Tag: "economic development"

Posted June 8, 2020 by Katie Kienbaum

While large Internet service providers routinely face some of the lowest customer satisfaction rates in the country, municipal broadband networks, like FairlawnGig in Fairlawn, Ohio, have set themselves apart by offering superior customer service to residents and businesses.

Case in point: recent subscriber surveys from FairlawnGig revealed that 94% of residential respondents were satisfied with their service from the community-owned network. Businesses in Fairlawn also appreciate the municipal fiber provider. A similar survey given to businesses showed that about 700 jobs — at least — can be directly ascribed to the FairlawnGig network.

“Our customer service revolves around our building a strong and diverse network to our residents and businesses,” Fairlawn Deputy Director of Public Service Ernie Staten said in a press release. “We have the extremely high customer satisfaction scores to prove it.”

Numbers Don’t Lie

FairlawnGig conducted its survey of residential subscribers at the end of April and found an astonishingly high rate of satisfaction among those surveyed. Overall, 94% of respondents said they were satisfied with the service and 77% reported that they were “very satisfied,” which is impressive even with an accuracy range of plus or minus four percentage points. Another three quarters of survey takers said that FairlawnGig’s customer service is “excellent.”

In addition, about half of respondents said that FairlawnGig was “extremely important” in their choice to live or stay in the community. And the survey found that activities like working from home and streaming movies and other entertainment increased after residents started subscribing to FairlawnGig’s Internet access.

A survey given to businesses in March revealed similar satisfaction with FairlawnGig. About half of...

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Posted June 2, 2020 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

This week on the Community Broadband Bits podcast, Christopher talks to Tanna Greathouse, a Boone, North Carolina, resident operating an online business, Your Favorite Assistant, from home. Tanna shares her struggle with the lack of connectivity options in the area and what it means to have to sign up for three expensive, overlapping services — DSL, satellite, and mobile — for unreliable, slow, and high-latency Internet connections.

Tanna and Christopher talk about the struggle to perform even basic cloud-based productivity work and how this struggle has been amplified by the coronavirus pandemic. They talk about what things might look like if there were more local Internet choice and how the rise of telework will likely change how large and small businesses operate in the future.

We’ve covered North Carolina’s efforts at local Internet choice many times before. Find our “Why NC Broadband Matters” podcast series, co-produced with NC Broadband Matters, on the Community Broadband Bits podcast index. Episode topics include the homework gap,...

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Posted May 29, 2020 by Christopher Mitchell

I have been tracking from afar local grassroots efforts in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to start a municipal broadband network for years. I've visited them locally and spoken to various people from citizens to elected officials about the different options. The following are my observations. I'm not trying to channel their thoughts on how to move forward.

Cambridge is a high-tech city with nearly ubiquitous coverage from Comcast, delivering more or less the same services they offer to millions of homes — which is too say mostly reliable and high-cost Internet access (that will be still higher cost next year and the next after that). In the case of Comcast, it comes with crippled upload speeds compared to fast download capacity. Customer service is . . . well, you do your best to never have to use it.

But with MIT and Harvard within its confines, many in Cambridge are well aware that Internet access can get so much better and not be mediated by a company willing to spend millions in D.C. to preserve its right to set up tollbooths for certain kinds of content if they so choose.

However, Cambridge is remarkably similar to Palo Alto, which is also home to high tech households that mostly use Comcast cable and sometimes have the option of AT&T fiber. And in both instances, there is a strong case for some kind of municipal network that would create more local Internet choice. Both appear to have significant support in the community for a public option. But both also have city staff that have decided to prevent any meaningful investment.

They have run into the challenge that Seattle also wrestled with. These high profile cities have refused to consider creative, incremental, and targeted efforts. Instead, they have focused almost entirely on the costs of duplicating Chattanooga or Wilson, where the community built the entire citywide at once with debt-financed capital.

In Cambridge, the city council is rebelling after having been stymied by a city manager that has successful resisted efforts to study municipal broadband for years.

City Manager DePasquale has consistently refused to act on municipal broadband despite a...

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Posted March 26, 2020 by Katie Kienbaum

Early last month, before the spread of the novel coronavirus turned staying home from a quiet night in into a moral imperative, Christopher traveled to North Carolina to attend the Institute for Emerging Issues Forum at North Carolina State University. While there, he interviewed Leslie Boney, Director of the Institute for Emerging Issues. He also spoke with Darren Smith from Wilson's Gig East Exchange and Ron Townley from the Upper Coastal Plain Council of Governments.

