Tag: "press center"

Posted November 12, 2019 by Jess Del Fiacco

Christopher Mitchell, Director of the Community Broadband Networks initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, recently appeared on Marketplace Tech to discuss security concerns around Chinese equipment used in many rural broadband networks.

Christopher explained why this equipment has become so ubiquitous, details some of the potential security issues, and talks about how proposals to remove and replace the equipment might affect networks. In response to a question about how this will impact consumers, Christopher said: 

In rural areas, where we’re seeing this gear being used, effectively, the Chinese had been subsidizing rural deployment in the United States because they were charging such low rates for the gear, it allowed the rural wireless providers to get out there and to go further than they otherwise would be able to. If we don’t do anything to pick up that slack, then we will see broadband expanded more slowly across rural areas. This would also be an opportunity to revisit our programs to make sure that we’re investing sufficiently in rural broadband from the American government and not just taking advantage of Chinese trade policy.

Listen to the interview on Marketplace here.

Posted October 24, 2019 by Jess Del Fiacco

In a letter to the editor published on Oct. 18th at Cleveland.com, Katie Kienbaum, researcher with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, discussed the benefits a municipal broadband network could bring to Cleveland Heights. She also refuted an earlier piece that cited faulty data in order to claim most municipal networks are failures. 

Read her piece below: 

Robert Schwab’s opinion piece from Oct. 13 misconstrued the viability of municipal broadband and ignored the many opportunities it could offer Cleveland Heights.

Contrary to Schwab’s claims, most publicly owned networks have succeeded. As support for his argument, Schwab cited a discredited study from the University of Pennsylvania that was thoroughly debunked by my colleagues at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance in the report Correcting Community Fiber Fallacies.

Though there are a few notable failures, the vast majority of municipal broadband networks have achieved the goals set by the communities they serve. The city-owned network in nearby Fairlawn, for example, has found great success since it launched a few years ago. PCMag ranks the network as one of the 10 fastest providers in the country, and more than half the community chooses it over companies like AT&T and Charter Spectrum.

Building a publicly owned network in Cleveland Heights would pressure the incumbents to not only lower prices, but also improve customer service and make infrastructure investments. It would enable Cleveland Heights to invest in smart technologies and to ensure net neutrality, privacy protections and digital equity for its residents.

Past accusations that AT&T digitally redlined low-income communities in Cleveland underline the importance of these guarantees.

Thankfully, city officials are moving forward with a feasibility study, so they don’t have to rely on a debunked academic study when deciding whether municipal broadband is right for Cleveland Heights.


Posted October 21, 2019 by Jess Del Fiacco

On Oct. 21, 2019, The American Conservative published a piece written by Christopher Mitchell, Director of the Community Broadband Networks Initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. Christopher discusses broadband preemption and the importance of localities being able to pursue the broadband solution that best fits their needs. Read excerpts from his piece below: 

When first presented with the idea of a city-run network, [Joey] Durel was skeptical but open minded. He looked toward the Lafayette Utility System, which already handled electricity, water, and wastewater for the community—and had a much better reputation than the cable and telephone monopolies—to make an assessment.

Durel soon determined that a city-run broadband network would provide better services at lower prices than Bellsouth or Cox, but he was under no illusion those companies would go quietly into the night. However, he probably didn’t expect such a challenge to his authority—a challenge that went right up to the state legislature to stop him. This was preemption, and Durel was about to get one heck of an education in how monopolies use the levers of government to get what they want.

Preemption is when the federal government or states preclude lower levels of government from enacting certain laws. The recent rise of conservative legislatures has actually led to more cases in which states are preempting localities—from plastic bag bans and minimum wage hikes, to sick time ordinances and tougher gun laws. In many, but not all cases, these are conservative legislatures preempting more liberal city laws.


Today, 19 states have laws that discourage municipal networks—ranging from outright prohibitions to sneaky de facto prohibitions and procedural challenges.

According to Pew polls, a strong majority of liberals, conservatives and independents believe local governments should be allowed to build their own networks. But in recent years, the elected officials at the state and federal level pushing to maintain or even increase barriers to municipal networks have been nearly uniformly Republicans. They appear captured by lobbyists who prey upon their desire for market solutions and distrust of government...

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Posted October 10, 2019 by Jess Del Fiacco

MINNEAPOLIS, MINN. (October 10, 2019) - The Blandin Foundation, an organization dedicated to strengthening rural Minnesota, awarded Christopher Mitchell with a Blandin Foundation Courageous Leadership Award at their 2019 Broadband Conference. The award celebrates acts of leadership that have significantly contributed to the vibrancy and livability of rural Minnesota communities. Christopher directs the Community Broadband Networks initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR). 

For more than a decade, Christopher has led a team focused on researching and creating resources about community broadband networks. He’s worked with local leaders, advocates, and engaged residents from hundreds of communities. By reporting on the successes of many different broadband models, such as municipal networks, cooperatives, and partnerships with local independent providers, the Community Broadband Networks initiative has helped communities across the country dramatically improve Internet access for residents and businesses. Christopher’s efforts have helped shift municipal broadband from a niche approach to a national movement. 

