Tag: "oregon"

Posted August 30, 2022 by Ry Marcattilio

This week on the podcast, Christopher is joined by Joseph Franell, President of Blue Mountain Networks (which serves more than 30 rural communities west of Portland) in Oregon. Joe joined the team at Ashland Fiber Network (AFN) before moving on to do work in rural parts of the state. During the conversation, Christopher and Joe talk about building fiber in some of the least-dense parts of the state. They discuss the importance of creativity and a willingness to pursue a variety of partnership models, the critical role that local broadband champions play in convincing Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to come to rural areas, and how dramatically different a provider looks when it's driven by principles and a commitment to the community that goes beyond a lightning-fast return-on-investment.

They dive into the specter of private equity, which has shown increasing interest in broadband infrastructure and the grassroots work done by broadband action teams over the last couple of years.

This show is 46 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed. You can listen to the interview on this page or visit the Community Broadband Bits page.

Transcript coming soon. 

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.

Subscribe to the Building Local Power podcast, also from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, on iTunes or Stitcher to catch more great conversations about local communities, the concentration of corporate power, and how everyday people are taking...

Read more
Posted August 3, 2022 by Karl Bode

Ashland, Oregon has long been a trailblazer in terms of meeting community demand for faster, more affordable broadband access.

The city-owned network has also had a bumpy road—at times being branded as an example of municipal broadband failure. But the network continues to grow as it faces down an urgently-needed pivot toward a fiber-based future. 

Despite the current economic healthiness of the network and the clear benefits it’s brought to the community over the last 20 years, local officials are talking about divesting instead of making the financial commitment to continue the investment the city has already made.

The community-owned Ashland Fiber Network (AFN) was first developed in the late 1990s by locals angry at the high prices and historically terrible customer service by the local cable company. Like so many community broadband alternatives, it was a network built from grassroots frustration at consolidated market failure. 

Benefits of the community networks were on stark display during the telecommuting and home education boom of the Covid-19 crisis, when the city announced it would be providing free 30 Mbps broadband to all city residents without access to the Internet. 

AFN is an open access network, meaning that numerous companies are allowed shared access to the core city network, delivering a variety of broadband, phone, and TV services. As a result, the network’s no-contract broadband pricing tends to be simpler and less expensive than options found in cities dominated by one or two private sector telecom monopolies.

One central benefit of the network remains that it forced regional incumbent Charter to more seriously compete on price. As with other, similar projects, the network has also proven more responsive to the citizens it serves. 

The Best Laid Plans...

While AFN was a pioneering effort that embraced numerous disruptive ideas in its quest to disrupt the nation’s monopolies, some early managerial missteps, combined with an early decision to embrace the money pit that is cable television...

Read more
Posted February 1, 2022 by

This week on the podcast, Christopher is joined by PJ Armstrong, Interim General Manager at Monmouth Independence Networks (MINET) operating in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.

During the conversation, the two discuss how MINET came into existence over fifteen years ago, unique perspectives from an older municipal network, progress on MINET’s recent investor-backed expansion into Dallas, Oregon, and how the pandemic has affected the operations and marketing of municipal networks. Christopher and PJ also geek out about MINET’s custom-built operational support system (OSS) and the technology that powers their networks.

This show is 24 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed. You can listen to the interview on this page or visit the Community Broadband Bits page.

Transcript coming soon. 

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.

Subscribe to the Building Local Power podcast, also from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, on iTunes or Stitcher to catch more great conversations about local communities, the concentration of corporate power, and how everyday people are taking control.

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 August 31, 2021 by Maren Machles

On this week's episode of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast, ILSR's Senior Reporter, Editor, and Researcher Sean Gonsalves, along with Senior Researcher and Multimedia Producer Maren Machles, chat with Paul Recanzone, the general manager of Beacon Broadband, about Beacon's plan to build out broadband where no one has before. 

Beacon Broadband is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Coos-Curry Electric Cooperative, which has been serving electricity to parts of Coos and Curry counties for the last 80 years. In April 2021, the cooperative broke ground on a fiber-to-the-home network that promises to serve the more than 20 percent of cooperative members who don't have broadband. 

The three discuss the impetus for the project, as well as hopes for the network's impact on the economy and community as a whole. 

This show is 30 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed. You can listen to the interview on this page or visit the Community Broadband Bits page.

Read the transcript here

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.

Subscribe to the Building Local Power podcast, also from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, on iTunes or ...

