Tag: "preemption"

Posted October 4, 2022 by Karl Bode

Tennessee cooperatives and utilities came out at the top of the heap in the latest round of awards from the Tennessee Emergency Broadband Fund, netting nearly half of all money awarded for the expansion of more affordable broadband statewide.

The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (TNECD) awarded $446.8 million to 36 applicants, who are now tasked with deploying improved broadband service to 150,000 unserved homes and businesses across 58 Tennessee counties. All told, TNECD said that 218 applicants applied for a total of $1.2 billion in broadband funding.

Of the $446.8 million in awards, utilities and cooperatives walked away with $204.4 million.

Major awards to utilities included Lexington Electric System ($27.5 million), Bledsoe Telephone Cooperative ($17.7 million), Greeneville Energy Authority ($8.2 million), Knoxville Utilities Board (KUB) ($15.2 million), Board of Public Utilities of the City of Fayetteville ($23.9 million), and Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation ($17.5 million). 

“This is great news for our community,” Gabriel J. Bolas, President & CEO of KUB, said in a statement provided to ILSR. “We have known for some time that there is a need for reliable internet in Union, Grainger, Sevier, and Jefferson Counties, and this announcement proves there is a broad and concerted commitment to address their needs soon.”

Grants for Regional Telecom Giants Part of the Mix

Regional telecom giants and local monopolies were also well represented by the state’s latest broadband funding round. 

Though it had applied for more than $35 million in funding, Charter Communications was awarded $20.4 million to reach parts of six counties. Comcast received $2.2 million to improve connectivity in Anderson, Hamilton and Knox counties.

TDS Telecom, which goes by the brand name Tellico Telephone Company in Tennessee,...

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Posted August 9, 2022 by Ry Marcattilio

This week on the podcast, Christopher is joined by Greg Conte, Director of the Texas Broadband Development Office, and ILSR Outreach Team Lead DeAnne Cuellar. The state of Texas finds itself in a common position these days: last year it created a small office that, today, is suddenly faced with dispersing more than a billion dollars in new infrastructure funding through the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program.

Greg talks about the challenges of staffing up and addressing the lack of data about where broadband is and isn't as a starting point for future work. He shares the process of developing a minimum viable product for mapping as well as the additional goal of integrating digital equity goals and socioeconomic data into a mapping effort. 

Christopher, Greg, and DeAnne then dig into the implications of the new BEAD rules recently clarified by the NTIA, and how to square a mandate not to disciminate against community solutions with a Texas state law which places barriers in front of municipalities. He shares how HB5, passed by the Texas legislature last year, lets nonprofit and for-profit entities apply for funding, but privileges for-profit entities what applications are submitted for the same. The group talks about the balancing act of operating an unequal grant-making marketplace with a charge to efficiently and effectively address the digital divide with historic federal broadband funding.

This show is 32 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...

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Posted May 16, 2022 by Sean Gonsalves

The window to request an unprecedented amount of federal funds to support state broadband grant programs is now open for business.

On Friday the 13th, the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) officially announced the Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) for the $42.5 billion Broadband Equity Access & Deployment (BEAD) program.

The BEAD program, which is part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) that was passed in November 2021, represents the single largest federal investment in broadband expansion in U.S. history. The program, according to NTIA’s own definition, is designed to allocate the funds to all 50 states (U.S. territories and Tribal governments) to support “projects that help expand high-speed Internet access … (through) infrastructure deployment, mapping, and adoption. This includes planning and capacity-building in state offices. And it supports outreach and coordination with local communities.”

The Application Process Has Begun

We have documented and discussed the BEAD program on numerous occasions, which you can find here. But the big news that comes with the NOFO release are the application deadlines associated with it.

States have until July 18 to submit their Letter of Intent (LOI), a required first step for states to receive a minimum of $100 million in BEAD funds. (States will be allocated additional funding based on a formula that takes into account how many unserved households are in each state).

According to the BEAD application guidelines released with the NOFO, the LOI must include:

  • A statement that the Eligible Entity intends to participate in the program; 
  • Specific information to identify the agency, department, or office that will serve as the recipient of, and administering agent for,...
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Posted March 30, 2022 by Ry Marcattilio

If you don't quite have enough good broadband podcast content in your life (we don't know how that's possible with a backlog of almost 500 episodes of Broadband Bits and nearly 40 episodes of the Connect This! show), you're in luck. The always-wonderful 99 Percent Invisible podcast, which looks at the design of the built world, takes on last-mile network infrastructure in the most recent episode of its bonus Future of.. series.

