Tag: "grassroots"

Posted February 27, 2014 by christopher

While Comcast focuses on increasing its market power rather than improving services in the communities it monopolizes, no one should be surprised that we are seeing a surge in interest for building community owned networks.

We've heard from many people who want to learn how they can start - more than we can always respond to, unfortunately. We are working on a resource to answer many of those questions, but it always boils down to 2 things: building a supportive network of people and getting informed. Get the word out - especially to local business leaders and anyone else who may be supportive.

There are many potential business models and financing opportunities, but some will work better than others in each community. That said, there are some basics that every community should be immediately considering.

The first is building a fiber network to connect anchor institutions such as schools, libraries, first responders, municipal facilities, and the like (see our Fact Sheet on savings from such networks). These networks should be constructed in such a way as to enable future expansions to local businesses, residents, and generally everything in the community or even beyond for rural areas. That means choosing the backbone routes carefully and ensuring that as much fiber is available as possible. Using conduit with channels and always leave at least one channel free to pull a future bundle (replacing a smaller count bundle that can then be removed to continue having a free channel).

Another smart move is to begin getting conduit and fiber in the ground as part of other capital projects, like street rebuilds, water main replacement, and the like. We will discuss how Santa Monica did this in an upcoming case study. In the meantime, there is no better resource than CTC Technology & Energy's recent report, Gigabit Cities: Technical Strategies for Facilitating Public or Private Broadband Construction in your Community.

We have additional resources organized in two places: on MuniNetworks.org and on ILSR.org. If you can't find a piece of information you need, let us know.

Of the recent voices...

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Posted January 3, 2014 by lgonzalez

In 1985, Auburn Electric became one of the first communities in the midwest to deploy fiber. At the time, the purpose was to improve electric and voice systems substation communications within the municipal utility. That investment laid the foundation for a municipal network that now encourages economic development and saves public dollars while enhancing services.

Auburn expanded its fiber network beyond electric systems in 1998. The utility began using the network to serve city and county government operations. It is not well known, but Auburn offered gigabit service to its public sector customers way back in 1998.

The benefits from the deployment prompted community leaders to develop an Information Technology Master Plan in 1998 that would answer the question of what other ways the fiber could serve the community? As part of the Master Plan, Auburn leaders collected information from other communities that were capitalizing on their own local fiber. While Auburn made no immediate plans, they kept an open mind, waiting until the time was right.

In 2004, Cooper Tire and Rubber (now Cooper Standard) was about to be sold from its parent company. The $1.6 billion auto component manufacturer needed a data center but bandwidth was insufficient and inconsistent in Auburn. Cooper considered leaving because the incumbents, Mediacom and AT&T, could not or would not provide the broadband capacity the company needed. If Cooper left town, an estimated $7 million in wages and benefits from 75 high-paying tech jobs would also leave. At the time, Auburn was home to 12,500 people.

County Courthouse in Auburn, Indiana

According to Schweitzer, the City tried to persuade the telephone company to find a solution with Cooper but the two could not reach an agreement. Rather than lose Cooper, the City of Auburn stepped in to fill the connectivity gap in 2005.

In a 2007 interview with Public Power magazine, Schweitzer noted advantages in Auburn that facilitated the project:

“We also had a major tier-one Internet provider with a...

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Posted October 31, 2013 by lgonzalez

Approximately 60,000 people live on Aquidneck Island in the towns of Portsmouth, Newport, and Middletown. The Ocean State Higher Education Economic Development and Administrative Network (OSHEAN) travels to the island but community leaders want to find a way to provide services to more residents, businesses, and institutions. OSHEAN is an under utilized middle mile network and most on the island still receive single digit Mbps service.

The Aquidneck Broadband Advisory Board hopes an investment in a last mile network will spur economic development, expand the use of OSHEAN, and increase telecommuting possibilities on the island. The group includes members from each of the three municipalities, local business leaders, and citizens. A recently released Request for Information seeks input regarding a potential gigabit last mile network that can support data, video, and voice. According to the RFI:

This effort will result in the development of a master plan for improving broadband infrastructure island‐ wide, including finance options, grants, and policies for the installation of high speed fiber optic broadband.

The Board will accept responses until November 15, 2013. A PDF of the RFI is posted on the Newport website.

Posted October 21, 2013 by christopher

Earlier this year, Mark Creekmore transitioned from a frustrated DSL customer to a champion for better Internet access in Georgia. A concerned citizen and tech consultant, Mark joins us for the latest Community Broadband Bits podcast. He discusses his history with Windstream and the steps he went through to improve his Internet access.

Along with this interview, you can read a how-to guide he wrote on DSL Reports.

