Tag: "states"

Posted September 15, 2021 by Jericho Casper

In years past, states have implemented preemptive laws that make it more difficult or impossible for communities to build their own Internet networks. 

These state barriers were often enacted at the behest of large telecom monopolies to limit competition, and include everything from outright bans on municipal broadband networks to oppressive restrictions and requirements which create legal uncertainty for communities attempting to offer telecommunications and Internet services, including via partnerships.

When the Covid-19 pandemic hit the United States in March 2020, there were 19 states maintaining significant restrictions on municipal networks. Today, the number of states upholding these barriers has been reduced to 17. The pandemic served as a turning point in the fight for local authority, and in the past year, Arkansas and Washington adopted legislation significantly rolling back legislative barriers on publicly owned broadband networks. 

In February of 2021, both chambers of the Republican-dominated Arkansas State Legislature voted unanimously to send Senate Bill 74 to State Governor Asa Hutchinson, who signed the bill into law. The legislation grants government entities the authority to provide broadband services and expands the financing options available to municipalities to fund municipal broadband projects.

In May of 2021, Washington State Governor Jay Inslee signed two bills expanding municipal authority to provide retail Internet services to end-users, House Bill 1336 and Senate Bill 5383. Both bills reduce barriers to municipal networks, but House Bill 1336, which completely removes all previously-held restrictions on public broadband in the state of Washington, is expected to take legal precedence.

The recent progress made by Arkansas and Washington is extremely timely as more federal, state, and local funding is...

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Posted September 13, 2021 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

The Connect This! show has officially returned, kicking off an unofficial Season 2 with better production value, worse jokes, and the same lively conversation and hot takes we've all become accustomed to. 

On the latest episode, co-hosts Christopher and Travis Carter (USI Fiber) are joined by Doug Dawson (CCG Consulting) and Kim McKinley (UTOPIA Fiber) to catch up after a frenzied summer. With all of the federal, state, and local broadband infrastructure funding programs and projects announced over the last three months, the panel breaks down what they've been seeing across the country. 

During the course of the conversation, they cover what's been going on with the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (including ISPs turning funds back in and LTD failing to get its ETC status), more supply chain constraints, how communities can plan for current and future funding, and incumbents continuing to lock up MDUs.

Subscribe to the show using this feed, or visit ConnectThisShow.com

Email us broadband@muninetworks.org with feedback, ideas for the show, or your pictures of weird wireless infrastructure to stump Travis.

Watch here, or below.

Posted September 8, 2021 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

On Episode 18 of the Connect This! Show, co-hosts Christopher and Travis Carter (USI Fiber) are joined by Doug Dawson (CCG Consulting) and Kim McKinley (UTOPIA Fiber) to catch up after a frenzied summer. With all of the federal, state, and local broadband infrastructure funding programs and projects announced over the last three months, the panel breaks down what they've been seeing across the country. 

Join us for the live show tomorrow, September 9th, at 6pm ET. 

Subscribe to the show using this feed, or visit ConnectThisShow.com

Email us broadband@muninetworks.org with feedback, ideas for the show, or your pictures of weird wireless infrastructure to stump Travis.

Watch here, or below.

Posted April 12, 2021 by Jericho Casper

Though voting was highly conflicted and debates lasted late into Sunday night, H.B. 1336, an act granting public entities unrestricted authority to provide telecommunications and Internet services to end-users, scraped through the Washington State Senate by a vote of 27-22 on April 11. 

If State Governor Jay Islee signs H.B. 1336, Washington will have removed its barriers to municipal networks, leaving just 17 states with deliberate barriers to local Internet choice. “We’re fired up around here,” said the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Drew Hansen, D-23, in an interview. “What a huge deal this is. It undoes 20 years of bad state policies which restricted local governments from offering broadband.”

Washington’s charter counties, first-class cities, and cities operating under Washington’s Optional Municipal Code already have the power to construct telecommunications networks and offer Internet access services to their residents without third-party business overseeing network management operations.

Hansen’s bill would give this authority to the public entities currently restricted by statute from offering retail services. This includes Public Utility Districts (PUDs) and district ports, as well as, towns, second-class cities (defined as those with populations of 1500 or more which have not adopted a city charter) and counties currently not operating under Washington’s Optional Municipal Code. 

