Tag: "grassroots"

Posted April 8, 2019 by lgonzalez

After a citizen effort in Holyoke, Massachusetts, community leaders will let voters decide this fall on the question of analyzing Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) possibilities. 

At the April 4th city council meeting, community leaders passed a recommendation that a nonbinding public opinion advisory question be put on the ballot in November:

Should the Holyoke Gas and Electric conduct a feasibility study on a gradual roll out of fiber optic internet for residents of the City to purchase, and the findings be presented at a City Council meeting by April 2022 or sooner?

There was one Councilor absent and one nonparticipating member of the Council; the measure passed 7 - 4.

First Stop in Committee

The decision to bring the question to voters came after the city’s Charter and Rules Committee reviewed a citizens’ petition in mid-March. A group of citizen gathered signatures for the petition to ask Holyoke Gas & Electric (HG&E) to conduct a feasibility for an incremental deployment for residential premises in Holyoke. HG&E currently offers fiber connectivity to commercial subscribers. 

Resident Laura Clampitt appeared at the committee meeting to speak in favor of the measure. She and another local resident, Ken Lefbvre, have lead efforts encouraging city leaders to move toward a feasibility study. Locals have shared information via a Facebook page to keep the public up-to-date on the proposal:

“These residents would love to purchase those services as well,” Clampitt said. “We would like to encourage HG&E to explore that option and present those findings in a public manner."

“We’ve seen the figures for the full rollout, $20 million or so. We understand that’s...

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Posted March 12, 2019 by lgonzalez

On a typical episode of the Community Broadband Bits podcast, you’ll hear from a guest whose community may be in the process of deploying a publicly owned fiber network, or an elected official who has championed a broadband-friendly policy for their city or town. Sometimes we talk to local business leaders or cooperative board members who’ve led their communities toward better connectivity. For the first time ever, we have a comedian on the show this week — Ron Placone. What does this mean? Not that the issue of publicly owned networks is joke material, but that it’s something that people from all walks of life care about.

Ron is host of the streaming show, “Get Your News on With Ron,” a show driven by its audience. He has a popular YouTube channel and is regularly on the Jimmy Door Show and The Young Turks, often discussing municipal networks and the importance of network neutrality. In his home town of Pasadena, Ron is also a broadband champion, inspiring fellow citizens to attend City Council meetings and encourage elected officials to consider the possibility of a publicly owned broadband network. Christopher and Ron discuss how Ron’s using his ability to reach people to help spread the word about the benefits of municipal network and some of the challenges he’s faced as a citizen advocate. 

They discuss the relationship between municipal networks and network neutrality. As an artist and journalist, Ron is a steadfast believer in the tenets of network neutrality and like many people, see that local broadband networks can provide it. 

Last October, Christopher appeared on Ron’s show:

...

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Posted March 7, 2019 by lgonzalez

Senator Janice Bowling has become a broadband hero in rural Tennessee and on the pages of MuniNetworks.org. Year after year, she introduces legislation aimed at expanding local authority to allow communities the ability to improve connectivity. She’s back this year with several bills aimed at expanding fiber in rural areas. 

Seeking Better Connectivity…That’s All

Like Bowling’s past legislation, related bills SB 489, SB 490, and SB 494 grant municipal electric utilities the authority “to provide telecommunications service, including broadband service” and specifies that they can do so beyond their electric service area. This change in the current law would allow places like her own community of Tullahoma to expand to serve neighboring towns. There is no fiscal impact from the Senator’s bills.

Bowling has seen firsthand how access to fiber optic infrastructure, such as Tullahoma’s LightTUBe, lifts economic development, improves educational opportunities, and helps a local community reduce costs. The city has thrived since investing in the network in 2009, while many of the communities that have had to rely on subpar service from the larger incumbents have limped along. 

SB 489 also extends authority for municipalities to collaboration for telecommunications and broadband service, to ease any uncertainty about public-private partnerships.

janice-bowling.jpg In her broadband bills, Senator Bowling defines “broadband” as 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) symmetrical, a move that illustrates the value of upload speeds in today’s economy. Rather than considering subscribers as consumers of Internet access, the Senator...

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Posted February 25, 2019 by lgonzalez

In May 2018, Mark Hamill and Lee Feldscher penned an opinion piece that ran in the Northampton Daily Hampshire Gazette. In their article, they laid out all the reasons why they believed their city needs a publicly owned Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network. Nine months later, city leaders have approved funding for the first of a two-part feasibility study.

