Tag: "open access"

Posted July 29, 2022 by Ry Marcattilio

A new report out from the Copia Institute highlights the failures of the current national broadband marketplace and the value of locally-driven connectivity solutions, while underscoring once again the potential for open access models to break entrenched monopoly power. Along the way, the report offers some useful ways of reframing our understanding of how we got to a place where Internet access is dominated by just a handful of companies across the United States.

Cities as Laboratories, and the Possibilities of Open Access

“Competition is Just a Click Away” covers a lot of ground. Its author - Karl Bode - is a veteran of the broadband policy space (including writing for ILSR recently), and has long helped shed light on the consequences in increasing monopoly power in the technology landscape.

In the report, he begins by laying out the problems borne from a lack of competition, including: the consequences of regulatory capture of the FCC by huge, for-profit companies, past and continued problems with mapping, and the resulting slower speeds, lack of investment, astonishing extraction of wealth, and worrying lobbying power enjoyed by monopoly providers, all fueled by increasingly high prices and the efficient extraction of wealth from communities to further concentrate market reach and lobbying power. 

An important early point made in the report is that, in the face of these realities, over the last fifteen years local cities have become “telecom laboratories where financial and technical innovation flourish, providing blueprints federal policy makers struggling to boost affordable broadband availability would be foolish to ignore.” Chattanooga and a handful of other city-owned and operated networks illustrate the power of communities to retake control of essential infrastructure.

The community broadband movement is an organic market response to market failure and the extractive power of unchecked monopolization.

Among the many results, the report points out, is that subscribers in the United States pay higher prices for slower service than many other places. But it doesn’t have to be that way, Bode reminds us.

Open access networks offer a concrete path to separating Internet infrastructure from service provisioning, and allow even conservatively minded cities to use...

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Posted June 7, 2022 by Ry Marcattilio

It’s been nine months since we launched our Big List of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Community Broadband Projects, tracking what communities are doing with the various pots of federal money intended to go towards solving local broadband challenges. Since then, we’ve recorded 250 community projects and 27 states which have announced significant broadband grant programs or disbursement for new infrastructure projects. Here we highlight some of the community projects we’re really excited about, including those that have decided to build their own networks and those building on existing projects, as well as those using ARPA dollars for open access networks, affordable connectivity, or Internet access for students. We also discuss some examples of solutions we believe are less permanent, forward-thinking, or likely to result in long-term success, including the distribution of hotspots and the allocation of funds to monopoly providers. 

What We’re Excited About: Community-Owned Networks and Open Access  

Fortunately, we’re seeing a number of communities approve plans to spend their Rescue Plan dollars on building their own municipal networks. In Lexington, Tennessee (population 8,000), the city is collaborating with Lexington Electric to bring broadband to the community. An ARPA grant is expected to cover about $20 million of the total $50 million price tag, and the city will issue bonds for the rest. If this grant is received, Henderson County (28,000) – where Lexington is located – has agreed to a 10 percent match (from $300,000 to $500,000). 

Maine has also allocated just over $15 million to eight broadband projects through the ConnectMaine Authority, $8.5 million of which comes from the American Rescue Plan. The funding will go to five municipal projects and three provider-led initiatives, and will serve approximately 6,000 residents “in some of the least-served areas of the state.”

Other communities are deploying fixed wireless solutions....

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Posted May 10, 2022 by

This week on the podcast, Christopher is joined by Benoit Felton (Independent Consultant, Diffraction Analysis). 

During the conversation, the two discuss the transformational potential of broadband,  international developments in fiber deployment and lessons on wholesale broadband networks. 

They talk about the state of European broadband service, what keeps customers from changing providers within open access models, and compare “open access” with “wholesale” terminology.

Benoit and Chris discuss the reality of Internet connectivity and access in China and Southeast Asian countries finding recent success in fiber deployments. Finally, they end the show with thoughts on regulatory capture and why regulation is key to the success of wholesale networks.

This show is 49 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed. You can listen to the interview on this page or visit the Community Broadband Bits page.

Transcript coming soon. 

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

Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Subscribe to the Building Local Power podcast, also from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, on iTunes or Stitcher to catch more great conversations about local communities, the concentration of corporate power, and how everyday people are taking control.

Thanks to Arne Huseby for the music. The song is Warm...

