Tag: "grassroots"

Posted November 3, 2020 by Ry Marcattilio-...

This week on the podcast Christopher talks with the city of Sandwich, New Hampshire’s Broadband Advisory Committee Chair Julie Dolan and member Richard Knox. The join us to discuss the New Hampshire Electric Cooperative’s recent vote to add broadband to its charter.

Sandwich is particularly poorly served in NH and they have been seeking solutions for a long time. In organizing around the electric cooperative (which covers 115 towns and includes 85,000 members), in less than a year local stakeholders have organizing two votes around the importance of quality Internet access which, at the beginning of October, pushed the co-op into the business. Julie and Richard share with Chris how it all unfolded and what it means moving forward.

Don’t forget to check out our new show, Connect This!, where Chris brings together a collection broadband veterans and industry experts live on Youtube to talk about recent events and dig into the policy news of the day. 

This show is 38 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.

Read the transcript for this episode.

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 iTunes or ...

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Posted November 2, 2020 by Ry Marcattilio-...

Building a successful community broadband network, we’ve often pointed out, relies on successful organizing and marketing campaigns as much as it does on putting fiber in the ground. Those networks that do it well succeed, and those that fail to take it into consideration can languish or stall out. 

Successful marketing and organizing can build political will for a project, turn enthusiastic adopters into neighborhood champions who help increase take rates, help counter disinformation campaigns and predatory pricing by incumbent Internet Service Providers (ISPs), and show the ways that community owned networks have gone above and beyond over the years to invest not just in the most profitable neighborhoods around but ensure that those along every street and across every block have affordable, reliable, fast Internet access. 

The New Hampshire Electric Cooperative recently saw firsthand how a smart, engaged, energetic subset of its membership can make Internet access a priority. Fairlawn, Ohio’s municipal network has also been highlighting the value it’s bringing to users in the midst of the ongoing pandemic.

And with votes regarding municipal broadband networks coming up in Kaysville, Utah, Denver, Berthoud, and Engelwood, Colorado, Chicago, Illinois, and Lucas, Texas, taking this into consideration is as important as it’s every been.

See some clever and colorful below examples below, and read our past coverage to see how different community networks have taken on the task of branding, marketing, and organizing for success.

Some images courtesy of Internet Freedom for McHenry County

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Posted October 19, 2020 by Ry Marcattilio-...

After a month-long vote, last week the membership of the New Hampshire Electric Cooperative voted to add broadband to the cooperative's charter by an overwhelming margin. 88% voted yes to the measure. 

Posted October 12, 2020 by Ry Marcattilio-...

An effort to add broadband to the New Hampshire Electric Cooperative’s (NHEC) charter will end on October 14th after a month-long membership vote which began in September. If it passes, it will represent a new era for the co-op and open the way for better connectivity for tens of thousands living in the state. 

Back in June a ballot initiative fell short by two percentage points of the threshold needed to change the cooperative’s governing documents. A grassroots organizing campaign and Board vote immediately thereafter, however, affirmed both the membership’s and the new Board’s commitment to broadband as essential infrastructure. 

In mid-August the Board voted unanimously to propose amendments to the NHEC’s charter, and in September President and CEO Steve Camarino went on the New Hampshire Business Review’s podcast to talk about how important connectivity is for all in the state and the role NHEC could play in bringing better access to those in its service territory and beyond. Per procedure, all 85,000 members of the electric cooperative were given a chance to vote by mail or electronically starting in the middle of September, and the window closes on Wednesday.

As it stands, NHEC bylaws [pdf] allow it to pursue projects like broadband, but current policy and procedure requires an approval process which prevents it the flexibility and speed it needs to do take advantage of state and federal funds and make broadband-related capital investments. The change under consideration would allow members as well as the Board to move with the same speed it is allowed to on electric utility service projects for broadband ones as well. The current requirement on non-electric utility service involves a months-long membership vote. From the co-op’s website:

Affordable, reliable, high-speed Internet [access] is critical for the vitality of NHEC’s members and the communities we serve. However, due to the rural nature of the Co-op’s service territory, many NHEC members do not have access to these services. In response to this pressing...

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Posted January 22, 2020 by lgonzalez

MuniNetworks.org offers a cache of resources for people who have a particular interest in publicly owned broadband networks. As interest in municipal networks has increased in recent years, connections between people can help those researching and organizing. We know that there aren't many places where our audience can have discussions with like-minded individuals, so the Institute for Local Self-Reliance has now established two mailing lists for folks who share our common interests related to municipal fiber networks.

