Tag: "connected nation"

Posted March 9, 2013 by lgonzalez

Rep. Tom Latham (R-IA), recently recognized the city of Indianola on the US House Floor to recognize the community's municipal network. On February 15th, he spoke to the body about Indianola's recent certification as Connected by Connected Nation and Connected Iowa.

From his recognition speech, as reported on CapitolWords from the Sunlight Foundation:

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize the City of Indianola, Iowa, for earning the Connected program's Connected certification. Indianola is the first community in the state of Iowa and the third in the country to garner this technology designation.

The Connected certification is a title applied to communities that display top-tier proficiency in the access and utilization of broadband-supported technologies. This coveted certification is awarded by Connected Nation and its subsidiary Connect Iowa, who advocate for broadband access on the state and national levels.

The City of Indianola is one of more than 30 communities across Iowa actively participating in the Connected program, and the first to become formally certified. Indianola has a team in place that has developed a comprehensive plan to increase broadband access by assessing the broadband landscape, identifying gaps, and establishing manageable goals. Attaining the Connected certification adds to the long list of desirable attributes that make Indianola such a great place to raise a family or grow a business.

Mr. Speaker, I commend the City of Indianola for its commitment to embracing and efficiently utilizing technology for the benefit of its residents and businesses. It is a great honor to represent the citizens of Indianola, and all of Warren County, in the United States Congress. I know that my colleagues in the House will join me in congratulating the City of Indianola in being selected to receive this certification, and I wish the city and its people continued success in the future.

Indianola Municipal Utilities (IMU) has built a wonderful network that an independent ISP uses to deliver services to the local businesses and residents of the...

Read more
Posted December 16, 2010 by christopher

E-NC has released the map they built with the stimulus mapping grant. Unlike Connected Nation (the nonprofit creating similar maps for many other states), E-NC does not have a board dominated by incumbent providers and therefore is independent of the biases that lead many to question the results Connected Nation's efforts.

The layer transparency sliders make it much easier to figure out how many services are available in the same geographic areas.

Unfortunately, they do not display pricing data or actual experienced speeds. We continue to question just how useful a map is that does not show pricing data. Price is a key hurdle that prevents people from subscribing -- particularly in low income rural areas.

Nonetheless, E-NC continues to be an excellent organization that helps communities get better broadband.

Posted May 17, 2010 by christopher

Connected Nation and the utter lack of accurate maps depicting broadband options and metrics in this country reminded me of possibly my favorite comedian. George Carlin had a great routine about airlines and the safety speech given by flight attendants. In it, he has a throw-away line that continues to rattle around my head:

The safety lecture continues...

"In the unlikely event…"

This is a very suspect phrase! Especially, coming as it does, from an industry that is willing to lie about arrival and departure times!

After reading Larry Press' account of ordering DSL from Verizon, I couldn't help but wish George Carlin were still with us and also a giant broadband geek.

Larry Press' account on dealing with Verizon should be read in full, but this is what got me thinking:

Last week I ordered 7 mbps service from Verizon, but, after they switched it on, I was only getting about 1.5 mbps. I assume there were tons of retransmission errors due to an overly aggressive modulation scheme.

When I called to complain, a Verizon "technician" kept me on the phone … [and finally] got his bosses permission to schedule a "truck roll" to come to my house and fix the problem.

The minute the driver arrived, he told me that, at 9,000 feet from my central office, there was no way I was going to get 7 mbps.

We have long known that Verizon and similar companies are similarly willing to lie about their available broadband speeds (yah, I know, I'm no Carlin).

As I recently testified in a MN House hearing, the Connected Nation maps systematically overstate available broadband (particularly for DSL). And of course they do - Verizon doesn't even know what it can achieve at each premises (thought it damn well should know what it cannot offer 9,000 feet from the DSLAM).

The dumb question is: Does Verizon actually maintain a database of what it could really offer, in real world conditions, to each house (or what speeds are actually achieved when they take service). It might, but they may still just market faster speeds assuming (correctly) that most people will not know the difference between what they order and what they receive.

But the better...

Read more
Posted May 9, 2010 by christopher

On Wednesday, I testified at an informational hearing before the House Telecom Subcommittee of the Minnesota Legislature. Connected Nation was giving an update on their contract to map broadband availability in Minnesota and I wanted to record some dissent regarding their claims and the usefulness of maps in general.

For those who have not used the Connected Nation tool, it is horrible. The interface is as klunky as can be, with significant lag between clicking the screen and anything actually occurring. I am happy to note that they will soon be rolling out a better tool that may be better, though it appears to still need a fair amount of work before it would really be effective.

