Tag: "preemption"

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 recently passed a law 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...

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Posted January 12, 2022 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

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-McCracken

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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Posted November 30, 2021 by Jericho Casper

Across the Commonwealth of Virginia, local governments, county broadband authorities, cooperatives, and private Internet Service Providers are leveraging the influx of American Rescue Plan funds to reach the state’s goal of achieving universal access to high-speed Internet connectivity by 2024.

With $850 million in state appropriations for broadband connectivity and $1.15 billion in local government and private service providers’ funding matches, the state is on track to invest $2 billion dollars toward broadband expansion in the coming years, and is currently investing in broadband expansion projects at record levels.

In August, Gov. Ralph Northam and the Virginia State Legislature agreed to devote $700 million of the state’s $4.3 billion in American Rescue Plan funds to expand access to broadband. The $850 million investment the state has announced will consist mostly of American Rescue Plan aid. The funds will be administered by the Virginia Telecommunication Initiative (VATI), which distributes grants to public-private partnerships to extend broadband service to unserved regions of the state, or areas that lack access to Internet service delivering connection speeds of at least 25/3 Megabits per second (Mbps).

Public-Private Partnerships Deep in the Heart of Virginia

From the marsh grasslands making up Virginia’s Eastern Shore, across the three peninsulas carved out by the Chesapeake Bay, all the way to the Shenandoah Valley in the West, a diverse array of regional partnerships have formed between Virginia’s local governments, electric and telephone cooperatives, and private ISPs as broadband expansion efforts continue to advance in 2022.

One of the largest partnerships vying for VATI dollars in 2022, organized by the Thomas Jefferson Planning...

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Posted November 3, 2021 by Sean Gonsalves

Broadband was on the ballot as voters went to the polls for Election Day in many areas. Here’s a quick run-down of what happened.

Colorado

The Colorado state law (SB-152) that bans local governments in the Centennial State from establishing municipal broadband service suffered another defeat at the ballot box. Since the law was passed nearly two decades ago, more than 150 Colorado communities have opted out. That number continues to grow and we can now add the town of Windsor to the list of municipalities in the state who have voted to restore local Internet choice.

At the polls yesterday, 77 percent of Windsor voters said yes to Ballot Question 3A, which asked “shall the Town of Windsor, without increasing taxes by this measure, be authorized to provide high-speed Internet services (advanced services), telecommunications services, and/or cable television services … either directly or indirectly with public or private sector partners?”

The passage of the ballot question allows Windsor to opt out of SB-152, although as reported by The Colorodoan, town leaders do not intend to establish a new municipal broadband utility as Loveland, Fort Collins, and Estes Park have done in the Front Range region of the state. Rather, Windsor will “pursue a public-private partnership with Highline Internet to bring high-speed Internet and phone service to the town … Highline would build, own and operate the network, though Windsor has the option of contributing money or assets (with voter approval) in exchange for a share of revenue.” Highline Internet is a company operating in multiple states that we have not often come across before.

In Milliken, just 16 miles...

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Posted October 13, 2021 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

In September, we wrote about the elimination of significant state barriers in Arkansas and Washington as legislators at the state level pushed to overturn the laws protecting monopoly providers which prevent localities from building and operating their own broadband infrastructure. 

The result of those moves is that the number of states which maintain barriers to community-owned networks fell to 17, heralding significant progress for the future.

The same week, Coalition for Local Internet Choice (CLIC) President Jim Baller testified before the Missouri House of Representatives' Interim Broadband Development Committee to address the state of preemption across the U.S. There, he argued that the "Missouri Legislature should follow the lead of Arkansas and Washington State and repeal the restrictions in R.S.Mo. § 392.410, once and for all. It should also reject any proposed new restrictions on municipal, cooperative, or public-private broadband projects." 

During the course of his remarks he makes a powerful case against "state barriers to municipal, cooperative, or public-private broadband initiatives":

[The] are not only bad for the communities involved, but they also hurt the private sector in multiple ways. They prevent private companies from making timely sales of equipment and services to municipal or cooperative networks. They impede companies from using advanced public or cooperative networks to offer businesses and residential customers an endless array of modern products and services. They thwart economic and educational opportunities that can contribute to a skilled workforce that would benefit existing and new businesses across the state. They also deny the community the economic and social benefits from which everyone in the community can benefit, including the private sector. 

He continues:

At the community level, advanced communications networks, like electric utilities in the last century, have increasingly become platforms, drivers, and enablers of simultaneous progress in just about everything that matters to communities. This includes economic and workforce development, all levels of education, public safety, modern health care, smart transportation, ...

