Tag: "local"

Posted June 24, 2017 by lgonzalez

Tenants often don’t know what level of Internet access they can expect in a new office location or home until they are already committed to moving in. Boston aims to change the unpredictability and improve the city’s connectivity by working with WiredScore to establish a Broadband Ready Building Questionnaire as part of the city’s planning and development review process.

Thinking Ahead For Better Development

Boston Planning & Development Agency (BPDA) and the city’s Department of Innovation and Technology (DoIT) have entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the company. The questionnaire will apply to new projects, planned development areas, and institutional master plans and will be used to assess a project’s impact on matters such as transportation, access to public spaces, environment, and historic resources. The questions will also serve to obtain public feedback.

WiredScore has developed Wired Certification, an international rating system for commercial real estate that offers several levels of building certification based on quality of connectivity. A high level of certification is not based solely on one provider that offers high capacity connectivity to a building. There are a number of factors that determine which level of certification applies to a WiredScore ranked facility.

Specialized For Boston

Boston and WiredScore developed a unique questionnaire that addresses the issues they consider most relevant. In addition to rights-of-way and entry to the building, the partners ask specifics about telecom rooms, delivery of service within the building, and the accommodation of future innovative technologies. They also ask property owners about ISP providers at the address and whether or not tenants have choice.

With better information, commercial and residential tenants can choose a home that fits their needs. According to Christopher:

One of the many problems with Internet access is the lack of reliable information about services at a given location. This agreement between Boston and WiredScore is a step in the right direction - better ISPs thrive in sunlight while the biggest cable and telephone companies rely on ignorance and monopoly.

Developers are not required to pursue certification, and the questionnaire isn’t mandatory. This long-term approach is an inexpensive way for... Read more

Posted June 12, 2017 by lgonzalez

Greeley, Colorado, will likely ask voters to consider opting out of state law SB 152 this fall. City Council members from the city of 100,000 people decided on June 6th to join with nearby Windsor (pop. 18,500) to fund a feasibility study, which will be completed this fall.

Almost One Hundred

Ninety-eight communities across the state of Colorado have voted to reclaim local telecommunications authority via the ballot box. In 2005, the state legislature passed SB 152, which discourages public investment in Internet network infrastructure. Even if local communities want to work with private sector partners, they need to present the question or risk running afoul of the state law. 

As an increasing number of towns and counties realize that high-quality connectivity will not come from national providers, they are choosing to present the question to the voters. Whether they have immediate plans or simply consider the matter a question of local authority, all have chosen to free themselves from the confines of SB 152. This spring, Central City and Colorado Springs held referendums and both passed the measure to opt out.

Taking It Slow

Greeley isn’t in a rush as it considers a publicly owned solution to their connectivity problems. In September 2016, city leadership decided to take incremental steps and directed staff to research options. According to a Greeley Tribune article at the time:

Councilman Robb Casseday said he was talking with a business considering a move to Greeley recently, and that Internet access was first on its priority list.

"Internet is going to be more and more of a future commodity that is going to be as important, I think, as water and sewer to a municipality," he said.

That's what got him on board with considering making high-speed Internet a city utility.

In addition to improving... Read more

Posted May 11, 2017 by lgonzalez

Preemption at the state and federal level threatens local telecommunications authority, as we’ve seen in about 20 states. When state laws usurp local governments’ ability to decide how they improve poor connectivity, they disregard an understanding of local affairs that is unique to each community. Some states are threatening to take preemption another damaging step farther with super-preemption.

Super-Preemption: "Super" In A Bad Way

The Campaign to Defend Local Solutions describes the problem like this:

State legislatures across the country have gone beyond preventing local governments from passing common-sense local solutions. They’ve begun silencing local voices using draconian super-preemption laws.  These laws allow special interest groups to sue local governments and in some cases personally sue local officials for doing their job. These laws are designed to intimidate, bully, and chill government at the local level. This infographic highlights where these laws exist, where they have been recently proposed, and what their impacts could be to cities, counties, local officials, and taxpayers alike.

Mayor Andrew Gillum from Tallahassee, Florida, recently spoke with Christopher and our Communications Manager Nick Stumo-Langer about super-preemption for episode 17 of the Building Local Power podcast. He noted that local governments need flexibility to meet the demands of local constituents:

“There’s a nimbleness to local governments that I think people have an appreciation for. The legislature [is trying to] exclude us from being able to make any investments in that space for the greater good.”

In order to spread the word about super-preemption, the Campaign to Defend Local Solutions created an infographic to help educate lawmakers, constituents, and communities about the issue. The resource describes how super-preemption influences policy makers, giving lobbyists and their corporate or special interest clients' power. The infographic also shows where super-preemption laws are in place or are proposed. Lastly, the infographic suggests how citizens can get... Read more

Posted May 8, 2017 by lgonzalez

Seattle is the latest local government taking steps to protect citizens’ data. As of May 24th, companies with franchise agreements allowing them to operate in the city must obtain customer permission to sell personal data or browsing histories.

