Tag: "rural"

Posted January 9, 2018 by lgonzalez

With only about 757,000 residents and more than 710,000 square miles North Dakota is ranked 53rd in population density among U.S. states, territories, and Washington DC. There may not be many people there, but North Dakota has some of the best connectivity in the United States. Why? Rural cooperatives and independent companies have made continued investments.

In episode 288, Christopher interviews Robin Anderson, Sales Manager for National Information Solutions Cooperative. Robin’s been working in the industry for years and has been involved in bringing better Internet access to rural areas in North Dakota. She has firsthand experience with the issues that arise during deployments and describes the camaraderie that grew naturally out of necessity when small, independent providers worked to achieve their goals to improve connectivity for cooperative members and rural subscribers.

Robin also touches on how federal loan funding helped so many of the cooperatives get started with fiber and how they took the next steps to self-fund as the demand grew. Christopher and Robin talk about the economics of fiber optic networks for cooperatives and the reasoning behind fiber investment in rural areas. They discuss some specific examples of the way collaboration in North Dakota has resulted in better networks.

Read the transcript for this show here.

This show is 28 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 January 9, 2018 by lgonzalez

Blandford, Massachusetts, will work with Westfield Gas & Electric (WG+E) to develop a publicly owned fiber optic network. In order to help get the project started, the state’s Last Mile Program has awarded Blandford a $1 million grant.

The funding grant is part of $45 million allocated to broadband infrastructure last fall. In November 2016, the Governor signed a bill that directed the funding to help improve connectivity in western and north central Massachusetts.

Blandford’s network will connect to approximately 96 percent of its premises, including all the residents located on the town's public roads. A little more than 1,200 people live in the town that covers about 53 square miles. The hilltown community is known for the Blandford Ski Area, which has operated for more than 80 years.

Working With Westfield

Blandford joins a list of other western Massachusetts communities looking to WG+E for their expertise and to act as project managers. WG+E trucks began working in Otis last June and the towns of Ashfield, Shutesbury, Goshen, Colrain, Rowe, Chesterfield, Alford, and Heath have also decided to work with WG+E.

Westfield announced almost a year ago that a Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) pilot project had been so successful that they determined expanding the project to a citywide network made the most sense. Since then, they’ve been expanding one neighborhood at a time and are still working on covering the entire community of 42,000.

In the mean time, WG+E has also branched out to work with other communities like Blandford. They’ve helped prove that even small communities can establish high-quality Internet network infrastructure. WG+E have taken on differing roles with these other municipal partners, depending on what level of expertise the community seeks.

Learn more about WG+E’s network and their work with neighboring communities in...

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Posted January 3, 2018 by christopher

With the Federal Communications Comission Republicans poised to redefine broadband to include slow, unreliable, and often bandwidth-capped mobile service, we talk with two high school students from southeast Ohio, Herron Linscott and Lilah Gagne, that have succeeded despite the lack of fixed broadband access in their homes. Soon the FCC may include those homes as having broadband though they clearly don't fit the description of what any sane person would call advanced telecommunications. 

We start off episode 287 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast with Next Century Cities Executive Director Deb Socia, who reminds us why mobile Internet access is not an adequate subsitute for fixed access. Next Century Cities has launched the Mobile Only Challenge - share MobileOnlyChallenge.com around - to highlight the challenges of relying solely on mobile Internet access. 

We then talk to Herron Linscott and Lilah Gagne about their experiences in southeast Ohio as high school students without home fixed Internet access. Both have had to schedule lots of time away from home in order to complete assignments and partake in extra-curricular activities and both offer a window into the importance of connectivity for the next generation. 

Read the transcript for this show here.

This show is 25 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 ...

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Posted January 2, 2018 by lgonzalez

Most residents and businesses in Oconee County, South Carolina, used dial-up connections when county officials applied for stimulus funding in 2010; there were still people in the county with no Internet access at all. A few had DSL connections, but even county facilities struggled with antiquated infrastructure. After an AT&T attack upended their plan to offer retail services, they pressed on and improved connectivity in the rural community. Powerful incumbent forces and a bad state law, however, eventually led this community to choose privatization.

Ripe For Stimulus

We spoke with Kim Wilbanks, who served as Project Manager for Oconee FOCUS, the 240-mile fiber optic publicly owned network. She worked with a small team of people that applied for funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) to obtain funds for the project. Wilbanks and former FOCUS Director Mike Powell were instrumental in establishing the infrastructure. The Wilbanks family used dial-up Internet access until 2010 when AT&T finally installed DSL on her street on the edge of town in the mostly rural county.

