Tag: "local"

Posted May 29, 2020 by christopher

I have been tracking from afar local grassroots efforts in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to start a municipal broadband network for years. I've visited them locally and spoken to various people from citizens to elected officials about the different options. The following are my observations. I'm not trying to channel their thoughts on how to move forward.

Cambridge is a high-tech city with nearly ubiquitous coverage from Comcast, delivering more or less the same services they offer to millions of homes — which is too say mostly reliable and high-cost Internet access (that will be still higher cost next year and the next after that). In the case of Comcast, it comes with crippled upload speeds compared to fast download capacity. Customer service is . . . well, you do your best to never have to use it.

But with MIT and Harvard within its confines, many in Cambridge are well aware that Internet access can get so much better and not be mediated by a company willing to spend millions in D.C. to preserve its right to set up tollbooths for certain kinds of content if they so choose.

However, Cambridge is remarkably similar to Palo Alto, which is also home to high tech households that mostly use Comcast cable and sometimes have the option of AT&T fiber. And in both instances, there is a strong case for some kind of municipal network that would create more local Internet choice. Both appear to have significant support in the community for a public option. But both also have city staff that have decided to prevent any meaningful investment.

They have run into the challenge that Seattle also wrestled with. These high profile cities have refused to consider creative, incremental, and targeted efforts. Instead, they have focused almost entirely on the costs of duplicating Chattanooga or Wilson, where the community built the entire citywide at once with debt-financed capital.

In Cambridge, the city council is rebelling after having been stymied by a city manager that has successful resisted efforts to study municipal broadband for years.

City Manager DePasquale has consistently refused to act on municipal broadband despite a...

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Posted January 2, 2020 by lgonzalez

We're starting off the new year with episode four of the new podcast project we're working on with nonprofit NC Broadband Matters. The organization focuses on finding ways to bringing ubiquitous broadband coverage to local communities to residents and businesses in North Carolina. The podcast series, titled "Why NC Broadband Matters," explores broadband and related issues in North Carolina.

As we look forward to a new year, we're also looking back with this week's guest, Jane Smith Patterson, a Partner with Broadband Catalysts. Jane has a deep love for North Carolina and a deep interest in science and technology. Throughout her life, she has put those two interests together to help North Carolinians advance human and civil rights, education and learning, and to advance the presence of high speed connectivity across the state. 

logo-nc-hearts-gigabit.pngJane's decades of experience at the federal, state, and local levels make her the go-to person to provide content for this episode, "North Carolina's unique broadband history and lessons for moving forward." She and Christopher discuss how the state has become a leader in science and technology, including the state's restrictive law limiting local authority. Lastly, Jane makes recommendations for ways to bring high-quality Internet access to the rural areas where people are still struggling to connect. The conversation offers insight into North Carolina's triumphs and challenges in the effort to lift up its citizens.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please ...

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Posted December 13, 2019 by lgonzalez

The Blandin Broadband Communities (BBC) program from the Blandin Foundation has been helping local cities, counties, tribes, and other self-identified communities of interest or place take steps to meet technology goals since 2013. The foundation is once again seeking participant communities and is accepting applications to be part of the 2020-2021 program cohort.

Download the BBC Application Instructions here for more information on how to apply to the program. The application deadline is January 24th.

Helping Communities Meet Their Goals

Bernadine Joselyn, Director of Public Policy and Engagement at the Blandin Foundation alerted us to the search for participating communities. In an email, Bernadine stated:

This program emphasizes broadband adoption and use in rural communities through the provision of leadership and project development facilitation services as well as project funding of up to $75,000. Project examples include public Wi-Fi access, business technology assessment and training, workforce training, online community and business marketing, online government services and other community generated projects. Communities are required to create a steering team to oversee the effort over the 18-24 month program period 

For communities that have quality broadband services in place, this program can showcase the value of broadband network deployment. For communities working to improve their broadband networks, Blandin Broadband Communities can provide a platform for building community consensus that enhanced broadband networks are critical to a community’s future.

Working for Other Communities Across Minnesota

The last cohort focused on Iron Range communities in northern Minnesota; the Blandin Foundation was able to make use of funding from the Minnesota Department of Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation (IRRR) and St. Louis County. Past entities working with the Blandin Foundation include the Cannon Falls School District, Bois Fort Reservation, Renville and Sibley Counties, the Mille Lacs Band of...

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Posted April 5, 2019 by Katie Kienbaum

Innovation today requires a high-speed Internet connection, and in rural areas, that often means a fiber optic network owned by a local government, a cooperative, or a local business. It’s no surprise then that when the Rural Innovation Initiative was looking for rural communities with good connectivity and an interest in innovation-based economic development, it turned to cities served by locally owned broadband networks. Out of the nine communities initially selected to participate in the Rural Innovation Initiative, more than half have a local Internet access provider instead of a national ISP.

