Tag: "misinformation"

Posted December 11, 2018 by lgonzalez

As they look back over their accomplishments, the Roanoke Valley Broadband Authority (RVBA) has more than the holidays to celebrate at the close of 2018. In addition to stimulating competition in the region, the RVBA network is attracting more investment and helping local nonprofits operate more efficiently.

Dual Purpose

For Feeding America Southwest Virginia in Salem, connectivity from RVBA is critical. “Without that Internet connection reliability, it would be very difficult for us to achieve our mission,” says IT Director Eric Geist. The food bank is one of the enterprise customers that the RVBA serves in the region, providing affordable access to organizations and institutions such as nonprofits, businesses, and institutions.

By providing affordable connectivity and services focused on the needs of businesses, the RVBA network has helped drive competition in the region. According to CEO Frank Smith’s research, prices have dropped 25 - 30 percent. The change squares with the RVBA mission to enhance and promote economic development by improving connectivity services and prices in Salem, Roanoke, and the counties of Roanoke and Botetourt. They've seen results in the past three years with greater expectations ahead.

The History

Before the network, the valley was caught in a connectivity “donut hole.” The populations in Salem and Roanoke had access to some cable Internet access and were large enough to prevent the region from obtaining grants to entice providers to upgrade. In 2013, local governments decided to work together to improve connectivity and funded a feasibility study, which recommended an open access network.

roanoke-valley-va_1.jpg Botetourt and Roanoke Counties were indecisive about their commitment to the project, but the cities of Salem and Roanoke pushed ahead. Salem, with its own electric utility, already had some fiber infrastructure in place, which lowered the cost of the...

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Posted June 4, 2018 by lgonzalez

Michigan rural communities where big ISPs won’t offer high-quality connectivity are tired of waiting for relief that won’t come. One at a time, they’re taking action by presenting proposals to members of the community, discussing the possibilities, and seeking the authority to move forward. The specifics of how they fund that goal are unique to each community; in Sharon Township, the town held an election on May 8th to let voters decide. After a somewhat contentious campaign, the proposal to use a special property tax assessment to fund fiber optic broadband infrastructure did not pass.

Millage Method

A few months ago, we described how voters would decide in a spring election whether or not to authorize a $4.9 general obligation bond proposal for fiber optic infrastructure. The community would use the “millage” system to calculate how much local property owners would contribute toward paying back the bond. As Gary Munce from nearby Lyndon Township and Ben Fineman from the Michigan Broadband Cooperative explained in episode 272 of our podcast, a millage is calculated based on the taxable value of real property. In Sharon Township, the proposal would have added an average of about $3.2583 per $1,000 of taxable value to local property owners' tax bills. In order to help people determine how much they would owe under such a payment structure, the city hosted a “High-Speed Internet Millage Calculator” on their website.

Sharon Township planned to take the same approach as Lyndon Township, where a similar proposal passed last summer with 66 percent of voters approving the millage and 34 percent voting no. In Sharon Township, the numbers were similar but the result was reversed with only 319 voters approving the millage and 587 voting no.

Misinformation About Munis

In a May 2nd article of the local Sun Times News, Sharon Township Supervisor Peter Psarouthakis published an appeal to voters to make their decision on May...

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Posted December 4, 2017 by Staff

This is episode 282 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. Joining the show from Fort Collins, Colorado, Glen Akins and Colin Garfield describe the grassroots organizing that defeated a Comcast-funded astroturf group. Listen to this episode here.

 

Glen Akins: The $451,000 turned this from a local story to this small town in Colorado to a national news item.