The mountains and hills across the county’s 674 square miles create a terrain that is speckled with man-made lakes. Fishing, water skiing, and sailing are popular and the lakes and waterfalls contribute to the region’s hydroelectric energy. Approximately 75,000 people live in Oconee County scattered within many of the small rural communities. The largest city’s population is only about 8,000.

Oconee County’s rural environment with a sparse population, sluggish economic growth, and high number of unserved and underserved premises, was the type of region where stimulus funds helped jump start projects. When the county received a grant in the second round of awards in the summer of 2010 for $9.6 million, officials at the county planned to connect community anchor institutions and municipal and county facilities first. They planned to later expand and bring businesses and residents better Internet access. The county matched the federal grant with $4.7 million to deploy the $14.3 million fiber optic infrastructure. After the RFP process, they were able to start construction in early 2011. By the end of 2013, they had finished construction; by 2014...

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Posted December 29, 2017 by lgonzalez

The central Washington community of Coulee Dam took a significant step this month to establishing its own fiber optic network. At a December 27th special city council meeting, they announced that they had purchased one mile of fiber optic cable and equipment from Basin Broadband, LLC, for $34,995.

According to The Star, the former owners had only one customer and used the infrastructure to connect the local school district’s offices with the school on the opposite side of town. The district pays $170 per month to lease the line and their agreement expires in 2020; the city promised to honor the agreement.

Changing Charters

Community leaders have considered the prospect of starting a publicly owned fiber optic network for at least 16 months, when they began seeking out the owner of the infrastructure. The city’s population is only approximately 1,100 people, which means national incumbents have little interest in providing high-quality connectivity. CenturyLink offers DSL for residential and business service, but town leaders want to improve economic development possibilities with fiber.

This past summer, the city council began discussing  changing the community’s legal designation in order to step out from under Washington’s restrictive laws that govern the authority of “towns.” City Attorney Mick Howe advised that if the city changed its charter to operate as a “non-charter code city,” they would have more authority. Rather than acting only on specifically allowed activities in state law, they could act as long as they were not engaging in specifically forbidden activities as spelled out in state law.

Councilmember Keith St. Jeor said he knows people who settled in other towns because they have Internet service that is “100 times better.”

Councilmember Schmidt said the town is severely lacking in technology solutions and that they were not likely to come from private enterprise because of the small population. Changing to a code city would simply allow the municipality to explore more options.

“You might be surprised what solutions you...

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Posted December 28, 2017 by lgonzalez

Local investigative news shows often earn a reputation for digging into scams and rip-offs that pick consumers’ pockets. In a recent WLOS News 13 Investigates segment, Western North Carolina’s ABC affiliate started asking some tough questions about Frontier’s Internet access service in rural parts of the state.

A Comedy Of Errors

At the heart of the rip-off in this investigation is Frontier’s habit of advertising speeds that it cannot provide. The WLOS crew traveled to a home in a mountainous area of the region to visit Craig Marble, who moved from D.C., and works from home in the tech field. “It's just a comedy of errors except that it's not funny. It takes five minute to load a single webpage,” Marble said.

Marble discussed how he has paid for service of up to three Mbps download but he has never, to his knowledge, been able to obtain even that slow speed. As far as he’s concerned, he should at least be able to get what he’s paying for every month.

“This should be 3.0, not .3,” Marble said. He showed News 13 various speed tests for his service, they came up .3 and .5, and .6 at various times throughout the morning and afternoon.

Complaints, Complaints, Complaints

According to News 13, numerous complaints against Frontier resonate through local conversation. The station had received other complaints from people, some reporting that their Internet access works about 60 percent of the time. When they followed up with the Attorney General, they learned of 56 complaints filed against Frontier, about half due to issues with slow speeds.

WLOS spoke to Christopher about big telecom’s tendency to advertise “up to” speeds:

“If you can get good speeds in the middle of the night, but not during the day, I think that's deceptive advertising to be suggesting to people that they can get those speeds,” said Christopher Mitchell, director of Community Broadband Networks at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance in Minnesota.

Mitchell says, companies shouldn't advertise what they can't offer.

“This is not something that is beyond the ability of the company to solve, this is a decision that they're making which is to market a service that they cannot deliver or are willing to deliver on reasonable terms,” said...

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Posted December 20, 2017 by lgonzalez

On December 14th, FCC Chair Ajit Pai and the Republican Commissioners voted to present a huge holiday gift to big ISPs by dismantling network neutrality, despite outcries from the American people. When we examined FCC data to determine how many Americans would be left without market protections from known network neutrality violators, the numbers were discouraging. Now we’ve reached into the weeds to analyze the numbers on a statewide basis. 

Percentage Of Population

The results reveal that a significant percentage of Americans will be limited to Internet access only from large monopolies that have a history of violating network neutrality and very strong incentives to abuse their market power. 

