Tag: "resource"

Posted August 25, 2020 by Katie Kienbaum

With the end of the federal Keep Americans Connected pledge and the failure of Congress to pass comprehensive broadband aid, it’s clearer than ever before that local governments are the last line of defense against the digital divide, which has been exacerbated by the ongoing pandemic.

Some communities have already taken steps to connect their residents, during the global health crisis and beyond. For example, the public school systems in San Francisco and Portland, Oregon, decided to cover the cost of broadband subscriptions for low-income students. In Chattanooga, Tennessee, the city’s municipal broadband network is partnering with local schools to provide free Internet access to all students that receive free and reduced-price lunch.

However, in 21 states, legal barriers — often enacted at the behest of corporate telecom lobbyists — prevent local governments from investing in community broadband solutions to close the digital divide.

To help local governments that want to improve connectivity navigate the various opportunities and obstacles, we at the Community Broadband Networks initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) have teamed up with the Local Solutions Support Center (LSSC) to produce a number of helpful resources. We previously shared a step-by-step guide for establishing local broadband authority during the pandemic. Now, local officials and community advocates can access two more resources: a guide for local governments to act in the context of the pandemic, and an interactive state broadband preemption map.

View The Digital Divide and the...

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Posted August 12, 2020 by Ry Marcattilio-...

We published our first profile of the largest cable and telecom providers in 2018, where we detailed the lack of real choices most Americans had when it came to high-quality, reliable broadband. At the time, we found that for the largest Internet Service Providers (ISPs) investment was correlated to competition rather than the regulatory environment. Monopoly ISPs expanded their Fiber-to-the-Home networks only in areas where they faced competition, and rural Americans were left behind as a result.

Our 2020 report, Profiles of Monopoly: Big Cable and Telecom finds that these key points remain true, and the report includes a host of new maps to show it.

From the report:  

  • Comcast and Charter maintain an absolute monopoly over at least 47 million people, and another 33 million people only have slower and less reliable DSL as a “competitive” choice.
  • The big telecom companies have largely abandoned rural America — their DSL networks overwhelmingly do not support broadband speeds — despite many billions spent over years of federal subsidies and many state grant programs. The Connect America Fund ends this year as a failure, leaving millions of Americans behind after giving billions to the biggest firms without requiring significant new investment.
  • At least 49.7 million Americans only have access to broadband from one of the seven largest cable and telephone companies. In total, at least 83.3 million Americans can only access broadband through a single provider.

All versions of this report are in the Reports Archive. Read the 2020 report Profiles of Monopoly: Big Cable and Telecom [pdf].

Posted August 6, 2020 by Katie Kienbaum

"Broadband Models for Unserved and Underserved Communities," [pdf] a white paper from US Ignite and Altman Solon, explores the various models that cities can employ to connect their residents and businesses.

The paper covers five approaches that communities can take to improve Internet access, from full private broadband to full municipal broadband with varying types of public-private partnerships in between. Of all the well-connected American cities (where 50% of residents have access to 250 Megabits per second broadband speeds), the paper finds that 8% are served a form of municipal network.

To help local government officials figure out which model is right for their community, US Ignite and Altman Solon include a number of helpful charts, decision trees, and other considerations.

Regardless of the exact broadband model, cities can play an important role in connecting underserved communities. The paper ends:

Although the digital divide that remains in our country is unlikely to be fully closed soon, municipalities can still be powerful agents of change. We hope this study will pass along the hard-won lessons of prior programs and aid municipalities considering broadband expansion to better serve their residents. The faster we work together to bridge the digital divide, the sooner we all benefit from the technologies of the future.

Download "Broadband Models for Unserved and Underserved Communities" below.

Posted August 6, 2020 by Katie Kienbaum

The Cost of Connectivity 2020, a recent report from the Open Technology Institute (OTI) at New America, explores how much Americans pay for Internet access compared to those in other parts of the world.

After examining 760 broadband plans in 28 countries in North America, Europe, and Asia, the report's authors conclude that Americans pay higher fees for slower speeds, with communities of color and low-income households most affected. The report points to a lack of Internet service provider transparency and competition as reasons why costs are higher in the United States compared to other places. OTI found that municipal broadband networks, like the one in Ammon, Idaho, provide much better value to subscribers and offer some of the most affordable Internet plans in the country.

