Tag: "editorial"

Posted April 29, 2019 by lgonzalez

In mid-April, city leaders in Bozeman, Montana, passed Resolution No. 5031 to officially declare broadband essential infrastructure for the city. The declaration comports with the city’s long-term goal to bring high-quality connectivity throughout the community.

Read Resolution No. 5031 in its entirety here.

Pointing Out the Positives

In addition to describing the ways access to broadband has improved opportunities for residents and businesses, the language of the resolution lays out the steps Bozeman has already taken. In addition to establishing a planning initiative, the resolution describes their decision to adopt a master plan, and the creation of nonprofit Bozeman Fiber. The resolution also chronicles the city’s investment and urban renewal plan, which includes Bozeman Fiber, and the fact that broadband has become a contributing factor to the city’s social and economic health.

As part of the resolution, the City Commissioners include their next steps in order to advance citywide connectivity in Bozeman:

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the City of Bozeman will; 1) create and implement a conduit utility master plan and begin the transition for operating the conduit system as its own enterprise fund; 2) include a conduit design and construction standard as part of the City’s approved engineering standards; 3) maintain updated record drawings and GIS mapping of the City-owned conduit network; 4) consider the expansion of the existing City-owned fiber optic conduit network infrastructure when appropriate and when funding is available; 5) utilize conduit lease revenue for the purchase of additional public conduit; and 6) align conduit network expansion decisions with the City Budget and Capital Improvement Plans and planning processes.

Bangor, Maine, passed a similar resolution last summer. As communities make such formal declarations, they...

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Posted March 4, 2019 by lgonzalez

In recent years, North Carolina has become a legislative broadband battleground in the war to regain local telecommunications authority. This legislative session, support from Governor Roy Cooper, outspoken State Legislators, and North Carolina media may make an impact on state law.

Let's Fix This

In 2015, the FCC preempted restrictive state laws which set dire limitations on municipal network expansions, but the state chose to back telecom monopolies over citizens’ need for better connectivity. The state took the FCC to court and won, which meant North Carolina’s laws won’t allow places such as Wilson to help neighbor Pinetops with high-quality Internet access. In addition to preventing local community networks from expanding, requirements and regulations are so onerous, that the state law is a de facto ban on new networks.

Lawmakers such as Republican Rep. David Lewis has put broadband development among the top of their priorities list. In a letter to constituents, Lewis wrote:

High-speed Internet access has transitioned from a luxury to a necessity of our 21st-century economy...It is needed for economic growth in North Carolina, yet many rural communities throughout the state do not have access to broadband services because of their under-developed infrastructure.

In order to get fiber out to people across the state, governments — federal, state, county and local — should be able to invest in fiber infrastructure, and in turn, lease them to the service providers who sell access to the consumer. We have to do something so that the people of this state can be connected to our ever-evolving world.

Cooper, a Democrat, presented broadband deployment in rural areas at the top of his agenda during the State of the State Address. According to a WRAL.com report, both Republican and Democrats strongly supported the proposal with intense applause. The positive bipartisan reaction to his comments reveals that policy makers from both sides of the aisle recognize the critical nature of high-quality Internet access for their constituents.

Last year, the state developed the Growing Rural Economies and Access to Technology (GREAT) Program, which made $10...

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Posted December 10, 2018 by lgonzalez

During the February 2015 referendum, approximately 92 percent who voted on the measure, chose to opt out of SB 152 in Estes Park. The mountain town of 6,300 has experienced catastrophic outages dues to ice and flooding, including in 2016 and in 2013 when telecommunications were wiped out for days.

Estes Park has their own electric utility and is part of a regional public power initiative that involves the Platte River Power Authority (PRPA). As a result the town has a fair amount of publicly owned fiber optic infrastructure in place. City officials hired consultants to offer recommendations and by 2016 had entered a design engineering phase of a possible Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) initiative. Experts estimated the cost to connect the community to be around $30 million and recommended a retail model.