Mark documented the times his connection speeds fell, his calls to tech support, and their inability to deliver what they promised. Finally, he helped the CBS Atlanta affiliate to cover Windstream's failure to deliver promised services.

We became aware of Mark as he became aware of Windstream's efforts to revoke local authority from local governments to build networks that would deliver the services that Windstream would not. Read our coverage of those legislative fights from 2013 and 2012.

Read the transcript of our conversation here.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show - please e-mail us or leave a comment below. Also, feel free to suggest other guests, topics, or questions you want us to address.

This show is 22 minutes long and can be played below on this page or via iTunes or via the tool of your choice using this feed.

Listen to previous episodes here. You can can download this Mp3 file directly from here.

Find more episodes in our podcast index.

Thanks to Mudhoney for the music, licensed using Creative Commons.

Posted October 15, 2013 by christopher

As Longmont prepares to vote on November 5, we are paying special attention to question 2B, which will authorize the city utility to issue revenue bonds to finance the FTTH network already being built. The successful referendum from 2011 gave the City authority to build the network and this referendum, if successful, will finance a rapid expansion rather than the present incremental approach that will take decades.

We have a double interview today, with Vince Jordan rejoining the show from Longmont Power and Communications. He previously spoke with us on episode 10 but today he just gives us the facts about the network and scenarios of what will happen depending on how the city votes.

The second interview is with George Oliver, co-founder of the grassroots group Friends of Fiber that is advocating for people to vote yes on question 2B. George explains the benefits of passing this debt, namely that area residents and businesses will gain access to a world class networks without increasing any taxes.

Friends of Fiber is on Twitter and Facebook. Read our other stories on Longmont here.

Read the transcript from this show here.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show - please e-mail us or leave a comment below. Also, feel free to suggest other guests, topics, or questions you want us to address.

This show is 30 minutes long and can be played below on this page or via iTunes or via the tool of your choice using this feed.

Listen to previous episodes here. You can can download this Mp3...

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Posted August 22, 2013 by lgonzalez

Longmont's City Council and municipal power and communications utility are getting serious about bringing fiber to the people. We reported earlier this month about the decision to allow voters to decide how fast they want that next generation network. Longmont Power and Communications (LPC) already plan to expand the existing network to households and businesses but face a long, slow time table over many years if they expand incrementally without bonding. The City Council will ask voters if they will authorize a $44 million bond issue to pay for capital costs, interest and debt-service reserve.

Many in Longmont recall the ferocious opposition they faced during the two previous referendums. The cable industry (mostly Comcast) spent hundreds of thousands of dollars during each campaign, saturating citizens with a deceitful advertising campaign.

Once again, local citizens are forming their own group to support the measure. A Scott Rochat Longmont Times-Call article reports that the group, Friends of Fiber, recently met in Longmont's TinkerMill "hackserspace" to plan initial strategy. The main take-away for participants was "we need more people."

The group does not want to be taken by surprise by the same astroturf groups that spent $250,000 dollars to defeat the referendum question in 2009. While a second referendum passed in 2011 despite even more astroturf spending, Friends of Fiber are taking no chances and mobilizing now. Both of those referenda dealt with the authority to operate the network, not finance an expansion.

From the article:

[Organizer Scott] Converse said the group had to be ready for just as big a fight now. One tactic will be borrowed from the national political campaigns; creating software that will scan the Internet for negative references to the bond issue so that the group can respond quickly.

Vince Jordan, LPC Telecom Manager, note that the utility has updated the original service offering from $59.95 for 25 Mbps to $49.95 for residential 1 gig service. From the meeting:

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Posted April 30, 2013 by lgonzalez

Earlier this year we reported on SB 88 in the Kentucky legislature. The bill, sponsored by Republican Senator Paul Hornback and authored by AT&T, would have eliminated the "carrier of last resort" requirement and reduced consumer protections. A similar bill in 2011 was also defeated by a coalition of public interest groups.

This is one of a series of bills crafted by AT&T and ALEC that has been explained in great depth by the National Regulatory Research Institute in their 2012 review [pdf] as well as by Bruce Kushnick in this report [pdf].

Advocates on the side of consumers, including ILSR, were happy to see the bill defeated in the House. Though AT&T will undoubtedly be back again in future years, this victory shows the massive corporate carriers are vulnerable. In addition to blocking harmful deregulation, this is an example of how an organized coalition can protect the public interest.

I spoke with Mimi Pickering, Director of the Appalshop Community Media Initiative in Whitesburg, Kentucky. She described how local groups defeated the bill with the facts. Appalshop teamed up with nonprofit Kentucky Resources Council (KRC), AARP Kentucky, the AFL-CIO, Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, and several other groups. The coalition explained the complexities of the proposal and spelled out what could happen to landline service without consumer protections.