Some takeaways from The Cost of Connectivity 2020:

  • "[I]nternet service in the United States remains unaffordable for, and therefore inaccessible to, many low-income households . . . In April 2020, 43 percent of lower-income parents reported that their children will likely have to do homework on their cellphones, and 40 percent said that their children would likely have to use public Wi-Fi to finish schoolwork because they lack a reliable internet connection at home. The 'homework gap' also disproportionately affects students who belong to BIPOC communities."
  • "Just three U.S. cities rank in the top half of cities when sorted by average monthly costs. The most affordable U.S. city—Ammon, Idaho — ranks seventh."

  • "Data caps further increase the cost of internet service while limiting users’ data consumption . . . Furthermore, data caps can have anticompetitive effects on the wider ecosystem, especially if an Internet Service Provider (ISP) selectively applies data caps to preference its own content while deprioritizing competitors . . . Notably, most of the plans with data caps are in the United States. In Europe, all plans advertised no caps or did not specify. In Asia, only one city specified a cap."

  • "Consumers do not always read the (very) fine print to find the contract termination fees, and as a result are more likely to underestimate their switching costs — an important distinction when consumers are more likely to overestimate cost-savings from long-term contracts that are more visibly advertised...

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Posted July 6, 2020 by Katie Kienbaum

As the pandemic drags on, local governments across the country are looking for ways to connect their residents, who need better Internet access for everything from online education to annual taxes to telehealth appointments. But 19 states still place restrictions on cities and counties that want to invest in broadband expansion, hamstringing their ability to address urgent connectivity needs.

To help people figure out if their community is able to take action, we worked with the Local Solutions Support Center (LSSC) to develop a step-by-step guide for local officials and advocates. The guide includes the various considerations communities must make when developing a Covid-19 broadband response, including the extent of local government authority, state legal restrictions, and declaration of emergency powers.

LSSC describes the guide:

As the coronavirus pandemic spreads, local elected officials and advocates alike are asking what they can do for their communities across a range of policies — including to ensure that everyone has broadband Internet access available. This guide can help you determine whether your community has the authority it needs to adopt a particular policy.

View the guide on LSSC’s website or download the PDF below.

“What’s the Policy?”

The guide takes people through the following questions and action steps:

  • What’s the Policy?
  • Is there Existing Authority?
  • Is the Policy Expressly Preempted?
  • Is there a Conflict with State Law or Other Barrier?
  • What is the Extent of Emergency Powers?
  • Demand State Action

For the different steps, the guide offers an explanation, identifies examples from different states, and suggests resources for further research. For example, under “Is there Existing Authority?” the guide directs communities to look at state and...

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Posted June 29, 2020 by Ry Marcattilio-...

Funding can seem like an insurmountable barrier to expanding Internet access and adoption. But for states, local communities, nonprofits, or other organizations looking for some help, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) has updated its federal funding search tool for 2020. 

Whether you’re looking to find money specific to your region, to pair a broadband project with transportation infrastructure, to expand access on tribal lands, or to connect your community’s anchor institutions, the NTIA can help. The funding search tool also lets users sort through options depending on what stage of the process they’re at, so whether you’re exploring your options via a feasibility study or looking to evaluate or expand adoption rates, the tool has you covered. It also, helpfully, provides funding sources for those looking to fund programs to expand digital literacy skills and training.

You can find, for instance, the USDA ReConnect program there, which helps fund projects in rural areas. We’ve written about how communities in Virginia, Maine, Iowa, and elsewhere have secured ReConnect funding to advance community broadband development in their states. Likewise, we recently wrote about how Cumberland County, Maine, used a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Community Development Block Grant to fund a broadband plan that brought together several communities seeking better Internet connectivity in the region. 

See the USDA's complete Broadband Funding Guide [pdf] or dive into the online search tool.

More Resources

For more, see our two fact sheets on funding: Fact Sheet on...

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Posted March 4, 2020 by lgonzalez

In September 2019, we interviewed Kathryn DeWit from the Broadband Initiative at the Pew Charitable Trusts about their State Broadband Policy Explorer. The tool documents state laws aimed at expanding broadband access. Now, the group has released a reported titled, How States Are Expanding Broadband Access, that examines developments in nine states where broadband availability has improved after implementing state efforts. The report dives into what those states are doing that works and makes recommendations to emulate those policies and repeat that positive trajectory.

Read the full report here.

All Hands on Deck

One of the primary discoveries from the report is that states are using many technologies and funding approaches to bring high-quality Internet access to those who have been left behind. Like other projects that involved multiple stakeholders and public funding, Pew learned that building broadband support and requiring accountability are factors that contribute to success.

