Tag: "california"

Posted September 10, 2020 by Katie Kienbaum

Scott Vanderlip can see Google’s headquarters from his house in the town of Los Altos Hills, California (pop. 9,000). But still, some of his neighbors struggle to access the online world that the tech company has helped shape.

“There are people in my town who actually have really no Internet options,” Vanderlip shared in a Zoom interview. This includes some households stuck with satellite connections that have low speeds, high latency, and restrictive data caps. “We are in Silicon Valley, and we have really bad pockets of [limited] broadband,” he continued.

Even the residents who could connect to AT&T or Comcast’s networks, such as Vanderlip, were dissatisfied with the monopoly companies’ poor service quality. So they created Los Altos Hills Community Fiber, a nonprofit mutual benefit corporation that’s bringing a local, high-quality connectivity option to the area.

Los Altos Hills Community Fiber, or LAHCF, owns and finances the local Fiber-to-the-Home network and recruits interested community members, while its technical partner Next Level Networks manages network operations and construction and provides residents with tools to help organize their neighbors. The arrangement gives LAHCF subscribers more say over how the network operates and what speeds they have access to, a stark difference from the antagonistic relationship that many national Internet service providers (ISPs) have with their customers.

“Anyone can do this,” said Next Level Networks COO David Barron in a phone interview. “You just need a few motivated people to organize, and you can be completely free of the telcos and cable operators.”

Money Can’t Buy Cable Upgrades

Comcast and AT&T are the major broadband providers in Los Altos Hills, but the lack of competition means there’s little incentive for providers to improve service quality, despite interest from subscribers. “Los Altos Hills sometimes is listed as the most affluent community in America, and we still have crap Internet service,” as a result of the ISPs’ reluctance to invest in network upgrades, explained Vanderlip.

Limited broadband options also impact service costs. “The price depends very much on where you live and if there’s any competition or not,...

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Posted September 3, 2020 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

Marin County and the city of San Rafael, California, are demonstrating what happens when local government, a community nonprofit, and generous stakeholders come together to do something right. Over the summer they’ve built a Wi-Fi mesh network in the city’s Canal neighborhood to connect over 2,000 students and their families in anticipation of the upcoming school year. How the project unfolded shows what a thoughtful, committed group of people can do to respond to a public health crisis, close the digital divide, and make a long-term commitment to the vulnerable communities around them. 

A Neighborhood in Need

The Canal neighborhood (pop. 12,000) was founded in the 1950s and sits in the southeast corner of Marin County, bounded by the San Francisco Bay to the east, the city of San Quentin to the south, China Camp State Park to the north, and the Mount Tamalpais Watershed to the west. It’s split down the middle by Highway 101 and Interstate 580.

Canal is populated by predominantly low-income workers, and remains one of the most densely settled areas in Marin County — one of the wealthiest counties in the nation. Its residents serve, according to San Rafael Director of Digital Services and Open Government Rebecca Woodbury, as the backbone of the area’s service economy. Those who live there are mostly Latinx residents, with a small but significant segment who identify as Vietnamese. A 2015 study highlighted the challenges the community faces. Its population grew by half between 1990 and 2013, while available housing units grew by just 15%. During the same period, median household income shrunk by nearly a third, and unemployment remains twice as high in Canal than in the rest of Marin. It suffers from the largest education disparity in the entire state. It’s also among the hardest hit in the community by the coronavirus pandemic: the Latinx population in Canal accounts for just 16% of Marin County but 71% of cases so far.

Canal neighborhood residents are also among the least connected in the county. A recent survey by local nonprofit Canal Alliance showed that 57% of residents don’t own a computer, compared to just 10% of those...

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Posted August 14, 2020 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

Tribal residents and others living along near Six Rivers National Forest in Humboldt County, California are about to get a broadband boost. The Yurok and Karuk Tribes announced at the end of July that the Klamath River Rural Broadband Initiative received more than $10 million from the California Public Utilities Commission’s (CPUC's) California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) to add over a 100 miles of additional fiber to the project’s community network, connecting hundreds of additional homes, businesses, and anchor institutions. The award marks the second injection of funding from the CPUC’s grant program to the initiative. 

Over the River and Through the Woods

Humboldt County covers more than 4,000 square miles along the coast in the northwest part of the state, about 60 miles west of Redding. It’s one of the least-densely populated areas in the state, marked by rural, mountainous, rugged terrain for the roughly 150,000 people who live there. Those in the northern fifth of the county have it particularly hard; the region is bounded by national forests on either side, with the Klamath River running down the middle. As recently as 2009, telephone service in the region was unreliable, and Internet access was restricted to dial-up or satellite. The Klamath River Rural Broadband Initiative (KRRBI) has been working since 2013 to address this digital divide.

The new CPUC award totals a little more than $10.8 million to add 104 miles of new fiber to their middle-mile network. Last-mile connections come via fixed wireless, a cost-effective way to bring broadband to rural areas. The new route will connect the communities of Orleans to Orick and Weitchpec to Wautec and Johnsons, bringing new service to 616 households, 8 first responder agencies, and 14 additional anchor institutions like schools, tribal offices, and health care clinics. The project will also add three redundant links to the existing network across the 80-square mile area.

