Tag: "california"

Posted August 30, 2018 by lgonzalez

Shortly after Republican FCC Commissioners repealed federal network neutrality protections late in 2017, state lawmakers began introducing legislation to protect their constituents. California’s AB 1999, introduced as one possible antidote to the FCC failure in judgment, passed the General Assembly on August 29th and is on its way to Governor Jerry Brown.

Read the final version of the bill and the Legislative Counsel Digest here.

Let the People Serve the People

As local communities have investigated ways to protect themselves from throttling, paid prioritization, and other activities no longer banned, they’ve looked at investing in publicly owned infrastructure. Rural communities where national Internet service providers are less motivated to deploy have always struggled to attract investment from the same large companies known to violate network neutrality tenets. Assembly Member Ed Chau’s AB 1999 addresses rural communities’ need for better connectivity, solutions that can preserve network neutrality, and challenges in funding broadband infrastructure.

California’s community service districts (CSDs) are independent local governments created by folks in unincorporated areas. CDSs provide services that would otherwise be provided by a municipality. Residents usually join together to form a CSD and do so to establish services such as water and wastewater management, garbage collection, fire protection, or similar services. A CSD also has the ability to create an enhanced infrastructure financing district (EIFD) in order to finance the development of a broadband network.

The EIFD statute granting the authority allows communities, including CSDs, to join together regional projects for a range of financing purposes. Tax Increment Financing (TIF) and various bonding mechanisms are a few examples.

The law currently on the books, which AB 1999 will change, requires CSDs to first determine that no private entity or person is willing to offer broadband in their sector before they are allowed to invest to do so. If they manage to get past the requirement but an entity or person enters the picture and is willing to provide those services, the...

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Posted August 21, 2018 by lgonzalez

Communities who want the best for their citizens typically recognize the importance of digital equity and often take steps to develop digital inclusion programs. Last year on the podcast, we invited folks from the ISP Monkeybrains to explain how they were working with the city of San Francisco to develop a way to provide high-speed connectivity to residents living in several public housing facilities. We decided it was time to share the details of their model so other communities could consider their approach as a workable plan. Our summer Public Policy Intern Hannah Rank took on the task of writing a detailed report about the project. This week, she sat down with Christopher to offer a preview of what she’s learned.

In addition to an outline about the history of ISP Monkebrains and where they obtained additional funding for the project, Christopher and Hannah discuss the pros and cons of the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF). They discuss how a smart digital inclusion program as part of such a plan to offer broadband to lower-income households can help those enrolled and help keep overall costs down. 

Be sure to look for the release of our report this fall to learn more details about how San Francisco and Monkeybrains are bringing better connectivity to public housing to help residents participate in the digital economy. Until then, you can learn more about Monkeybrains and the plan by listening to episode 264 of the podcast.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

This show is 32 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed.

You can download this mp3 file directly from here. Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

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Posted August 1, 2018 by Hannah Rank

The city of Santa Monica’s efforts to shrink the digital divide ranks as one of the Top 25 Programs in American Government of 2017. That’s according to Harvard University’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, who names the top programs in governance based on innovation in government policy. 

Santa Monica’s award-winning Digital Inclusion pilot program targeted broadband access efforts by connecting ten affordable housing units with high-speed Internet, along with tech training and education. According to the Santa Monica Daily Press, the city received nearly $2 million in seed money from a U.S. Housing and Urban Development Community Development Block Grant to start to fund the efforts. So far the program has given 10 buildings access to free gigabit-speed Internet access in the communal areas, with in-unit gigabit capability for $48 a month; the program has since started expanding to 29 other affordable housing complexes.

Here’s what the city’s community broadband manager had to say about the program in the Daily Press article:

“Our community’s experience is shattering the antiquated notion of broadband, technology and tech education as a luxury,” said Gary Carter, the City’s Community Broadband Manager. “Residents are providing indisputable evidence of an ability and willingness to participate in civic innovation. Taking care of our most vulnerable first, sets a higher bar and we accept the challenge.”

This isn’t the first time the city has gotten recognition for its approach to getting Internet to its residents. Its municipal broadband, Santa Monica City Net, has won numerous awards, including the same Harvard Ash Center Top 25 Programs prize back in 2011.

We’ve written about City Net, the deployment, and the many benefits. We've also...

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Posted July 10, 2018 by lgonzalez

Death, taxes, and legislative drama are three of life’s certainties. Most recently, the drama unfolded in California as Democratic Sen. Scott Wiener has tried to pass state network neutrality protections after the FCC revoked federal law, leaving millions at the mercy of a broken market.

Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda

California is one of a long list of states that have in some way addressed the current lack of regulations regarding network neutrality. In addition to Executive Orders in six states, including Vermont and Montana, state legislatures in 29 states have introduced legislation that address some aspect of network neutrality. Oregon, Vermont, and Washington have adopted legislation. To see a comprehensive list of state bills across the country, check out the National Conference of State Legislatures’ website.

