Reports Highlighted by MuniNetworks.org

The Secrets Behind Partnerships to Improve Internet Access

Publication Date: 
July 14, 2016
Author(s): 
Patrick Lucey
Author(s): 
Christopher Mitchell

placeholderA growing number of U.S. cities have broken up monopoly control of the Internet marketplace locally. They're promoting entrepreneurship while giving residents and businesses real choice in how they connect and reach new audiences. They've put a new wrinkle in an old model: the public-private partnership.

"Communities desperately need better Internet access, but not all local governments are bold enough to 'go it alone'", says Christopher Mitchell with Community Broadband Networks at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. "Here, we've outlined a few remarkable cities who have demonstrated how smart strategies are helping them help themselves."

A city that builds its own fiber and leases it to a trusted partner can negotiate for activities that benefit the public good, like universal access. It may even require (as Westminster, Maryland did) that the partner ISP have real human beings answer the phone to solve a customer's problems.

The term "public-private partnership" has been muddied in the past. This report clears up the confusion: public entities and private companies must both have "skin in the game" to balance the risks and amplify the rewards.

Inside The Report

  • Partnerships in broadband have never been in greater vogue. Communities are realizing they don’t have to build it entirely themselves to get the benefits of gig networks in Chattanooga or Google cities.
  • The report features the revolutionary Westminster/Ting partnership and notes its first copycat: Cruzio and the city of Santa Cruz. These networks are groundbreaking in terms of offering a "third way" for communities to join the ranks of gigabit cities.
  • This report offers a roadmap for cities and outlines the important questions that need to be asked and answered in order to find the right partner with the right priorities for each community.

WATCH THE VIDEO: Westminster & Ting: The How and the Why

DOWNLOAD THE REPORT

Minnesota's Broadband Grant Program: Getting the Rules Right

Publication Date: 
May 12, 2016
Author(s): 
Scott Carlson
Author(s): 
Christopher Mitchell

In its first two years of implementation, the Minnesota Border-to-Border program distributed $30 million to 31 rural Minnesota communities. But the state has not put enough money into the program and needs to put more focus on getting investment in Greater Minnesota cities to spur economic development.

“This funding is essential to greater Minnesota communities that are being left behind,” says Christopher Mitchell, Director of the Community Broadband Initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. “The current disbursement is only meeting a fraction of the state’s high-speed Internet needs as it is. The program’s rules must be reconsidered to meet economic development goals for the state.”

"Getting the Rules Right" is a policy brief on the Border-to-Border Broadband program. It covers what the program is, how it works, and why funding must be expanded in order to serve more greater Minnesota communities.

Download the Report here [pdf]

WiredWest: a Cooperative of Municipalities Forms to Build a Fiber Optic Network

Publication Date: 
April 20, 2016
Author(s): 
David Talbot
Author(s): 
Waide Warner
Author(s): 
Susan Crawford

In 2010, communities in rural western Massachusetts began a group that would evolve into the WiredWest Cooperative. Over the past six years, the group, formed to bring better last-mile connectivity to the unserved and underserved areas of the state, has faced a number of challenges. Most recently, disagreements with the Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI), the state agency tasked with distributing funds for last-mile connectivity, have threatened WiredWest's regional cooperative model.

In a new report released by the Berkman Center, authors David Talbot, Waide Warner, and Susan Crawford share the story of these communities' attempt to band together to establish a fiber-optic network.

In WiredWest: a Cooperative of Municipalities Forms to Build A Fiber Optic Network, we learn not only how this region came together, but how they developed their business plan and procured funding, how they anticipate the network to affect affordability, and the ways they have adjusted the plan as circumstances required. The authors also take the time to share some history of cooperatives, and address how the cooperative model - used in the past for electricity and telephone - can benefit the communities in rural western Massachusetts.

RS Fiber: Fertile Fields for New Rural Internet Cooperative

Publication Date: 
April 18, 2016
Author(s): 
Scott Carlson
Author(s): 
Christopher Mitchell

A new trend is emerging in rural communities throughout the United States: Fiber-to-the-Farm. Tired of waiting for high-quality Internet access from big companies, farmers are building it themselves. 

Communities in and around Minnesota’s rural Sibley County are going from worst to best after building a wireless and fiber-optic cooperative. While federal programs throw billions of dollars to deliver last year’s Internet speeds, local programs are building the network of the future. 

In “RS Fiber: Fertile Fields for New Rural Internet Cooperative,” the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) and Next Century Cities documents a groundbreaking new model that’s sprung up in South Central Minnesota that can be replicated all over the nation, in the thousands of cities and counties that have been refused service by big cable and telecom corporations.  

The Emerging World of Broadband Public-Private Partnerships: A Business Strategy and Legal Guide

Publication Date: 
February 1, 2016
Author(s): 
Joanne Hovis
Author(s): 
Marc Schulhof
Author(s): 
Jim Baller
Author(s): 
Ashley Stelfox

As communities across the country realize the big corporate providers may never bring the kind of connectivity they need, they are considering the potential of public-private partnerships. A new report by Joanne Hovis, Marc Schulhof, Jim Baller, and Ashley Stelfox, takes a look at the issues facing local governments and their private sector partners.

