“While most of us take a high-speed Internet connection for granted, many living in rural areas feel disconnected,” states North Carolina television station WRAL’s new documentary, “Disconnected.” The documentary features local officials, healthcare professionals, small business owners, and families from across the state discussing the importance of high-quality broadband access and the struggle to connect rural areas.
UTOPIA Fiber announced last week that it had completed network construction in Layton, Utah’s ninth largest city. The announcement comes just in time for increasing reliance on home broadband connections as more people shelter-in-place in response to the Covid-19 outbreak. Already, UTOPIA has seen an uptick in sign-ups for its regional open access fiber network, even setting a new daily record. While some of the growth can be attributed to Salt Lake City’s booming population, many new subscribers point to the need to work from home as the reason they decided to sign up.
With everything from shelter-in-place orders to partying on Florida beaches, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) across the country have had to figure out their own responses to Covid-19. Some ISPs have cut all installs and have disbanded their offices as much as possible to work remotely and try to prevent spread of the novel coronavirus. Others have detailed new protocols. Almost all are seeing some increases in bandwidth usage. Lots of ISPs have special, temporary offers to get low-income families signed up during this time of need.
As I write this, it's March 2020 and the world is in the early days of a global pandemic. The novel coronavirus and COVID-19 have stranded many students and parents at home where they are working, streaming, and trying to "flatten the curve" to limit infections. In many ways, this sort of situation is an ideal time for this Senior Researcher to pass the torch.With feelings of bittersweet excitement, I'm accepting an opportunity which will allow me to use all the great knowledge I've soaked up at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance to work for the State of Minnesota. I'll miss sharing with you stories of local communities, their investments in community broadband networks, and the innovative approaches they take to improve local connectivity.
The Institute for Local Self-Reliance is seeking a Broadband Writer and Editor to join the Institute’s Community Broadband Networks Initiative in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Community Broadband Networks team works to ensure all Americans have fast, affordable, and reliable Internet access. The new Broadband Writer and Editor will manage our site, MuniNetworks.org, and work closely with rest of our small but dedicated team.
In an effort to keep families connected as schools and workplaces close in response to the novel coronavirus, many Internet service providers (ISPs) are taking steps to make their services more accessible and functional for those of us who are staying home for the foreseeable future.
Some policies are being officially encouraged by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) through Chairman Ajit Pai’s new Keep Americans Connected Pledge, in which providers agree to open Wi-Fi hotspots to the general public and to not disconnect or charge late fees to those struggling to pay bills due to the pandemic. Other ISPs raising speeds, suspending data caps, and offering free Internet access to certain households.
Somerville voters agree to seek grants to create municipal broadband network by Keith Edwards, Central Maine
Westmoreland approves broadband project at town meeting by Olivia Belanger, Sentinel Source
On February 17, Christopher Mitchell spoke on Wisconsin Public Radio's "Central Time" about the need for broadband access in unserved areas and how communities have taken a different approach to increase reliable and affordable Internet access. The discussion also touches on funding program, which is an important factor for local providers to expand broadband infrastructure in rural areas.
As schools and businesses ask people to stay home to reduce the spread of Covid-19 coronavirus, I wanted to share some thoughts about how I expect broadband Internet access networks will handle the change and increase in broadband traffic in residential areas.
Our first reaction is that, as with so many areas with network effects, the rich will get richer. This is to say that historic inequities will be exacerbated — people that have been able to afford the high-quality networks will probably see very little disruption and those who have older networks may be effectively disconnected.
Better Network Scenarios
Those on fiber optic networks probably won't notice major changes in demand. This is the easy one — it is why we have long believed that fiber optics should be the goal for the vast majority of Americans.
Earlier today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that it is extending the ReConnect broadband program round two deadline to March 31, 2020. The agency will distribute $550 million this year in grants and loans to expand connectivity in rural America. Previously, applications were due by March 16 to be considered for the funding.
Many Vermont communities are looking to ECFiber and Central Vermont Internet as models for the creation of communications union districts (CUD) to develop regional fiber networks. By combining several towns’ efforts, CUDs bring high-quality Internet service to underserved residents and local businesses.
On March 3rd, four towns from Windham County in the southeastern corner of Vermont voted to create a CUD. The new Deerfield Valley CUD will join the small towns of Marlboro, Halifax, Whitingham, and Wilmington.
Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, provides traditional cable TV service, Internet access, and phone service to the community through its utility, Shrewsbury Electric & Cable Operations (SELCO). As the utilities board consults with their subscribers and looks forward, they've come to the conclusion that it's time to invest in fiber optic upgrades to improve operations and remain competitive..
In two letters sent at the end of February, Oregon Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden urged the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to reconsider certain aspects of the agency’s ReConnect broadband grant and loan program. The senators’ letters, addressed to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue, called on the agency to address, “administrative hurdles and eligibility problems within the ReConnect Program that have put critical broadband infrastructure assistance out of reach for Oregonians and communities across America.”
The USDA, which is currently accepting applications for the second round of ReConnect funding, has awarded more than $600 million in grants and loans since launching the program in 2019.
“A High-stakes Gamble”