Tag: "press center"

Posted April 12, 2017 by Nick

Tennessee Legislature Passes Broadband Accessibility Act, Delivers Hollow "Victory"

While Governor Haslam's Signature Legislation Sounds Great, AT&T Will Be Laughing all the Way to the Bank

 

Contact:

Christopher Mitchell

christopher@ilsr.org

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - Late yesterday, the Tennessee Legislature officially sent Governor Bill Haslam's signature legislation, the Broadband Accessibility Act of 2017, to his desk. Unfortunately, this bill is more about making taxpayer dollars accessible to AT&T than ensuring rural regions get modern Internet access.

"What we have on one side is a taxpayer-funded subsidy program, and on the other we have a subscriber-based model," says Christopher Mitchell, director of the Community Broadband Networks initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. "The tragic thing is, AT&T is a taxpayer subsidized monopoly in rural Tennessee that only has to provide a service far slower than the definition of broadband. Locally-rooted networks like Chattanooga's EPB not only offer nation-leading services but have tremendous community support."

With this bill's passage, the Tennessee General Assembly will likely not pass any other broadband legislation during this session. The Broadband Accessibility Act won't improve Tennessee's rating as 29th in Internet connectivity, but it will do a great job of lining AT&T's pockets. As we've tracked throughout the session, there are a number of bills worth supporting that would actually increase connectivity and allow municipalities to take part in their own broadband future.

Mitchell is deeply frustrated with this situation: "Chattanooga is the only city on this planet that has universal access to 10 Gigabit symmetrical Internet access. It is a stunning achievement and Tennessee taxpayers may subsidize AT&T to build DSL service to Chattanooga's neighbors rather than letting the Gig City expand its fiber to neighbors at no cost to taxpayers. Tennessee will literally be paying AT&T to provide a service 1000x slower... Read more

Posted April 10, 2017 by Nick

Washington Post - April 11, 2017

Most Americans want to let cities build and sell homegrown Internet service

Written by Brian Fung

With Internet providers ranking near the bottom of customer satisfaction surveys, 7 in 10 Americans say their towns or communities should be allowed to build new Internet networks that compete with large, established providers, according to new data from the Pew Research Center.

The latest findings add to a long-running battle over restrictions — often written by state legislatures and supported by telecom and cable companies — that prevent local governments from establishing homegrown rivals to ISPs such as AT&T or Charter. And, policy analysts say, the results underscore a gulf in attitudes about public infrastructure spending — although perhaps not the kind you may expect.

...

Where they are allowed to, other towns have increasingly moved to build their own independent networks. For example, the government of Colorado Springs, recently became the 100th jurisdiction in the state to vote to overcome the Colorado legislature's restrictions on municipal broadband, said Christopher Mitchell, a public broadband advocate at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance in Minneapolis.

“In Colorado, we see liberal cities like Boulder, conservative cities like Colorado Springs, and many conservative counties putting, in some sense, their money where their mouth is,” said Mitchell.

While Colorado law allows cities and towns to move forward with municipal broadband if enough residents vote to approve it, other states can be more restrictive. Chattanooga became part of a high-... Read more

Posted April 8, 2017 by Nick

A recent edition of State Scoop published Christopher's thoughts on the state of competition in the broadband market in the United States. In the piece, Christopher argues how incumbent Internet Service Providers translate their economic power into political power, as seen in the recent vote to strike down consumer privacy protections. He also more widely distributes our recent infographic, "The Market Has Spoken. The Market Is Broken." We've reproduced the op-ed here:

Paths for repairing a broken broadband market

Infographic & commentary: Christopher Mitchell of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance says the new anti-privacy legislation passing through Congress offers further evidence that America's broadband market is broken, but not beyond repair.

To be charitable, one of the reasons that Republicans in Congress moved so quickly to eviscerate privacy protections for internet access subscribers was an overriding belief that the market provides better protection than regulators. To be less charitable, it is possible all the lobbyist contributions to their campaigns had an impact.

But the market is not providing a check to AT&T or Comcast power. They are effectively monopolies — and as we just saw — can translate their market power into political power to wipe out regulations they find annoying.

At the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, where we work to support local economies, this broken market is a major problem. Cable monopolies are bad for local businesses, which become less competitive from paying too much for unreliable Internet access. Communities cannot thrive without high quality Internet access today. 

