Tag: "rural"

Posted December 11, 2020 by Sean Gonsalves

Last week we began our broad overview of the Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act, sweeping legislation that calls for a $100 billion investment in broadband infrastructure in unserved and underserved parts of the country, as well as federal funding and coordinated support to meet the myriad of barriers that prevent tens of millions of Americans from having access to affordable and reliable Internet connectivity.

The bill (H.R. 7302) has already passed in the U.S. House of Representatives led by House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-SC) and members of the House Rural Broadband Task Force. The Senate version of the bill (S. 4131), which was filed by Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, co-chair of the Senate Broadband Caucus, has stalled, thanks to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who has “has buried the legislation in his graveyard,” in the words of Rep. Clyburn.

In this second-installment of a series of posts exploring the major sections contained in the proposed legislation, we look at the “Title I – Digital Equity” portion of the bill.

New Office of Internet Connectivity and Growth (OICG)

The first thing the legislation does is requires the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information to establish an Office of Internet Connectivity and Growth (OICG) within the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). The new office, which would be allocated a $26 million annual budget, would run point on federal outreach to communities who lack access, or need better broadband access, via regional workshops, trainings, and the drafting of reports that would provide guidance on best-practices.

The office would also be required to track federal spending on any broadband related expenditures, as well as coordinate with other federal agencies to conduct a study on how affordability factors into households’ lack of connectivity...

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Posted December 10, 2020 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

Central Virginia Electric Cooperative's broadband subsidiary, Firefly Broadband, continues to make progress on installations in Amherst and Nelson counties for 310 homes using CARES funds. The project is scheduled to go live by the end of this year.

Posted December 10, 2020 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

Vermont Communications Union District (CUD) EC Fiber continues mapping efforts in Windsor and Orange counties in anticipation of construction projects there in 2021.

Posted December 1, 2020 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

The state of Kansas continues to build momentum with the announcement of a new, ten-year broadband grant program designed to drive network expansion in unserved and economically depressed areas. It will go towards connecting tens of thousands of residents in the state who currently have no or few options for Internet access, while bringing commercial development and connecting farms desperately in need. 

The Good

Currently, 3.5% of the state’s population, totaling almost 100,000 people, have no Internet access options at all. Students sent home at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic have struggled all summer and fall to get online to do coursework. Both urban and rural areas have continued to face significant challenges over the last decade, and the problem has only increased in recent months. It’s also an issue that has had ramifications for employers like Citizens State Bank in Cottonwood Falls, which has considered cutting local positions and shifting them to places with better Internet access options.

The new Broadband Acceleration Grant Program (BAGP) [pdf] offers lots of provisions for positive progress. It prioritizes low-income, economically distressed areas, as well as those without access to speeds of at least 25/3 Mbps (Megabits per second). This likely means much of the money will end up in the southeastern and southwestern parts of the state (see map). The grant also urges applicants to engage local stakeholders in their communities and build relationships with community anchor institutions, businesses, and nonprofits so as to maximize impact.

Each project is eligible for awards of up to $1 million for each project, requiring a 50% match, and helpfully, the program remains open...

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Posted November 24, 2020 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

Residents in the village of Tupper Lake, New York, will soon enjoy a municipally owned broadband option to get online. With the awarding of a grant by the Northern Border Regional Commission matched by local funds, a hybrid Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) and fixed wireless network will bring faster speeds and more reliable service to homes and businesses in the northern part of the Empire State by the middle of next summer.

Unreliable Service

The village of Tupper Lake (which sits within the boundaries of the town of Tupper Lake) is located in the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains not too far from Lake Placid. It’s an overwhelmingly rural area, and a little more than 3,500 people call the village home. 

Last year we wrote about local efforts to improve connectivity options. Back in 2018, a broadband committee was born mostly in response to a lack of Internet access options and complaints about poor service (Spectrum services the region). A study followed that work in 2019, and included a survey of the speeds and prices that homes and businesses in the downtown were paying. Frequent and prolonged outages were a particular problem in Tupper Lake. “We were talking to one business owner who said I was out of service for a day and a half,” Development Authority of the North Country (DANC) General Manager for Telecommunications told WAMC public radio, “[T]hat is almost impossible to do, because now I’ve got to write down credit card numbers and wait for a day to charge people and stuff like that and it just was very difficult.” The Adirondack Daily Enterprise reported that “broadband was the topic of around 30-50% of the emails and calls” to State Assemblyman Billy Jones’ office even before the pandemic.

Connectivity for students was also a driving factor, with a large majority of families with students reporting to the St. Lawrence...

