Tag: "federal"

Posted December 7, 2017 by lgonzalez

The FCC is scheduled to decide the fate of Internet access on Thursday, Dec 14. Will anyone anywhere in the U.S. be able to pay one basic fee to access information on the Internet from the most popular to the most arcane content providers? If all indications are correct, probably not. ISPs will increasingly decide on what terms we access the content we want. Prepare for your bills to go up. 

You might wonder why the FCC is so focused on rolling back such an overwhelmingly popular policy in favor of giving more power to the most hated corporations in America. It isn't because the most recent rules to codify the long-standing principle of non-discrimination has harmed investment. It hasn't

But something struck us about the lobbying campaigns around this issue. This graphic from the Sunlight Foundation shows just how hard the top telecommunications companies and their lobbying associations have focused on defeating network neutrality. The image shows lobbying reports generated by lobbyists and whether or not the entity is opposed (red) or in favor of (green) network neutrality. As you can see, the amount of red coming from the ISPs that serve most of America vastly outstrips the green.

Lobbying-Reports-Mentioning-NN.png

Seeing Red

Since the Sunlight Foundation published this graphic in 2013, the landscape has changed in important ways. The two top firms supporting network neutrality were taken over by big monopolists that oppose maintaining an open Internet.

In 2015, Verizon acquired AOL for $4.4 billion and CenturyLink recently completed its acquisition of Level 3. CenturyLink, which sued the FCC over Title II reclassification, does not support network neutrality. The next strongest net neutrality supporter was Google, which took a quieter position in the 2015 debate over Title II but has... Read more

Posted October 30, 2017 by lgonzalez

This fall, nonprofits and other organizations with an interest in constructive broadband policy have worked to help the new administration’s FCC through the public comment process. We’ve let readers know about opportunities to share their thoughts with the Commission and we’ve submitted comments separately and with other likeminded groups.

Modernizing the Form 477 Data Program

The Commission asked for comments on the method in which it collects data regarding where broadband is accessible. ISPs provide information to the FCC based on which census blocks they serve. We’ve often criticized this approach because it grossly overstates where coverage is available, especially in rural areas where census blocks tend to be large. 

Read our ideas for improvements to the Form 477 data collection, which include obtaining more detailed geographic information, minimum and maximum speeds, and pricing information.

Connect America Funding Phase II Bidding Procedures and Program

In order to help bring better connectivity to rural areas, the FCC distributes Connect America Funds (CAF) to entities such as companies and cooperatives to build broadband infrastructure. The process involves bids from these entities. The FCC is considering changes to the current process and bidding procedures, including what types of projects qualify for funding. The Commission asked for comment after proposing a long list of possible changes.

We recently spoke with Jon Chambers of Connexon, who provided more detail about the program and offered his thoughts on CAF and the possible changes.

Read our Reply Comments, that address issues we feel need attention, including the Carrier of Last Resort guarantee, more opportunities for rural cooperatives, and our concern that the FCC will attempt to equate subpar satellite and mobile broadband with high-quality connectivity. We filed our Reply Comments with Public Knowledge, Appalshop, and a long list of other organizations concerned about Internet access in rural America.

Deployment of Advanced... Read more

Posted August 22, 2017 by htrostle

Cell phones as a substitute for home Internet service? That’s what the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) suggested in an August 2017 document. Buried within the Notice of Inquiry for the Section 706 Report, the FCC quietly proposed that mobile service could be considered broadband deployment.

In a recent article, Jon Brodkin at Ars Technica dove into why that suggestion is laughable. Mobile Internet service, especially at speeds less than 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) download and 3 Mbps upload, is not equivalent to high-speed home Internet service. 

This proposal also raises concerns for rural communities exploring funding options.

Overstating Rural Connectivity Has Consequences

If the FCC treats mobile Internet access as broadband deployment, rural areas will suddenly look better connected. On paper, the FCC statistics will show that rural America has sufficient Internet access, but the reality in the trenches will remain as it is today - poor connectivity in many rural communities.

A similar situation has already happened in Iowa, where the inclusion of satellite Internet service is now considered broadband access. The interactive FCC 2016 Broadband Deployment Map clearly shows that almost all of Iowa has high-speed Internet access via satellite. One can use satellite service to browse the web, but it has significant limitations, especially when uploading data.

screenshot of Iowa

[Screenshot from August 2017 of FCC June 2016 Deployment Data of Iowa: Yellow = 25 Mbps/3 Mbps Internet access. Full map here.]