We wanted to share their conversation as a special episode of the "Why NC Broadband Matters" podcast series we've been working on with NC Broadband Matters. The nonprofit organization works to connect communities across North Carolina, bringing high-quality broadband access to residents and businesses.

logo-nc-hearts-gigabit.png Christopher and Leslie discuss the Institute for Emerging Issues, and Leslie describes how they developed the theme of the forum, ReCONNECT. They talk about the importance of not only expanding broadband infrstructure but making sure people and businesses can take advantage of technology. Leslie explains why rural and urban communities rely on eachother and both deserve investment in digital inclusion.

After Leslie leaves, Darren and Ron share what's happening in Wilson and eastern North Carolina. They reflect on their experience at the forum. Darren talks about Wilson's new innovation hub, the Gig East Exchange, and how the city is...

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Posted March 20, 2020 by Katie Kienbaum

“While most of us take a high-speed Internet connection for granted, many living in rural areas feel disconnected,” states North Carolina television station WRAL’s new documentary, “Disconnected,” which first aired on March 19.

The documentary features local officials, healthcare professionals, small business owners, and families from across the state discussing the importance of high-quality broadband access and the struggle to connect rural areas. Though “Disconnected” was recorded before the Covid-19 outbreak forced schools and businesses to close nationally, the ongoing crisis further emphasizes the necessity of getting all North Carolinians connected to affordable, reliable Internet access.

“Disconnected” was created with help from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, the North Carolina League of Municipalities, and Google Fiber. Watch the documentary below or on the WRAL website.

A Tale of Two Cities

To illustrate the importance of connectivity for everything from education to healthcare, “Disconnected” takes viewers to two small North Carolina towns — one with high-speed Internet access and one without.

Enfield NC

In Enfield, home to 2,300 people, businesses and residents alike struggle to get connected, and town officials face difficulties attracting new employers to the area. Enfield Middle S.T.E.A.M. Academy reports that about 60 percent of students don’t have Internet access at home. WRAL interviews one student’s family, which only has unreliable satellite connectivity. “It’s a lot of running around,” says Lashawnda Silver, the student’s mother. “If I don’t provide it for her, she’s going to lose out.”

Similarly, an Enfield health clinic says that most patients aren’t able to connect at home and even 40 percent of staff lack home broadband access. “It’s a barrier for their healthcare,” explains Mary Downey, Family Nurse Practitioner.

The city of Wilson is less than an hour south of Enfield, but it’s a world apart in terms of connectivity. Wilson's 49,000 residents have access to gigabit speeds over the city's reliable fiber network, Greenlight. We’ve...

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Posted February 27, 2020 by Lisa Gonzalez

Christopher went to North Carolina earlier this month to attend the Institute for Emerging Issues Forum at North Carolina State. While he was there, he interviewed Dr. Jeff Cox, President of Wilkes Community College, and Zach Barricklow Vice President of Strategy for the college.

The conversation was too good not to share as another bonus episode for the project that we’ve been working on with nonprofit NC Broadband Matters. Our common goal is to shed light on some of the connectivity issues in North Carolina. NC Broadband Matters focuses on bringing broadband coverage to local communities for residents and businesses and we’re teaming up for the "Why NC Broadband Matters" podcast series which explores broadband and related issues in North Carolina.

logo-nc-hearts-gigabit.png These education leaders discuss the value of broadband and distance learning in places like rural North Carolina. They examine how access to high-quality Internet access is presenting opportunities to potential students and increasing the possibility of economic mobility. They also look at how increased access to community college curriculum is improving the work force and improving economic development in rural areas of the state.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

This show is 20 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or with the...

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Posted February 20, 2020 by Lisa Gonzalez

In recent months, we’ve been working with nonprofit NC Broadband Matters to shed light on some of the connectivity issues in North Carolina. The group focuses on bringing broadband coverage to local communities for residents and businesses and have asked us to help them develop the series, "Why NC Broadband Matters," which explores broadband and related issues in North Carolina.

Many of the discussions have struck a chord with folks in other states, especially those with rural regions and those that grapple with the digital divide. This week, we’re sharing a bonus episode in addition to our monthly episodes. Why? Because this conversation is interesting, important, and inspiring.

logo-nc-hearts-gigabit.png While he was recently in North Carolina at the Institute for Emerging Issues Forum at North Carolina State, Christopher had the opportunity to sit down with Roberto Gallardo, Ph.D., Assistant Director of the Purdue Center for Regional Development and a Purdue Extension Community & Regional Economics Specialist. Roberto has been working with the state’s Department of Information Technology to develop their N.C. Broadband Indices and examine digital inclusion in North Carolina.