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Posted November 23, 2020 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

Fed up with poor speeds and no service, a handful of residents in Washington County, Ohio have teamed up to form a broadband cooperative to pursue better connectivity for themselves and their neighbors. 

The Southeast Ohio Broadband Cooperative (SEOBC), created last May, is the result of work led by David Brown. “Electric cooperatives worked,” he said of the founding impulse. “Why can’t we do the same thing for broadband?”

After organizing, the first step the group took was to set up a speed test and map to both show how poorly connected many residents of Washington County are, and to plan for the future. That test is still ongoing, and the results are not terribly encouraging so far. Out of 4,662 run, almost 800 premises have no service (17%). Suddenlink and Charter are the only providers returning averages above the FCC’s threshold for basic broadband (25/3 Mbps (Megabits per second)), but together they represent just over 10% of those taking tests — though admittedly this is the result of sample bias, the map shows that outside of Marietta, Lovell, Beverly, Vincent, and the few other concentrated areas there are few providers returning adequate speeds. Subscribers to Frontier, Windstream, and ViaSat across the county see average connections of around 8/2 Mbps (Megabits per second). Those on HughesNet even worse off, at 3/2.5 Mbps.

Asa Boring, a Belpre Township trustee, told the Marietta Times

We have people in our area who have sort of Internet, but it’s kind of a hit and miss thing. But when you get a mile out of Little Hocking it’s over with, you just don’t get it . . . unless you sign up with Windstream and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.

Targeted Solutions

The cooperative sees a combination of fiber and fixed wireless as the solution for reaching residents in the future. For example, the group believes...

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Posted November 21, 2020 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

Months after work and school went remote for millions of Americans, some communities are still waiting to get online. In the Wall Street Journal in August, members of a rural community in West Virginia discuss the daily toll in their life that this struggle to receive home Internet access takes. ILSR’s Christopher Mitchell also explains the failures of US broadband policy that has kept communities from getting connected:

We see states that are still making policy based on what the cable and telephone companies, the big cable and telephone companies, tell them. But we electrified the country by recognizing that those business models do not work for all of America.

Read more in the article, or watch the video here.

Posted November 19, 2020 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

This afternoon we hosted a YouTube Live event to talk about a model for financing Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) networks with the potential to dramatically expand ultrafast Internet access at affordable rates with no large upfront costs to homeowners. Christopher was joined by Deborah Simpier, CEO of Althea Networks, to talk with NetEquity Networks Founder and CEO Isfandiyar Shaheen (Asfi) about how it works, and dig into practical questions about its potential to fiberize rural America. This “fiber condominium” approach pairs collectively owned network infrastructure with the equity boost that comes with bringing symmetrical gigabit access to residential housing. 

Watch the recording below, and read more about the approach.

 

Posted November 19, 2020 by Matthew Marcus

After years of struggling to obtain reliable Internet connectivity, The Hoh Tribe in western Washington has entered a beta trial with SpaceX’s StarLink satellite Internet service, drastically improving the community's Internet access speed and capacity. 

Russ Elliot, Director of the newly formed State Broadband Office, had been working closely with Melvinjohn Ashue, the former Vice-Chairmen of the Hoh Tribe. Russ has a background running an Internet Service Provider (ISP) and is skilled at networking with technology companies to tap into resources and opportunities to help connect reservations, rural communities, and others. 

Notably, Washington state emergency responders had also begun using StarLink in areas decimated by wildfires and since, StarLink has had a positive working relationship with people within the Washington state government. When Starlink’s beta began, Russ caught wind and introduced Starlink’s people to the Hoh tribe, and they shared their ongoing difficulties. Starlink was eager to help and excited that the Hoh tribe reservation was well positioned in relation to the satellites Starlink had in orbit at the time. 

A Plug and Play Broadband Solution

The setup was relatively fast, taking about a month in all, and logistically not complicated. Starlink held virtual meetings with the Hoh tribe council explaining the technology, setup, and service. The company also sent representatives to the Hoh reservation to test out the product on site, and after the tribe council discussed the service with community members 18 of 23 homes signed up and the satellite receiver kits were sent out shortly after. 

Melvinjohn explained that “out of box to connectivity was about 5 minutes.” In the first week he tested speeds between 58 and 65 Mbps at each household, and more recently speeds had increased to about 179 Mbps. The Hoh Tribe’s council agreed to a three-year contract with an initial beta period, but the pricing for this agreement has not been disclosed. The tribe is paying for this...

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Posted November 18, 2020 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

The New Mexico ISP is partnering with Sierra Electric Cooperative in the wake of getting a $6.1 million grant to deploy 271 miles of new fiber to connect more than 1,600 people in Siera County. 75% of residents there currently lack access to high-speed wireline broadband.

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