Tag: "economic development"

Posted January 6, 2021 by

This piece was authored by Jericho Casper from Broadband Breakfast.

The digital divide afflicting the United States has become even more apparent throughout the pandemic, repositioning the issue of universal broadband access to the forefront of many Washington policy agendas, including that of President-elect Joe Biden.

The Biden presidential campaign’s website early on included a plan for rural America that highlighted how the COVID-19 crisis deepened many of the challenges that were already confronting Americans, including “lack of access to health care, unreliable broadband, and the chronic under funding of public schools.”

The plan further states that “Americans everywhere need universal, reliable, affordable, and high-speed Internet access to do their jobs, participate equally in remote school learning and stay connected” and promises to “expand broadband, or wireless broadband via 5G, to every American.”

Biden’s Top Four Priorities Convey an Urgent Need for Advanced Infrastructure

Of the challenges facing the incoming administration of Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, it seems clear that universal broadband is critical to each of them.

Biden’s campaign website specifically lists universal broadband as a priority in bolstering economic recovery, fighting climate change, and advancing racial economic equity. Universal access to broadband also underscores  the fourth top policy initiative listed on the Biden campaign website, battling COVID-19, although the incoming administration fails to link broadband as a precondition for this priority.

As a presidential candidate, Biden called broadband a tool to put Americans to work during a visit to Hermantown, Minnesota.

The campaign’s plan for economic recovery specifically links the country’s financial recovery to mobilizing American work forces in the construction of  “modern, sustainable infrastructure” and “sustainable engines of growth,” connecting universal broadband to building a clean energy economy, addressing the climate crisis, and creating millions of “good-paying, union jobs.”

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Posted December 22, 2020 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

The cities of Sherwood, Tull and Ward, Little River and Perry counties, the Eagle Ridge Property Owners Association in Pulaski County, and Kick Start Sheridan all got state grants to study broadband in pursuit of building infrastructure to create competition, encourage economic development, and bring Internet access to the unserved. It's part of the Rural Broadband ID grants program, which is seeing lots of activity since August.

Posted December 18, 2020 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

On December 7th, Our Revolution Arlington hosted an event which brought together a diverse group to talk about the impact of the ongoing pandemic on small and independent business owners, and what solutions exist for responding: 

With new lockdowns looming and federal support stalled indefinitely, what options do state and local governments have to keep small businesses afloat in the months ahead. In addition, how might we strengthen small business over the long term as part of more inclusive community development strategies? 

Among panelists were ILSR’s Kennedy Smith (Senior Researcher, Independent Business initiative) and Christopher Mitchell (Director, Community Broadband Networks initiative). They were joined by Donna Grambrell (President/CEO Appalachian Community Capital), Tony Hernandez (Director, Dudley Neighbors, Inc.), and Marjorie Kelly (Executive Vice President, The Democracy Initiative)

Kennedy talked about a recent ILSR report showing the variety of responses available to communities and states to protect small business and ensure a more equitable outcome for economic recovery. Christopher talked about the variety of ways local ownership of information infrastructure can help small business weather a pandemic, but also set up communities for success in fostering business and commercial districts that attract talent, capital, and residents for the next decade.

The other panelists touched on models for preserving local business ownership through temporary equity actions via “economic preservation funds,” the outsized impact of the pandemic on minority-owned businesses and how to help, and the formation of community land trusts to combat gentrification and land speculation. 

Watch the recording below.

Posted December 7, 2020 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

For timely updates, follow Christopher Mitchell or MuniNetworks on Twitter and sign up to get the Community Broadband weekly update.

Built in 2008 with an eye toward the future and operated with local priorities in mind, Greenlight has a long track record of putting people first. In a new case study, the Institute for Local Self-Reliance explores the wide-ranging community benefits of Greenlight, the city-owned Fiber-to-the-Home network in Wilson, North Carolina.

Download Wilson Hits a Fiber-to-the-Home Run with Greenlight Municipal Broadband Network.

The case study details how it has been able to quickly adapt and expand service during the pandemic, as well as the host of advantages and overall value brought to the city over the last decade in education, equity, and economic development. For example:

Access for All

  • In 2016, Greenlight began a partnership with the Wilson Housing Authority (WHA) to connect hundreds of public housing residents to $10/month low-cost fast Internet access.
  • The network targets barriers to service adoption that go beyond cost, including a flexpay system which allows users to prepay for Internet access instead of requiring large deposits or a credit check. It also allows users to load funds into their account for individual days of network access.

