Tag: "community broadband"

Posted June 30, 2020 by christopher

After many years working to promote community networks, we here at Community Broadband Networks (CBN) want to lay out our broader vision of a better connected country. As an initiative of the national research and advocacy nonprofit Institute for Local Self-Reliance, we work with a diverse group of allies, partners, and local communities on policies to improve local Internet access. We also research and document what communities around the country are doing to improve access to high-quality broadband networks.

We hope this vision pulls together all we've done and continue to do, and provides a framework for understanding our worldview. See our full vision. Here are some excerpts: 

We believe community-led broadband is the best option for promoting economic prosperity, improving quality of life, and ensuring access for everyone across income and background.

We have concerns about the long-term local control of huge companies due to strong pressure from Wall Street and large financial institutions to consolidate, resulting in less local accountability. Municipal and cooperative networks have proven resilient against concentration pressures, remaining locally-rooted in many contexts.

We support competition and choice wherever possible. The optimal solution is not one great network but rather a series of overlapping networks, much like the Internet itself.

We do not want to run private Internet service providers out of business. We believe an ideal solution is to have a municipal or cooperative open access network that is competing with at least one other physical network in which all premises can choose between at least those two. 

We believe communities should embrace solutions that fit with local culture rather than simply trying to import a model that worked well elsewhere.

If you're interested in more, listen to the Community Broadband Bits Podcast, or sign up for our newsletter. Don't forget to check out the wonderful work being done at the other initiatives of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance: Energy, Waste to Wealth,...

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Posted May 13, 2020 by Katie Kienbaum

Yesterday, the Transnational Institute (TNI) released The Future Is Public, a book that explores international municipalization efforts and the benefits of public ownership. In addition to tracking the successful transition of water, waste, energy, and other essential services to public ownership in hundreds of communities, the book describes how local governments in the United States have increasingly invested in municipal broadband networks.

Chapter 9, “United States: Communities providing affordable, fast broadband Internet” [pdf], analyzes the significant growth of publicly owned broadband networks across the country. The co-authors Thomas M. Hanna, Research Director at the Democracy Collective, and Christopher Mitchell, Director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance’s Community Broadband Network initiative, explain in the chapter:

In the United States, one of the fastest growing areas of municipalisation and local public ownership is high-speed broadband Internet networks. This is due, in part, to the failure of the highly concentrated, corporate-dominated telecommunications sector to provide fast and affordable service in many parts of the country – especially rural areas, smaller towns and cities, and communities with low levels of income and economic development.

Download The Future is Public and the chapter on municipal broadband on TNI’s website.

Municipal Broadband’s “Proven Track Record”

Tens of millions of Americans still don’t have access to broadband, and Hanna and Mitchell point to telecom monopolies as the reason for the disparity. “A corporate oligopoly in the telecommunications sector is a major reason why wide swathes of the country (both geographically and socioeconomically) are left with inferior or unaffordable service,” they argue.

As case studies, the chapter features several local governments that have responded to inadequate connectivity by building their own fiber optic networks to connect residents and businesses, including Wilson, North Carolina; Chattanooga, Tennessee; and...

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Posted February 4, 2019 by Jess Del Fiacco

Last week, community leaders, local ISPs, residents, and policy experts gathered in three North Carolina communities — Albemarle, Fuquay-Varina, and Jacksonville — for a conversation about improving local connectivity. The Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR), the North Carolina League of Municipalities (NCLM), and NC Hearts Gigabit organized this series of broadband meetings, called Let’s Connect, which aimed to spark conversations about the need for better broadband access and potential solutions for the region.

Each meeting opened with a welcome from local municipal leaders, followed by a presentation from Chris Mitchell, Director of ILSR’s Community Broadband Networks initiative, and a panel discussion between local leaders and innovative ISPs. Panelists talked about the need for better broadband to support everything from economic development to agriculture to health care, and why it’s necessary to bring all voices to the table in order to solve this issue. Mitchell noted:

“We electrified the country with private investment, municipal investment, and cooperative investment. That's what we'll need to bring Internet access to everyone." 

lets-connect-panel-1.jpg

One of the biggest takeaways was the need for the North Carolina state government to more explicitly authorize public-private partnerships, which would allow municipalities to invest in broadband infrastructure and then lease it to private companies that provide service. 