High quality connectivity ensures the long-term success of communities by connecting residents to educational, health, and economic opportunities. Christopher Mitchell and ILSR’s Community Broadband Networks initiative continue to be champions of a more equitable digital future.  

“It is an honor for our work to be recognized by the Blandin Foundation, which has done so much for Greater Minnesota. Achieving the promise of Border-to-Border broadband Internet access requires contributions from everyone, especially communities themselves. We have always felt that Internet access — a service that education already depends upon and medicine soon will — needs much more local leadership. That leadership is what we have seen from the communities that are reaping the rewards of the best connectivity available today,” Christopher said.


FOR MORE INFORMATION and to schedule an interview with Christopher, call Jess Del Fiacco at 612-540-5997 or email delfiacco@ilsr.org.



The Institute for Local Self-Reliance
2720 E. 22nd Street
Minneapolis, MN 55406


Posted August 29, 2019 by Jess Del Fiacco

An op-ed written by Katie Kienbaum, Research Associate at ILSR, was published in The Intelligencer. Katie addresses the inadequacy of satellite Internet access and why federal funding should go to real broadband solutions. Find the full piece below: 

The digital divide is about to get much larger in rural Pennsylvania, and the federal government is bankrolling it.

Last year, the Federal Communications Commission, FCC, held a reverse auction that distributed approximately $1.5 billion to Internet access providers to connect underserved rural communities across the country. While this was an important step toward improving Internet access in many communities, in others it was a perverse step backwards — especially in Pennsylvania.

Rural communities desperately need better broadband to survive in the digital future. But instead of investing in high-quality networks that will allow rural families, farms and businesses to thrive, the FCC is burning millions on slow, unreliable satellite connectivity in Pennsylvania and 19 other states.

Nationally, the FCC awarded satellite company Viasat more than $120 million — including about $20 million for Pennsylvania — to provide internet access that most wouldn’t even consider broadband. Compared to other technologies, satellite has slower speeds, higher latency, much lower data caps and less reliability, all at higher prices. This low-quality connectivity makes it difficult to complete everyday tasks, like finding employment, accessing health care and finishing schoolwork.

It’s also all but impossible to run a business on satellite Internet access. As a result, most people resort to satellite internet access only when there are no other options available. Because of the technical limitations of satellite, it’s questionable whether Viasat will even be able to meet the modest quality standards established by the FCC.

It wasn’t inevitable that these communities got stuck with subsidized satellite. In the same auction, the FCC awarded $225 million to electric cooperatives, which will leverage the federal funding to deploy mostly gigabit-speed fiber, the fastest and most reliable broadband technology, in similarly rural areas.

In north central Pennsylvania, Tri-County Rural Electric Cooperative will receive around $32...

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Posted June 28, 2019 by Jess Del Fiacco

MINNEAPOLIS, MINN. (June 27, 2019) - Nearly a century after bringing electricity and telephone services to America’s rural households, cooperatives are tackling a new challenge: the rural digital divide. An updated report from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) illustrates the remarkable progress co-ops have made in deploying fiber optic Internet access across the country. 

“Cooperatives Fiberize Rural America: A Trusted Model For The Internet Era” [PDF] features new maps showing overall growth in areas served by co-ops, as well as expanded information about state legislation that supports co-op investment in broadband networks. A few important takeaways: 

More than 140 co-ops across the country now offer residential gigabit Internet access to their members, reaching more than 300 communities. 

70.7% of North Dakota and 47.8% of South Dakota landmass is served by co-ops, and residents enjoy some of the fastest Internet access speeds in the nation. 

Georgia and Mississippi have overturned state laws banning co-ops from offering Internet access, and other states are considering legislation that would further ease the way. 

Co-ops have proven that this is a model that works. With increased support from federal and state governments, they will continue to connect Americans in rural areas to economic and educational opportunities otherwise denied to them. 


About Christopher Mitchell:

Christopher Mitchell is the Director of the Community Broadband Networks initiative with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. He is a leading national expert on community networks, advising high-ranking broadband decision-makers and speaking on radio and television programs across the United States.

FOR MORE INFORMATION and to schedule an interview with Christopher, call Jess Del Fiacco at 612-540-5997 or email delfiacco@ilsr.org.



The Institute for Local Self-Reliance

1710 Connecticut Ave., NW, 4th Floor

Washington, DC 20009


Posted June 21, 2019 by Jess Del Fiacco

VICE interviewed Christopher Mitchell, Director of ILSR's Community Broadband Networks initiative, to get his perspective on a new study that shows high-quality broadband access lowers unemployment rates in communities. His contributions are below: 

Christopher Mitchell, director of the Community Broadband Networks initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, told Motherboard that EPB not only drove higher employment via its own operations, but also likely contributed to an increase in hiring by regional private ISPs forced to do something arguably alien to them: compete.

