Tag: "christopher mitchell"

Posted March 11, 2017 by htrostle

How do we connect rural America? Unreliable, slow Internet service with data caps is the norm for much of the country. Even though the federal government gives billions of dollars to large telecom companies, North Carolina is one of the many states that still has an urban and rural digital divide.

Western North Carolina Public Radio (WCQS) recently spoke with our Christopher Mitchell about local ways to improve rural Internet access. While Christopher spoke of electric cooperatives, two other initiatives are also seeking creative solutions in the western half of the state.

Potential Service from Electric Cooperatives

Communities across the U.S. are already bringing better connectivity to their homes and businesses. Specifically, Christopher pointed to the growing number of electric cooperatives providing Internet service: 

“When you look at the threat communities face from not having broadband Internet—the way people are moving away, and fewer people are willing to move in—these electric membership corporations really have to think about what they can do to make sure there’s a high quality of life.”

In our 2016 North Carolina Connectivity report, we explored the work of two local electric cooperatives, Lumbee River and Blue Ridge Mountain. They collaborated with telephone cooperatives to provide high-speed Internet service in the several rural counties near Georgia.

Spotlight on Local Solutions

The WCQS article reported on two more local initiatives: the community network in Highlands, North Carolina, and the nonprofit Land of Sky Regional Council

Back in 2015, the people of Highlands saw that poor Internet access was hurting their community. They quickly built the Altitude Community Broadband network. Highlands Internet Technology Director Matt Shuler told WCQS: 

“... Read more

Posted March 9, 2017 by Nick

On March 7th, Christopher participated in a panel discussion sponsored by Politico and Qualcomm as part of an event called "The Future of the Wireless World." The panel was moderated by Politico Technology Reporter Alex Byers and included the following participants:

  • Steven Crowley, P.E., Consulting Wireless Engineer
  • Mindel De la Torre, former Chief of the International Bureau, Federal Communications Commission
  • Christopher Mitchell, Director of Community Broadband Networks Initiative, Institute for Local Self-Reliance
  • Joan Marsh, Senior Vice President of Federal Regulatory, AT&T

You can stream the video at Politico's website by clicking the image below.

Highlights from this conversation include Christopher's interaction with the AT&T representative about their claim that a "one touch make ready" policy was specific to Google Fiber. This interaction is at 36:20 in the video.

Posted March 3, 2017 by lgonzalez

The 2017 Broadband Communities Summit, Fiber: Get In The Game Of Gigs, is approaching fast. From May 1 - 4, the Downtown Sheraton in Dallas, Texas, will be packed with policy wonks, advocates, experts, and vendors all mulling over the importance of high-quality connectivity. You can still register online.

Once again, the Coalition for Local Internet Choice (CLIC) will hold a special preconference session on Monday afternoon. Christopher will participate in the CLIC session as a panelist on the section titled, “The 2017 State Legislative Session: Challenges and Opportunities for Local Internet Choice.” It’s scheduled to start at 2 p.m. and the panel will discuss various state legislative measures this session and state barriers in general.

Christopher will also be on Tuesday’s Blue Ribbon panel as part of the Economic Development Program at 3 p.m. Lev Gonick, CEO from OneCommunity will moderate the discussion and the other speakers will be Nicol Turner-Lee, a Fellow in Governance Studies at the Center for Technology Innovation from the Brookings Institutions and Hilda Legg, Vice Chairman of Broadband Communities. Here’s a description of the topic from the agenda:

We now have a new administration, a new congress, and a new FCC.  They are all focusing on new investment strategies, accelerating high-capacity wireless deployment, and addressing the digital divide.  What does all this mean for local communities?  Can public-private partnerships provide fertile common ground?

Check out the full agenda for the main event and for the CLIC preconference session

Earlybird full pass registration expires on April 19, so register now for the best price.

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

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