Tag: "competition"

Posted August 25, 2021 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

Cuyahoga County, Ohio (pop. 1.23 million), encompassing Cleveland and the surrounding area along the bottom edge of Lake Erie, has released a new Request for Proposals (RFP) as part of its ongoing effort to "expand affordable, high-speed broadband services to those lacking Internet access." Sustainable solutions are the focus of the RFP, with particular emphasis given to economically disadvantaged communities and approaches that can not only offer low-cost or free options but convince households to sign up for service.

Proposals are due September 8th at 11am ET.

The RFP is just the latest effort as part of the Office of Innovation and Performance's effort to closing the digital divide in the city and surrounding area. It notes that:

Cuyahoga County is one of the worst-connected communities in the U.S., with 19 percent of households in the County without any type of Internet service, including mobile data plans. About 32 percent of households in the County do not have a broadband connection at home, and 69 percent of these households have annual incomes below $35,000. 

The RFP and two subsequently released addenda (addendum 1 and addendum 2) indicate that a wide variety of options are being considered to address the connectivity challenges across the three different tiers of wireline coverage across the county (see map below. Red areas indicate that less than 60 percent of census tracts have basic broadband, peach areas indicate that 60-80 percent of census tracts have coverage, the yellow and grey hatched...

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Posted August 24, 2021 by Sean Gonsalves

A milestone moment is on the horizon for the north central Florida city where Gatorade was invented to rejuvenate Florida Gator athletes with electrolytes. Tomorrow night, the Gainesville City Commission was slated to discuss how the city will spend its $32 million in American Rescue Plan funds and how much of that should be poured into rejuvenating Gainesville’s digital landscape with fiber-fueled gigabits. (The meeting however was postponed today due to COVID-19 concerns and will likely be rescheduled in the comings weeks).

With city, county, and school officials in April having unanimously approved the development of “a plan to create Internet access for all people” in Alachua county, in the county seat Gainesville’s city manager has requested city commissioners approve using $12 million of those federal funds for the city’s utility company, Gainesville Regional Utility (GRU), to extend its existing fiber network to residents thirsty for reliable, affordable, high-speed Internet service.

Citizen’s Group with High Speed Hopes

“We have been working on this for years and this could be the last chance for us to get this started,” Connected Gainesville founder Bryan Eastman told ILSR in a recent interview.

The city’s utility company, Gainesville Regional Utility (GRU), has already deployed over 600 miles of fiber throughout the city and for the past two decades its subsidiary GATOR NET has been offering symmetrical gig speed service to area businesses, apartment buildings, government agencies, and community anchor institutions.  

In 2017, Connected Gainesville began a public campaign with the hopes of persuading city officials to bring fiber-to-the-home connectivity citywide in a market dominated by Cox Communications, the incumbent monopoly cable provider serving this city’s approximately 141,000 residents, 56,000 of whom are students attending the University of Florida.

...

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Posted August 11, 2021 by Sean Gonsalves

The bipartisan infrastructure bill, which includes $65 billion for expanding access to reliable, high-speed Internet service, passed in the U.S. Senate yesterday. The full text of the bill, posted on U.S. Sen. Krysten Sinema’s (D-Arizona) website, appears to be identical to the draft of the bill detailed here by the law firm Keller & Heckman.

For those of us who favor local Internet choice, the bill is a mixed bag filled with The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. Let’s start with …

The Good

Of the $65 billion allocated in the bill, $42 billion of that is to fund the deployment of broadband networks in “unserved” and “underserved” parts of the country. The good part of that is the money will be sent to the states to be distributed as grants, which is better than handing it over to the FCC for another reverse auction. The FCC’s track record on reverse auctions is less than encouraging, and state governments are at least one step closer to local communities who have the best information on where broadband funding is needed.

In a nod to community broadband advocates and general common sense, the bill requires States to submit a “5-year action plan” as part of its initial proposal that “shall be informed by collaboration with local and regional entities.” It goes further in saying that those initial proposals should “describe the coordination with local governments, along with local and regional broadband planning processes,” in accordance with the NTIA’s “local coordination requirements.”

And the bill specifically says that when States award the grant money, they “may not exclude cooperatives, nonprofit organizations, public-private partnerships, private companies, public or private utilities, public utility districts, or local governments from eligibility for such grant funds.”

...

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Posted August 4, 2021 by Sean Gonsalves

Even before the central Florida city of Ocala in Marion County became officially known as “The Horse Capital of the World,” the city – home to 61,810 Floridians and over 1,200 county-wide horse farms – was already galloping toward high-speed Internet connectivity. In recent years, the Ocala Fiber Network (OFN) has expanded into offering residential service, trotting carefully towards a citywide fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) finish.

It began in 1995 with the Ocala municipal electric department upgrading its substation monitoring (SCADA) system, which has been estimated to have saved the city $25 million in networking costs since. Over the past two years, OFN has extended the network to bring affordable, reliable, high-speed Internet service to city residents, neighborhood by neighborhood.

