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Content tagged with "idaho"
Mountain Home, Idaho Embraces Open Access Fiber
The city of Mountain Home, Idaho (pop. 14,000) is embracing open access city-run fiber as it pushes to expand affordable broadband to all city residents. Its stated goals: to boost broadband speeds and availability, while lowering prices 25 to 35 percent for all city residents.
Like so many city-owned broadband projects, city leaders say they were inspired by the success of Ammon, Idaho, which owns and operates an open access fiber network. That network has dramatically boosted competition in the city, drawing nationwide attention for both lower rates, and the ease with which locals can switch providers with the click of a mouse.
“The city is not trying to compete with the private sector,” the Mountain Home website proclaims. “The city will simply build and operate the fiber optic infrastructure. This infrastructure will then be open to any service provider that seeks to offer services in the city.”
With chipmaker Micron planning to build a new $15 billion fabrication plant in nearby Boise, city leaders hope to lure potential new employees through affordable broadband access. So they’re both deploying fiber conduit to every new development, and pushing an open access fiber network to lure additional competitors to the region.
That said, the network deployment is only just getting started.
Report: Six Community Broadband Networks Demonstrate Diversity of Approaches to Connectivity Challenges
There are more than 600 wireline municipal broadband networks operating across the United States today. And while the ongoing discussion about our information infrastructure by Congress has placed a renewed emphasis on publicly owned endeavors to improving Internet access, the reality is that cities around the country have been successfully demonstrating the wide variety of successful approaches for decades.
In this report, published by the Benton Institute for Broadband and Society, ILSR's Sean Gonsalves, Christopher Mitchell, and Jericho Casper profile how six community networks in a diverse range of places stepped up to meet the needs of their communities, bringing faster, more reliable, and more affordable service.
- Huntsville, Alabama
- Conway, Arkansas
- Ocala, Florida
- Dalton, Georgia
- Ammon, Idaho
- Cheshire County, New Hampshire
The projects above, the report shows, run the gamut from municipally owned and operated fiber networks, to cable system upgrades, to last-mile open access networks, to public-private partnerships.
Communities seeking to create a more competitive broadband market and/or target low-income neighborhoods with high-quality, modestly priced service are increasingly building their own networks, whether in partnership with ISPs or on their own. Local governments considering this option have to do their homework to find appropriate consultants, vendors, business models, and more.
But as the communities profiled here demonstrate, there are many models and opportunities to improve Internet access.
Christopher Mitchell Talks About the Implications of a Federal Broadband Infrastructure Bill
ILSR’s Community Broadband Networks Initiative Director Christopher Mitchell recently joined Drew Clark, Editor and Publisher of Broadband Breakfast, for a live discussion centered on the “Investment Implications of a Federal Broadband Infrastructure Bill.”
During the discussion, Christopher breaks down the various pots of money the federal government has dedicated to expanding Internet infrastructure and access to date. He points to the shortcomings of current federal programs, among which are provisions that set aside funds in the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) for the Emergency Broadband Benefit and the Emergency Connectivity Fund going to short-term, incumbent-friendly solutions.
Christopher noted that while the Emergency Broadband Benefit has helped income eligible households by providing $50 to $75 a month subsidies for home Internet subscriptions, it leaves uncertain what the future holds for these communities when the funds run out. Similarly, he points to restrictions placed on the Emergency Connectivity Fund, which limit the ability of schools and libraries to use the funds to build their own networks. Throughout the discussion, Chris maintains that public dollars should be spent on more sustainable, long-term solutions.
Listen to Baratunde Thurston Interview Bruce Patterson About Open Access, Competition, and Ammon, Idaho
Baratunde Thurston hosted Bruce Patterson on the most recent episode of his podcast How To Citizen. The episode is a deep dive into the consequences of a lack of competition in Internet access, and how the city of Ammon on stepped up to meet the challenge. Baratunde talks with Technology Director Bruce Patterson about how he got into this space, how the project got started, and the wealth of positive outcomes it has help drive for the community.
Listen here, then watch the video below on how the network is saving money, creating competition for broadband services, and creating powerful new public safety applications.
