Tag: "competition"

Posted February 3, 2021 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

Where broadband is and isn't available has always been a crucial part of the puzzle for bringing the fastest, more affordable Internet access to everyone in the country. Maps play a particularly important role in this endeavor, and a podcast episode from the Broadband Bunch with Pennsylvania State University's Sascha Meinrath, founder of X-Lab, unpacks how. In the episode, Meinrath discusses how the U.S. went from being a leader in broadband mapping in 2005 to one lagging behind the bulk of the pack today.

Along with the host, he talks about the failure of the FCC to do a central part of its job over the last fifteen years, the current lack of oversight, verification, and punishment for Internet Service Providers (ISPs) that misreport their coverage, how we got to a point where bad FCC data has become a proxy for the reality on the ground with significant impact for funding dollars, and what that means for students, seniors, and rural economies all around the country.

Listen to hear more.

Posted January 11, 2021 by Sean Gonsalves

Privately-owned broadband infrastructure builder and operator SiFi Networks is sprouting roots in cities from California to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

The Fullerton FiberCity network was SiFi’s first FiberCity — a privately built, financed, and operated open access network. Network construction in Fullerton started in November 2019 and involved over 600 miles of micro-trenching underground fiber, a technique designed to minimize traffic and neighborhood disruption sometimes associated with ripping up roads to install fiber conduit. The first residential customers were hooked up in June, with an anticipated completion date in the fall of 2021.

And while construction of the fiber network in Fullerton isn’t quite finished yet, eight other communities across the country are in the process of becoming the next SiFi fiber cities.

Salem

In Salem, Ma., SiFi Networks announced at the end of November it had completed a “construction trial” which is a “practice run” ahead of the actual construction of the citywide network, slated to start this spring.

Once completed, the Salem project, in which SiFi Networks is partnering with GigabitNow, will offer the city’s 43,180 residents an alternative to the monopoly services of Comcast. GigabitNow, which will be the Internet Service Provider (ISP) for Salem FiberCity, estimates they will be able to begin providing services as early as summer 2021.

It should be noted that open access networks are intended to entice multiple ISPs to enter the market and create more robust competition by separating the infrastructure and service components of broadband access. However, it is currently a challenge in some areas to find a multitude of ISPs to compete on these networks, in contrast to ...

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Posted January 7, 2021 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

Paul Meyer, the Executive Director of the North Carolina League of Municipalities, has a new piece out outlining clearly and concisely what anyone living in or familiar with the state of broadband in North Carolina is thinking: the connectivity problems shown in such stark detail by the ongoing pandemic are nothing new, and the entities to blame are the huge out-of-state monopoly Internet Service Providers like Charter Spectrum and AT&T.

Both companies, and AT&T in particular, have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars over the last ten years to reduce competition across the state so that they can extract as much profit from North Carolina's communities as possible. Since the passage of HB 129 in 2011, no new municipal networks have been built in the state.

Meyer outlines the consequences of this reality, with residents and businesses alike stuck on old, slow, expensive connections that service providers have no incentive to upgrade in a broken marketplace.

Read the whole piece here, but see some excerpts below:

It has simply become unacceptable and unconscionable that a handful of companies stand in the way of allowing this to happen almost a decade after banding together to block municipalities from building and operating their own systems, and proclaiming as they did so that they would address the digital divide in the state.

If allowing local governments to bring their assets to bear in addressing the critical infrastructure issue of our time was a no-brainer in December of 2019, it is even more of a no-brainer in December of 2020.

So, what’s the big deal? It is that these larger telecommunication companies don’t want competition, even in the places that they poorly serve and are potentially walking away from. For some — loaded down with debt and left with aging technology — they do not have the financial wherewithal to make the investments that are going to close the digital divide and bring...

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Posted January 7, 2021 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

An accidential fiber cut in preparation for utility work led to a broadband outage in Worcester on Tuesday, leaving much of the city disconnected for the majority of the day. Business and distance learning were particularly impacted, leading many - including proponents and town officials - to point to the incident as yet another reason the city should get serious about municipal broadband. Charter is the city's only residential and business option at the moment. 

