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Realizing Ambitions of Open Access in Marin County, California
Creative efforts are underway in Marin County, California to bring fiber connectivity to underserved pockets of the community and eventually the whole area. Digital Marin, currently housed within the county’s Information Services and Technology Department, is coordinating the project, and is leaning towards a municipally-owned, open-access solution modeled after Ammon’s standout network in Idaho.
Just across the Golden Gate Strait from San Francisco, Marin County is home to about 265,000 residents, as well as the Muir Woods National Monument, a County Civic Center designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, and nearly 73 miles of coastal trail. Despite largely being considered an urban county, Marin also includes suburban and rural areas with 40 percent of the county classified as protected park land.
When it comes to Internet connectivity, the area is peppered with what Marin County resident and Digital Marin Executive Steering Committee member, Bruce Vogen, calls “donut holes of high-quality Internet access.” An unknown provider built a DSL network in the region over 60 years ago and then Comcast later bought and inherited the antiquated infrastructure. Soon after, AT&T entered the market but selected only the most profitable neighborhoods to serve. All 90,000 of the county’s urban households can access the Internet through Comcast, but just 20,000 of these homes have access to the archipelago of AT&T’s fiber network. In any case, Marin’s urban areas are either subject to monopoly or duopoly market control. It has long been apparent there is a digital divide in Marin County, but it wasn’t until the 2022 FCC maps were released that the contours of this divide came into focus.
Building for Digital Equity Livestream Just Days Away: Register Now
It’s not too late to register for our first Building for Digital Equity (#B4DE) livestream event of the year. This Thursday, Feb. 16, from 2-3 pm CST/3-4 pm ET, ILSR’s Community Broadband Networks Initiative will kick off our Building for Digital Equity series.
The focus will be on two of the hottest topics in broadband right now: mapping and the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP).
Digital Equity LA Summit Pushes CPUC to Ditch Priority Areas Map
As Los Angeles County officials work with community coalitions to improve high-speed Internet access in underserved communities across the region, the Digital Equity LA Summit last week focused on the challenges ahead. Front and center: urging state officials to fix the broadband priority maps the state will use to target where to invest $2 billion in state broadband grant funds with the state months away from receiving over a billion additional dollars from the federal BEAD program.
Save the Date: ILSR’s Building for Digital Equity Returns
Save the date! ILSR’s Community Broadband Networks team is back for a second season of our Building for Digital Equity series.
You can register now here.
The free online live stream will be held on Feb. 16 from 2-3 pm CST/3-4 pm ET.
IN OUR VIEW: Friday the 13th Mapping Challenge Deadline Highlights Failed Process
Last Friday was a major milestone in the process of moving $42.5 billion from the federal government to states to distribute mostly to rural areas to build new, modern Internet access networks. January 13th marked the deadline for error corrections (called challenges) to the official national map that will be used to determine how much each state will get.
As an organization that has worked in nearly all 50 states over the past 20 years on policies to improve Internet access, we spent the last few weeks struggling to understand what was actually at stake and wondering if we were alone in being confused about the process. Despite the stakes, almost no expert we talked to actually understood which challenges – if any – would fix errors in the map data before it was used to allocate the largest single federal broadband investment in history.
Wireless Is Essential, But Fiber Remains the Future (For Now)
From the miraculous benefits of WiMax to the hype surrounding 5G, U.S. wireless companies have long promised near-Utopian levels of technological revolution.
Yet time after time these promises have fallen short, reminding a telecom sector all-too-familiar with hype that fiber optics remains, for now, the backbone of bridging the digital divide.
FCC Issues Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to Address Digital Discrimination
While many of us were in the midst of celebrating the holiday season, a number of significant broadband developments were being unwrapped in the nation’s capital.
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) announced that all 50 states and territories have received critical broadband infrastructure planning funds from the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA); the opportunity to make sure you're represented on the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) national broadband maps is closing in a week; and the FCC is kicking off a major initiative to combat digital discrimination which will have far-reaching consequences for the lowest-income households that only have access to low-speed or high-cost connections.
All States Now Have ‘Internet for All’ Planning Funds; Eyes Now on FCC Maps
As the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) is set to unleash an unprecedented amount of federal funds to expand high-speed Internet access as part of the Biden-Harris administration’s “Internet for All” initiative, all 50 states and U.S. territories have now received their initial planning funds.
Just before Christmas, the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), which is administering the broadband funds in the infrastructure bill, announced Massachusetts as the final state to receive its portion of the planning funds ($6 million) in a joint press conference with outgoing Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker.
Daily Yonder: Do You Really Have the Broadband the FCC Thinks You Have?
As we head into the holiday break, we present you with a bit of commentary made possible by a practical gift created by our GIS and Data Visualization Specialist Christine Parker.
You can read about it in The Daily Yonder, who published our piece on the challenge process for the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) new Broadband Availability Map.
Predictions for 2023 - Episode 535 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast
This week on the show, the staff get together to bend their collective imagination to what we expect to see as the biggest news stories of 2023. Returning to join Christopher are Sean Gonsalves, Christine Parker, Emma Gautier, and Ry Marcattilio to discuss the BEAD funding rollout, mapping, the current state of preemption laws, Starry, the FCC, and more.
Who will be right? Wrong? We'll have to wait until December to find out!
This show is 46 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.