Tag: "monopoly"

Posted November 21, 2022 by Karl Bode

Nevada is looking at an historic influx of broadband funding thanks to the Broadband, Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) program and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). But state laws designed to shield monopolies from competition have added unnecessary complications to the state’s quest to maximize an historic round of public broadband funding. 

Nevada’s broadband expansion push (the “High Speed NV” initiative) will occur in two phases. First, $192 million in federal Covid relief funding will be used to drive broadband access to roughly 1,000 different anchor institutions. Another $200 million in BEAD funding will be used to expand last mile access to Nevada residences and businesses. 

In many states, cooperatives, city-owned utilities, and municipalities are playing a huge role in ensuring uniform and affordable access to next-generation telecom infrastructure. Such creative, local solutions are increasingly the only meaningful competitive challenge seen by the nation’s politically-powerful telecom monopolies. 

But Nevada is one of 17 states that have passed laws, usually ghost written by those same regional telecom monopolies, greatly restricting the construction and financing of municipal broadband efforts.

Two different Nevada laws (Nevada Statute § 268.086 and Nevada Statute § 710.147) currently state that only municipalities with less than 25,000 people and counties with less than 55,000 people can offer telecommunications services, undermining efforts to bring more competition and lower pricing to bear in more populous areas.

State Preemption Laws Remain

While the NTIA has encouraged all 17 states to relax or eliminate laws prohibiting...

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Posted November 8, 2022 by Ry Marcattilio

This week on the podcast, Christopher is joined by Harold Feld, Senior Vice President at Public Knowledge. Feld is a staple of the field, and has been a consistent voice not only for consumers but broadband advocates of all types for more than two decades. 

The show takes on a reflective nature, as they talk about theories of change in the context of doing broadband policy today. Harold shares how he thinks of the progress that gets made in the long term by aligning the corporate incentive with the public interest. He shares coming to terms with having lots of hard days, the power of fighting battles you expect to lose, and learning, getting better, and building powerful coalitions along the way. Harold and Christopher end the show by talking about some examples of the latter, including important wins like the Rural Tribal Priority Window and the expansion of community networks of all shapes and sizes.

 This show is 48 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed. You can listen to the interview on this page or visit the Community Broadband Bits page.

Transcript coming soon. 

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.

Subscribe to the Building Local Power podcast, also from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, on iTunes or Stitcher...

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Posted November 3, 2022 by Karl Bode

While cooperatives, utilities, and municipalities are seeing a welcome portion of Covid relief and infrastructure bill funding, the nation’s two biggest cable broadband monopolies continue to hoover up the lion’s share of most new broadband infrastructure grants. 

All told, the American Rescue Plan Act and Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will deliver more than $50 billion in new funding for broadband infrastructure. And while cooperatives and utilities have been big winners in states like Tennessee, a recent breakdown by Fierce Telecom of money awarded so far shows that cable monopolies have been the biggest winners by far. 

As of September, Charter (which sells service under the Spectrum brand) had won more than $170.8 million in grants across Ohio ($51 million), Kentucky ($49.9 million) Indiana ($27 million), Georgia ($12.2 million), Maryland ($8.5 million), Louisiana ($7.88 million), Alabama ($7.26 million), Wisconsin ($5.9 million) and Pennsylvania ($1.2 million).

Charter is also poised to...

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Posted October 19, 2022 by Sean Gonsalves

While a racially-charged controversy swirls loudly around the Los Angeles City Council, a new study lays bare how low-income communities of color are impacted by the quiet business decisions of the region’s monopoly Internet service provider.

Slower and More Expensive/Sounding the Alarm: Disparities in Advertised Pricing for Fast, Reliable Broadband details how Charter Spectrum “shows a clear and consistent pattern of the provider reserving its best offers - high speed at low cost - for the wealthiest neighborhoods in LA County.”

Authored by Digital Equity LA, a coalition of more than 40 community-based organizations, not only highlights how economically vulnerable households in LA County pay more for slower service than those in wealthy neighborhoods, it also provides evidence for how financially-strapped households are also saddled with onerous contracts and are rarely targeted by advertisements for Charter Spectrum’s low cost plans.

A leading voice behind the Digital Equity LA initiative – Shayna Englin, Director of the Digital Equity Initiative at the California Community Foundation (CCF) – notes that higher poverty neighborhoods (which tend to be mostly made up of people of color) pay anywhere from $10 to $40 more per month than mostly white, higher-income neighborhoods for the exact same service. 