Wiener’s  SB 822 had been described as “the most comprehensive” of state legislation introduced since FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and the Republican Commissioners repealed federal network neutrality late last year. The bill passed in the Senate in late May, but amendments adopted during a contentious Communications and Conveyance Committee meeting in the Assembly transformed it into quite a different piece of legislation.

When the bill was at full strength in the Senate, it received the support of network neutrality advocates, including former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and the state’s Attorney General Xavier Becerra. Mayors from some of California’s largest cities have also endorsed SB 822. While the bill implemented the types of protections that past federal network neutrality provided, such as prohibiting paid prioritization and allowing equal access to all traffic on the Internet, SB 822 in its original form created additional protections. For example, the bill...

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Posted June 27, 2018 by Hannah Bonestroo

The City of Oxnard, California recently selected a private broadband consulting agency to assist in creating a Fiber Master Plan for developing a citywide high-speed fiber optic network. The city announced a request for proposal for a Fiber Master Plan in 2017 after leadership realized that access to affordable and reliable citywide high-speed fiber-optic broadband would be crucial to economic development. The new plan will bring gigabit-speed internet to the city of 208,000 and help achieve the city’s goal of becoming a “Tech” city. 

Situated along the coast of southern California, about an hour northwest of Los Angles, Oxnard is the largest city in Ventura County. They're about 35 miles south of Santa Barbara and home to a thriving international port, the Port of Hueneme, which travels between San Francisco, Los Angeles, and other Pacific Rim communities. The community is known as the largest strawberry producer and as a center for manufacturing.

“Tech” City

The existing 35-mile fiber-optic network in Oxnard is primarily used to connect traffic signals and city facilities and presents only limited opportunities for other community purposes. The new plan will inventory the city’s current assets and create a roadmap for building a broadband network that will fill in the gaps.

One of the main goals of the plan is to turn Oxnard into a “tech city.” A city’s ability to compete increasingly depends on the technologies it offers. The latest technology developments, including Smart City initiatives, artificial intelligence, and the Internet of Things, demand high-powered connections from both home and office. Citywide fiber-optic will enable Oxnard to deploy these new apps, such as public Wi-Fi, and compete with neighboring communities.

A Lasting Impact

Besides economic growth, the city hopes that the the new fiber-optic network will also produce educational and other social benefits. Additionally, the network is expected to generate a return on investment and eventually contribute to the city’s general fund. 

Oxnard is just one...

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Posted June 15, 2018 by lgonzalez

In response to the FCC’s decision to end federal network neutrality protections, California and other states have introduced bills to fill the gap left by the Commission. Local communities who had flirted with the idea of publicly owned Internet infrastructure in the past have now taken a second and more serious look to counteract the FCC’s harmful policy shift. Assembly Member Ed Chau’s AB 1999, making its way through the legislative process, is opening possibilities for local communities to invest in their own Internet infrastructure. Chau recognizes that publicly owned networks are an option for more than network neutrality protections, especially in rural communities.

Attitude Adjustment

Our Christopher Mitchell travelled to California in May to testify about the bill as it worked its way through the committee process. AB 1999 could indicate that big telephone and cable companies now have less influence in state Capitols around the U.S. than in past years. We recently wrote about a New Hampshire bill that gives us similar hope — a piece of legislation signed by the Governor there that removed restrictions on local investment in broadband networks.

Like New Hampshire's SB 170, AB 1999 allows communities where big national providers don’t want to invest have more control over how they improve local connectivity. If passed, the bill will give California's community service districts the ability to develop public broadband networks and offer services. The language of the bill also requires that any networks developed by community service districts adhere to network neutrality rules.

Rural Communities Serving Themselves

Community service districts (CSD) are independent local governments created to provide services in unincorporated areas of a county. CSDs are...

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Posted March 22, 2018 by htrostle

In southern California, an electric cooperative provides high-speed Internet service and continues to expand, meeting the needs of its 4,000 rural members. With community support, Anza Electric has navigated paperwork, construction delays, and more challenges. In May 2018, the California Public Utilities Commission will decide whether or not to award a grant of $2.2 million for Anza Electric’s fiber network project, Connect Anza.

We spoke with Anza Electric’s General Manager Kevin Short to learn more about the grant proposal and the project timeline. In July 2017, we reported that Anza Electric had submitted the grant application for a rural area south of Mount Jacinto in Riverside County. Short provided us with an update and more information on why this area was not part of the co-op’s first Internet access project.

2018 Grant Application

This area in Riverside County follows scenic highway 74 and includes the communities of Pinyon Pines, Garner Valley, and Mountain Center. The project will provide Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) Internet service to the rural co-op members. The co-op will also provide free high-speed Internet access to local fire stations and the Ronald McDonald camp for children with cancer. 

