Tag: "local"

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 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 that... 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

Posted March 21, 2017 by lgonzalez

Even though they don't have to chip in any local funds, the town of Shutesbury, Massachusetts, rejected Charter’s proposal to build a hybrid fiber coaxial network in their community. They don’t consider the proposal a “good long-term solution to bring broadband to our town" and prefer to build a publicly owned fiber-optic network for future-proof technology, provider accountability, and local control.

You Get What You Pay For

Unlike Charter’s proposal to serve only 96 percent of the homes in the community, the town made a commitment to include all members of the community some time ago. Charter would not extend its proposal to include about three dozen properties that are further out unless the town committed to providing funds above and beyond what the state offered to provide as part of the proposal. Board of Selectmen Chair Michael Vinskey went on to tell MassLive that Charter would not commit to a specific cost for extending a network to those additional homes.

In the words of Vinskey, committing to such an ambiguous arrangement, “would not be fiscally responsible.” No kidding.

Shutesbury authorized spending for a Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network once already. In 2015, folks at the annual Town Meeting voted to approve $1.7 million in bonding to pay for the infrastructure. They’ll take another vote this May for the debt exclusion authorization, as required by state law.

Community leaders estimate deployment to every property at approximately $2.57 million. Their share of the state grants that are to be distributed by MBI come to $870,000 for construction and professional services. Like the community of Leverett, Shutesbury intends to use a modest property tax increase to fund the infrastructure investment. 

A basic subscription for Internet access at speeds higher than those proposed by Charter would cost approximately $75 per month and would not include video services but would include Voice over IP (VoIP) services. A number of the local communities in the western Massachusetts region have dealt with sub-par telephone services due to aging infrastructure.

Shutesbury wants... Read more

Posted February 27, 2017 by lgonzalez

The community of Rock Falls, Illinois, is well on its way to developing a gigabit municipal network to offer better connectivity to residents, businesses, and public facilities. Last week, the City Council adopted an ordinance that allows the city to issue general obligation bonds to fund citywide fiber-optic Internet infrastructure.

Following Demand

The city’s plan will expand first in business corridors and then use the fiberhood approach in residential areas, building only after a certain percentage of households preregister. The plan divides the city into 14 fiberhoods with each area’s build out cost estimated to be approximately $250,000. Residential fiberhoods will require 45 percent participation prior to construction. Consultants estimate citywide buildout costs will be $13 million; the City Council authorized bonding for that amount. The first bond issue will be $4.1 million likely to happen in early May if approval proceeds as planned.

The City Council authorized the first phase of the project to begin - network design and project administration - which will cost approximately $207,000. The process to issue GO bonds will start in March and city leaders hope to have the backbone completed by the end of June.

Most publicly owned Internet infrastructure is funded by revenue bonds, avoided costs, or interdepartmental loans rather than GO bonds. When funded by general obligation bonds, a project is backed by the credit and taxing power of the issuing jurisdiction and the resource is always publicly owned. Clearly, the community of Rock Falls recognizes how critical the investment is to the community's future.

From The Mayor

In his recent State of the City address, Mayor Bill Wescott focused on three factors that drove the initiative: growth, the city’s strong finances, and local control.

While it’s common knowledge that economic development needs better connectivity than what is now available in Rock Falls, Wescott noted that residents stuck with 10 - 20 Megabits per second (Mbps) download Internet access need and deserve higher capacity connectivity to participate in the modern economy. He defined “growth” broadly, encompassing jobs, education, innovation, public safety, and government.

... Read more

Posted February 22, 2017 by lgonzalez

In December Centennial, Colorado’s City Council voted to establish Centennial FiberWorks, a program focused on making optimal use of the city’s fiber-optic backbone. In January, they took the next step by creating a Fiber Commission to manage the program.

One Step At At Time

In 2013, voters chose to opt out of Colorado’s restrictive state law SB 152 that prevents municipalities from offering telecommunications services alone or with a partner from the private sector. As in most other local referendums on the opt out question, Centennial overwhelmingly supported reclaiming local authority.

Since then, the community has established a Fiber Master Plan, which includes investing in a 50+ mile publicly owned fiber backbone. Last fall, Ting Internet announced that it had put Centennial on its list of cities where it’s considering offering fiber-optic connectivity. Since then, Ting has been assessing demand from the Centennial community and should decide soon whether or not they intend to bring Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) to the city.