Talkers, Organizers, a Meeting of the Minds

For folks who want to share thoughts on municipal networks with others, including new developments, news on projects, or trends and topics, they can sign up on our Muni Fiber Discussion mailing list.

The list will be lightly moderated and is not a place to dump links to stories; we expect people to share thoughts and ideas and to debate new issues and important developments.

Learn more about the Muni Fiber Discussion mailing list and subscribe here.

For people who are interested in taking steps to organize a community toward developing their own municipal network, we've established the Muni Organizing mailing list. We expect people interested in this conversation to include some of the same people as on the discussion list and others that may be interested related topics, including economic development, connectivity and education or telehealth, and people interested in other community benefits. This discussion will also be lightly moderated.

We imagine the Muni Organizing mailing list to be:

Discussions about efforts to create community networks. This is meant to help share strategies, solve common problems, and otherwise work through the many challenges that accompany this organizing effort. We expect this may include local activists, business leaders, elected officials, city staff, consultants working in this space, and others. However, our goal is to keep it limited to those actually working in this area - not just anyone.

You can get details about the Muni Organizing mailing list and subscribe here.

For folks with experience in organizing, we encourage you to share strategies that work (and those...

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Posted January 20, 2020 by lgonzalez

Last year, in celebration of the life of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we posted a few resources reflecting on the “I Have A Dream Speech.” This year, as the nation considers how Dr. King dedicated his life to raise awareness, we want to introduce readers to a resource that, thanks to technology, provides access to more documentation of the work of the man who led American toward a positive trajectory. 

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute is a treasure trove of recordings, documents, and other resources working with The King Center in Atlanta. Coretta Scott King initiated the collaboration in 1985 through an invitation to Stanford University historian Clayborne Carson to become the project director. 

The Institute has digitized some of most influential documents in our modern history, including:

Teachers and parents will especially appreciate the Liberation Curriculum section of the resource. Lesson plans are searchable by learning level and subject and there are suggestions for creating unique classroom activities along with curated resources.

The Recommended Reading list appeals to folks interested in history, civil rights, and social justice; the Institute continues to add new material to the site. Most recently, curators added a series of sermons King delivered at the Riverside Church in New York City. The most famous of these sermons was titled “Beyond Vietnam,” which condemned the war and suggested policies to end it. This version has been remastered for clarity:

Posted December 9, 2019 by lgonzalez

Earlier this year, community leaders in Portland, Oregon, decided to join other cities in Multnomah County to commission a broadband feasibility study. The goal of the study is to examine the potential for publicly owned broadband network options in the region. Portland's decision to join in the study strengthened the project. As the study moves forward, community leaders and broadband advocates are asking for input from citizens to determine how best to develop a municipal broadband network project.

Spreading the Word and Keeping the Public Engaged

Since their founding, we’ve followed the work of Municipal Broadband PDX, a grassroots collection of residents and businesses working to inform the community about the potential for publicly owned broadband in the region. 

The group started off with a bang, by releasing a cool, nerdy video about the need to bring competition to Portland and Multnomah County. They’ve been especially diligent in keeping the public informed about County Board and City Council meetings in which the project is discussed. Their efforts at keeping the public abreast of developments have contributed to the advancement of the project.

Now that the feasibility study is being developed, Municipal Broadband PDX has organized several town hall meetings to share and inform. The goal of the meetings is to allow local elected officials the opportunity to discuss the project progress. In addition, organizers want people attending the meetings to provide “ideas, needs, and wants about Internet access.” They want to make the network a success by keeping lines of communication open and understanding the needs of the public.

The first Broadband Town Hall attracted 75 residents in Northeast Portland on December 4th. The next meeting is scheduled for December 17th in Gresham at the Multnomah County East Building, 600 NE 8th Street, in the Sharron Kelley Room A & B. Elected officials at the event will be:

  • Multnomah County Commissioner Lori Stegmann, District 4 (east)
  • Multnomah County Commissioner Jessica Vega Pederson, District 3 (southeast Portland, Parkrose)
  • Gresham City Councilor Eddy...
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Posted July 1, 2019 by lgonzalez

On July 9th, Christopher will be in Palo Alto, California, for a talk on municipal networks and the possibilities as the city searches for better connectivity. Organizers from Muni Fiber Palo Alto will also host a screening of the documentary "Do Not Pass Go." Attendees will have the opportunity to ask questions at the end of the presentation.