Hansen said this about the development:

BREAKING: Wash. Senate just passed my Public Broadband Act (HB1336). Thanks to the parents, teachers, students, public utility districts, tribes, activists, 1000+ people signing in support (!) and more. WE did this; amazing team effort. Public Broadband Now!!!

Washington broadband activists are rallying behind H.B. 1336, as the bill is sure to introduce innovative, community-based Internet access solutions across a state whose rural inhabitants largely have one cable provider...

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Posted March 17, 2021 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

The Building a New Digital Economy (BAND-NC) program in North Carolina will give out 30 more microgrants this spring and summer to community anchor institutions, nonprofits, and local governments so that the latter can develop digital inclusion plans. The program is part of the state's goal to ensure that "North Carolina the first state in the nation where every county has a digital inclusion plan in place."

Posted March 5, 2021 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

This episode, co-hosts Christopher and Travis Carter (CEO, US Internet) are joined by Deb Socia (President/CEO, The Enterprise Center), and Brian Worthen (President, Visionary Communications and CEO, Mammoth Networks) to talk about overbuilding. 

The group talks about the importance of reclaiming the term as what it really is: plain old competition. They discuss the economics of building competitive broadband infrastructure in rural and urban areas, pending and related Washington Public Utility District legislation, and why we don't see more small, competitive fiber builders around the country.

We also get the first installment of a recurring segment during the episode, wherein Christopher asks Travis to identify a picture of random piece of wireless infrastructure from the area around his house.

Referenced during the discussion was Benton Institute for Broadband and Society Senior Fellow John Sallet's recent paper "Broadband for America’s Future: A Vision for the 2020s."

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Email us with feedback and ideas at broadband@muninetworks.org

Posted July 24, 2020 by Katie Kienbaum

As the Covid-19 pandemic continues and the federal response sputters, it’s clear that the responsibility of getting our local economies back on track now lies largely with cities and states.

To help state and local governments responding to the coronavirus, the American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC) released a set of policy recommendations, “From Crisis to Opportunity: Recommendations for State & Local Governments,” in late May. ASBC’s policy suggestions touch on various issues, including Internet access. The guide directs government officials to promote cooperative and municipal networks and remove barriers to community broadband in order to expand Internet access.

ASBC describes the thinking behind the recommendations:

As socially responsible businesses and thought leaders, we have long advocated for a triple bottom line of people, planet, and profit. None of these values are mutually exclusive. Together, through local investment, equity and accountability we can rebuild our post-COVID economy stronger, more sustainable, and enduringly just.

How Cities and States Can Rebuild Sustainable Economies

ASBC represents more than 250,000 businesses and advocates for a vibrant, sustainable economy. Read more about the group and its principles on its website.

The recommendations are focused on actions that state and local governments can take because they are on the frontlines of the pandemic’s effect on local economies. “Even with the passage of three federal stimulus bills (with more promised), these leaders will remain in the driver’s seat, and they now need bold ideas,” ASBC explains.

However, ASBC also sees the ongoing crisis as a chance to fix existing issues, saying:

We believe that this moment provides state and local governments an opportunity not only to continue leading the way through this crisis but also in solving the structural problems the federal government has too long neglected . . . Most of our suggested policies effectively provide not only economic stimulus but lasting social, environmental, and public benefit.

Accordingly, while the pandemic has exposed our country’s many digital divides, it did not create them...

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Posted July 21, 2020 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

The Institute for Local Self-Reliance, of which the Community Broadband Networks initiative is a part, recently released a report, guide, and toolkit all in one. Fighting Monopoly Power: How States and Cities Can Beat Back Corporate Control and Build Thriving Communities brings together the work of all the Institute's initiatives, which advocate for more local control and less consolidation of corporate power.

Here’s the driving impulse:

Concentration has reached extreme levels. Most industries are dominated by a handful of corporations. As we detail in this report, concentrated economic power has reconfigured multiple sectors in ways that have both weakened the broader U.S. economy, by stifling investment and innovation, and harmed working people and communities. This centralization of power in private hands is threatening Americans’ fundamental right to liberty and equality.

