Tag: "rural"

Posted January 16, 2019 by Katie Kienbaum

Despite the ongoing saga of what has become the longest government shutdown in U.S. history, elected officials and policymakers still managed to gather at Google’s Washington, D.C., office yesterday for the Opportunities for Bipartisan Tech Policy conference. The half-day conference, hosted by Next Century Cities, the American Action Forum, and Public Knowledge, aimed to identify areas of bipartisan consensus in the issues of rural broadband, data privacy, and spectrum policy and to discuss potential priorities for the new Congress.

Read about some key takeaways from the conference below. For the full experience, watch the video archive of the event.

Keynote Highlights

FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel’s opening conversation with Deb Socia of Next Century Cities touched on many of the topics that would be discussed throughout the day, including rural and tribal broadband access, data privacy and consumer protections, and efficient allocation of spectrum. Commissioner Rosenworcel also pointed out the importance of working with states and localities to improve the accuracy of federal broadband availability data in order to better direct resources to underserved communities. (Learn more about how the FCC data overstates broadband access.)

In the second keynote discussion, moderated by Will Rinehart from the American Action Forum, Robert McDowell, former FCC Commissioner and Partner at Cooley LLP, and Blair Levin, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, spoke about the future of 5G and how to measure the success of broadband subsidy programs. When asked what his priorities would be if he were an FCC Commissioner, Levin replied:

“What I would do is free up the cities . . . I do think that city officials — they know more, they have the right incentives, and we’ve got to free them up. And the FCC is doing exactly the opposite"

Panelists Find Some Common Ground

Community Broadband Networks’ very own Christopher Mitchell moderated the first panel of...

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Posted January 15, 2019 by lgonzalez

In September 2018, we announced that we would begin working with NEO Partners LLC to bring the Community Networks Quickstart Program to local communities interested in exploring the possibilities of publicly owned broadband networks. For this week’s podcast, Christopher talks with the people behind the program, Glenn Fishbine and Nancy DeGidio.

Glenn and Nancy have combined their talents to create the CN Quickstart Program as a way for local communities to focus on realistic possibilities early in the long process toward better connectivity through public investment. Christopher, Glenn, and Nancy discuss some of the insights communities gain with the program. In addition to discovering which incumbents already operate in the region and where, Glenn and Nancy have the data to provide information about what fiber resources are already in place. Both elements help communities considering networks look at the possibilities of competition.

With data from each unique community, the CN Quickstart Program can provide information about potential fiber, wireless, and hybrid community networks and where those routes could travel. The program can provide cost estimates to help local leaders determine which options would be affordable for their community. Not than a replacement for a feasibility study, but a complement, a community that begins their feasibility study with results from the program will be able to direct a consultant toward the vision that they’ve been able to more accurately fine tune.

Glenn and Nancy also talk about why they decided to develop this tool and what they hope to accomplish, along with hopes for...

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Posted January 14, 2019 by lgonzalez

As you plan your week, make sure you have access to YouTube early so you can livestream the "Opportunities for Bipartisan Tech Policy" from 9 a.m. - 12:30 EST. The event, which will be streaming from Washington, D.C., is sponsored by Next Century Cities (NCC), the American Action Forum, and Public Knowledge

Check out the agenda for the event.

Distinguished Guests

In addition to keynote conversations from FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel and Senior Brookings Institution Fellow Blair Levin, our Christopher Mitchell will moderate a panel on rural broadband. The discussion on rural broadband will include input from:

 Other panels will cover the topics of data privacy and security, and spectrum. Representatives from institutions such as the Georgetown Law Center on Privacty and Technology, the National Hispanic Media Coalition, and ALEC will also be attending; expect a spirited event. It’s a half-day filled with policy, described by Next Century Cities as: 

[B]ringing together members of Congress, community leaders, and policy experts. Keynote conversations and panel discussions will work to determine key policy goals and action steps for the new Congress, with a specific focus on rural broadband, digital privacy and security, and spectrum legislation.

You can watch the livestream here and follow the conversation on Twitter: #BipartisanTech

 

...

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Posted January 10, 2019 by lgonzalez

Urban areas in North Carolina don’t have the same challenges obtaining high-quality Internet access as rural communities, but telephone and electric co-ops are taking more steps to change that imbalance. Cooperatives are filling gaps and finding opportunities where national ISPs don't see a high enough profit margin. Wilkes Communications/RiverStreet Networks and TriCounty Telephone recently merged to find those gaps and serve North Carolinians left behind.

Acquiring and Expanding 

In September 2018, TriCounty Telephone Membership Corporation merged with Wilkes Telephone Membership, the parent entity of Wilkes Communications and RiverStreet Networks. The cooperative also acquired Peoples Mutual Telephone Company and Peoples Mutual Long Distance Company, which took Wilkes into southern Virginia. 

When they added several other smaller companies, the cooperative continued to implement their strategy to bring broadband to rural communities without limiting themselves to one region. In addition to counties in central North Carolina, the cooperative now serves people along the north border, in a few south central counties, and in three counties far in eastern North Carolina that brush the eastern shore.

President and CEO Eric Cramer told the Journal Patriot in September that, where national ISPs turn away, Wilkes sees opportunity:

“Larger companies have abandoned these areas, so we think there is an advantage to grow there. A number of rural counties are looking to partner with companies like ours to help bring broadband like we’ve done here in Wilkes. .... These buildouts are much harder and take longer to produce results than acquisitions.”

Merging with TriCounty made sense because TriCounty had reached its potential due to size and scale limitations. TriCounty’s Vice President for business development Greg Coltrain recently told WNCT Channel 9 that the cooperative was considering the quickest way to bringing high-quality Internet access to rural North Carolina and achieve long-term success when they chose to merge with Wilkes:

"Our goal and our initiative is to find those areas, come up with an...

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Posted January 7, 2019 by lgonzalez

When Indiana’s Tipmont REMC asked members about broadband in 2017, more than half said that they couldn’t access fast, affordable, reliable connectivity. The rural electric cooperative soon began establishing plans to develop a fiber broadband network. Now, in a move to bring high-quality connectivity to members sooner, Tipmont has acquired local ISP Wintek Corporation, and plans to serve all 23,000 members within the next eight years.

A Comfortable Relationship

Wintek, headquartered in Lafayette, began in 1973 and provides connectivity to Tipmont’s headquarters in Linden, Indiana. The ISP has used the electric co-op's poles for more than 10 years to mount sections of the Wintek fiber for residential and commercial connections. According to Tipmont’s announcement on the acquisition, Wintek has also served as a consultant for IT systems to the cooperative. Tipmont leaders have already established a level of trust with Wintek and vice versa.

According to Oliver Beers, co-owner and COO of Wintek, the acquisition will allow more Wintek customers to access fiber connectivity. “We’ve done as much as we can financially afford to do,” Beers told the Journal Review.

Began as A Solo Project

When the Tipmont board unanimously decided to develop a Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network, they had not intended to work with another entity. They commenced construction this past summer in Montgomery and Tippecanoe Counties, where they’ve already deployed 30 miles of fiber. In November, they connected a dozen households in Linden as test customers to work with the system for two months.

“It’s really important when you have a service that people depend on, like electric service or broadband service, that we make very sure that what we’re providing is highly reliable given the gravity of what’s being provided,” says [Tipmont REMC President and CEO Ron] Holcomb. “So since we are new...

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Posted January 4, 2019 by lgonzalez

Ever since the term “5G” came on the scene, the big ISPs have dedicated themselves to expanding hype about what the technology will accomplish, especially in rural areas. In a recent NBC News Signal segment, Dasha Burns took a look at rural and urban connectivity, the digital divide, and considered the demands and limitations of 5G.

She provides a simple explanation for why 5G can only have a limited impact in rural areas. She also touches on some of the issues that create parallels between the situation for people in urban areas who might not have access to 5G when it finally arrives. To address the urban component of digital equity, Burns went to Newark, New Jersey, and met with students who, due to economic limitations, rely on public access to the Internet.

Burns visits rural Minnesota to check out RS Fiber and talks with one of the many local people in the agriculture industry, a crop consultant, that needs high-quality connectivity from the broadband co-op. We get a peek inside the RS Fiber headquarters. For more on the rural Minnesota cooperative, download our 2016 report, RS Fiber: Fertile Fields for New Rural Internet Cooperative.

Check out the 5:25 minute video:

Posted January 3, 2019 by lgonzalez

If you don’t live in an urban environment, there’s a strong possibility you long for better Internet access. We’re connecting local people in several North Carolina communities with broadband experts, elected officials, and representatives from regional ISPs for a conversation on better local broadband.

Sign up online for one for one of three local community meetings and share information about the gatherings on Facebook.

If you live in or near the communities of Albemarle, Fuquay-Varina, or Jacksonville, get ready to attend one of a series of three “Let’s Connect” meetings, organized by us at the Community Broadband Networks Initiative, the North Carolina League of Municipalities, and NC Hearts Gigabit. In order to start off the New Year right, we’re bringing together people who want to improve connectivity and are ready to learn more about how to get started.

As part of the conversation, local and national experts will present information on options, you’ll be able to participate in Q&A sessions, and meet up with other locals who share your goals. The events are free and scheduled in the evening at local civic gathering places.

logo-lets-connect_0.png In addition to Christopher, you'll see local officials, such as Council Member Martha Sue Hall from Albemarle, City Manager Adam Mitchell from Fuquay-Varina, and Jacksonville Mayor Pro Tem Michael Lazzara.

Registration is free and not required, but is encouraged to help us plan. You can sign up at Eventbrite and spread the word about the event with your Facebook friends.

Mark your calendars:

Albemarle

Monday, January 28th @ 6:30 p.m.

City Hall, Council Chambers, 

144 North Second St., Albemarle, NC 28002

Map

 

Fuquay-...

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Posted December 31, 2018 by lgonzalez

It was more than two years ago when voters in Vinton, Iowa, resoundingly gave their blessing to the city to form a telecommunications utility. After study and consideration, the municipality is now ready to move from design to deployment.

In mid-December, a Notice to Bidders went out from the Vinton Municipal Electric Utility (VMEU) and the engineering firm working with the community to develop a publicly owned Fiber-to-the-Premise (FTTP) network. According to the notice, Vinton plans to build the network “in its entirety” over the next year.

According to the media release, the city plans an underground deployment and anticipates the network will include approximately 82 miles of fiber. The Media Release indicates that several RFPs will be forthcoming throughout 2019.

Read the Notice to Bidders Media Release here.

It’s Feasible

In the fall of 2015, after Vinton voters decided 792 to 104 to put VMEU in control of the broadband initiative, it took until early 2017 for the city to hire a firm to develop a feasibility study. Many people in the community of about 5,100 people were tired of poor Internet access via slow DSL. Cable Internet access is available in some areas of town, but both residents and businesses feel that without high-quality connectivity, Vinton will lose out to other Iowa towns  that already have created municipal networks.

Cedar Falls and Waverly are both within an hour's drive north of Vinton. Other communities in Iowa have invested in fiber networks to improve economic development, including Spencer, Lenox, and Harlan.

The feasibility...

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Posted December 26, 2018 by lgonzalez

We left our crystal ball, tarot cards, and astrology charts at home, but that won’t stop us from trying to predict what will happen in 2019 for this week’s annual predictions podcast. Each year, we reflect on the important events related to publicly owned broadband networks and local connectivity that occurred during the year and share our impressions for what we expect to see in the next twelve months. As usual, the discussion is spirited and revealing.

This year we saw the departures of Research Associate Hannah Trostle and Communications Manager Nick Stumo-Langer as both decided to head off to grad school. This year, you’ll hear our new Communications Specialist Jess Del Fiacco and Research Associate Katie Kienbaum keeping those seats warm. Hannah and Nick take time out of their schedules to offer some predictions of their own at the end of the show.

In addition to recaps of last year's predictions for state legislation, cooperative efforts, and preemption, we get into our expectations for what we expect to see from large, national incumbent ISPs, local private and member owned providers, and governments. We discuss federal funding, local organizing efforts and issues that drive them, concentration of power, our predictions for digital equity, efforts in big cities, open access, rural initiatives, and more. This podcast is packed with good stuff!

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

This show is 45 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed. You can listen to the interview on this page or visit the...

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Posted December 20, 2018 by Katie Kienbaum

Even if a local government isn’t ready or able to build its own broadband network, there are still ways they can help bring the benefits of better connectivity to their community. Over the past few years, several counties in Minnesota have partnered with local electric and telephone cooperatives to expand high-quality Internet access as an economic development strategy. In many instances, county governments have offered financial support to the local co-ops, in the form of grants and loans, to connect their rural residents with high-quality fiber networks, often supplementing federal subsidies or statewide Minnesota Border-to-Border Broadband Development grants.

Projects Across the State

Minnesota counties have taken a variety of approaches when it comes to helping cooperatives finance broadband deployment projects.

Some, such as Cook County in the far northeastern corner of the state, provided grants to local co-ops. Cook County began its partnership with Arrowhead Electric Cooperative back in 2008 when both entities contributed to a broadband feasibility study. At the time, the county suffered from the worst connectivity in the state, and many people still relied on dial-up. In 2010, Arrowhead was awarded a $16.1 million combined grant and loan from the stimulus-funded Broadband Initiatives Program (BIP) to build a fiber network in Cook County. The county government offered Arrowhead a $4 million grant for the project, funded by the voters’ reauthorization of a 1 percent sales tax that was due to expire. In return, Arrowhead agreed to provide services such as Internet access to county buildings at no cost.

Yet more local governments have opted to loan money to co-ops to expand broadband access in their county. Both Big Stone County and Swift County chose this route after Federated Telephone Cooperative received a $3.92 million...

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