Read more
Posted May 25, 2021 by Jericho Casper

Closing the homework gap has been a top priority for Federal Communications Commission (FCC) acting Chair Jessica Rosenworcel. She has a long track record advocating for Wi-Fi-enabled school buses, lamenting viral images of school children completing homework in fast food parking lots, and making the case that no child should be left offline. At the onset of the pandemic, she pledged to use her influence at the agency to fight to increase the flexibility of the E-Rate program, saying “every option needs to be on the table.”

When the American Rescue Plan Act established the Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) in March, a $7 billion program to connect students and library patrons to the Internet at off-campus locations, Rosenworcel had an opportunity to follow through on those promises. She could have seized the moment to steer the program in the direction of allowing schools and libraries to build, own, and operate their own school and community networks (what the federal government refers to as self-provisioned networks). Many schools serving areas with poorly connected students already do this, but without much help from the E-rate program.

But when the rules on how to spend the money were finalized on May 10th, the FCC’s Report and Order declared that schools and libraries could not use Connectivity Funds to build self-provisioned networks, but instead could only use the funds to purchase Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers, and connected devices, such as laptop computers and tablets. The one exception in which schools and libraries can use Connectivity Funds to build self-provisioned networks is in “areas where no service is available for purchase,” based on data self-reported by private ISPs. 

The Report and Order indicates the agency was not...

Read more
Posted May 18, 2021 by Maren Machles

An electric cooperative in Oregon is once again answering the call, fulfilling unmet needs for those living in places considered by monopoly providers as being unreachable and unlucrative. Coos-Curry Electric Cooperative (CCEC) broke ground last month on the construction of the Beacon Broadband Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network, launching a project that will connect businesses and residents that have historically been left behind when it comes to broadband investment.

The project is estimated to cost $60 million, running more than 1,400 miles of fiber across Coos-Curry Electric’s service territory. The buildout time is anticipated to take three to four years.

Expanding the Economy Through Reinvestment

Coos County used to be one of the leading contributors to the growing timber industry in the early 1900s, and for a long time had a thriving fishing industry, both of which fueled the local economy. Today, the service sector and tourism drive the region.

“We will never be a timber economy again,” Paul Recanzone, general manager of Beacon Broadband told ILSR in an interview. “We’ve got to find a way to be a 21st century economy . . . we’re going to do tourism, we’re going to do work from home, we’re going to do artisan crafts where the artisans can demonstrate their wares on the Internet.”

CCEC was founded in 1939 with it’s first power lines going up in 1940 and spanning 84 miles. Today, 80 years later, it’s serving 13,000 members. As the economy shifted, CCEC saw the need for residents and emerging businesses to have reliable Internet access. But 20 percent of CCEC members received inadequate satellite or DSL Internet service.

In response CCEC created Beacon Broadband, a for-profit subsidiary of the cooperative, “to build a fiber network where no one else will go,” according to the Beacon Broadband website

“One of the values of Coos-Curry electric is to improve the lifestyles of its members, and that value was driven into the creation of Beacon Broadband, “ Recanzone said. “We have a driving core value to improve our region in any way that we can create economic vitality in our region as much as possible.”

Beacon Broadband will borrow funding via the Cooperative...

Read more
Posted March 10, 2021 by Ry Marcattilio

HiLight — Hillsboro, Oregon’s (pop. 105,000) citywide Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network — has officially launched and begun connecting its first subscribers. After five years of consideration and planning, it’s an exciting moment, with hundreds of homes and businesses brought online over the last few months. Over the next seven years, at least $28 million will be put towards the rollout, bringing the municipal network to tens of thousands of locations across the city.

Hillsboro sits just outside of Portland, and has been looking for better connectivity options for years. A large proportion of its population is comprised of tech workers and residents with advanced degrees; the city, in fact, anchors the state’s Silicon Forest, so named for the group of technology firms employing tens of thousands of workers across three Intel campuses as well as operations by Oracle, Salesforce, Epson, and Synopsis. A citywide fiber network serves to provide competition and capacity to keep them in the area:

Hillsboro is the tallest tree in the Silicon Forest and the center of Oregon’s high-tech cluster. With an affordable high-speed network, Hillsboro’s homegrown talent — our students and entrepreneurs — will be better positioned to lead the world in innovating for the future. Hillsboro will continue to attract and retain talent and be a hub for innovation.

