Tag: "economic development"

Posted February 13, 2018 by christopher

In Virginia, Arlington has found new ways to use its municipal network to reduce the digital divide. Katie Cristol, Chair of the Arlington County Board, and Jack Belcher, County Chief Information Officer, join us for episode 293 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast to explain what they are doing.

We discuss how a new residential development, Arlington Mill, will feature affordable Internet access delivered via Wi-Fi for low-income families. It was financed in part with Tax Increment Financing and required a collaboration between multiple departments to create.

We discuss the challenge of creating such collaborations as well as some of the other benefits the ConnectArlington project has delivered.

Remember to check out our interveiw with Belcher from 2014 for episode 97 of the podcast, when we discussed the decision to begin offering connectivity to local businesses.

This show is 27 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 February 7, 2018 by lgonzalez

In an attempt to negatively influence public opinion, the incumbent cable ISP in West Plains, Missouri, was recently caught masquerading behind a phony citizens group. A real group of locals who support the community’s efforts discovered the astroturf connection and, with no way to deny their involvement, Fidelity Communications tried to rationalize away their subversive tactics to poison the project.

The Needs Of West Plains

About a year ago, we connected with City Administrator Tom Stehn, who described the situation in the south central town of about 12,000 people. Stehn told the story of how in 2015, the city decided to connect its municipal facilities with fiber and how, when word got out about the project, people in the business community approached the city. Even though local businesses could get cable Internet access, rates were up to three times higher than similar services in urban areas. There were also reliability issues that interfered with local commerce.

West Plains had also experienced significant job losses in recent years when several employers left town or closed shop. The city considered a fiber network an economic development tool and a way to keep the local hospital and MSU campus connected with high-quality connectivity. Stehn told Christopher that when new businesses considered moving to West Plains, one of the five questions they always asked was, “What kind of Internet access do you have?” It made good sense to expand the original plan to offer local businesses access to the publicly owned network.

West Plains was offering symmetrical connections to local businesses early in 2017 and had even started offering gigabit service.

The Pilot And The Incumbent

fidelity-web-logo.png The city’s effort to bring better connectivity to a wide range of businesses and residents included a pilot project in West Plains’s Southern Hills district. In the fall of 2017, the city offered gigabit Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) connectivity to approximately 80 businesses and 14 residences as a way to work out potential issues and refine their services.

Around the same time, incumbent... Read more

Posted February 7, 2018 by christopher

We are checking back in with Ernie Staten, Deputy Director of Public Service in Fairlawn, Ohio now that their muncipal Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network - FairlawnGig - is built out and they are still building the citywide Wi-Fi network that will accompany it. We previously talked with Ernie when the network was being built two years ago in episode 201.

Fairlawn is located near Akron and a city without a municpal electric utility. Though they started expecting to work with a local partner ISP, they quickly decided it would be better to both own and operate the network. 

Though the network is quite young, it has already helped to boost property values and has attracted new businesses. FairlawnGig was also the primary reason one local business expanded in Fairlawn rather than moving to another location. In short, the network has provided a strong, positive impact almost immediately. 

This show is 24 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed.

Read the transcript for this show here.

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 30, 2018 by lgonzalez

Suddenlink passed up the opportunity to offer connectivity in Pinetops, North Carolina, for years until now. About a year after a bill in the General Assembly gave nearby Wilson’s municipal network the ability to serve the tiny community, Suddenlink is taking advantage of the law to enter Pinetops and push Wilson’s Greenlight Community Broadband out.

Suddenly Suddenlink

One of his constituents called Town Commissioner Brent Wooten last October to share a conversation he'd had at work in nearby Wilson. Wooten's constituent had encountered a Suddenlink employee who told him, "We're coming to see you in Pinetops." The company had sent out a notice to employees that overtime would be available because Suddenlink was planning to run fiber from Rocky Mount to Pinetops.

Wooten hadn't heard anything from Suddenlink; neither had any of the other Commissioners. All he knew was that the company had been reducing staff and cutting costs ever since being acquired by Altice in 2015.