I noted that I see no reason to trust their maps. As I have previously ranted, Connected Nation is a creature of the telecommunications industry and acts in their interests. They appear to systematically overstate availability (which may simply be a function of the unreliable information the companies provide to them).

I spot checked a few addresses where I know firsthand what is available and found claims of much faster speeds. Connected Nation has always been clear that when anyone finds discrepancies, CN will correct the map. How generous. They get millions to make inaccurate maps and we get to spend hours trying to get their tool to work and then send them corrections. This is not a good process.

Beyond the Connected Nation problem is the fact that legislatures across the country have refused to ask for the data that matters. Without cost information, how are we to make policy or even judge what speeds are "available." If the only option is a 1Mbps/256kbps connection for $80/month, is that really an option for people living in a rural area where incomes tend to be lower? Hardly.

Without cost information, there is little these maps will tell us. Unfortunately, companies like the new CenturyTelQwestLinkNetDoDah don't want to advertise their high rates and slow services, so they claim all that information is proprietary. As if the few competitors they have don't already know what they charge.

My final point was that we should not wait for maps to move forward with good policy. Lafayette did not make a map before building the best broadband network in America. They knew they already had DSL and cable options, but they also knew...

Read more
Posted October 6, 2009 by christopher

The Minnesota Independent took Pawlenty's Administration to task last week for its decision to give more money to the telecom company front group Connected Nation. To be clear, this is not the money for infrastructure (yet - time will tell how the state encourages the feds to allocate the grants). This was the mapping money.

Peter Fleck, of PF Hyper blog, put it well:

“My understanding is that we have allowed the companies that have not provided the needed broadband coverage in our state to steer the broadband mapping process itself because of a stated need for confidentiality. That need is questionable,” said Fleck.

“And it puts the state in a position where if the maps show there is no problem with broadband coverage, then we won’t need legislation, regulation, or any other policies and it creates the risk that the telecom industry can continue to provide inadequate coverage to underserved areas — usually areas of low-density and low-income. And because of the inadequacy of these maps, eventually we will have to undertake broadband mapping again at taxpayer expense. To me, this is an irresponsible use of public money.”

The story also quotes me and links back to our story on Connected Nation in Minnesota.

I want to note that states and federal agencies can demand more in terms of better maps and data transparency. It is somewhat disingenuous to lay the blame solely at the doorstep of this telecom-front organization when elected officials refuse to demand more from an industry that has long retained legions of lobbyists. Make no mistake, Connected Nation's conflict of interest is a serious problem, but we need our elected officials to stand up to the telecommunications companies and demand better mapping data. We had higher hopes from the NTIA, but clearly that was misplaced.

More recently, Sharon Schmickle of MinnPost wrote about plans for a publicly owned network in Cook County, Minnesota. It touches on the major issues that many communities face when deciding whether to build...

Read more
Posted September 1, 2009 by christopher

Minnesota is now in poor company, along with several other states that have chosen to use telecom industry-backed Connected Nation (if unfamiliar with CN, read this report) to supply data from Minnesota to the federal government as part of the national broadband map that is being constructed.

Just how this came about explains why a group like Connected Nation thrives in the current telecommunications arena.

Mike O'Connor, the urban users' representative on the Minnesota Governor's Broadband Task Force, explains that the Minnesota Department of Commerce and Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) chose Connected Nation absent any public discussion or even consultation of the broadband task force.

Mike is not one to mince words about the deal (which got him picked up by MinnPost):

I'm pretty cranky about this process.  Nice n'cozy.  Nice n'closed.  Nice bypass of the Task Force.  No public input at all as far as I can see.  Looks like there was lots of opportunity for providers to provide input about their confidentiality needs, not too much input about what consumers need.  Look forward to more sub-par optimistic maps, and impossible to use/verify data, peepul.

He references the ample opportunity for providers to express their preferences, this comes from the letter from the two commissioners to the governor:

The other primary reason that we are recommending Connected Nation is that in conversations with and letters from the broadband provider community (including the Minnesota Telecom Association, the Minnesota Cable COmmunications Association, Qwest and Comcast), they have noted their satisfaction with the work Connected Nation as done, the professionalism displayed. Most important, the providers have confidence in Connected Nation's ability to protect their sensitive, nonpublic infrastructure information.

The letter goes on to discuss the other possible mapping entity - the University of Minnesota:

First, the University indicates that it has entered into...

Read more
Posted August 17, 2009 by christopher

When it comes to the National Broadband Plan that the FCC is tasked with developing, we at muninetworks.org have a red line. No matter what the federal policy, all communities must reserve the right to invest in and own their own networks. These networks are essential infrastructure; no community must be left incapable of securing its future prosperity.