Lisa Gonzalez: You are listening to Episode 282 the bonus episode of the Community Broadband Bits podcast from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. I'm Lisa Gonzalez. In Fort Collins, Colorado, the community voted earlier this month to change their city charter in order to simplify the process if the city decides to invest in high quality internet network infrastructure. Voters chose to opt out of restrictive state laws back in 2015. In an attempt to derail the campaign so that they wouldn't have to face the prospect of competition, Comcast and cronies led an expensive local disinformation campaign. Under the guise of a local grassroots group, they blanketed the community with misleading advertisements and literature. According to campaign disclosures, the Comcast front group spent around $451,000 to fight the local initiative. In end, the initiative passed. We reached out to two people in Fort Collins who were spearheading the campaign to pass Measure 2B. We wanted to hear how they did it. Colin Garfield and Glen Akins are here to offer their insight into what worked, what they would change and what they were thinking while pitted against the Goliath ISP. Now here's Christopher, with Colin Garfield and Glen Akins from Fort Collins Colorado.

Christopher Mitchell: Welcome to another edition of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. I'm Chris Mitchell at the Institute for Local Self Reliance up in Minneapolis and today I'm speaking with Colin Garfield, campaign lead for Fort Collins Citizens' Broadband Committee, welcome to the show.

Colin Garfield: Thank you, Chris. Pleasure to be here.

Christopher Mitchell: And also, Glen Akins who's also campaign lead for Fort Collins Citizens' Broadband Committee. Welcome to the show.

Glen Akins: Thanks, Chris.

Christopher Mitchell:...

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Posted November 30, 2017 by christopher

Fort Collins, like more than 100 communities in Colorado, had already opted out of the state law that requires a referendum prior to a city or county investing in an Internet network, even with a partner. But it went back to another referendum a few weeks ago to amend its city charter to create a telecommunications utility (though it has not yet decided whether it will partner or operate its own network). 

After years of sitting out referenda fights in Colorado, Comcast got back involved in a big way, spreading money across the Chamber of Commerce and an astroturf group to oppose the referendum. And just like in Scooby-Do, they would have gotten away with it... but for local grassroots organizing. 

We have a special second podcast this week because we didn't want to wait any longer than necessary to get this one out in the midst of frustration around the FCC bulldozing network neutrality. Glen Akins and and Colin Garfield were both campaign leads for the Fort Collins Citizens' Broadband Committee

They share important insights to organizing around broadband Internet access and a strategy for success against hard odds. They had very little experience organizing and were up against a cable industry willing to spend more than $450,000 to defeat them, setting a record in Fort Collins elections. 

For people who feel frustrated by the federal government handing Internet access regulation to the big monopolies, Glen and Colin offer hope and a roadmap for better Internet access. 

All of our Fort Collins covereage is here. This is a previous interview with the Mayor of Fort Collins

Read the transcript for this show here.

This show is 27 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice ...

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Posted October 25, 2017 by lgonzalez

With their back against the wall, Comcast is pulling out it’s well manicured, sharp claws in Fort Collins, Colorado. Voters will be asked to approve measure 2B on November 7th, which would allow the city to take steps toward establishing their own municipal telecommunications utility. In order to preserve the lack of competition, incumbent Internet access providers are on track to spending more during this election than has been spent on any other issue in Fort Collins’ history.

Behind The Name Of "Citizen"

As we’ve come to see time and again, when a local community like Fort Collins takes steps to invest in the infrastructure they need for economic development, incumbents move in to prevent municipal efforts. Comcast and CenturyLink aren’t offering the types of connectivity that Fort Collins wants to progress, so the city has decided to ask the voters whether or not they feel a publicly owned broadband utility will meet their needs.

logo-comcast.png In keeping with the usual modus operandi, out of the woodwork emerge lobbying groups that not-so-artfully mask incumbents like Comcast and CenturyLink. These groups are able to contribute large sums of money to whatever organization has been established, often in the form of a “citizens group,” to bombard local media with misinformation about municipal networks to try to convince voters to vote against the initiative. In Fort Collins, the “citizens group” happens to call itself Priorities of Fort Collins (PFC).