Ducks In A Row

Regardless of whether Ting offers residential Internet access, or some other entrants wish to bring services to Centennial, the city now has a commission to manage the use of the network and the future network. According to a recent press release:

Centennial FiberWorks and the Fiber Commission will continue efficient and cost effective planning, construction, operation and management of the City's fiber optic infrastructure. FiberWorks is formed as an operational department of the City and serves as a publicly-owned business operation. The continuing construction, use, maintenance, and extension of the City’s fiber optic infrastructure falls under the purview of FiberWorks. The Commission provides policy direction, management and day-to-day oversight of... Read more

Posted February 21, 2017 by lgonzalez

Christopher recently took some time to visit with John Hockenberry on The Takeaway from PRI and WNYC. The conversation covered municipal networks, big cable and telephone monopolies, and how local community initiatives for better connectivity are raising the bar in rural areas.

WNYC wrote about the show: 

Net neutrality advocates got some bad news when Ajit Pai was tapped by President Donald Trump to be chairman of the Federal Communications Commission — it appears that Pai wants to largely reverse the Obama administration's approach to the Internet.

Large telecommunications monopolies have been digging their heels in, but some citizens are fighting back. The Takeaway considers the broadband debates that currently are taking place with Christopher Mitchell, the director of Community Broadband Networks at the Institute for Local Self Reliance.

Listen to the interview; it’s about 4 minutes.

Posted February 1, 2017 by lgonzalez

The next time you’re attending a city council meeting, a local broadband initiative committee meeting, or just chatting with neighbors about better local connectivity, take a few copies of our Why Local Solutions? fact sheet.

Our new one-pager addresses three main reasons why local telecommunications authority is so important:

  • State and federal government won’t solve the problem - local residents, businesses, and elected officials know what they need, right?
  • Large telecom companies refuse to invest in rural areas - we've seen over and over how their promises to improve Internet access go unfulfilled.
  • Local leaders can best resolve local issues - they are accountable to the people they see every day and they experience the same reality.

In addition to providing some basic talking points to get the conversation moving, the fact sheet offers resources to guide you to more detailed information on publicly owned Internet networks. This resource is well paired with our other recent fact sheet, More than just Facebook. You've already started to get people interested in all the advantages of high-quality connectivity, now show them how local self-reliance it the most direct route to better access.

Download Why Local Solutions? fact sheet.

Other Fact Sheets At Your Fingertips

Fact sheets are a useful tool for getting your point across without overloading the recipient with too much information. They can easily be digested and carried to meetings with elected officials and often are just the right amount of information to pique someone's curiosity.

Check out our other fact sheets.

Posted December 20, 2016 by lgonzalez

San Francisco multi-occupancy building tenants will no longer be stuck with the Internet Service Provider most friendly with the landlord. On December 13th, the Board of Supervisors unanimously passed an ordinance to ensure that competing ISPs have reasonable access to buildings to offer competing services and give tenants a choice.

Ensuring Choice In Apartments, Condos, Businesses

Earlier this month, Mark Farrell from the city’s Board of Supervisors spoke with Christopher about his proposed legislation during episode #231 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. He described how city leaders began digging into ways to improve local connectivity and uncovered a problem that was much larger than they had anticipated. While federal law prohibits property owners from forcing tenants to sign up with one particular provider, many have effectively done so by preventing competing providers from installing wiring or antennas in or on their buildings. In exchange for limiting access to the competition, building owners and landlords take kickbacks from the ISP willing to make the best offer.

The new ordinance makes such agreements between building owners or landlords and ISPs fruitless because they can no longer block competing providers from their buildings. Webpass, a fixed wireless provider focusing on serving multi-dwelling unit (MDU) tenants, has been trying to get a foothold in the city but the ordinance has proven to be a difficult barrier. A local providers, Monkeybrains, raised the capital through crowdfunding to begin a fixed wireless service, but without the ordinance their reach is limited.

New Choices For Tens Of Thousands

In an urban setting like San Francisco, eliminating the ability for landlords and ISPs to lock tenants into a take-it-or-leave-it scenario will create choice for a huge swath of people:

... Read more

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