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Underbuilding, States BEAD Posturing, and Hot Topics in Community Networks - Episode 509 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast
This week on the podcast, Christopher is joined by senior staff on the broadband initiative to dig into recent topics, including Senior Reporter, Editor and Communications Team Lead Sean Gonsalves, Community Broadband Outreach Team Lead DeAnne Cuellar, and Senior Researcher and Research Team Lead Ry Marcattilio-McCracken.
The group talks about the value of overlapping networks and the co-option of the word "overbuilding" by monopoly lobbyists, the recent New York State funding program kickstarting municipal broadband efforts in a handful of communities, how states are responding (or not) to the NTIA process to get hundreds of millions in federal broadband infrastructure funding, and a new tool we built to help keep tabs on funds released from the FCC's Rural Digital Opportunity Fund.
This show is 36 minutes long and can be played on this page or via Apple Podcasts or the tool of your choice using this feed.
We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.
Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index. See other podcasts from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance here.
Thanks to Arne Huseby for the music. The song is Warm Duck Shuffle and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.
Event: Building for Digital Equity, Chapter 2: Claiming Broadband For Your Community
In March, the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and the National Digital Inclusion Alliance held a livestream event on the range of challenges and tools available to communities to accomplish infrastructure, equity, and inclusion goals. We called it Building for Digital Equity: Demystifying Broadband Policy and Funding. There, we discussed the new policies and funding options available that can be applied at the state and local levels to help communities improve their Internet services.
This time we will be focusing on organizing around broadband, community impact of the federal funding, and new initiatives in progress thanks to the grants communities are taking advantage of.
Join us on Wednesday June 29th from 1:00pm-2:15pm ET as we discuss what's happening on the ground in these communities and what some of them are planning to do with the new federal broadband dollars. We are calling it Building for Digital Equity, Chapter 2: Claiming Broadband For Your Community. Register here.
This event will feature:
- Your favorite co-host: Christopher Mitchell of ILSR and Pamela Rosales of NDIA
- Videos from communities discussing what they are planning and doing with the funding
- Discussing the “how” in organizing communities
- Guest speakers discussing organizing strategies, and success stories.
- The return of the crowd favorite Broadband Trivia!
Looking forward to seeing you all there!
Register for Building for Digital Equity, Chapter 2 here to get the livestream links; on the day of the event, it will also be available on Twitter, via @netinlusion, @communitynets and @muninetworks.
During the livestream, you can also join the trivia game (link to follow).
Congressional Intent, Supply Chain Requirements, and Overbuilding with BEAD
The BEAD Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) released by NTIA is packed with guidance and regulations for how tens of billions in new funding with be spent. Reading the rules closely gives us a sense of who they might advantage, at least early on, and the line NTIA is trying to walk in giving the money the most bang for its buck while also heading off abuse.
On a recent episode of the Connect This! Show, Christopher Mitchell, Travis Carter (USI Internet), Kim McKinley (UTOPIA Fiber), and Doug Dawson (CCG Consulting) tackled what we know, what we don't, and what's likely to happen as states begin to file their letters of intent to participate in the program. Watch the shorts below to see them tackle Congressional intent, supply chain requirements, who we think will apply for these subgrants, and WISPs and overbuilding.
Watch the full episode here.
Subscribe to the show using this feed on YouTube Live or here on Facebook Live, on find it on the Connect This! page.
Email us email@example.com with feedback and ideas for the show.
Michigan Moves to Limit Federal Funds for Municipal Broadband
With an unprecedented amount of federal funds to build broadband networks flowing into individual states, lawmakers in some states are doing the bidding of the big monopoly Internet Service Providers and potentially blowing a once-in-a-generation chance to invest in the locally-accountable infrastructure that offers the best chance to bridge the broadband gap for millions of families once and for all.
Two weeks ago we wrote about the anti-competition broadband legislation making its way through the State Legislatures in Illinois and New York as state lawmakers across the nation establish high-speed Internet grant programs.
That trend looks like it’s continuing in Michigan where Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the state’s GOP-dominated Legislature recently reached a deal to pass a nearly $5 billion spending bill.
While the “Building Michigan Together Plan” is being “celebrated” by the governor’s office as a way to “grow the economy, create jobs, and benefit families in every region of the state,” the main supplemental spending bill, known as Senate Bill 565 (SB 565), may sink some hope community broadband advocates have for leveraging the windfall of federal funds the Great Lakes State is getting from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and the forthcoming funds in the Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act (IIJA).
Protecting Incumbents from Competition
Missed Our Building for Digital Equity Event with NDIA? Here's Everything That Happened
On Wednesday, March 16th, the Institute for Local Self-Reliance teamed up with the National Digital Inclusion Alliance for a two-hour, fast-paced webinar on the ways communities can accomplish digital equity goals called Building for Digital Equity: Demystifying Broadband Policy and Funding. It was just as fun to do as we hoped, and packed with speakers providing practical, easy-to-understand advice and a wonderful audience full of questions and additional information.
We heard from an array of people and about a host of projects, from Broadband Action Teams in Washington state, to coalitions in Maine, an update on the Digital Navigator model, mapping, talking to local governments, and a breakdown of the funding available to communities.
If you did not have a chance to leave feedback for us, please do it here - especially if you have ideas for segments in future events.
We also want to make sure you have links to all of the resources shared by the event speakers:
Illinois (and Possibly New York) Poised to Fumble Federal Broadband Funds
Now that the fight over federal funding to expand broadband access has been largely settled with the passage of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), states and local communities are preparing to put those funds to work.
