Every decade, the U.S. counts itself to learn more about the people who make up the fabric of America. The upcoming census of 2020 will be the first census conducted mostly online and, while the prospect is an exciting statement about our technology, there are new risks that accompany innovation. Not everyone has reliable Internet access, which can lead to undercounts. Next Century Cities recently released the 2020 Census Kiosk Toolkit, a resource to help local communities and their citizens ensure results are accurate by establishing a public kiosk program.
The USDA's ReConnect Program to expand broadband in rural areas has been awarding funding for several weeks now; electric and telephone cooperatives have received significant awards. In North Carolina, Atlantic Telephone Membership Corporation (ATMC) recently learned that their application for ReConnect funds has been granted and the cooperative will receive $7.9 million toward expanding their Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) service.
Celebrating in Columbus County
Originally published in 2017, our report, Cooperatives Fiberize Rural America: A Trusted Model for the Internet Era, focuses on cooperatives as a proven model for deploying fiber optic Internet access across the country, especially in rural areas. Now we’ve updated the report with a new map and personal stories from areas where co-ops have drastically impacted local life.
Residents react to broadband roll out by Jessica Jenkins, TrailGazette
Fort Collins has already won with Connexion broadband by Patrick Burns, Coloradoan
Georgia authorizes electric cooperatives to deliver rural broadband, Benton Institute for Broadband and Society
Summit County Commissioner Elisabeth Lawrence and her husband who live in Breckenridge, Colorado, received a special holiday treat on December 9th — their house was connected to the new community network, Fiber9600. Crews braved the snow in the mountain community in order to complete the first home install.
Winter Waits for No Fiber
Two residential neighborhoods have been chosen for the first installs. ALLO Communications, the Internet access provider delivering service via the publicly owned fiber optic infrastructure, has stopped scheduling new installation appointments due to the inhospitable winter construction season.
The Blandin Broadband Communities (BBC) program from the Blandin Foundation has been helping local cities, counties, tribes, and other self-identified communities of interest or place take steps to meet technology goals since 2013. The foundation is once again seeking participant communities and is accepting applications to be part of the 2020-2021 program cohort.
Download the BBC Application Instructions here for more information on how to apply to the program. The application deadline is January 24th.
Helping Communities Meet Their Goals
Bernadine Joselyn, Director of Public Policy and Engagement at the Blandin Foundation alerted us to the search for participating communities. In an email, Bernadine stated:
With an incredible resource such as the Greenlight Community Broadband Network in town, leaders in Willson, North Carolina, have the ability to pursue any number of innovations. This past November, Greenlight, Wilson Community College, and the Gig East Exchange held their first Fiber Boot Camp, a training program to certify people interested in working as fiber optic technicians.
Accessibility for Students
The boot camp was borne from a prior course that lasted 10 weeks. The longer course filled up quickly and, recognizing the need for the training, Manager of Outside Plant Gene Scott and his team realized that a more intensive, but shorter course could benefit people from other communities.
In 2014, industry analyst and consultant Craig Settles experienced a stroke which lead him down a period of recovery which he discussed last year when we interviewed him about telehealth for our podcast. The experience inspired Craig to consider how broadband could help others avoid the same situation with preventative telehealth applications. Now, Craig is attacking hypertension in several of Cleveland, Ohio's local barbershops and hair salons.
You can also help save lives with broadband when you contribute to the GoFundMe campaign to finance the pilot program.
Paul Bunyan Communication’s fiber network, GigaZone, continues to expand in Minnesota and is now offering gigabit connectivity in the Big Falls area. The cooperative is one of an increasing number of co-ops, both telephone and electric, that are picking up the slack in rural areas where large, corporate Internet access companies don't find the case for investing in communities that are not densely populated.
The city of Fairlawn, Ohio, has less than 8,000 residents, but daytime population swells to around 40,000 because the Akron suburb is a hotspot for commerce. When city leaders decided to develop the FairlawnGig broadband utility in 2015, they knew that it was necessary to retain businesses and they were right - the fiber optic infrastructure is spurring economic benefits. People who live in and around Fairlawn, however, are also reaping the rewards. In a video released by Corning about the city's investment, we learn more about both business and residential subscribers who make the most of the city's broadband utility.
Success in the Numbers
Islesboro Municipal Broadband (IMB) is about to celebrate its second birthday. Instead of two candles on a cake, the community has around 630 lit Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) subscriptions to mark the occasion. With more than 90 percent of the premises on the island connected to the network, the community can revel in its accomplishment as it considers the future.
USDA invests $62.3 million in rural broadband infrastructure for Alabama families by Jacqueline Susmann, USDA
USDA ReConnect program grants almost $19 million for Alaska broadband by Carl Weinschenk, telecompetitor.
“The New Internet Communications for Everyone in Yakutat (NICEY) FTTH network will target all 662 year-round residents and businesses in the community. The network will be connected via a 230-mile Cordova Telecom microwave middle-mile network to the community of Cordova. There, the network will connect to the provider’s submarine fiber.”
Earlier this year, community leaders in Portland, Oregon, decided to join other cities in Multnomah County to commission a broadband feasibility study. The goal of the study is to examine the potential for publicly owned broadband network options in the region. Portland's decision to join in the study strengthened the project. As the study moves forward, community leaders and broadband advocates are asking for input from citizens to determine how best to develop a municipal broadband network project.
Spreading the Word and Keeping the Public Engaged
Since their founding, we’ve followed the work of Municipal Broadband PDX, a grassroots collection of residents and businesses working to inform the community about the potential for publicly owned broadband in the region.