Too often policymakers try to alleviate symptoms. This guide calls for dealing with the root problem. Concentration didn’t happen by accident; it’s not the result of inevitable forces. As each section of this guide details, it’s a product of deliberate policy choices. While some of the changes needed are federal, especially antitrust and financial reform, states and cities have potent tools and, as we show, some are using them. During the last Gilded Age, local leaders were the first to take action against monopoly power. This is a guide to the policies that state and local policymakers should enact to rekindle that fight against corporate concentration.

The guide covers lots of ground, offering both analysis and policy solutions for the set of problems plaguing banking, electricity, food and farming, pharmacies, small businesses, state attorneys general, waste, and, of course, broadband. 

In fact, broadband constitutes one of the most crucial components of this larger picture. In July 2018 we showed that the impacts of monopoly telecom and cable providers for Americans across the country include high prices, slower speeds, unreliable connections, a refusal to invest in network upgrades, and a dearth of options in rural areas as huge ISPs sought profits in urban markets. Look for an update to this report later this year.

...

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Posted May 21, 2020 by Katie Kienbaum

As the novel coronavirus has spread across the United States, so too have efforts to bring Internet access to digitally disconnected households during a time of nationwide social distancing. Washington and Massachusetts are on different coasts, but both states are working with publicly owned broadband networks to deploy emergency Wi-Fi hotspots in underserved communities in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

In Washington, a state-led initiative is deploying hundreds of new Wi-Fi access points with the help of community networks, including Northwest Open Access Network (NoaNet), a statewide middle-mile network, and several Public Utility Districts (PUDs). And on the other side of the country, Massachusetts has enlisted the help of municipal network Whip City Fiber to establish Wi-Fi hotspots in communities with poor connectivity.

The drive-up public hotspots will allow residents of both states to complete online school assignments, apply for unemployment insurance, and connect with healthcare providers, among other essential tasks.

“We’ve all been in a position where we understand to connect to the world during this really challenging time, Wi-Fi is essential,” said Dr. Lisa Brown, Director of the Washington Department of Commerce, during a livestreamed launch of the state Wi-Fi initiative.

Washington Partners with PUDs for Wi-Fi

The initiative in Washington is being led by the Washington State Broadband Office and the Department of Commerce in partnership with NoaNet, regional PUDs, the Washington Independent Telecommunications Association, Washington Technology Solutions, Washington State University, and others. In addition to the existing Wi-Fi hotspots that schools and libraries have made accessible from their parking lots, the partners plan to set up more than 300 new access points in underserved areas, using state funding and philanthropic donations. A map of all public Wi-Fi locations is...

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Posted May 18, 2020 by Christopher Mitchell

BroadbandNow.com ⁠— a company that mostly focuses on crunching different data sets to provide information on where broadband is available ⁠— has released its second report on municipal broadband barriers.

Their first one had some basic factual failings, and we were concerned that it would mislead people. The new report has corrected some of those errors, but it makes new ones that again lead us to caution against making decisions based on claims within it.

To be clear, we believe ⁠— after careful consultation with others that have long worked in this space ⁠— that the proper number of states to be considered preempting municipal broadband is 19.

Errors and Mischaracterizations

Again, we want to reiterate that we value BroadbandNow's contribution to information about where broadband is available based on crunching different databases. That is something they seem to have done better than most that have tried. However, their efforts to analyze the law and reality around barriers to municipal networks have too many simple errors that we find frustrating.

The single most egregious error is removing Arkansas from the list of states with barriers. Arkansas has taken limited steps to lessen preemption, but it continues to have more restrictions on municipal broadband than many of the states listed as more significant in the report.

legislators

Arkansas has long prohibited local governments that do not operate municipal electricity systems from building their own networks. Cities with public power have more freedom to do so. Arkansas is now allowing cities without electric departments to apply for broadband grants (the goal was to bring more federal dollars to Arkansas), but these cities can only build a municipal network if they receive a grant. BroadbandNow has misinterpreted that to mean there are no barriers. It is not easy to get a federal grant and...

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