In "The Future of the Final Mile," Roman Mars uses the evolution of broadband access over a handful of years in Detroit and Chattanooga to illustrate what happens when a community sucessfully takes the future of its information infrastructure into its own hands. With interviews from local residents and broadband advocates, the episode addresses the uneven broadband marketplace, efforts to address inequitable access in Detroit through a citizen-created wireless mesh network, and a full fiber-to-the-home build in Chattanooga. Mars and his co-producer ask a lot of good questions about why more communities don't take bold steps, why preemption persists in 17 states, and what communities can do.

The episode is 41 minutes long. Listen to "The Future of the Final Mile" here, or read the transcript here.

Posted March 25, 2022 by Karl Bode

Jefferson County, Washington’s Public Utility District (PUD) is just the latest to take advantage of a flood of new grants — and recently-eliminated restrictions on community broadband — to expand access to affordable fiber across the state.  

Over the last few months, the PUD - situated northwest of Seattle, just across the Puget Sound - has been awarded more than $11 million in grants, including $1 million from the Washington State Public Works board, and another $9.7 million in Broadband Infrastructure Acceleration grants doled out by the Washington State Department of Commerce. The funds will help the PUD connect 2,600 homes in Gardiner, Quilcene, Cape George, Discovery Bay, and Marrowstone Island over the next two years.

Locally Operated Infrastructure, Affordable Prices, Fast Speeds

Construction is expected to start later in 2022, with the first subscribers to come online sometime in the first half of 2023. A project breakdown says they hope to provide basic speeds of 100 Megabits per second (Mbps) for $65 a month, and speeds of 1 Gigabit per second (Gbps) for $90 a month. The network will be open access, which means that additional ISPs (including, presumably, those currently offering service on the existing network) will be able to continue into the expanded areas.The PUD plans to offer a low-income tier for $45/month ($15 after the Affordable Connectivity Program subsidy), which is welcome to see.

The Jefferson County PUD currently provides electricity to 19,000 local residents, and water and septic service to an additional 5,000. While the PUD has spent decades building a fiber network that now connects about 50 businesses in Port Townsend, until 2021 Washington state law prohibited them from providing service directly to users, forcing the PUD to lease access to a third-party ISP to provide retail Internet...

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Posted March 22, 2022 by

This week on the podcast, Christopher is joined by Nancy Werner, General Counsel of the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors (NATOA). 

During the conversation, the two talk about NATOA and its role in supporting community broadband projects, how the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) Act is structured, and how exactly BEAD grant money can be used. They also get into the nitty gritty of funding MDU deployment projects with BEAD money, and what priorities need to be considered to access those funds. The show ends with a discussion about the promise and shortcomings of taking a simplified approach to setting right of way and franchise fees.

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.

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 February 22, 2022 by Sean Gonsalves

Even as high-speed Internet access is widely considered a basic utility akin to electricity and clean water, there are still 17 states with preemption laws that either ban publicly-owned broadband networks or have barriers that make it all but impossible for municipalities to compete with monopoly Internet Service Providers. This, despite the major incumbents having received billions in taxpayer subsidies over the years and having failed to deliver universally reliable and affordable connectivity.

However, as it has become increasingly clear that the private market alone is not going to solve America’s connectivity crisis, last year two states (Arkansas and Washington) rolled back their preemption laws that were protecting monopoly incumbent providers from competition, allowing local and regional governmental entities to build the telecommunications infrastructure their residents need.

Now, one Nebraska lawmaker has recently filed a bill that, if passed, would significantly remove his state’s current barriers to municipal broadband. Nebraska State Sen. Justin Wayne of Omaha filed LB916 last week with the state legislature’s Transportation and Telecommunications Committee.

As it stands now, according to the Coalition for Local Internet Choice (CLIC), Nebraska “generally prohibits agencies or political subdivisions of the state, other than public power utilities, from providing wholesale or retail broadband, Internet, telecommunications or cable service. Public power utilities are permanently prohibited from providing such services on a retail basis, and they can sell or lease dark fiber on a wholesale basis only under severely limited conditions. For example, a public power utility cannot sell or lease dark fiber at rates lower than the rates incumbents are charging in the market in question.” 

