Tag: "rural"

Posted September 20, 2017 by lgonzalez

September 21st is the last day individuals and organizations have to submit initial comments on the FCC’s “Inquiry Concerning Deployment of Advanced Telecommunications Capability to All Americans in a Reasonable and Timely Fashion,” Docket 17-199. As of this writing, more than 1,400 filers have submitted comments but the gravity of the policies the FCC is reviewing should have more input from all over the country. So far, people and organizations that have commented are not happy with the ideas of dumbing down the definition of "broadband" and letting mobile and satellite Internet access satisfy connectivity needs in rural America. What do you think? Let the FCC know.

Time and Speeds

The FCC released the Notice of Inquiry (NOI) on August 7th, asking for comments from the public on a broad range of issues. Many experts and organizations quickly zeroed in on a few topics that many thought would never become matters that would ever need to be argued again. Due to the magnitude of the issues to be decided, 13 organizations that work on telecommunications and digital divide policy requested that the agency extend the comment period, originally set for September 7th. Thirty days was just not enough time to address the numerous issues in the NOI.

speed-test.png The agency proposed reversing a policy established by the Obama administration’s FCC which raised the definition of “broadband” to 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) download and 3 Mbps upload. The 2015 change better reflected our forward direction in technology. Chairman Ajit Pai’s leadership has questioned that move and is considering reversing course to a 10 Mbps download/1 Mbps upload definition, which reflects speeds more in line with DSL connections. The 10/1 benchmark is already considered obsolete by policy experts who see DSL connections already overly stressed by multi-device households.

Many commenters express disdain with the idea of accepting slower speeds as “broadband,” especially those who live and work in rural areas. Mark... Read more

Posted September 19, 2017 by christopher

After a friendly coup in the offices of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, Hannah has taken the podcast host chair from Christopher for episode 271 of the Community Broadband Bits. Hannah grills Christopher on where he has recently traveled, interesting lessons, and recent news around community broadband. (Christopher mentions a great event in Pittsfield - video available here.)

The conversation starts with a discussion of why recent travels strengthened our belief that full fiber-optic networks are the best approach for the vast majority of America in the long term. Christopher and Hannah discuss the future of low-latency networks and what is more cost-effective over decades rather than just over the first few years.

They go on to discuss their fears of the FCC legitimizing satellite and mobile wireless connectivity as good enough for carrier of last resort in rural regions. The show wraps up with a discussion about One Touch Make Ready in Louisville and Madison's RFP for a fiber network partner. 

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

This show is 26 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or 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 Arne Huseby for the music. The song is Warm Duck Shuffle and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.

Posted September 19, 2017 by lgonzalez

In southwest Ohio, a new broadband cooperative is taking shape and taking steps to bring better connectivity to residents, schools, and businesses in their region. The Greene County Broadband Cooperative recently released a Request for Proposals (RFP) for a consultant to conduct a broadband feasibility study. Responses are due October 27.

A Regional Effort

The organization wants to bring gigabit (1,000 Megabit per second) connections to the communities of Cedarville Township, Clifton Village, and surrounding areas. They are especially concerned about bringing fast, affordable, reliable Internet access to the Cedarcliff School District and students in the area. The cooperative also notes that they hope to expand access to other townships in the eastern areas of the county in the future.

Spectrum Cable, AT&T, and satellite providers offer Internet access to premises within the 39 square miles to be studied. There is a small amount of commercial fiber, but not enough to support the needs of the region. The RFP describes the situation as:

Service speeds provided in the villages and in limited rural areas are 12-50 mega-bits per-second. Much of the service area has either a single DSL provider or satellite Internet service, both of which fail to meet the FCC’s standard of broadband speed. Combined with the data usage caps of wireless and satellite Internet providers, most rural residents have an Internet access that is functionally useless. 

