This week, we bring you a special field report from Maryland-based radio and podcast producer Matt Purdy. Through interviews, Purdy documents the connectivity struggles that have persisted in Baltimore's historically marginalized neighborhoods for decades. Those challenges have only become more pronounced with the pandemic, prompting local officials to begin making moves in the direction of something we've not yet seen in a community the size of Baltimore: building a city-owned, open access fiber network.
In this episode of the Connect This! Show, co-hosts Christopher and Travis Carter (USI Fiber) are joined by Christy Batts (CDE Lightband), Robert Boyle (Planet Networks), and Jim Troutman (Jim Troutman (Tilson Broadband & NNENIX) for an exciting technical conversation.
The panel will dig into serving MDUs, building passive vs active networks and more!
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This week on the podcast, radio producer Matt Purdy reports a story on Baltimore’s efforts to build a municipal broadband network that prioritizes equity for historically marginalized communities.
This show is 13 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed. You can listen to the story on this page or visit the Community Broadband Bits page.
Pierce Pepin Electric Cooperative (PPEC), headquartered in Ellsworth, Wisconsin (pop. 3,300), announced in July of 2021 the start of a new phase of life, and the beginning of a fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) project that will connect its 6,800 members by 2025.
The $32 million-dollar project was begun at the end of last year. The move, powered by financial commitment from the cooperative but also state grants so far, will roughly double the cooperative’s physical plant assets, and ensure that member-owners will get fast, locally accountable broadband access for the lifetime of the infrastructure.
Bringing Service to Areas Ignored by Others
Incorporated in 1937, today PPEC serves the majority of Pierce County and parts of Buffalo, Pepin, and St. Croix counties just across the Minnesota-Wisconsin border, along the Mississippi River.
Like numerous U.S. counties, large segments of Kandiyohi County, Minnesota (pop. 44,000) lack access to affordable Internet service at modern speeds. So like many underserved communities, the county—situated about ninety miles west of Minneapolis—is looking to take advantage of a once-in-a-lifetime collision of funding opportunities to help finance a massive fiber broadband expansion across numerous county townships.
A recent survey by the county unsurprisingly reveals that residents are greatly annoyed by the lack of affordable Internet access options, with 64 percent of locals saying they’re dissatisfied with the Internet service provided by regional monopolies.
Ten Projects on Tap
A recent report by BroadbandNow suggested that the average price for broadband access for Americans has fallen, by an average of 31 percent or nearly $34/month, since 2016. But you don’t have to follow broadband policy closely to get the sense that something a little off is going on here. The reality is that the report, unfortunately, poorly frames the national broadband marketplace. At best, it muddies the waters with a lack of clarity about the relationship between broadband access speed tiers and relative pricing. At worst, it leaves the average reader with the incorrect assumption that broadband prices must be falling, and gives the monopoly cable and telephone companies ammunition to push for millions more in taxpayer dollars while building as little new infrastructure as possible.
Last week we invited you to save the date for a two-hour livestream event Building for Digital Equity: Demystifying Broadband Policy and Funding that the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) is co-organizing with the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA).
We told you this event – which will be held on Wednesday, March 16th, from 2-4pm ET – was not going to be your average conference or webinar with 45-minute panels that make your derriere doze off or your eyes glaze over like a stale donut.
It’s been one long year since Chris took a bet with Travis over the FCC updating the definition of broadband, and this week we’ll find out who won (not looking good, Chris). In this episode of the Connect This! Show, co-hosts Christopher and Travis Carter (USI Fiber) are joined by regular guests Kim McKinley (UTOPIA Fiber) and Doug Dawson (CCG Consulting) to talk about current events in broadband.
The panel will talk about the FCC definition of broadband, MDUs, other recent news and will continue their conversation about redlining and digital discrimination.
This week on the podcast, Christopher is joined by Bill Coleman, Founder of Community Technology Advisors in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Building on the fiber backbone that connects Choptank Electric Cooperative’s smart grid, the member-owned cooperative began construction of a fiber-to-the-home network (FTTH) last year that will reach all 54,000 of its members spread out across nine counties. Now subscribers are being lit up for service as the co-op continues to extend the network.
With nearly 65,000 households unable to connect to the Internet at basic broadband speeds of 25/3 Megabits per second (Mbps), municipalities across the Green Mountain State have risen to the fore in formulating creative models for addressing the tens of thousands of homes without broadband access. Iterating on the EC Fiber (with roots back to the early 2000s), joint, municipally led projects have led to the creation of a total of nine Communications Union Districts (CUDs) at present, which places community-owned broadband at the forefront in Vermont.
In this episode of the Connect This! Show, co-hosts Christopher and Travis Carter (USI Fiber) are joined by Peggy Schaffer (ConnectME) and Matt Schmit (Connect Illinois) for a closer look at state broadband offices.
The panel will dig into state grant opportunities, what broadband offices look for in partnerships, and how states are getting creative to support ISPs that connect underserved communities.
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This week on the podcast, Christopher is joined by Will Anderson, Program Coordinator at Vermont Communications Union Districts Association (VCUDA) and Evan Carlson, Board Chair at NEK Broadband (Northeast Kingdom, VT).
During the conversation, the three discuss the origins and progress of Vermont’s Communications Union District (CUD) model, how the Department of Public Service has worked to support CUDs with better broadband mapping and data, and NEK Broadband’s journey from identifying a need to connecting their first customers. Christopher, Will and Evan also talk about how CUDs establish partnerships with local ISPs to keep broadband money circulating in the local economy and how CUDs are primed to take advantage of federal COVID relief money.
As it has become increasingly clear that the private market alone is not going to solve America’s connectivity crisis, last year two states (Arkansas and Washington) rolled back their preemption laws that were protecting monopoly incumbent providers from competition and now allow local and regional governmental entities to build the telecommunications infrastructure their residents need. Now, one Nebraska lawmaker has recently filed a bill that, if passed, would significantly remove the Cornhusker State’s current barriers to municipal broadband.
As federal funds to expand high-speed Internet access began to flow to states and local communities through the American Rescue Plan Act, and with billions more coming under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, Big Telecom is beginning to mount its expected opposition campaign designed to discourage federal (and state) decision-makers from prioritizing the building of publicly-owned networks. Part of the impetus, no doubt, was the flood of responses to the NTIA’s Notice and Request for Comment (including ours) documenting the need for community-driven solutions in this once-in-a-generation investment that could close the digital divide forever. Meanwhile, successful municipal broadband projects abound, hitting new milestones each year.