Tag: "ballot"

Posted November 13, 2019 by lgonzalez

This past summer, consultants hired by Lakeland, Florida, shared their opinion that the community has the necessary components to launch a broadband utility. In a recent opinion piece in The Ledger, city commissioner Justin Toller encourages Lakelanders to let their elected officials know that they want a public vote on the issue.

We’re Paying for it, Regardless

Toller, who has championed the broadband initiative as the chair of the Broadband Task Force, appeals to the public’s sense of value. He notes that, while everyone in the community has contributed financially to developing the existing 330-mile fiber optic network, only a small number of commercial entities use the infrastructure along with local schools, libraries, and public safety facilities. The city collects around $4 million per year in dark fiber leases.

Toller writes:

By investing in the final connection, we can reduce customer costs in the long-term, because you are the owners and not just the users. To private providers, you are a source of profit; to our city, you are an investment in our shared community. That investment will create innovation, economic development, job growth, and a higher quality of life, while also providing a savings on your Internet bill.

Repeating the Past

Toller also notes how Lakeland decided as a community in the past to invest in the electric utility, the hospital, and the roads. He sees a similar path with fiber.

Today, the roadways of the future are not concrete; they are fiber. Lakeland has invested millions of dollars in building the current fiber network, and now it’s time to make the final investment to connect all Lakelanders. Keep in mind, whether we hook-up that fiber to every home and business or not, we all continue to pay for the existing infrastructure.

The city has done its due diligence by having a feasibility study. There have been numerous community meetings, a survey, a forum, and hundreds of public comments. In response, private providers have done what they do best, raise prices.

Many of us are still using decades-old infrastructure, and we’ve grown accustomed to the high prices and lousy...

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Posted October 16, 2019 by lgonzalez

Even though there are more than 140 municipalities and counties that have voted to reclaim local telecommunications authority from the state, the City and County of Denver, Colorado, has put off such a referendum. 2020, however, may be the year that the metropolitan region votes to shed themselves of the harmful restrictions of SB 152.

Councilman Paul Kashmann announced earlier this month that he supports the city taking the question to the voters, like so many other local leaders have already done in Colorado. He suggests putting it on the 2020 ballot. At a policy committee on October 9th, Kashmann told his colleagues:

“Make no mistake that the Internet is much more than Netflix and Facebook and Twitter and Minecraft and the like,” Kashmann said. “The Internet is truly … the library of the 21st century. It’s the entry point into the world of information in the same way as our traditional brick-and-mortar libraries have been for centuries.”

logo-denver-public-library.png Comcast and Centurylink provide Internet access to the community of around 620,000 people. Even though the large corporate providers tend to concentrate their investments in urban areas like Denver, the issue of affordability still keeps many urban dwellers on the wrong side of the digital divide. 

The Denver Public Library lends out between 115 - 120 mobile hotspots and the wait list can extend as long as 200 names at a time. Libraries from which the hotspots are most often borrowed tend to be in areas where fewer people have home Internet access. The library estimates that approximately 20 percent of the city’s residents aren’t connecting at home.

Kashmann stated that he’s anticipating pushback from incumbent Internet access providers. He looks on the measure as in the same light as any other necessary utility:

“Try to imagine if you needed a drink of water and you had to go to the library to get that drink of water, or...

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Posted September 26, 2019 by lgonzalez

This November, voters in Easthampton, Massachusetts, will have the chance to grant the city the authority to establish a municipal light plant (MLP). If they pass the ballot measure, the community will legally be able to develop a publicly owned network. Passage doesn't gurantee Easthampton will take the next step and deploy a network, but the community has been researching options to better understand which direction is right for them if they decide to move forward.

Creating the MLP

In keeping with state law, communities in Massachusetts must form an MLP to manage municipal utilities and municipal broadband service. The Easthampton City Council voted twice over the past two fiscal years to approve an MLP, which then allowed the issue to be put on the ballot for voters.