The study, which focused solely on Internet-only subscriptions, analyzed data from 165 residential addresses – at least one address from every city and a sample from across the unincorporated communities in the county. For each address, in addition to documenting service offerings and pricing, the study also correlates the poverty rate and percentage of non-white residents in the county’s census tracts.

Calls to Action

More than an exposé, the study also issues four separate calls to action directed at city leaders, state officials and lawmakers to address:

  • Investigate and verify “potentially discriminatory” disparities in advertised pricing. ...
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Posted June 7, 2022 by Ry Marcattilio

It’s been nine months since we launched our Big List of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Community Broadband Projects, tracking what communities are doing with the various pots of federal money intended to go towards solving local broadband challenges. Since then, we’ve recorded 250 community projects and 27 states which have announced significant broadband grant programs or disbursement for new infrastructure projects. Here we highlight some of the community projects we’re really excited about, including those that have decided to build their own networks and those building on existing projects, as well as those using ARPA dollars for open access networks, affordable connectivity, or Internet access for students. We also discuss some examples of solutions we believe are less permanent, forward-thinking, or likely to result in long-term success, including the distribution of hotspots and the allocation of funds to monopoly providers. 

What We’re Excited About: Community-Owned Networks and Open Access  

Fortunately, we’re seeing a number of communities approve plans to spend their Rescue Plan dollars on building their own municipal networks. In Lexington, Tennessee (population 8,000), the city is collaborating with Lexington Electric to bring broadband to the community. An ARPA grant is expected to cover about $20 million of the total $50 million price tag, and the city will issue bonds for the rest. If this grant is received, Henderson County (28,000) – where Lexington is located – has agreed to a 10 percent match (from $300,000 to $500,000). 

Maine has also allocated just over $15 million to eight broadband projects through the ConnectMaine Authority, $8.5 million of which comes from the American Rescue Plan. The funding will go to five municipal projects and three provider-led initiatives, and will serve approximately 6,000 residents “in some of the least-served areas of the state.”

Other communities are deploying fixed wireless solutions....

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Posted April 20, 2022 by Karl Bode

Freshly proposed legislation in Missouri would prohibit towns and cities from using federal funds to improve broadband access in areas telecom monopolies already claim to serve. It’s just the latest attempt by incumbent telecom giants to ensure that an historic wave of federal broadband funding won’t harm their revenues by boosting local broadband competition.

Missouri SB 1074 - Sponsored by Sen. Dan Hegeman (R., District 12), proclaims that “no federal funds received by the state, political subdivision, city, town, or village shall be expended for the construction of retail broadband internet infrastructure unless the project to be constructed is located in an unserved area or underserved area.” It passed the Senate Commerce, Consumer Protection, Energy and the Environment Committee on April 13th.

According to the bill, the Missouri Office of Broadband Infrastructure would certify the project prior to a political subdivision receiving authorization. Before being authorized, the office would be mandated to check with incumbent broadband providers to ensure that they don’t offer service in the specified area. 

The bill prohibits federal funding for any projects in areas where a single provider already receives funding to deliver 100 Megabits per second (Mbps) download speeds. If it passes, it also allows Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to submit written challenges to grant applicants within 45 days. The Department of Economic Development would then be tasked with determining the truthfulness of each challenge. 

Only if applicants can prove they’re servicing an “unserved” or “underserved” area (which again is defined by flawed FCC Form 477 data that routinely overstates existing coverage and speeds using broadband definitions set at ankle height) will the applications be deemed valid. 

But the bill gives incumbent monopolies even greater leverage in the challenge process, by letting them challenge a deployment if an incumbent ISP has “taken affirmative steps to begin the process of construction to provide broadband,” or “has been designated funding through federal programs to support the deployment of broadband” in the targeted areas.

As such, it looks like the current version of the bill would allow incumbent ISPs  to block federal funding to competitors if...

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Posted March 3, 2022 by Staff

Written by Christine Parker and Ry Marcattilo-McCracken

A recent report by BroadbandNow made the rounds in February, with the authors concluding that the average price for broadband access across all major speed tiers for Americans has fallen, by an average of 31 percent or nearly $34/month, since 2016. At a glance, this is great news – perhaps affordable Internet access for all is within reach?

Readers following up to check out the report itself would be well justified in coming to the same conclusion, with BroadbandNow writing in the first paragraph that “we’ve found that prices have decreased across all major download speeds (25Mbps up to 1Gbps+) and technologies (cable, fiber, DSL and fixed wireless).” Immediate news coverage reinforced the report’s points.