Cedarville and Clifton

The residential population of the area too be studied is approximately 9,700 which does not include an additional 3,700 students who attend Cedarville University. Because the University has its own fiber optic infrastructure, students attending the college don’t have the same connectivity problems as local residents. Of the students attending the local public schools, 64 percent use DSL at home that hampers they ability to complete online homework assignments.

The broadband cooperative recognizes that the area’s economic development prospects depend on better local connectivity. According to the RFP, businesses have left the area or chosen not to expand in Cedarville due to poor Internet access options.

Residents and businesses in Sibley and Renville Counties in rural south central Minnesota faced similar issues so they also formed a... Read more

Posted September 18, 2017 by lgonzalez

The Blandin Foundation will be holding its Border to Border Broadband Conference this October at Madden’s on Gull Lake. This year, the title of the event is “Bridging the Gaps - Expanding the Impact.”

Up North In The Fall

The folks at Blandin looked around the state to find rural communities where local decisions are having a positive effect by improving connectivity. The event will be October 25th - 26th and will include presenters from local government, cooperatives, and the private sector:

  • Rural Alvarado, BEAMCO & Wikstrom Telephone
  • Westbrook & Woodstock Telephone Company
  • Rock County Broadband Alliance
  • Renville County – RSFiber & HBC
  • Palmer Wireless – Big Lake Industrial Park
  • Mille Lacs Energy Cooperative & CTC
  • Fayal & Harris Townships - Mediacom

If you attend the conference, you’ll start the event by choosing between the Broadband 101 or Digital Inclusion preconference sessions. Later, there will be presentations on public-private partnerships, real life benefits to better rural connectivity, and methods for grassroots outreach.

Attendees can also experience the popular Broadband Learning Stations, described as:

…[F]eature stories of partnerships and perseverance that define the Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program participants. All sessions highlight what it takes for community success -- the partnerships, the strong community spirit and perseverance, the long-haul financial commitment, and the positive economic and social impact these investments have and will have on local businesses, households, and community institutions. Come for the community camaraderie and advice; leave better informed and inspired as you seek to reach your own community broadband goals.

Eyes On Minnesota

In recent months, legislators from the states of Ohio and Virginia have looked to Minnesota’s approach to expanding connectivity in rural areas. Minnesota’s Border-to-Border Broadband program, which allows the state legislature to allocate funding to rural projects,... Read more

Posted September 15, 2017 by lgonzalez

For years we’ve encouraged voters to make improving connectivity a campaign issue in local, state, and federal elections by pursuing answers from candidates. In this year's Virginia Gubernatorial race, it has now become a topic that both candidates are addressing as a key issue. The Roanoke Times Editors, no strangers to the state's struggles with rural Internet access, recently published an editorial to inform voters that broadband is finally getting some long overdue attention.

Surprised And Pleased

The Times has spent significant resources on broadband reporting in recent years, so it’s no surprise that the editors are savvy to the fact that broadband as a campaign issue is a novel development.

The most important news here is that both candidates say they see a state role in extending broadband to rural Virginia. The times really are a-changing: This is the first governor’s race where broadband has been a big enough issue for candidates to issue policy papers on the subject.

During the last legislative session, the Times covered Delegate Kathy Byron’s bad broadband bill closely. Over the past few years, they’ve pointed out the many disadvantages local communities face when folks suffer from poor connectivity. They've also shined a light on why the state’s economy will deteriorate if Virginia does nothing to improve Internet access in rural areas.

Comparisons

In this editorial, the Times briefly lays out a few differences that the candidates have expressed in their proposals. Both candidates want to expand the state’s fledging Virginia Telecommunications Initiative, modeled on Minnesota’s Border-to-Border Broadband Program, which has also recently inspired Ohio legislators.