Comcast, the City Council, and Community Input

As the Hampshire County seat and home to about 26,000 people, Northampton, Massachusetts, has attracted Comcast as an Internet service provider. The presence of a cable Internet ISP means better connectivity than in most rural areas, but it also has evolved into lack of competition. As is often the result, residents experience poor customer service and are hungry for local Internet choice.

At a February 21st City Council meeting, Hamill and Feldscher spoke in favor of the feasibility study. They also presented a petition created by their grassroots group, Northampton Community Network, filled with hundreds of signatures. 

Feldscher presented the signatures to the mayor at the meeting.

“The unanimous response we received from people was, “Sure, I hate Comcast, where can I sign?” Feldscher said.

At the February 21st meeting, City Council approved funding to survey residents in Northampton to learn more about the potential of a municipal network. The funding, estimated at around $30,000 will come from the city’s Capital Improvement Program. The city will survey the community in 2020 and complete the feasibility study in 2021. Completing the study will cost approximately $40,000.

Feldscher and Hamill weren’t the only Northampton residents to support the resolution to fund the feasibility study. With the repeal of federal network neutrality protections, a growing number of people are concerned that large ISPs, such as Comcast, will take advantage of the gap in protection. Networks owned by and accountable to local citizens can enforce the tenets that the federal government no longer require since they repealed network neutrality, including throttling, data protection, and paid...

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Posted February 4, 2019 by lgonzalez

In a February Facebook post, the good folks at Municipal Broadband PDX out of Portland, Oregon, shared the news that the city will be contributing to the cost of a broadband feasibility study. The $25,000 city pledge, pooled with the funds the group has raised so far, brings the total funds for a feasibility study to $225,000. The group learned of the city’s intention to contribute on February 2nd and shared the news immediately.

In order to keep the momentum high, leadership at Municipal Broadband PDX are encouraging people to attend a Multnomah County Board meeting on Thursday, February 7th. Multnomah County has already committed $150,000 for the study and the communities of Gresham, Troutdale, Fairview, and Wood Village were also early to express their support.

Grassroots and Growing

In November, Portland was chosen as one of 35 communities as part of the Neighborly Community Broadband Accelerator Program. The program provides access to experts, mapping, and financial tools to help local communities get their projects off the ground.

The grassroots organization launched in the summer of 2018 with the intention of guiding local residents and businesses toward motivating Portland and Multnomah County leaders. They believe that high-quality Internet access is a public utility and should be provided to every member of society in the same way every one has access to electricity. Municipal Broadband PDX also strongly supports network neutrality and believes that lower-income households should have the same access to the Internet as higher-income folks. Their goal is “Internet for the People.”

Comcast and CenturyLink control Internet access in Portland and the community’s attempt to offer citywide Wi-Fi several...

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Posted January 21, 2019 by lgonzalez

Today, the U.S. pauses to remember one of the greatest people in our modern history, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. His work to inspire and organize civil rights warriors changed the path of our country and bettered the lives of countless Americans living during his time and moving forward. 

The Internet wasn’t a thing in 1963, and we wonder how such a tool might have changed his work. He passed many years ago, but he’s still able to use the Internet as a tool to spread his message. Today that message of ending division seems just as relevant.

In honor of Dr. King, the people who marched with him, those who continue to work to advance civil rights and social justice today, we want to share the full audio of his “I Have A Dream Speech” from August 28, 1963. 

If you’d like to read the speech, you can access it in the National Archives.

 

Posted December 4, 2018 by lgonzalez

This week on the Community Broadband Bits Podcast, we hear from Russell Senior and Michael Hanna from Portland, Oregon. Russell is President of the Personal Telco Project and Michael is a Data Engineer for Multnomah County; both are on the Board of the Municipal Broadband Coalition of America.

In this interview Christopher, Russell, and Michael discuss the goals of the Coalition and their current work grassroots organizing in Portland and across and Multnomah County for the Municipal Broadband PDX initiative. In addition to hearing how Portland and the surrounding county has reached a point where residents and businesses are ready for better connectivity, we also find out how these two organizers became involved in the efforts.

Michael and Russell describe the way the project has evolved after years of attempts to improve Internet access in the region and their approach toward organizing such a large area with a high population. Our guests describe some of the challenges they have coped with and other issues they anticipate along the way as well as the basic principles that create the foundation for their initiative. They also define their visions for a successful outcome and offer suggestions for others who are considering organizing for better Internet access.

Check out the clever short film created to help launch Municipal Broadband PDX:

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

This show is 37 minutes long and can be played on this page or ...