Despite the near-universal coverage shown by the FCC, rural communities in Iowa are still building fiber networks because they consider themselves lacking the connectivity they need to compete. In Iowa, it’s important to make sure that the agriculture community gets the high-speed... Read more

Posted July 11, 2017 by Nick

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - July 11, 2017

The digital divide between urban and rural areas remains, and some question government grants aimed at addressing it

Written by Rick Barrett

It’s getting easier to find high-speed internet service in rural Wisconsin, yet there are still places where a robust online connection is as elusive as the Hodag, a mythical creature that legend says prowls the Northwoods.

What’s more, critics of government grants aimed at boosting the service across the country say much of the money is being spent on internet speeds that are obsolete.

When the service providers focus on short-term profit, rather than building the best possible network, it’s not good for rural America, said Christopher Mitchell with the Institute for Local Self Reliance, a Minneapolis nonprofit that helps communities with internet access issues.

“I don’t blame the providers any more than I blame tigers when they maul humans. They are what they are. The problem is that government policy lets them do it,” Mitchell said.

...

Read the full story here.

Posted March 1, 2017 by christopher

Susan Crawford has come back to the podcast to tell us about her recent travels in North Carolina and Tennessee, talking to people on the ground that have already built fiber-optic networks or are in the midst of figuring out how to get them deployed.

Susan is a professor at Harvard Law, the author of The Responsive City: Engaging Communities Through Data-Smart Governance and Captive Audience: The Telecom Industry and Monopoly Power in the New Gilded Age, and a champion for universal high quality Internet access.

We have an informal discussion that ranges from what is happening on the ground in North Carolina and Tennessee to the role of federal policy to why Susan feels that municipal wholesale approaches are important to ensuring we have better Internet access.

It was a real treat to have Susan back on the show and to just have a discussion about many of the issues that don't always come up in more formal presentations or media interviews. We hope you enjoy it! Susan was previously on episode 125 and episode 29.

Read the transcript for the show here.

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

This show is 21 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or via the tool of your choice using this feed.

You can download this mp3 file directly from here. Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Thanks to Break the Bans for the music. The song is ... Read more

Posted February 10, 2017 by lgonzalez

Depending on where you live, there may be more opportunities these days to participate in marches, demonstrations, or community political meetings. Regardless of whether your beliefs lean red or blue, you may be like many other Americans and wonder what the future holds for federal telecommunications policy. Saul Tannenbaum from Cambridge recently wrote a piece that stressed the importance of local decision making authority and how municipal networks can rise above reversals anticipated by the new administration’s FCC.

Tannenbaum looks at four policies that are likely to be or have been adjusted from current practice to a new approach under the Trump administration:

 

  • Digital Inclusion
  • Network Neutrality
  • Corporate Consolidation
  • Privacy

Cambridge has considered developing in its own municipal network for a while and Tannenbaum connects the dots between the investment and local control over these issues. While he describes the situation in his own community, it can apply to many other places on the map; he reminds us that decisions about connectivity can and should be local.

While telecommunication policy is thought of as national, in reality, it’s a matter of whose cables and services reach which home. That decision can be a very local one. A free, fair, open, and affordable Internet for Cambridge is within grasp. All Cambridge needs to do is build one.

By building its own network, Cambridge can ensure that its infrastructure reflects its values and the needs of its residents, not the values and needs of Comcast and Verizon.

Check out the full article, Municipal Broadband Is Municipal Resistance, on Medium.

Posted January 4, 2017 by KateSvitavsky

Internet access for low-income households is becoming more affordable, thanks to an FCC modernization order that brings the Lifeline program into the 21st Century. 

Next Century Cities recently offered a webinar for people who want to learn more about changes to the Lifeline program; our own Christopher Mitchell moderated the event. Jaymie Gustafson, Director of Stakeholder Engagement for the Lifeline, and attorney Olivia Wein from the National Consumer Law Center shared their knowledge about the order, discussed how local governments can utilize the program in public housing, and suggested ways local governments can help make the program a success.

The program, which initially provided a $9.25 subsidy to eliminate or lower the cost of telephone services to low-income households, now allows recipients to use the funds to purchase broadband services. Gustafson noted one of the driving factors behind the modernization order:

“We know it’s so important in terms of helping children do their homework, in terms of people being able to search for and keep their jobs, in terms of accessing services, just in terms of interacting with society around you. Right now, broadband is not a luxury. It’s a necessity.”