Initiative Bridges Rural Opportunity Gap

The Rural Innovation Initiative is a new program created by the Center on Rural Innovation (CORI) and Rural Innovation Strategies, Inc. (RISI), with funding and support from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA). Launched at the end of last year, the initiative works to “bridge the opportunity gap in rural America by helping communities build the capacity to create resilient, innovation-based jobs.”

For the first part of 2019, CORI and RISI selected nine cities and community partners to take part in what they describe as a “fast-paced technical assistance sprint,” which will help participants develop innovation hubs as an economic development strategy. The initiative will also prepare communities to apply for federal funding opportunities, such as EDA’s Regional Innovation Strategies program. More than 100 rural communities from 40 states applied for the program, which is free for participants. Selection criteria included location in a census-designated rural county, access to New Market Tax Credits and Opportunity Zones, partnerships with higher education and local nonprofits, and existing high-speed broadband networks — Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) in particular.

CORI and RISI, in partnership with EDA, will offer further technical assistance to communities through the Rural Innovation Initiative after this initial project complete. To learn more, watch a webinar about the program from December 2018.

Connectivity Sets Communities Apart...

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Posted March 7, 2019 by lgonzalez

Senator Janice Bowling has become a broadband hero in rural Tennessee and on the pages of MuniNetworks.org. Year after year, she introduces legislation aimed at expanding local authority to allow communities the ability to improve connectivity. She’s back this year with several bills aimed at expanding fiber in rural areas. 

Seeking Better Connectivity…That’s All

Like Bowling’s past legislation, related bills SB 489, SB 490, and SB 494 grant municipal electric utilities the authority “to provide telecommunications service, including broadband service” and specifies that they can do so beyond their electric service area. This change in the current law would allow places like her own community of Tullahoma to expand to serve neighboring towns. There is no fiscal impact from the Senator’s bills.

Bowling has seen firsthand how access to fiber optic infrastructure, such as Tullahoma’s LightTUBe, lifts economic development, improves educational opportunities, and helps a local community reduce costs. The city has thrived since investing in the network in 2009, while many of the communities that have had to rely on subpar service from the larger incumbents have limped along. 

SB 489 also extends authority for municipalities to collaboration for telecommunications and broadband service, to ease any uncertainty about public-private partnerships.

janice-bowling.jpg In her broadband bills, Senator Bowling defines “broadband” as 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) symmetrical, a move that illustrates the value of upload speeds in today’s economy. Rather than considering subscribers as consumers of Internet access, the Senator...

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Posted March 5, 2019 by lgonzalez

Brent Christensen, Chief Operating Officer of Christensen Communications, came into our Minneapolis office to sit down and have a chat with Christopher this week for podcast 346. Their interview comes a short time after Christopher and several other Institute for Local Self-Reliance staff took a tour of the Christensen Communications facilities.

Brent has an additional role as President and CEO of the Minnesota Telecom Alliance (MTA) a group that advances...

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Posted February 12, 2019 by lgonzalez

Harvard Professor, author, and broadband champion Susan Crawford has been incredibly busy ever since she released her latest book Fiber: The Coming Tech Revolution — And Why America Might Miss It. Fortunately for us and our listeners, she hasn’t been too busy to take some time for Community Broadband Bits listeners. She’s here this week to talk about the book, her experiences researching it, and discussing policy recommendations aimed at bringing better connectivity to rural and urban areas.

The conversation between Christopher and Susan is one of our best podcasts. They touch on technology, competition, and how we’ve come to the point when local communities are leading the charge to bring high-quality Internet access to their residents and businesses. Susan shares some of the stories she encountered — both favorable and not so favorable — of places where local leaders are either working to hard to put broadband infrastructure in place or barely moving the dial on getting their communities better connected. 

She’s travelled all across the world to learn about how other countries approach fiber connectivity and how they’re reaping the benefits. Now, she wants to share some of those policies and ideas to help Americans realize that if we don’t adjust our mindset, we could miss out on fiber’s potential.

Order Susan's book online at Indiebound.org. Learn more about the book by reading Christopher's review.

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

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Posted January 9, 2019 by lgonzalez

A total of 40 counties and 102 municipalities have now chosen local telecommunications authority by passing ballot measures to opt out of restrictive state law. Last November, 18 counties, cities, and towns voted to join the expanding list of communities opting out of SB 152, which revoked local telecommunications authority in 2005. We decided to update our map to get a new visualization of what the situation now looks like in Colorado. 

Take a gander:

map-2018-fall-SB152-small.png

Moving Across the State

The map, updated by Intern and Mapping Maven Hannah Bonestroo from an earlier version created by former Research Associate and Visualization Virtuoso Hannah Trostle, shows how the decision to opt out is sweeping from region to region. Earlier referendums centered in the Mountain and into the Western Slope and San Luis Valley communities. During this past election cycle, most of the counties bringing the issue before voters were in the Plains region.