Economic Development

  • Greenlight has been named as a key factor in Wilson’s economic revitalization.
  • Wilson’s fiber infrastructure has helped local businesses succeed and is a factor in the relocation of new companies to the area. In 2019, Wilson was ranked the 10th best small city in the country to start a business.
  • In 2016, Greenlight began co-sponsoring the GigEast Exchange Conference. The GigEast Exchange serves as a technology hub, incubator, and networking space for everyone in the community.

Education

  • All schools in the county were connected to the network by 2012.
  • In 2019, Greenlight partnered with Wilson Community College to develop a curriculum to train the...
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Posted November 24, 2020 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

Residents in the village of Tupper Lake, New York, will soon enjoy a municipally owned broadband option to get online. With the awarding of a grant by the Northern Border Regional Commission matched by local funds, a hybrid Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) and fixed wireless network will bring faster speeds and more reliable service to homes and businesses in the northern part of the Empire State by the middle of next summer.

Unreliable Service

The village of Tupper Lake (which sits within the boundaries of the town of Tupper Lake) is located in the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains not too far from Lake Placid. It’s an overwhelmingly rural area, and a little more than 3,500 people call the village home. 

Last year we wrote about local efforts to improve connectivity options. Back in 2018, a broadband committee was born mostly in response to a lack of Internet access options and complaints about poor service (Spectrum services the region). A study followed that work in 2019, and included a survey of the speeds and prices that homes and businesses in the downtown were paying. Frequent and prolonged outages were a particular problem in Tupper Lake. “We were talking to one business owner who said I was out of service for a day and a half,” Development Authority of the North Country (DANC) General Manager for Telecommunications told WAMC public radio, “[T]hat is almost impossible to do, because now I’ve got to write down credit card numbers and wait for a day to charge people and stuff like that and it just was very difficult.” The Adirondack Daily Enterprise reported that “broadband was the topic of around 30-50% of the emails and calls” to State Assemblyman Billy Jones’ office even before the pandemic.

Connectivity for students was also a driving factor, with a large majority of families with students reporting to the St. Lawrence...

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Posted November 19, 2020 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

TCL&P Fiber, which launched earlier this fall, has doubled its subscriber base over the last six weeks. It now has 88 active users, with 17 additional ready to go online and 64 on the waitlist. 

Posted October 23, 2020 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

The Ohio Valley Regional Development Commission (OVRDC) has an ongoing RFP [pdf] to hire a Broadband Planning Coordinator to perform asset inventory, mapping, and an analysis of existing wireline and wireless network in a twelve-county region. It’s part of a $400,000 grant the commission received as part of CARES funding that will, in part, look for ways to expand and upgrade broadband connectivity options in support of manufacturing, telehealth, distance learning, and economic recovery in the region following the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

John Hemmings, Executive Director of the Ohio Valley Regional Development Commission, said of the grant and position:

We are appreciative of the Economic Development Administration in assisting us with recovery efforts associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. For many years, OVRDC has been a champion of better broadband service in our region and throughout Appalachia and rural Ohio. COVID-19 put on display quite clearly the shortcomings and broadband issues we suffer from in our region. With this grant, we look forward to evaluating the impact of COVID-19 on our tourism sector. We are hopeful through this assistance we can advance efforts to remedy these situations in the OVRDC region.

Job Duties

Interested individuals and firms will work with existing stakeholders to provide a comprehensive look at the state of broadband and opportunities for expansion in support of the above efforts across Adams, Brown, Clermont, Fayette, Gallia, Highland, Jackson, Lawrence, Pike, Ross, Scioto and Vinton Counties. They cluster south of Columbus along the state’s southern border. The OVRDC “coordinates federal, state and local resources to encourage development and improve quality of life by offering technical assistance, planning and support for economic development, community development and transportation projects.”

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Posted October 20, 2020 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

After years of fielding complaints from residents about the speed, reliability, and poor customer service of the city’s single wireline broadband provider, Springboro, Ohio (pop. 19,000) has decided enough is enough. Over the next year, the city (situated ten miles south of Dayton) will build a 23-mile fiber loop for municipal services and, at the same time, lay five additional conduits to entice additional Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to come in and offer service, stimulating competition and economic development in the region moving forward.

