Tag: "press center"

Posted January 23, 2018 by Nick

Date: January 23rd, 2018

Updated Community Networks Map Now Includes over 750 Communities

The Institute for Local Self-Reliance’s map details the communities that are making investments in better connectivity

MINNEAPOLIS, MINN. — Communities are playing a growing role in connecting their residents and businesses to high-quality broadband access. However, with the FCC’s repeal of net neutrality protections looking imminent, it seems that companies like AT&T, Charter, Comcast, and Verizon are ascendent — but that’s not the case in the 750 communities we’ve mapped across the United States.

The Institute for Local Self-Reliance has been tracking community networks for more than 10 years, tracking a variety of metrics from gigabit services to open access. For the first time, this map includes communities served by electric cooperatives whereas previous maps focused on municipal networks. The next map iteration will also have communities served by telephone co-ops.

Communities across the United States are investing in telecommunications networks for a variety of reasons to benefit their future. Whether they invest to improve economic development outcomes or to improve access to education and health care these communities are building essential infrastructure that their residents and businesses demand.

Our map now includes over 750 communities, here is the breakdown:

  • 55 municipal networks serving 108 communities with a publicly owned FTTH citywide network.

  • 76 communities with a publicly owned cable network reaching most or all of the community.

  • 197 communities with some publicly owned fiber service available to parts of the community (often a business district).

  • More than 120 communities with publicly owned dark fiber available.

  • More than 130 communities in 27 states with a publicly owned network offering at least 1 gigabit services.

  • 258 communities served by rural electric cooperatives. 10... Read more
Posted December 20, 2017 by Nick

Date: December 20th, 2017

State-level Data Shows the Depth of the Problem of Monopoly Broadband Providers

High percentages of Americans can only receive broadband Internet service from the four major net neutrality violators of AT&T, Charter, Comcast, & Verizon.

MINNEAPOLIS, MINN. — New research from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance shows that there are 10 states with over 60 percent of their population limited solely to broadband Internet service from known net neutrality violators. As reported previously, the FCC’s own numbers show that 125 million Americans can buy service only from AT&T, Charter, Comcast, and Verizon — all have violated net neutrality rules in the past.

The Federal Communications Commission has now ensured these millions of Americans have no protection from these companies absuing their monopoly power.

“Everyone knows that there is far too little choice for broadband Internet access, but we were surprised at just how little in some states,” says Christopher Mitchell, Community Broadband Networks initiative director at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. “These states have to be extremely concerned at their dependence on a few large cable and telephone monopolies that will soon make the rules for Internet access.”

The ten states with the highest percentage of their population captured by just four past net neutrality violators are:

  • Tennessee – 60%
  • Michigan – 60%
  • North Carolina – 61%
  • Georgia – 62%
  • Maine – 63%
  • Pennsylvania – 65%
  • Wisconsin – 66%
  • Maryland – 69%
  • Maine – 77%
  • Delaware – 80%

“Local governments absolutely have to evaluate their options for encouraging local Internet choice because there is no other... Read more

Posted November 30, 2017 by Nick

Public News Service - November 30, 2017

Whose Internet Is It?

Written by Laurie Stern

With the Federal Communications Commission's decision to repeal net neutrality set for December 15th, Christopher Mitchell sat down to speak with Laurie Stern of the Public News Service on the reality of Internet access in America.

Here are Christopher's contributions:

Christopher Mitchell, director of the Community Broadband Networks Initiative with the Minneapolis-based Institute for Local Self-Reliance, says most Americans have only one or two Internet service providers to choose from.

"The official United States policy is that we're supposed to have a lot of competition in telecommunications networks,” he points out. “But every time the state or the federal government try to do something to actually encourage competition, the big cable and telephone companies say, 'Oh, that's not fair. You can't do anything to encourage competition. That would be bad for us.'"

The FCC says net neutrality stifles innovation by over regulating Internet service providers, and the vote will encourage ISPs such as Comcast and Verizon to improve and expand broadband. 

The issue breaks down along party lines with Republican lawmakers tending to support deregulation. 

Mitchell says the vote is just a move from public to private regulation, and that companies such as Comcast and CenturyLink will now be making the rules.

"At the state and federal level the voices of the big cable and telephone companies drown out local voices,” he states. “Fortunately at the local level, local voices have much more power and so they can get more done. "

Mitchell says many counties and small cities have formed cooperatives to provide their own Internet service.

He says community broadband relies on an old model of self-sufficiency that has worked for rural America before.

"I absolutely think we're going to see more leadership from the local level and that's – it's very promising if you live in one of those... Read more

Posted November 28, 2017 by Nick

Date: November 28th, 2017

New Map Shows Stunning Fiber Internet Access from Rural Cooperatives

ILSR researchers chart how cooperatives connect rural America while big telephone companies abandon them

MINNEAPOLIS, MINN. -- Despite dismal rural connectivity in general, a small number of rural towns and farming communities have better Internet access than is available in most metro regions. The Institute for Local Self-Reliance has mapped the fiber-optic footprint and gigabit connectivity of all cooperatives in rural America in a new policy brief.