In total, the project costs $3.7 million, but the co-op has about $1.5 million to devote to the project. They hope to obtain the remaining $2.2 million from the California Advanced Services Fund through the California Public Utilities Commission. Anza Electric applied for the grant last year. More than 600 people have already signed onto a petition to support the co-op’s application. (Read the petition here.) The California Public Utilities Commission vote in May 2018 on the grant, which will significantly reduce the amount of time the co-op will need to connect the proposed project area.

...

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Posted February 27, 2018 by lgonzalez

When community leaders in Santa Cruz County, California, decided to take steps to spur economic development, they knew they needed to improve local connectivity. For episode 295 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast, Policy Analyst Patrick Mulhearn from County Supervisor Zach Friend’s office talks with Christopher this week about the steps they’ve taken and their plans.

Santa Cruz County is a blend of beach activity, relaxing natural destinations, and inland rural areas. Silicon Valley is nearby and people who work in the tech industry live in the city of Santa Cruz or the rural areas around it and commute to work. Unfortunately, national providers have not kept up with high quality connectivity throughout the county. As is often the case, the incumbent providers have concentrated their efforts on specific areas, leaving rural Santa Cruz County behind. 

Patrick and Christopher discuss how the county took steps to accommodate the big ISPs and what happened next. They also talk about how some people in rural areas have taken steps to solve their problems despite the lack of action by incumbents and what county officials have in mind for the future.

Read the transcript for this show here.

This show is 23 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed.

You can download this mp3 file directly from here. Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Thanks to Arne Huseby for the music. The song is Warm Duck Shuffle and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.

Posted January 26, 2018 by lgonzalez

The soil is frozen in many parts of the country, but that doesn’t stop plans to improve local connectivity with underground conduit in warmer regions. Santa Maria, California, is taking advantage of its conduit to bring a private provider to town.

Grapes And Gigs

Located in wine country about 150 miles north of Los Angeles, Santa Maria (pop. 106,00) has for years been installing extra conduit whenever the community needed to make street repairs or similar infrastructure improvements. Over time, they’ve established the necessary publicly owned conduit to attract the attention of a private ISP. Santa Maria recently announced that private sector ISP, Wave Broadband, will deploy a fiber optic network within the city’s conduit. The fiber optic ring will run around the downtown area and will also connect Santa Maria’s municipal facilities, including the bus yard and the landfill.

In exchange for space in the conduit and space in Santa Maria’s data center, Wave will install and own the fiber and provide Internet access to city facilities. High-quality connectivity is critical to the city’s Police Department in its work in providing communications and support to other surrounding communities. The city also plans to offer free Wi-Fi in the downtown area.

The network will support Santa Maria Area Transit’s (SMAT) pilot to bring Wi-Fi to passengers using public transportation. Riders on a limited number of routes will have access to free connectivity starting this summer and SMAT hopes to expand the program in the future.

Improving Life In Santa Maria

City leaders see the network as an economic development tool to revitalize their downtown and attract businesses. They consider the fiber optic network a step toward Smart City projects that will attract employers and a work force seeking a high quality of life. Community leaders also intend to appraise the possibility of expanding publicly owned infrastructure to other areas of Santa Maria.

“This investment is designed to spark substantial economic growth in and around the City as businesses and public services take advantage of the public-private investment into the community,” City spokesman Mark van de Kamp said. “This is a priority for Santa Maria to attract new tech companies and employees who are choosing where to locate...

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Posted December 12, 2017 by Matthew Marcus

In southern California, the city of Manhattan Beach is considering creating a municipal broadband network to extend quality, affordable broadband to its residents and businesses.

Advocating for Quality Internet 

Talk of the network surfaced from Information Technology director Sanford Taylor’s "Fiber Master Plan." Beyond providing better broadband, the network would support “Smart City” projects: synchronized street lights, community cameras, and parking meters that allow drivers to find parking spots through an internet app.

Taylor previously worked for the city of Long Beach where he helped spearhead their fiber network. Municipalities typically pay exorbitant prices for large-scale high-speed Internet. Long Beach had been paying around $14,000 per month before Taylor transitioned from traditional ISPs to a wholesale option costing only $1,100 per month.

Nearby Santa Monica has had success with their publicly owned network, which connects businesses, community centers, and has helped improve the functionality of municipal systems like traffic signals and cameras. The Long Beach I-Net facilitates city operations by providing connectivity to municipal facilities but doesn't connect businesses or residents. A private firm, Inyo Networks, developed a citywide fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) network in the nearby town of Ontario; Taylor and Public works director Stephanie Katsouleas have been studying the arrangement closely. They are also visiting other communities that are investing in publicly owned Internet infrastructure, including Beverly Hills.

Taylor issued a Request for Proposals recently and just that small signaling of network independence had ISPs scrambling, resulting in the city obtaining service through a different incumbent provider with more bandwidth at nearly half the cost. 

Manhattan Beach is conducting a...

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