We've covered an array of communities that have met the connectivity challenges brought about by the pandemic by setting up gap networks to help bring neighborhoods, students, seniors, and frontline workers online in places like Arizona, California, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, and Illinois. A recent NBC story highlights efforts in Dallas, Texas and Utah to do the same, suggesting that we'll see more of these networks stood up in the near future.
News stories highlighting the breadth and depth of the digital divide and its impacts in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic have dominated the headlines in recent months, but a new report emphasizes the degree to which dozens of communities in one Canadian province have struggled with connectivity issues for years. The recently released Nunavut Infrastructure Gap Report [pdf] shows what broadband access looks like for the 35,000 or so mostly Inuit residents of the nation’s youngest province, and what solutions exist for closing the gap for tens of thousands who struggle to get online.
Nunavut is the northernmost of Canada’s provinces, made up of two interlocking geographies: the landmass immediately north of Manitoba and east of the Northwest Territories, and the large collection of islands curled around Baffin Bay to the west of Greenland. It has a population barely 1/20th the size of Wyoming (the U.S.’s smallest by population) despite being the second-largest political subdivision by area in North America, and a population density of just 0.05 persons/square mile.
A Host of Infrastructure Gaps
The new report was released by Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. (NTI), an “organization that represents the territory’s 33,000 Inuit and their rights.” It looks to quantify existing infrastructure and obstacles in support of the pledge made by the Canadian government in 2019 to close gaps where they exist around the country. The report covers wide range of projects, but broadband access plays a prominent role in the province’s telecommunications infrastructure gap, especially in light of the nation’s goal to achieve universal 50/10 Mbps (Megabits per second) access by 2030.
Its aim, according to NTI President Aluki Kotierk, is “not so much to draw attention on the deplorable state of infrastructure in our communities, as it is to set the premise for a renewed engagement with our partners on fulfilling the...Read more
Next Century Cities and WifiFoward will present the results of new research on wireless technologies. The report (to be released on February 29, 2016) provides a detailed analysis of LTE-U and Wi-Fi in the context of local governments.
Major topics covered in the new report include the importance of Wi-Fi for local government operations, the potential effects of LTE-U interference, and the possibility of LTE-U and Wi-Fi coexistence. Next Century Cities, WifiForward, and CTC Technology & Energy will present the results of the research in an upcoming webinar.
The presentation is this coming Monday, February 29th at 1PM ET over Google Hangout and features:
- CTC Technology & Energy’s Joanne Hovis and Andrew Afflerbach
- Next Century Cities’ Todd O’Boyle
- WifiForward’s Bill Maguire
The report will be released on February 29, 2016.
On November 18th, 90% of voters at Princeton's special town meeting approved a measure to fund $1.2 million in make-ready costs bringing the community one step closer to fiber connectivity. The number voters who attended the meeting broke the previous attendance record set 15 years ago by 30%.
We introduced the central Massachusetts town of 3,300 in 2013. The community suffered from poor Internet connectivity negatively impacting its schools, real estate market, and economic development. Since then, the community voted to create a Municipal Light Plant and to appropriate funds to keep the project moving forward.
Community leaders have investigated several options and last fall entered into a relationship with the Matrix Design Group. According to the Memorandum of Understanding [PDF], Matrix will design, build, and operate the FTTH network for a period of 20 years. At the end of that time period, Princeton Broadband Municipal Light Plant has the option of renewing that relationship or purchasing the network for $1.
As their contribution, Princeton will provide rights-of-way, police details during construction, powered telecom shelters, and will pay for utility pole make-ready costs. According to an article in the Landmark:
The make ready work includes replacing approximately 80 utility poles, and moving telephone and electrical lines on 450 poles, providing housing for the electrical components needed to operate the system, and paying for police details during the make ready work.
The borrowing is expected to cost the owner of a home valued at $300,000, about $10 a month or $115 a year increase on their taxes for 12 years. Internet service plus telephone will cost $115 a month. Once a contract is negotiated with Matrix, construction on the make ready phase would start in January 2015 and the project would be completed by January 2016.
