Tag: "digital divide"

Posted April 3, 2018 by lgonzalez

The North Carolina League of Municipalities (NCLM) released a report in March with several recommendations designed to help the state boost connectivity for residents, businesses, and organizations. NCLM Legislative Counsel Erin Wynia and CTC Technology and Energy President Joanne Hovis authored the report that offers policy changes to encourage smart partnerships.

Download the report, Leaping the Digital Divide: Encouraging Policies and Partnership to Improve Broadband Access Across North Carolina.

The report dedicates time describing different public-private partnership models and the elements that make them distinct. In recent years, the term has been used to describe a broad spectrum of arrangements. We've highlighted partnerships in places like Westminster, Maryland, and Urbana-Champaign, Illinois, where both partners invest and share in risk and reward.

The North Carolina Situation

Wynia and Hovis spend time on the gap of coverage in rural areas vs coverage in urban areas. They compare data from the North Carolina Broadband Infrastructure Office and the FCC’s form 477. The authors explain why FCC data is so flawed and provide examples of real people who’s lives are impacted due to access to broadband, or lack of it, in their community.

Fiber is the best option for future-proof, fast, affordable, reliable connectivity. Wynia and Hovis compare fiber to other technologies and explain we can’t let hype cloud our long-term thinking. We were happy to supply our map of private ISP fiber availability in North Carolina so readers can see where it’s currently deployed in the state.

2018-03-NCLM-report-small.jpg The report looks at the state’s existing law that limits local authority regarding municipal broadband infrastructure. As the authors point out, state law does not expressly address local communities’ authority as it...

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Posted March 13, 2018 by lgonzalez

We’ve reported on many communities where citizen grassroots groups mobilized to implement change for better connectivity which often resulted in publicly owned Internet networks. Each community is different and some places require a more active group of advocates to bring change. A group of citizens in Cambridge, Massachusetts, have been working to bring attention to their community’s need for better options for several years. Recently, they formed Upgrade Cambridge, as a way to share information and spread the word about their initiative for a publicly owned fiber optic network.

Organic Organizing

Local Saul Tannebaum has consistently led efforts to bring municipal fiber infrastructure to Cambridge. Tannenbaum is one of eight individuals that are on the Upgrade Cambridge steering committee. He recently told the Cambridge Day:

“This grew completely organically. Folks starting contacting me in January asking what was going on with broadband and how they could help. People pulled in others in their own networks and the effort just took off…The city already knows how the Broadband Task force feels about this. It’s time for them to hear from others.”

In 2014, the City Manager appointed the Cambridge Broadband Task Force, which developed recommendations that they presented in 2016; Tannenbaum was a member of the task force. According to the founders of Upgrade Cambridge, the lack of response from the City Manager is driving the formation of the group. They feel that if community leaders hear from everyday Cambridge citizens and realize the magnitude of the problem, city leaders will feel more compelled to act.

The city also hired a consultant who recommended that Cambridge develop a dark fiber network, but find a private sector ISPs to provide last mile connectivity to businesses and residents via the city owned fiber. Another recommendation from the consultant in 2016 was that the city provide last mile fiber only to the Cambridge Housing Authority (CHA) locations. The task force disagreed with these recommendations.

The Cambrige Broadband Task Force also felt that the consultant recommendation was inadequate and too general. They did...

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Posted February 13, 2018 by christopher

In Virginia, Arlington has found new ways to use its municipal network to reduce the digital divide. Katie Cristol, Chair of the Arlington County Board, and Jack Belcher, County Chief Information Officer, join us for episode 293 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast to explain what they are doing.

We discuss how a new residential development, Arlington Mill, will feature affordable Internet access delivered via Wi-Fi for low-income families. It was financed in part with Tax Increment Financing and required a collaboration between multiple departments to create.

We discuss the challenge of creating such collaborations as well as some of the other benefits the ConnectArlington project has delivered.

Remember to check out our interveiw with Belcher from 2014 for episode 97 of the podcast, when we discussed the decision to begin offering connectivity to local businesses.

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 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 February 1, 2018 by lgonzalez

On January 30th, the House Energy and Commerce Communications and Technology Subcommittee held a hearing to learn from experts about how to shrink the digital divide and expand Internet access. The committee invited Joanne Hovis, owner of CTC Technology and Energy, to testify.

