Tag: "competition"

Posted June 1, 2017 by lgonzalez

For the second week in row, our staff has felt compelled to address a misleading report about municipal networks. In order to correct the errors and incorrect assumptions in yet another anti-muni publication, we’ve worked with Next Century Cities to publish Correcting Community Fiber Fallacies: Yoo Discredits U Penn, Not Municipal Networks.

Skewed Data = Skewed Results

Professor Christopher S. Yoo and Timothy Pfenninger from the Center for Technology, Innovation and Competition (CTIC) at the University of Pennsylvania Law School recently released "Municipal Fiber in the United States: An Empirical Assessment of Financial Performance." The report attempts to analyze the financial future of several citywide Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) municipal networks in the U.S. by applying a Net Present Value (NPV) calculation approach. They applied their method to some well-known networks, including Chattanooga's EPB Fiber Optics; Greenlight in Wilson, North Carolina; and Lafayette, Louisiana's LUS Fiber. Unfortunately, their initial data was flawed and incomplete, which yielded a report fraught with credibility issues.

So Many Problems 

In addition to compromising data validity, the authors of the study didn’t consider the wider context of municipal networks, which goes beyond the purpose of NPV, which is determining the promise of a financial investment.

Some of the more expansive problems with this report (from our Executive Summary):

  • They erred in claiming Wilson, Lafayette, and Chattanooga have balloon payments at the end of the term. They have corrected that error in a press release. Other errors, such as confusing the technologies used by at least two networks, are less important but decrease the study’s credibility.
  • Several of the cities dispute the accuracy of the numbers used in the calculations for their communities.
  • The Net Present Value calculation is inappropriate in this context for...
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Posted May 30, 2017 by christopher

In an exciting milestone, this is podcast 100000000. Or 256 in decimal - you know, for the squares. While at the always-amazing Mountain Connect event in Colorado, I snagged an interview with Doug Seacat of Deeply Digital and Clearnetworx. They sought a grant from the Colorado Broadband Fund to deploy fiber and wireless to underserved Ridgway in western Colorado. 

What happened next is shocking but hardly an anomaly. Using what is often called the "Right of First Refusal," where incumbents get to prevent competition in state broadband programs, CenturyLink not only blocked Clearnetworx from getting the grant but got itself a hefty subsidy for a very modest improvement in services.

Ridgway residents went from almost certainly having a choice in providers and gigabit access to seeing their taxpayer dollars used to not only make competition less likely but also effectively blocking the gig from coming to everyone in town. In this interview, we discuss the details. 

Read the transcript of the show here.

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

This show is 20 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 May 26, 2017 by Nick

S&P Global Market Intelligence - May 26, 2017

Hard Data on Municipal Broadband Networks

Written by Sarah Barry James

There is a dearth of good data around municipal broadband networks, and the data that is available raises some tough questions.

A new study from University of Pennsylvania Law School Professor Christopher Yoo and co-author Timothy Pfenninger, a law student, identified 88 municipal fiber projects across the country, 20 of which report the financial results of their broadband operations separately from the results of their electric power operations. Municipal broadband networks are owned and operated by localities, often in connection with the local utility.

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Yet Christopher Mitchell, director of the Community Broadband Networks Initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, argued that Yoo's study did not present an entirely accurate or up-to-date picture of U.S. municipal networks.

"When I looked at the 20 communities that he studied — and his methodology for picking those is totally reasonable and he did not cherry pick them — I was not surprised at his results because many of those networks are either in very small communities … and the others were often in the early years of a buildout during a period of deep recession," Mitchell said.

As an example, Mitchell pointed to Electric Power Board's municipal broadband network in Chattanooga, Tenn. — one of the five networks Yoo identified as having positive cash flow but at such a low level that it would take more than 100 years to recover project costs.

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In fact, without the revenue generated by the fiber-optics business, EPB estimated it would have had to raise electric rates by 7% this year.

According to Mitchell, Yoo's study captured the Chattanooga network when it was still "small and growing," but misses "what's going to happen for the rest of the life of the network, which I think is the more important part."