Pew examined efforts in California, Colorado, Maine, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. They also looked at Minnesota, where the Border to Border Development Grant Broadband Program provides funding for projects in areas where connectivity is slow and unreliable or where people have no service options at all. In Minnesota, notes the report, the state has established measurable and increasing speed goals and allows funding to flow to a broad range of recipients, including local governments, rural cooperatives, tribal governments, and large corporate Internet access providers.

minnesota-loon_2.png Minnesota also provides a challenge process, which has been used by some of the larger ISPs in the past to delay plans for community-centered projects,...

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Posted February 7, 2020 by lgonzalez

Tribal Technology Assessment: The State of Internet Service on Tribal Lands, a report from the American Indian Policy Institute at Arizona State University (AIPI) provides a detailed examination of broadband access, device use, and uses of the Internet by Tribal peoples on Tribal lands. Authors Brian Howard and Traci Morris completed the 2019 report aiming to develop a closer look at the digital divide and "to create a new baseline for future studies with the expectation of potentially measuring growth in coming years."

The AIPI worked with Tribal leadership and members to design a study that would include the participation of those living on Tribal lands. In addition to providing historical perspective on why the issue of digital inclusion has not been studied adequately, the authors address the multiple facets of the digital divide(s) that Native American peoples who live on Tribal lands face and how the large ISPs have left most behind.

The report explains in detail the survey questions, results, and methodology.

Based on the results of the survey, AIPI provides policy recommendations directed at different public and private sectors. At the foundation of their recommendations is the link between local self-reliance and increased adoption of better connectivity:

There needs to be a new model to address the Digital Divide prevalent in rural and Tribal America. What is needed is a positively related regulatory disruption to find new solutions for community based networks for positive social disruption.

AIPI makes recommendations for Congress, such as:

  • Establish the Office of Native Affairs and Policy as a standalone, independent office at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) with a permanent annual budget.
  • Establish a Tribal Broadband Fund to support broadband deployment, maintenance, and technical assistance training.

Recommendations for the telecom industry include:

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Posted January 22, 2020 by lgonzalez

MuniNetworks.org offers a cache of resources for people who have a particular interest in publicly owned broadband networks. As interest in municipal networks has increased in recent years, connections between people can help those researching and organizing. We know that there aren't many places where our audience can have discussions with like-minded individuals, so the Institute for Local Self-Reliance has now established two mailing lists for folks who share our common interests related to municipal fiber networks.

Talkers, Organizers, a Meeting of the Minds

For folks who want to share thoughts on municipal networks with others, including new developments, news on projects, or trends and topics, they can sign up on our Muni Fiber Discussion mailing list.

The list will be lightly moderated and is not a place to dump links to stories; we expect people to share thoughts and ideas and to debate new issues and important developments.

Learn more about the Muni Fiber Discussion mailing list and subscribe here.

For people who are interested in taking steps to organize a community toward developing their own municipal network, we've established the Muni Organizing mailing list. We expect people interested in this conversation to include some of the same people as on the discussion list and others that may be interested related topics, including economic development, connectivity and education or telehealth, and people interested in other community benefits. This discussion will also be lightly moderated.

We imagine the Muni Organizing mailing list to be:

Discussions about efforts to create community networks. This is meant to help share strategies, solve common problems, and otherwise work through the many challenges that accompany this organizing effort. We expect this may include local activists, business leaders, elected officials, city staff, consultants working in this space, and others. However, our goal is to keep it limited to those actually working in this area - not just anyone.

You can get details about the Muni Organizing mailing list and subscribe here.

For folks with experience in organizing, we encourage you to share strategies that work (and those...

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Posted January 20, 2020 by lgonzalez

Last year, in celebration of the life of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we posted a few resources reflecting on the “I Have A Dream Speech.” This year, as the nation considers how Dr. King dedicated his life to raise awareness, we want to introduce readers to a resource that, thanks to technology, provides access to more documentation of the work of the man who led American toward a positive trajectory. 

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute is a treasure trove of recordings, documents, and other resources working with The King Center in Atlanta. Coretta Scott King initiated the collaboration in 1985 through an invitation to Stanford University historian Clayborne Carson to become the project director. 

The Institute has digitized some of most influential documents in our modern history, including:

Teachers and parents will especially appreciate the Liberation Curriculum section of the resource. Lesson plans are searchable by learning level and subject and there are suggestions for creating unique classroom activities along with curated resources.

The Recommended Reading list appeals to folks interested in history, civil rights, and social justice; the Institute continues to add new material to the site. Most recently, curators added a series of sermons King delivered at the Riverside Church in New York City. The most famous of these sermons was titled “Beyond Vietnam,” which condemned the war and suggested policies to end it. This version has been remastered for clarity:

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