At their recent November meeting, members of the Board of Trustees unanimously voted to allow Estes Park staff to issue a Request for Proposals (RFP) to find broadband bond underwriters. To keep the momentum moving forward, the Trail Gazette published an editorial encouraging Estes Park leadership to continue the process and to bring better connectivity to the community:

…Estes Park needs more action and less discussion for greater access to information and global connectivity. No longer is accessible, fast and reliable broadband Internet a luxury; it is a necessity in our digital world.

Editors stressed that Longmont, Fort Collins, and Loveland have either deployed or are in the process of creating gigabit networks and that Estes Park will be left behind in many ways if forced to depend on the same slow, unreliable Internet access that has left them stranded in the past.

Estes Park, where tourism and the service industry drive the...

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Posted May 9, 2018 by lgonzalez

Approximately 20 U.S. states have some form of legal restriction that creates barriers when local communities want to develop publicly owned Internet infrastructure. In North Carolina, where the state experiences a severe rural/urban digital divide, people are fed up with poor service from influential telephone and cable companies. Folks like Ned Barnett, Opinion Editor from the News & Observer, are calling on elected officials to remove the state’s restriction so local governments can do all they can for better connectivity.

Things Must Change

Barnett’s recent editorial begins out of frustration as he describes how unreliable Internet access forced him to take pen to paper. His own connection prevented him from tending to emails, doing online research, and his phone service also suffered due to momentary loss of connectivity at his office. He goes on to consider how the annoying but temporary inconvenience to him is a way of life for many in rural areas of his state.

While North Carolina has many of the same challenges as other states in getting rural folks online — lack of interest from national ISPs, challenging geography that complicates deployment — Barnett correctly zeroes in on the state’s restrictive HB 129. The law prevents communities with existing broadband infrastructure from expanding to neighboring communities and puts requirements in place that are so onerous, they make it all but impossible for communities considering similar investments to move forward.

Barnett rightly points out that the true purpose of the law was to protect national ISPs from competition, securing their position as monopolies and duopolies. He describes the problems with the state's approach and what North Carolinians have faced in the aftermath:

For one, Internet access isn't a consumer product. It's as basic as access to a phone, electricity or indoor plumbing. Secondly, there isn't any real competition involved. Rural areas often are limited to one provider offering slow access.

The Problem is Real

People familiar with the situation in North Carolina typically know the story of Wilson and Pinetops. When the FCC preempted HB 129 in 2015, Wilson expanded its municipal fiber optic...

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Posted April 2, 2018 by lgonzalez

The application window for the Connect America Fund (CAF) II Auction recently closed among debate about eligibility criteria. A recent editorial from the WVNews, where multiple counties were hit hard by flawed FCC data, urged their federal elected officials to act before rural residents lose more funding opportunities.

Wha’ Happened?

As multiple experts have shown, the Form FCC data collection uses an overly broad measurement by relying on census blocks to show areas with broadband service. The FCC has admitted that their methodology overstates who does or does not have FCC defined broadband speeds of 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) download and 3 Mbps upload. This year, seven West Virginia counties that hoped to access CAF II funding have been deemed ineligible because the new FCC Form 477 data indicates that each county has 100 percent broadband access.

Folks in the region are reasonably confused, concerned, and upset. In 2015, the FCC’s data indicated that these same areas were underserved and there have been no deployments to cause such a seismic change.

The editors at the WVNews noted that the chairman of the West Virginia Broadband Enhancement Council described the new FCC determination as “not even close to being correct” and that he had predicted there might be difficulty obtaining CAF II funding.

The president of a local fixed wireless provider offered a useful analogy:

“The problem is, with the Form 477, if one person in that census block gets [broadband], then that whole census block is counted as served…That’s like saying if someone in the U.S. has access to fresh lobster, then they all do. That’s just not really true.”

He also described the dilemma companies like his face because they might want to apply for funding:

“The very data we’re turning in to the FCC that they mandate from a funding standpoint can turn out to be your worst enemy…You turn it in and may say, ‘I shot myself in the foot.’ It’s a complex problem,...