Appalshop Logo

KRC is an environmental advocacy group that helped stop SB 88 by providing critical research to educate the public and lawmakers. In Episode #44 of our podcast, Pickering and...

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Posted December 10, 2012 by christopher

Earlier this year, we published a case study that examined the LUS Fiber network and its origins. In it, we noted that both Republicans and Democrats backed the plan but here we focus on their resolutions in support.

Back in early 2005, Lafayette was preparing for a referendum on whether the city owned utility should issue bonds to build a FTTH network. Though Cox cable and BellSouth (now AT&T) were running a fierce campaign to scare voters, both Republican and Democrat parties in the community came together to support the community owned network -- both found ways of incorporating this important investment into their political philosophies.

In February, the Democrats were the first to pass a resolution supporting the city's fiber optic plan [pdf]. Recall that Joey Durel (the mayor then and now) is an ardent Republican.

We, the members of the Lafayette Democratic Parish Executive Committee, believe the project will enhance businesses, enrich our lives, and prepare our children for the future. With proper planning, future generations will see profits generated by this project stay in this community and improve businesses and lives for generations to come.

Improving local communities has been the traditional purpose of the Democratic Party. With that in mind, we commend City-Parish President Joey Durel for his bold initiative to make this plan a success.

A few weeks later, the Lafayette Republican Party endorsed the network [pdf] as well:

Lafayette Republican Party seal

... Whereas, the “Fibre Optic to the Home” service would create the potential for new economic opportunity for Lafayette, and in our opinion far exceeding the financial risk,

Whereas, we believe the LUS Plan represents an investment in infrastructure as opposed to direct competition between government and private business, which would violate a basic principle of Republican Philosophy,

Be it Resolved this 10th day of March, 2005, the Lafayette Parish...

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Posted October 30, 2012 by christopher

Today we invited John St. Julien, of Lafayette Pro Fiber fame, on episode 19 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. John was an essential piece of the organizing effort in Lafayette's efforts to build its own community fiber network. In many ways, he has worked to ensure the "community" piece is emphasized over the "fiber" piece.

John and I discuss the organizing effort in Lafayette that led to their successful referendum in 2005, including some lessons for others who want to organize their own communities. We also talk about some of the lengths that big cable and telephone companies will go to stop communities. In the course of our discussion, we talk about a push poll that backfired on those trying to scare voters -- we made the full audio available here.

John will be back on a future show to offer more thoughts on how local activists can work within the community to encourage a local, publicly owned solution.

For background on the LUS Fiber network in Lafayette, we strongly recommend our Broadband at the Speed of Light report, which features a case study of the network. Also, four episodes ago, we interviewed Geoff Daily about his work to develop apps on the LUS Fiber network.

Read the transcript from this interview here.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show - please e-mail us or leave a comment below. Also, feel free to suggest other guests, topics, or questions you want us to address.

This show is 25 minutes long and can be played below on this page or subscribe via iTunes or via the tool of your choice using this feed. Search for us in iTunes and leave a positive comment!

Listen to previous episodes here. You can download the Mp3 file directly from here....

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Posted October 29, 2012 by christopher

We sometimes fail to communicate the great lengths to which big cable and telecommunications companies will go to intimidate and scare voters into opposing a community broadband projects. They have deployed a variety of dirty tricks and we have done a poor job of cataloging them.

But a recent phone call with John St. Julien in Lafayette, Louisiana, reminded me of a push poll that an alert citizen recorded back when Cox, Bellsouth (now AT&T), and/or other opponents of the municipal broadband project commissioned a "push poll" to scare voters into opposing a referendum on whether the City should build its own network. We tell the full story about this campaign in our Broadband at the Speed of Light report.

But in anticipation of our interview with John St Julien tomorrow, we thought we should make sure our readers/listeners had a chance to hear this 30 minute call. In it, a pollster is asking a series of questions commissioned by opponents to the community broadband network and responding to it. The audio is sometimes hard to make out, but well worth it as the person recording it has some pretty funny responses to some of the questions being posed.

This is just one of the reasons that referenda are a poor tool for measuring community support of a project. While the big companies can dump unlimited funds into their self-interested "vote no" campaigns, the city itself cannot encourage voters to go one way or another. And local groups supporting a community broadband network have far fewer resources.

For instance, when Longmont, Colorado, had its first referendum, Comcast blitzed the community with something like $250,000 in ads and misinformation (setting a local record for expenditures) -- resulting in a pretty significant majority for the "nay" voters. After citizens realized they'd been had, they clamored for another vote. Two years later, Comcast dropped $400,000 on Longmont but the grassroots successfully out-organized the cash-dump.

If you want to know more about how your community can win a fight like this, read more about Lafayette and listen to our conversation with John St. Julien tomorrow (the first of several).

Here is the push poll and response.

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