Tag: "blair levin"

Posted July 23, 2019 by lgonzalez

The Sprint / T-Mobile merger has been in process for about a year now, with a series of odd, dramatic twists and turns. Recently, a group of state attorneys general sued to stop the transaction. This week, Christopher talks with telecom policy experts Gigi Sohn and Blair Levin to get their takes on the whole affair.

We originally recorded the interviews for the Institute for Local Self-Reliance’s Building Local Power podcast, but decided that we needed to share them with the Community Broadband Bits audience. Gigi Sohn is a Distinguished Fellow at the Georgetown Law Institute for Technology Law & Policy and Blair Levin is a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institute. Both have been on the show before. You'll also hear Hibba Meraay, our Communications Manager, give Christopher a hand.

During their conversation, Christopher and his guests discuss how the T-Mobile and Sprint merger will likely end in higher rates, affecting low-income subscribers the most. They talk about the history of the companies' roles in the industry and how this merger, if it goes through, will shift the field. They also look back on precedent that provides a guidepost for blocking this merger, and compare the attitudes Wall Street and Washington take toward mergers.

You can download the report mentioned in the podcast, Cooperatives Fiberize Rural America: A Trusted Model for the Internet Era [PDF], here.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

This show is 50 minutes long and can be played on this...

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Posted September 27, 2018 by lgonzalez

On September 26th, Republican FCC Commissioners adopted an Order that usurps local control and, in keeping with this administration’s prior policy decisions, strengthens the power of the largest companies, obtaining nothing in return.

Bad Reasoning

At issue are local governments’ ability to determine the amount of fees to charge mobile carriers that want to place 5G equipment in rights-of-way. In addition to establishing fees, the Order sets strict timelines in which cities and towns must respond to carrier applications. The FCC decision eliminates local communities’ ability to negotiate in order to protect their own rights-of-way and the poles, traffic lights, and other potential structures in them.

To back up their decision to adopt the new policy, the Republican controlled FCC relied on the incorrect claims that application and attachment fees in larger communities are so excessive that they create a burden which prevents carriers from investing in rural communities. Former FCC Chief of Staff and one of the architects of the 2010 National Broadband Plan Blair Levin echoed the thoughts of policy analysts and thought leaders in telecommunications:

"[E]ven if one accepts the FCC claim about the $2.5 billion—which is highly questionable—that amount is about one percent of what the FCC and industry claim is the necessary new investment needed for next-generation network deployments and, therefore, is not likely to have a significant impact," he wrote.

The FCC does not require mobile carriers to commit to expanded coverage in smaller communities within the Order. Next Century Cities describes the situation in a press release:

These low fees would create a de facto public subsidization of industry investment. … The FCC is just giving private wireless companies all of the benefits of a utility without any traditional public interest obligations.

FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, who has continued to oppose the Order, described the giveaway:

"Comb through...

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Posted August 2, 2018 by lgonzalez

If you couldn’t make it to Pittsburgh for “Making Connections” with Next Century Cities in July, you can still almost be there. The Internet Society has now archived the video footage of the event — speeches and panels — and made them available online.

Among the videos, we recommend Blair Levin’s keynote and the panel moderated by our Christopher Mitchell. In Blair’s speech he speaks about the importance of local authority as communities across the U.S. try to find the best way to deploy high-quality Internet access. Blair’s speech focuses on how smart cities and smart policy depend on learning and how the FCC’s Broadband Deployment Advisory Council (BDAC) is earning a failing grade. Through its imbalance in membership, misconceptions about the power of the telecommunications industry, and inability to negotiate properly it's placing too much power in the hands of already powerful ISPs.

The results won’t bring broadband to those who need it, won't facilitate smart city technologies, and seems designed only to confirm what they want to believe, which is that local communities should not have control over their own connectivity solutions. 

You can check out all the videos from the event here.

Read the text of the speech or watch video of Blair’s speech and the panel that follows:

Posted June 18, 2018 by lgonzalez

The Next Century Cities’ Regional Broadband Summit is quickly approaching. Summer tends to slip by without notice, but we don’t want this summer opportunity to also slip by. You can still register for the July 23 - 24 event in Pittsburgh, “Making Connections,” and touch base with elected officials from cities, towns, and counties from across the U.S. Municipal, nonprofit, and academic staff can register for free.