A Little History

While events that put Pinetops (pop. 1,300) in the national spotlight began in February 2015, the story has roots that go back further. Officials in Pinetops, recognizing that better local Internet access keeps small rural communities from wasting away, approached several providers years ago requesting better Internet infrastructure. Suddenlink’s service area ends about two miles outside of Pinetops town limits. Nevertheless, Suddenlink wasn't willing to bring cable service to Pinetops. CenturyLink didn't want to make investments to upgrade the community's old DSL solution; the community had no options from national providers.

Not far from Pinetops sits Wilson, North Carolina, where the city of about 49,000 enjoys the benefits of a publicly owned fiber optic network, Greenlight. Pinetops officials asked Wilson to expand Greenlight to their town, but state law precluded Wilson from offering broadband beyond county lines. Pinetops and the local Vick Family Farm, a large potato manufacturer with international distribution, were both desperate for better services, out of reach, and out of options because no other ISP... Read more

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... Read more

Posted January 16, 2018 by lgonzalez

Now that they have removed the weight of Colorado’s restrictive SB 152, Greeley is looking forward to future solutions to poor Internet access. In a recent letter to the local Tribune, resident Richard Reilly offered three reasons why Greeley should develop a plan to move toward municipal broadband.

Reilly’s points are:

First and foremost, net neutrality must be at the heart of a municipal broadband. As the big Internet Service Providers start to throttle specific websites that compete or offer tiered packages, Greeley must commit itself to net neutrality. One price for full Internet access. Period.

Secondly, speed needs to be a priority. Comcast and the other ISPs have received billions of dollars to build the infrastructure for gigabit speeds. If Greeley can commit to the infrastructure to offer gigabit speeds, other ISPs will struggle to survive in our city — and good riddance.

Thirdly, customer service is key.

Already On Track

Reilly’s suggestion follows the community’s decision last summer to fund a feasibility study. At the time, they expressed a hope that the study might encourage incumbents to offer better rates and services. In addition to better connectivity for the general public, Greeley’s Family and Recreation Center’s poor Internet access interfered with bookings. When the City Council decided to fund the study, they cited economic development as a key factor in finding ways to improve local connectivity.

Local Commitment

Since the City Council’s decision to fund the feasibility study, the FCC has repealed network neutrality protections and is considering lowering the speed definitions of broadband. Reilly writes that Greeley needs to engage in local action:

Greeley is in a unique position to protect its residents from a rogue administration. Despite the fact that a vast majority of Republicans, Democrats and independents support net neutrality rules, the FCC rolled back the regulations meant to protect the freedom to information in this country.

... Read more
Posted December 29, 2017 by lgonzalez

The central Washington community of Coulee Dam took a significant step this month to establishing its own fiber optic network. At a December 27th special city council meeting, they announced that they had purchased one mile of fiber optic cable and equipment from Basin Broadband, LLC, for $34,995.

According to The Star, the former owners had only one customer and used the infrastructure to connect the local school district’s offices with the school on the opposite side of town. The district pays $170 per month to lease the line and their agreement expires in 2020; the city promised to honor the agreement.

Changing Charters

Community leaders have considered the prospect of starting a publicly owned fiber optic network for at least 16 months, when they began seeking out the owner of the infrastructure. The city’s population is only approximately 1,100 people, which means national incumbents have little interest in providing high-quality connectivity. CenturyLink offers DSL for residential and business service, but town leaders want to improve economic development possibilities with fiber.

This past summer, the city council began discussing  changing the community’s legal designation in order to step out from under Washington’s restrictive laws that govern the authority of “towns.” City Attorney Mick Howe advised that if the city changed its charter to operate as a “non-charter code city,” they would have more authority. Rather than acting only on specifically allowed activities in state law, they could act as long as they were not engaging in specifically forbidden activities as spelled out in state law.

Councilmember Keith St. Jeor said he knows people who settled in other towns because they have Internet service that is “100 times better.”

Councilmember Schmidt said the town is severely lacking in technology solutions and that they were not likely to come from private enterprise because of the small population. Changing to a code city would simply allow the municipality to explore more options.