Some states with higher population benefit slightly from competition relative to others — compare Florida’s 40 percent to 65 percent in Pennsylvania — but this also reflects the anti-competitive nature of big ISPs that tend to cordon off sections of the country and respectfully stay within their zones. Other, more rural states, such as Wisconsin at 66 percent, have few options because national ISPs just aren’t interested in serving areas where population is sparse and the pay-off is a long time coming. Lack of competition means high probability of service from one of the big four known violators in our study — AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, and Charter.

In this chart, we've listed states in order of greatest percentage of impacted population: 

...
State Population Served Only By Big 4 Net Neutrality Violators
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Posted December 12, 2017 by christopher

If everyone subscribed to Internet access, the business models for supplying it would be much easier. But there are strong reasons for why many are locked out of Internet access today, a subject we explore with National Digital Inclusion Alliance Executive Director Angela Siefer in episode 284 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. 

We discussed what digital inclusion is and what prevents people from subscribing to the Internet. There are no solutions to these problems from the federal or state levels - the most promising solutions are bubbling up from communities. Angela tells us how.

We also talk about the problems created by redlining - where ISPs like AT&T systematically refuse to invest in some neighborhoods for a variety of reasons. And toward the end we talk about network neutrality and its impact on the digital divide. If you want more Angela after you finish this interview, listen to her with Veronica Belmont from Mozilla's IRL podcast.

This show is 28 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed.

Read the transcript for this show here.

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 December 7, 2017 by Matthew Marcus

The state of Minnesota has awarded Paul Bunyan Communications the Border-to-Border Broadband grant to expand fiber optic services to three different counties.

The expansion will cost $1.78 million, with Paul Bunyan Communications contributing $980,990, and the state Border-to-Border grant covering $802,620. The plan should be finalized by the spring and construction will start this summer. Paul Bunyan Communications projects the build-out will be completed by June 2020.

Rural Minnesota Gets Better Connected

The Border-to-Border Fund was created by the Minnesota state legislature back in 2014. The goal is to help make the financial case for providers to invest in building infrastructure into unserved and underserved areas of the state.

Many underserved areas of the state have included the Border-to-Border grants in their planning process and as a pivotal part of their expansion models. The financial boon from the state has proved successful for many communities. RS Fiber Cooperative has been successfully connecting towns and rural areas in Sibley and Renville County, and they recently announced a gigabit residential connection at no additional cost for subscribers. It’s also attracting investment and industry, explained Mark Erickson in a recent report, citing the forthcoming medical school being built in Gaylord:

"We have that opportunity because of the Fiber-to-the-Home network. Without it, no medical school."

Cooperative Success 

Paul Bunyan Communications Cooperative has already made massive strides in providing high-speed access to large swaths of northern Minnesota. Paul Bunyan’s GigaZone reaches more than 29,400 locations, covering more than 5,000 square miles in Beltrami County, also reaching areas of Cass, Hubbard, Itasca, Koochiching, and St. Louis Counties.

The ever-...

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Posted December 4, 2017 by Staff

This is the transcript for Episode 281 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. Will Rinehart of the American Action Forum in Washington D.C. discusses telecommunications and economics with our host Christopher Mitchell. Listen to this episode here.

Will Rinehart: And I do think that obviously good policy is very very important and that's where you and I agree a lot. You know there's obviously some good policies that can be enacted. There's probably better conversations that could be had in this space and that's also something else that I really do really want to see. You're

Lisa Gonzalez: listening to episode 281 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. I'm Lisa Gonzales as a research organization. We here at the institute make it a habit to hear all sides of the debate along the way we make connections with people who offer perspectives on policy that differ from ours. We consider these conversations critical as we analyze factors that help us create policy recommendations and resources for local communities. This week Christopher talks with Will Rinehart from the American Action Forum. They got together at the recent broadband community's economic development conference in Atlanta. In this conversation you'll hear the two discuss a variety of topics they talk about the area of telecommunications and economics and the forum's approach. You'll also hear that these different perspectives aren't as black and white as they first appear. Now here's Christopher with Will Rinehart from the American Action Forum.

Christopher Mitchell: Welcome to another edition of the community broadband bits podcasts. I'm Chris Mitchell with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. Coming to you from Atlanta sitting practically on a runway at the Atlanta airport with Will Rinehart the Director of Technology and Innovation Policy with the American Action Forum. Welcome to the show. Thanks Chris. Thanks for having me. We're at the broadband community's event here. We just had our second panel which is called a blue ribbon panel and general session kind of thing. And you and I are typically brought on as people who have very opposing points of view.

Will Rinehart: [laughs] To...

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