Tag: "referendum"

Posted April 6, 2021 by Jericho Casper

Snapshot

This week’s community broadband state legislative roundup revisits and provides updates on important bills moving through the state legislatures in Washington, Oklahoma, and California.  

The State Scene 

Washington 

We’ve been closely covering S.B. 5383 and H.B. 1336, two bills in Washington state that would give Public Utilities Districts (PUDs) and port districts the authority to offer retail telecommunications services.

Our initial coverage pointed out shortcomings in S.B. 5383. The bill originally contained a preemption clause that gave private Internet Service Providers (ISPs) the power to reject PUDs’ and ports’ project proposals in areas where incumbent ISPs claim they plan to expand service within six months. 

Since our last reporting on this piece of legislation, the bill was amended by the State House Community and Economic Development Committee, removing the veto authority initially given to existing ISPs. However, a new provision favoring incumbent cable ISPs was also added, which would prohibit a PUD or port from providing retail Internet services in an area where an existing provider offers service at a minimum of 100 Megabits per second (Mbps) download speed and 20 Mbps upload speed. The minimum speed requirements of this provision would be increased to stay consistent with Washington’s state definition of broadband.

The Committee also amended the bill to allow PUDs and ports to provide retail services in served areas, but only when building to reach an unserved region. 

H.B. 1336, which aims to allow PUDs, ports, cities, towns, and counties to provide Internet access services on a retail basis, was amended by Washington’s Senate Environment, Energy and Technology Committee on March 25 to increase the requirements that must be met by counties, cities, and towns before they...

Read more
Posted November 5, 2020 by Sean Gonsalves

As voters went to the polls to cast ballots in the 2020 Presidential election, in two major metropolitan areas residents overwhelmingly approved ballot questions to move forward on exploring how to expand broadband access in their respective cities.

In Chicago, nearly 90% of those who cast ballots said “yes” to a non-binding referendum question that asked: “Should the city of Chicago act to ensure that all the city's community areas have access to broadband Internet?" With 2,034 of 2,069 precincts counted, 772,235 voters out of 862,140 cast their ballots in favor of that question.

That vote came on the heels of the roll out of “Chicago Connected,” a new initiative to bring high-speed Internet service to 100,000 households that do not have reliable access within the nation’s third-largest school district.

Meanwhile, in Denver 219,435 voters, or 83.5% of the city’s electorate, cast ballots in favor of question 2H, which allows the city to opt out of the state’s 2005 state law referred to as SB 152. That law prevents municipalities from building or partnering for broadband networks. Approval of the ballot initiative also grants the city “the authority but not [the] obligation to provide high-speed Internet access." Two other Colorado communities – Berthoud and Englewood – also voted in favor of similar ballot questions, asking voters if they want to opt out of SB 152. In Berthoud, 77.3% of voters cast ballots in support of the question. In Englewood, the opt-out question passed with 79.4% of voters in favor, which will allow the city to provide Wi-Fi service in city facilities.

In the 15 years since SB 152 was passed 140 Colorado communities have opted out with resultant networks like Longmont’s...

Read more
Posted November 2, 2020 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

Building a successful community broadband network, we’ve often pointed out, relies on successful organizing and marketing campaigns as much as it does on putting fiber in the ground. Those networks that do it well succeed, and those that fail to take it into consideration can languish or stall out. 

Successful marketing and organizing can build political will for a project, turn enthusiastic adopters into neighborhood champions who help increase take rates, help counter disinformation campaigns and predatory pricing by incumbent Internet Service Providers (ISPs), and show the ways that community owned networks have gone above and beyond over the years to invest not just in the most profitable neighborhoods around but ensure that those along every street and across every block have affordable, reliable, fast Internet access. 

The New Hampshire Electric Cooperative recently saw firsthand how a smart, engaged, energetic subset of its membership can make Internet access a priority. Fairlawn, Ohio’s municipal network has also been highlighting the value it’s bringing to users in the midst of the ongoing pandemic.