The three companies operating in Seattle are Comcast, CenturyLink and Wave Broadband.

Opting In vs. Opting Out

In Seattle, the rule will require customers to opt-in to allow companies to collect and sell their data, unlike the usual situation - opting out to refrain. 

“We felt that an opt-out process was insufficient,” said Michael Mattmiller, the city’s chief technology officer. “Consumers are too busy to somehow learn through the fine print that your web usage is being mined or sold.”

To remain in compliance with the new rule, companies must submit semi-annual reports. 

State Efforts Uncertain

The state is still considering passing a similar bill but Seattle isn’t waiting for Olympia to act first. Minnesota’s privacy protection amendment was removed from the omnibus jobs bill in conference committee and faces an uncertain future; acting at the municipal level appears to be most likely to stick.

Tacoma's City Council passed a resolution in April to heighten personal data privacy on the publicly owned Click! network.

Read Seattle's new rule for Internet service providers here.

Posted May 3, 2017 by lgonzalez

Today in the Maine Legislature, the Committee on Energy, Utilities and Technology voted unanimously to stop LD 1516, a bill that would restrict local telecommunications authority. After Tuesday's compelling testimony, when it was time for a Wednesday vote, LD 1516’s sponsor moved the bill be shelved.

Engaging Testimony

On Tuesday, May 2nd, the Committee of Senators and Representatives met to listen to testimony on the bill. We’ve provided audio of the public hearing.

South Portland, Islesboro, the Sanford Regional Economic Growth Council, and Rockport all sent experts with knowledge about developing public projects to testify in opposition to the bill. Representatives from GWI (the ISP working with several local communities that have invested in their own Internet infrastructure), the Maine Municipal Association, and the Mayors’ Coalition also testified against LD 1516.

Communities where publicly owned fiber is already improving local connectivity provided stories of how they tried unsuccessfully to work with incumbents. Page Classon from Islesboro described how incumbent proposals could be described as, “You pay for it, we own it, we charge you what we charge everyone else.” LD 1516 requires local referendums for such investments and Classon balked at taking such a proposal to the voters.

In South Portland, the city paid for construction of its open access fiber-optic network with general fund reserves. The language in LD 1516 restricts communities to funding through revenue bonds but South Portland uses its network to offer free Wi-Fi and to improve connectivity for municipal facilities. Under LD 1516, they would not have been able to make the investment.

Rick Bates from Rockport testified that the bill would force municipalities to contend with restrictions that legacy providers will never face and how those restrictions will not solve the problem of connecting rural Maine. Bates also took the opportunity to point out that organizations such as the Taxpayer Protection Alliance relies on misinformation and incorrect data, such as their erroneous assertion that Rockport has debt for its FTTH project.

... Read more

Posted April 27, 2017 by lgonzalez

Earlier this week, we learned that a bill in the Maine House of Representatives had been introduced that would steal local telecommunication authority from communities working to improve their connectivity. LD 1516 / HP 1040 was assigned to the House Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee and is scheduled for a hearing on May 2nd at 1 p.m.

No Barriers...Yet

Maine is a mostly rural state that doesn’t draw much investment from national cable and telephone companies, so in the past few years local folks have started taking steps to improve Internet access for themselves. Their efforts have gotten the attention of the big corporations that fear competition and, since Maine doesn’t have restrictions on municipal networks, it appears to be one of the next targets. Rep. Nathan Wadsworth’s bill imposes a number of restrictions that threaten to derail current or proposed projects to bring better connectivity to several Maine communities. 

The bill is deceivingly titled “An Act To Encourage Broadband Development through Private Investment,” but it will discourage any new investment that may attract new entrants to Maine.

Let Them Know What You're Thinking

If you want to contact members of the committee and tell them that this bill will discourage investment, rather than encourage it, contact information for all the members is available here. The best time to stop a bill is early in committee. If one of these elected officials represents you, be sure to let them know.

Posted April 26, 2017 by lgonzalez

Recently, state lawmakers in Minnesota passed legislation to protect Minnesotans’ online privacy. In Tacoma, the City Council made a similar move by passing a resolution asking the Tacoma Public Utilities board to prevent ISPs on the city’s fiber network from collecting and selling personal online data. The resolution was an example of local authority stepping in to fill the gap when federal policy fails.

When The State And The Feds Don't Act

Bills were introduced in the Washington State Legislature this session, but state lawmakers didn’t turn them into law. By mid-April, it appeared that the bills weren’t going anywhere so City Council members felt the need to address the issue after the Trump Administration’s FCC allowed privacy protections to lapse.