About The Program

The Universal Services Administrative Company (USAC) governs the Lifeline program, which originated in 1985 and receives funding from the Universal Services Fund. The fund, established in 1935, supports other programs that invest in telecommunications infrastructure in addition to low-income access. Instead of receiving a voucher to purchase services from a carrier or an Internet Service Provider (ISP), the provider receives the subsidy directly from USAC; after the discount is applied to Lifeline participants' bill, the participant pays the remainder to the provider.

logo-USAC.png

Participants are eligible for the Lifeline program if they earn less than 135 percent of the federal poverty line, receive SNAP benefits,... Read more

Posted September 14, 2016 by lgonzalez

In order to allow local governments to help communities get the connectivity they need to compete, Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (Dem.-CA) introduced the Community Broadband Act of 2016 on September 13. The bill is designed to preserve local authority for municipalities, tribal, and local governments that wish to serve community anchor institutions, businesses, and residents with advanced telecommunications capability.

From Rep. Eshoo’s official statement:

“I’m disappointed that a recent court ruling blocked the FCC’s efforts to allow local communities to decide for themselves how best to ensure that their residents have broadband access. This legislation clears the way for local communities to make their own decisions instead of powerful special interests in state capitals.”

“Rather than restricting local communities in need of broadband, we should be empowering them to make the decisions they determine are in the best interests of their constituents. Too many Americans still lack access to quality, affordable broadband and community broadband projects are an important way to bring this critical service to more citizens.”

Rep. Eshoo introduced “dig once” legislation last fall and has long advocated for federal legislation to support Internet network deployment and increase universal access. This legislation would pair with Senator Cory Booker's 2015 Community Broadband Act.

When Christopher spoke with Sam Gustin for Motherboard about the bill, he said:

[He’s]“excited to see Rep. Eshoo's bill that would restore local authority to communities. Local governments need to be empowered to decide how to improve internet access rather than leaving their businesses and residents at the mercy of a few big monopolies.”

The Coalition for Local Internet Choice also responded positively:

CLIC applauds Congresswoman Eshoo for her efforts to protect local Internet choice and the options of all local communities to deploy critical broadband infrastructure.

Introducing a bill at the federal level, however,... Read more

Posted August 2, 2016 by christopher

We originally planned this episode of the Community Broadband Bits podcast to answer the question of "What is the Internet?" But as we started talking to our guest, Principal of Interisle Consulting Group Fred Goldstein, we quickly realized we first had to dig into a little bit of history.

This is not the story of how the Department of Defense and university researchers created the ArpaNet. We are focused on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and telephone companies and how the FCC's Computer Inquiries allowed the Internet to thrive.

Fred lived it and offers a passionate retelling of key events, motivations, and more. This conversation is setting the stage for a future show - later this month - focused on answering the original question: "Just what, exactly, is the Internet?" And we'll also talk about network neutrality and other hot topics in answering it. But for now, we hope you enjoy this show. We went a bit long and it is a bit technical in places, but we think the history is important and a reminder of how good government policy can lead to great outcomes.

Read the transcript of this episode here.

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

This show is 35 minutes long and can be played below on this page or via iTunes or via the tool of your choice using this feed.

You can download this mp3 file directly from here. Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Thanks to Roller Genoa for the music, licensed using Creative Commons. The song is "Safe and Warm in Hunter's Arms."

Posted April 6, 2016 by christopher

If you are paying close attention to discussions about broadband policy, you may have come across Fred Pilot's reminders that competition is not a cure-all for our Internet access woes across the United States. The blogger and author joins us for episode 196 of Community Broadband Bits.

Fred Pilot's new book, Service Unavailable: America's Telecommunications Infrastructure Crisis, discusses some of the history behind our current challenges and proposes a solution centered around federal funding and cooperatives.

We discuss the switch from telecommunications as a regulated utility, to which everyone was guaranteed access, to a system relying on competition, in which some people have many choices but others have no options. We also discuss the merits of a national solution vs encouraging more local approaches with federal financial assistance.

Fred's blog is Eldo Telecom and you can follow him on Twitter.

Read the transcript from this show here.

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

This show is 30 minutes long and can be played below on this page or via iTunes or via the tool of your choice using this feed.

You can download this Mp3 file directly from here. Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Thanks to Kathleen Martin for the music, licensed using Creative Commons. The song is "Player vs. Player."

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