It looks like the network will offer Internet connections of 30-50 Mbps; currently options for residents vary...Read more
Verizon Wireless CEO Dan Mead is not doing any favors for Comcast as it pursues approval to acquire Time Warner Cable. In August, he came out and publicly stated that no, LTE is not equal to fiber. The Verge quoted Mead, who was refreshingly honest about technical limitations and Comcast's motivations for making such outrageous claims:
"They're trying to get deals approved, right, and I understand that... their focus is different than my focus right now, because I don't have any deals pending," Mead said, a reference to the fact that Comcast is looking for ways to justify the TWC buy. "LTE certainly can compete with broadband, but if you look at the physics and the engineering of it, we don't see LTE being as efficient as fiber coming into the home."
A number of other organizations also try to educate the general public about the fact that mobile Internet access is not on par with wireline service. For example, Public Knowledge has long argued that "4G + Data Caps = Magic Beans."
Our Wireless Internet Access Fact Sheet dispels common misconceptions, shares info about data caps, and provides comparative performance data between wireless and wired connections. While mobile Internet access is certainly practical, valuable, and a convenient complement to wired connections, it is no replacement. Wireless limitations, coupled with providers' expensive data caps enforced with overage charges, can never replace a home wired connection. Doing homework, applying for a job, or paying bills online quickly drives families over the typical 250 GB limit.
Speaking from experience, my own family of three routinely surpasses 250 GB per month and we are not bandwidth hogs compared to many other families in our social circle. Fortunately for us, the "...Read more
For the second time this year, one of the major defenders of the cable and telephone companies has admitted that DSL cannot provide the Internet access we need as a nation. This admission validates our research as well as that of Susan Crawford and others that show most Americans are effectively stuck with a cable monopoly.
On April 7, 2014, the Diane Rehm show hosted another discussion on telecommunications policy with guests that included Jeffrey Eisenach, the Director of the Center for Internet, Communications, and Technology Policy at the American Enterprise Institute.
During that show, Eisenach stated, "The vast majority of Europeans still only have DSL service available, which we in the United States consider really almost an obsolete technology now."
Interestingly, Eisenach and others have repeatedly claimed that there is no market failure in the US - that we have plenty of choices. But most Americans have to choose between what most now admit is an obsolete DSL product and cable. Eisenach would add 4G LTE as another competitor, but as we have noted many times, the average household would have to pay hundreds of dollars per month to use their LTE connection as a replacement for DSL or cable.
The average household uses something like 40-55 GB of data per month. Given the bandwidth caps from LTE providers, the overage charges quickly result in a bill of approximately $500 or more depending on the plan. This is why the overwhelming majority of the market uses mobile wireless as a complement, not substitute to wired networks.
We are left with one conclusion: there is no meaningful competition or choice for most of us in the residential telecommunications market. And no real prospect of a choice either as the cable companies only grow stronger.
This is not the first time Eisenach admitted that DSL is insufficient for our needs. Back in January, on Diane's show, he again used Europe's dependence on DSL as evidence that it was falling behind: "They are reliant on these 20th century copper networks which have real limits on the amount of speed that they can deliver."
Even those who only want the private sector to deliver services are starting to admit that the existing providers are...Read more
Lisa Gonzalez and I are back with another back and forth reaction to some of the crazy claims made by opponents of community owned Internet networks. This is something we started with Episode 50 and continued in Episode 55.
For volume 3 of our Crazy Talk series, we address some recent claims made in opinion pieces, including the obviously-written-by-a-lobbyists op-ed in the Baltimore Sun and signed by Maryland State Senator Pugh.
We talk about claims that Chattanooga has failed (in which we recommend you go back to listen to episode 59 - our conversation with Chattanooga.
We dissect the claims that the US already has robust competition and that having several 4G wireless networks in any way impacts the wireline cable and DSL the vast majority of Americans are stuck with it.