But Hillsboro also faces a stark digital divide fueled by economic inequality, and bridging it has been one of the city council’s (and now the network’s) main agenda items. This has driven the project’s second focus: bringing affordable, high-quality access to economically vulnerable residents stuck with no quality options today. It’s why the city has introduced one of the fastest low-cost access program we’ve seen established by any broadband network in the United States, with qualifying families getting access to symmetrical gigabit service for $10/month.

Putting Glass in the Ground

We’ve been following Hillsboro’s journey over the past few years. In 2014, the city council began studying...

Read more
Posted October 22, 2020 by Ry Marcattilio

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.

Origins

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.

The report offers good news: the majority of residents in Multnomah County want a publicly built and operated FTTH network, and it would be economically viable to provide symmetrical gigabit service to as many of the more than 320,000 households as want it for $80/month. At a projected 36% take rate on a 4% bond over a 20-year period, the network would cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $966 million, depending on a host of local and market factors, some of which are fixed and others subject to change. It would see net positive income by the end of its fourth year of operation, and see a total of more than $54 million in positive net income by the end of its 20-year depreciation period (a standard model for fiber infrastructure, though they often last longer). These numbers change when adjusting the take rate and interest rate, but in the vast majority of scenarios, building a community owned FTTH network in Multnomah County is feasible. 

Broadband in Multnomah County

...

Read more
Posted September 18, 2020 by Ry Marcattilio

Over the summer, Oregon took a second swing at revising its state Universal Service Fund program by passing SB 1603, a bill which will create a larger rural broadband development fund by including retail wireless and VoIP service (in addition to traditional telephone service) in the fees it collects to bring basic connectivity services to unconnected parts of the state. The new law lowers the current tax rate on telecommunications service provider's gross revenue (from 8.5% to 6%) but dramatically broadens the collection base, which will bring in needed dollars to expand broadband access to state residents without it in coming years. The move comes on the heels of the state’s move to establish a Broadband Office in 2018 to “to promote access to broadband services for all Oregonians in order to improve the economy and quality of life.”

Nuts and Bolts

SB 1603, which passed the state legislature on June 26 and was signed into law on July 7, directs the Oregon Business Development Department  (OBDD) to transfer up to $5 million of the funds collected each year to a broadband fund for rural development projects, administered by the OBDD. While the amount that will be collected remains unknown at the moment, it will no doubt represent a significant boost: the current mechanism for funding rural information infrastructure projects — the Rural Broadband Capacity Pilot Program — received 25 applications for almost $5 million in requested funding, but was only able to grant $500,000, or 10%. SB 1603 caps the money to be collected by the Oregon Universal Service Fund at $28 million annually.

As a result of SB1603, Oregonians can expect the average cell phone bill would go up by about $4 a year, and those with landline telephone service will see an annual decrease of $12 a year. Some VoIP providers had contributed willingly prior to the bill — that voluntary opt-in is removed.

...

Read more
Posted March 9, 2020 by Katie Kienbaum

In two letters sent at the end of February, Oregon Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden urged the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to reconsider certain aspects of the agency’s ReConnect broadband grant and loan program. The senators’ letters, addressed to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue, called on the agency to address, “administrative hurdles and eligibility problems within the ReConnect Program that have put critical broadband infrastructure assistance out of reach for Oregonians and communities across America.”

The USDA, which is currently accepting applications for the second round of ReConnect funding, has awarded more than $600 million in grants and loans since launching the program in 2019.

“A High-stakes Gamble”

Merkley and Wyden’s first letter [pdf], joined by Oregon Representatives Suzanne Bonamici, Peter DeFazio, and Kurt Schrader, raised lingering problems with the USDA’s determination of eligible areas and the application process for the program.

The letter reads:

We heard several concerns from our constituents in Oregon that the initial design of the ReConnect Program limited accessibility for local Internet service providers (ISPs) due to both administrative issues and eligibility restrictions. While changes have been made to improve the program, we continue to hear from many Oregonians that several major issues unfortunately remain.

In particular, the Oregon officials identified as barriers the complicated and costly application process as well as an inaccurate and unclear designation of underserved areas. “Many local ISPs feel as if [applying] is more akin to a high-stakes gamble rather than soliciting funding for a fiber-to-the-premises project,” they explained.

Additionally, the lawmakers noted that the ReConnect program’s scoring criteria can prioritize less rural, non-tribal areas, writing, “If this grant focuses on bringing broadband to rural and unserved America, the evaluation criteria seem to contradict the program’s mission.”

Satellite Subsidies Limit Opportunity...

Read more

Pages

Subscribe to oregon