Tag: "grassroots"

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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Posted May 2, 2018 by lgonzalez

As Christopher rubbed elbows with other broadband advocates, policy wonks, and industry professionals at the Broadband Communities Summit in Austin, Texas, he had the opportunity to interview several people we've been wanting to bring on the show. Saul Tannenbaum from Cambridge, Massachusetts, was at the event and he talked with Christopher about the citizen's group, Upgrade Cambridge. As one of the city's fiercest municipal network advocates, Saul started the group when city efforts at better connectivity hit a brick wall.

Saul and Christopher discuss the Cambridge community's own unique personality and how it lends itself to both positive forces and ingrained challenges in the effort to bring high-quality connectivity to a diverse city. With strong science, technology, and art sectors, Cambridge realizes that fiber is their best bet and the city has taken past steps to explore the possibilities. Political changes at the municipal level created a new hurdle and when it became obvious that only a strong local grassroots movement could keep the issue moving, he took on the role of organizer.

Learn more at the Upgrade Cambridge website, on Facebook, and @UpgradeCambMA. We're also following this grassroots effort and their strategy.

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.

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 April 17, 2018 by lgonzalez

When Fort Collins voters chose to amend their charter last year, they were choosing a path to simplify their ability to improve local connectivity. When Comcast tried to derail the measure to protect their monopoly, community members established a vibrant grassroots effort to overcome the influx of cash and disinformation. Now, Fort Collins is moving ahead after establishing that they intend to issue revenue bonds to develop a municipal fiber optic network.

Big Spending Didn’t Stop The Need

After all the spending was totaled last December, Comcast and CenturyLink under the mask of Priorities First Fort Collins, spent $900,999 to try to defeat measure 2B. The proposal passed anyway and allowed the city to amend its charter. That change allows Fort Collins to issue bonds for telecommunications infrastructure and to take other steps necessary to offer Internet service without taking the issue to the voters a separate time.

Thanks to the efforts of Colin Garfield and Glen Akins and their citizen-led effort to educate and correct Comcast’s disinformation, voters in Fort Collins passed measure 2B. The city opted out of the state’s restrictive SB 152 back in 2015 and voices in the community have advocated for exploration of a publicly owned option for several years. Seems people and businesses in Fort Collins were not able to get the connectivity they needed and incumbents weren’t interested in providing better services.

When the FCC decided late in 2017 to abandon network neutrality policy, Fort Collins City Council decided the time was right to move forward. In January, they voted to establish a municipal telecommunications utility. Their first step was in approving $1.8 million for startup costs, including hiring personnel, equipment, and consulting; the measure passed unanimously. The city council approved the loan from the city’s general fund to the city’s electric...

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Posted April 12, 2018 by htrostle

Generate conversation about broadband access in your community with a screening of the short film, "Do Not Pass Go." We have created a helpful guide on how to host a screening of the film in your community. Spend some time connecting with others who share your questions about local options and want to learn more.

About the Film

Documentary filmmaker Cullen Hoback traveled to Pinetops, North Carolina, to experience firsthand the battle between municipal networks and private providers. 

Pinetops is a rural small town that receives high-speed Internet service from the nearby City of Wilson, North Carolina. The large ISPs have tried to put a stop to this with a state law, and all the red tape might kill the small town.

"Do Not Pass Go" from Hyrax Films on Vimeo.

Download the Guide

Not sure how to host a screening? Get going with this guide.

- Basic information about community networks

- Logistics of hosting a screening from location to outreach

- Discussion questions about broadband in your community

The guide is 13 pages long and is available for download as a PDF. We produced the guide with Next Century Cities. 

Host a Screening

There have already been three screenings across the U.S. in Marietta, Ohio; Atlanta, Georgia; and Rochester, Minnesota. The community group Broadband & Beers has a planned screening for April 17th, 2018, in Boulder, Colorado. Let us know if you show the film in your town!

The film is not yet available for wide distribution, but you can order either a Blu-ray or DVD for a small fee or get a code to stream 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 27, 2018 by lgonzalez

Thirteen communities in central Vermont will ask residents if they want to authorize a communications union district, the first step toward a regional publicly owned Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network.

Which Towns Will Participate?