Establishing the MLP doesn’t mean that the city will launch a network, but gives the community the necessary entity to manage it in the future, should they decide to do so. The MLP can also eventually offer other municipal utilities, such as electricity or gas.

Sharing Findings

At a September 11th public hearing, members of the Telecommunications Advisory Committee presented results of a local survey and shared their research. The committee formed in 2018, and began investigating the connectivity situation in Easthampton, possible community network models, and examples from other communities to be prepared if the issue moves forward.

Charter/Spectrum serves most of the community with cable Internet access and Verizon provides DSL in additional areas. According to Council Member Thomas Peake, who is also on the committee, there is little service area overlap between the two companies. The lack of competition from the private sector and resulting dissatisfaction from subscribers — rated an average of 2.94 out of 5 on the survey — prompted Easthampton to look into a publicly owned option.

logo-easthampton-ma.png Price, reliability, and speed were top priorities for survey respondents. Less than 30 percent had never experienced outages and more than 25 percent indicated that they experience outages multiple times per week. Almost 75 percent have or would...

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Posted April 8, 2019 by lgonzalez

After a citizen effort in Holyoke, Massachusetts, community leaders will let voters decide this fall on the question of analyzing Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) possibilities. 

At the April 4th city council meeting, community leaders passed a recommendation that a nonbinding public opinion advisory question be put on the ballot in November:

Should the Holyoke Gas and Electric conduct a feasibility study on a gradual roll out of fiber optic internet for residents of the City to purchase, and the findings be presented at a City Council meeting by April 2022 or sooner?

There was one Councilor absent and one nonparticipating member of the Council; the measure passed 7 - 4.

First Stop in Committee

The decision to bring the question to voters came after the city’s Charter and Rules Committee reviewed a citizens’ petition in mid-March. A group of citizen gathered signatures for the petition to ask Holyoke Gas & Electric (HG&E) to conduct a feasibility for an incremental deployment for residential premises in Holyoke. HG&E currently offers fiber connectivity to commercial subscribers. 

Resident Laura Clampitt appeared at the committee meeting to speak in favor of the measure. She and another local resident, Ken Lefbvre, have lead efforts encouraging city leaders to move toward a feasibility study. Locals have shared information via a Facebook page to keep the public up-to-date on the proposal:

“These residents would love to purchase those services as well,” Clampitt said. “We would like to encourage HG&E to explore that option and present those findings in a public manner."

“We’ve seen the figures for the full rollout, $20 million or so. We understand that’s...

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Posted August 14, 2018 by lgonzalez

Local fall referendums are still a few months away, but at least four additional Colorado communities have decided to put local broadband authority on the ballot. In addition to AuroraCañon City, and Florence, Fremont County will ask voters to opt out of SB 152.

In 2005, Colorado's state legislature passed the bill, removing local communities' authority to take steps to use publicly owned infrastructure to offer telecommunications services either directly or with a private sector partner. The law, however, allows communities to hold a referendum so voters can choose to "opt out" as a way to reclaim that authority. Over the past several years, cities, towns, and counties by the dozen have overwhelmingly passed measures to opt out. Some have a specific plan in place to develop networks, while others want to preserve the option. Each fall and spring, more communities put the issue on the ballot.

Florence

We spoke with City Clerk Dena Lozano in the small town of Florence who confirmed that voters there will be deciding the issue in November. With less than 3,900 people in Florence, almost 40 percent of residents work in either education or public administration. The town began as a transportation center at the base of the Rocky Mountains; three railroads that transported coal converged there. Later, the town became known as the first oil center west of the Mississippi.

Today, the town has a downtown antique market and has worked on nurturing its culinary dictrict. They've also established an Urban Renewal Authority to help keep their town center on a positive track. Within their 2017 Master Plan, Florence leaders tackle their wish to allow the art and business communities to grow while still maintaining the small town charm that keeps many residents in Florence.