But you don’t have to follow broadband policy closely to get the sense that something a little off is going on here. It feels like every day there’s a story like this one about Cable One, with a provider increasing speeds as it improves its network infrastructure and then raising rates while removing the slowest tier options. Charter and Comcast, for their part, do this nearly every year whether pairing it with speed increases or not. Is broadband access getting cheaper, or more expensive? What’s going on here?

The reality is that this report from BroadbandNow, unfortunately, poorly frames the national broadband marketplace. At best, it muddies the waters with a lack of clarity about the relationship between broadband access speed tiers and relative pricing. At worst, it leaves the average reader with the incorrect assumption that broadband prices must be falling, and gives the monopoly cable and telephone companies ammunition to push for millions more in taxpayer dollars while building as little new infrastructure as possible.

Either way, it contradicts the fact that broadband prices, for the vast majority of...

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Posted January 27, 2022 by Emma Gautier

In November, the Institute for Local Self-Reliance published a report examining the transparency practices of Internet Service Providers (ISPs). Shopping for Broadband: Failed Federal Policy Creates Murky Marketplace [pdf] identified locally-controlled broadband networks as the most transparent around key service details.

Large ISPs, however, were found to be more likely to make information like upload speed and pricing difficult or impossible for potential customers to find. 

After the report’s original publication, a WISP advocate suggested that our fixed wireless sample may not appropriately represent the industry and requested that we review and re-issue our analysis with an alternative list of ISPs that have been more aggressive in pursuing federal funding and spectrum opportunities. These WISPs greatly outperformed our original sample, which was selected based on those claiming the largest population coverage.

New Set of WISPs Shows Better Transparency 

While many of the original WISPs failed to disclose basic pricing and service information, only two of the second set offered less than excellent information in all categories. The second set had less poor quality information and slightly more missing information than our set of cooperatively-run networks. Municipal networks remained the most transparent. 

Though many of the fixed wireless providers originally studied do seem to claim the greatest number of potential customers, we agree with some reviewers that they are not actually among the largest fixed wireless ISPs with the most subscribers. The new list of WISPs, which is included alongside the original one on the Broadband Transparency Rule Compliance Scorecard, may be a more accurate representation of providers’ transparency practices in this industry. 

We also point out the significant variation in transparency practices between providers of the same type of service, which has been made visible by adding these new wireless providers to the scorecard. While we did expect to see variability between WISPs in particular, we’re interested in whether this variability exists in...

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Posted January 25, 2022 by

In this episode of the Connect This! Show, co-hosts Christopher and Travis Carter (USI Fiber) are joined by Kim McKinley (UTOPIA Fiber) and Doug Dawson (CCG Consulting) to talk current events in broadband.

The panel will dig into recent attacks on munis, states that are providing outside plant materials as grant awards, and how partnerships can get creative with using milestones rather than upfront cash.

Subscribe to the show using this feed on YouTube Live or on Facebook Live, or visit ConnectThisShow.com

Email us broadband@muninetworks.org with feedback and ideas for the show.

Watch here on YouTube Livehere on Facebook live, or below.

Posted January 3, 2022 by Karl Bode

Over 230 communities have applied for National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) Broadband Infrastructure Program grants. But community leaders increasingly say they’re facing costly, unnecessary challenges from incumbent broadband providers, who are exploiting unreliable U.S. broadband maps to overstate existing coverage and defend the status quo.

The NTIA’s $288 million grant program - and the looming $42 billion broadband infrastructure investment plan - will help bring affordable broadband to the roughly 20-30 million Americans without broadband, and the 83 million Americans currently living under a broadband monopoly.

In Grafton County, New Hampshire, 39 municipalities are part of a growing list of communities exploring home-grown broadband alternatives. They represent a grassroots movement driven by frustration with market failure that accelerated during the Covid-19 crisis. In response they’ve bonded together to apply for a $26.2 million NTIA grant to improve the region’s substandard broadband.

A Little Something Called Competition

Grafton hopes to use the NTIA funding to provide a middle mile fiber network, making it easier for Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to service each municipality and the county’s 90,000 residents. The network will be open access, inviting numerous ISPs to compete over the same shared infrastructure. Studies have repeatedly shown such open access models result in better, cheaper, faster service

“The whole idea is that we want to facilitate competition,” Bristol town administrator Nik Coates shared in a recent phone interview. “I get at least an email a day from people contacting me about how bad their service is.” According to the FCC Form 477 data (which can dramatically overstate access), there are more than 5,300 people in the county completely unserved by wireline connections capable of speeds at 25/3...

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