The rural cooperative fiber map is attached below. Many will be surprised at the remarkable footprint of residential fiber-optic access across wide swaths of rural America. ILSR’s experts are available to discuss the implications of cooperatives on rural broadband Internet expansion.

“Once again, rural cooperatives have built essential infrastructure in regions otherwise abandoned by the biggest telephone companies,” says Christopher Mitchell, director of the Community Broadband Networks initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. “Despite the biggest federal subsidies going to the biggest companies, the local cooperatives have built far better networks.”

Here are some helpful bullets about the policy brief:

  • Most of the 260 telephone cooperatives and at least 60 electric cooperatives have built out  fiber infrastructure to serve businesses and/or residents

  • Some of these cooperatives have 80 years of experience rolling out rural infrastructure and ensuring it remains viable and affordable.

  • The majority of North Dakota already has Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) and the poorest county in the country (Jackson County, Kentucky) has FTTH. We can do this anywhere.

Solving rural Internet access is not only achievable and affordable, we are far closer to doing it than most people realize.

If you're interested in gaining perspective on this issue from Christopher Mitchell, please email back here or schedule an interview through Nick Stumo-Langer at 612-844-1330.

About Christopher Mitchell:
... Read more

Posted November 22, 2017 by Nick

Yes! Magazine - November 22nd, 2017

How Internet Co-ops Can Protect Us From Net Neutrality Rollbacks

Written by Sammi-Jo Lee

In the face of net neutrality rule repeal, media outlets are exploring what communities can do to prevent paid prioritization all the way down to the smallest of ISPs. Yes! Magazine's Sammi-Jo Lee explored the issue of Internet cooperatives and what role they can play both in providing Internet access and protecting net neutrality via market forces.

For her story, Lee interviewed MuniNetworks' Christopher Mitchell:

These locally owned networks are poised to do what federal and state governments and the marketplace couldn’t. One, they can bring affordable access to fast internet to anyone, narrowing the digital divide that deepens individual and regional socioeconomic disparities.

Two, these small operators can protect open internet access from the handful of large ISPs that stand to pocket the profits from net neutrality rollbacks that the Trump administration announced Nov. 21. That’s according to Christopher Mitchell, who is the director of Community Broadband Projects, a project of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. Mitchell, who has been tracking and advocating community-owned broadband networks for a decade, hopes that this will be the moment when people rebel against the administration’s attack on net neutrality and expand rural cooperative and municipal ISPs.

“The FCC is basically taking the regulations off of big companies, but local companies can still offer high-quality internet access at good prices,” Mitchell says.

Without net neutrality, broadband... Read more

Posted November 22, 2017 by Nick

In the News: Christopher Mitchell

November 22, 2017

Media Outlet: Fast Company


Federal Communications Commission Chair Ajit Pai’s plan to dismantle net neutrality, the set of protections that keeps content flowing freely on the Internet regardless of who your service provider is, is now official. In this disappointing moment of corporations flexing their supreme muscle with the FCC, Fast Company’s Sean Captain tried to determine what options we have.

In his reporting Captain spoke with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance’s Community Broadband Networks initiative director Christopher Mitchell to get his perspective:

With FCC chairman Ajit Pai’s plan to dismantle net neutrality protections now official, internet regulation has joined healthcare and climate change among the big areas where the Trump Administration is aggressively dismantling Obama-era policies. In the latter two cases, cities and states have some leeway to go against Washington. States administer their own health programs for low-income residents, for instance; and some, like California, are talking about radically extending them. Meanwhile states and cities are uniting to make their own climate change policy pledges.

It may not be so easy to get around the administration’s internet policies. Ars Technica reports that, along with scrapping Obama-era regulations, FCC officials led by Pai plan to preempt states and cities from enacting their own, stricter polices, to prevent things like “throttling,” or limiting bandwidth, for certain content if content providers (or consumers) don’t pay extra.

“I don’t think states have the... Read more

Posted November 12, 2017 by Kelsey Henquinet

On November 8th, 2017, voters in 19 Colorado communities chose local telecommunications authority with an average rate of 83 percent. Now, a total of 117 Colorado communities opt out of the restrictive, anti-municipal broadband state law, SB 152. For years, we at ILSR have been covering the developments in Colorado as voters reclaim local telecommunications authority.

The media, both locally and nationally, took notice of our efforts.

Here's a roundup of stories in which national, state, and local outlets cited our work and provided information to ensure this vital issue gained coverage. Read more in our story covering the votes.

MEDIA COVERAGE - "19 Colorado Communities Opt out of Restrictive State Broadband Law"

Pre-Election Coverage: 

Big Telecom Spent $200,000 to Try to Prevent a Colorado Town From Even Talking About a City-Run Internet by Kaleigh Rogers, Motherboard- October 25, 2017

"There are two explanations: one is that all of the cable companies in the state feel very strongly about drawing a line in the sand now, after 100 communities have already made this decision," Christopher Mitchell, Community Broadband Networks initiative director at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, said over the phone. "Or Comcast is the one pushing it, and we've seen that in countless states before."