Bill to Let Local Communities Decide on Broadband

As...

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Posted January 13, 2022 by Maren Machles

Once a booming center of manufacturing, Allentown, PA (pop. 120,900) is looking to reinvigorate its economy by reinventing itself as a modern 21st century “smart city,” bringing fiber-to-the-home Internet connectivity to every resident in the city.

In October, the city proposed using $7 million of its $57 million in American Rescue Act Funds to aid in the deployment of a citywide FTTH network. City leaders hope the investment will help them reach the goal outlined in its strategic economic development plan to become a smart city by 2030.

The city will work with Iota Communications to conduct a feasibility study they hope will be complete in the coming months. While the possibility of a FTTH network is in the early stages for the city, the proposal signals a serious ambition to bridge the digital divide in the region.

Feeling The Way Forward

Allentown is one of three cities that make up a larger geographic area known as Lehigh Valley, with the other cities being Easton (pop. 27,000) and Bethlehem (pop. 75,500). For a while now, leaders in the valley have been talking about the digital divide and it’s been made clear with the pandemic that it can no longer be put on the backburner.

Pennsylvania lawmakers passed a law 2019 clearing the way for municipalities to have more of a say in how 5G is deployed in their communities. And while many local officials say the new law will help pave the way for Allentown to stay ahead of the curve, some have cautioned that a focus on 5G is a major distraction.

“My caution (at a recent roundtable) was that putting our focus on 5G and not focusing on the digital divide that still exists would be leapfrogging over the problem,” Lehigh University Diversity, Inclusion and Equity Officer Donald Outing told LehighValleyLive.com. “5G will not resolve that digital divide. If we are not intentional about our efforts...

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Posted January 12, 2022 by Ry Marcattilio

In this episode of the podcast, we're back for another staff conversation about all that 2021 had to offer and serve up some predictions for the coming year. Joining Christopher on the show are Senior Reporter and Editor Sean Gonsalves, Community Broadband Outreach Team Lead DeAnne Cuellar, Senior Researcher Ry Marcattilio-McCracken, GIS and Data Visualization Specialist Christine Parker, and Associate Broadband Researcher Emma Gautier.

Christopher, Ry, and Sean reckon with their predictions from a year ago, with DeAnne, Christine, and Emma joining the podcast for the first time. During the conversation, we talk about the number of preemption laws we hope to see disappear in 2022, the strides taken in small and medium-sized cities to take control of their telecommunications infrastructure future, mapping, and the impact the unprecedented amount of federal money is likely to have across the country in the coming year.

This show is 50 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 ...

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Posted December 15, 2021 by Ry Marcattilio

We've been writing for years that the artificial restrictions put on municipalities that keep communities from solving their connectivity needs with locally owned and operated networks are unpopular with the vast majority of Americans, irrespective of political affiliation. Today, 17 states persist in keeping these barriers in place.

A new survey out from Consumer Reports shows just how out of touch such policies are, and we've been remiss in not pointing it out. The survey, which comes from data collected in Chicago in August of 2021, highlights an array of important statistics.

They include the fact that "nearly a quarter of Americans (24 percent) who have a broadband service at their home say it’s difficult to afford their monthly broadband costs," with "a larger percentage of Black, non-Hispanic (32 percent) and Hispanic (33 percent) Americans than white, non Hispanic Americans (21 percent) say[ing] it’s ‘somewhat’ or ‘very’ difficult to afford their monthly Internet [access] costs."

The most recent survey also finds that "43 percent of Americans who have broadband service in their household say they are dissatisfied with the value they get for the money," a testament to the circumstances for tens of millions of households stuck in monopoly territory with no viable options.

What about municipal or community-owned broadband?

Three out of four Americans feel that municipal/community broadband should be allowed because it would ensure that broadband access is treated like other vital infrastructure such as highways, bridges, water systems, and electrical grids, allowing all Americans to have equal access to it.

A larger percentage of Democrats (85 percent) than Independents (74 percent) and Republicans (63 percent) say municipal/community broadband should be allowed.

While the Consumer Reports survey suggests a slight spread based on political affiliation, it's nevertheless a confirmation of what we hear every day in communities large and small all over the country: that local connectivity challenges deserve the option of local...

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