Cañon City

logo-canon-city.jpg In August, the rural community’s city council voted to present the option to...

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Posted May 8, 2018 by lgonzalez

Community leaders in Hudson, Ohio, are likely to ask voters this fall to approve bonding to expand their municipal fiber optic network, Velocity Broadband. At their last City Council meeting, the members heard the first of three readings for a resolution to propose bringing the question to voters.

Read the resolution here.

Time for Residential Service?

The network currently offers high-quality connectivity to local businesses, but according to city spokesperson Jody Roberts, it’s time to take the infrastructure into residential neighborhoods, which was always part of Hudson’s vision. At the May 1st council meeting, Roberts also said that Velocity is now operating in the black, which means now is a good time to take  gigabit connectivity to residents.

Hudson is like many other small cities, in that large national providers don’t see a justification for investing in fiber in non-urban residential areas. With a population of around 24,000, the community needs to remain competitive. Hudson began with fiber optic infrastructure to municipal facilities, which they built out incrementally over a period of about ten years. By 2015, they had started offering gigabit service to businesses, which have embraced the faster, more reliable service. By the fall of 2016, they were ready to issue an RFP for a feasibility study to examine a citywide Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network.

Broadband access is now viewed as a necessary service, rather than a luxury. Like in increasing number of communities, Hudson’s proposal will ask the voters to fund the infrastructure with a slight increase in property taxes. Similar to projects in Lyndon Township and Sharon Township, both in Michigan, Hudson proposes to use a property tax levy to...

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Posted February 21, 2018 by lgonzalez

Spring will be here before we know it. So will local spring action at the voting booth, which for the past several years has meant that communities in Colorado will ask voters to reclaim local telecommunications authority. This year, the folks in Firestone will address the issue on April 3rd.

The Pursuit Of Better Broadband Goes On

Back in 2015, the town located about 30 miles north of Denver commissioned a feasibility study to examine the status of connectivity in the community and provide recommendations moving forward. Being located so close to a large urban center, Firestone has experienced growth which promises to continue. Between the years 2000 and 2010, population jumped from around 2,000 to more than 10,000. Growth is a good thing, but community leaders want to have connectivity to match, so businesses and economic development progresses in a desired direction.

According to the Times Call, consultants who developed the 2015 feasibility study focused on smart city applications for a publicly owned network. The firm also suggested the city pursue a public-private partnership, but before they can pursue that option or provide services themselves, voters need to opt out of SB 152.

At a Board of Trustees meeting in January, Members voted unanimously to put the issue on the spring ballot. 

Cities Reclaim Authority

Like more than one hundred communities before them, Firestone is asking voters to decide whether or not to reclaim local authority after the state legislature took it away in 2005. Lobbyists from the big telephone and cable corporations championed SB 152 in order to limit competition by preventing municipal and local governments from providing advanced services, including Internet access, to the general public. An escape clause was added at the eleventh hour which allows local communities to opt out through local referendums.

Since 2008, an increasing number of Colorado communities have held referendums and while some of them have developed and executed plans for municipal networks, such as...

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Posted October 23, 2017 by Matthew Marcus

This November, more Colorado towns and counties will be voting on whether to opt out of the 12-year-old SB 152, a state law that restricts broadband development. 

Sweeping Out the Old

Senate Bill 152 has hindered communities’ ability to invest in Internet infrastructure and provide service themselves or with private sector partners. Many communities are realizing that national carriers can’t be relied on to provide high-quality Internet access. To date, at least 98 communities across the state of Colorado have voted to reclaim local telecommunications authority by opting out of SB 152; a handful are considering actually pursuing a publicly owned network. 