Roberto, who has studied the digital divide(s) elsewhere speaks with Christopher about the overlap between availability, adoption, and infrastructure. He and Christopher look at how data can help communities take a targeted approach at developing a unique strategy for closing the digital divide for their...

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Posted January 30, 2020 by Lisa Gonzalez

As federal, state, and local leaders increasingly recognize the need to make Internet access universal, they are also realizing that adoption is a separate issue. Programs such as the ReConnect and Connect America Funds I and II Auction have helped to expand infrastructure, but even in places where Internet access has been available for years, 100 percent of households do not subscribe. In an effort to better understand digital equity, the House Subcommittee on Communications & Technology of the Committee on Energy and Commerce recently sat down to listen to experts on digital equity. They discussed common misconceptions, hurdles that make wide-scale adoption difficult, and offered policy recommendations to help us achieve digital equity.

Not Only a Rural Problem

Angela Siefer, Executive Director of the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) described how her experience as a digital equity warrior has changed from working with people to learn the basics of computer use to the additional problem of helping people get online. Angela's statement addressed some of the most common myths associated with the digital divide that NDIA, through boots-on-the-ground research, has discovered, including:

The digital divide is a rural problem: Census results show that populations in urban areas do not have Internet access subscriptions of any kind; these are often low-income households.

5G will bridge the digital divide: Lack of infrastructure and devices deployed in areas where existing problems with digital inclusion continue with regards to this new technology.

People don't subscribe because they don't think the Internet isn't valuable: Accomplishing day-to-day tasks often require access to the Internet, which is a fact not lost on those who don't subscribe, but the cost is out of reach for many of those same people.

Read Angela's statement here...

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Posted January 16, 2020 by Lisa Gonzalez

In the spring of 2019, Houston, Missouri, sent out a call to citizens to share their thoughts on whether or not they'd like to subscribe to Internet access from a municipal network. Less than a year later, the city of around 2,000 people has forged ahead and has hired an engineering firm to begin work on their multi-phase fiber optic project.

Phase One is a Go

Economic Development Director in Houston Rob Harrington says that the city hopes to have the first phase — an eighteen-mile fiber ring that connects city facilities — completed and functional by the end of the summer.

Houston owns and operates a municipal electric utility, which is a big plus for communities interested in better connectivity through publicly owned fiber optic network infrastructure. The Houston Herald reports that the city’s electric utility has brought in additional revenue that, over the last fifty years, has contributed to public improvements in Houston. Houston is the seat of mostly rural Texas County, located in south-central Missouri; the community is about 3.7 square miles.

Another factor in Houston's favor: the city owns the utility poles, which will reduce make-ready time and reduce final cost. A feasibility study, which reported a favorable situation in Houston for a publicly owned Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) system, suggested all but about three miles of the first phase of the infrastructure could be deployed on poles. Sewer lift stations, water towers, and other city facilities will connect, which will allow Houston to reduce telecommunications costs. The city will use reserves to fund the first phase of the project.

logo-city-of-houston.png When phase two is deployed, residents and businesses throughout Houston will have access to symmetrical gigabit (1,000 Megabits per second) connectivity, says City Administrator Scott Avery. The goal is to provide an option...

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Posted January 15, 2020 by Sayidali Moalim

When communities find that high-quality connectivity isn't up to par for everyone or they want better services that naturally flow from more options, local governments often take their first concrete steps with a plan. In December 2019, the gowing community of Moorpark, California, has selected Magellan Advisors as its partner in developing a Broadband Strategic Plan.

Businesses In Need of Fiber

The city began searching for a consultant to help develop the plan months ago. In mid-August of 2019, the city submitted a Request for Proposal (RFP) for the development of a Broadband Strategic Plan to the City’s Manager Office. In the RPF, the city recognizes the importance of providing reliable fiber optic infrastructure in both its economic development and deploying future “Smart City” initiatives. 

In response to the RFP, the City Council created the Broadband Ad Hoc Committee to work with the city staff. The committee directed the City Council to focus its efforts on broadband deployment to the industrial and commercial districts and not on the residential district. Currently, fiber Internet access is available to residential customers through Spectrum but commercial and industrial districts don't have the same access. 

From BBC Magazines

Magellan will assist in inventorying existing infrastructure, identifying unserved and underserved areas, and developing municipal strategies that support expanding access to high-speed Internet, allowing Moorpark to maximize efficiency and cost effectiveness in preparing for future technologies.

...

Additionally, the Broadband strategic Plan will analyze Moorpark’s needs for Smart City innovations including intelligent transportation, public safety innovations, telemedicine, autonomous vehicles and other applications.

Suburban Los Angeles

Being one of the first cities in the entire world to run off...

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