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Posted September 15, 2017 by lgonzalez

For years we’ve encouraged voters to make improving connectivity a campaign issue in local, state, and federal elections by pursuing answers from candidates. In this year's Virginia Gubernatorial race, it has now become a topic that both candidates are addressing as a key issue. The Roanoke Times Editors, no strangers to the state's struggles with rural Internet access, recently published an editorial to inform voters that broadband is finally getting some long overdue attention.

Surprised And Pleased

The Times has spent significant resources on broadband reporting in recent years, so it’s no surprise that the editors are savvy to the fact that broadband as a campaign issue is a novel development.

The most important news here is that both candidates say they see a state role in extending broadband to rural Virginia. The times really are a-changing: This is the first governor’s race where broadband has been a big enough issue for candidates to issue policy papers on the subject.

During the last legislative session, the Times covered Delegate Kathy Byron’s bad broadband bill closely. Over the past few years, they’ve pointed out the many disadvantages local communities face when folks suffer from poor connectivity. They've also shined a light on why the state’s economy will deteriorate if Virginia does nothing to improve Internet access in rural areas.

Comparisons

In this editorial, the Times briefly lays out a few differences that the candidates have expressed in their proposals. Both candidates want to expand the state’s fledging Virginia Telecommunications Initiative, modeled on Minnesota’s Border-to-Border Broadband Program, which has also recently inspired Ohio legislators.

Virginia's election is November 7th, which gives voters time to review both plans, contact the candidates with questions, and decide which candidate's...

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Posted July 24, 2017 by lgonzalez

People who live in rural America have known for a long time that urban areas have better access to Internet services. Recently, however, the issue has become a hot topic of conversation and analysis by policy experts, lawmakers, and the telecommunications industry. In a recent editorial by Virginia’s Roanoke Times, the outlet's leadership explained why “Third World standards” for Internet access won’t do for people who, by choice or circumstance, live in rural areas.

"Third World Connectivity"

The editors at the Times point to reporting done by the Wall Street Journal (reprinted here by MSN Money) that describes how rural America’s lack of high-quality Internet access puts it on the same economic footing as “the new inner city.” The Times quotes the WSJ:

Keep in mind the Journal is not some liberal organ typically associated with calling for more government intervention; editorially, this is the conservative voice of the nation’s business community. Its view (like ours) is purely an economic one: “Counties without modern Internet connections can’t attract new firms, and their isolation discourages the enterprises they have . . . Reliance on broadband includes any business that uses high-speed data transmission, spanning banks to insurance firms to factories.”

While the urban areas of the state average connectivity higher than the national average, much of the state - the rural areas - must contend with speeds that compare with countries like Ecuador, Costa Rica, and Nigeria.

countryside.jpg The editors at the Times point out that, much like in the 1930s when President Franklin D. Roosevelt vowed to electrify every rural community, private firms don’t venture where lack of profit doesn’t justify an investment. "This points the way to one possible fix that even the Journal highlights: Government intervention," writes the Times editors.

But they understand the hurdles that exist today that weren't so high when Roosevelt was working his plan to light up the farms. Public...

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Posted July 3, 2017 by lgonzalez

Tupelo, Mississippi, received a special visit from President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1935 to celebrate the community as the “First TVA City.” The title described the community’s new electrification by the Tennessee Valley Authority, an event that incorporated federal assistance, local workers, and the start of rural electrification. Now, Tupelo is aiming for publicly owned fiber.

Yesterday Electricity...Today Fiber

Community leaders haven’t decided on a model yet, but they recently expressed an interest in expanding the Tupelo Water & Light fiber optic loop that runs around the city. The exiting network provides communications and management between utilities substations. Their goal is to put the infrastructure in place and collaborate with a private sector provider to bring better connectivity to local residents and businesses.

The Daily Journal reported that the project is a priority for the current administration:

The mayor believes that an expansive fiber optic network in the city will boost Tupelo’s desirability, particularly for the young professionals he wants to call the city home.