A Fiber Master Plan

City Manager Chris Pozzuto laid out the plan for the city council, which staff had been working on for the last half year, back in July. It was driven in part by the criticism his office had fielded for years about the incumbent wireline service provider (the two satellite providers also prompted plenty of complaints of their own). Out of a desire both to provide residents with symmetrical gigabit access and stimulate economic development on a 200-acre commercial plot, Pozzuto started talking with regional partners and putting together an alterative.

The city’s Fiber Master Plan [pdf] calls for a 72-strand, 23-mile loop to be built around Springboro, along every major street and thoroughfare and up to the entrance of every neighborhood. Via microtrenching, six conduits will be laid — one for the city, and the remaining for up to five new ISPs to compete for service. 

The city will contract with the Miami Valley Education Computer Association (MVECA) to build the network, lay the additional conduit, and provide access back to the peering point to the northeast in Columbus. A second line will come in from the south via the Southwest Ohio Computer Association (SWOCA) to provide redundancy.

Construction is projected to be complete within a year, and expected to cost around $2.5 million. The Warren County Port Authority will own the network and lease it to Springboro until the debt is repaid, at...

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Posted October 2, 2020 by Christopher Mitchell

Traverse City has officially launched its new municipal Fiber-to-the-Home network in the northern Michigan town of 15,000. The city's municipal electric utility, Traverse City Light & Power (TCL&P), owns the network and operates it in a partnership with Fujitsu, with the latter building and initially helping operate it, but turning management over to TCLP as the city utility feels comfortable with each aspect of the operation.

TCL&P Fiber is being built incrementally, starting in the downtown area where the economic heart of the community lies. The first phase is estimated to cost $3.5 million and will offer 2,200 locations service. The rest of the community will be connected in coming years and perhaps ultimately areas outside the current electric footprint.

Getting up to Speed

Traverse City has been working in the communications space for more than 10 years with dark fiber leases to major anchor institutions and key economic entities. In more recent years they were providing free Wi-Fi downtown while considering how to improve Internet access to smaller businesses and residents. For years, they examined various options, with serious consideration of an open access network where the city would build the infrastructure but other ISPs would use it to connect customers. 

In an interview today, TCL&P Executive Director Tim Arends told us that they moved on this project after sensing a lot of pent up demand for better service — with speed, reliability, and especially customer service as common complaints with existing service. Though TCL&P did not name check the existing providers, AT&T DSL and Charter Spectrum cable are the main incumbent providers.

In 2017 TCL&P's Board voted unanimously to move forward with a citywide fiber approach but did not plan to be a retail provider themselves. But in 2019, a new plan with Fujitsu evolved into the current approach. 

Last year,...

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Posted September 28, 2020 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

Janesville, Wisconsin (pop. 64,000) Information Technology Director Gordon LaChance has been investing in fiber infrastructure for city needs for the last 12 years, but he’s been hoping it would lead to something more. That day may have come, with the recent award of a $114,000 grant from Wisconsin Public Utility Commission.

The grant allows the city to participate in a public-private partnership that will bring fiber to a handful of unserved or underserved commercial locations in town. The move is the first of its kind for the city, and involves an exchange of capacity that will allow WIN Technologies — a private Internet Service Provider (ISP) — to bring service to two SHINE Medical Technology locations (a small headquarters downtown as well as a large, new development being built south of town), the Janesville Centennial Business Park, the Beloit Avenue Corridor Business Park, and the Janesville Innovation Center. 

The grant application was spearheaded by the city’s Economic Development Office, which gathered the players and helped iron out the details. LaChance described how the deal would work in a phone interview. The city will give WIN access to some of its dark fiber, which WIN will make use of along with the grant funds and additional private investment to build south and connect those areas of town. In return, WIN will lay extra fiber as it goes and hand it over the LaChance’s office, allowing the city plant to expand in that direction when it otherwise would not be able to justify the cost. It remains early, but the city estimates that around a dozen businesses will be connected with the expansion. Better connectivity will also spur the revitalization of the Janesville Assembly Plant, a General Motors factory decommissioned in 2008 that is being turned around by a commercial developer to bring manufcaturing production and jobs back to the area. 

The Fruits of Forethought

Part of the reason the project will work is because LaChance has over the last decade increasingly invested in higher fiber counts when embarking on builds of his own, allowing him to give WIN unlit capacity without compromising city services....

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