“AT&T and Comcast have probably increased their sales staff and local employees to deal with the competition,” Mitchell said. “So that is an impact on unemployment just among the firms offering broadband services.”


Mitchell conceded that measuring the economic and employment impact of better broadband can be difficult, but said there’s no doubt that the city’s foray into broadband provided profound benefits to the region as a whole.

“I think this field of study is quite complicated but we know that Chattanooga has attracted many new companies to the Gig City precisely because the city has built the infrastructure of the future,” he said. “If it did not increase employment opportunities, that would be shocking.”

Read the full story here


Posted June 18, 2019 by Katie Kienbaum

In the most recent episode of his weekly Netflix show Patriot Act, comedian and former Daily Show correspondent Hasan Minhaj answers the question we’ve all asked ourselves: “Why does my Internet service provider suck so much?” To figure it out, the show, which features research from the Community Broadband Networks initiative, takes a deep dive into Internet access inequality, lobbying telecom monopolies, inept federal regulators, municipal broadband networks, and more.

Minhaj, citing our Profiles of Monopoly report, points to monopoly broadband providers as one of the main reasons for slow speeds, poor service, and uneven access. He calls out Comcast in particular:

“Now look, all of these companies are terrible, but Comcast deserves a special place in Hell . . . In fact, Comcast has been called “America’s Most Hated Company” . . . The emotions are real. People hate Comcast.”

Later, he notes that the federal government shares responsibility for the sad state of affairs:

“The most frustrating part about the broadband cartel is that the government isn’t just letting this happen; it’s helping it happen. They are protecting broadband monopoly power over the public good, and most of the blame falls on one agency: the Federal Communications Commission, or the FCC.”

In the episode, Minhaj also explains how the FCC’s data collection methods vastly overstate broadband coverage, calling Form 477, which the agency uses to collect deployment data from providers, the “government version of ‘grade your own quiz.’”

As a counterpoint, Minhaj highlights how communities across the country, like Chattanooga, Tennessee, are building their own broadband networks to get around monopoly providers and sluggish regulators:

“Small cities are going DIY, and they’re setting up their own Internet. It’s become known as municipal broadband, and it is phenomenal. It turns out, when cities create their own Internet, then their own broadband customers get faster speeds, lower prices, and better customer service — you know, all the things that violate Comcast company policy.”

Municipal broadband, he says, is creating competition and faster, more affordable Internet access:

“Chattanooga forced Comcast to magically find a way to offer the...

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Posted May 7, 2019 by Jess Del Fiacco

The Carolina Public Press interviewed Christopher Mitchell, Director of ILSR's Community Broadband Networks initiative, for a story about two proposed bills in North Carolina that aim to help bridge the digital divide. 

His contributions are below: 

Christopher Mitchell, director of the Community Broadband Networks Initiative for the Minneapolis-based Institute for Local Self-Reliance, said it’s evident by what’s happening on the ground that the major companies like Spectrum, AT&T and Century Link are far more interested in investing to compete in the lucrative, more densely populated markets. At the same time, he said, they’re fighting off changes in order to hold onto their monopolies in the less populated regions.

“It’s a fundamental conflict because North Carolina needs to encourage other kinds of investment,” he said.

“The big companies will not get the job done in the rural areas.”

Mitchell, who took part in a series of broadband discussions in January in several North Carolina communities, said the result has deepened the digital divide here. Among the states, he said, North Carolina has one of the greatest discrepancies between the digital haves and have-nots.

“There is more investment in high-quality networks in North Carolina cities than the average cities in the United States, and there is less investment in the rural areas than the average for rural America,” he said.

“I would expect to see a second or third fiber option in Chapel Hill or Raleigh before I’d see the first one in a town 75 miles east of there,” Mitchell said.

Read the full story here.


Posted February 8, 2019 by Jess Del Fiacco

In a recent story from PEW on the barriers to broadband expansion in Mississippi, Christopher Mitchell, director of ILSR's Community Broadband initiative, provided some context on the potential of electric cooperatives in bridging the digital divide. His contributions are below: 

Rural electric co-ops began building fiber networks to homes about 10 years ago, said Christopher Mitchell, director of the Community Broadband Networks Initiative for the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, a Minneapolis-based nonprofit advocacy group focused on local solutions for sustainable community development. About 68 rural electric co-ops in 22 states are engaged in fiber optic projects, up from two prior to 2010, according to the group. Another 18 in 11 states have announced or begun building fiber projects that they have not yet turned on, Mitchell said.

“Electric cooperatives are simply the single greatest hope for most of rural America to have really good internet access,” Mitchell said.


Regardless of what happens in Mississippi, the federal 1996 Telecommunications Act says states cannot prevent any entity from providing service.

Hence, Mississippi co-ops could challenge the state, said Mitchell of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. “There is a path forward even in Mississippi if the state doesn’t change the law.”


Find the full story here.



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