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Posted April 18, 2022 by Sean Gonsalves

As states and local governments look to leverage the flood of federal funds for the creation of ubiquitous high speed Internet access, an upcoming conference promises to be packed with practical insights from leading broadband experts on how to maximize the moment.

The Broadband Communities Summit 2022, which will once again be held in Houston, Texas at the downtown Marriott Marquis from May 2nd through May 5th, is an annual four-day event. Expected to draw over 1,200 participants, this year’s theme will be “Fiber: The Lifeblood of the New Economy.” It will be organized around a multitrack agenda, numerous workshops, and showcase an exhibit hall with dozens of vendors – all of which provides attendees with valuable networking opportunities with broadband systems operators.

The agenda will offer a variety of key features, including:

  • Expanded program addressing the booming multifamily housing segment 
  • Exclusive closed-door sharing session in owners' forums 
  • Insight into evolving business models 
  • Special hot topic clusters grouped around central themes, including financing opportunities and partnership models 
  • Expert advice and strategies for using broadband to create jobs and attract and keep businesses 
  • Legal strategies symposium

The opening day of the summit kicks off with several workshops, including a Broadband Breakfast mini-conference that focuses on both private and public financing; a workshop on the “flavors of open access (networks)” moderated by our own Christopher Mitchell and UTOPIA Fiber’s Chief Marketing Officer Kim McKinley; and a workshop on how the public and private sectors can work together to develop successful broadband partnerships, presented by the Coalition for Local Internet Choice (CLIC) President Jim Baller, CTC Energy and Technology President Joanne Hovis, Executive Director of the National Digital Inclusion Alliance Angela Siefer, and Fiber Broadband Association President and CEO Gary Bolton.

Day 2 of the summit will feature a keynote address from Texas Congresswoman Lizzie Fletcher as well as presentations from top representatives of the federal agencies in charge of allocating funds...

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Posted April 4, 2022 by Ry Marcattilio

This year's Mountain Connect conference begins Monday, May 23rd and runs through Wednesday, May 25 in Keystone, Colorado. The conference's self-stated goal is to "move our western US communities forward by providing relevant and targeted content to help them make the most effective decisions as they build new or expand existing telecommunications infrastructure that enable the long-term vision of a community."

It will feature panels on navigating state and federal funding, telehealth, disaster resilience, digital inclusion, tribal connectivity, construction challenges, and communications and technology standards. 

We'll also get to hear an array of conversations with local leaders, talking about everything from revitalizing downtowns with new municipal broadband infrastructure, to partnerships, to open access, to marketing, to managing subscriber expectations. See the full agenda here.

Anchoring the panels will be communities like Boulder, Colorado, Loveland, Colorado, and Detroit, Michigan, with familiar faces and industry veterans helping to break things down in clear ways, including Peggy Schaffer (ConnectME), Joshua Edmonds (Director of Digital Inclusion, Detroit), Brian Snider (Lit Communities), Bruce Patterson (EntryPoint Networks), and Gary Bolton (Fiber Broadband Association).

ILSR's DeAnne Cuellar will be participating on a digital inclusion panel moderated by NDIA's Paolo Balboa with Colorado Department of Labor's Katherine Keegan. Likewise, Christopher Mitchell will moderate a panel with Peggy Schaffer, Eric Forsch (Idaho Commerce) and Veneeth Iyengar (ConnectLA) to talk about how states will use the BEAD money. See the full slate of speakers here.

Register for Mountain Connect 2022 here.

Posted March 18, 2022 by Emma Gautier

Located in southeastern Iowa, Dubuque (pop. 60,000) has considered the advantages of building a municipal network a number of times over the past fifteen years. Back in 2005, the city – as well as several other Iowa communities – voted to “grant the right to create municipal systems” (Telegraph Herald, 2009). The new legislation, however, did not result in many new telecommunications utilities. 

The road to better connectivity has been a long one, marked by repeated battles between locals served by poor or no service and the city’s incumbent providers. In 2009, Mediacom used the state’s right of first refusal law to keep competition out of its territory, causing the city to “cry foul” and Dubuque to reconsider a public network. In 2015, the city of Dubuque and the Greater Dubuque Development Corporation joined forces to expand local connectivity in response to community demand. The partnership included convening private and public sectors to identify last mile infrastructure and foster collaboration, and supporting opportunities for expanded connectivity. By 2017, private providers including Wisconsin Independent Network, CS Technologies, Unite Private Networks, CenturyLink, and Mediacom had made efforts to serve some of the unserved areas, but pockets of the community were still left out. 