“For the residents of far Northern California, this initiative will...

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Posted August 5, 2020 by Katie Kienbaum

A group of 15 cities in Los Angeles County, California, are closing in on the completion of the South Bay Fiber Network. The project, managed by the South Bay Cities Council of Governments (SBCCOG), will bring better connectivity to community anchors and enterprise customers in the region through a public-private partnership with American Dark Fiber (ADF).

According to a recent press release [pdf] from SBCCOG, some public facilities are already connected to the fiber ring, and the partners expect to finish the rest of the network by the end of the month. Once completed, the local governments hope that the SBFN will enable smart city applications, like traffic signal coordination, as well as telehealth services and remote learning and working.

Christian Horvath, Redondo Beach Councilmember, said in the press release:

The SBFN will allow us to serve all our residents better and improve their quality of life on so many levels including real-time transportation/traffic control connectivity . . . The Covid-19 pandemic has proven to any doubters that access to affordable and reliable high-speed Internet is even more important as it will allow the increasing numbers of city workers and local residents to efficiently work from home.

Public-Private Partnership

SBCCOG began its efforts in 2016 and has been working with consulting firm Magellan Advisors to plan the fiber network, which will be a mix of newly constructed infrastructure and leased fiber.

The SBFN will connect the cities of Carson, El Segundo, Gardena, Hawthorne, Hermosa Beach, Inglewood, Lawndale, Lomita, Manhattan Beach, Palos Verdes Estates, Rancho Palos Verdes, Redondo Beach, Rolling Hills, Rolling Hills Estates, and Torrance in Los Angeles County. Local institutions and government authorities are also participating in the fiber project, including the Beach Cities Health District, Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LA Metro), Los Angeles County Department of Public Works, Lundquist Institute, South Bay Workforce Investment Board, and West Basin Municipal Water District.

ADF will own the network, but...

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Posted August 4, 2020 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

This week on the podcast we welcome Ernesto Falcon and Steve Blum. Ernesto is Senior Legislative Council at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a powerhouse nonprofit organization defending civil liberties in the digital world. Steve Blum is President of Tellus Ventures Associates, which provides management and business development guidance for companies working in telecommunications. You can find him at tellusventures.com.

In this episode Christopher, Ernesto, and Steve talk about what’s going on with broadband in California. They discuss current legislation looking to make sure CA broadband subsidies result in high quality networks and don't leave people behind. Then they talk about a competing bill, and the consequences of investing public dollars in old network technology destined to leave those on the wrong side of the digital divide stranded there for another generation. Finally, they talk about the impact of campaign donations and T-Mobile merger conditions on the future of broadband in the state.

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

Read the transcript for this podcast.

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. You can listen to the interview on this page or visit the Community Broadband Bits page.

Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Subscribe to the Building Local Power podcast, also from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, on ...

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Posted May 7, 2020 by Katie Kienbaum

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has worked for many years to protect privacy and civil liberties online and to support technological innovation and widespread Internet access.

Ernesto Falcon, Senior Legislative Counsel at EFF, speaks with Christopher for this episode of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. After explaining EFF's mission, Ernesto shares his background and how he got involved in the organization, before moving on to describe some of their policy efforts in California. The pair discuss EFF's involvement in repealing California's state law that had restricted municipal broadband networks. Christopher notes how AT&T has historically had a strong hold over Democrats in the state legislature, and Ernesto explains how EFF is working to counter that influence.

Ernesto and Christopher also talk about the California Advanced Services Fund and how State Bill 1130 would improve the program to bring better quality Internet access to more Californians. In particular, Ernesto points to the importance of symmetrical speeds and of designing policies that look to the future of connectivity. This has been highlighted by the Covid-19 public health crisis, and the two explore how the California Public Utilities Commission could help enable distance learning and respond to other urgent connectivity needs.

For more from EFF, listen to episode 145 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast.

This show is 30 minutes long and can be played on this page or ...

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Posted January 15, 2020 by Sayidali Moalim

When communities find that high-quality connectivity isn't up to par for everyone or they want better services that naturally flow from more options, local governments often take their first concrete steps with a plan. In December 2019, the gowing community of Moorpark, California, has selected Magellan Advisors as its partner in developing a Broadband Strategic Plan.

Businesses In Need of Fiber

The city began searching for a consultant to help develop the plan months ago. In mid-August of 2019, the city submitted a Request for Proposal (RFP) for the development of a Broadband Strategic Plan to the City’s Manager Office. In the RPF, the city recognizes the importance of providing reliable fiber optic infrastructure in both its economic development and deploying future “Smart City” initiatives. 

In response to the RFP, the City Council created the Broadband Ad Hoc Committee to work with the city staff. The committee directed the City Council to focus its efforts on broadband deployment to the industrial and commercial districts and not on the residential district. Currently, fiber Internet access is available to residential customers through Spectrum but commercial and industrial districts don't have the same access. 