Activists target Comcast over municipal broadband in Seattle, Colorado by Bob Fernandez, The Philly Inquirer - November 6, 2017

... Read more

Posted November 8, 2017 by Nick

Date: November 8, 2017

Colorado Voters Once Again Reject Monopolies in Internet Service at the Ballot Box

All 18 voting communities opt out of restrictive state law, Fort Collins ensures municipal utility can provide broadband service


​Christopher Mitchell



MINNEAPOLIS, MINN. -- Voters across the state of Colorado have, once again, rejected big telecom by opting out of a restrictive state law. SB 152, which limits the ability of Coloradoans to explore high-speed municipal broadband has been in place since 2005, thanks to big telecom’s political heft.

As of Wednesday morning, we are prepared to announce that all 18 communities, plus Fort Collins have passed their measures by an average margin of 82.72%, and we are confirming and monitoring these results.

“We have seen overwhelming support for local Internet choice in Colorado” says Christopher Mitchell, director of the Community Broadband Networks initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. “These cities and counties recognize that they cannot count on Comcast and CenturyLink alone to meet local needs, which is why you see overwhelming support even in an off-year election.”

The 18 communities who voted to opt out of SB 152 join approximately 100 other Colorado communities that have, over the past few years, asserted their own local authority over Internet service. Now these communities have the option to improve their Internet service, allowing for a crucial economic development activity. (See our detailed map below, available for republication with attribution - just email stumolanger@ilsr.org)

In Fort Collins yesterday, a high margin of voters supported an amendment to their city charter which will ease the way for their municipal utility to offer high-speed telecommunications... Read more

Posted November 6, 2017 by Nick

Date: November 6th, 2017

Colorado Communities Set to Reclaim Local Authority, Rebuff Internet Access Monopolies

18 communities across the state will vote to join nearly 100 of their fellows in investigating Internet infrastructure investments


​Christopher Mitchell, christopher@ilsr.org


MINNEAPOLIS, MINN -- Tomorrow, 18 communities across Colorado will be voting to reclaim their local authority to end broadband monopolies. Since 2008, nearly 100 communities across Colorado have opted out of a restrictive state law (SB 152) which limits the ability of Coloradans to explore high-speed municipal broadband. This year is no different.

We at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance have a full list of those voting on the opt out measures. Additionally Fort Collins, who opted out of SB 152 in the fall of 2015, has a ballot referendum to establish a municipal utility that offers high-speed Internet service. We’ll be following that closely as well.

“These ballot initiatives are a crucial step toward better Internet access throughout Colorado,” says Christopher Mitchell, director of the Community Broadband Networks initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. “Local governments are smart to reclaim the authority they need to ensure local businesses and residents aren’t stuck with cable monopolies.”

Communities across Colorado have long benefited from municipal networks. Cortez has brought real competition to its local businesses. Longmont has one of the lowest priced, highest quality services in the nation. Rural Rio Blanco has fiber optic and wireless connections that have brought a real choice in high quality Internet access to much of a very rural county. Many more communities are exploring the opportunities that a municipal network offers, including those who voted last November (all of whom passed their measures). Here’s our map of last year’s voting communities:

... Read more

Posted November 6, 2017 by Nick

Date: November 6, 2017

Comcast Sets Fort Collins Election Spending Record Opposing Broadband Competition

The Colorado Cable Telecommunications Association is spending almost half a million to deny residents a real choice in broadband Internet access

​Christopher Mitchell

Campaign Spending Update - 11/6/2017: On November 3rd, Comcast's front group Priorities First filed their most recent campaign report. The report showed that the group spent and additional $256,326 on the Fort Collins campaign between October 23rd and November 1st. This brings big incumbent spending to stop compeition to almost half a million dollars. More information here

MINNEAPOLIS, MINN. -- Big cable is trying to buy Fort Collins' local election. A group largely funded by the state cable association, Colorado Cable Telecommunications Association, submitted its campaign finance report two weeks prior to the election, revealing an enormous amount of outside spending for a local ballot referendum.
The referendum would allow the city to create and operate a telecommunications utility as well as partner with an independent company to expand Internet options in the city. But the dominant provider already in Fort Collins, Comcast, strongly opposes such a move and is almost certainly the driving force behind the Chamber of Commerce and CCTA spending so much to oppose more broadband investment.
In the months leading up to this referendum Comcast was caught lying about the status of nearby Longmont's municipal fiber network. Comcast misrepresented Longmont's services, prices, and the way Comcast responded to... Read more


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At least once a week in my 48 months of public service, I was told by someone that the purpose of the Commission was to create a "level playing field." No one meant it.  The proponents of this view wanted someone else to be burred under their "level" field.  And I never believed our job was "leveling."  Should a jury declare a defendant neither guilty nor innocent, but only express a neutral view?