And with votes regarding municipal broadband networks coming up in Kaysville, Utah, Denver, Berthoud, and Engelwood, Colorado, Chicago, Illinois, and Lucas, Texas, taking this into consideration is as important as it’s every been.

See some clever and colorful below examples below, and read our past coverage to see how different community networks have taken on the task of branding, marketing, and organizing for success.

Some images courtesy of Internet Freedom for McHenry County

...

Read more
Posted October 29, 2020 by Sean Gonsalves

In the fall of 2019, when the Kaysville City Council was poised to move forward on a $26 million, 30-year bond to build a municipal-owned fiber optic network, the COVID-19 pandemic had not yet turned life upside down.

Although city officials and advisors had spent 18 months thoroughly exploring options in a planning process City Councilwoman Michelle Barber called “one of the most vetted and open projects that we’ve worked on,” a group known as the Coalition for Responsible Kaysville Fiber created enough pushback to convince the City Council to shelve the plan and defer to a citizen-led ballot initiative.

On Tuesday, Nov. 3, Kaysville voters, in this city of approximately 32,000, will not only cast their ballots in the Presidential election, they will also be asked if they want the city to move forward with Kaysville Fiber. If the ballot initiative passes, it will allow the city to deploy a Fiber-To-The-Home (FTTH) network. 

Currently, Comcast and CenturyLink are the Internet Service Providers (ISP) for most of Kaysville with some areas near the city relying on satellite Internet access. As has been the case in hundreds of communities across the nation that have built out fiber networks, Kaysville city leaders are looking to build a “last mile” fiber network to lower prices and improve services by creating an environment for increased competition.

Proponents are hoping the new “normal” in the face of the on-going pandemic — with the massive rise in virtual classrooms, remote work from home, telemedicine, and online commerce — will help voters see Kaysville Fiber as necessary infrastructure. 

“I personally had residents who previously were either unsure of the project or were opposed, which is fine, now they said, ‘Oh I see what you guys were getting at. This is essential,’” City Councilwoman Barber told the Salt Lake Tribune earlier this month. “It’s not fair that some of us can function in the city and some of us can’t. COVID-19 has been a really poignant case study.”...

Read more
Posted July 15, 2020 by Christopher Mitchell

Iowa is home to many community networks, from co-ops to muni cable, fiber, and other technologies. Three communities in the state have just recently made important announcements about their plans, and several others are moving forward with networks. There is so much happening in Iowa right now that shows potential for other states that don't limit competition.

There is a long history of local broadband excellence in Iowa for new networks to draw on. Cedar Falls Utilities was just recognized as the fastest ISP in the nation by PCMag. It has well over 20 years of success, but recent years have seen it sharing its expertise and facilities to lower the cost for other communities to build networks without reinventing the wheel. Local private Internet service provider ImOn is also a partner for these networks, offering voice services.

Many of these networks being built will be able to share services and lower their costs by being on the same ring to get some scale benefits despite being smaller communities. I remember many years ago when Eric Lampland of Lookout Point started pushing for this ring, and I am dumbfounded why we don't see more of this cooperation among munis and small providers in other states. Thanks to Eric and Curtis Dean of SmartSource Consulting who helped me with background for this Iowa update.

We have a brief mention of West Des Moines's recently announced partnership with Google Fiber in here, but we're finishing a longer post that solely examines their approach. Between this, that, and our Coon Rapids podcast this week, it is officially Iowa week on MuniNetworks.org!

Vinton

Vinton's new municipal fiber network has just started connecting subscribers, leading to a memorable testimonial in the local paper, Vinton Today:

As a gal that uses the Internet every day, and as someone who had the chance to briefly use...

Read more
Posted November 6, 2019 by Lisa Gonzalez

Iowa already has more municipal broadband utilities than many other states and the voters in Fort Dodge decided on November 5th, that that it's time for one more. "Yes" votes came in at around 72 percent of the total while 28 percent of those casting ballots decided against a measure to grant authority for a municipal telecommunications network.

