Tag: "rural"

Posted October 29, 2019 by lgonzalez

Okanogan County and the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation are working together in central Washington to bring last mile broadband connectivity to the region. The partners have created the Broadband Action Team (BAT)  and are working step by step to develop fast, affordable, reliable Internet access for about 42,000 people in the area. They recently released a Request for Proposals (RFP) as they search for a firm to help develop a County and Tribal Broadband Strategic Plan. Proposals are due November 26th, 2019.

Read the RFP here.

In the Face of Difficulties

Okanogan County and the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation have contended with significant challenges. According to the RFP:

Much of Okanogan County, including the Colville Reservation within Okanogan County, is plagued with high unemployment, excessive poverty, and an absence of quality of life amenities that have proven to be undesirable to most residents and insurmountable barriers to 21st century economic and community development. Okanogan County and the Colville Confederated Tribes are historically and economically a distressed area. Historically, the surrounding areas within Okanogan County have been dependent on a resource-based economy. Community and economic resources have decreased dramatically as a substantial as the Omak Mill, closed. Many individuals have struggled to find work elsewhere and have either had to move, find government work, or start their own business.

Like many other communities that have decided it’s time to diversify their economy, leaders have determined that improving connectivity is necessary for economic development. Other livability issues, such as public safety, educational opportunities, and distance learning will improve in the region with the Internet access that people now lack. 

Both parties also believe that this project will help strengthen their ability to jointly collect data regarding other infrastructure needs in the area. The county and the tribe want to pursue planning for other projects and work together.

Back in September 2019, we reported on earlier steps by the county and  the tribe along...

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Posted October 28, 2019 by lgonzalez

By now, you’ve met the people of “Villageville,” the imaginary town in rural America that, like many similarly situated communities, are struggling to find better connectivity. This week, we continue our soap opera saga “From Crops to Co-ops: Small Towns Want Better Internet.”

In this episode, the kids of the community are working on another big homework assignment and gather together at the neighbor’s house to tap into his satellite Internet access. Watch to find out the results when Grumpy Gary tells the kids to “get off his lawn.”

In rural areas with low population density, large corporate Internet access providers don’t find the motivation they need to invest in fast, affordable, reliable connectivity. High numbers of residents and businesses depend on satellite Internet access as a last resort. Plans are expensive, unreliable, and typically include data caps. In episode 3, we include pop-up information about satellite Internet access and how communities who must use it settle for less than they deserve.

Don’t miss another opportunity to hear the Very Amateur Acting Troupe from the Community Broadband Networks Initiative and the Institute for Local Self-Reliance fill the roles of local people who are just trying to get online to get stuff done.

If you want to get caught up first, read up on the storyline from episode 1 here or watch it below. You can also check out the synopsis of episode 2 and watch it below to experience the whole story from the start. Share the series playlist, where we'll continue to add episodes as we release them.

Next week we attend a city council meeting in Villageville in which residents and community leaders decide what to do about poor Internet access in their community. Don't miss it!

You can get caught up on the saga here with episode 1:

...

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Posted October 25, 2019 by lgonzalez

We're pleased to bring you the first episode from a special bonus series of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast titled "Why NC Broadband Matters." The series is a collaboration with the nonprofit NC Broadband Matters, whose focus is on facilitating the expansion of ubiquitous broadband coverage to local communities for residents and businesses. We'll be working with NC Broadband Matters on this series to develop nine more episodes that center around broadband in North Carolina.

"Overbuilding Means Providing Internet Choice: How One Small Company is Closing North Carolina's Digital Divide," is a conversation between host Christopher Mitchell and Alan Fitzpatrick of Open Broadband. The North Carolina company delivers high-quality Internet access to local communities. As Fitzpatrick notes in the interview, Open Broadband uses different types of technology, depending on what's most effective in each region. The goal is delivering quality Internet access.

logo-nc-hearts-gig.png Christopher and Alan talk about how the term "overbuilding" is now associated with waste, rather than with competition. They discuss the benefits of overbuilding and competition, problems with of lack of choice, and Alan reviews some potential long-term policy changes that could encourage investment. Alan and Christopher talk about local government involvement in promoting competition for better access to high-quality connectivity. They also touch on how lack of competition can increase the digital divide and how North Carolina could make changes to allow local governments to...

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Posted October 23, 2019 by Sayidali Moalim

Williamstown, Massachusetts, may ask their constituents to vote on the creation of a publicly owned fiber optic system. For the town of 7,700, a vote on whether or not to invest in fast, affordable, reliable, Internet network infrastructure isn't imminent, however, as Williamstown still has significant research ahead. 