On March 6th, towns in Vermont will participate in Town Meeting Day 2018 when they’ll gather and decide a range of issues such as how to spend town funds, which policies to implement, and other choices that effect the entire community. For the past year, Berlin board member and computer science professor Jeremy Hansen has approached town officials from nearby communities to discuss the possibility of developing a regional network.

As an elected official, his constituents have made him aware of poor Internet access in central Vermont. Currently, much of the area relies on DSL from Fairpoint with maximum speeds of 10 Megabits per second (Mbps) download and 1 Mbps upload, a far cry from the 25/3 FCC standard that defines broadband. There are also residents in the area that still use dial-up Internet access.

Local Jerry Diamantides, who works remotely for a company located in Virginia told Vermont Public Radio:

"It is DSL," Diamantides explains. "The ‘S’ certainly stands for slow. The ‘L’ must stand for low. And we’ll let the ‘D’ stand on its own, I guess. But, it’s barely sufficient for what I need."

Inspired By ECFiber

Hansen wants to improve connectivity in the region by establishing a communications union district, which is the model EC Fiber uses. The designation is much like a sewer or water utility, but focuses on delivering Internet access. EC Fiber began with a different model that relied on private investment, but when the state established the communications utility district designation, it was then able to seek financing from a range of other sources. That funding was critical to allow the network to expand, serve more subscribers, and continue to grow.

As he’s presented his proposal to elected...

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Posted February 20, 2018 by lgonzalez

Last fall, the northern Minnesota community of Ely took up a feasibility study to determine the possibilities of better connectivity with publicly owned Internet infrastructure. They also wanted to explore local interest in investment. After conducting a survey and reviewing the situation, local officials are contemplating moving ahead with two pilot projects.

A Big Demand

Citizens’ group, Ely Area Broadband Coalition (Ely ABC) and the Ely Economic Development Authority (EEDA) collaborated to manage the feasibility study process. In 2016, the Blandin Foundation, the Iron Range Resources Rehabilitation Board (IRRRB), and St. Louis County awarded the city $25,000 which they’ve dedicated toward their efforts to improve local connectivity.

In order to gauge the community’s current feeling about the quality and cost of the services they purchase from area cable and DSL providers, the Ely ABC and the EEDA encouraged area residents and businesses to compete a survey last fall. They wanted evidence to share with potential funding sources that the community was not being served. Community leaders also expected the results to help them decide which direction to take moving forward.

At a recent EEDA meeting, members discussed the survey results and the potential pilot projects.

“We want to see how people are satisfied with what they have and what they feel the needs are,” said Harold Langowski, the city’s clerk-treasurer. “Right now we are assuming everybody wants faster broadband. and that they’re not satisfied with what we have. But we’re only hearing that from people on the committee.”

As anticipated, residents and businesses who took the survey revealed that 94 precent of local residents and 98 percent of business owners want improved connectivity in Ely. Jack Maytum, senior broadband analyst for Design Nine, relayed that approximately 400 residents and 60 local business...

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Posted December 20, 2017 by lgonzalez

It wasn’t long after FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and the other Republicans on the Commission rescinded network neutrality protections that murmurs began to rise about the future role of municipal networks. Soon, journalists reporting on tech issues began contacting us for comment about the intersection between network neutrality and publicly owned Internet network infrastructure.

The day after the FCC decision, Christopher appeared on This Week in Enterprise Tech (TWiET) with Fr. Robert Ballecer for episode 269, “After Net Neutrality.” Christopher’s segment of the show starts at around 14:16 and finishes around 44:22. Fr. Ballecer comments that, while municipal networks were of interest in the past, now that network neutrality protections have been revoked, they are a more urgent possibility.

Christopher shared some of the data we’ve discovered that reveals how very little competition actually exists, even though the FCC uses market protection as a crutch for dismantling network neutrality. The guys also discuss local franchises and how they helped to encourage deployment, limits to local franchises that exist in certain states, and existing telecommunications monopolies.

Even though municipal networks typically adopt policies that adhere to network neutrality standards, there remains a question of what will happen when those network connect to the middle mile, often controlled by companies known to by network neutrality violators. The hosts and Christopher speculate on whether or not publicly owned networks can create the competition needed to put the big companies on their best behavior. They also get into wireless vs. mobile vs. fiber and the struggle to accept the need for complements. Christopher offered some tips on ways to initiate a grassroots movement for a muni network initiative and creative early steps to situate a community favorably for a future network.

Check out the conversation:

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