Monday’s Summit

On Monday, Next Centuries Cities will bring together experts in policy, broadband champions, and community leaders from all levels of government to tackle issues surrounding broadband deployment. Some of the topics they will discuss include digital equity, financing, rural connectivity, 5G, and they’ll offer success stories.

In addition to Christopher, you can expect to see presentations by:

Blair Levin, Senior Fellow from the Brookings Institution will provide the Keynote Address. Check out the agenda to see more about panel discussions and breakout sessions.

On Monday evening, attendees are invited to a welcome reception in Pittsburgh City Hall where vendors and public officials can connect in a casual setting.

Tuesday’s Speed Networking

On Tuesday, the event will focus on the Second Annual City-Vendor Connect, a “speed networking” event in which participants can speak to each other individually:

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Posted May 24, 2018 by lgonzalez

Is it summer already? If you aren’t already booked for July, Pittsburgh awaits. Next Century Cities is hosting Making Connections: A Regional Broadband Summit that will bring together experts, leaders, and champions from federal, state, and local government. Register here to sign up for the two-day event.

All-Star Lineup

In addition to our Christopher Mitchell, you will hear speakers such as:

Blair Levin, Senior Fellow from the Brookings Institution and one of people who have helped establish a vision for universal broadband in the U.S., will deliver the Keynote Address.

On July 23rd, listen to several panel presentations on successful models for deployment, digital equity, and financing. You’ll also have the chance to network with colleagues and participate in breakout sessions. There will be a Welcome Reception that evening at City Hall.

Tuesday, July 24th, will be dedicated to networking to bring communities and vendors together:

City-Vendor Connect will be set up in a “speed networking” format, to provide cities and vendors the opportunity to speak one-on-one to build relationships, discuss assets and needs, and create potential partnerships. The pairings of cities and vendors will be curated based on mutual interest, needs, and priorities between cities and vendors. Possible discussion topics range from fiber builds to 5G deployments to smart city analytics platforms. Cities and vendors will have the...

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Posted May 4, 2018 by lgonzalez

At this year's Broadband Communities Summit in Austin, Texas, the Coalition for Local Internet Choice (CLIC) hosted a special program on April 30th. As part of the program, Blair Levin presented the keynote address. His comments focused on the process used by the FCC's Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee (BDAC) as they examine connectivity in the U.S. and make recommendations on the best ways to expand deployment.

Levin is a strong, open minded advocate for universal broadband access. He's currently Non-Resident Senior Fellow from the Metropolitan Policy Project at the Brookings Institution, but he's also Executive Director of GigU and advises both private and public organizations. Levin has held past stints at the Aspen Institute and the FCC where he oversaw the development of the National Broadband Plan; he's filled many other roles throughout his career. Levin's many years in public, private, and academic sectors have given him experience and an understanding of a wide range of challenges. He’s also obtained a keen insight into possible outcomes. In his keynote address, Levin predicted that the current BDAC process needs to be improved or wealth will find its way to private enterprises with nothing to gain for the public.

In his speech, Levin noted his own experiences with both local and federal governments and that the former were typically “responsive, pro-active, effective and respected in building communities that improve the lives of their residents.” He goes on to state that he believes that local governments need more authority and freedom if we are to move the country forward.

Levin believes that the BDAC is a good idea — bringing multiple stakeholders in the conversation on how we can deploy broadband faster in the U.S. After all, whether we rely more on wireless solutions or FTTP, we need to deploy more fiber and do it faster and more efficiently. He also believes that it’s important to achieve a balance when considering best practices due to the intimidating economics of network deployment. He also goes on to note that there has been some value achieved from BDAC, including the recommendation that states adopt one touch make ready policies.

In his speech, Levin addressed in detail what he...

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Posted June 18, 2017 by lgonzalez

In May, experts gathered in Keystone, Colorado, for the annual Mountain Connect conference. If you weren’t able to make it, select video presentations and panel discussions were streamed via Periscope. Now those videos are archived and ready for you to watch online.