From a second story about the incident

Students still had assignments to work on, having already started their school day when the outage started around 9:30 a.m., she said. Their schools have given them extra time to complete any work that was due on Tuesday, however, due to the extended loss of Internet [access] . . . Part of the problem on Monday, however, was that school staff didn’t have some of the usual ways to reach students, since phone lines also went down. That means many families didn’t receive the Connect-Ed phone message Binienda sent out about the situation, in addition to missing emails and posts on the district’s website.

Posted January 5, 2021 by Sean Gonsalves

While the bulk of the Accessible, Affordable Internet for All (AAIA) Act proposes to invest $100 billion to expand broadband access in unserved and underserved parts of the country, the legislation also looks to build an essential bridge across the digital divide that goes beyond new infrastructure. An important part of the equation involves addressing laws and policies that have proven to be obstacles to Internet connectivity for tens of millions of Americans.

In our previous installments examining the AAIA, we covered the big-ticket items – the why, how and where the $100+ billion would be invested. This final installment in the series covers the last three major sections of the bill: Title IV – Community Broadband; Title V – Broadband Infrastructure Deployment; and Title VI – Repeal of Rule and Prohibition on Use of NPRM.

These last three sections of the AAIA do not call for any federal appropriations but instead aim to tackle several thorny policy challenges.

Removing State Barriers to Municipal Broadband Initiatives

Title IV – Community Broadband (Section 4001) of the bill is straight-forward. It would prohibit state governments from enforcing laws or regulations that prevent local governments, public-private partnerships, and cooperatives from delivering broadband service.

As it stands now, there are 19 states across the country where state legislators have passed laws designed to shield the biggest corporate Internet Service Providers (ISPs) from competition. Those laws were mostly written by lobbyists for these behemoth monopolies and duopolies, despite the fact that the Big Telcos have failed to deliver reliable, affordable and truly high-speed Internet access to large segments of the population.

In Colorado, for example, legislators in that state passed SB-...

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Posted January 4, 2021 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

A host of cities and counties in Arkansas are about to get a major broadband boost thanks to local officials taking steps to act on a grant program deployed by the state last year. Borne out of the state’s 2020 1st Extraordinary Session at the end of March 2020 in response to the Covid 19 pandemic, the new Rural Broadband I.D. Expenses Trust Fund Grant Program will disburse $2 million in funds divided into 30 one-time grants of $75,000 each to towns, cities, and counties to tackle the digital divide in the Toothpick State. The program is financed via Arkansas’ Restricted Reserve Fund with money given to the state by the CARES Act, and is administered by the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) Institute for Digital Health & Innovation. And while an array of projects have been awarded funds, money remains available and applications are being accepted on a rolling basis for those who have yet to take advantage.

A Win for Local Self-Reliance and Increasing Competition

The program is expressly designed to bridge the gap for communities that want to begin to improve local Internet access but are stymied by a necessary first step: paying for those economic, design, and feasibility analyses which require pulling together the wide range of options available in the context of local conditions. That’s where this program comes in, according to Rachel Ott, the UAMS Institute’s for Digital Health and Innovation Grant Director. Communities can use the work produced to apply for federal grants down the road, including the recently concluded Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF), the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s ReConnect Program, funds from the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, and any other forthcoming federal funding programs. 

Cities, towns, counties, and unincorporated communities are all eligible to apply. Non-profits and for-profit entities are also eligible to apply, but only in unincorporated communities. If they want to undertake projects in cities or towns, they are required to...

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Posted December 31, 2020 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

The Milton, Massachusetts Municipal Fiber Initiative recently launched a friendly petition to collect signatures to present to the city select board in support of a city-wide Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network to increase competition, speed, reliability, and customer service while lower Internet access costs for residents. From the group's website:

We are a community-led effort to create a fiber-optic, municipal broadband network in the town of Milton, MA.  We believe a community-owned, state of the art, 100% fiber network is necessary to provide everyone in town - residents, town government, local businesses and non-profits - with better access, more choice, lower prices, blazing fast speeds, and superior reliability...now and for decades to come!

The group indicates that the town has already created a municipal broadband committee as well as a design and cost estimate done by CTC Energy and Technology [pdf]. 