A Copper Island in a Sea of Fiber

In June, consultants described the way Fort Dodge had become "an island of copper in a sea of fiber to the home." Local rural cooperatives around the city of around 24,000 have been investing in Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) while incumbents Mediacom and Frontier still rely on old infrastructure to serve the more densely populated city areas. Curtis Dean from SmartSource Consulting noted that people in the rural areas served by the co-ops likely have access to better connectivity than those living within Fort Dodge. The city had hired SmartSource to evaluate the broadband situation in Fort Dodge and make recommendations.

The results of a survey and assessment of connectivity in the community encouraged community leaders to ask voters for the authority to look further into a possible municipal telecommunications utility.

At an October forum, Mediacom representatives argued their case against a "yes" vote on the proposal. Those that attended, offered negative comments to Mediacom about the service they've received from the company. Frontier Communications, another major Internet service provider in Fort Dodge, didn't bother to send a representative to the forum.

In an interview in late October, Fort Dodge Mayor, City Manager, Assistant Director of Parks, and Curtis Dean, spoke with The Messenger and provided more detail about the proposal and what people in the community could expect if the measure passed. They...

Read more
Posted October 16, 2019 by Lisa Gonzalez

Even though there are more than 140 municipalities and counties that have voted to reclaim local telecommunications authority from the state, the City and County of Denver, Colorado, has put off such a referendum. 2020, however, may be the year that the metropolitan region votes to shed themselves of the harmful restrictions of SB 152.

Councilman Paul Kashmann announced earlier this month that he supports the city taking the question to the voters, like so many other local leaders have already done in Colorado. He suggests putting it on the 2020 ballot. At a policy committee on October 9th, Kashmann told his colleagues:

“Make no mistake that the Internet is much more than Netflix and Facebook and Twitter and Minecraft and the like,” Kashmann said. “The Internet is truly … the library of the 21st century. It’s the entry point into the world of information in the same way as our traditional brick-and-mortar libraries have been for centuries.”

logo-denver-public-library.png Comcast and Centurylink provide Internet access to the community of around 620,000 people. Even though the large corporate providers tend to concentrate their investments in urban areas like Denver, the issue of affordability still keeps many urban dwellers on the wrong side of the digital divide. 

The Denver Public Library lends out between 115 - 120 mobile hotspots and the wait list can extend as long as 200 names at a time. Libraries from which the hotspots are most often borrowed tend to be in areas where fewer people have home Internet access. The library estimates that approximately 20 percent of the city’s residents aren’t connecting at home.

Kashmann stated that he’s anticipating pushback from incumbent Internet access providers. He looks on the measure as in the same light as any other necessary utility:

“Try to imagine if you needed a drink of water and you had to go...

Read more
Posted January 9, 2019 by Lisa Gonzalez

A total of 40 counties and 102 municipalities have now chosen local telecommunications authority by passing ballot measures to opt out of restrictive state law. Last November, 18 counties, cities, and towns voted to join the expanding list of communities opting out of SB 152, which revoked local telecommunications authority in 2005. We decided to update our map to get a new visualization of what the situation now looks like in Colorado. 

Take a gander:

map-2018-fall-SB152-small.png

Moving Across the State

The map, updated by Intern and Mapping Maven Hannah Bonestroo from an earlier version created by former Research Associate and Visualization Virtuoso Hannah Trostle, shows how the decision to opt out is sweeping from region to region. Earlier referendums centered in the Mountain and into the Western Slope and San Luis Valley communities. During this past election cycle, most of the counties bringing the issue before voters were in the Plains region.

In past years, mountain towns, often resort communities, were looking for better connectivity when big ISPs considered deployment too challenging and expensive in their geographies. Now, it appears that the rural and less populated Plains communities are seeing value in reclaiming local authority.