While the municipal network has been providing high-speed Internet service for the past decade to area businesses, healthcare facilities, community anchor institutions, and schools throughout the county, OFN launched residential service in 2019 and is now serving 2,500 residential subscribers in four city neighborhoods.

“We did four pilot neighborhoods. Our target goal was to have a 30 percent take rate in each neighborhood. In the largest neighborhood (the Highlands neighborhood) with a thousand homes, we have a 42 percent take rate. We still have a challenge in one neighborhood (Happiness Homes) with about a 10 percent take rate that we think is mostly an educational challenge,” Ocala Fiber Network Director Mel Poole told us in a recent interview.

After deploying 800 miles of fiber, overhead and underground, Poole said, OFN is seeing “steady, methodical growth” of its residential subscriber base “mostly by word-of-mouth” while they continue to sign up new business customers. And, he said, from a financial perspective “we are still in the black.”

OFN Powers Through Pandemic

The network really showcased its value with the onset of the pandemic. Besides having the capacity to handle...

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Posted July 29, 2021 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

In a new report, the Institute for Local Self-Reliance showcases the diverse range of approaches communities and local Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have taken to expand affordable, high-quality Internet access in Minnesota. It includes a series of case studies that detail how communities are meeting the connectivity challenges of a broken marketplace shaped by large monopoly service providers. 

Download Minnesota Broadband: Land of 10,000 Connectivity Solutions [pdf] here.

The profiled projects include municipal networks, public-private partnerships, cooperatives, and private investment. They run from the most rural areas of the state to Minneapolis. Some examples include:

  • RS Fiber Cooperative, in south central Minnesota, which has brought fiber to local businesses and town residents. Rural residents benefit from RS Air, a fast wireless service available at affordable prices.
  • Arrowhead Electric Cooperative’s fiber network in Cook County, which succeeded beyond original projections. It provides fast and affordable Internet access to one of the most far-flung parts of the state.
  • St. Louis Park’s partnerships with both ISPs and the builders of large condominium complexes. One of the providers working with St. Louis Park is better known as the fastest ISP in Minneapolis, USI Fiber.
  • Christensen Communications, a 100+ year-old telephone company in south central Minnesota. The company demonstrated a strong commitment to its communities when the pandemic hit, and is now going above and beyond to build fiber with federal subsidies.
  • The Fond du Lac Band, in northern Minnesota, which built a fiber-to-the-home network that is rare in Indian Country.

Ry Marcattilio-McCracken, co-author of the report and Senior Researcher with ILSR’s Community Broadband Networks initiative, said of the report’s findings: 

Minnesota communities and local ISPs have found creative and sustainable ways to build future-proof networks across the state, despite a broken marketplace and state barriers that favor slow-moving, out-of-state monopoly providers clinging to outdated technology. Lawmakers must stand up for the cities and towns that sent them to the legislature, and remove the obstacles that prevent a more competitive market and local broadband solutions.

...

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Posted July 29, 2021 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

Our new report, Minnesota Broadband: Land of 10,000 Connectivity Solutions [pdf], showcases the diverse range of approaches communities and local Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have taken to expand affordable, high-quality Internet access in Minnesota. It includes a series of case studies that detail how communities are meeting the connectivity challenges of a broken marketplace shaped by large monopoly service providers. 

The profiled projects include municipal networks, public-private partnerships, cooperatives, and private investment. They run from the most rural areas of the state to Minneapolis. Some examples include:

  • RS Fiber Cooperative, in south central Minnesota, which has brought fiber to local businesses and town residents. Rural residents benefit from RS Air, a fast wireless service available at affordable prices.
  • Arrowhead Electric Cooperative’s fiber network in Cook County, which succeeded beyond original projections. It provides fast and affordable Internet access to one of the most far-flung parts of the state.
  • St. Louis Park’s partnerships with both ISPs and the builders of large condominium complexes. One of the providers working with St. Louis Park is better known as the fastest ISP in Minneapolis, USI Fiber.
  • Christensen Communications, a 100+ year-old telephone company in south central Minnesota. The company demonstrated a strong commitment to its communities when the pandemic hit, and is now going above and beyond to build fiber with federal subsidies.
  • The Fond du Lac Band, in northern Minnesota, which built a fiber-to-the-home network that is rare in Indian Country.

Ry Marcattilio-McCracken, co-author of the report and Senior Researcher with ILSR’s Community Broadband Networks initiative, said of the report’s findings: 

Minnesota communities and local ISPs have found creative and sustainable ways to build future-proof networks across the state, despite a broken marketplace and state barriers that favor slow-moving, out-of-state monopoly providers clinging to outdated technology. Lawmakers must stand up for the cities and towns that sent them to the legislature, and remove the obstacles that prevent a more competitive market and local broadband solutions.