An Ongoing Discussion

This past summer, community leaders learned from Select Board Member Andrew Hogeland more about the possibilities in Williamstown. He gave his update regarding the research on the broadband initiative at a July meeting:

“The answer seems to be: It's promising," Hogeland said.

...

"We are in competition with other towns around the state and country who are doing this," Hogeland said. "There are lots of reasons to come to Williamstown, but if there's another town like us that also has broadband … "

Williamstown began consideration of a municipal network several years ago, when the town’s 2015 Economic Development Committee began to investigate the potential for developing fiber optic infrastructure. The committee released a 2016 report that indicated Williamstown would face certain disadvantages if they didn't improve local connectivity for businesses. The report stated:

"The Best Practices study found a positive correlation between broadband access and economic prosperity. Other studies of the broadband industry confirm this correlation, and indicate that towns with broadband access have a better business environment and higher real estate values compared to communities without broadband."

Williamstown now has access to DSL and cable Internet access; community leaders want to explore interest before diving too deep into the project. The research group for Williamstown plans to do outreach this fall to residents and businesses as well as the possibility of including a survey to assess the demand of municipal fiber optic Internet access in the annual census. Local officials discussed the challenges involved with developing a sustainable municipal broadband project at a recent select board meeting. “Success is: Are you going to have more or less half the households...

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Posted October 21, 2019 by lgonzalez

We recently introduced you to our informative and campy video series, “From Crops to Co-ops: Small Towns Want Better Internet!” In episode 2, we continue the saga of “Villageville,” where the streets are quiet, the people are friendly, and the Internet access leaves much to be desired. Last time, you met some of the people who live in this rural community and discovered how they've dealt with substandard connectivity. People are getting a little fed up; could the wind be shifting in Villageville?

Don’t miss this chance to hear current and past members of the Community Broadband Networks Team try their hand at voiceover acting! We wanted to make this series fun and have fun making it, so you'll hear some familiar voices.

In episode 2, the town’s newest family, shocked and dismayed at Villageville’s poor connectivity, meet to the local librarian to discuss local options. Like students who need fast, affordable, reliable Internet access for homework, entrepreneurs in rural areas often find their business goals hindered if they move to a community forced to rely on outdated solutions like DSL.

As librarians often do, however, Villageville's has been researching the problem and shares her findings. She’s discovered some great information about rural cooperatives. In addition to the facts our local librarian shares, we’ve included pop-up data about cooperatives, connectivity, and economic development. The video is a great way for you to get people interested in learning more about the possibilities in your own rural community.

If you haven’t seen episode 1 yet, check out the synopsis here or watch it below and learn more about our cast of characters and their quest for better Internet access. Share the series playlist, where we'll continue to add episodes as we release them.

Need to get caught up? Here's episode 1:

Posted October 14, 2019 by lgonzalez

In rural communities, large companies often won’t invest in high-quality Internet network infrastructure due to the lack of population density. Increasingly, rural electric and communications cooperatives are filling the void and providing the Internet access small towns and surrounding areas need. In order to illustrate the challenges facing these small rural towns, we’ve developed a series of videos titled, “From Crops to Co-ops: Small Towns Want Better Internet!”

The series includes five episodes that tell the story of one small town, its residents, and the way they tackle the need for better local connectivity. In addition to our story about the folks from the imaginary community of "Villageville," we include real-life statistics about connectivity in rural communities.

In the first episode, we’ve introduced some of the characters that will take us through the series as we catch up with them outside the local library. You'll learn why they're hanging out in the parking lot and get a better understanding of what life is like in a rural community where small towns want better Internet access.

Share this resource with others who are interested in exploring options for improving connectivity in their local communities.

We’ll share more episodes that document Villageville's journey in the coming weeks.

 

UPDATE:

We've published all five episodes! Watch them here to find out what happened in Villageville:

Episode 2:

Episode 3:

Episode 4:

Episode 5:

Posted October 7, 2019 by lgonzalez

This week is Digital Inclusion Week, sponsored by the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA). As a reader of MuniNetworks.org, you're used to stories about local communities that develop strategies to deploy networks for many reasons, including to improve access to high-quality connectivity. These local communities recognize the necessity of finding a way for members of the community to obtain fast, affordable, reliable Internet access. Access, however, is only one element of digital inclusion. We'll share stories highlighting local efforts to bring every person online with the tools they need to expand their use of the Internet.

NDIA writes:

Digital Inclusion Week (DIW)  is October 7-11, 2019, and with your help we can move closer to our common goal: that all people have access to the Internet and the tools they need to use it. The week, sponsored by the National Digital Inclusion Alliance, is an opportunity to raise awareness about digital inequities and nationwide efforts to close those gaps from California to the Carolinas. Digital Inclusion Week seeks to bring people who dedicate their lives to Digital Inclusion together to highlight the impact of their work and to come together to find solutions to close digital divides.

