Tag: "christopher mitchell"

Posted February 21, 2017 by lgonzalez

Christopher recently took some time to visit with John Hockenberry on The Takeaway from PRI and WNYC. The conversation covered municipal networks, big cable and telephone monopolies, and how local community initiatives for better connectivity are raising the bar in rural areas.

WNYC wrote about the show: 

Net neutrality advocates got some bad news when Ajit Pai was tapped by President Donald Trump to be chairman of the Federal Communications Commission — it appears that Pai wants to largely reverse the Obama administration's approach to the Internet.

Large telecommunications monopolies have been digging their heels in, but some citizens are fighting back. The Takeaway considers the broadband debates that currently are taking place with Christopher Mitchell, the director of Community Broadband Networks at the Institute for Local Self Reliance.

Listen to the interview; it’s about 4 minutes.

Posted February 20, 2017 by lgonzalez

In January, Governor Bill Haslam announced that he and Senator Mark Norris would introduce legislation to provide grant funding and tax credits to private companies in order to expand rural connectivity in Tennessee. In a recent Knoxville News Sentinel, Christopher took another look at more subsidies to large private providers and how that strategy has worked out so far.

We've reprinted the op-ed here:

Christopher Mitchell: State needs better broadband, not subsidies

If you were tasked with improving the internet access across Tennessee, a good first start would be to examine what is working and what’s not. But when the General Assembly debates broadband, it frequently focuses on what AT&T and Comcast want rather than what is working.

Broadband expansion has turned into a perennial fight between Tennessee’s municipal broadband networks and advocates of better connectivity on one side and AT&T and Comcast on the other. On one side is a taxpayer-subsidized model, while the other depends solely on the revenues of those who choose to subscribe. But which is which?

AT&T has received billions of taxpayer dollars to build its networks, whereas Chattanooga, Tullahoma and Morristown, for example, financed their fiber-optic networks by selling revenue bonds to private investors and repaying them with revenues from their services. The big telephone companies are massively subsidized, whereas municipal networks have generally not used taxpayer dollars.

It is true that after it began building, Chattanooga received a Department of Energy one-time stimulus grant for $111 million, but that was actually less than AT&T is getting from just one federal program in Tennessee alone – over $125 million from the Connect America Fund. And most of the money to Chattanooga went into devices for its smart grid that have since led to massive job gains.

These community networks offer modern connectivity. Chattanooga offers 10,000 Mbps to anyone in its territory. AT&T is getting enormous checks from Uncle Sam to deliver 10 Mbps. Comcast will soon offer 1,000 Mbps, but only for downloads. If you are a small business trying to upload lots of data, Comcast won’t get you there.

According to a 2016 Consumer Reports study, Comcast and AT&T were among the most hated companies across the board. Chattanooga’s Electric... Read more

Posted February 16, 2017 by Nick

Gizmodo - February 16, 2017

 

What Happened to Google Fiber?

 

Written by Libby Watson

For a long time, Google Fiber was the most exciting broadband provider out there. Cities wanted it, tech people drooled over it; and on a loftier level, it even promised to help bridge the “digital divide” between rich and poor. But now, things are looking bleak: Yesterday, Bloomberg reported that Google Fiber is being scaled back dramatically (again) as it named Greg McCray its new CEO, with “several hundred” of its employees in that division being sent to other areas of the company.

...

What that means is, as Christopher Mitchell, director of the Community Broadband Networks Project at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance told Gizmodo, “the new guy gets screwed.” Google Fiber complained in a blog post last year that it had only been able to upgrade 33 telephone poles out of 88,000 in Nashville, thanks to these rules. Google has pushed hard to promote a different policy, known as “one touch make ready,” which would allow a single provider to make all those changes in one go.

But that hasn’t been plain sailing either, with incumbent providers like AT&T and Charter filing lawsuits left and right in cities that adopt the policy. AT&T’s complaints with the policy have ranged from Google providing inaccurate information on poles, to saying it could lead to service disruption if there are mistakes, to objecting that it would allow changes to poles they own “without AT&T’s consent and with little notice.”

It’s not that Google doesn’t have the money to fight these things, but it might not have been worth the resources to try and seriously compete with an incumbent provider on this issue—particularly when those providers are already so entrenched in the policy scene. In Tennessee, AT&T employed five times as many lobbyists as Google did last year—25 to Google’s five.