...

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Posted July 26, 2021 by Sean Gonsalves

In case you missed it, earlier this month President Biden signed an executive order that aims to promote competition in the U.S. economy. The order includes 72 initiatives, directing a dozen different federal agencies to promote competition in key sectors. 

The White House published a fact sheet to explain what the EO aims to do. [Read the full factsheet is here]. It begins by pointing out how a "lack of competition drives up prices for consumers," which is why "families are paying higher prices for necessities—things like prescription drugs, hearing aids, and Internet service."

It goes on to say that the order will, among other things, "save Americans money on their Internet bills by banning excessive early termination fees, requiring clear disclosure of plan costs to facilitate comparison shopping, and ending landlord exclusivity arrangements that stick tenants with only a single Internet option."

As you might imagine, we are particularly interested in the section on “Internet Service,” which you can read below:

Internet Service

The Order tackles four issues that limit competition, raise prices, and reduce choices for Internet service.

In the Order, the President encourages the FCC to:

• Prevent ISPs from making deals with landlords that limit tenants’ choices.

Lack of competition among broadband providers: More than 200 million U.S. residents live in an area with only one or two reliable high-speed Internet providers, leading to prices as much as five times higher in these markets than in markets with more options. A related problem is landlords and internet service providers entering...

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Posted July 21, 2021 by Sean Gonsalves

As Senators involved in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework are negotiating over legislative language on how to spend $65 billion aimed at expanding high-speed Internet connectivity in “unserved” and “underserved” parts of the country, a new joint report has been published by Common Cause and the Communications Workers of America (CWA) that details the massive influence Big Telecom has on Congress.

The 21-page report – Broadband Gatekeepers: How ISP Lobbying and Political Influence Shapes the Digital Divide – examines the political spending and lobbying efforts of the nation’s largest Internet Service Providers (ISPs), as well as their trade associations, and connects the dots on how some of the most despised companies in America have helped create the digital divide.

The report begins by noting how “major broadband providers, both telecom and cable, have chosen not to build their networks to areas they deem less profitable and not to upgrade many existing customers left behind by outdated technology. These choices entrench the far too wide digital divide and mean Americans pay some of the highest prices for service. At the same time, the largest ISPs have used their outsized influence in Congress to block any legislation that would undermine their stranglehold over the broadband marketplace. In the 116th Congress alone, these corporations spent an astounding $234 million on lobbying and federal elections.”

That’s an average of more than $320,000 a day, seven days a week, as the report’s authors note.

America’s ‘Most Hated’ Companies Lobby to Maintain Monopoly Power

Although policymakers have proposed reforms that would close the digital divide, the report says, “the (telecom) industry is on Capitol Hill spending hundreds of millions of dollars to fight against legislation that would fund the deployment of future-proof networks, promote competition, mandate higher minimum speed...

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Posted July 16, 2021 by Sean Gonsalves

We have covered on numerous occasions the fiber-to-the-home boom underway in the rural hill towns of western Massachusetts. Now we are seeing a number of communities around the Boston metro area in the eastern part of the Commonwealth, as well as in other of the more populous towns and cities across Massachusetts, exploring the possibility of building their own community broadband networks.

In the rural environs of the Berkshires the demand for municipal fiber networks was primarily driven by a need for high-speed Internet connectivity in small towns with only outdated DSL or satellite-based Internet service as options. In the larger cities and towns in other parts of the state, by contrast, the driving force for better broadband has been a desire to introduce competition into a market dominated by the regional monopoly providers (Comcast, Verizon and Charter-Spectrum) that have left many communities starving for a cheaper, faster, and more reliable option. 

The towns are at different stages. Some are moving through the study and design phase. Some are stalled. Some have decided to work with third-party providers. And one is on the cusp of building a fiber network, beginning with a pilot project. Here is snapshot of nine different communities and where they stand. (It is not an exahustive list of towns in Massachusetts contemplating municipal networks). 

Agawam

Just three miles south of Springfield is Agawam, a town of approximately 28,000, home to the only Six Flags Amusement Park in New England. What Agawam residents do not find amusing, however, was when Comcast announced plans to introduce monthly data caps and associated fees for customers who exceeded those caps. It was enough to convince town officials they should explore building their own municipal broadband network.

The town formed the Agawam Municipal Fiber Task Force and charged the task force with reviewing “the feasibility of the Town constructing and operating its own fiber network, partnering with another municipal fiber network, and/or the potential of a private company...

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Posted July 14, 2021 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

The project, which will result in an open access conduit network with Google Fiber as the first ISP operating, has seen some equipment delays (handholds and vaults) recently but remains on schedule. "The first conduit section in the city that'll be complete includes Valley High and the surrounding neighborhood," We Are Iowa writes. The first users are scheduled to be brought online later this year.

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