Idaho’s Proposed Broadband Grant Cares More About Protecting Monopolies Than Expanding High-Quality Connectivity
As states are considering whether and how to use federal CARES Act funding to improve Internet access, Idaho is poised to enact counter-productive limits on who can use that money by excluding community-owned solutions.
Though many states have been under pressure from big monopoly providers to only fund for-profit business models with broadband subsidies, those voices seem largely absent in this Idaho fight. Instead, it is some local monopoly providers that are threatened by a wave of new community networks that break the old monopoly approach to broadband networks.
Shock and Aww, Come on
As Idaho began considering how to spend its CARES Act funding, it took comments from a variety of stakeholders on how to achieve the state’s broadband goals. That process suggested an inclusive, open-ended approach that could help fund a variety of efforts that would improve resilience in a variety of ways — not just new connections to homes.But when the Department of Commerce stepped up to operationalize those goals into a matching grant program, something came off the rails. The state is taking comments this week from Idahoans on an approach it unveiled Tuesday evening. View the draft grant application and rules.
This draft grant application goes through contortions to give the CARES Act money to private companies. The only entities that can apply are governments, including sovereign tribes, local governments, or Idaho state agencies. But they are purely a pass-through — the money must go to a private company per rule IV of eligible projects: "Include only new broadband service, installed, owned, and operated by for-profit companies and not the applicant."
State Legislatures 2020: Broadband Preemption Still a Risk
As state lawmakers debate in committee rooms and Capitol chambers around the country, various broadband and Internet network infrastructure bills are appearing on agendas. Some are good news for local communities interested in developing publicly owned networks while other preemption bills make projects more difficult to plan, fund, and execute. We've gathered together some notable bills from several states that merit watching - good, bad, and possibly both.
For years, local communities were not allowed to bond to develop publicly owned broadband infrastructure in New Hampshire. Last year, the state adopted SB 170, which opened the door a crack so that municipalities can bond to develop infrastructure for public-private partnerships (PPPs) in "unserved" areas. This year, the New Hampshire General Court has the opportunity to push open the door a bit wider with SB 459.
SB 459 allows local communities to potentially define "unserved" areas themselves by putting more responsibility on Internet access providers. Municipalities must currently engage in a request for information process in which they must reach out to all Internet service providers operating in the community. SB 459, if adopted, would allow a community to consider areas "unserved" if a provider does not respond to such a request to clarify which premises are unserved. With the "unserved" designation, municipalities can bond to develop infrastructure to serve those premises.
The bill has bipartisan support and is scheduled for a March 11th hearing in the Senate Election Law and Municipal Affairs Committee. Read the text of SB 459 here [PDF] and follow its progress here.
Idaho House Bill Threatens Funding Option for Community Network Investment
The open access network in Ammon, Idaho, has been celebrated as visionary and viewed as a potential model for other communities seeking competitive local Internet access markets. A bill in the state legislature, however, aims to restrict local communities' ability to reproduce the Ammon Model, or any other publicly owned network, by imposing new restrictions on local efforts.
Read the text of the bill here.
Removing a Local Funding Option
H 490, introduced by Rep. Ron Mendive from Coeur d'Alene, states specifically that local governments have the authority to take the necessary steps to develop Internet networks and to offer services to the general public. Provisions in the bill that dictate how projects are financed, operated, and managed, however, transform the bill into a "muni killer" says Bruce Patterson, Ammon's technology director.
In a recent Idaho Business Review article (subscription required), Patterson described the language of H 490:
“On its face, it claims to authorize cities to have the authority to finance, build, and operate a communications network and offer a communications service, but each of the restrictions that follow make it impossible for a city to actually do those things. It is like telling your child: ‘Sure, you can play outside, just don’t leave the house.'”
Collaboration Across the State Line, Idaho Falls and UTOPIA Fiber - Community Broadband Bits Podcast 390
Idaho Falls has had publicly owned fiber within the community for years, but until recently, limited its use to dark fiber leases and public power purposes. Now, the community is working with UTOPIA Fiber to expand the network in order to serve all premises with Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH).