In past years, mountain towns, often resort communities, were looking for better connectivity when big ISPs considered deployment too challenging and expensive in their geographies. Now, it appears that the rural and less populated Plains communities are seeing value in reclaiming local authority.

With fewer population centers in the Plains region, farms and ranges fill much of this section of the state. Large, corporate ISPs don’t consider this type of landscape profitable due to the lack of population density, however, farmers and rangers require high-speed Internet access for various reasons. Crop and livestock monitoring and realtime reporting are only a few of the ways 21st century agricultural professionals use broadband.

Colorado’s Free Communities

In Colorado, there are 271 active incorporated municipalities, 187 unincorporated Census Designated Places (CDPs) and other small population centers that are outside of CDPs or municipalities. To date, the 102 municipalities that have elected to opt out of SB 152 have all been incorporated municipalities, or approximately 38 percent.

The 40 counties where voters have chosen to opt out make up 62.5 percent...

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Posted December 21, 2018 by lgonzalez

As our readers begin their holiday celebrations, some may remember our spin on the classic Christmas tale, "How The Grinch Stole Christmas" by Dr. Seuss. Although several states have passed or are considering legislation to combat Grinchy-Pai and the other FCC Commissioners who erroneously repealed federal network neutrality protections in 2017, their decision has still left millions unprotected.

We decided to share the poem again this year in the hopes that, perhaps, it will be the last time! Enjoy!

 

The Grinch Who Stole Network Neutrality

A holiday poem in the style of "How The Grinch Stole Christmas" by Dr. Seuss.

 

Every American online liked network neutrality a lot

But the FCC’s Grinchy Pai, former lawyer for Verizon, did not!

 

Pai hated net neutrality! He despised it, he dreaded it!

And on December 14th, he and his cronies, they shredded it.

 

It could be, perhaps, that he wanted more dough.

ISPs could make more with lanes fast and lanes slow.

 

But whatever the reason, cash or prestige,

His choice pissed off subscribers by many degrees.

 

Americans cried out in anger and dismay!

“We like net neutrality! Don’t take it away!”

 

“It’s good for free speech and new businesses too! Selling, reporting, and artistic debut!

We need it for school kids who have tests to take.

We need it for far away doctors with prognoses to make.

We need it so businesses can hit the ground running.

We need it for working from home, for homework, for funning.

We need it to save money. To get good Internet service.

We don’t want ISPs to decide what to serve us.”

 

candy-cane-for-christmas.jpg

“You have market protection,” he said with a snort.

But ILSR elves proved there was nothing of the sort.

 

The elves showed very little, ...

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Posted November 15, 2018 by lgonzalez

Earlier this summer, we talked with Jase Wilson and Lindsey Brannon from Neighborly, the investment firm that uses online investing to allow individuals to invest in publicly owned infrastructure projects, including broadband networks. Jase and Lindsey described a program they had just launched, the Neighborly Community Broadband Accelerator. 

A Boost for Local Broadband

The program is designed to help local communities with necessary tools and financing from the start of their project planning. The Accelerator will provide mapping and community engagement tools, help from experts who will share best practices, and access to industry partners, such as ISPs and engineers. In addition to these and other information perks, communities accepted to the program will have the benefit of Neighborly financing at a competitive, below industry rate cost.

Applications were due by September 28th and more than 100 applications indicate that, more than ever, local communities are interested in taking action to improve connectivity. These 35 communities were accepted into the Broadband Accelerator Program:

  • Fresno, CA
  • Nevada City, CA
  • Oakland, CA
  • Palo Alto, CA
  • Santa Rosa, CA
  • Salinas, CA
  • Lyons, CO
  • Madison, CT
  • Jacksonville, FL
  • New Orleans, LA
  • Brockton, MA
  • Cambridge, MA
  • Millinocket, East Millinocket & Medway, ME (on behalf of Katahdin Broadband Utility)
  • Windham, ME (on behalf of Lakes Region Broadband Partnership)
  • Blue Hill, Brooksville, Deer Isle, Penobscot & Sedgwick, ME (on behalf of Peninsula Utility for Broadband)
  • Metuchen, NJ
  • Cleveland, OH
  • Portland, OR
  • Harrisburg, PA
  • Block Island, RI
  • Sweetwater, TN
  • Baird, TX
  • Ashland, VA
  • Manquin, VA
  • Richmond, VA
  • Virginia Beach, VA
  • Enosburgh, VT
  • Sauk County, WI
  • Laramie, WY

To get started, communities will receive curriculum from experts in municipal broadband and related policy, including our Christopher Mitchell, Deb Socia from Next Century Cites, and Blair Levin, Senior Fellow of the Metropolitan...

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