A $1.5 million federal grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission will allow the city of Youngstown, Ohio to build ten miles of fiber in the downtown to connect 212 businesses. Proponent say it will also create 119 new jobs.
Tens of thousands of homes, businesses, farms, schools, and community anchor institutions in the Sunflower State will see better connectivity options over the next few years. A recent executive order [pdf] establishing a Kansas Office of Broadband Development followed by the announcement of more than $49 million in grants to 67 projects around the state means a host of Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH), fixed wireless, and institutional networks will break ground in the near future. The measure comes in response to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
A Broadband Office and Grant Program
The new Office of Broadband Development has been placed in the state’s Department of Commerce, and given the task of promoting networks of all kinds — municipal, cooperative, private, and nonprofit — as well as supporting regional initiatives, developing a better broadband map, and removing policy barriers to fast deployment.
The state actually has two grant programs ongoing at the moment as part of the connectivity program approved the state’s Strengthening People and Revitalizing Kansas (SPARK) Taskforce and the State Finance Council. The Broadband Partnership Adoption Grants (BPAG) are designed to help low-income Kansans pay for service with existing plans. The large pot of grant money just announced, on the other hand, is part of the Define Connectivity Emergency Response Grant (CERG), which will use CARES funding to facilitate new builds between now and the end of the year.
It is heartening to see that there were no restrictions placed on application eligibility for CERG, and that municipal, cooperative, and other community-owned networks could apply for support. In places like Ohio, we’ve recently seen the establishment of a broadband grant program which explicitly bars municipal...Read more
Big Thompson Elementary School, located on the far west side of Loveland near Rocky Mountain National Park, now gets gigabit service from Loveland Pulse.
This year’s Broadband Community Summit has gone digital to adapt to the ongoing public health crisis, but will still offer a wealth of information on and seasoned experts speaking to all sorts of topics relevant to community broadband networks. It runs this week from Tuesday to Friday, and interested parties can register here.
Something for Everyone
Note that the Coalition for Local Internet Choice program has two panel sessions on partnerships of all colors and one on federal and state incentives on the first day of the summit. Other topics include:
- Public-Private and Public-Public Partnerships
- Funding Opportunities
- Broadband Mapping
The program also features a wide-ranging list of industry folks, equipment manufacturers, consultants and legal advisors, and others experts. See the full list here, but some notable names include:
- Deb Socia — President CEO, The Enterprise Center
- Roger Timmerman — CEO, UTOPIA Fiber
- Jim Baller — President, CLIC
- Dorothy Baunach — CEO, DigitalC, Cleveland, Ohio
- Matt Dunne — Founder and Executive Director, Center on Rural Innovation
- Ben Fineman — President & Co-Founder, Michigan Broadband Cooperative
- Nancy Werner — General Counsel, National Association of Telecommunications Officers Advisors
- Dr. Christopher Ali, PhD — Assistant Professor, Department of Media Studies, University of Virginia
What is Chris Up To?
Our own Christopher Mitchell will be moderating two sessions — one on last-mile infrastructure, and another on municipal broadband success stories. The first, on Tuesday from 11:20a-12:15p:
Last Mile Digital Infrastructure: Ownership models are evolving. Who will play the lead role in constructing? What entities, including cities, will own digital assets? Who will manage the networks?
Roger Timmerman — CEO, UTOPIA Fiber
Monica Webb — Director of Market Development and Government Affairs, Ting Internet...
When Craig Eccher, CEO Tri-County Rural Electric Cooperative, joined Christopher on the podcast last fall, he had an exciting project to talk about: the electric cooperative, after strong calls from its membership asking their utility to deliver broadband, stepped up and committed to an $80 million, 3,250-mile fiber build across the rugged terrain of rural Pennsylvania, the first leg propelled by $52.6 million in federal and state grants. Tri-Co Connections, the subsidiary building the network and serving as provider, has begun connecting residents in an aggressive plan to serve 10,000 users in the next three years. The move makes Tri-County the first electric co-op in Pennsylvania to enter the fiber space, and it's doing so in dramatic fashion.
More Humble Beginnings
The project started as a smart meter initiative as the electric co-op realized that reliability and other cost savings gains could be made if it ran fiber to its substations and other infrastructure, but at an annual meeting five years ago members overwhelmingly said they wanted more. In fact, when surveyed, 80% said they wanted their electric utility to deliver broadband. But the co-op faced some significant obstacles, primarily in the form of low population density — its service territory in north-central Pennsylvania has an average of just six homes per mile. Financially, the plan wouldn’t have worked without a successful bid for a number of grants. They include a $17 million PennDOT grant, a $1.5 million state grant from the Pennsylvania Redevelopment Assistance Capital Project program, a $33 million Connect America Fund II (CAFII) grant, and a $2.5 million Appalachian Regional Commission grant. All told, they add up to two-thirds of the anticipated costs of the project. The rest will be paid for by ongoing subscription fees as residents, farms, and businesses are brought online. Sheri Collins, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania’s Office of Broadband...Read more
That community networks act as a positive force in the broadband market is something we’ve covered for the better part of a decade, but a new study out in the journal Telecommunications Policy adds additional weight (along with lots of graphs and tables) which shows that states which enact barriers to entry for municipalities and cooperatives do their residents a serious disservice.