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Posted May 25, 2017 by Nick

Telecompetitor - May 25, 2017

Municipal broadband networks do not have a strong financial track record, according to an analysis conducted by the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Technology, Innovation and Competition. The municipal broadband financial analysis, which looked at 20 municipal fiber projects, found that only nine were cash-flow positive and that of those, seven would need more than 60 years to break even.

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An Opposing View

Municipal network advocate Christopher Mitchell, director of the Community Broadband Networks Initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, pointed to several flaws in the Penn Law municipal broadband financial analysis.

He noted, for example that a substantial portion of the 20 networks studied were “early in the process and very small.” He also argued that the 2010-2014 study period may have biased the results, as that period included a recession and subscribership for some of the networks has increased substantially since 2014. He noted, for example, that EPB’s broadband network in Chattanooga had about 50,000 to 55,000 subscribers in 2014 but has now hit the 90,000 mark.

The Penn Law authors’ approach was “not the proper way to measure these networks,” said Mitchell in a phone call with Telecompetitor. The analysis “doesn’t take into account jobs created or the impact on the municipal budget,” he said.

He argued, for example, that a municipality that previously paid $1 million annually for connectivity might instead pay itself $500,000 for connectivity on the municipal network.

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Read the full story here.

Posted May 4, 2017 by Nick

TechDirt - May 4, 2017

Maine The Latest State To Try And Let Giant Broadband Providers Write Shitty, Protectionist State Law

Written by Karl Bode

One of (several) reasons why American broadband is so uncompetitive is the fact that we continue to let giant broadband mono/duopolies quite literally write awful state telecom law. As we've long noted, more than twenty different states have passed laws making it difficult to impossible for towns and cities to improve their local broadband networks -- even in instances when the entrenched duopoly refuses to. Many of these laws even ban towns and cities from entering into public/private partnerships with the likes of Google Fiber. It's pure protectionism.

Maine is the 49th ranked state in broadband speed and coverage -- in large part due to rural markets. Despite countless years of subsidies, broadband providers consistently refuse to seriously upgrade these areas at any scale due to costs. And yet they refuse to let the towns do it themselves, either. State Representative Nate Wadsworth has introduced HP1040, aka "An Act To Encourage Broadband Development through Private Investment." Except like so many of these bills, the proposed law's name is a stark 180 from what the legislative measure actually does.

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And laws banning municipal broadband -- and especially public/private partnerships -- accomplish the exact opposite of that. And while large ISPs (and their ocean of paid think tankers, economists, and other doller-per-holler professionals) have tried to make this a partisan issue -- the vast majority of municipal networks are built in Conservative areas with broad, bipartisan support. That's because there's one thing we can all agree on: nobody likes the local cable and broadband monopoly.

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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.

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Posted May 3, 2017 by lgonzalez

We’ve been covering the East-Central Vermont Community Fiber-Optic Network (ECFiber) since 2009; it has come a long way from inception. ECFiber is a group of rural Vermont towns that are working together to deploy a regional network to offer high-quality Internet access to communities typically stuck with slow, unreliable connections such as DSL and dial-up. In this episode, Christopher talks with Carole Monroe, CEO of ValleyNet, and Irv Thomae, District Chairmen of ECFiber’s Governing Board. The not-for-profit ValleyNet operates the ECFiber network.

The organization has faced ups and downs and always seemed to overcome challenges. It began with funding from individual local investors who recognized the need to bring Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) to the region. Now, the organization is characterized as a “communications union district,” which creates greater funding flexibility and stability.

In this interview, Carole and Irv talk about the new designation and the plans for bringing the network to the communities that are clamoring for better Internet access. They also get into recent developments surrounding overbuilding by DSL provider FairPoint, a project funded by CAF II subsidies. We hear how ECFiber is bringing better connectivity to local schools and helping save public dollars at the same time and we find out more about the ways Vermonters in the eastern rural communities are using their publicly owned network.

Read the transcript of the show here.

