Tag: "school"

Posted November 4, 2022 by Ry Marcattilio

In this episode of the podcast, Christopher is joined by William Sullivan, a resident of the city of Baltimore who works as part of the Digital Equity Leadership Lab. He shares his work in the city in recent years in getting students engaged in building digital skills and computer literacy. By pairing gaming with learning programs, Sullivan and his colleagues not only got students interested in computer hardware, but incented them to build new digital skills that would aid them in college and on the job market later in life. It also, he shares, fostered interest in taking on additional new learning challenges, as well as building new social spaces with people they had not known before.

This show is 16 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 Community Broadband Bits page.

Transcript coming soon. 

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

Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Subscribe to the Building Local Power podcast, also from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, on iTunes or Stitcher to catch more great conversations about local communities, the concentration of corporate power, and how everyday people are taking control.

Thanks to Arne Huseby for the music. The song is Warm Duck Shuffle and is...

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Posted September 6, 2022 by Ry Marcattilio

This week on the podcast, Christopher is joined by two representatives from Pharr, Texas (pop. 79,000), which has embarked on a citywide fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) network build that is seeing strong local support and fast progress in recent months. Jose Pena is the IT Director for the city, and and Guillermo Aguilar works as a Partner at Brownstone Consultants, which is serving as a project manager for the network build. Jose and Guillerma talk with Christopher about the impetus for TeamPharr, the municipal effort which formally kicked off in 2017 with a feasibility study.

Jose and Guillermo share how the city moved to a fixed wireless pilot project on the southern part of town a few years ago before extending the network to a collection of city parks and then making the commitment to a full citywide buildout in 2020. They detail their early work in the state, which places some barriers in front of communities looking to take their telecommunications future into their own hands, and the help they got from Mont Belvieu (which also runs its own network). Jose and Guillermo share the phenominally fast progress the team has made, from finishing the design phase in September of last year, to connecting the first household in January 2022, to passing 70 percent of premisestoday.They also talk about their work to offer subscribers low pricing tiers ($25 and $50/month for symmetrical 500 Mbps and gigabit service, respectively) and their efforts to help households sign up for the Affordable Connectivity Program.

Check out the videos at the bottom of this story for more about why Pharr undertook the project and the progress the city has made so far.

This show is 40 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 Community...

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Posted February 10, 2022 by Ry Marcattilio

Dickson, Tennessee (pop. 15,500) was the third municipal electric system to take power from the Tennessee Valley Authority after its creation in 1933, but the utility actually predates the regional electric generation system by almost 30 years. Today, it’s entering a new phase of life, parlaying its 117-year history of bringing affordable electric service into an $80 million fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) build that will see every household in its footprint (37,000 meters) get future-proof Internet access within the next four years.

A Cooperative in Municipal Clothing

Established in 1905, the very first Dickson Electric System (DES) customers received their power from a single 150-horsepower external combustion steam engine. DES upgraded its capacity in 1923, switching to two 150-horsepower oil-burning engines. A little more than a decade later, the TVA was established and DES took service, joining the maturing regional electric system and bringing its 650 customers and 50 miles of line into what would eventually be a group of more than 150 local power utilities almost a century later.

Today, Dickson Electric territory covers almost 800 square miles across Dickson, Hickman, Cheatham, Williamson, Humphreys, Houston, and Montgomery Counties (with the bulk of its customers in the first three), across about 2,600 miles of distribution line to 37,000 locations.

Because of this and some other factors, in many ways Dickson, Tennessee’s municipal electric system looks more like an electric cooperative than typical city-centered infrastructure, General Manager Darrell Gillespie shared in an interview. Just the fourth general manager to serve in the position since DES’ founding, Gillespie said that only 22 percent of its meters are located in the city of Dickson. The rest are spread across the seven-county footprint - many in rural areas, and including in parts or all of four other cities. In fact, DES averages just 13 customers per mile across its service area.

With a long history of providing affordable, reliable, locally accountable electric service, leadership at the utility have been talking about expanding into the fiber business for years. The onset of the pandemic in the spring of 2020...

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Posted January 10, 2022 by Ry Marcattilio

The Schools, Health, & Libraries Bradband Coalition is hiring for a new position that will work with state and federal policymakers to advance its mission to “to close the digital divide by promoting high-quality broadband for anchor institutions and their communities.” 

From the call for applicants, SHLB is looking for someone who “has a graduate degree in public policy or a law degree, 3-7 years of broadband or technology policy experience and strong writing skills. This person will work with federal and state policy-makers, including on Capitol Hill, regarding broadband policy issues and funding programs. Knowledge of broadband and technology policy issues preferred. Physical location in the Washington DC area is preferred but not required.”