With fewer population centers in the Plains region, farms and ranges fill much of this section of the state. Large, corporate ISPs don’t consider this type of landscape profitable due to the lack of population density, however, farmers and rangers require high-speed Internet access for various reasons. Crop and livestock monitoring and realtime reporting are only a few of the ways 21st century agricultural professionals use broadband.

Colorado’s Free Communities

In Colorado, there are 271 active incorporated municipalities, 187 unincorporated Census Designated Places (CDPs) and other small population centers that are outside of CDPs or municipalities. To date, the 102 municipalities that have elected to opt out of SB 152 have all been incorporated municipalities, or approximately 38 percent.

The 40 counties where voters have chosen to opt out make up 62.5 percent...

Read more
Posted September 6, 2018 by Lisa Gonzalez

Three more Colorado communities’ fall ballots will ask voters to choose whether or not they want to reclaim local telecommunications authority. Erie, Fountain, and Salida will all ask voters this fall to opt out of the state’s SB 152, a law that more than 120 communities have already chosen to shed.

Early Decision in Salida

In Salida, a referendum petition on an unrelated issue triggered an early referendum and, rather than hold a second vote at additional expense, city leaders decided to put all pending matters on the September 25th ballot. Voters have a total of six issues to decide, including the decision on SB 152.

The special election will be decided via mail, with ballots going out as early as September 4th.

As the county seat, Salida has the highest population in Chaffee County with around 5,500 people. The Arkansas River runs through town, which is 2.2 square miles. The Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area is located in Salida, attracting fisherfolk, kayakers, and whitewater rafters. The nearby Monarch Ski Area and the Hot Springs Aquatic Center also see tourists. 

Salida hasn’t publicized any specific plans to deploy a publicly owned fiber network, but like many other Colorado communities that voted to opt out of SB 152, they want to keep their options open. Before they’re able to enter into a partnership with a private sector provider, Salida needs to free themselves from the confines of SB 152.

Fountain Feasible

Fountain, with almost 26,000 residents, has already hired a consultant to study the options to bring better connectivity to local businesses, residents, and institutions. City leaders have decided that they want to establish a broadband plan and opting out of SB 152 will open up possibilities.

The city, which began as a railroad shipping center for local ranches and farms, is about 10 miles south of Colorado Springs. The community has continued to grow over time and, in order to keep up with other places in Colorado and provide the economic...

Read more
Posted August 14, 2018 by Lisa Gonzalez

Local fall referendums are still a few months away, but at least four additional Colorado communities have decided to put local broadband authority on the ballot. In addition to AuroraCañon City, and Florence, Fremont County will ask voters to opt out of SB 152.

In 2005, Colorado's state legislature passed the bill, removing local communities' authority to take steps to use publicly owned infrastructure to offer telecommunications services either directly or with a private sector partner. The law, however, allows communities to hold a referendum so voters can choose to "opt out" as a way to reclaim that authority. Over the past several years, cities, towns, and counties by the dozen have overwhelmingly passed measures to opt out. Some have a specific plan in place to develop networks, while others want to preserve the option. Each fall and spring, more communities put the issue on the ballot.

Florence

We spoke with City Clerk Dena Lozano in the small town of Florence who confirmed that voters there will be deciding the issue in November. With less than 3,900 people in Florence, almost 40 percent of residents work in either education or public administration. The town began as a transportation center at the base of the Rocky Mountains; three railroads that transported coal converged there. Later, the town became known as the first oil center west of the Mississippi.

Today, the town has a downtown antique market and has worked on nurturing its culinary dictrict. They've also established an Urban Renewal Authority to help keep their town center on a positive track. Within their 2017 Master Plan, Florence leaders tackle their wish to allow the art and business communities to grow while still maintaining the small town charm that keeps many residents in Florence.

Cañon City

logo-canon-city.jpg In August, the rural community’s city council voted to present the option to...

Read more

Pages

Subscribe to referendum