“I’ve just heard lots of concerns from community members and from boosters of the Click network about privacy,” said Councilman Anders Ibsen… “This also ensures that any private entity that rides our fiber, that uses the Click network, is held to certain ground rules, just really basic ground rules about respecting the privacy of their customers.”

Tacoma's Click! publicly owned network serves about 23,000 people. Over the past few years, the community has debated the future of the network and is still considering several possible scenarios. For more, check out our four-part series on the network's history and an analysis of the benefits from this public investment.

Local Network = Local Control

Like many of the local and regional ISPs that tend to offer services via publicly owned infrastructure, the two providers on Click’s network already commit to subscriber privacy. Since the announcement that privacy protections would be rolled back, several municipal networks that offer retail services have also assured their subscribers that collecting and selling information such as location data, search history, app usage, and browsing history just isn’t in their wheel house. Chattanooga’s EPB Fiber and Optilink in Dalton, Tennessee, are a few... Read more

Posted April 7, 2017 by htrostle

This spring, two more communities in Colorado reclaimed the authority to build municipal networks. Colorado Springs and Central City voted to opt out of SB 152, a state law that removed local telecommunications authority in 2005.

Voters overwhelmingly chose to restore local authority to make decisions for themselves. Now the cities can discuss if a community network is right for them.

Quick Count

The Denver Business Journal covered the outcome of these April votes - noting the strong showing in rural Central City. The referendum to “opt out” of SB 152 easily passed in the small community; of the 182 ballots, 162 folks voted yes for local control [pdf]. That means 89 percent of the voters were in favor of the measure. 

In the much larger, urban community of Colorado Springs, the Colorado Springs Independent described a much tigher vote: 61 percent to 39 percent in favor of local authority. That’s about 50,000 yes votes to 32,000 no votes. Voters also decided another related ballot initiative concerning the sale of city infrastructure. Assets related to city utilities, such as water, electricity or telecom, now cannot be sold without the approval of a supermajority of 60 percent of votes cast in a referendum. 

Nearly 100 Communities Say YES

These two communities join the nearly 100 communities that have already restored local authority. Last November, 26 other communities also voted to opt out of the law. More communities may join this growing movement this fall. 

 

Posted March 29, 2017 by lgonzalez

Whether you’re a local elected official, a business owner, or a grassroots advocate, you’ve learned that politics can make or break an initiative to invest in publicly owned Internet infrastructure. Improving local connectivity is only one of many initiatives that are influenced by partisanship. As we’ve seen in Washington, DC, hyper-partisanship leads to ineffective gridlock. Is there a way to move forward despite strong diametric positions?

In the most recent episode of ILSR’s Building Local Power podcast, "Breaking Through Partisanship: Left-Right-Local," our own Christopher Mitchell leads a conversation with John Farrell, Stacy Mitchell, and David Morris, directors of the ILSR Energy Democracy, Community-Scaled Economies, and Public Good initiatives, respectively.

The group discusses both broad and focused solutions. They get into the effect of corporate concentration of power and how it undermines our democracy. The group ponders monopoly power and lobbying forces, and how they influence decisions that impact the ability for local communities to make decisions. The conversation touches on media and perception, economic analysis and language, and other factors that influence how people who may have opposing political beliefs may still be able to organize for a common local policy.

“Talking about economics is one way to get there, but also, there are these shared values that we have around democracy, local control, liberty,” says Stacy Mitchell of organizing for better local solutions to national problems. “Those are things that are widely all American. I think, also, going back to those basic values and motivations are really helpful in getting past being trapped in an unhealthy partisan conversation.”

The conversation is free flowing and last about 34 minutes. You can also read the transcript of the show.

Posted March 25, 2017 by htrostle

Update: Traverse City, Michigan, took home the prize as 2017 #StrongestTown. Congrats to Traverse City!

Keeping with the spirit of March Madness, the nonprofit StrongTowns ran the second annual #StrongestTown contest based on the nonprofit’s Strength Test and Principles. Of the 16 communities that participated, almost a third have been featured on MuniNetworks.org for their Internet infrastructure plans: Ellsworth, Maine; Lafayette, Louisiana; Traverse City, Michigan; and Valparaiso, Indiana.

These five communities have battled their way forward against steep competition. Through articles and podcasts on Strong Towns, they tried to showcase how their residents are active in their communities and committed to change at the local level. All five overcame the initial rounds, and Traverse, City, Michigan made it to the final round against the Canadian city of Guelph. The winner will be announced Monday, March 27th on the contest page.

Community Networks Support Vibrant Towns

It comes as no surprise to us that these communities would be in the running for #StrongestTown. Building a community network takes public support and a realistic look at financials. Publicly owned networks encourage job creation, improve healthcare, and connect low-income residents. The towns that made the cut took different approaches to better connectivity. 

Lafayette, Louisiana’s fiber network follows a classic model: it’s a city-run utility serving both homes and businesses... Read more

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