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

This show is 29 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...

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Posted May 1, 2017 by Staff

This is the transcript for episode 250 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. Gary Reback, author of Free the Market: Why Only Government Can Keep the Marketplace Competitive, joins the show to discuss antitrust law. Listen to this episode here.

Christopher Mitchell: I think we have some consensus that maybe the lack of antitrust enforcement has been going on too long and we're beginning to have some problems that need to be addressed.

Lisa Gonzalez: This is episode 250 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast. From the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, I'm Lisa Gonzalez. In this week's episode, Christoper talks with Gary Reback, attorney and author. Gary's been called the protector of the marketplace and the antitrust champion for his work representing some of Silicon Valley's best-known companies. Gary and Christopher talk about antitrust, concentration of power and the different ways shifts in antitrust enforcement negatively impact both consumers and the market as a whole. Let's get to it.

Christopher Mitchell: Welcome to another edition of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast. I'm Chris Mitchell. Today, I'm speaking with Gary Reback, a well-known Silicon Valley lawyer. Welcome to the show, Gary.

Gary Reback: Thank you.

Christopher Mitchell: I'm excited to have you on the show. You're well-known for being very involved in getting the government to sue Microsoft and for writing a book that actually came to me at a really good time about seven years ago called Free

the Market!: Why Only Government Can Keep the Marketplace Competitive. I really enjoyed that book, highly recommend it. For our audience's sake, we're not going to talk much about broadband in this conversation. But I think that many of these principles around competition in markets apply very strongly but it's something that will be sort of in the sideline. Gary, I'm curious if we can just start with a brief description of what you might describe as a working market before we spend the rest of our time talking about the markets that aren't working as well.

Gary Reback: So that's an important question and...

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Posted April 25, 2017 by christopher

The larger focus of our work in the Community Broadband Networks Initiative is to ensure communities have the networks they need. Our guest for Community Broadband Bits episode 250 is an expert in how markets break and the policies that make them work. 

Gary Reback is a well known Silicon Valley lawyer and Of Counsel at Carr Ferrell LLP. He also wrote an excellent book, Free the Market: Why Only Government Can Keep the Marketplace Competitive that I fully recommend. Reback has had a front-row seat to the failings of government policy that has allowed a few technology firms to garner so much market power today.

We talk broadly about markets and monopoly rather than focusing on broadband and telecommunications. This is a good introductory conversation for people unfamiliar with the real threat and harms of monopoly. 

A related conversation is my interview with Barry Lynn in episode 83.

Read the transcript of the show here.

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

This show is 25 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 April 8, 2017 by Nick

A recent edition of State Scoop published Christopher's thoughts on the state of competition in the broadband market in the United States. In the piece, Christopher argues how incumbent Internet Service Providers translate their economic power into political power, as seen in the recent vote to strike down consumer privacy protections. He also more widely distributes our recent infographic, "The Market Has Spoken. The Market Is Broken." We've reproduced the op-ed here:

Paths for repairing a broken broadband market

Infographic & commentary: Christopher Mitchell of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance says the new anti-privacy legislation passing through Congress offers further evidence that America's broadband market is broken, but not beyond repair.

To be charitable, one of the reasons that Republicans in Congress moved so quickly to eviscerate privacy protections for internet access subscribers was an overriding belief that the market provides better protection than regulators. To be less charitable, it is possible all the lobbyist contributions to their campaigns had an impact.

But the market is not providing a check to AT&T or Comcast power. They are effectively monopolies — and as we just saw — can translate their market power into political power to wipe out regulations they find annoying.

At the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, where we work to support local economies, this broken market is a major problem. Cable monopolies are bad for local businesses, which become less competitive from paying too much for unreliable Internet access. Communities cannot thrive without high quality Internet access today. 

So we created the infographic below, which offers evidence for our claim that the market is broken. The Federal Communications Commission has documented that most households don’t have a choice in broadband providers, let alone a meaningful choice (where you actually like one of the companies you have to choose between).

Despite widespread...

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