Opening the Door for Options 

For some towns and counties, the ballot question is simply a way to keep their options open and to reclaim local authority that the state took away in 2005. As we’ve seen in Westminister, Maryland, public-private partnerships can be a great option for communities. Being out from under SB 152 will allow these municipalities to explore high-quality network options if the opportunity arises. Additionally, when towns give themselves the ability to explore new providers and different models, current ISPs tend to take notice and adapt accordingly. Beyond these options and ripple effects from shedding SB 152, some towns simply want autonomy and freedom from sweeping state regulation. 

In Eagle County, they recognize climbing out from under SB 152 will allow them to consider more substantial steps for taking back local power and implementing a high-speed network. They’ve yet to conduct any feasibility studies but in their yearly Legislative Policy Statement they made it clear that they’re motivated to improve connectivity. 

Ushering in the New 

The town of Greeley is moving more decisively. Ahead of the November election and vote on SB 152,...

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Posted October 2, 2017 by Matthew Marcus

The Fort Collins’ ballot measure that could amend the City Charter allowing high-speed Internet to become a municipal utility moves forward after a short legal scuffle. The question will be decided at the November 7th special election.

Failed Legal Petition

After the language of the ballot question was released following approval by City Hall, local activist Eric Sutherland filed a petition with Larimer County. Sutherland — well known for his numerous petitions wagered against the city, county and school district— claimed that the language “failed to consider the public confusion that might be caused by misleading language”. Sutherland also insisted the proposed City Charter Amendment isn’t legal under the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights (TABOR) amendment to the State Constitution. TABOR requires local governments to get voter approval to raise tax rates or spend revenue collected under existing tax rates. 

Attorneys representing the city of Fort Collins rejected Sutherland’s claims and maintained that the amendment isn’t covered by TABOR. A utility does not require voter approval to issue debt because it is legally defined as an enterprise, a government-owned business. Moreover, Fort Collins Chief Financial Officer Mike Beckstead testified that the bonds would be backed by utility ratepayers, not tax revenue. City Council explained in a statement that they included the $150 million-dollar figure in the ballot language in an effort to maintain transparency and show the level of commitment a broadband utility could require from the municipality. By including the dollar amount in the ballot language, the Charter would also establish a limit on any debt.

District Court Judge Thomas French issued his ruling on Sept. 4th, dismissing Sutherland's arguments regarding TABOR and explained that “there are no legal grounds to cause the submission clause to be rewritten” and finally that “...

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Posted August 16, 2017 by lgonzalez

In a record high turnout for a non-general election, voters in Lyndon Township, Michigan, decided to approve a bond proposal to fund a publicly owned Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network. The measure passed with 66 percent of voters (622 votes) choosing yes and 34 percent (321 votes) voting no.

Geographically Close, Technologically Distant

The community is located only 20 minutes away from Ann Arbor, home to the University of Michigan and the sixth largest city in the state, but many of the Township’s residents must rely on satellite for Internet access. Residents and business owners complain about slow service, data caps, and the fact that they must pay high rates for inadequate Internet service. Residents avoid software updates from home and typically travel to the library in nearby Chelsea to work in the evening or to complete school homework assignments.

Lyndon Township Supervisor Marc Keezer has reached out to ISPs and asked them to invest in the community, but none consider it a worthwhile investment. Approximately 80 percent of the community has no access to FCC-defined broadband speeds of 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) download and 3 Mbps upload.

“We don’t particularly want to build a network in our township. We would rather it be privatized and be like everybody else,” Keezer said. “But that’s not a reality for us here.”

When local officials unanimously approved feasibility study funding about a year ago, citizens attending the meeting responded to their vote with applause

A Little From Locals Goes A Long Way

The community will finance their $7 million project with a 2.9 millage over the next 20-years, which amounts to a $2.91 property tax increase per $1,000 of taxable value of real property. Average cost per property owner will come to $21.92 per month for the infrastructure. Basic Internet access will cost $35 - 45 per month for 100 Mbps; speeds will likely be symmetrical. They estimate the combined cost of infrastructure millage and monthly fee for basic service will be $57 - 67...

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