FDR recognized this important community right:

I therefore lay down the following principle: That where a community--a city or county or a district--is not satisfied with the service rendered or the rates charged by the private utility, it has the undeniable basic right, as one of its functions of Government, one of its functions of home rule, to set up, after a fair referendum to its voters has been had, its own governmentally owned and operated service.

That right has been recognized in a good many of the States of the Union. Its general recognition by every State will hasten the day of better service and lower rates. It is perfectly clear to me, and to every thinking citizen, that no community which is sure that it is now being served well, and at reasonable rates by a private utility company, will seek to build or operate its own plant. But on the other hand the very fact that a community can, by vote of the electorate, create a yardstick of its own, will, in most cases, guarantee good service and low rates to its population. I might call the right of the people to own and operate their own utility something like this: a "birch rod" in the cupboard to be taken out and used only when the "child" gets beyond the point where a mere scolding does no good.

We believe a national broadband policy could go much farther to strengthen communities by spurring fast networks everywhere, but we also recognize a political reality: incumbents providers have little to gain from a national broadband plan (especially one that goes so far as to encourage actual competition) and while their networks fall behind the times, they are able to pump all kinds of money into DC (and state legislatures around the country).

Therefore, we stand by our red line. We will hope for more, but early signs are not good. Karl Bode offers 5 signs the broadband plan is already in trouble. I want to highlight one, but the whole post is a must-...

Read more
Posted August 12, 2009 by christopher

What can states do?

Many states want to improve broadband access for their citizens. Some states genuinely want to act and others are content to give some money to industry-front group Connected Nation and form a Task Force in order to give the appearance that they are doing something rather than actually taking action.

However, the problem is difficult because in a time of severe budget crunches, states may not have the funds to invest directly in infrastructure or help communities do so themselves. There are some options - and I recently highlighted one: Virginia's Broadband Infrastructure Loan Fund.

The Virginia Resources Authority (VRA) now has a revolving loan fund to help communities build the broadband infrastructure they need. Unfortunately, the fund has started empty but they are in search of grants to get started until the state can seed it.

Even without the revolving loan fund, which keeps a very low interest rate for loans, the VRA is available to help communities that want to approach the capital markets for infrastructure funds. Communities may not have sufficient experience in this arena or may just benefit by having the VRA combine multiple small needs into a larger package at a better rate.

Elsewhere, the Vermont Telecommunications Authority was supposed to serve a similar function but seemed to be immediately captured by Fairpoint and turned into a tool for private companies.

One of the most basic things a state should do is ensure it has not created barriers to public investments in broadband networks. It may be a few years old, but the American Public Power Association created a list of laws blocking or retarding community broadband networks. These should be repealed. Those arguing that the public sector has too many advantages should read our discussion about the level playing field.

Capitol photo by Rob Pongsajapan

Posted August 7, 2009 by christopher
Read more
Posted July 22, 2009 by christopher

Fiona Morgan, a frequent writer at Indyweek in North Carolina, has weighed in with excellent coverage of the situation in North Carolina as the cable and telephone companies continue their attempts at stifling competition in the state. They are now using their non-profit arm, Connected Nation, to overstate existing services in the state.

According to a map made available online last week by the industry-backed nonprofit Connected Nation, broadband is available to 92 percent of North Carolina households. That number seems too high to some legislators and public interest advocates, who are concerned that overstating the amount of access will hurt the state's chances of receiving federal grants.

"You'll be pleased that over 90 percent of the households in North Carolina are now served by one or more broadband providers," Connected Nation representative Joe Mefford said during the unveiling of the map at the state legislature last week. "The maps also, by that, indicate that there's been a huge investment in broadband in this state already."

I have dealt with Connected Nation's maps here in Minnesota, and the technology is awful. In an age of Google Maps and impressive mashups, they produce clunky maps at sufficiently large file sizes that you need fast broadband to open them. I pity anyone trying to use their maps on a slow DSL connection. On top of that, they continue to classify cellular services (that often come with a very small monthly cap) as broadband in order to overstate how many people have access.

Fortunately, Fiona spoke to Craig Settles and he offers some great commentary.

Craig Settles, an Oakland, Calif.-based consultant on broadband technology, said the broadband stimulus has been hijacked by the telecommunications industry. "It started as a noble effort," he said, "but it's a complete and total travesty all around."

Each state must choose one mapping entity in order to be eligible for any of the broadband stimulus money. There is $350 million set aside specifically for mapping, to be divided between the states. That's too much money, Settles thinks, and the terms favor Connected Nation and the industry. "We're going to pay you millions of dollars to collect all this information, but you can't tell anybody what this information is? That is the most stupid-ass thing on the...

Read more
Subscribe to connected nation