At the end of each night, attendees were invited to ask questions and share their stories about the need for better connectivity. One local resident shared his frustration that his family’s only option for Internet access is satellite while his neighbor has broadband, illustrating the inconsistency of broadband access in the state. All North Carolinians deserve affordable, reliable, high-quality Internet access, and it’s our hope that the conversations that began at these...

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Posted June 29, 2018 by lgonzalez

A new video from Foresite Group describes the benefits and potentials of publicly owned open access networks. The company describes how a hypothetical rural town could use an open access network to provide better connectivity for residents and businesses and develop a revenue stream.

Check out this short video and take a few minutes to review our resources on publicly owned open access networks.

Municipal Owned Open Access Networks from Foresite Group, Inc. on Vimeo.

Posted March 30, 2018 by lgonzalez

A new report from the American Civil Liberties Union (ALU) examines municipal networks as a way to protect network neutrality and privacy, and to improve local access to broadband. The report, titled The Public Internet Option, offers information on publicly owned networks and some of the most common models. The authors also address how community networks are better positioned to preserve privacy, bring equitable Internet access across the community, and honor free speech. There are also suggestions on ways to begin a local community network initiative.

Read the full report.

Preserving Online Expectations

The ACLU report dives into the changes the current FCC have made that have created an online environment hostile toward preserving privacy and innovation. When FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and the Republican Commissioners chose to repeal federal network neutrality protections, they handed a obscene amount of power to already overly-powerful corporate ISPs. Ever since that decision, local communities have been looking for alternatives.

Authors of the report describe the ways local communities are using their existing assets and investing in more infrastructure in order to either offer connectivity themselves or work with private sector partners. In addition to having the ability to require network neutrality from partners, communities with their own infrastructure are able to take measures to protect subscribers’ data and implement other privacy protections. The current administration removed privacy protections for subscribers in 2017.

The ACLU offers best practices that rely on three main principles:

1. High-speed broadband must be accessible and affordable for all.

2. Community broadband services must protect free speech. 

3. Community broadband services must protect privacy.

Within each principle, the report offers specific information and considerations. As we would expect from the ACLU, they cover the...

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Posted April 2, 2017 by lgonzalez

 

Take a minute to learn just a few of the reasons why local communities invest in publicly owned networks. Our short 2012 video is a great way to share information about community networks - there can be other options beyond big cable and DSL providers.

 

 


Posted March 25, 2017 by htrostle

Update: Traverse City, Michigan, took home the prize as 2017 #StrongestTown. Congrats to Traverse City!

Keeping with the spirit of March Madness, the nonprofit StrongTowns ran the second annual #StrongestTown contest based on the nonprofit’s Strength Test and Principles. Of the 16 communities that participated, almost a third have been featured on MuniNetworks.org for their Internet infrastructure plans: Ellsworth, Maine; Lafayette, Louisiana; Traverse City, Michigan; and Valparaiso, Indiana.

These five communities have battled their way forward against steep competition. Through articles and podcasts on Strong Towns, they tried to showcase how their residents are active in their communities and committed to change at the local level. All five overcame the initial rounds, and Traverse, City, Michigan made it to the final round against the Canadian city of Guelph. The winner will be announced Monday, March 27th on the contest page.

Community Networks Support Vibrant Towns

It comes as no surprise to us that these communities would be in the running for #StrongestTown. Building a community network takes public support and a realistic look at financials. Publicly owned networks encourage job creation, improve healthcare, and connect low-income residents. The towns that made the cut took different approaches to better connectivity. 

Lafayette, Louisiana’s fiber network follows a classic model: it’s a city-run utility serving both homes and businesses...

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Posted January 9, 2017 by htrostle

Commissioner Mignon Clyburn at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released a draft of the #Solutions2020 Call to Action Plan and is seeking comments. The plan points to policies to make the communications sector work for everyone.

The #Solutions2020 Call to Action Plan is available here on the FCC website. Public comments are due by January 11, 2017.