And finally, we talk about Provo and why it is suddenly the most cited network by those opposing community owned networks.
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.
Thanks to ...Read more
Wireless networks have been incredibly successful, from home Wi-Fi networks to the billions of mobile devices in use across the planet. So successful, in fact, that some have come to believe we no longer need wires.
We developed this fact sheet to clarify some misconceptions about what wireless Internet networks are capable of and the importance of fiber optic cables in building better wireless networks as our bandwidth needs continue to increase.
This fact sheet defines important terms, offers some key points clarifying common misconceptions, compares 4G and 3G wireless to wired cable, and more. We also include references to additional resources for those who want to dig deeper.
If you want updates about stories relating to community Internet networks, we send out one email each week with recent stories we covered here at MuniNetworks.org. Sign up here.
If you are a current or potential Verizon customer, by now you know that you no longer have the option to order stand alone DSL. When the business decision became public knowledge in April, DSL Reports.com looked into the apparent step backward and found existing customers were grandfathered in but:
However, if you disconnect and reconnect, or move to a new address -- you'll have to add voice service. Users are also being told that if they make any changes to their existing DSL service (increase/decrease speed) they'll also be forced to add local phone service. One customer was actually told that he needed to call every six months just to ensure they didn't change his plan and auto-enroll him in voice service.
By alienating customers from DSL, Verizon can begin shifting more customers to its LTE service, which is more expensive. Susie Madrak, from Crooks and Liars, speculated on possible repercussions for rural America:
Rural areas could see the biggest impact from the shift, as Verizon pulls DSL and instead sells those users LTE services with at a high price point ($15 per gigabyte overages). Verizon then hopes to sell those users cap-gobbling video services via their upcoming Redbox streaming video joint venture. Expect there to be plenty of gaps where rural users suddenly lose landline and DSL connectivity but can't get LTE. With Verizon and AT&T having killed off regulatory oversight in most states -- you can expect nothing to be done about it, despite both companies having been given billions in subsidies over the years to get those users online.
The belief is that current DSL customers who don't want (or can't afford) the switch to the LTE service will move to Verizon's cable competition. Normally, losing customers to the competition is to be avoided, but when your new marketing partners ARE the competition, it's no big deal.
Recall that Verizon entered into an agreement with Time Warner Cable, Cox, Bright House (collectively SpectrumCo) to a purchase...Read more
AT&T lobbyists in Georgia and South Carolina are arguing that local governments should not be allowed to build the networks that communities need, suggesting that the private sector is primed to make the necessary connections. But AT&T's CEO had a different message for investors a few weeks ago, in an earnings call on January 26:
The other is rural access lines; we have been apprehensive on moving, doing anything on rural access lines because the issue here is, do you have a broadband product for rural America?
We’ve all been trying to find a broadband solution that was economically viable to get out to rural America, and we’re not finding one to be quite candid. The best opportunity we have is LTE.
Whoa! LTE is what you more commonly hear called 4G in mobile phone commercials. The best they can do is eventually build a wireless network that allows a user to transfer just 2GB/month. That is fine for hand-held devices but it does nothing to encourage economic development or allow residents to take advantage of remote education opportunities.
But even the CEO admits they are not bullish on LTE as the solution:
[W]e’re looking at rural America and asking, what’s the broadband solution? We don’t have one right now.
Some may be wondering about "U-Verse" -- AT&T's super DSL that competes with cable in the wealthy neighborhoods of bigger cities. U-Verse cannot match the capacity or quality of modern cable networks but is better than older DSL technologies. But U-Verse is not coming to a rural community near you.
For those who missed the fanfare last year, AT&T's U-Verse build is done. AT&T's lobbyists have probably forgotten to tell Georgia and South Carolina Legislators that the over 20 million AT&T customers without access to U-Verse are not going to get it. But CEO Stephenson made sure investors weren't...Read more