Make Investment Attractive

Hovis also heads up the Coalition for Local Internet Choice (CLIC) as CEO. She shared a plan that focused on creating an environment that will encourage infrastructure investment by the private and public sectors. The CLIC website shared the six main components of the plan:

Support public-private partnerships that ease the economic challenges of constructing rural and urban infrastructure;

Incent local efforts to build infrastructure — ones that private service providers can use — by making bonding and other financing strategies more feasible;

Target meaningful infrastructure capital support to rural and urban broadband deserts, not only to attract private capital but also to stimulate private efforts to gain or retain competitive advantage;

Empower local governments to pursue broadband solutions of all types, including use of public assets to attract and shape private investment patterns, so as to leverage taxpayer-funded property and create competitive dynamics that attract incumbent investment;

Require all entities that benefit from public subsidy to make enforceable commitments to build in areas that are historically unserved or underserved; and

Maximize the benefits of competition by requiring that all federal subsidy programs are offered on a competitive and neutral basis for bid by any qualified entity.

Hovis began her testimony by assessing our current approaches to shrinking the digital divide. She examined current belief in D.C. that local processes such as permitting and access hold up infrastructure investment and frankly told them that such a belief is incorrect.

From Hovis’s written testimony:

In reality, the fundamental reason we do not see comprehensive broadband deployment throughout the United States is that areas with high...

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Posted January 31, 2018 by christopher

It was just a year ago that we highlighted a nation-leading digital inclusion effort from Wilson's Greenlight municipal fiber network in North Carolina. That was their fourth time on the podcast, owing to the many ways Wilson has developed in ensuring its fiber network investment is benefiting the community. See also podcast episodes 171, 110, and 70

Will Aycock, General Manager of Greenlight Community Broadband, is back once again to discuss another new program they have developed - a new billing option that unlocks broadband access particularly among low-income households with low credit ratings. 

Greenlight has developed a pay-ahead option that allows households to pay ahead of connections so their lack of credit will not deter them from accessing the Internet service they may need for education, work, or other uses. It also allows households to more easily pay down past debts - an important approach in dealing with the financial reality of low-income households. We hope to see more municipal networks developing billing options like this to ensure everyone can have the connections they need.

Though we focus on that billing approach in our interview, don't miss the recent developments in Wilson's ongoing efforts to share the benefits of its network with its neighboring communities, many of whom do not have broadband access. 

This show is 15 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed.

Read the transcript for this show here.

You can download this...

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Posted January 24, 2018 by christopher

Early last year, Connect Your Community and the National Digital Inclusion Alliance released a well-researched and compelling case that AT&T had engaged in digital redlining of Cleveland, refusing to upgrade Internet access to neighborhoods with high poverty rates. In episode 290 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast, we check in to learn more and discuss key lessons.

Angela Siefer, executive director of NDIA, and Bill Callahan, President and Director of Connect Your Community in Cleveland, explore what is happening both in Cleveland and other metro centers where low-income residents are often over-paying for services far slower than are available in higher-income neighborhoods.

This discussion covers important ground, not just describing the problem but discussing how the easiest solution (forcing AT&T to upgrade areas it has neglected) is not sufficient. Also, there is sports talk at the beginning but then the host gets himself under control and focuses on what is important in this conversation. 

This show is 35 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed.

Read the transcript for this show here.

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 January 5, 2018 by lgonzalez

People living at the Arlington Mill Residences in Arlington, Virginia, are on track to obtain no-cost high-quality connectivity this fall, likely through the ConnectArlington network. The initiative is an example of how one local community plans to use its publicly owned Internet infrastructure to reduce the digital divide on its home turf.

The Homework Gap

Within Arlington Mill’s 122 affordable units, live 159 children; approximately half of the residences do not subscribe to an Internet access service. Because homework is increasingly dependent on a child’s ability to work online, kids at Arlington Mills must contend with the problem of finding access to computers and the Internet. For households that do subscribe, no-cost Internet access would free up monthly resources from $50 - $75 per month.