Virginia's election is November 7th, which gives voters time to review both plans, contact the candidates with questions, and decide which candidate's... Read more

Posted September 11, 2017 by lgonzalez

Two Ohio State Senators are taking a page from Minnesota’s playbook to expand rural broadband connectivity. Democratic Sen. Joe Schiavoni and Republican Sen. Cliff Hite recently announced that they would be introducing legislation to create a grant program modeled after the Minnesota Border-to-Border Broadband Grant Program.

Putting Money Into It

The program is expected to expand broadband Internet access to approximately 14,000 rural Ohio households per year. State officials estimate that 300,000 homes and 88,500 businesses in rural areas of the state do not have access to broadband connectivity.

In Minnesota, the Department of Employment and Economic Development hosts the Office of Broadband Development, which administrates grant awards and management. The Ohio bill will place the responsibility for the program in the hands of their Development Services Agency (DSA).

Grants will be awarded of up to $5 million for infrastructure projects in unserved and underserved areas; the grants cannot fund more than half the total cost of each project. Recipients can be businesses, non-profits, co-ops or political subdivisions. The bill allocates $50 million per year for broadband development from the state’s Ohio Third Frontier bond revenues.

The Ohio Third Frontier is a state economic development initiative aimed at boosting tech companies that are in early stages and helping diverse startups. The Ohio General Assembly appropriates funds to the program, much like the Office of Broadband Development in Minnesota.

Minnesota Setting The Trend

seal-minnesota.jpg This isn’t the first time politicians have looked longingly at Minnesota’s plan to build more network infrastructure in rural areas. Ralph Northam, Virginia’s Lieutenant Governor, released an economic plan for his state this summer and addressed the need to improve connectivity in rural areas. In his plan, he suggested that the state adopt clear goals “[s]imilar to the legislation Minnesota has passed.”

His report... Read more

Posted September 9, 2017 by lgonzalez

Mozilla’s All Access Pass with Veronica Belmont explores local broadband initiatives in episode 6. She sends reporter Dominic Girard to speak with folks in Renville and Sibley County, Minnesota, to discuss the RS Fiber Cooperative.

Girard talks with Mark Erickson who spearheaded the project and describes how difficult is was for farmers who needed better connectivity for 21st century agriculture. Jake Rieke, a local farmer, shares the concerns he described with us in episode 198 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast - how awful Internet access could negatively impact his family’s future.

The crew also interviews Angela Siefer from the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) who describes the local desires to invest in better connectivity but state barriers that often interrupt those efforts. Angela gets into the ripples those barriers and access to the Internet interrupts the ability for women, people of color, lower-income folks, and the LGBTQ community to participate in civic engagement.

The show also ventures to the way a group of entrepreneurs are using the Internet to help Syrian refugees adjust to a new life. Their program has changed people from refugees to coders sought out by tech companies.

The show examines how access to the Internet - or lack of it - has become a factor that impacts one's life for the better or worse.

Listen to episode 6 of All Access Pass here.

Learn more about the RS Fiber Cooperative from our 2016 indepth report RS Fiber: Fertile Fields for New Rural Internet Cooperative.

 

Posted September 5, 2017 by lgonzalez

When it comes to rural areas, it’s no secret that national providers have little interest in serving the sparsely populated communities. Cooperatives and small local providers typically pick up the slack but it isn’t easy. In a recent survey indicated that small rural telephone companies are overcoming hurdles to deploy fiber and making long-term plans to continue the trend. Furthermore, rural subscribers are proving that they are hungry for high capacity connectivity.

Local ISPs Are Doing It

Approximately 89 percent of “NTCA 2016 Broadband/Internet Availability Survey Report” revealed that the expense of Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) deployment was the most difficult barrier to break through. Even though they faced the difficult problem of financing, 52 percent of survey respondents in the midst of fiber deployments in the spring of 2017 were serving at least half of their customers with FTTH.

Planning For The Future

Fiber is the future for most of the survey respondents. Eighty-two percent reported long-term fiber strategies with 66 percent of those with strategies planning on offering FTTH to at least half of their customers. Another 39 percent of those with long-term fiber strategies will offer fiber to the node to more than 75 percent of their customers by the end of 2019. Thirty-one percent of local telcos with long-term fiber plans who responded to the survey report said that they have already completed their fiber deployment plans.

