Tag: "washington"

Posted May 8, 2017 by lgonzalez

Seattle is the latest local government taking steps to protect citizens’ data. As of May 24th, companies with franchise agreements allowing them to operate in the city must obtain customer permission to sell personal data or browsing histories.

The three companies operating in Seattle are Comcast, CenturyLink and Wave Broadband.

Opting In vs. Opting Out

In Seattle, the rule will require customers to opt-in to allow companies to collect and sell their data, unlike the usual situation - opting out to refrain. 

“We felt that an opt-out process was insufficient,” said Michael Mattmiller, the city’s chief technology officer. “Consumers are too busy to somehow learn through the fine print that your web usage is being mined or sold.”

To remain in compliance with the new rule, companies must submit semi-annual reports. 

State Efforts Uncertain

The state is still considering passing a similar bill but Seattle isn’t waiting for Olympia to act first. Minnesota’s privacy protection amendment was removed from the omnibus jobs bill in conference committee and faces an uncertain future; acting at the municipal level appears to be most likely to stick.

Tacoma's City Council passed a resolution in April to heighten personal data privacy on the publicly owned Click! network.

Read Seattle's new rule for Internet service providers here.

Posted April 26, 2017 by lgonzalez

Recently, state lawmakers in Minnesota passed legislation to protect Minnesotans’ online privacy. In Tacoma, the City Council made a similar move by passing a resolution asking the Tacoma Public Utilities board to prevent ISPs on the city’s fiber network from collecting and selling personal online data. The resolution was an example of local authority stepping in to fill the gap when federal policy fails.

When The State And The Feds Don't Act

Bills were introduced in the Washington State Legislature this session, but state lawmakers didn’t turn them into law. By mid-April, it appeared that the bills weren’t going anywhere so City Council members felt the need to address the issue after the Trump Administration’s FCC allowed privacy protections to lapse.

“I’ve just heard lots of concerns from community members and from boosters of the Click network about privacy,” said Councilman Anders Ibsen… “This also ensures that any private entity that rides our fiber, that uses the Click network, is held to certain ground rules, just really basic ground rules about respecting the privacy of their customers.”

Tacoma's Click! publicly owned network serves about 23,000 people. Over the past few years, the community has debated the future of the network and is still considering several possible scenarios. For more, check out our four-part series on the network's history and an analysis of the benefits from this public investment.

Local Network = Local Control

Like many of the local and regional ISPs that tend to offer services via publicly owned infrastructure, the two providers on Click’s network already commit to subscriber privacy. Since the announcement that privacy protections would be rolled back, several municipal networks that offer retail services have also assured their subscribers that collecting and selling information such as location data, search history, app usage, and browsing history just isn’t in their wheel house. Chattanooga’s EPB Fiber and Optilink in Dalton, Tennessee, are a few... Read more

Posted April 18, 2017 by lgonzalez

By June, the networks in the Ports of Clarkson and Lewiston will at last be connected after months of negotiation, collaboration, and unraveling and old conduit mystery. 

Network Stalled By Conduit Question

Last summer, we reported how the two communities had each invested in publicly owned fiber Internet infrastructure with the plan to connect the networks at the Soothsay Bridge across the Snake River. An issue arose when rights to ownership arose regarding ownership and use of conduit on the bridge. CenturyLink controlled 20 conduits on the bridge that it obtained years ago as part of Pacific Northwest Bell. The provider was only using five of the conduit. The Ports had doubts about who actually owned the conduit and so the Port of Clarkson filed a Freedom of Information Act with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to determine the true owners. In the meantime, CenturyLink offered the Port of Clarkston use of one of the conduits for $0.

Soon, the parties involved discovered that there was no lease between CenturyLink and any of possible four jurisdictions involved - Nez Perce and Asotin counties or the cities of Lewiston and Clarkston, current co-owners of the bridge.

After unraveling the conduit ownership issue, reports the Lewiston Tribune, all five entities worked out an agreement to govern the conduit:

Those entities spent months negotiating, and in recent weeks elected officials from both counties and both cities signed off on an agreement. It makes the city of Lewiston’s Public Works Department the primary point of contact for CenturyLink and allows any one of the bridge owners to veto a lease or sale of the conduit. CenturyLink is not required to pay to be on the bridge.

Moving On

Now that the point of connection between the two networks is settled, the two Ports have completed an agreement to authorize the Port of Lewiston as the entity to head up installation of conduit on the Southway Bridge.

Both networks offer dark fiber connectivity to local community anchor institutions (CAIs), ISPs, and a few businesses. In addition to dark fiber networks in... Read more

Posted April 5, 2017 by htrostle

Under the pavement of most cities run an old collection of pipes full of rushing water and some cities are adding fiber-optic cable to them for Internet service. The small city of Anacortes, Washington, is the latest community to repurpose some of their water infrastructure to also carry fiber. 