The Department of Technology Services (DTS) and Department of Community Planning, Housing, and Development (CPHD) are collaborating to support the Arlington Digital Inclusion initiative. The initiative will start in Arlington Mills by providing free Wi-Fi to each unit and will eventually move to other properties owned by the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing (APAH). As the program moves forward, the city plans to seek out private donations and other grants to reduce the digital divide. The program will also be exploring ways to help residents obtain reduced cost or free devices or computers to take advantage of the high-quality connectivity. APAH has already applied for a 2019 Community Development Fund grant to cover the cost of training and notebook computers for residents.

APAH expects to choose an ISP that will use ConnectArlington, the county's dark fiber network infrastructure.

The network began offering dark fiber services to business customers in 2015, but the infrastructure has been in place since 2012. Arlington took advantage of several infrastructure projects, including traffic control upgrades and other public safety improvements, to expand its fiber footprint. In 2014, Christopher spoke with Jack Belcher, who shared ConnectArlington's backstory, for episode 97 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast....

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Posted December 12, 2017 by christopher

If everyone subscribed to Internet access, the business models for supplying it would be much easier. But there are strong reasons for why many are locked out of Internet access today, a subject we explore with National Digital Inclusion Alliance Executive Director Angela Siefer in episode 284 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. 

We discussed what digital inclusion is and what prevents people from subscribing to the Internet. There are no solutions to these problems from the federal or state levels - the most promising solutions are bubbling up from communities. Angela tells us how.

We also talk about the problems created by redlining - where ISPs like AT&T systematically refuse to invest in some neighborhoods for a variety of reasons. And toward the end we talk about network neutrality and its impact on the digital divide. If you want more Angela after you finish this interview, listen to her with Veronica Belmont from Mozilla's IRL podcast.

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.

Read the transcript for this show here.

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 December 4, 2017 by Staff

This is the transcript for Episode 280 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. Christa Wagner Vinson, Deborah Watts, and Alan Fitzpatrick join Christopher Mitchell at the Atlanta airport to discuss the work of NC Hearts Gigabit and how they're organizing for local choice and better connectivity. Listen to this episode here.

Deborah Watts: And you know we need we need to get regulations in legislation that prevents local choice out of the way these people on the tractors the ones in the production rooms the ones in the businesses that can go to their representatives and say You all need to do something about this because I'm having difficulty running my business. I can't be competitive.

Lisa Gonzalez: You're listening to episode 280 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. I'm Lisa Gonzalez. Christopher recently attended the broadband community's economic development conference where he was able to connect with this week's guests from North Carolina Christa Wagner Vinson, Deborah Watts, and Alan Fitzpatrick from the group and NC Hearts Gigabit joined Chris to talk about local choice and better connectivity in North Carolina and how they're using technology to bring people together. Catharine Rice from the Coalition for Local Internet Choice was also there in this conversation. You'll learn how and see how it's gigabit began. Who's involved. What they've accomplished their goals and you'll also hear some tips on the best way to get the word out and get organized. You can learn more about the group. Check out the collection of resources and even join up at their website and see hearts gigabit dot com. Here's Christopher with Christa Wagner Vinson, Deborah Watts, Alan Fitzpatrick, and Catharine Rice.

Christopher Mitchell: Welcome to another edition of the Community Broadband Bits podcasts. I'm Chris Mitchell with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance in Atlanta sitting on the runway of the Atlanta airport at the Broadband Communities Conference talking to you now with three folks from an organization called NC Hearts Gigabit I'm going to start by introducing Christa Wagner Vinson, the economic development consultant of the group. Welcome to the show.

Christa Wagner Vinson: Good...

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Posted November 21, 2017 by christopher

NC Hearts Gigabit is a grassroots group recently launched in North Carolina that aims to dramatically improve Internet access and utilization across the state. We caught up with Economic Development Consultant Christa Wagner Vinson, CEO of Open Broadband Alan Fitzpatrick, and Partner of Broadband Catalysts Deborah Watts to discuss what they are doing. 

We discuss their goals and vision for a more connected North Carolina as well as their organizing methods. Given my experiences dining in that state, I'm not surprised that they have often organized around meals - good stuff!

NC Hearts Gigabit offers an important model for people who feel left out of the modern political system. It is an opportunity to get out from behind the desk, engage others, and build a coalition to seize control of the future for a community or even larger region. And have a tasty lunch.

Learn more on their website or follow them on Twitter.

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 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.

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