Duties for the Policy Advocate/Director include:

  • Working with the Executive Director to develop and implement policy positions to promote our mission.
  • Leading calls with SHLB members to formulate advocacy strategies.
  • Initiating meetings and developing relationships with policymakers.
  • Organizing speakers for our events, including our Annual Conference in October.
  • Analyzing and suggesting changes to federal and state legislation.
  • Drafting and filing comments with the FCC, NTIA and other government agencies.
  • Representing the SHLB Coalition in other coalitions and interacting with our allies on a regular basis.
  • Speaking at broadband conferences around the U.S.

SHLB is seeking candidates for the position who have:

  • A strong commitment to working with anchor institutions to help solve the digital divide for people without access to affordable, high-quality broadband.
  • Flexibility to adapt to a fast-paced and changing environment.
  • Knowledge of federal and/or state legislative and regulatory processes.
  • Familiarity with the variety of broadband technologies and stakeholders.
  • Able to work on multiple projects simultaneously.
  • Able to collaborate closely and positively with all SHLB staff on operations, communications, Annual Conference and events, and membership recruitment and retention.
  • Able to work remotely (SHLB does not currently maintain an office)
  • ...
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Posted September 17, 2021 by Maren Machles

The San Marcos City Council held a working session in August to review a presentation on the state of broadband in the Texas city and decide whether it should pursue a municipal broadband option. While some members wanted to pursue a fiber-to-the-home municipal network after the presentation, others pushed back despite the fact that the city has its own fiber I-Net (Institutional Network). City council ultimately voted to look for partnerships and alternative options, as opposed to funding and operating its own network. 

Existing I-Net

Sitting just south of Austin, Texas’ state capitol, San Marcos (pop. 63,000) has been developing an I-Net since 2000, when it entered a franchise agreement with Grande Communication and got access to 12 strands of dark fiber to connect city facilities. In 2018, the city developed a “Master Fiber Plan” that would expand the I-Net, further connecting critical infrastructure. The project was funded by general, water and electric capital improvement project funds and construction began in 2020.

Currently, that fiber network has enabled all city facilities to provide public wireless access, and American Rescue Funds have been approved by council to expand public access at the library and city parks.

The presentation to council noted that there are currently eight Internet Service Providers in the San Marcos area, with average download speeds in the city of around 127 Megabits per second (Mbps). There are DSL, cable, wireless, satellite, and fiber options, with fiber covering 43 percent of households inside city limits.

Lack of Competition

While 100 percent of San Marcos has a 25/3 Mbps service option from three different providers, only two percent has three 100/10 Mbps options. The lack of competition is partially why the city council wanted this presentation: to weigh the costs and benefits of getting into the market and offering more affordable and reliable options to residents. 

“What I’m thinking is, just like we were able to do with our electric utility, is to be able to provide for people in their time of need, and the city is best positioned to [provide broadband], whereas private industries can take advantage of people or the situation,” Council member Maxifield Baker...

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Posted August 30, 2021 by Maren Machles

Decatur, Illinois (pop. 71,000) is moving forward with an Institutional Network (I-Net) expansion that will connect 11 school districts and 3 firehouses to its growing fiber-optic backbone, connecting potential commercial and industry customers along the way. 

The city of Decatur has been expanding its fiber network since 2014, when it decided to deploy a backbone network connecting several of its facilities. This most recent expansion will extend the access to Franklin and Parsons schools, Stephen Decatur Middle School, Eisenhower and MacArthur high schools, American Dreamer STEM Academy, Dennis Lab School, Hope Academy, Johns Hill Magnet School and William Harris Learning Academy.

The expansion is the result of a 5-0 city council vote in April approving a $915,000 contract with Bodine Electric to purchase and hang 144 strand fiber-optic cable. 

A portion of the funding for the contract will come from a $800,000 grant from the Connect Illinois grant program, an initiative aimed at expanding broadband access. The program launched in 2019 with $420-million investment in broadband infrastructure. The first round of grants totaled $50 million with a combined $9.25 million going to monopoly ISPs CenturyLink, MediaCom, Spectrum, and Comcast and the rest going to local ISPs and city and county governments. 

The remaining $115,000 allocated in the contract will come from the state’s portion of the American Rescue Plan fund. 

While the city will fund the expansion of the backbone to pass by the schools and connect the firehouses, Decatur Public Schools (DPS) will also contribute $600,000 to connect the schools to the street fiber. The contribution is also from the Connect Illinois Grant Program.  