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Posted November 15, 2018 by lgonzalez

This past summer, a group of Portlanders with digital equity as a primary goal, launched Municipal Broadband PDX. The grassroots organization seeks to mobilize folks from the Rose City to let their local leaders know that they’d like local government to take the lead in bringing fast, affordable, reliable connectivity to the entire city. At their official kick-off, our own Christopher Mitchell spoke to the crowd along with Commissioner Lori Stegmann, who pledged her support to the initiative. Now Municipal Broadband PDX is asking Portlanders to answer a call to action to move to the next phase.

A first and important step for any community considering investing in high-quality Internet access infrastructure is to conduct a feasibility study. Multnomah County Board of Commissioners approved $150,000 for a broadband study earlier this year along with the communities of Gresham, Troutdale, Fairview, and Wood Village. Municipal Broadband PDX has applied to the City of Portland for a special appropriations grant program. The group is requesting $100,000 to add to the pledges from the county and the other municipalities. The Portland City Council is considering the grant applications and results will be announced on November 26th. 

Municipal Broadband PDX asks that supporters contact Portland elected officials and request that the project receive the grant. If you’re interested in making an impact and letting your elected representatives know that you support learning more about local options with a feasibility study, now is your opportunity.

The group has drafted a sample email and a draft voice mail message, along with contact information for decision makers. You can find the drafts and information here.

More on Municipal Broadband PDX

The organization follows the philosophy that Internet access is a public utility and should be provided to every member of the public in the same manner as other utilities we take for granted — as a service that is always there. Municipal Broadband PDX also strongly supports the concept of network neutrality and argues that income level should not be a barrier to Internet access. According to Michael Hanna, a Municipal...

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Posted August 7, 2018 by lgonzalez

Interest in broadband as a utility continues to rise across the country and in places where elected officials need a show of support, grassroots groups are stepping up. Recently in Portland, Oregon, a group of locals launched Municipal Broadband PDX, an effort to grow an already increasing momentum in the Rose City.

No Stranger to Fiber

The idea of better connectivity and local control over infrastructure is something that Portland has wrestled with for several years. With Comcast and CenturyLink controlling much of the market in the city of about 647,000 people, citizens have always struggled to get fast, affordable, reliable connectivity. The city failed at its attempt to provide free citywide Wi-Fi and the estimated price tag on a feasibility study more than ten years ago scared off the community. At one point, the city seemed about to get Google Fiber, but the plan never came to fruition.

Portland’s Integrated Regional Network Enterprise (IRNE) serves public entities with fiber connectivity and its leadership has been part of discussions on how to bring better access to businesses and residents. Back in 2012, we spoke with Mary Beth Henry with the Director of the Portland Office for Community Technology about early discussions. That was episode 7 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast.

Moving Forward

logo-MBPDX-Rose.png Earlier this summer, Municipal Broadband PDX scored a victory when the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners approved $150,000 for a broadband study. Commissioners responded to the realization that many lower-income folks in the county don’t have access to the connections they need for typical 21st century daily activities. Michael Hanna, a Municipal Broadband PDX representative, told the Board, “Almost 30% of low-income households in the Portland Metro area lack broadband access, and this...

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Posted May 29, 2018 by lgonzalez

Like other local communities around the country, Cleveland Heights in Ohio is beginning a conversation about the possibility of publicly owned Internet infrastructure. The impending loss of federal network neutrality protections, the desire to compete with other communities, and ensuring digital equality, are several issues local leaders consider most important.

Citizens Leading the Way

Councilman Mike Ungar is one of the members of the City Council that have expressed interest in learning more about the possibility of a muni. He reported at a recent meeting that he's been in contact with a group of citizens who have been researching publicly owned networks. They hope to convince the city to commission a feasibility study to be completed by mid-2019.

In addition to providing better economic development opportunities by improving local connectivity, the group feels that a municipal network would better address the city’s digital divide. They’re also concerned about data privacy and how the lack of network neutrality protections will affect businesses and residents in the community that is served by incumbents Spectrum and AT&T. Having been caught digital redlining in nearby Cleveland, locals have reason to refuse to trust AT&T.

Draft Legislation

The grassroots group interested in exploring a municipal broadband network for the city has prepared draft legislation they hope city leaders will consider adopting to put the issue on the November 2019 ballot; the measure would ask voters to approve a municipal broadband utility. The city does not operate an electric utility and Cleveland Heights residents obtain water service from Cleveland Water, which is operated by the City of Cleveland.

Cleveland Heights, located about 10 miles due west of downtown Cleveland, has about 20,000 households with a population of approximately 46,000 people. They describe themselves as diverse, progressive, and note that many artists and patrons of the arts choose the town as their home.

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