What’s In It

The current draft provides policy recommendations that cover almost the entire scope of the communications sector. Here are a few highlights to give you a hint of what’s inside:

  • Reforming Inmate Calling Services by establishing reasonable rates
  • Improving gender and racial diversity in the tech and broadcasting industries 
  • Affirming local control and the role of community networks
  • Supporting the FCC’s Office of Native Affairs

Each goal is further broken down into specific policy recommendations. Although touching on many subjects, the plan is only 11 pages long. 

Proposals From the Policy Forum

This draft came out of Commissioner Clyburn’s #ConnectingCommunities tour and subsequent #Solutions2020 Policy Forum. Throughout the tour and at the policy forum, local leaders and stakeholders were able to speak directly about their needs in the community and their ideas for potential solutions. This #Solutions2020 Call to Action Plan gathers all of these ideas into one document to guide policymakers moving forward.

The public comment deadline for the #Solutions2020 Call to Action Plan is January 11, 2017. Submit comments to solutions2020@fcc.gov. See the draft release for more details.

Posted May 23, 2016 by htrostle

Cedar Falls may be the Iowa city famous for its Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network, but that won’t stop Muscatine. This small city of approximately 29,000 people is about to upgrade its aging network. For a little over a year, the municipal utility, Muscatine Power and Water (MP&W), has planned for the move to FTTH with funding from an interdepartmental loan. Now, FTTH is coming to Muscatine's MachLink Internet access service.

MP&W expects to break ground this year on this $8.7 million FTTH project and to finish building the network in 2017. Fiber will offer speeds much faster than those available on the existing hybrid fiber-coax (HFC) network. In anticipation, MP&W is increasing speeds for subcribers without raising rates.

More than a Year in the Making

The local newspaper, the Muscatine Journal, has closely followed the story. In late November 2014, MP&W announced the planned FTTH upgrade. MP&W is taking a slow and steady approach and planning to complete the upgrade in 2017. The latest Muscatine Journal article from this March emphasized how the large infrastructure project has many "interlocking" pieces that must fit together to make the project successful.

As we reported when MP&W announced the upgrade in 2014, a FTTH network will achieve immediate goals and help achieve a number of benefits. MP&W wants to improve residential services, reduce maintenance costs, and increase network reliability. Upgrading to FTTH will also contribute to long-term goals, such as encouraging economic development. Fiber is a future-proof technology, adapting to the increasing need for bandwidth from households, businesses, and institutions. MachLink will offer speeds of up to a Gigabit (1,000 Megabits) per second.

Outperforming Expectations

In the spirit of community, MP&W is increasing speeds without raising rates. MP&W announced that current customers will get twice the speed for no additional charge. Current MachLink subscribers with the fastest tier receive 100 Megabits per second (Mbps) download which will double, but Gigabit...

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Posted April 26, 2016 by ternste

The East Central Vermont Community Fiber-Optic Network (ECFiber), a 235-mile Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network that currently connects over 1,200 customers across 24 small towns in east central Vermont, is doing well. It’s doing so well, in fact, that a capital investment group will commit $9 million in long-term financing to the network, a loan that will allow ECFiber to expand and spend down some of its existing debt. 

ECFiber announced last month, that it will use about half of the funds to activate 110 miles of existing fiber this year and add 250 more miles of fiber in 2017 bringing the network to approximately 600 miles. Network officials will use the remaining funds to pay down $7 million in debt; the move will allow ECFiber to save money through reduced interest rates and spread out loan payments over a longer period of time.

Stability Begets New Financing, New Possibilities

The news of this new injection of debt financing comes several years after the original plan to build a larger 1,900-mile, $90 million FTTH network ultimately didn’t materialize in the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2008. When ECFiber failed to secure debt financing for that larger plan, the network scaled back its ambitions, turning to direct investments and raising $7 million from 479 local investors to construct the current network.

This self-financing strategy (for more, listen to our Chris interview Carole Monroe, former General Manager in Community Broadband Bits podcast #177) made ECFiber a reality. This new financing will allow the network to expand at a faster pace and allows ECFiber to significantly stretch its footprint. In the past, the crowd funding approach allowed for targeted, smaller expansions.

The network became eligible for the new debt financing after ECFiber officials took proactive steps in recent years to demonstrate the...

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