Tag: "grassroots"

Posted September 23, 2022 by Ry Marcattilio

In early August, the city of Holland, Michigan (pop. 33,000) voted to fund the construction of a citywide, open access fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) network. It’s the culmination of almost a decade of consideration, education, planning, and success, and builds on decades of work by the Holland Board of Public Works (HBPW) and city officials to build and maintain resilient essential infrastructure for its citizens. It also signals the work the community has done to listen to local residents, community anchor institutions, and the business owners in pushing for an investment that will benefit every premises equally and ensure fast, affordable Internet access is universally available for decades down the road.

In the Works

Holland has been formally exploring the need for better local connectivity since before 2016. It has been aided in this effort by the fact that the Holland Board of Public Works (HBPW), which already provides electricity, water, and waste water services, has been maintaining a small institutional fiber network that it first installed in 1992 (see current coverage in map, right, current as of May 2019).

AT&T, Comcast, and Spectrum all operate in parts of town, but only 22 percent of Holland has access to gigabit download speeds. And so, beginning in 2016 and pushed by officials and Lakeshore Advantage (the local economic development organization), the city began talking about how it could leverage its expertise, experience, and well-earned local trust to do more. Early surveys showed that as many as 70 percent of residents rated Internet access as important as electricity, water, and wastewater services, with strong majorities supporting a community-owned option as the solution to poor local service. 

"It’s a community investment, just like we invest in our roads that are used by everybody. This is a community investment to build a fiber infrastructure that everybody can use." - Pete Hoffswell, Superintendent of Broadband Services...

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Posted August 30, 2022 by Ry Marcattilio

This week on the podcast, Christopher is joined by Joseph Franell, President of Blue Mountain Networks (which serves more than 30 rural communities west of Portland) in Oregon. Joe joined the team at Ashland Fiber Network (AFN) before moving on to do work in rural parts of the state. During the conversation, Christopher and Joe talk about building fiber in some of the least-dense parts of the state. They discuss the importance of creativity and a willingness to pursue a variety of partnership models, the critical role that local broadband champions play in convincing Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to come to rural areas, and how dramatically different a provider looks when it's driven by principles and a commitment to the community that goes beyond a lightning-fast return-on-investment.

They dive into the specter of private equity, which has shown increasing interest in broadband infrastructure and the grassroots work done by broadband action teams over the last couple of years.

This show is 46 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.

Transcript coming soon. 

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

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 Stitcher to catch more great conversations about local communities, the concentration of corporate power, and how everyday people are taking...

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Posted June 21, 2022 by Sean Gonsalves

Gainesville City Commissioners dealt a severe – if not fatal – blow to the expansion of municipal broadband in the Florida city where Gatorade was invented. Last week, five of the city’s seven commissioners voted to reject a proposal to spend $10 million of its American Rescue Plan funds to build a fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) pilot project.

As we reported here and here, city officials had been leaning in the direction of using $10 million of its $32 million in federal rescue plan funds to extend the city utility’s existing fiber network to bring high-speed Internet access to about 5,000 households caught on the wrong side of the digital divide.

Gainesville Regional Utility (GRU) has already deployed over 600 miles of fiber throughout the city, and for the past two decades, its subsidiary GATOR NET has been offering symmetrical gig-speed service to a limited number of area businesses, apartment buildings, government agencies, and community anchor institutions. 

In 2017, the citizen-led group Connected Gainesville began a public campaign with the hopes of persuading city officials to bring FTTH service citywide in a market dominated by Cox Communications, the incumbent monopoly cable provider serving this city’s approximately 141,000 residents, 56,000 of whom attend the University of Florida.

Death-knell for Municipal Broadband in Gainesville?

But now that city commissioners opted not to take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime infusion of federal funds for broadband, Connected Gainesville founder Bryan Eastman sees last week’s vote as a death-knell for expanding municipal broadband in the city, he told ILSR when we spoke to him this week.

If we are risk averse with free federal money we will not likely look for...

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Posted March 30, 2022 by Ry Marcattilio

If you don't quite have enough good broadband podcast content in your life (we don't know how that's possible with a backlog of almost 500 episodes of Broadband Bits and nearly 40 episodes of the Connect This! show), you're in luck. The always-wonderful 99 Percent Invisible podcast, which looks at the design of the built world, takes on last-mile network infrastructure in the most recent episode of its bonus Future of.. series.

In "The Future of the Final Mile," Roman Mars uses the evolution of broadband access over a handful of years in Detroit and Chattanooga to illustrate what happens when a community sucessfully takes the future of its information infrastructure into its own hands. With interviews from local residents and broadband advocates, the episode addresses the uneven broadband marketplace, efforts to address inequitable access in Detroit through a citizen-created wireless mesh network, and a full fiber-to-the-home build in Chattanooga. Mars and his co-producer ask a lot of good questions about why more communities don't take bold steps, why preemption persists in 17 states, and what communities can do.

The episode is 41 minutes long. Listen to "The Future of the Final Mile" here, or read the transcript here.

Posted March 29, 2022 by Ry Marcattilio

This week on the show, Christopher is joined by Angela Thi Bennett, Director of Advocacy & Impact at DigitalC, a community-based Cleveland nonprofit which operates a fixed wireless network in the city's unserved and underserved neighborhoods.

Before she leaves to become the first Digital Equity Director for National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), Angela sits down with Christopher to talk about everything the organization does to advance digital equity goals in the city, driven by an agenda that focuses on healthcare, education, and economic growth. She shares how the nonprofit developed a sustainable model to delivery reliable, fast Internet access for $18/month, how success comes from listening intentionally and regularly to what community members need and want, and what true empowerment means in the face of shifting agendas at the state and national level.

This show is 21 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.