A closer look at who is funding PFC’s website and professional videos takes one to the recently filed campaign report. The City Clerk’s Office has a copy of this document on file and shows that PFC has only three contributors, none of whom are individual “citizens” but are associated with big telecom:

  • $125,000 from the Colorado Cable Telecommunications Association (CCTA): This organization was the same mask Comcast used back in 2011 when it spent approximately $300,000 to stop a similar effort...
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Posted October 5, 2017 by Staff

This is the transcript for episode 273 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. Grace Simrall and Chris Seidt of Louisville, Kentucky, join the show to discuss how their community is taking advantage of the statewide network KentuckyWired. Listen to this episode here.

 

Grace Simrall: This overbuild has significant access capacity. We designed and built for the future.

Lisa Gonzalez: This is episode 273 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast from the Institute for Local Self Reliance. I'm Lisa Gonzalez. Louisville, Kentucky is taking advantage of an opportunity to drastically reduce the cost of fiber deployment as the state's KentuckyWired Project routes through the area. In this interview, you'll hear Grace Simrall, and Chris Seidt explain how the city will expand their fiber footprint. They'll describe their plans to use the new resource for municipal facilities, public safety, and smart city applications to improve life for residents, and visitors. Now, here's Christopher with Grace, and Chris talking about what's happening in Louisville.

Christopher Mitchell: Welcome to another edition of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast. I'm Chris Mitchell from the Institute for Local Self Reliance up here in Minneapolis, and today I'm speaking with Grace Simrall, the chief of civic innovation and technology for local metropolitan government in Louisville. Welcome to the show.

Grace Simrall: Thank you so much for having me, Chris.

Christopher Mitchell: We're also joined by Chris Seidt, the civic technology manager for the city. Welcome to the show.

Chris Seidt: Thank you so much for having me.

Christopher Mitchell: I think a good place to start would be to just, you know, for people who haven't been there, it's a wonderful place. Grace, maybe you can tell us a little bit more about what people should know about Louisville.

Grace Simrall: Basic fact, we are the largest city in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, our population is about 750,000. We are a combined city, county government. We merged over 12 years ago, and in terms of geographic spread we have roughly under 400 square miles of urban, suburban, and rural all in our combined...

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Posted October 4, 2017 by christopher

Back in June, Louisville had a close call with missing a key opportunity to build municipal fiber to local anchor institutions at a substantially reduced cost. An anti-muni broadband group pushed hard to disrupt the project but city staff educated metro council-members and moved forward with a unanimous vote. 

Louisville Chief of Civic Innovation Grace Simrall and Civic Technology Manager Chris Seidt join us for episode 273 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast to discuss the project and the importance of educating local decision-makers well in advance of they decisions.

We talk about the network extensions Louisville is building to connect key anchor institutions and internal city offices. The network will not only save on connectivity costs by reducing leased lines but also provide increased security and opportunities for efficiency. We also discuss the key points Grace and Chris made to the Metro Council in arguing for this investment. 

Read the transcript of this show here.

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

This show is 28 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed.

You can download this mp3 file directly from here. Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Thanks to Arne Huseby for the music. The song is Warm Duck Shuffle and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.

Posted June 21, 2017 by lgonzalez

Sharing information about the fabulous work by communities investing in publicly owned Internet infrastructure is a full-time job. So is correcting the misinformation spread by national providers trying to undermine that important work. Fortunately, there are people with firsthand knowledge of those inaccuracies who can set the record straight.

It Started As A Simple Question

A recent post on Reddit shows an email exchange between the Senior Director of Government and Regulatory Affairs at Comcast and the General Manager at NextLight in Longmont, Colorado. The email started when a resident from Fort Collins sent a message to the city council. Fort Collins is looking at better connectivity and researching their options. 

The Fort Collins City Council forwarded those questions to Comcast and asked some one at the company to explain the difference between their gigabit connectivity and the gigabit service offered by NextLight, the municipal network in Longmont. As can be expected, Comcast’s representative replied with a long list of inaccuracies and outright falsities. In addition to claiming that Longmont’s service adds charges where it does not, Comcast’s rep tries to convince the Fort Collins City Council that NextLight’s service is inferior, but the fact show otherwise. 