“You might be surprised what solutions you... Read more

Posted December 6, 2017 by lgonzalez

Ellensburg, Washington, decided to pursue a fiber optic pilot project to serve local businesses almost a year ago, but they’ve encountered some bumps along the way. After revising the original plan and working with the state’s nonprofit Northwest Open Access Network (NoaNet), it looks like they’ll be moving forward.

The Logical Progression

Back in 2013, Ellensburg realized that they could save significantly by ending service from Charter Communications and investing in a publicly owned institutional network (I-Net) to bring connectivity to municipal facilities. The positive results from the investment inspired them to take the next step and look into expanding their investment to infrastructure for businesses and residents. Early this year, they decided to start with a pilot program that would build off their I-Net to bring 30 businesses fiber connectivity, including a few home-based businesses and telecommuters.

Financial Slow Downs

The city received a grant from the Distressed County Sales and Use Tax Infrastructure Improvement Program to fund the project; the City Council dedicated the $169,560 grant to the project.

When they asked for bids from three contractors that are listed on their small works roster, none were interested. Next, they chose a firm to negotiate with but the first quote of $415,000 was well above their budget. Even after negotiating the price down to $315,000, the City Council was hard pressed on their next move.

In October, the city’s Utility Advisory Committee recommended they consider reducing the area to be served in the pilot project to reduce the cost of the deployment. They chose to let the bid expire.

The NoaNet Connection

In November, Ellensburg Director of Energy Services Larry Dunbar... Read more

Posted December 4, 2017 by Staff

This is the transcript for Episode 280 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. Christa Wagner Vinson, Deborah Watts, and Alan Fitzpatrick join Christopher Mitchell at the Atlanta airport to discuss the work of NC Hearts Gigabit and how they're organizing for local choice and better connectivity. Listen to this episode here.

Deborah Watts: And you know we need we need to get regulations in legislation that prevents local choice out of the way these people on the tractors the ones in the production rooms the ones in the businesses that can go to their representatives and say You all need to do something about this because I'm having difficulty running my business. I can't be competitive.

Lisa Gonzalez: You're listening to episode 280 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. I'm Lisa Gonzalez. Christopher recently attended the broadband community's economic development conference where he was able to connect with this week's guests from North Carolina Christa Wagner Vinson, Deborah Watts, and Alan Fitzpatrick from the group and NC Hearts Gigabit joined Chris to talk about local choice and better connectivity in North Carolina and how they're using technology to bring people together. Catharine Rice from the Coalition for Local Internet Choice was also there in this conversation. You'll learn how and see how it's gigabit began. Who's involved. What they've accomplished their goals and you'll also hear some tips on the best way to get the word out and get organized. You can learn more about the group. Check out the collection of resources and even join up at their website and see hearts gigabit dot com. Here's Christopher with Christa Wagner Vinson, Deborah Watts, Alan Fitzpatrick, and Catharine Rice.

Christopher Mitchell: Welcome to another edition of the Community Broadband Bits podcasts. I'm Chris Mitchell with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance in Atlanta sitting on the runway of the Atlanta airport at the Broadband Communities Conference talking to you now with three folks from an organization called NC Hearts Gigabit I'm going to start by introducing Christa Wagner Vinson, the economic development consultant of the group. Welcome to the show.

Christa Wagner Vinson: Good... Read more

Posted November 21, 2017 by christopher

NC Hearts Gigabit is a grassroots group recently launched in North Carolina that aims to dramatically improve Internet access and utilization across the state. We caught up with Economic Development Consultant Christa Wagner Vinson, CEO of Open Broadband Alan Fitzpatrick, and Partner of Broadband Catalysts Deborah Watts to discuss what they are doing. 

We discuss their goals and vision for a more connected North Carolina as well as their organizing methods. Given my experiences dining in that state, I'm not surprised that they have often organized around meals - good stuff!

NC Hearts Gigabit offers an important model for people who feel left out of the modern political system. It is an opportunity to get out from behind the desk, engage others, and build a coalition to seize control of the future for a community or even larger region. And have a tasty lunch.

Learn more on their website or follow them on Twitter.

Read the transcript for this show here.

This show is 27 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.

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