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Multnomah County, Oregon Study Shows That a Countywide Network Can Be Done
Along the banks of the Columbia River, Multnomah County (pop. 813,000), Oregon is considering a publicly owned Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network after being handed a study more than a year in the making. The report estimates that a countywide network reaching every home, business, and farm in a five-city area would cost just shy of $970 million, and bring with it a wealth of savings and other benefits to the community it serves.
The study has its origins in a 2017 push initiated by an advocacy group called Municipal Broadband PDX which has sought more affordable and equitable Internet access in the region. In 2018, the County Board of Commissioners agreed that it should be explored and approved the funding of a study, with the city of Portland and Multnomah County each contributing $100,000 and the remaining towns of Fairview, Gresham, Troutdale, and Wood Village joining the effort to collectively contribute an additional $50,000 for funding. Over the next year, CTC Technology and Energy conducted a comprehensive survey, analysis, and evaluation, and the results were delivered at the end of September.
Multnomah County, Municipal Broadband PDX, Reaching Out to Residents for Feedback, Ideas on Network
Earlier this year, community leaders in Portland, Oregon, decided to join other cities in Multnomah County to commission a broadband feasibility study. The goal of the study is to examine the potential for publicly owned broadband network options in the region. Portland's decision to join in the study strengthened the project. As the study moves forward, community leaders and broadband advocates are asking for input from citizens to determine how best to develop a municipal broadband network project.
Spreading the Word and Keeping the Public Engaged
Since their founding, we’ve followed the work of Municipal Broadband PDX, a grassroots collection of residents and businesses working to inform the community about the potential for publicly owned broadband in the region.
The group started off with a bang, by releasing a cool, nerdy video about the need to bring competition to Portland and Multnomah County. They’ve been especially diligent in keeping the public informed about County Board and City Council meetings in which the project is discussed. Their efforts at keeping the public abreast of developments have contributed to the advancement of the project.
Now that the feasibility study is being developed, Municipal Broadband PDX has organized several town hall meetings to share and inform. The goal of the meetings is to allow local elected officials the opportunity to discuss the project progress. In addition, organizers want people attending the meetings to provide “ideas, needs, and wants about Internet access.” They want to make the network a success by keeping lines of communication open and understanding the needs of the public.
The first Broadband Town Hall attracted 75 residents in Northeast Portland on December 4th. The next meeting is scheduled for December 17th in Gresham at the Multnomah County East Building, 600 NE 8th Street, in the Sharron Kelley Room A & B. Elected officials at the event will be:
Portland Is In: City to Contribute to Regional Feasibility Study
In a February Facebook post, the good folks at Municipal Broadband PDX out of Portland, Oregon, shared the news that the city will be contributing to the cost of a broadband feasibility study. The $25,000 city pledge, pooled with the funds the group has raised so far, brings the total funds for a feasibility study to $225,000. The group learned of the city’s intention to contribute on February 2nd and shared the news immediately.
In order to keep the momentum high, leadership at Municipal Broadband PDX are encouraging people to attend a Multnomah County Board meeting on Thursday, February 7th. Multnomah County has already committed $150,000 for the study and the communities of Gresham, Troutdale, Fairview, and Wood Village were also early to express their support.
Grassroots and Growing
In November, Portland was chosen as one of 35 communities as part of the Neighborly Community Broadband Accelerator Program. The program provides access to experts, mapping, and financial tools to help local communities get their projects off the ground.
The grassroots organization launched in the summer of 2018 with the intention of guiding local residents and businesses toward motivating Portland and Multnomah County leaders. They believe that high-quality Internet access is a public utility and should be provided to every member of society in the same way every one has access to electricity. Municipal Broadband PDX also strongly supports network neutrality and believes that lower-income households should have the same access to the Internet as higher-income folks. Their goal is “Internet for the People.”
Organizing for Better Broadband in the Portland, Oregon, Region - Community Broadband Bits Podcast 334
This week on the Community Broadband Bits Podcast, we hear from Russell Senior and Michael Hanna from Portland, Oregon. Russell is President of the Personal Telco Project and Michael is a Data Engineer for Multnomah County; both are on the Board of the Municipal Broadband Coalition of America.
In this interview Christopher, Russell, and Michael discuss the goals of the Coalition and their current work grassroots organizing in Portland and across and Multnomah County for the Municipal Broadband PDX initiative. In addition to hearing how Portland and the surrounding county has reached a point where residents and businesses are ready for better connectivity, we also find out how these two organizers became involved in the efforts.
Michael and Russell describe the way the project has evolved after years of attempts to improve Internet access in the region and their approach toward organizing such a large area with a high population. Our guests describe some of the challenges they have coped with and other issues they anticipate along the way as well as the basic principles that create the foundation for their initiative. They also define their visions for a successful outcome and offer suggestions for others who are considering organizing for better Internet access.
Check out the clever short film created to help launch Municipal Broadband PDX:
This show is 37 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.
Municipal Broadband PDX Asks Portlanders to Call on Local Officials for Support
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.
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