Another problem that’s faced Google Fiber: convincing people to sign up. According to Mitchell, while customers love the super fast speeds once they get them, it’s often hard to convince people to switch “even from a provider they hate,” because they don’t have time to wait at home for installation or spend time on the phone with their provider. Switching is a pain in the ass, basically. While... Read more

Posted February 13, 2017 by lgonzalez

Virginia publication, Bacon’s Rebellion, recently published an opinion piece written by Christopher on HB 2108, a bill introduced by Del. Kathy Byron. If passed, the bill will make it even more difficult for local communities to take control of their own connectivity. We’ve reproduced the op-ed here:

Virginia Is for Lovers, Not Lobbyists

Pop quiz: Should the state create or remove barriers to broadband investment in rural Virginia? Trick question. The answer depends very much on who you are – an incumbent telephone company or someone living every day with poor connectivity.

If you happen to be a big telephone company like CenturyLink or Frontier, you have already taken action. You wrote a bill to effectively prevent competition, laundered it through the state telephone lobbying trade organization, and had it sponsored by Del. Byron, R-Forest, in the General Assembly. That was after securing tens of millions of dollars from the federal government to offer an Internet service so slow it isn’t even considered broadband anymore. Government is working pretty well for you.

If you are a business or resident in the year 2017 without high quality Internet access, you should be banging someone’s door down – maybe an elected official, telephone/electric co-op, or your neighbor to organize a solution. You need more investment, not more barriers. Government isn’t working quite as well for you.

Rural Virginia is not alone. Small towns and farming communities across America are recognizing that they have to take action. The big cable and telephone companies are not going to build the networks rural America needs to retain and attract businesses. The federal government was essential in bringing electricity and basic phone service to everyone. But when it came to broadband, the big telephone companies had a plan to obstruct and prevent and plenty of influence in D.C.

When the Federal Communications Commission set up the Connect America Fund, they began giving billions of dollars to the big telephone companies in return for practically nothing. By 2020, these companies have to deliver a connection doesn’t even qualify as broadband. CenturyLink advertises 1000/1000 Mbps in many urban areas but gets big subsidies to deliver 10/1 Mbps in rural areas. Rural America has been sold out.

If you are a big cable or telephone company, you have a lot of influence in the federal and state capitals. But at the... Read more

Posted February 8, 2017 by lgonzalez

On February 7th, the Virginia House of Delegates voted 72 - 24 to pass HB 2108, otherwise known as "Byron’s Bad Broadband Bill." The text of the bill was a revised version substituted by Del. Kathy Byron after Governor Terry McAuliffe, local leaders across the state, and constituents very handily let her know that they did not want the bill to move forward. The bill now moves to the Senate.

Byron’s original “Broadband Deployment Act” has been whittled down to a bill that still adheres to its main purpose - to protect the telephone companies that keep Byron comfortable with campaign cash. There is no mention of deployment in the text of the new draft, but it does dictate that information from publicly owned networks be made open so anyone, including national providers, can use it to their advantage.

According to Frank Smith, President and CEO of the Roanoke Valley Broadband Authority (RVBA), 

...Virginia Freedom of Information Act stipulations already codified in the Wireless Services Authority Act are sufficient and the new requirements in Byron’s bill could require the broadband authority to reveal proprietary information about its customers.

...

“There’s nothing hidden under the table,” Smith said. “The Wireless Services Authority Act is sufficient because you all did your job in 2003.”

The broadband authority’s rates, books and board meetings already are open to the public.

Private providers would never be required to publicize information that could jeopardize their operations. The objective here is to discourage public private partnerships and prevent local governments from investing in the type of infrastructure that would attract new entrants into the region.

Not "Us" vs. "Them"

At a time when everything seems political, both... Read more

Posted February 8, 2017 by Nick

Cambridge Community Television - February 8, 2017

 

Cambridge Broadband Matters: The Future of Community Broadband

 

Hosted by Pat McCormick

 

See the original story here.

Posted February 3, 2017 by lgonzalez

Republican Delegates in the Virginia House Labor and Commerce Committee advanced HB 2108 yesterday, despite opposition from constituents, local leaders, and members of the telecommunications industry. A revised version of Byron’s Bad Broadband Bill now heads to the House Floor today for a vote from the entire body.

A bill titled the “Virginia Broadband Deployment Act” by its sponsor now contains nothing about “deployment” but retains provisions forcing publicly owned networks to reveal proprietary information that limit competition. In the hearing yesterday, President and CEO of the Roanoke Valley Broadband Authority (RVBA) testified that this bill is overkill:

In front of the committee, Smith argued the Virginia Freedom of Information Act stipulations already codified in the Wireless Services Authority Act are sufficient and the new requirements in Byron’s bill could require the broadband authority to reveal proprietary information about its customers.