From the petition:

To all our Milton friends and neighbors -

The MMFI is collecting signatures for a friendly petition to the Milton Select Board. Our intention is to demonstrate public support for municipal broadband, and to urge the board to take the next steps towards the establishment of a municipal broadband network.

The Select Board has made some great progress already with the appointment of a Municipal Broadband Committee.   The committee's efforts culminated in a cost and design estimate for the creation of a 100% fiber, municipally-owned broadband network, providing the town with a viable road map to a town-wide, fiber-to-every-premise network.   

We're asking you to join us in our efforts to keep the process going.  We hope we can make the case to you, our Milton friends and neighbors, that municipal broadband is an investment in Milton's future, a public asset that will serve community needs for generations. 

Massachusetts has seen a flurry of recent activity in municipal broadband. Falmouth is considering a network, and Whip City Fiber (Westfield, Mass.) is in the process of helping almost...

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Posted December 29, 2020 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

There’s a new short essay out called “Future-Ready Information Infrastructure Must Be Open Access” from Underline, a firm which specializes in design, financing, construction, and operation of open access networks. It which outlines both the need for more growth of this model but also why, at this moment, we are particularly well positioned to do so today. Read a few excerpts below, but read the whole post over at Underline.

To develop the networks we need now, we must challenge the status quo & rebuild our information infrastructure from first principles: the only solution is open access, content and service agnostic, fiber-based networks.

Multi-purpose, open access fiber networks are equivalent to our “open access” roads. As the necessity of connectivity continues to extend far beyond sending email and online shopping—to virtual learning, remote work, distributed healthcare, new wireless solutions (e.g., 5G) and resilient modernized infrastructure—open access fiber networks are the critical and most efficient foundation.

We can and must efficiently build new information infrastructure as the foundation for resilient, flourishing communities to enjoy new economic opportunities, modernize other critical community infrastructure, and form a pathway to responsible energy creation and secure smart grid technology.

For more on open access networks, read our primer on the benefits they offer, or listen to Episode 424 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast below to hear Christopher talk with Jeff Christensen from EntryPoint Networks.

Posted December 25, 2020 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

On Episode 265 of the Techdirt podcast, Sonic CEO Dane Jasper joins host Mike Masnik to talk about how the broadband market in the United States is a failed competitive market, how the regulatory environment brought us from a place with thousands of Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to one where the vast majority of households have just one or two options at basic broadband speeds of 25/3 Megabits per second (Mbps), the arbitrariness of imposing usage caps and future of net neutrality, and the array of other interrelated issues that will dictate the way Internet access looks over the next decade.

Listen to it here.

Happy Holidays!

Posted December 22, 2020 by Sean Gonsalves

Over 140 municipalities in Colorado have opted out of a state law (SB-152) that prevents local governments from investing in broadband infrastructure. With overwhelming support from voters on Election Day last month, Denver, Berthoud, and Englewood became the most recent Colorado communities to bail on SB-152 in the 15 years since Qwest (now CenturyLink) and Comcast successfully lobbied for passage of the anti-local authority bill designed to protect their profits.

While Denver, Berthoud, and Englewood residents ponder next steps, a number of other Colorado communities have already built, or are in the process of building, municipally-owned broadband networks, the most successful example being the NextLight Fiber-To-The-Home (FTTH) network in Longmont.

NextLight, which began building its award-winning FTTH network in 2014, now offers Longmont’s 90,000 residents access to gigabit (1,000 Mbps) service and has surpassed a 50% take rate.

Three other communities in the Front Range region of Colorado are now on the front lines of building municipal broadband networks.

Loveland

Loveland, a city of 76,700 situated in a 25.5 square mile valley at the entrance to Big Thompson Canyon, opted out of SB-152 with 82% voter approval in 2015, a year after Longmont began building its fiber network 17 miles south of the “gateway to the Rockies.”

Over the past five years, the Loveland Water and Power Department has been planning, and now building, its own Pulse fiber network.

To finance the project, city officials opted to issue $95.5 million in bonds. The bonds are backed by Loveland’s electric utility, which serves 37,500 residential and commercial accounts.

Just 13 months into an expected four-year city-wide build-out, Pulse now has a heartbeat. But it hasn’t exactly been a fairy tale story in Loveland. There was...

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