Tag: "press center"

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.


Posted February 8, 2019 by Jess Del Fiacco

Christopher Mitchell, director of ILSR's Community Broadband Networks initiative, was quoted in the Stanly News & Press's coverage of Let's Connect, a series of community meetings organized by ILSR, the North Carolina League of Municipalities, and NC Hearts Gigabit. The meetings brought together community leaders, local ISPs, policy experts, and residents to talk about the need for better broadband and potential solutions for the region. His contributions are below: 

“In general, most of rural N.C. has pretty poor access,” said Mitchell, “and I would say not an obvious solution for where better access is going to come from because providers like CenturyLink and AT&T that serve telephone to a lot of rural North Carolina do not have the capacity or the interest in upgrading those services, so there needs to be some other actor that comes in to provide that investment.”

The ultimate goal behind the event is to eventually “have high quality internet access to everyone,” Mitchell said.

“Everyone in the nation is going to have it,” Mitchell said. “The question is, is it going to take 20 years or seven years?”

Mitchell said Stanly is a classic rural county with the major population center of Albemarle having “pretty adequate” internet access compared to the other cities around it. But he said even Albemarle does not have the access people in Charlotte or Raleigh possess.


“Over the next 50 years, we will see the internet change society more than what electricity has done,” Mitchell said.

The full story can be found here.

Posted January 25, 2019 by Jess Del Fiacco

An op-ed written by Katie Kienbaum, Research Associate at ILSR, was published by the Jacksonville Daily News. It discusses the need for better broadband access in North Carolina, and the upcoming series of community meetings on the subject organized by NC Broadband Matters, the NC League of Municipalities, and the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. Find the full piece below: 


When you think about the Internet, what comes to mind might have a lot to do with where you live.

For North Carolinians with good connectivity, the Internet signifies endless opportunity and access to information. But if you live in an area with limited broadband availability or high subscription costs, you may feel more frustrated than excited.

Broadband in North Carolina is a patchwork quilt of quality and availability. In the big metro regions, some neighborhoods are getting high-speed fiber networks from major companies like AT&T and Google. Other communities have partnered with new providers, such as Ting and Open Broadband, to improve local Internet access. And in Wilson, the city built its own fiber optic network, delivering the fastest speeds in the state, attracting new business, and offering affordable access to public housing units.

Even some rural communities have access to the highest-quality connectivity. Cooperatives like Wilkes Communications and RiverStreet Networks are building first-rate broadband networks that will help improve the quality of life for their rural members. In each case, community members worked together to encourage investment in better options.

But many communities are stuck waiting for new investment. Wired broadband is unavailable to at least 500,000 North Carolinians, according to BroadbandNow’s analysis of federal data, while nearly one million others only have access to broadband through a single monopoly provider. Families in these under-connected and often rural communities struggle with everyday tasks, such as completing homework assignments, filling out job applications, and accessing online healthcare.

State policy needs to recognize these shortcomings and better enable investment in local networks. Still, there are ways for communities to take action. With the combined efforts of elected officials, local leaders, rural cooperatives, Internet service providers, and engaged...

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Posted December 27, 2018 by Jess Del Fiacco

A recent piece from The Morning Call examined Internet access rates in Pennsylvania's Lehigh Valley using recently released American Community Survey (ACS) data. Christopher Mitchell, director of ILSR’s Community Broadband initiative, provided some context for the importance of closing the digital divide. His contributions are below: 

The cellphone, however, isn’t a good option for schoolchildren who need the internet to complete assignments, said Christopher Mitchell, director of community broadband networks for the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, a nonprofit that helps communities use the internet to improve the economy and quality of life.

“If you are a 10th-grader trying to do a term paper using a cellphone, that’s very difficult. It results in you having to work so much harder for much less gain than a well-off person,” Mitchell said.

“It affects society as a whole and impacts the achievement gap and the opportunity for young people to do better than their parents,” he said.


The internet also has become an essential tool for adults. Without it, people may pay more, as their shopping choices are limited to brick-and-mortar stores, Mitchell noted. And they certainly will spend more time filling out paper applications for jobs and government services.


When communities hover around 30 percent in lack of internet subscriptions — as Portland, Bangor, Easton, Nazareth and Wind Gap do — that’s “worrisome,” Mitchell said. It works against any effort to grow.

“If you are in that situation, one of the concerns is you are going to have much less investment, and so your community is going to struggle in the future. As a local leader, you need to figure out how to fix that. Whether it’s housing value or economic development, better internet access makes all those things better to solve,” Mitchell said.


According to Mitchell’s Institute for Local Self-Reliance, more than 750 communities across the country have built their own broadband networks to compete with large, established internet providers.


The only municipality in Pennsylvania to build its own internet network is Kutztown, which started a $4 million network in 2002 and paid for it with taxable bonds, according to the Institute for Local Self-...

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Posted December 1, 2018 by Jess Del Fiacco

Electricity 2.0: Small cities rush to innovate on wifi

Axios reached out to Christopher Mitchell, director of ILSR's Community Broadband initiative, for information about how American communities are innovating around Internet access. 

Here is Mitchell's contribution: 

"It's kind of like getting electricity in the 1940s and 1950s. It's nice, but the communities that really thrived are the ones that got it in the 1920s and 1930s. If you want to be the centers of commerce and culture, you've got to have the networks."

Read the full article here.

Posted November 15, 2018 by Jess Del Fiacco

Internet service in Marshall was slow, so the city built its own fiber-optic network

The Battle Creek Enquirer interviewed Christopher Mitchell, director of ILSR's Community Broadband Initiative, as part of a story on the new municipal fiber network in Marshall, Michigan.

Here are Mitchell's contributions: 

Michigan is one of about 20 states that limits the abilities for municipalities to build their own networks, said Chris Mitchell, director of the Community Broadband Networks Initiative of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.

Mitchell, an expert on community broadband networks, runs muninetworks.org, which provides resources to communities thinking about building their own networks.


Marshall is one of about 150 communities in the nation that offers citywide internet services, Mitchell said.

Five years ago, there were fewer than 100.

"They are very dissatisfied [by] the options from the big cable and telephone companies," Mitchell said. "In our experience, the cities will reach out to the providers and ask them to improve service. They will typically respond and say it’s adequate and doesn’t need to be improved. Those companies have a limited amount to invest, and they will invest it where they can get the most profit."


Other than Marshall, only one other municipality in Michigan offers citywide fiber and that's Sebewaing, a town of about 1,000 residents in the Thumb region, according to a national Community Network Map by the Community Broadband Networks Initiative.


"Cities are reluctant to get into this [because] they don’t want to have to engage in a marketing campaign against Comcast, AT&T or WOW!," Mitchell said. 

"As more cities like Marshall....show what demand there is, I think we will see more cities doing it."

Read the full story here


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