The Biden Administration had initially hoped to tip the scales in favor of building publicly-owned broadband networks as the best way to boost local (more affordable) Internet choice, and inject competition into a market dominated by monopoly incumbents. And while the Treasury rules on how Rescue Plan money can be spent does give states and local governments the ability to do just that, the rules for how the IIJA’s Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program can be spent have yet to be finalized by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), the agency in charge of allocating those funds to the states.
Predictably, the big monopoly incumbents are focusing their lobbying efforts on state lawmakers as states funnel those federal funds into state broadband grant programs. In some states, Big Telco is getting the desired result: the shunning of publicly-owned network proposals to shield monopoly providers from competition. Of course, we expected some states – especially those with preemption laws that either erect barriers to municipal broadband or outright ban such networks – to shovel most of their federal broadband funds to the big incumbents, even though they have a long track record of over-promising and under-delivering.
But while we might expect Florida and Texas to favor the private sector and stealthily move to shut out projects that are publicly-owned, we’re surprised that the first place it’s happening is actually Illinois and New York.
Illinois Lawmakers Thumb Nose at Federal Law
Yellow Springs’ Fiber-to-the-Home Project is No Joke
Named for its iron-rich natural springs, Yellow Springs is a hip and diverse village of approximately 3,600 Central Ohioans that most recently made headlines because of the controversy over comedian and actor Dave Chappelle’s opposition to a housing development proposal in the hometown of its most famous resident.
While the Village Council ultimately sided with Chappelle and other resident opponents in scaling back the planned development, in January the council gave their unanimous support for a different project that promises to connect village residents.
The vote gave the green light to move forward with a plan to bring municipal fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) service that will offer more affordable and reliable high-speed Internet connectivity (and competition) in a market already served by AT&T and Spectrum about 30 minutes east of Dayton.
Last fall, as Yellow Springs pursued state grant funding, Village Manager Josué Salmerón told WHIO-TV they were moving forward because “we felt we needed to do this from a business perspective and a human rights perspective. There’s a problem when our folks couldn’t do the essential things. They couldn’t go to work online. They couldn’t go to school online, and they couldn’t visit their doctors online. That’s a problem we were trying to solve. That’s why we went down this path.”
Thinking Big, Starting Small
The plan is to start with a small pilot project by connecting to the fiber backbone of the Miami Valley Educational Computer Association (MVECA), which has been expanding a 44-mile fiber ring in the region, having built one of the country’s first multi-jurisdictional networks, the GATEWay Public Fiber Network.
Kandiyohi County, Minnesota Eyes Combination of Grants To Fuel Fiber Expansion
Like numerous U.S. counties, large segments of Kandiyohi County, Minnesota (pop. 44,000) lack access to affordable Internet service at modern speeds. So like many underserved communities, the county—situated about ninety miles west of Minneapolis—is looking to take advantage of a once-in-a-lifetime collision of funding opportunities to help finance a massive fiber broadband expansion across numerous county townships.
A recent survey by the county unsurprisingly reveals that residents are greatly annoyed by the lack of affordable Internet access options, with 64 percent of locals saying they’re dissatisfied with the Internet service provided by regional monopolies.
Ten Projects on Tap
Hoping to address the shortcoming, Kandiyohi County and the City of Willmar Economic Development Commission have been working on ten different projects to shore up Internet access around the county.
Some of the proposed projects involve partnerships with national monopoly providers like Charter Communications, but others will involve the county and a local cooperative doing the heavy lifting. The county had hoped to fund the projects with a combination of subscriber fees, American Rescue Plan funds, NTIA grants, and upcoming Minnesota state grants.
The first major project closest to being “shovel ready” is a $10 million fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) project in partnership with the Federated Telephone Cooperative of Morris. Federated is expected to finance twenty-five percent of the overall project, with new subscribers expected to pay about $1,250 per household to connect to the gigabit-capable network.
Sneak Peek at Upcoming Building for Digital Equity Event
Last week we invited you to save the date for a two-hour livestream event Building for Digital Equity: Demystifying Broadband Policy and Funding that the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) is co-organizing with the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA).
We told you this event – which will be held on Wednesday, March 16th, from 2-4pm ET – was not going to be your average conference or webinar with 45-minute panels that make your derriere doze off or your eyes glaze over like a stale donut.
We are aiming for a fast-paced, fun, and interactive virtual gathering of network builders, local stakeholders, policy advocates, and funding experts from across the country that will feature a mix of short presentations, a sprinkling of trivia and prizes, and panels with Q & A’s that will be accessible on a variety of popular social media platforms.
Well, the event is coming together, promising to offer practical insights on how communities can seize this unprecedented moment to pursue community-driven broadband solutions.
You can register for the event here.
Here’s a sneak peek at the line-up:
Event: Building for Digital Equity - Demystifying Broadband Policy and Funding
We're living through a time with an unprecedented level of broadband infrastructure funding, fueled not only by the American Rescue Plan, but the Consolidated Appropriations Act, the Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund, and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Hundreds of community-driven projects are already underway, but finding solid footing amidst these programs, statutes, and evolving rules is difficult.
To help, the Institute for Local Self-Reliance is teaming up with the National Digital Inclusion Alliance for a two-hour livestream event to demystify the landscape. On Wednesday, March 16th, from 2-4pm ET, we're hosting an online conversation to bring together local stakeholders, policy advocates, and funding experts in one place. We're calling it Building for Digital Equity: Demystifying Broadband Policy and Funding.
But this isn't your average conference or webinar, with 45-minute panels that make your butt go numb and your eyes glaze over. Oh no. We're aiming for a fast-paced, fun, and most importantly interactive conversation between policy advocates, network builders, local officials, and anyone else interested in learning how we can ensure that the tens of billions in upcoming infrastructure funding goes to solving the connectivity crisis permanently rather than once again disappearing into the pockets of the monopoly Internet Service Providers (ISPs).