Details for the event:

Muni Fiber Palo Alto - How and Why

July 9, 2019 at 7 p.m.

Mitchell Park Community Center

3700 Middlefield Road

El Palo Alto Room West

Palo Alto, California

Google map to the event location

Long Road to Change

For about two decades, Palo Alto has contemplated the possibilities of a municipal fiber optic network. We recently shared an opinion piece by Jeff Hoel, who moved to Palo Alto years ago, in part because he thought the community was sure to invest in citywide Fiber-to-the-Premise (FTTP) infrastructure. As a retired electrical engineer, the ability to get the best connectivity has always been a priority for Jeff. He's still waiting for the city to deploy fiber citywide.

Palo Alto currently leases out dark fiber, generating revenue that goes into a fiber optic fund. With approximately $26 million stashed away so far, Jeff and others are asking Palo Alto to move beyond feasibility studies or private sector partner searches, and build a municipal network. Launching Muni Fiber Palo Alto was one of the first steps to stirring local support; public information meetings like the one on July 9th will also help grow interest.

If you want to sign up for announcements from Muni Fiber Palo Alto you can do it here or sent a note...

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Posted July 1, 2019 by lgonzalez

People in Falmouth, Massachusetts, met on June 4th to discuss the possibilities of developing a municipal network in their city. About 80 people attended the meeting, which they held at the local library. By the end of the evening, attendees had discovered more about the process to build a community network, how their city may move forward, and determined that a key element will be building local support from residents and businesses.

An Advantage on the Cape

Even though Falmouth doesn’t have its own electric utility, as do many towns that ultimately develop municipal broadband networks, the city already has an edge — fiber from nonprofit OpenCape already connects approximately 40 municipal facilities and other community anchor institutions (CAIs). David Isenberg, a resident and former FCC senior advisor, helped organize the meeting and noted that the OpenCape infrastructure will provide an option for better connectivity in the community:

“There is a lot of OpenCape infrastructure in Falmouth that is already here for us to use,” Mr. Isenberg said.

OpenCape could hypothetically manage the community-based fiber-optic network, he said. Other options include the Town of Falmouth, a utility district, the Economic Development and Industrial Corporation or a public/private partnership. A feasibility study would determine the viability of those options.

logo-opencape-new.jpg David Talbot from CTC Technology and Energy was on hand to discuss what sorts of issues a feasibility study would address. A study would help the community determine what assets they have that can facilitate a community network, identify where the existing infrastructure’s gaps are, create a basic network design, and offer a strategy and cost estimates.

Isenberg suggested a Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network in Falmouth would cost about $30 to $60 million to deploy, but that with sufficient support, the city could find financing...

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Posted May 22, 2019 by lgonzalez

During the 20-year on-again-off-again relationship between Palo Alto and a possible fiber optic municipal network, the people of the community have waited while plans have changed, leadership has shifted, and city staff has researched potential infrastructure plans. For the people of the city, it’s a long time to be patient. In a recent opinion piece, resident Jeff Hoel described his long wait and expressed why his city needs to finally move forward and create a citywide municipal Fiber-to-the-Premises (FTTP) network.

Knows of What He Speaks

As a retired electrical engineer who has intimate knowledge of technology and networking, Jeff writes in his piece that one of the reasons he moved to Palo Alto in 1998 was because the city was considering deploying a community network. At the time, Palo Alto had already invested in dark fiber, which they have used to generate approximately $2.1 million per year through leases. The revenue has been held in a fiber optic fund, which has grown to around $26 million.

Over the years, the city has commissioned studies and community leaders have publicly advocated for an expansion of the network to a citywide utility for residents and businesses. Palo Alto’s residents have supported the idea, but stumbles in securing funding, difficulties locating private sector partners for a P3, and a failed bid to bring Google to town, have all left the city with no fiber optic network.

Now, Jeff Hoel feels that his city is ready to look at the facts and recognize that there are many municipal networks that are providing fast, affordable, reliable Internet access across the U.S. Jeff notes the success of Longmont, Colorado, where folks can sign up for symmetrical gigabit connectivity for around $50 per month. If so many other communities can manage to deploy networks and operate them efficiently, Palo Alto also has a...

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