So we created the infographic below, which offers evidence for our claim that the market is broken. The Federal Communications Commission has documented that most households don’t have a choice in broadband providers, let alone a meaningful choice (where you actually like one of the companies you have to choose between).

Despite widespread... Read more

Posted April 2, 2017 by Nick

LancasterOnline - April 2, 2017

LanCity Connect: Lancaster's municipal broadband is the first of its kind in Pennsylvania

Written by Tim Stuhldreher

In mid-January, The Candy Factory in Lancaster joined the early adopter program for LanCity Connect, the fiber-optic broadband network being built for the city by MAW Communications.

Previously, the co-working venue on North Queen Street got its internet service from Comcast, but “we were having nothing but problems,” co-founder Anne Kirby said.

“The minute we switched over to fiber, literally every internet issue we had went away,” Kirby said.

Lancaster officials have worked for more than a decade to bring high-speed municipal broadband to the Red Rose city.

It required creation of a unique public-private partnership with MAW, the first of its kind in Pennsylvania. Starting this spring, LanCity Connect is being made available to the public. ...

With speeds of up to a gigabit per second — that’s 1,000 megabits-per-second, or Mbps — LanCity Connect is a game-changer, local officials say, both for city services and for local residents and businesses.

An advocate for community broadband concurs.

“This is a good deal” for Lancaster, said Christopher Mitchell, the director of the nonprofit Community Broadband Networks Initiative, based in Washington, D.C. “It’s far better than the status quo.”

...

In Pennsylvania, a 2004 law requires cities to give their dominant local telecommunications carrier first dibs on building broadband. Only if it refuses can the city go ahead.

Fortunately for Lancaster, the carrier in question is Verizon. Unlike most of its peers, it’s been honest about its lack of interest in small markets, Mitchell said, and it granted the needed waiver.

The PPP

Not only are fiber-optic networks expensive, they’re technologically challenging and have to comply with complex regulations.

To overcome those obstacles, Lancaster and MAW developed a public-private partnership, or PPP.

PPPs can be minefields: Unscrupulous companies have used them to loot public coffers and create captive markets.

But Mitchell, who has been... Read more

Posted March 30, 2017 by Nick

Press Release: Legislation Introduced in the U.S. Senate to Promote Local Internet Choice

The "Community Broadband Act" is Boosted by Senators Concerned with Competition 

Contact:

Christopher Mitchell

christopher@ilsr.org

612-545-5185

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - Earlier this week, U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) introduced the Community Broadband Act alongside fellow Senators Edward Markey (D-MA), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Angus King (I-ME), Ron Wyden (D-OR.), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT). We at the ... Read more

Posted March 30, 2017 by Nick

On March 24th, Christopher was on episode 232 of the web show "This Week in Enterprise Tech." Christopher discussed the future of community broadband networks in the Trump era as well as shared information about the models of successful networks across the country.

Christopher begins his discussion of these issues at 29:45 with host Friar Robert Ballecer and guest co-hosts Lou Maresca and Brian Chee. Throughout the show, the group covers the beginning of the FCC Chairmanship of Ajit Pai, how the Senate is legislating against Internet privacy regulations, and how community networks are pushing ahead to achieve better connectivity for local businesses and residents.

The folks at TWiT.tv share excerpts from our video on Ammon, Idaho, and the guys get into a deeper discussion about the possibilities of local empowerment from community networks.

You can stream the episode at TWiT.tv, or watch here:

Posted March 11, 2017 by htrostle

How do we connect rural America? Unreliable, slow Internet service with data caps is the norm for much of the country. Even though the federal government gives billions of dollars to large telecom companies, North Carolina is one of the many states that still has an urban and rural digital divide.

Western North Carolina Public Radio (WCQS) recently spoke with our Christopher Mitchell about local ways to improve rural Internet access. While Christopher spoke of electric cooperatives, two other initiatives are also seeking creative solutions in the western half of the state.

Potential Service from Electric Cooperatives

Communities across the U.S. are already bringing better connectivity to their homes and businesses. Specifically, Christopher pointed to the growing number of electric cooperatives providing Internet service: 

“When you look at the threat communities face from not having broadband Internet—the way people are moving away, and fewer people are willing to move in—these electric membership corporations really have to think about what they can do to make sure there’s a high quality of life.”