Be sure to check out the Lunch Keynote Panel. The conversation titled "Broadband Policy is Lost in the Woods" included discussion from Christopher Mitchell and Blair Levin from the Brookings Institute; Silicon Flatirons’ Phil Weiser moderated.

While Christopher was there, he also interviewed several guests for the Community Broadband Bits podcast, including Coleman Keane from Chattanooga and Deeply Digital's Doug Seacat

View the discussions from the conference here.

Posted May 22, 2017 by lgonzalez

Spring is the season for Mountain Connect. This year, it’s all about Building Sustainable Communities through Smart Networks; the event starts today and runs through May 24th in Keystone, Colorado. 

Christopher will be participating in a panel on Tuesday at 12:15 p.m. The title of the discussion is “Broadband Policy Lost In The Woods,” and speaking with Christopher will be Blair Levin from the Brookings Institute. Phil Weiser from Silicon Flatirons will moderate.

Can make it? You can still follow the action at the conference via @MountainConnect and @CommunityNets. There will be Periscope broadcasts of some of the panel discussions throughout the conference.

Some of the other topics will include:

  • Navigating Rights of Way and Pole Attachment Agreements
  • Intelligent Transportation Systems
  • Wireless Considerations
  • Smart Utilities
  • Evolution and Impact of Over the Top Content
  • Digital Government Services
  • How can we Partner with our Incumbent Providers
  • Navigating Financing Options

View the full agenda online.

Posted December 2, 2016 by htrostle

While New York's Governor Andrew Cuomo focuses on improving Internet access in rural areas upstate, Westchester County is finding its own path to next-generation connectivity.

The county's largest cities are partnering with the county association to bring high-speed Internet access to every household, businesses, healthcare facilities, and educational organizations in the next three to five years. 

Four Cities Together

In early October, the Westchester County Association and the cities of Mount Vernon, New Rochelle, White Plains, and Yonkers announced the formation of the Smart Growth Gigabit initiative. The cities entered into the “Smart City ComPACT” to collectively apply for funding, collaborate on innovation districts, and develop joint legislative agendas. 

The cities are considering a Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) project to provide Gigabit (1,000 Megabits per second) connectivity necessary for telemedicine, digital learning, and economic development. Officials estimate the project will cost about $750 million, based on the costs of similar projects in communities with like populations (405,000 people total). The cities could own and build the network themselves or partner with a private provider; they have not yet decided on which model to pursue.

Smart Growth

The Gigabit Initiative is part of Westchester County Association’s Blueprint for Smart Growth plan. The association is assembling a steering committee of members from Westchester’s cities, healthcare, biotech, education, business, and nonprofit sectors. The collaboration has been described as a public private partnership because Westchester County Association is a private entity.

Westchester County has six cities and 19 towns, and is home to several large companies including the biotech company Regeneron and the technology company IBM. Several of the towns are also...

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Posted November 16, 2016 by Scott

At a recent WRAL TechWire event, former Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chief of staff Blair Levin urged North Carolina communities to seek a repeal of a state law that restricts local telecommunications authority, reports WRAL TechWire.

“When the new General Assembly returns to Raleigh, tell the assembly to tear down the law that prevents faster, cheaper broadband,” Levin said in a keynote address at the WRAL TechWire Executive Exchange in Wilson, N.C. Wilson's municipal Greenlight network is among the first in the nation to offer high-quality Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) Internet access.  

Currently, North Carolina law HB 129 prevents Wilson from expanding its Internet access service area beyond Wilson County and discourages other communities from investing in similar infrastructure. HB 129 was the subject of a legal battle when the city of Wilson (pop. 50,000) wanted to provide Internet access to neighboring Pinetops (pop. 1,400) and other communities beyond the limitations of the state law. They challenged the law, as did Chattanooga, which faced slightly different restrictions in Tennessee.

In February of 2015, the FCC ordered that Wilson could serve communities beyond the county borders, but both states appealed, challenging the agency's authority. The federal appeals court reversed that ruling in August 2016.

Under the provisions of the North Carolina law, Wilson could lose it's exemption to offer service at all, but by temporarily providing free telephone and Internet access to Pinetops, they protect their exemption. Two state legislators have vowed to take action and try to get the state law changed during the next legislative session.

Levin Praises Wilson...

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