This week, General Manager of Idaho Falls Power and Fiber Bear Prairie and Chief Marketing Officer of UTOPIA Fiber Kim McKinley join Christopher to discuss the partnership. The project began with a pilot project but interest from the Idaho Falls community has proven that many people in the community want in on Internet connectivity from their municipal utility.
Our guests talk about the long process that led to their decision to work together and how they gauged interest from the Idaho Falls community. For both the city and for UTOPIA Fiber, this project is a new venture. Bear talks about some of the cost saving construction techniques the utility used, how they determined they wanted a partnership model, and the benefits the fiber network has garnered. Kim explains how, as an organization that aims to increase success for open access networks, UTOPIA Fiber was unsure what the future held in working with a community in Idaho, when the communities they serve had all been in Utah. For both partners, the project has opened doors.
This show is 38 minutes long and can be played on this page or via Apple Podcasts or the tool of your choice using this feed.
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. See other podcasts from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance here.
Thanks to Arne Huseby for the music. The song is Warm Duck Shuffle and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.
Idaho Falls Votes to Expand Fiber Project Beyond Pilot
Idaho Falls completed a publicly owned and operated a dark fiber network in 2010. Recently, city leaders unanimously decided to use the asset to offer citywide Internet access to the community. The vote followed a successful pilot project, commenced in March and completed this past September, which connected around 1,200 homes.
According to the East Idaho News:
Since that time, Idaho Falls Fiber officials have been gathering data and evaluating the costs and feasibility of expanding the high-speed fiber network through the rest of the Idaho Falls community.
“This kind of a public-private partnership is exciting. It allows the city to focus on infrastructure—something we excel at,” said Idaho Falls Mayor Rebecca Casper. “And, it allows local Internet providers to offer their internet services to residents where they previously could not get this type of infrastructure to deliver a reliable high speed Internet product. It captures the best of both worlds.”
Idaho Falls worked with UTOPIA Fiber on the pilot project, which included four local Internet access providers offering services via the Idaho Falls publicly owned fiber optic infrastructure. The open access network will continue to expand over the next four years within the Idaho Falls Power service area. UTOPIA Fiber will continue to work with the city to expand the network.
“Designing a system like this is a complicated operational and engineering function,” said [General Manager Bear] Prairie. “That’s why the Council approved the agreement for us to partner with UTOPIA Fiber, a not-for profit entity like Idaho Falls Fiber that has the experience in operating successful networks similar to our design. We are excited to have successfully demonstrated that utilizing our existing power utility infrastructure to install fiber lines coupled with UTOPIA’s software that opens the network to local Internet providers to use has proven to be an economic success for our city.”
Fast Company Focuses on Ammon, Idaho's Fiber, for The New Capitalism Series
Ammon, Idaho, got our attention years ago but as benefits from the city’s publicly owned fiber optic infrastructure continue to grow, others are taking notice. Most recently, contributing editor at Fast Company, Jay Woodruff wrote about the community’s investment in Fast Company's “The New Capitalism” series.
Woodruff notes that Ammon, with only about 16,500 people, has surpassed large cities in quality of connectivity and choice of Internet access providers. Woodruff quotes Bruce Patterson, Technology Director in Ammon: “If you were to ask me what the key component of Ammon is, I would say it’s a broadband infrastructure as a utility. We’ve just found a way to make it a true public infrastructure, like a road.”
Woodruff describes how the infrastructure is being integrated into the community’s larger development:
Residents of Ammon can choose to opt in to the network, which the city began building in 2011. Patterson expects that by the end of 2019, 900 of the town’s 4,500 residences will have joined the network. The city is growing, adding new residential addresses at a rate of about one per day, and Patterson says that every single developer is choosing to include the fiber infrastructure in new construction.
When asked what makes Ammon’s network better than other options available in communities such as New York and San Francisco, Patterson offered four factors:
PUBLIC UTILITY: The city of Ammon manages the network the same way it handles water services or road maintenance. “If we could simply come to a point as a nation where we would say internet infrastructure is essential and we’re going to make sure that everybody has access to it,” Patterson says, “that would be a huge step forward.”