In it, we learn that some of these remote learning programs are closed to people using dial-up. I wonder how many years it will be until those with basic DSL are similarly shut off due to their hobbled capacity.
A common misconception is that local governments award exclusive (or monopolistic) franchises to cable companies and that is why the US has so little cable competition. However, no local government has done this since the 1996 Telecommunications Act 1992 Cable Act made the practice illegal.
Federal laws and Federal Communications Commission decisions also have sharply curtailed the city's negotiating ability.
Even if other companies were seeking permission to provide cable to local customers, said William Aaron, a legal adviser to the council on telecommunications issues, council members could not arbitrarily refuse to renew the Cox franchise. The council could do that only on the basis of certain limited criteria, such as that the company has not lived up to the terms of the 1995 agreement.
Cox has had a nonexclusive franchise to operate in Orleans Parish since 1981, meaning that other companies also can apply to provide cable services, though none has done so. The franchise was renewed in 1995.
For years, state and federal policies have limited local authority to require just compensation for access to the valuable right-of-way because the cable and telephone companies pretended that they would invest more and create competition if local authority were preempted.
Local authority has been significantly preempted in many communities without any real increase in competition or lowering of prices. No surprise there - another victory for companies better at lobbying than providing essential services.
iProvo was a muni fiber network that was hobbled by the Comcast and Qwest-controlled Utah Legislature. After years of struggling in the face of unique barriers only aimed at publicly owned networks, the local government decided to privatize the network. Unfortunately, the private partner has not succeeded either, leaving Provo with a difficult decision ahead.
Jesse explains some of the history in this short presentation and then takes some excellent questions from the audience. Those of us familiar with different types of broadband technology may skip ahead to the part specifically about iProvo.
Thanks to the Fibre Evolution Blog for alerting us to a slick, short video that explains why FTTH is superior to alternatives when it comes to accessing the Internet. The video was produced the FTTH Council of Europe and is meant for a very general audience. Enjoy.
Another video from the Building Community Capacity through Broadband project (hosted by the University of Wisconsin Extension service) takes a look at how local governments use broadband and the importance of high capacity, reliable connections that they can actually afford.
Rachel Maddow reminds us that many areas of America still do not have broadband in her coverage of the broadband stimulus funds prior to an interview with USDA Secretary Vilsack on October 5 (transcript).
While introducing Secretary Vilsack, Rachel had a terrific explanation of why public investments into broadband are essential:
The idea here behind spreading broadband to America`s rural areas is the same one behind the rural electrification program from the 1930s. The idea that even if it`s not profitable for private industry to extend the basics of modern economic life, electric light then and the Internet now, even if it`s never going to be profitable to some private company to extend those things to every last home down every long dirt road in America, it is worth it to America, worth it to us, that everybody has access to those things. That we`re all plugged in.
It is the right kind of jobs investment for the country to put people to work laying those lines and connecting those Americans to the grid and it is the right things to do for the rural parts of the country so that people and businesses in every part of the country can compete economically.
Extremely glad to see Rachel devoting time to this important issue.
Eau Claire and Chippewa Falls worked together to build a high-capacity broadband network connecting community anchor institutions, including schools, clinics, traffic lights, and more. Called the CINC for Chippewa Valley Inter-Networking Consortium, they now have higher capacity connections, more control over their future telecom needs and budgets, and can run applications that make their operations more efficient (lessening the pressure on the tax base).
The lawsuit against the project has a hearing on November 11th where the Judge may decide to dismiss the case. If the case proceeds, the bench trial will be in early January. We frequently see lawsuits like these from big carriers that do not expect to win the case but rather are just harassing any potential competition to raise the cost of challenging the incumbent. So even though BCCB will almost certainly win the case, the telco goal is mostly to threaten any community that follows the good example of these communities.
Chattanooga's publicly owned EPBFi advanced broadband network has produced a series of testimonials from people that have switched to their services from the national incumbent providers. We recently wrote about the importance of documenting these stories and wanted to again highlight some of the videos they have produced and released.
Time and time again, we hear that the community fiber network delivers faster speeds, lower prices, higher reliability, and much, much better customer service.
Chattanooga, with the nation's fastest citywide broadband network, offers lessons to many other communities who have built or are building their own networks. Chattanooga is regarded as one of the most successful muni networks in terms of a smooth operation with good advertising and a great back office approach.
They are documenting (with video) the stories of both residents and businesses that have switched to their services from incumbents like AT&T and Comcast (two of the most powerful companies in the US). Below, we include two of our favorites in the series.
This should be an extremely effective form of advertising for community networks -- harnessing the enthusiasm and local attributes of the network. Making these videos available on sharing sites like Vimeo or YouTube allows supporters to embed them in their blogs and share with friends and family.
Quite frankly, these testimonials are not hard to do (hire a local videographer that has experience with lighting and recording good sound) and should be one of the first approaches used by community networks to spread the word. If local thought leaders and small business owners can participate, so much the better.
The good folks at Public Knowledge have released a report (with a fun video, embedded below) appropriately titled, "4G + Data Caps = Magic Beans." These are the fraudulent version of magic beans - don't expect any beanstalks to data clouds.
The 4G offered by major wireless carriers (with the notable exception of Sprint) is a waste of money because it comes with strict data caps. These data caps actively discourage the types of activities that 4G enables. Activities that are made possible by 4G, such as watching movies or uploading video to the internet, are made impossible by the data caps. As a result most users will avoid taking advantage of these new services out of fear of incurring large overage fees. That makes capped 4G little more than a bait and switch, like being sold a handful of magic beans.
I have been disturbed by statements from a number of policymakers and elected officials suggesting they believe the future of connectivity in rural America is wireless, specifically 4G because it is better than the horrible DSL that is mostly the only "broadband" connection available in much of rural America.
President Obama has suggested that investing in 4G wireless will spur economic development in northern Michigan. Not hardly. What are small businesses going to use the last 29 days of the month after they exceed their data caps?
People in Wired West have told me that those in charge of broadband in Massachusetts have at times been dismissive of their project to bring affordable, fast, and reliable broadband to everyone in their towns because the state would prefer to pretend that cheaper wireless solutions will accomplish the same goal.
4G wireless is not the solution to connecting rural America. It could be an interim solution while we build real broadband out to those areas, but it is insufficient as a solution in and of itself due to the many very real limitations of the technology and the business model of those controlling the spectrum necessary to access to it.