Tag: "rural"

In December 2016, the Congressional Research Service office released two reports on federal funding programs to improve high-speed Internet access. One report focuses on Tribal lands, and the other report provides an overview of the digital divide in general.

Dollars for the Digital Divide

Researchers Lennard G. Kruger and Angele A. Gilroy collaborated on Broadband Internet Access and the Digital Divide: Federal Assistance Programs. Kruger is a specialist in Science and Technology Policy and Gilroy is a specialist in Telecommunications Policy. The report provides an overview of ongoing efforts, including recently enacted legislation.

Kruger and Gilroy define the digital divide as between those who have access and those who do not. In particular, they focus on the dynamic between urban and rural areas, especially with regard to different income levels. The researchers consolidate previously released information on the digital divide and provide an analysis of current programs, including grants through the Appalachian Regional Commission. The researchers conclude by detailing all recent legislation. Check out the report for more information.

Status of Tribal Broadband

Kruger also wrote Tribal Broadband: Status of Deployment and Federal Funding Programs. This report follows up the Government Accountability Office’s 2016 report, Additional Coordination and Performance Measurement Needed for High-Speed Internet Access Programs on Tribal Lands

Drawing on information from both the GAO’s report and the FCC 2016 Broadband Progress Report, Kruger relays key facts about Internet access and federal funding. In particular, Kruger notes in the report that there is no dedicated federal funding earmarked to improving Internet access on Tribal lands:

Tribal entities and projects are eligible for virtually all federal broadband programs. With a few exceptions, however, there are no carve-outs or dedicated funding streams specifically for tribal applicants or non-tribal... Read more

This is the transcript for episode 235 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast. Lee Brown and John Williams from Erwin, Tennessee, join Christopher Mitchell to talk about the incremental build out of a Fiber-to-the-Home network. Listen to this episode here.

Lee Brown: The great thing about municipal broadband is it allows each community to decide what's right for them. We're in the greatest place of all time is being able to make that decision to do what's right for your community.

Lisa Gonzalez: This is episode 235, of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast from the Institute from Local Self-Reliance. I'm Lisa Gonzalez. We wanted to interview folks from Erwin, Tennessee for some time, now, and this week we're lucky to have them. The community, population around 6,000, has been building out a Fiber-to-the-Home system incrementally for the past few years. In addition to improving connectivity for residents and local businesses, the network has improved operations for the municipality's other utilities. Today, Christopher talks with Lee Brown, general manager of Erwin Utilities, and John Williams, fiber engineer. Lee and John, describe how the community had carefully considered what was best for them, before pursuing a fiber network. As it turns out they had considered fiber for a while before the circumstances were right to deploy. They started with a pilot program, and the network continues to grow. John and Lee offer Erwin's rational for the incremental approach, and share the way the network has improved services for all utility customers. Not only those that take Internet access services. Now, here's Christopher talking with Lee Brown, general manager, and John Williams, fiber engineer from Erwin Utilities in Erwin, Tennessee.

Christopher Mitchell: Welcome to another edition of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast. I'm Chris Mitchell, and today I'm speaking with two gentlemen from Erwin, Tennessee. We'll start with Lee Brown, the general manager of Erwin Utilities. Welcome to the show.

Lee Brown: Thanks, Chris. We appreciate being able to be part of this, today.

Christopher Mitchell: We also have with us, John Williams a fiber-optic engineer for Erwin Utilities. Welcome to the show.

... Read more

For the next month, everyone can access the most recent webinar from the Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband Coalition (SHLB). The topic is "Partnerships and Rural Broadband Needs" and the webinar is the second in SHLB’s Grow2Gig+ webinar series. After February 10, 2017, the webinar will only be available to SHLB members.

SHLB Executive Director John Windhausen headed up the discussion which included information from Joanne Hovis, President of CTC Technology & Energy, ILSR’s Christopher Mitchell, and Mark O’Connor, Senior Vice President from Carlson Wireless.

The group discussed challenges in rural communities, the role of Community Anchor Institutions (CAIs), the potential of TV White Space technology for wireless connectivity in rural areas, and potential partnership models. John Windhausen also presented SHLB's recent American Broadband Connectivity (ABC) Proposal for the Trump Administration

You can access the archived video on the SHLB website or watch it here.

The next webinar in SHLB’s Grow2Gig+ series will be "Subsidies for Community Anchor Institutions," to be scheduled in mid-February.

The mythical Paul Bunyan was enormous. Paul Bunyan Communications’ GigaZone appears to be following his example as it continues to expand throughout northern rural Minnesota. The cooperative recently announced that they are expanding the upgrade once again, bringing Gigabit per second (Gbps) capacity to their members via the Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network. This time, members in the communities of Kelliher and Northome will have access to the upgrade.

