon Township, Michigan just after a ballot initiative passed to fund and build a municipal network. 43% of the community turned out for the vote, and the measure passed by a ratio of two to one.
Today we revisit Lyndon Township Broadband, with Christopher joined by Ben Fineman, President of the Michigan Broadband Initiative, as well as Jo Anne Munce, and Gary Munce, both of whom were essential in the ballot campaign and who volunteer with the broadband initiative.
After years of fielding complaints from residents about the speed, reliability, and poor customer service of the city’s single wireline broadband provider, Springboro, Ohio (pop. 19,000) has decided enough is enough. Over the next year, the city will build a 23-mile fiber loop municipal services and, at the same time, lay five additional conduits to entice additional Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to come in and offer service, stimulating competition and economic development in the region moving forward.
More than a year and a half of planning and negotiation will culminate in fiber infrastructure laid to every household in one Tennessee county over the next few years. West Kentucky & Tennessee Telecommunications Cooperative (WK&T), using its own funds along with money from the Henry County Commission and the state of Tennessee, will extend its existing network to cover the entire county and give residents access to its broadband network and services.
Expanding Their Commitment
Tens of thousands of homes, businesses, farms, schools, and community anchor institutions in the Sunflower State will see better connectivity options over the next few years. A recent executive order establishing a Kansas Office of Broadband Development followed by the announcement of more than $49 million in grants to 67 projects around the state means a host of Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH), fixed wireless, and institutional networks will break ground in the near future.
A collaboration between cooperatives is bringing fiber connectivity to hundreds of unserved homes in southern Kentucky. Warren Rural Electric Cooperative Corporation (WRECC) and North Central Telephone Cooperative (NCTC) will be working together to connect 800 homes in the endeavor, which will also be used to gauge the feasibility of further buildout in the region down the road.
This week on the podcast Christopher welcomes back Lee Brown, President and CEO of Erwin Utilities, to talk about what’s been going on since we last spoke with them more than three and a half years ago. Erwin is a town of around 6,000 and the county seat of Unicoi County, Tennessee, along the state’s eastern border.