This week on the podcast Christopher talks with Ron Barnes, President and CEO Biloxi-based Coast Electric Power, an electric cooperative in Mississippi area, and Jon Chambers, Partner at Conexon, a consulting agency working with rural electric cooperatives to bring fiber to communities around the country.
Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, is currently experiencing firsthand the consequences of the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC's) 2018 preemption of local governments’ authority to regulate 5G infrastructure in their cities. With its initial handful of applications for new small cell transmitters just submitted to the county board by Verizon under the new rules, local officials are grappling with a host of limitations — including fee caps, shorter timing windows, and rights of way exemptions — which outline clearly a problem more and more communities will face in the coming months and years.
Less Say, Less Money
Tribal residents and others living along near Six Rivers National Forest in Humboldt County, California are about to get a broadband boost. The Yurok and Karuk Tribes announced at the end of July that the Klamath River Rural Broadband Initiative received more than $10 million from the California Public Utilities Commission’s (CPUC's) California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) to add over a 100 miles of additional fiber to the project’s community network, connecting hundreds of additional homes, businesses, and anchor institutions. The award marks the second injection of funding from the CPUC’s grant program to the initiative.
Over the River and Through the Woods
The Covid-19 pandemic has made it difficult for local governments to hold in-person meetings, but the people of Block Island, Rhode Island, didn’t let it get in the way of bringing better connectivity to their community.
Late last month, voters in Block Island’s sole town of New Shoreham gathered (at safe distances) in the local school building and on its grounds to approve $8 million in borrowing to build an island-wide, municipal fiber network. Residents were overwhelmingly in favor of funding the broadband network, which would be the first of its kind in the state.
As data changes, we stay current so you can get the most recent information. It's important to be up-to-date, but seeing how broadband and related issues have changed over time also has value. As we release new versions of our report Profiles of Monopoly: Big Cable and Telecom [pdf] with updated information, we’ll connect you with prior publications here.
We published our first profile of the largest cable and telecom providers in 2018, where we detailed the lack of real choices most Americans had when it came to high-quality, reliable broadband. At the time, we found that for the largest Internet Service Providers (ISPs) investment was correlated to competition rather than the regulatory environment. Monopoly ISPs expanded their Fiber-to-the-Home networks only in areas where they faced competition, and rural Americans were left behind as a result.
HB 13, a law moving through the Ohio state legislature, creates the state’s first-ever residential broadband expansion program in order to address an access gap faced by hundreds of thousands of households across the state. Unfortunately, it bars municipally owned networks and electric cooperatives from participating in the $20 million pot of funds aimed at extending Internet access to areas with significant connectivity challenges.
How It Would Work
The bill — titled “Establish Residential Broadband Expansion Program” — passed the Ohio House of Representatives on June 11 of this year, and takes aim at addressing last-mile connections and bringing more Ohioans online. If passed, it would create a $20 million fund and effect regulatory changes to provide subsidies for private entities in the state to extend their networks and connect more people.
Today on the podcast we welcome Angela Siefer and Craig Settles. Angela is the founder and Executive Director of the National Digital Inclusion Alliance, and a tireless digital equity and inclusion advocate whose has worked to connect communities for over two decades. Craig is a nationally recognized consultant who works with public- and private-sector clients to build and improve networks. He hosts Gigabit Nation and is the President of Communities United for Broadband.
The show is Connections with Evan Dawson. It is a 51-minute discussion and is far more reality-based than most that we come across.
The United States Office of the Comptroller is hosting a webinar at the end of the month called “Banks Finance Broadband in Rural Areas & Indian Country” aimed at banks and local leaders looking to form partnerships to fund broadband projects for rural and tribal communities across the country.
In addition to providing basic information on how community financial institutions can work with local governments, participants in a 2017 partnership which brought broadband to Fort Berthold Indian Reservation will be present to discuss their experience and answer questions.
Register for the event by clicking here.
New Rule, New Financing Options
UTOPIA Fiber, the publicly owned, open access network, has begun a pilot wildfire-detection project which has the potential to provide safer, faster, less expensive service to communities in Utah, saving the state tens of millions of dollars a year in firefighting and other economic costs. The EDWIN Project (Early Detection Wildfire Imaging Network), currently in beta testing, pairs advanced thermal imaging cameras with the fiber network’s infrastructure to help firefighters in the region detect events in real time. The pilot project — currently deployed to Woodland Hills (pop. 1,600), Murray (49,000), and Layton (77,000) — just launched, with plans to expand.
Cooperatives have been doing a lot over the last few months to advance connectivity efforts around the country. That trend is continuing in Virginia, where Prince George Electric Cooperative (PGEC) and Northern Neck Electric Cooperative (NNEC) have announced partnerships with utility provider Dominion Energy to expand broadband access to thousands living and working in rural areas in the state.
A group of 15 cities in Los Angeles County, California, are closing in on the completion of the South Bay Fiber Network. The project, managed by the South Bay Cities Council of Governments (SBCCOG), will bring better connectivity to community anchors and enterprise customers in the region through a public-private partnership with American Dark Fiber (ADF).
Millions of students do not have access to adequate connectivity, but Black, Latinx, and Native children are disproportionately impacted by the “homework gap." One study found that children in one out of every three Black, Latinx, and Native American households did not have broadband access at home. These disparities are even more pressing during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, which has turned the homework gap into a chasm.
This week on the podcast we welcome Ernesto Falcon and Steve Blum. Ernesto is Senior Legislative Council at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a powerhouse nonprofit organization defending civil liberties in the digital world. Steve Blum is President of Tellus Ventures Associates, which provides management and business development guidance for companies working in telecommunications. You can find him at tellusventures.com.