“We want to provide the incentive for people that need that high speed Internet to live here,” Shelton said.

Once a robust fiber optic network is in place, Shelton’s administration has discussed the possibility of a partnership with a private provider who would actually offer the residential access and manage the customer base.

Tupelo, Lee County, Mississippi

The city used to be well known as a transportation hub in the days when railroad intersections created busy urban centers. In recent years, Tupelo has capitalized on its bragging rights as the birthplace of Elvis Presley and as the location of the Trace State Park. Hikers start or end their long journey on the Natchez Trace Parkway, a 444-mile trail that was used by Native Americans and Explorers. The trail is a historic trek attracting nature enthusiasts.

In addition to tourism, Tupelo has attracted manufacturers such as Toyota, Cooper Tire & Rubber, and a large furniture manufacturing facility. Two large banking institutions make their headquarters in...

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Posted January 30, 2017 by lgonzalez

Even after constituent calls and emails, and a threat from Governor McAuliffe to veto her bad broadband bill, Del. Kathy Byron is trying to shove through her anti-competitive HB 2108. The legislation will prove fatal for local telecommunications authority if it passes. The revised bill is up for a vote in the House Labor and Commerce Committee on Thursday, February 2nd; Byron is Vice-Chair of the Committee.

Here's The New Bill; Same As The Old Bill

If you’re curious to see the text of the new draft, it is now available on Virginia’s Legislative Information System (LIS). If you’re expecting something better than the original text, you will be disappointed. This version holds on to provisions that Byron’s influential friends in the telecommunications industry need to intimidate and lock out competition.

The revised bill still dictates rules on pricing for municipal networks and imposes heavy-handed transparency rules that put any proposal at a disadvantage. The aim is to discourage potential private sector partners who may wish to work with local governments. The new draft maintains broad enforcement provisions, which large, anti-competitive providers exploit as a delay tactic to bury a publicly owned project before it even starts.

Like it’s predecessor, it’s painfully obvious that this version of HB 2108 is a AT&T sponsored tool to scare off any competition.

Another Bad Review

On Friday, the Virginia Pilot joined a growing number of state media outlets, local governments, companies, and industry associations condemning the bill. Like others across Virginia who want every option to improve connectivity, the Pilot recognizes that municipal networks an important possibility. They also recognize that large corporate providers, such as AT&T, obtain a certain amount of protection from legislators like Byron, which is reflected in the...

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Posted December 28, 2016 by lgonzalez

Bradley County is the neighbor that time forgot in Tennessee. It sits adjacent to Hamilton County and just a short trek from Chattanooga’s EPB Fiber Optics, but state law forbids the utility from serving residents and businesses there. The Cleveland Daily Banner has followed the broadband struggles in Bradley County and ranked the “Battle for broadband” in the top 10 Newsmakers for 2016.

And So They Wait...And Wait...And Wait

“There are constituents in my district that have waited 20 years [for broadband access],” state Rep. Dan Howell said in February. “What if you had to wait 20 years to get electricity even when they had it next door? That’s what broadband is today.”

The editors and staff writers of the Daily Banner chose the Top 10 and in a recent article described how the fight started years ago and continues today. They review the FCC’s 2015 ruling that preempted state laws preventing EPB expansion into Bradley County and elsewhere and how the 6th Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals reversed the decision, which crushed locals’ high hopes.

Bradley County residents have not given up, however. They’ve met with outgoing FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and have pressed state lawmakers to remove the barrier that keeps them in the last century. A state bill, introduced by Rep. Kevin Brooks, could not get past the House Business and Utilities subcommittee, but the people in Bradley County press on because they have no other option.

And Wait Some More

Their experiences have left them a little jaded; when AT&T announced in August that it would begin serving parts of Bradley County with Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH), state legislators working on the issue scoffed. They’ll believe it when they see it; us too.

Even if national providers DO decide to invest in Bradley...

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