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Posted October 5, 2021 by Maren Machles

On this week’s episode of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast, host Christopher Mitchell is joined by Angela Bennink (Telecommunications Director for Kitsap Public Utility District) and Laura Loe (Executive Director of Share The Cities Community Education & Share The Cities Action Fund) from Washington state. 

The group discusses the struggles Public Utility Districts (PUDs) have experienced over the last 20 years as a result of the state’s legislative restrictions. In 2000, the state legislature passed a law restricting PUDs from offering retail telecommunications services, despite the fact that they are a natural path toward getting fiber infrastructure to all Washingtonians. 

They recount the tumultuous road to repealing the restrictions and how PUDs and other community networks are working toward providing better competition and Internet access to the region.  

This show is 42 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 ...

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Posted September 28, 2021 by Maren Machles

On this episode of the Community Broadband Bits podcast, host Christopher Mitchell is joined by occasional guest host Sean Gonsalves, ILSR’s Senior  Reporter, Editor, and Researcher to take a hard look at our philosophies around competition and telecommunications regulation. 

Sean briefly recaps a recent update by ILSR Researcher and Writer Jericho Casper on preemption developments over the last year. While both Arkansas and the state of Washington regulators opened up opportunities for public entities to get into the broadband market, Ohio treaded dangerously close to squashing competition. Chris and Sean plug the recent GIS position that opened up on our team

The two get down to the nitty gritty reality of competition in telecommunications, that it tends to be more of the exception than the rule in a market that has historically dominated by monopoly power. They discuss how regulation capable of overcoming this dynamic will be the most impactful locally and not in Washington, D.C. 

This show is 52 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...

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Posted September 15, 2021 by Jericho Casper

In years past, states have implemented preemptive laws that make it more difficult or impossible for communities to build their own Internet networks. 

These state barriers were often enacted at the behest of large telecom monopolies to limit competition, and include everything from outright bans on municipal broadband networks to oppressive restrictions and requirements which create legal uncertainty for communities attempting to offer telecommunications and Internet services, including via partnerships.

When the Covid-19 pandemic hit the United States in March 2020, there were 19 states maintaining significant restrictions on municipal networks. Today, the number of states upholding these barriers has been reduced to 17. The pandemic served as a turning point in the fight for local authority, and in the past year, Arkansas and Washington adopted legislation significantly rolling back legislative barriers on publicly owned broadband networks. 

In February of 2021, both chambers of the Republican-dominated Arkansas State Legislature voted unanimously to send Senate Bill 74 to State Governor Asa Hutchinson, who signed the bill into law. The legislation grants government entities the authority to provide broadband services and expands the financing options available to municipalities to fund municipal broadband projects.

In May of 2021, Washington State Governor Jay Inslee signed two bills expanding municipal authority to provide retail Internet services to end-users, House Bill 1336 and Senate Bill 5383. Both bills reduce barriers to municipal networks, but House Bill 1336, which completely removes all previously-held restrictions on public broadband in the state of Washington, is expected to take legal precedence.

The recent progress made by Arkansas and Washington is extremely timely as more federal, state, and local funding is...

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Posted September 2, 2021 by Maren Machles

As communities across the country are working to bring more affordable, reliable Internet access to their residents, one county in Michigan is gearing up to reach every household within its bounds. On Wednesday night, the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners held a Ways and Means meeting and unanimously approved a resolution obligating state funding, including American Rescue Plan funds, to several initiatives, with $14.6 million dollars being allocated to broadband infrastructure. 

Although some communities in the county have made progress in recent years in improving connectivity, thousands of households have been left with broadband at basic speeds. While many are slated to receive service via the recent wins by Mercury Broadband (a Kansas-based ISP, focused on connecting rural America) and Midwest Energy and Communications (MEC, a Michigan electric cooperative) from the 2020 Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) auction, there are still 17 townships scattered across the county with more than 3,000 households that remained unserved. 

Back in May, the Washtenaw County Broadband Task Force put out a Request for Proposal (RFP) to plug the remaining holes, with the Task Force signalling its general happiness with the responses in the recent meeting. The allocation on Wednesday, if it receives final approval in the near future, will be used to fund the project proposals the Broadband Task Force is currently negotiating with four ISPs: Midwest Energy and Communications, Washtenaw Fiber, Comcast and Charter-Spectrum. 

This vote brings the Washtenaw County Broadband Task Force one step closer to its goal of countywide broadband equity. Its $14.6 million dollar plan will either be approved or vetoed by the County Board of Commissioners on Sept. 15. 

The Journey to Countywide Broadband Equity

The Washtenaw County Broadband Subcommittee was formed in 2017 to assess the county’s broadband coverage and make recommendations about how to achieve “countywide broadband equity” by 2022. 

The Subcommittee came out with...

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