Under this bill, the broadband authority could have been forced to reveal information about Meridium — that GE Digital was planning to purchase the Roanoke-based company for $495 million, Smith said.

“There’s nothing hidden under the table,” Smith said. “The Wireless Services Authority Act is sufficient because you all did your job in 2003.”

The broadband authority’s rates, books and board meetings already are open to the public.

Our Christopher Mitchell noted that the attempt to force publicly owned networks into a state of "ultra-transparency" was also a thinly veiled attempt to ward off competition from potential public-private partnerships:

The opening of potentially proprietary information under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act regarding pricing, rates, and fees is something the private sector does not have to deal with and would strenuously object to. This is particularly harmful to potential public-private partnerships where I fear an incumbent would seek to punish the partner of a rival by constantly seeking... Read more

Posted January 31, 2017 by lgonzalez

The 2017 Mountain Connect Broadband Development Conference is set for May 22-24 at the Keystone Resort & Conference Center in Colorado. This year’s theme is Building Sustainable Communities through Smart Networks and you can now register online.

Some of the topics to be discussed at the conference:

 

  • Navigating Rights of Way and Pole Attachment Agreements
  • Intelligent Transportation Systems
  • Wireless Considerations
  • Smart Utilities
  • Evolution and Impact of Over the Top Content
  • Digital Government Services
  • How can we Partner with our Incumbent Providers
  • Navigating Financing Options

 

The agenda is still being developed but we know that Christopher is planning on attending, either moderating or participating on one or several panels. We'll report back when we know more about who is speaking. Until then, check the event website for more.

Attendees who sign up early can get special pricing, so planning now can help you save.

Posted January 27, 2017 by lgonzalez

A recent edition of State Scoop published Christopher's thoughts on Ajit Pai, the new administration's selection for Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. In the piece, Christopher examines Pai's past decisions, speculates on the future, and suggests how local communities can take action. We've reproduced the op-ed here:

Trump's FCC pick bodes poorly for net neutrality, broadband competition, but communities can fight back

Donald Trump picked his FCC chairman much earlier than anyone expected, though Ajit Pai is not a very big surprise. Formerly a lawyer for Verizon, Pai has been a constant voice in favor of large incumbent cable and telephone positions, especially opposing the Open Internet Order, known more commonly as network neutrality.

He has served on the FCC for four years, giving a strong sense of what his priorities are. In speaking to staff on his first day, he focused on the digital divide but offered few clues as to what he might be planning to improve access aside from cutting regulations — as though the only thing holding back the nation's ISPs from offering high-quality lower-cost access in low-income neighborhoods was prohibitions against the practice.

Pai opposed efforts to help low-income families access the internet via the Lifeline program, advocating instead for a cap that would create a waiting list rather than covering all qualifying families. And more telling, he actually opposed efforts to rein in the ripoff charges in many prisons, where the incarcerated have to pay incredibly inflated rates to make phone calls. For those who don't care if people in prison are ripped off, consider that the amount of contact a prisoner has with family is correlated with recidivism. That means you are paying higher taxes to house prisoners so CenturyLink and others can charge them a buck a minute or more to talk to their families.

Pai's opposition to equity extends beyond individual programs and into the content of the internet itself. Pai has proven himself an opponent of net neutrality and said in December that its days are numbered under Trump.

To be fair, Pai has claimed at times to adhere to some net neutrality... Read more

Posted January 25, 2017 by Nick

Ars Technica - January 25,2017

Google and Netflix join fight against municipal broadband restrictions

Written by Jon Brodkin

Google and Netflix joined a handful of advocacy groups and other companies lobbying against a proposed Virginia state law that would make it far more difficult for municipalities to offer Internet service.

As we previously reported, the "Virginia Broadband Deployment Act" would prohibit municipal broadband deployments except in very limited circumstances. For example, localities wouldn't be allowed to offer Internet service to residents if an existing network already provides 10Mbps download and 1Mbps upload speeds to 90 percent of potential customers. Even if that condition is met, municipalities would have to jump through several legal hoops before being allowed to build a network.

...

"A number of local governments have already passed resolutions condemning the legislative attack on their right to make local telecommunications decisions and we expect to see more," the Institute for Local Self-Reliance's Community Networks project wrote Monday. The 10Mbps/1Mbps speeds specified in the legislation are "reminiscent of antiquated DSL," the group said.

...

Read the full story here.

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