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If your community considers building its own broadband network, don't be surprised to see ads like these two from the recent Longmont referendum in Colorado.
When Chattanooga was starting to build its network, Comcast bought 2600 ads, similar in substance to these, to scare people into opposing the project. Fortunately, the tactic backfired due to the Chattanooga utility's excellent reputation in the community.
Here are two of the videos that ran in Longmont as part of the $300,000 campaign of lies run by incumbent groups (leading to this hilarious response after the election).
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Scott Olivier is one of several people originally from Lafayette to return to Lafayette to take advantage of the their incredible community fiber network. He has done a series of short testimonials about LUS Fifber (embedded below).
We have covered similar testimonial from other community broadband networks and I think they are an easy way any community can begin marketing itself. Network supporters must also help out though - embedding the videos, spreading them with social media, and otherwise making sure the videos get distributed.
Below those testimonials is one of LUS Fiber's radio ads. It took me a little bit to understand exactly what they were getting at with the commercial - I think it could use a little more work. Remember, having the best network is not enough, you have to find ways of breaking through to citizens and motivating them to take the time to switch providers -- which is always a hassle.
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The Building Community Capacity through Broadband project from the Extension Service of the University of Wisconsin has released a new video about remote education opportunities that require broadband. We covered their previous video here.
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.
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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.
But even before the
'96 Telecom Act '92 Cable Act, local governments tended to award non-exclusive contracts to cable companies because they wanted more competition, not less -- as illustrated in this article about Cox preparing to renew its franchise agreement with New Orleans.
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.
Jesse Harris, of the excellent Free UTOPIA blog, gave a presentation explaining broadband network concepts and definitions without technical jargon. He also offered a history and recent events update about iProvo in a special meeting. If you want to learn more about the group sponsoring the event, this is apparently the best place to check in.
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.
Well done, Jesse.
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.
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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.
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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 Building Community Capacity through Broadband, a stimulus funded project, has put together a video describing what they did and how they did it. Learn more about these BCCB projects here.
As you watch the video, remember that AT&T and its industry allies want to make projects like this illegal. They want to force the schools, libraries, etc. to pay much more for slower, less reliable networks. While the WiscNet attack in June failed, telcos are still trying to create a monopoly for themselves providing these services.
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.