When the state grants came through, the city and DPS saw an opportunity to collaborate. 

“We very quickly started talking to each other, and [we already have a] network out in the streets, and so we decided we would do this...

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Posted June 22, 2021 by Maren Machles

On this episode of the Community Broadband Bits podcast, Christopher Mitchell talks with John Windhausen, Executive Director of the Schools, Health, Libraries and Broadband Coalition (SHLB) and Alicja Johnson, SHLB Communication Manager. The nonprofit advocates for anchor institutions to be at the table when communities are considering building municipal fiber networks. This is because these institutions are not only the cornerstones of healthy communities, but also well positioned as gateways for bringing reliable broadband to every household.

Windhausen and Johnson cover the wide array of specific projects SHLB has going on, from work on the Emergency Connectivity Fund, to telehealth efforts, to larger picture efforts they participate in, specifically, the future of spectrum and its role in expanding wireless networks across the country.

This show is 41 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 Community Broadband Bits page.

Read the full transcript here.  

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

Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Subscribe to the Building Local Power podcast, also from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, on iTunes or Stitcher to catch more great...

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Posted June 21, 2021 by Ry Marcattilio

Last July, the Hamilton County School District, the county, the city of Chattanooga, and local nonprofit The Enterprise Center announced an historic commitment to low-income households with students: free 100 Mbps symmetrical connections to those households using the city's municipal fiber network, EPB Fiber.

The Chattanooga Times Free Press reported last week that the initiative has connected more than 14,000 households totalling 25,000 people, or about a third of the total number who qualify.

From the story:

'We are showing the rest of the country what it looks like to close the digital divide in education,' Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly said in a news release. 'HCS EdConnect is a comprehensive solution, and since the partners have made a 10-year commitment to the program, this will be a lasting solution.'

We originally wrote about the initiative last summer. Read our original story here.

Posted June 7, 2021 by Ry Marcattilio

Part of the Michelson 20MM Foundation's digital equity focus area has been its Connecting California learning series, which seeks to "strengthen [our] collective understanding of the history and root causes of the 'digital divides' - the economic and educational gaps created by inequitable access to high-speed internet, computing devices, and digital literacy resources" in the Golden State.

The panel features introductory remarks from Dr. Gary Michelson (Founder, Michelson 20MM Foundation) and Congressman Jerry McNerney (U.S. Representative for California’s 9th Congressional District) before ILSR's Christopher Mitchell takes over as moderator and runs a lively conversation about what the below panelists have done (and learned along the way) in closing the digital divide before and during the ongoing pandemic.

The webinar includes discussion from Seth Hoedl (President & Chief Science Officer, Post Road Foundation), Joanne Hovis (CEO, Coalition for Local Internet Choice; President, CTC Technology and Energy), Bruce Patterson, (Director of Technology, Entry Point Networks) and Preston Rhea (Director of Engineering, Policy Program, Monkeybrains).

Watch here, or below.

Posted June 2, 2021 by Maren Machles

Patience and persistence can be used to describe what made northern Virginia’s Orange County Broadband Authority successful in turning their middle-mile network into a Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network. While the journey started more than five years ago, today the authority is connecting 20 customers a day with the goal of connecting 4,000 customers by the end of the calendar year. 

Crews will be connecting users to the county-owned FTTH network, FiberLync, in three phases, each requiring between 10-12 months to complete. Phase 1 will pass approximately 4,000 households, phase 2 about 2,500 households, and phase 3 about 1,000.

The funding for these phases will primarily come from bonds set aside as part of the county’s capital improvement plan and will cover up to $15.5 million of the projects’ costs. The bonds will be paid back through FiberLync revenue. 

Years in the Making

Bringing FTTH connectivity to the residents of Orange County (pop. 36,000) has been a goal since the Orange County Broadband Authority was created in 2016. The major driver for the authority was addressing the lack of broadband in the rural parts of the county. Residents in certain parts of the county have long been left with speeds under the FCC’s broadband definition of 25/3 Mbps (Megabits per second), and others have been entirely unconnected.

In 2017, the county worked with Orange County Public Schools to build the middle-mile network connecting district facilities as well as critical county facilities using E-rate federal funds. More than $1.1 million in E-rate funds were used to help connect the schools, accounting for 80 percent of the total project cost. The county and Orange County Public Schools shared the remaining costs of deploying extra capacity for future use.  

The buried fiber ran 38 miles along Routes 15 and 20. 

The project was finished just before the 2018 school year, and the difference in...

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