Fortunately, the email found its way to General Manager at NextLight Tom Roiniotis, who made the time to correct the misinterpretations. As is often the case in the “webiverse,” the email with accurate information found its way to Reddit.

The post, cleverly titled “GM drops the mic on the Comcast rep” is here, but we’ve also republished it. For some testimonies on Longmont’s NextLight service, check out the comments on the Reddit thread.

ON REDDIT:

logo-reddit.png Per CORA (Colorado Open Records Act), this email is available to the public. Below is a recent email exchange between the NextLight (Longmont) General Manager and the Comcast Senior Gov't & Regulatory Affairs rep. He refuted most of the information the Comcast rep was trying to peddle to City Council...

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Posted June 13, 2017 by lgonzalez

As an increasing number of communities investigate the possibility of publicly owned Internet networks, big cable and telephone companies are spending big dollars to fund the spread of misinformation. In order to combat untruths and share accurate data, we’ve created the Correcting Community Fiber Fallacies page. You will find resources to help you identify and respond to some of the most used resources, arguments, and tactics from groups aiming to quash better connectivity through local control; you'll also find the best ways to address them.

Reports, Reports, Reports

A common strategy from companies with de facto monopolies such as Comcast and AT&T are funding reports created by entities that appear to be nonpartisan academic groups. They also fund groups to generate similar anti-municipal network material from organizations that pretend to operate in the best interests of taxpayers or citizens. In reality, these groups produce slanted material intended to capitalize on the lack of information most people have about publicly owned networks. They aim to fill the void quickly and repeatedly with misstatements in order to taint any later discussion of public investment. 

One way to influence decision makers and the general public who are learning about ways to improve local connectivity is by taking advantage of the credibility that may be attached to a seemingly academic report. We provide several examples on the Correcting Community Fiber Fallacies page and offer a few direct responses that point out the many factual and analytical errors.

Similarly, we offer examples of rebuttals to some of the most common arguments against public Internet network infrastructure. In addition to general rumors, we found some excellent rebuttals to specific lies that national providers attempt to spread by repeating early and often.

Information Is Power

The Correcting Community Fiber Fallacies page also takes a look at how misinformation gets started, how it spreads, and ways to stop it in its tracks. From our page:

Keeping the community well informed can prevent confusion and derail misinformation campaigns...

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Posted June 8, 2017 by lgonzalez

As Newport Utilities (NU) in Tennessee moves forward with a plan to offer Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) connectivity, they are holding public informational meetings. At a recent meeting, locals received the plan positively, reinforcing that idea that NU is on the right track.

The network will be funded by a $3.5 million interdepartmental loan from the utility’s electric system in addition to a USDA loan. The first phase of the build out will connect just under 6,800 residential and approximately 1,200 business premises. It will also bring electric substations, the city of Newport, emergency services, and local schools on to the new infrastructure. The second phase will continue to connect remaining NU’s service area.

Why Are THEY Here Anyway?

In recent weeks, anti-muni groups from Knoxville and other areas have targeted the project, raising questions among the community; NU officials wanted to address the misinformation directly. Chair of the board Roland Dykes said:

“There has been alot of publicity, negative and positive in the community and we wanted to do this to make sure everybody understood what we are trying to do, and what broadband will mean for our community.” 

WNPC reported that “virtually all of the attendees were positive about the plan, because many areas of Cocke County are without Internet service.” WNPC also noted that the only unfavorable opinion was from an attendee who refused to answer when asked if he was backed by the cable industry. That individual doesn’t live in Cocke County.

Raising Speeds, Holding Down Rates...A Muni Tradition

A former NU employee who is now with the Morristown Utility Board spoke at the meeting, describing how the publicly owned network attracts businesses to Morristown. In addition to boosting economic development, MUS FiberNet brings fast, affordable, reliable connectivity to residents and businesses in the MUS service area. They started serving premises in 2006 with FTTH and have never raised rates, even though they HAVE...

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