“State Broadband Policy: Impacts on Availability” by Brian Whitacre (Oklahoma State University) and Robert Gallardo (Purdue University), out in the most recent issue of the journal, demonstrates that enacting effective state policies have a significant and undeniable impact on the pace of basic broadband expansion in both rural and urban areas, as well as speed investment in fiber across the United States.
Digging into the Data
The research relies on the State Broadband Policy Explorer, released in July of 2019 by Pew Charitable Trusts, and focuses on broadband availability across the country from 2012-2018. Whitacre and Gallardo control for the other common factors which can affect whether an area has broadband or not (like household income, education, and the age of the development), and combine the FCC’s Form 477 census block-level data along with county-level data to explore expansion activities over the seven-year period. By making use of an analytical model called the Generalized Method of Moments, Whitacre and Gallardo are able to track all of these variables over a period of time to show that there is a statistically robust connection between specific state policies and their influence on the expansion of broadband Internet access all over the United States.
The authors zero in on three particular policies that they say have among the most significant impact on whether a community has broadband or not: whether or not the state has passed laws restricting municipalities and cooperatives from building and operating broadband networks; whether or not the state has a broadband office devoted to expansion and staffed by full-time employees; and whether or not the state has a funding program...Read more
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.
Read the 2020 report Profiles of Monopoly: Big Cable and Telecom [pdf].
A group of 15 cities in Los Angeles County, California, are closing in on the completion of the South Bay Fiber Network. The project, managed by the South Bay Cities Council of Governments (SBCCOG), will bring better connectivity to community anchors and enterprise customers in the region through a public-private partnership with American Dark Fiber (ADF).
According to a recent press release [pdf] from SBCCOG, some public facilities are already connected to the fiber ring, and the partners expect to finish the rest of the network by the end of the month. Once completed, the local governments hope that the SBFN will enable smart city applications, like traffic signal coordination, as well as telehealth services and remote learning and working.
Christian Horvath, Redondo Beach Councilmember, said in the press release:
The SBFN will allow us to serve all our residents better and improve their quality of life on so many levels including real-time transportation/traffic control connectivity . . . The Covid-19 pandemic has proven to any doubters that access to affordable and reliable high-speed Internet is even more important as it will allow the increasing numbers of city workers and local residents to efficiently work from home.
SBCCOG began its efforts in 2016 and has been working with consulting firm Magellan Advisors to plan the fiber network, which will be a mix of newly constructed infrastructure and leased fiber.
The SBFN will connect the cities of Carson, El Segundo, Gardena, Hawthorne, Hermosa Beach, Inglewood, Lawndale, Lomita, Manhattan Beach, Palos Verdes Estates, Rancho Palos Verdes, Redondo Beach, Rolling Hills, Rolling Hills Estates, and Torrance in Los Angeles County. Local institutions and government authorities are also participating in the fiber project, including the Beach Cities Health District, Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LA Metro), Los Angeles County Department of Public Works, Lundquist Institute, South Bay Workforce Investment Board, and West Basin Municipal Water District.
ADF will own the network, but...Read more
This week on the podcast we welcome Ernesto Falcon and Steve Blum. Ernesto is Senior Legislative Council at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a powerhouse nonprofit organization defending civil liberties in the digital world. Steve Blum is President of Tellus Ventures Associates, which provides management and business development guidance for companies working in telecommunications. You can find him at tellusventures.com.
In this episode Christopher, Ernesto, and Steve talk about what’s going on with broadband in California. They discuss current legislation looking to make sure CA broadband subsidies result in high quality networks and don't leave people behind. Then they talk about a competing bill, and the consequences of investing public dollars in old network technology destined to leave those on the wrong side of the digital divide stranded there for another generation. Finally, they talk about the impact of campaign donations and T-Mobile merger conditions on the future of broadband in the state.
We want your feedback and suggestions for the show; please e-mail us or leave a comment below.
Read the transcript for this podcast.
This show is 35 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed. You can listen to the interview on this page or visit the Community Broadband Bits page.
Subscribe to the Building Local Power podcast, also from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, on ...Read more
Ever since the Covid-19 pandemic pushed schools online, rural cooperatives and other local broadband providers have been coming up with innovative ways to connect students during this difficult time. Ozarks Electric Cooperative, with its broadband subsidiary OzarksGo, is one of the co-ops that caught our eye over the past few weeks with its creative solution.
This week, Christopher speaks with Steven Bandy, General Manager of OzarksGo, about the history of the co-op's fiber network and its new efforts to expand broadband access during the pandemic. They discuss the beginnings of Ozarks Electric's Fiber-to-the-Home network and the co-op's plan to connect all of its members in growing Arkansas and Oklahoma communities. OzarksGo has even expanded into a nearby city where it doesn't offer electric service after seeing that the community needed better quality connectivity. Co-op members are extremely enthusasitc about the co-op's fiber network, and Steven explains how people moving to the area target the Ozarks Electric service territory in their home search.
Christopher and Steven also talk about the effects of the pandemic on the co-op's fiber network, which has seen an increase in interest. Steven shares how the cooperative is partnering with a local school district to connect Wi-Fi hotspots on busses and in community buildings with fiber optic backhaul. In addition to bringing broadband access to students in response to Covid-19, OzarksGo has also increased speeds at no cost to subscribers.
This show is 19 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice ...Read more