The Big Gig

The expansion brings gigabit network to more than 1,700 additional locations; this will bring Paul Bunyan’s GigaZone footprint to more than 29,400 locations. The network covers more than 5,000 square miles in Beltrami County and also reaches areas of Cass, Hubbard, Itasca, Koochiching, and St. Louis Counties.

In November 2016, the cooperative began offering service on the Red Lake Nation, which makes it one of only a few tribal communities with high-quality Internet access. Paul Bunyan provides gigabit connectivity to local schools for affordable rates and has been awarded the Leading Lights National Award for most Innovative Gigabit Broadband Service.

A Long Time Coming

Paul Bunyan Telephone began in 1950 when the residents in very rural northern Minnesota either had no telephone service, or received it from their townships, which meant they had to share lines with up to nine other customers. As a prerequisite to obtaining a loan from the Rural Telephone Administration (RTA) through the Rural Electric Administration (REA), the Co-op Board had to purchase and operate an existing system. They started with the privately owned Kelliher Telephone Company along with the Hendrickson Township Telephone system. In addition funds they had obtained by selling memberships in the cooperative, the board directors agreed to mortgage their own property as collateral so another local cooperative and a local bank would loan Paul Bunyan Telephone enough to purchase both telephone systems. It was a risk, but it paid off.

Over the decades,... Read more

Nestled in the Cherokee National Forest on the border of Tennessee and North Carolina, not far from Virginia, is Erwin. Erwin Utilities runs the water, wastewater, and electricity for the town of 6,000 and long wanted to invest in a fiber network. After years of following industry trends, they developed a plan to build it and tell us how in Community Broadband Bits episode 235.

General Manager Lee Brown and Fiber-Optic Engineer John Williams join us to discuss what started as a pilot project but is now an incremental plan to connect the entire community with a Fiber-to-the-Home network offering high speed Internet access and telephone service.

We discuss the reaction from the community, financing, and how they are using it for smart utility management -- not only for electricity but also for water services.

Read the transcript of the show here

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

This show is 29 minutes long and can be played below on this page or via iTunes or via the tool of your choice using this feed.

You can download this mp3 file directly from here. Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Thanks to Admiral Bob for the music. The song is Turbo Tornado (c) copyright 2016 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. Ft: Blue Wave Theory.

Tune in to the Grow2Gig+ webinar from the Schools, Health, & Libraries Broadband Coalition (SHLB) on Tuesday, January 10, 2017. The topic will be "Partnerships and Rural Broadband Needs" and our Christopher Mitchell will moderate the discussion. The hour-long event starts at 11 a.m. EST.

Christopher will offer information on steps local communities can take to bridge the digital divide. Joanne Hovis, President of CTC Technology & Energy, will address some of the challenges found in rural areas. SHLB Executive Director John Windhausen will spend some time on the potential role of public-private partnerships. John will discuss partnerships as envisioned by SHLB in its American Broadband Connectivity (ABC) Proposal for the Trump Administration. You can follow the discussion with #Grow2Gig and #RuralBB.

The webinar and is free and open to the public. It’s the second in the Grow2Gig+ webinar series. You can register online for the webinar and check out the other events on deck at the SHLB website.

On January 1, Wayne County, North Carolina, issued a Request for Information (RFI) for high-speed Internet service expansion or delivery.  The due date is February 28, 2017.

Survey First

Prior to releasing the RFI, the county conducted a survey that they made available online and in paper form; they sent home copies with students in the public school system. They received 628 responses of which 13.8 percent of respondents said they don't have Internet service at all. Of those that do not have the service, 58.1 percent say there is no company that will provide it to them and 23.7 percent say they can’t afford it. Fifty-nine percent of respondents were dissatisfied with their Internet access; the reason were speed, cost, and reliability, in that order.

Looking For Ideas Next

The county’s RFI expresses their desire to work with private sector providers to bring connectivity to all areas of the county, especially the areas that are currently unserved. Their goal is to get residents and businesses connected with speeds that reach the FCC’s defined broadband speeds of 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) download and 3 Mbps upload.

In order to facilitate the efforts of the private sector, Wayne County has asked potential respondents to address how issues such as pole attachments, conduit, and dark fiber would fit into their proposals. They also want respondents to let them know how federal, state, or local regulations may hamper ideas for improving connectivity in Wayne County:

Regulatory environment: Description of any rules or regulations at the federal, state or local level that could impact the feasibility or underlying economics associated with the proposed solutions. Responses should also include an explanation of any forms of proposed regulatory relief, including streamlined permitting, which could improve the economic case for the business models or network solutions proposed or for other network solutions that respondents considered but dismissed due to existing regulations and their effect on economic viability of such proposal. 

Just last year, the state of North Carolina was able to convince the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit to reinstate a... Read more

Ellensburg’s fiber-optic Institutional Network (I-Net) already saves public dollars. Soon the town will also create opportunities for local businesses to obtain better connectivity via the publicly owned infrastructure through a new pilot program.

Time To Go Public

Three years ago, Ellensburg, Washington, chose to sever ties with Charter Communications when the national Internet Service Provider (ISP) decided it would charge $10,300 per month for municipal connectivity it had previously supplied in exchange for access to the public rights-of-way.

The community already owned and operated municipal electric and natural gas utilities, so a foray into managing an I-Net was a sensible task. After considering the math, they quickly realized deployment would pay for itself in about eight years when compared to the exorbitant rates from Charter. They also didn't know if Charter would raise rates again in the future or if there may be other issues with control of a network they depended on for municipal communications.

Onward And Upward

Ellensburg has been independent of Charter since 2014 and now they are taking the next logical step - offering services to local businesses. There is excess capacity on the existing fiber network that Energy Services would like to lease out in order to generate revenue and learn more about providing services to the public.

At a recent City Council meeting, Energy Services Director Larry Dunbar discussed the proposed pilot project. “A pilot project is the right thing to do if council wants to proceed because we really just don’t know,” Dunbar said. “We haven’t done this before.”

The city will receive a 2017 Distressed County Sales and Use Tax Infrastructure Improvement Program grant. The funds, focused on rural areas, are to be used for improving infrastructure projects; Ellensburg will receive approximately $169,000. Thirty-four connections to local businesses will cost $37,800 and will produce an estimated $16,300 in annual revenue.

In addition to using the grant funds to expand the fiber-optic network, Ellensburg plans to establish a fixed wireless network.

Charlemont, Massachusetts, is asking local businesses and residents to complete a survey to help their Broadband Committee as they move ahead with plans to improve connectivity. At a November information session, the Committee announced that the town would investigate options and pursue plans to deploy a municipal network. They plan to take advantage of state and federal funding administered by the Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI).

Plans Change

The western town of about 1,200 people intended to work with WiredWest, the broadband cooperative that planned to build a regional network, but MBI interfered with the plans and revoked funding from the group early in 2016. MBI objected to the WiredWest plan to operate as a cooperative of Municipal Light Plants (MLPs), the entity in each community responsible for managing its municipal network. You can read more details about the situation in an April 2016 report from the Berkman Center’s David Talbot, Waide Warner, and Susan Crawford.

Since then, MBI has created criteria for local communities to meet before they can access funding to build their own municipal networks. A number of local communities that once considered membership in WiredWest are moving forward and releasing RFPs, including Alford, Egremont, and Mount Washington. Before Charlemont gets that far, however, they want to find out exactly what the need is in their community.

Looking To Leverett

Like other western Massachusetts towns, Charlemont is looking at Leverett as a possible model. Leverett is home to approximately 1,800 people and chose to use a modest property... Read more

Seattle has received a lot of attention as it's struggled with the concept of a community network, but people in the small community of Brinnon are moving past the talking phase. A group of residents are tired of waiting for high quality Internet access and don't expect a national provider to bring it to them any time soon. People in Brinnon are considering a fixed wireless approach pioneered in the San Juan Islands, which is a few hours north.

Community members have formed a nonprofit, West Canal Community Broadband Project, to bring wireless Internet service to the town and neighboring communities. Two hundred people have already signed up on the nonprofit’s website.

The community is located about 25 miles due west (62 miles by car to get through the Sound) and home to about 800 people. People in Brinnon with the best connections have DSL, but many use satellite or mobile Internet access. Data caps associated with satellite and mobile plans drive up the costs and neither source is reliable. With such a small population, the locals don't expect any incumbent investment soon; they're exercising their self-reliant muscles and hashing out the details of better local connectivity on their own.

If all goes as planned, Brinnon could see better Internet access options by next summer.

Very Little Connectivity

The community center and the school have high-speed Internet service thanks to a federal grant project in Jefferson County, but residents and businesses struggle to connect. 

The goal of this wireless project is fast, reliable Internet service without data limits for both business and residents. The residential download speed will be 25 Megabits per second (Mbps), and business connections will have speeds of 50 Mbps. Customized plans with speeds of up to 250 Mbps will also be offered. No word yet on expected upload speeds. The cost for each tier of service has not yet been decided.

The DIY Wireless Project

Brinnon community members will need a $90 antenna with a line of sight to Mt. Jupiter in the... Read more

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