In our 2016 North Carolina Connectivity report, we explored the work of two local electric cooperatives, Lumbee River and Blue Ridge Mountain. They collaborated with telephone cooperatives to provide high-speed Internet service in the several rural counties near Georgia.

Spotlight on Local Solutions

The WCQS article reported on two more local initiatives: the community network in Highlands, North Carolina, and the nonprofit Land of Sky Regional Council

Back in 2015, the people of Highlands saw that poor Internet access was hurting their community. They quickly built the Altitude Community Broadband network. Highlands Internet Technology Director Matt Shuler told WCQS: 

“... Read more

Posted March 9, 2017 by Nick

On March 7th, Christopher participated in a panel discussion sponsored by Politico and Qualcomm as part of an event called "The Future of the Wireless World." The panel was moderated by Politico Technology Reporter Alex Byers and included the following participants:

  • Steven Crowley, P.E., Consulting Wireless Engineer
  • Mindel De la Torre, former Chief of the International Bureau, Federal Communications Commission
  • Christopher Mitchell, Director of Community Broadband Networks Initiative, Institute for Local Self-Reliance
  • Joan Marsh, Senior Vice President of Federal Regulatory, AT&T

You can stream the video at Politico's website by clicking the image below.

Highlights from this conversation include Christopher's interaction with the AT&T representative about their claim that a "one touch make ready" policy was specific to Google Fiber. This interaction is at 36:20 in the video.

Posted February 21, 2017 by lgonzalez

Christopher recently took some time to visit with John Hockenberry on The Takeaway from PRI and WNYC. The conversation covered municipal networks, big cable and telephone monopolies, and how local community initiatives for better connectivity are raising the bar in rural areas.

WNYC wrote about the show: 

Net neutrality advocates got some bad news when Ajit Pai was tapped by President Donald Trump to be chairman of the Federal Communications Commission — it appears that Pai wants to largely reverse the Obama administration's approach to the Internet.

Large telecommunications monopolies have been digging their heels in, but some citizens are fighting back. The Takeaway considers the broadband debates that currently are taking place with Christopher Mitchell, the director of Community Broadband Networks at the Institute for Local Self Reliance.

Listen to the interview; it’s about 4 minutes.

Posted February 20, 2017 by lgonzalez

In January, Governor Bill Haslam announced that he and Senator Mark Norris would introduce legislation to provide grant funding and tax credits to private companies in order to expand rural connectivity in Tennessee. In a recent Knoxville News Sentinel, Christopher took another look at more subsidies to large private providers and how that strategy has worked out so far.

We've reprinted the op-ed here:

Christopher Mitchell: State needs better broadband, not subsidies

If you were tasked with improving the internet access across Tennessee, a good first start would be to examine what is working and what’s not. But when the General Assembly debates broadband, it frequently focuses on what AT&T and Comcast want rather than what is working.

Broadband expansion has turned into a perennial fight between Tennessee’s municipal broadband networks and advocates of better connectivity on one side and AT&T and Comcast on the other. On one side is a taxpayer-subsidized model, while the other depends solely on the revenues of those who choose to subscribe. But which is which?

AT&T has received billions of taxpayer dollars to build its networks, whereas Chattanooga, Tullahoma and Morristown, for example, financed their fiber-optic networks by selling revenue bonds to private investors and repaying them with revenues from their services. The big telephone companies are massively subsidized, whereas municipal networks have generally not used taxpayer dollars.

It is true that after it began building, Chattanooga received a Department of Energy one-time stimulus grant for $111 million, but that was actually less than AT&T is getting from just one federal program in Tennessee alone – over $125 million from the Connect America Fund. And most of the money to Chattanooga went into devices for its smart grid that have since led to massive job gains.

These community networks offer modern connectivity. Chattanooga offers 10,000 Mbps to anyone in its territory. AT&T is getting enormous checks from Uncle Sam to deliver 10 Mbps. Comcast will soon offer 1,000 Mbps, but only for downloads. If you are a small business trying to upload lots of data, Comcast won’t get you there.

According to a 2016 Consumer Reports study, Comcast and AT&T were among the most hated companies across the board. Chattanooga’s Electric... Read more

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