Subscribers Want More

According to survey respondents, rural subscribers are choosing faster speeds tiers. Relative to the same survey one year ago, the demand for download speeds in excess of 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) more than doubled from eight percent of subscribers to 17 percent of subscribers. As the percentage of subscribers choosing a faster speed tier is increasing, the number of subscribers signing up for slower speeds is decreasing. The report describes rural subscriber behavior as, “moving up the broadband speed chain” and says that “…providers need to be prepared to offer them the level of service they demand.”

What Does The Survey Tell Us?

The survey reveals that rural residents and businesses are increasingly interested in high-quality... Read more

Posted August 31, 2017 by lgonzalez

Not-for-profit Southern Tier Network (STN) is already providing infrastructure for local ISP Empire Access to compete with incumbents in some areas of south central New York state. Now that the dark fiber network construction is complete, STN recently released a Request for Proposals (RFP) for a last mile broadband pilot project. Responses are due September 28, 2017.

For this project, STN seeks ISPs interested in serving a particular area in Schuyler County with the possibility of expanding to serve more premises in the future. The area in question is underserved for both residential and business connectivity.

Connectivity Opportunity In Rural New York

The network began as a partnership between Southern Tier Central Regional Planning and Development Board, Corning Incorporated, and Chemung, Schuyler, and Steuben Counties. Corning contributed $10 million of the $12.2 million to deploy the original network, while the three counties shared the balance.

In 2013, STN received a $5 million New York Empire State Development fund grant, which allowed the nonprofit to expand the network into two more counties and to several local universities. The original 235-mile ring has since been extended to include more than 500 route miles. The network now touches nine counties.

Since becoming operational in 2014, STN has taken on a multifaceted task. In addition to establishing infrastructure to encourage better connectivity for residents and businesses, STN is serving public entities. The dark fiber network is improving local connectivity for public safety, schools, health care clinics, and municipal facilities.

Pilot With Larger Goals In Mind

Goals of the initiative, as stated in the RFP are:

1. Establish partnerships between the STN and interested providers for the betterment of the communities involved and for quality of life enhancements. 

2. Facilitate the development of cost effective broadband into the CR16, CR17 and Reading Center areas of Schuyler County, addressing unserved and underserved residents. 3. Enable the deployment of state-of-the-art technologies, services, and applications that are often found in more developed urban areas but may not be currently available within... Read more

Posted August 29, 2017 by lgonzalez

Jon Chambers, a partner at Conexon, returns to visit us this week to talk about rural connectivity and the approaching Connect America Fund (CAF) auction. Conexon works with electric cooperatives to establish high-quality Internet networks for members, typically in rural areas where national providers don’t offer the kinds of services communities need.

Having spent time at the FCC to examine several of their spending programs, Jon Chambers is our go-to guest to discuss next year’s Connect America Fund auction. In this interview, Jon and Chris talk about some of the problems that plague the program and how potential new bidding and award rules will set future deployment standards. Jon gets into where the rules fall short on expanding rural connectivity and offers suggestions for a more consumer driven approach.

For more details on Jon’s thoughts about how to improve the bidding process for the Connect America Fund, check out his article, The Risk of Fraudulent Bidding in the FCC Connect America Fund Auction, on the Conexon blog.

To comment on the FCC proceedings on Competitive Bidding Procedures and Certain Program Requirements for the Connect America Fund Phase II Auction, submit your thoughts at the FCC website under proceeding Docket 17-182 and Docket 10-90.  

For more information on rural electric cooperatives and their efforts to bring high-quality connectivity to their members, listen to Jon talk with Christopher for episode 229 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast.

Read the transcript of this show here.

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

This show is 30 minutes... Read more

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