The new fiber cable will help manage the water system and may serve as the backbone for citywide, Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) Internet access. Anacortes approved about $265,000 for an international contractor to install the fiber in existing water pipes.

Fiber in the Water

Local paper Go Anacortes reported that the community will replace an old radio system with high-speed fiber to better manage the community’s water system. The city’s utility intends to connect water treatment plants and pump stations by running most of the fiber through abandoned water lines, but in some areas the fiber must run through active water pipes.

The utility found an international company that specializes in installing fiber through microducts inside water lines. This technique has been used in multiple countries, and the state health department approved the plan. Although this portion of the project will cost $265,000, the overall fiber project is directly on budget and ahead of schedule, Public Works Director Fred Buckenmeyer recently reported at a city council meeting. Officials estimate the tost cost of the water system project at $500,000 and expect to be completed by the end of summer.

Citywide Plans

This fiber will serve as the backbone to a network that can provide Internet access in the future. The library will host the hub of the network, enabling the utility to expand throughout the community if they so choose. At the end of 2015, Anacortes began to consider building a citywide network.

Last fall, the city enlisted the assistance of ... Read more

Posted March 16, 2017 by lgonzalez

Out of 58 business applications, the city of Ellensburg, Washington, recently selected 30 local businesses to participate in their fiber-optic pilot project. Nineteen participants are business owners, 11 are business tenants; 22 are located at commercial locations and six are home-based businesses along with two telecommuters, reports the Daily Record.

The participants will obtain a credit of $5,000 to connect to the network from the city’s telecommunications utility. Any connection fees over and above the credit will be the responsibility of the pilot project participants.

Businesses will be able to purchase Internet access from the city at either 300 Megabits per second (Mbps) capacity or gigabit (1,000 Mbps) capacity. Service is symmetrical, which is critical for business, so speeds are just as fast on the upload as on the download. Month service fees will be $39.95 and $59.95 per month respectively. The city expects to begin connecting businesses in August.

Posted February 23, 2017 by lgonzalez

While people in rural Washington State continue to limp long on DSL, satellite, and even dial-up, two bills in the state legislature that would have allowed public utility districts (PUDs) to offer retail services stalled in committee. 

Rural Areas Need Retail Service From The PUDs

State law requires PUDs to adhere to the wholesale-only model so rural residents and businesses can't obtain the connectivity they need because national providers don't offer high-quality Internet access in those regions. If no providers are interested in working with the PUDs to lease fiber infrastructure to serve rural areas, potential subscribers in the hardest to reach areas are just out of luck. These two bills would have filled the gaps by allowing PUDs to directly serve customers.

One Step Forward

HB 1938 was reviewed and there was some testimony in the House Technology & Economic Development Committee, but no vote. The Senate companion, SB 5139, was never picked up in the Senate Energy, Environment & Telecommunications Committee. In order for the bills to advance, they needed to pass out of their referred committees by February 17th.

Even though these bills failed to move forward, the fact that they were introduced and one obtained attention from committee members is encouraging. If you live in rural Washington, you understand how difficult it is to obtain fast, affordable, reliable connectivity. You don’t need to wait until a bill has been introduced to contact your elected officials to let them know you support state policies like HB 1938 and SB 5139; they want to hear from you all year.

Posted February 16, 2017 by lgonzalez

Two Washington state bills in separate committees would allow public utility districts (PUDs) to offer retail communications services. HB 1938 and SB 5139 are the kind of legislation that would allow local communities to improve connectivity. Now, PUDs are restricted to the wholesale-only model, but businesses and residents in rural areas question the wisdom of the restriction.

Unfortunately, big incumbent providers have sent their lobbyists to fight against the two bills and the efforts to pass them are having a difficult time competing. A few representatives from local public utility districts testified in the House committee hearing, but the telecom industry sent out its army in full force.

In order for this bill to go anywhere this session, it needs to be passed by the House Technology & Economic Development Committee and the Senate Energy, Environment & Telecommunications Committee this week. While the bill has had some attention in the House Committee, it has yet to be voted on. It isn’t on the Senate Committee’s agenda, so it doesn’t look likely to move in that body.

Nevertheless, this is an opportunity for Washington constituents to call their state elected officials and let them know that, even if this bill doesn’t go anywhere this session, this is the type of legislative change they want for better connectivity.

You can contact House Committee and Senate Committee members and also touch base with your own Representatives and Senators and express your desires to see more legislation like this. Even if the bill doesn’t go anywhere this session, lay the groundwork for future change.

Video from the brief discussion of the bill in the House Committee: