Tag: "north carolina"

Posted November 17, 2017 by Matthew Marcus

If you live in western North Carolina and struggle with the lack of quality Internet access, the Southwestern Commission — a council of local governments for the region’s seven westernmost counties — in cooperation with the MountainWest Partneship are urging residents to take this survey. Counties in the council include Haywood, Swain, Jackson, Macon, Graham, Cherokee, and Clay.

The goal is to quantify the demand for Internet regionally, focusing on individual counties as opposed to census blocks, in order to better determine accessibility issues. It’s an important process to show Internet providers that there is demand, debunking ISPs claim that rural demand for high-speed Internet doesn't justify the investment. Better data can also establish a foundation for future funding opportunities.

Sarah Thompson, the executive director of the council explained,

It’s really in my opinion one of the most important parts of the process. You’re basically showing [internet service providers] that there is demand, it’s showing even when there is service it’s subpar. In order to move forward with projects, we have to have that data to back up the need. To show that there are opportunities.

FCC’s Inaccurate Data Collection

Through the FCC’s form 477 data collection efforts, the Commission attempted to carry out these crucial first steps in showing aggregate demand and problematic broadband service. The data was compiled into the easily accessible National Broadband Map.

Data is collected from ISPs and it provides information to the FCC based on which census blocks ISPs serve. The problem is that this data exaggerates where coverage is available in rural areas where census blocks can be very large. Areas that may appear on the FCCs maps to be served or to be served with better connectivity are often in reality not served or served with Internet access much slower than FCC mapping indicates. Because state and federal entities typically award grants and loans to communities with the greatest need first, incorrect mapping eliminates rural communities from funding opportunities when they need it the most.

Not only...

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Posted November 16, 2017 by lgonzalez

The future of high-quality Internet access in Pinetops, North Carolina, is precarious. Nearby Wilson’s municipal fiber network, Greenlight, provides gigabit connectivity for now, but a series of federal level decisions could change the situation at any moment. Now the story of these two communities and their fight for local telecommunications authority has come to life in the film Do Not Pass Go. Local communities can schedule a screening of the documentary. Watch the trailer below.

A Story Worth Telling

Cullen Hoback’s film tells the story that made national news and that we’ve shared as events unfolded.

Wilson, North Carolina’s municipal Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network has benefitted residents, businesses, and institutions in Wilson since 2008. Neighboring rural towns, including Pinetops, had asked Wilson to expand in order to obtain better Internet access but state law precluded Wilson from serving beyond county borders.

When Chattanooga decided to challenge Tennessee’s law that had a similar effect, Wilson joined the motion to the FCC in 2015. The Commission struck down both laws and Wilson took the opportunity to expand service to Pinetops, the small mountain town of about 1,400 people. Pinetops businesses and residents immediately felt the improvement with FTTH. They experienced economic development opportunities and municipal facilities functioned more efficiently.

In the summer of 2016, however, an appellate court reversed the FCC decision and Pinetops was scheduled to be cut off from the FTTH service it had come to depend on. Wilson provided free connectivity for a time to avoid breaking the law, but eventually, the state legislature passed a bill that will allow Greenlight...

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Posted September 27, 2017 by lgonzalez

A recent proposal being considered by the FCC that has raised the loudest outcry has been the status of mobile broadband in rural areas. Now that Verizon is discontinuing rural subscriber accounts, the FCC will be able to see those concerns come to life.

Dear John...

The company has decided to cut service to scores of customers in 13 states because those subscribers have used so many roaming charges, Verizon says it isn’t profitable for the company. Service will end for affected subscribers after October 17th.

Verizon claims customers who use data while roaming via other providers’ networks create roaming costs that are higher than what the customers pay for services. In rural communities, often mobile wireless is the best (albeit poor) or only option for Internet access, so subscribers use their phones to go online.

Subscribers are from rural areas in Alaska, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Utah, and Wisconsin.

In a letter sent to customers scheduled to be cut off, Verizon offered no option, such as paying more for more data or switching to a higher cost plan. Many of the people affected were enrolled in unlimited data plans:

“During a recent review of customer accounts, we discovered you are using a significant amount of data while roaming off the Verizon Wireless network. While we appreciate you choosing Verizon, after October 17th, 2017, we will no longer offer service for the numbers listed above since your primary place of use is outside the Verizon service area.”

Affecting Customers And Local Carriers

Apparently, Verizon’s LTE in Rural America (LRA) program, which creates partnerships with 21 other carriers, is the culprit. The agreements it has with the other carriers through the program allows Verizon subscribers to use those networks when they use roaming data, but Verizon must pay the carriers’ fees. Verizon has confirmed that they will disconnect 8,500 rural customers who already have little options for connectivity.

Philip Dampier at Stop The Cap! writes:

Verizon has leased out LTE spectrum covering 225,000 square miles in 169 rural counties in 15 different states. The company said more than 1,000 LTE cell sites have been...

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Posted August 15, 2017 by lgonzalez

For the past year, six municipalities along with local colleges and universities have collaborated to lay the groundwork for fiber optic infrastructure in the greater Asheville area. The group, West Next Generation Network (WestNGN), is now ready to find a partner to begin hammering out details in order to realize the concept. They’ve released the WestNGN Broadband Request for Negation (RFN) and responses are due September 21st.

The plan closely resembles the North Carolina Next Generation Network (NCNGN) in the Research Triangle area of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill. WestNGN will include the communities of Asheville, Biltmore Forest, Fletcher, Hendersonville, Laurel Park, and Waynesville - all of which belong to the Land of Sky Regional Council. The Council has helped with administration and in drafting the RFN aimed at improving local connectivity and boosting regional economic development.

Strategic Alliance Partnership

WestNGN’s RFN states that they want to establish a Strategic Alliance Partnership with a single ISP or a group of ISPs that possess an interest in both providing service and in deployment. WestNGN puts negotiation of ownership of assets and use of those assets at the top of the list for discussion points, signaling that rhey aren't set on a fixed approach. Similarly, they hope to negotiate matters such as management, operation, and maintenance of local networks; ways to speed up deployment and reduce costs; and ways to better serve low-income residents.

Goals For The Network

WestNGN plans to bring gigabit connectivity to residents, businesses, and community anchor institutions in the region. They specifically state their priority for this level of capacity, but note that their future partner will have time to gradually implement it, if necessary. They also stress the need for symmetrical service speeds. Several employers in the region have determined that upload speeds - from their offices and for their employees at home - are increasingly desirable. The consortium has recognized that home-based businesses in the region are also multiplying every year.

WestNGN states that they want to increase the amount of dark fiber available to lease to all providers. Potential partners should be willing...

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Posted July 17, 2017 by htrostle

https://muninetworks.org/sites/www.muninetworks.org/files/CoopFiber2017B.png

 

 

Cooperatives around the country have built on their long legacy of delivering essential infrastructure by starting to deliver next-generation Internet services. Here, we cover the basics of cooperatives in rural areas and then discuss the details of electric and telephone cooperatives that have already branched out into Internet service. Finally, we highlight the first Internet fiber optic cooperative and discuss how other communities have better Internet service through building their own networks.

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Posted June 30, 2017 by lgonzalez

It’s been a long road for Pinetops, North Carolina, as they’ve sought better connectivity in their rural community. After dramatic ups and downs, the community seems to have finally found a tepid resolution. Greenlight can, for now, continue to serve Pinetops.

With Conditions

On June 28th, the General Assembly passed HB 396, which allows Wilson’s municipal network, Greenlight, to continue to provide gigabit connectivity to the town and to Vick Family Farms but establishes conditions. If or when another provider brings Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) service to Pinetops, Wilson has 30 days to end service as customers transition to the new provider. Until a different provider comes to Pinetops, Greenlight will continue to offer its gigabit connectivity to the approximately 600 households and premises in the community of about 1,300 people.

In addition to premises in the town of Pinetops, Greenlight is serving Vick Family Farm, a local potato manufacturer. When the business obtained access to high-quality Internet access, they were able to expand their business internationally; they invested in a high tech distribution facility. The facility requires the kind of capacity they can only get from Greenlight.

Community leaders in Pinetops are relieved they don’t have to give up fiber connectivity, but they’re happy with the service they get with Greenlight and would rather stick with the muni.

“Although not the solution we expected, we are pleased this bill allows us to continue to leverage Greenlight’s next generation infrastructure as we focus on growing our community,” said [Town Commissioner Suzanne] Coker-Craig. “Hopefully, no other provider will exercise the option to build redundant infrastructure that our community neither wants nor needs. Pinetops has made it clear that we want the quality and speed of service that only Greenlight can provide.”

Read the text of the bill here.

What A Long, Strange Trip It’s Been...

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Posted June 29, 2017 by lgonzalez

Alexander County, North Carolina, recently released a Request for Proposals (RFP) to find a firm to conduct a broadband assessment and feasibility study. Applications are due July 24th.

Rural Connectivity

In addition to examining what type of service and where service is currently available, the county wants a firm that will help create a strategy to improve what they already know is poor connectivity throughout the county. Funding sources should be identified along with helpful public policy suggestions.

According to the RFP, approximately 50 percent of 1,954 respondents in a recent indicated that their Internet service did not have sufficient speed. Sixty-five percent don’t have access to broadband as defined by the FCC (25 Megabits per second download and 3 Mbps upload), and about 12 percent use their mobile devices to access the Internet. Sixteen percent noted that affordability is a problem. Approximately 84 percent of respondents indicated that they’d like to have more options for Internet access.

Alexander County

Alexander County is mostly rural and home to about 38,000 people. Manufacturing is an important part of the economy but farmland makes up much of its 264 square miles. Taylorsville is the county seat and the only town, with a few other unincorporated communities in the county. Bethlehem, a census designated place is located in the southwest corner of the county and is also somewhat densely populated, relative to the rest of the county.

The community is on the west side of the state, about an hour north of Charlotte. The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) classifies the community's economic status as "transitional" and the North Carolina Department of Commerce considers it an average economically distressed county. A little more than half of school kids qualify for free and reduced lunches. Unemployment is at 3.2 percent as of April 2017. County leaders hope that improving connectivity within the region will also help diversify the economy and improve the employment situation for residents.

Existing Fiber

The county’s Information Technology Department maintains a fiber optic network that connects ten public facilities, including the library, courthouse, and law...

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Posted June 15, 2017 by lgonzalez

North Carolinians, do you feel like your state is 90 - 93 percent covered with Internet access that provides 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) download and 3 Mbps upload speeds? If you live in one of the state's many rural areas, probably not. The state is now providing an opportunity for North Carolinians to verify and comment on FCC mapping data with a new state broadband mapping tool.

Cleaning Up The Data 

The state’s Department of Information Technology released the tool in May and encourages residents and businesses to test out the accuracy of their premise data. The map uses FCC acquired from ISPs that report coverage and speeds on Form 477. The data, based on census blocks, typically overstates coverage, creating maps that are unreliable and inaccurate. North Carolina officials aim to correct that.

“We want to get better data so we can go back to the FCC and tell them your data says your census block is served, but less than 25 per cent of the people are actually getting service,” says Jeff Sural, director of the North Carolina broadband infrastructure office.

With better data, state officials hope to increase FCC funding opportunities and determine what areas are in the most dire straits regarding lack of Internet access. The tool asks users to review the data that was submitted by ISPs for their address, conduct a speed test, and confirm whether or not they have access to the connectivity that the ISPs claim they do, and if not, provide more accurate information.

Once a threshold of users have completed the test to allow the results to be displayed on the map, the North Carolina Broadband Infrastructure Office will begin sharing the results on the map.

It's A Start

The effort will help obtain a more accurate picture of what’s really going on in the Internet access trenches if residents and businesses participate, but the state needs to go further to ease its connectivity problems. In a recent State Scoop article, Christopher once again pointed out the failings caused by state restrictions that discourage investment:

"[There are] a lot of opportunities with [municipal networks] and co-...

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Posted June 1, 2017 by lgonzalez

For the second week in row, our staff has felt compelled to address a misleading report about municipal networks. In order to correct the errors and incorrect assumptions in yet another anti-muni publication, we’ve worked with Next Century Cities to publish Correcting Community Fiber Fallacies: Yoo Discredits U Penn, Not Municipal Networks.

Skewed Data = Skewed Results

Professor Christopher S. Yoo and Timothy Pfenninger from the Center for Technology, Innovation and Competition (CTIC) at the University of Pennsylvania Law School recently released "Municipal Fiber in the United States: An Empirical Assessment of Financial Performance." The report attempts to analyze the financial future of several citywide Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) municipal networks in the U.S. by applying a Net Present Value (NPV) calculation approach. They applied their method to some well-known networks, including Chattanooga's EPB Fiber Optics; Greenlight in Wilson, North Carolina; and Lafayette, Louisiana's LUS Fiber. Unfortunately, their initial data was flawed and incomplete, which yielded a report fraught with credibility issues.

So Many Problems 

In addition to compromising data validity, the authors of the study didn’t consider the wider context of municipal networks, which goes beyond the purpose of NPV, which is determining the promise of a financial investment.

Some of the more expansive problems with this report (from our Executive Summary):

  • They erred in claiming Wilson, Lafayette, and Chattanooga have balloon payments at the end of the term. They have corrected that error in a press release. Other errors, such as confusing the technologies used by at least two networks, are less important but decrease the study’s credibility.
  • Several of the cities dispute the accuracy of the numbers used in the calculations for their communities.
  • The Net Present Value calculation is inappropriate in this context for...
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Posted May 26, 2017 by Nick

State Scoop - May 26, 2017

Crowdsourced broadband mapping helps North Carolina clean its data

A new tool released by the state's technology agency is being used to refine coverage data reported by the FCC and open the way for new funding opportunities.

North Carolina's state technology agency launched a new tool for measuring broadband speeds across the state Wednesday as part of long-term infrastructure planning that could bring new connectivity to rural areas.

...

A fact sheet published by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance shows that North Carolina has a deeply stratified rural-urban divide when it comes to broadband. Christopher Mitchell, ILSR's director of community broadband networks, blames the state's regulations for the disparity.

"The state perversely discourages investment from local governments and cooperatives," Mitchell writes in a 2016 report summary.

A 1999 statute limits the ability of electric cooperatives access to capital for telecommunications, while a 2011 law limits the power of local governments build internet networks.

In an email to StateScoop, Mitchell said North Carolina is "far too focused on AT&T and Charter. It is a real shame."

Disputes over how to fund the state's rural broadband efforts have been an ongoing debate in recent years. A plan sketched by former Gov. Pat McCrory had theoretically positioned all residents in the state with connectivity by 2021. Mitchell argues that the state is ignoring some of its best options by depending on a private market that has thus far consistently failed to serve certain areas of the state.

"[There are] a lot of opportunities with [municipal networks] and co-ops but the Legislature seems unable to comprehend that the big...

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