The Emerging World of Broadband Public-Private Partnerships: A Business Strategy and Legal Guide examines the practical considerations when investigating PPPs for better connectivity. The report was published by the Coalition for Local Internet Choice (CLIC) and the Benton Foundation. 

The report offers case studies from several networks to illustrate the findings. Among others, the authors write about Westminster, Maryland; Urbana/Champaign, Illinois; and Holly Springs, North Carolina. Each community has collaborated with the private sector in some unique partnership.

SandyNet Goes Gig: A Model for Anytown, USA

Publication Date: 
November 9, 2015
Author(s): 
Hannah Trostle
Author(s): 
Christopher Mitchell

Many of the most beautiful communities in the United States are in remote areas where incumbent cable and telephone companies have decided not to offer modern, high-quality Internet connectivity. Sandy, Oregon, is one of them. Some 10,000 people live there among the lush green forests and beautiful vistas of the “Gateway to Mount Hood,” 25 miles east of Portland. But Sandy decided to build its own gigabit fiber optic system and now has one of the most advanced, affordable networks in the nation.

A new report by The Institute for Local Self-Reliance details the rise of SandyNet, Sandy's publicly owned high-speed Internet service. "SandyNet Goes Gig: A Model for Anytown USA" charts the growth of this community network.

Sandy, Oregon joined nearly 100 other local governments that have municipal fiber-to-the-home networks to give residents and businesses access to world-class Internet connections. However, the overwhelming majority of municipal fiber networks were built by local governments that already owned their local electrical grids. As Sandy does not have a municipal electric utility, it pioneered a low-risk incremental strategy to build its telecommunications utility, SandyNet.

The city started by reselling DSL and building a modest wireless network. Now it offers symmetrical speeds of 100 Mbps for $39.95 or 1 Gbps for $59.95. Sandy’s experience offers lessons for local governments across the country.   

Click here to read and download the full report.

Click here to watch our short documentary about the Network:

Gig City Sandy: Home of the $60 Gig

The Next Generation Connectivity Handbook: A Guide For Community Leaders Seeking Affordable, Abundant Bandwidth

Publication Date: 
July 21, 2015
Author(s): 
Blair Levin
Author(s): 
Denise Linn

Gig.U, a collaboration of more than 30 universities across the country has just released The Next Generation Network Connectivity Handbook: A guide for Community Leaders Seeking Affordable, Abundant Bandwidth. The handbook was published in association with the Benton Foundation.

The report underscores the importance of local decision making authority, whether each community chooses to go with a municipally owned model, a public private partnership, or some other strategy.

Blair Levin and Denise Linn also address issues of preparation, assessment, early steps, things to remember when developing partnerships, funding issues, and challenges to expect. They assemble an impressive list of resources that any group, agency, or local government can use to move ahead.

Holyoke: A Massachusetts Municipal Light Plant Seizes Internet Access Business Opportunities

Publication Date: 
July 8, 2015
Author(s): 
David Talbot
Author(s): 
Waide Warner
Author(s): 
Carolyn Anderson
Author(s): 
Kira Hessekiel
Author(s): 
Daniel Dennis Jones

Fifteen years ago, Holyoke Gas & Electric  (HG&E) began its incremental fiber deployment to meet the need for better connectivity in the community. Since then, they have invested savings created by initial and subsequent investments. Over the years, HG&E expanded their services, becoming the ISP for several local business customers in two nearby communities. HG&E also established a regional interconnection agreement and it is now an ISP for municipal agencies in a third community 30 miles away.

The Berkman Center's most recent report, report, "Holyoke: A Massachusetts Municipal Light Plant Seizes Internet Access Business Opportunities,” documents their story.

Connecting 21st Century Cities: A Policy Agenda For Broadband Stakeholders

Publication Date: 
July 8, 2015
Author(s): 
Next Century Cities

Next Century Cities, a nonpartisan coalition of 100 communities working to expand Internet access, recently published "Connecting 21st Century Communities: A Policy Agenda for Broadband Stakeholders." This resource brings together timely research, best practices, and examples of successful approaches from around the U.S. and the world - all focused on encouraging ubiquitous Internet access for all. Chris Mitchell, Director of the Community Broadband Networks Initiative and the driving force behind MuniNetworks.org, serves as Next Century Cities' Policy Director.

Artificial Scarcity: How Data Caps Harm Consumers and Innovation

Publication Date: 
June 1, 2015
Author(s): 
Danielle Kehl
Author(s): 
Patrick Lucey

This report by Danielle Kehl and Patrick Lucey examines how bandwidth caps, in increasingly popular profit grabbing technique among the big ISPs, impact consumer decisions and usage. 

From the OTI press release:

In this paper, we examine the growth and impact of usage-based pricing and data caps on wired and mobile broadband services in the United States. We analyze the financial incentive that Internet service providers (ISPs) have to implement these usage limits and discuss research that demonstrates how these policies affect consumer behavior. In particular, we explain how data caps can make it harder for consumers to make informed choices; decrease the adoption and use of existing and new online services; and undermine online security.