Transcript coming soon. 

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

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 Stitcher to catch more great conversations about local communities, the...

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Posted March 9, 2022 by DeAnne Cuellar

The State of Texas is notorious for pitting communities against one another. This time around, it's the little town versus the big city in the funding arena to improve Internet access.

Last week, Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar kicked off his Texas Broadband Listening Tour 2022, scheduled to take place at 12 different locations statewide. The goal of his stakeholder listening tour is to collect feedback for Texas' newly created broadband development office and how the state should spend a once-in-a-generation windfall of federal resources to close the digital divide. Great news for a state the size of Texas with 29 million residents, right? It depends on where you live. The majority of the communities hosting a public forum are smaller communities. Remember the Alamo? Not Heger's office. Dallas and Austin made the list of stops, but San Antonio and Houston, with some of the state's highest populations, didn't make the cut for the tour. 

Texas has both unserved and underserved communities living on the wrong side of the digital divide. From 8-80 years old, residents and businesses throughout rural, suburban, and urban communities are all harmed by the lack of community broadband infrastructure, unaffordable connectivity services, and digital discrimination.  

We applaud the approach of public officials doing listening tours. However, we are deeply concerned that many states - red and blue - will ignore the needs of urban residents while focusing solely on solutions for rural areas. We laid this out more broadly in a policy brief we published last year. We can ensure everyone has high-quality Internet access, but we need to make sure that is the explicit goal. 

If you'd like to participate in Texas' broadband listening tour, but you live too far to attend in person, a handy online survey is available until May 5, 2022, here. Virtual event information is currently unavailable.

What else can your community do to close the digital divide? 

Attend:...

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Posted October 21, 2021 by Ry Marcattilio

Join us live on Monday, October 25th at 5pm ET for Episode 23 of the Connect This! Show, where co-hosts Christopher and Travis Carter (USI Fiber) will be joined by Neil Mylet and Deb Simpier (Althea Networks) to talk about grassroots networking. They'll dive into into the hardware and software considerations made in building hyperlocal networks, and bringing together people passionate about returning knowledge and control to build more resilient communities.

Subscribe to the show using this feed, or visit ConnectThisShow.com

Email us broadband@muninetworks.org with feedback, ideas for the show, or your pictures of weird wireless infrastructure to stump Travis.

Watch here or below on YouTube Live, or via Facebook Live here.

Posted September 27, 2021 by Ry Marcattilio

Some years ago the Community Broadband Networks initiative ran an email listserv for interested folks to sign up and get the latest news and resources regarding projects around the country and to advance efforts in their own communities. 

With the addition of a bonafide Outreach Coordinator to the team, we’re reviving those listservs. Doz will be heading these groups, and helping to facilitate the sharing of resources. 

The first of these will be the Announcements Listserv, which will “function as a way to relay important information about community broadband going on around the nation and how they impact communities in the various stages of the process. Since the information will be focused on news and events, we plan to keep emails to the minimum.”

The second is the Organizing Listserv, which will “function as a way to relay information around tools that will help you organize and advocate for broadband services within your communities. The emails you receive will provide you with fact sheets, links to training, and other resources that will help empower you on your mission to connect communities to affordable, reliable, and available broadband. As our members grow we will be able to rely on each other for strategies, troubleshooting organizing issues, and networking among various communities. The listserv will be lightly moderated, but we encourage everyone to keep discussions focused around organizing. 

To join either or both of the Announcements or Organizing Listservs, please email dlee@ilsr.org.

Posted August 24, 2021 by Sean Gonsalves

A milestone moment is on the horizon for the north central Florida city where Gatorade was invented to rejuvenate Florida Gator athletes with electrolytes. Tomorrow night, the Gainesville City Commission was slated to discuss how the city will spend its $32 million in American Rescue Plan funds and how much of that should be poured into rejuvenating Gainesville’s digital landscape with fiber-fueled gigabits. (The meeting however was postponed today due to COVID-19 concerns and will likely be rescheduled in the comings weeks).

With city, county, and school officials in April having unanimously approved the development of “a plan to create Internet access for all people” in Alachua county, in the county seat Gainesville’s city manager has requested city commissioners approve using $12 million of those federal funds for the city’s utility company, Gainesville Regional Utility (GRU), to extend its existing fiber network to residents thirsty for reliable, affordable, high-speed Internet service.

Citizen’s Group with High Speed Hopes

“We have been working on this for years and this could be the last chance for us to get this started,” Connected Gainesville founder Bryan Eastman told ILSR in a recent interview.

The city’s utility company, Gainesville Regional Utility (GRU), has already deployed over 600 miles of fiber throughout the city and for the past two decades its subsidiary GATOR NET has been offering symmetrical gig speed service to area businesses, apartment buildings, government agencies, and community anchor institutions.  

In 2017, Connected Gainesville began a public campaign with the hopes of persuading city officials to bring fiber-to-the-home connectivity citywide in a market dominated by Cox Communications, the incumbent monopoly cable provider serving this city’s approximately 141,000 residents, 56,000 of whom are students attending the University of Florida.

...

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Posted August 23, 2021 by Ry Marcattilio

A month ago we announced the launch of Let's Broadband Together, a coalition of organizations and advocacy groups led by Consumer Reports to collect as many broadband bills as possible and crowdsource the data necessary to fight the trend towards deliberately confusing, obfuscatory broadband pricing in the United States.

If you've had the intention to help out but were looking for that reminder, here it is. Head over to Let's Broadband Together and take a speed tests, submit a PDF of your bill, and answer a few questions. More submissions mean a better the dataset and more comprehensive evidence to support reform. 

Click here to begin, and join Consumer Reports, ILSR, and dozens of other organizations. 

 

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