Only more recently has a formal proposal been set forth, with the potential to create a robust middle-mile network designed to dramatically improve competition and incent private ISPs to invest in the un- and underserved pockets of the community. 

A Formal Proposal for Public Broadband Infrastructure 

It’s been a long conversation with no definitive moves, but that may be changing soon. In February, 2022, Dubuque County’s Information Technology Department proposed a middle-mile underground conduit buildout to connect residents and anchor institutions across the county. The...

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Posted March 8, 2022 by Ry Marcattilio

This week, we bring you a special field report from Maryland-based radio and podcast producer Matt Purdy. Through interviews with citizens, digital equity advocates, and the city's new Director of Broadband and Digital Equity, Purdy documents the connectivity struggles that have persisted in Baltimore's historically marginalized neighborhoods for decades.

Those challenges have only become more pronounced with the pandemic, prompting local officials to begin making moves in the direction of something we've not yet seen in a community the size of Baltimore: building a city-owned, open access fiber network.

This is a great story, so we won't give anything else a way. Listen below, or here.

Posted February 8, 2022 by

This week on the podcast, Christopher is joined by Joe Poire, Director of Petrichor Broadband in Whitman County, Washington.

During the conversation, the two discuss the unique role of Ports in Washington State, which for years have been building robust broadband infrastructure that could be used for increasing competition or extending access into unserved areas. They talk about how the Port of Whitman has stepped up to fill the cracks of a deregulated telecom market, why Petrichor Broadband was established, and how they have used an open access dark fiber business model to bring broadband to communities across Washington State. Christopher and Joe also take time to respond to criticism of publicly owned open access networks, and discuss how Petrichor’s approach has encouraged competition in underserved communities.

This show is 30 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed. You can listen to the interview on this page or visit the Community Broadband Bits page.

Read the transcript

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

Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Subscribe to the Building Local Power podcast, also from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, on iTunes or Stitcher to catch more great conversations about local communities, the concentration of corporate power, and how...

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Posted January 24, 2022 by Karl Bode

Hoping to leverage both a major new California broadband expansion initiative and American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds, Chico, California is moving forward with its plan to deliver affordable fiber broadband to historically-underserved city residents. 

The Chico city council last year began exploring using $4.8 million of the city’s $22 million in American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds to build a citywide fiber network. After spending $250,000 to research its options, the city council voted last week to move forward with the plan.

Dual Purposes

City leaders hope the network will provide more reliable connectivity for the first responders battling historic wildfires in the region. But like many communities, Chico was also spurred to action by telecom market failure, a lack of competition among regional monopolies, and the slow speeds, spotty coverage, and high prices that routinely result. 

“All of us have had experience with the existing incumbents and what we pay for versus what we get,” said Chico's Information Systems Manager Josh Marquis. “There's a lot of areas of our region that do not have access either through affordability gaps or through service gaps.”

Much like Fort Pierce, Florida, Chico will begin by running a pilot project first targeting lower income parts of the city like the Chapman Mulberry neighborhood. There, residents will be provided inexpensive access to symmetrical fiber either through the city or a partner, made cheaper still once the FCC’s Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) discounts are applied. 

Marquis says the city hopes to make the Chico EBB application process much smoother than incumbent offerings, which have been widely criticized for being intentionally cumbersome - and attempting to upsell struggling Americans to more expensive...

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Posted December 14, 2021 by Maren Machles

On this week’s episode of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast, Christopher Mitchell welcomes Willie Painter, the public affairs manager for the Lewis County’s Public Utility District (PUD), to talk about what the county has been doing to address the lack of connectivity. We reported on Lewis County PUD's plan to connect its 33,000 members through an open access fiber-to-the-home network in October. 

Painter explains how to pandemic prompted the PUD to make high-speed, reliable Internet access for all a priority. They launched a community-wide survey, came up with a comprehensive design plan, and were creative and persistent in looking for funding opportunities. 

This show is 30 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed. You can listen to the interview on this page or visit the Community Broadband Bits page.

Read the transcript here. 

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

Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Subscribe to the Building Local Power podcast, also from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, on iTunes or ...

Read more

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