What is Digital Inclusion?

Digital inclusion isn't limited to the inability to subscribe to Internet access because one doesn't live in a place where is isn't available. NDIA applies five necessary elements:

Digital Inclusion refers to the activities necessary to ensure that all individuals and communities, including the most disadvantaged, have access to and use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs).  This includes 5 elements: 

1) affordable, robust broadband Internet service; 

2) Internet-enabled devices that meet the needs of the user; 

3) access to digital literacy training; 

4) quality technical support; and 

5) applications and online content designed to enable and encourage self-sufficiency, participation and collaboration. 

Digital Inclusion must evolve as technology advances. Digital Inclusion requires intentional strategies and investments to reduce and eliminate historical, institutional and structural barriers to access and use technology.

Join In the...

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Posted October 4, 2019 by lgonzalez

On the September 30, 2019 edition of NPR's "All Tech Considered," Paul Flahive of Texas Public Radio reports on the way rural electric cooperatives are using their resources to develop broadband networks in rural Texas communities.

Flahive visits Bandera, "The Cowboy Capital of the World," where Bandera Electric Cooperative is deploying Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH). Read more about how cooperatives are connecting rural communities in our 2019 updated report, Cooperatives Fiberize Rural America: A Trusted Model For The Internet Era. Visit our Rural Cooperatives page, and listen to the story from NPR News.

 

Posted October 3, 2019 by lgonzalez

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) mapping has long been criticized for inaccuracies. Now, state and local initiatives are taking up the challenge of poor broadband mapping and developing ways to create their own maps that better reflect the reality of broadband coverage in their communities. The Georgia Broadband Deployment Initiative (GBDI) recently showcased several county-level maps they’ve developed that provide the detail that FCC maps lack.

Therein the Problem Lies

As experts have noted, FCC data on which maps are based are inadequate because their foundation is based on census blocks. If one premise in a census block can be served by an Internet access provider, that provider will report on the Form 477 that the entire census block is served. In rural areas where census blocks can be very large tracts of land, this can leave many premises indicated as served but actually unserved. 

We developed this graphic to illustrate the issue:

diagram-census-blocks-2018.jpg

When local communities apply for funding that’s based on the need to connect unserved and underserved premises, they can be disqualified due to incorrect mapping data. For local leaders who need to get their communities connected and expect to apply for grants and loans, FCC mapping can derail their funding and delay or end a proposed project.

This past August, the FCC announced that they will finally take steps to improve mapping and began seeking comments on the new Digital Opportunity Data Collection. Read the announcement [PDF].

Fixing the Maps

In Georgia, the GBDI sought to obtain information on a more granular level to obtain an accurate representation of where residents and businesses need to be connected and where they lack the kind of connectivity they need. 

According to GBDI Director Deanna Perry, staff developed a database of all premises located within the targeted counties they...

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Posted October 2, 2019 by lgonzalez

Fixed wireless Internet access from Open Broadband will soon be offered in special pilot areas of Alexander County, North Carolina, reports the Taylorsville Times.

According to the Times, the company started installing equipment on a local mountain; once it has been tested and configured, residents and businesses will be able to subscribe. People in Alexander County can join the wait list now and will be notified when service comes to their area.

“Alexander County conducted a broadband survey back in June 2017, which showed a tremendous need for expanding broadband Internet service in the county,” said Dr. Jeff Peal, Chairman of the Alexander County Board of Commissioners. “To get a better understanding of our need and how service could be improved, the county awarded a contract in September 2017 to Open Broadband for a feasibility study. After learning those results, we began investigating ways to move this critical project forward.”

...

The Alexander County EDC applied for, and received, a $50,000 grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) in early 2019 to help fund the pilot program. The EDC then issued a request for proposals in March to find an Internet Service Provider (ISP) with the best plan, qualifications, and price point. Upon review of the proposals, the EDC Board of Directors approved a contract with Open Broadband to conduct the pilot program. Per the contract, Open Broadband provided a $50,000 match to the ARC grant, and Alexander County Government contributed $36,470 to the project.

Peal told the Times that the pilot project results will determine the future of the partnership between Open Broadband and the county. 

“Pending the results from this pilot program, we hope to continue this partnership and work to expand the broadband network to cover as much of Alexander County as possible in the next few years,” Peal stated. “County officials and staff will continue to pursue all opportunities to expand broadband Internet service to our residents and businesses.”

Open Broadband CEO Alan Fitzpatrick encourages folks to sign up, regardless of where they live in relation to the pilot project.  “If we cannot turn up service at...

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