From BBC Magazines

Magellan will assist in inventorying existing infrastructure, identifying unserved and underserved areas, and developing municipal strategies that support expanding access to high-speed Internet, allowing Moorpark to maximize efficiency and cost effectiveness in preparing for future technologies.

...

Additionally, the Broadband strategic Plan will analyze Moorpark’s needs for Smart City innovations including intelligent transportation, public safety innovations, telemedicine, autonomous vehicles and other applications.

Suburban Los Angeles

Being one of the first cities in the entire world to run off...

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Posted December 2, 2019 by Lisa Gonzalez

As Redding, California, aims to bring better connectivity to businesses and residents, they're looking to locals for advice on how to move forward.

As we reported in April, community leaders voted to proceed with a pilot project in their downtown area. Economic development in the downtown area drove the plan, but reducing the cost of Internet access through a publicly owned network and the availability of a more reliable, faster service generated force behind the project. 

In April, the city council decided to explore possibilities and now they're interested in finding out the public's interest in a citywide network for residents. The Vice Mayor, City Manager, and staff from Redding held a public meeting in late November to share information with locals about possibilities. 

"Fiber is an essential element of the future and its economy," Tippin said. "Vice Council Macaulay brought this forward to council and we agreed that we should study this so we've hired consultants and we've been doing a study - looking into cost, what elements should be required and whether it would be beneficial from a community standpoint." 

In order to determine the public's feelings on whether they agree Tippin, the city is asking Redding residents to complete a simple online survey. The survey is six questions about perceived value, current options, and respondents' likelihood of supporting a municipal fiber optic network project.

An Existing Advantage

Unlike many other California cities, Redding owns a municipal electric utility, which provides an advantage in both deployment, potential lowered cost, and ease in operations for a municipal utility. According to the city's Master Broadband Plan, the city bought the Redding Electric Utility (REU) from PG&E in 1921 and serves around 44,000 residential and commercial...

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Posted September 20, 2019 by Lisa Gonzalez

On September 12th, Christopher appeared on Community Radio KMUD’s Forward Humboldt to discuss the connectivity situation in Humboldt County, California, with residents there. Humboldt County is one of the more rural regions in the state with heavily forested mountains and more coastline than other other county in California. They’re situated north of California and have dozens of federal, state, and local parks and forests that are strictly protected. As a result, obtaining high-quality Internet access has always been challenging.

During this hour-long interview Christopher and fellow broadband policy advocate Sean McLaughlin join local Sean DeVries. They discuss what Internet access is like for folks living in Humboldt County and how a publicly owned broadband network might help. Their conversation encompasses the definition of broadband and why it's important for local rural communities.

They talk about some of the reasons why Humboldt County, where an effort has been in the works for several years now to improve connectivity, has not been able to take the final steps to develop a publicly owned network. Sean, Christopher, and Sean talk about recent progress in California and possible models that might work in the region.

When considering the future of the community, a community network makes sense. As Christopher notes during the interview:

"Local public ownership makes sure that you can make good decisions today, but also that as things change you have a strong voice in what's an essential input not only for jobs, but also quality of life, for education... this is something that's only going to become more and more important in our lives." 


Posted September 18, 2019 by Lisa Gonzalez

In early September, officials in San Francisco made an offer to purchase assets belonging to Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E). Preston Rhea, Director of Engineering, Policy Program at ISP MonkeyBrains believes that, while the purchase makes sense for electric ratepayers in the community, it could also herald a new age of connectivity for the citizens of San Francisco. We became familiar with Preston's vision and talent for innovation when we developed a report on MonkeyBrains, which collaborated with the city to offer high-quality Internet access to low-income households.

Preston recently published this piece on the possibilities in the San Francisco Examiner and has allowed us to share it with you.

 

Buying PG&E’s distribution network could also make municipal broadband possible

by Preston Rhea

The City of San Francisco is doubly harmed by its relationship with PG&E.

The for-profit utility neglected to invest in safety upgrades to its transmission lines, resulting in a series of deadly fires that killed dozens of people last year and choked Northern California with poisonous smoke. PG&E is using its bankruptcy to avoid liability for the disasters it caused.

Meanwhile, ratepayers in San Francisco feed PG&E’s shareholder profits and our municipal government pays it tens of millions of dollars a year.

Now that situation may change. The news that Mayor London Breed made a $2.5 billion offer to acquire all of PG&E’s power distribution assets that serve San Francisco is a great idea, and it opens the door to a revolution in city services that could go beyond electricity. It could mean gigabit broadband for all.

How does acquiring a power utility lead to municipal Internet? This is a well-trodden path all over the US — most famously in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where the cooperatively-run Electrical Power Board (EPB) began offering telecom service over a decade ago. Today EPB serves over 60 percent of their power customers with symmetrical Internet connections over optical fiber, many years ahead of schedule.

Fiber is used to monitor power...

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