Tag: "press center"

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

Posted September 14, 2018 by Jess Del Fiacco

Date: September 14th, 2018

Satellite is Not Broadband

High-quality connectivity needs to be fast, affordable, and reliable. Satellite is none of the three.  


MINNEAPOLIS, MINN. —  For most of rural America, options for high-speed Internet access are very limited, if they exist at all. Unfortunately, some of the federal funding intended to help fix that problem isn’t being put toward solutions that will be effective in the long-term.


A new fact sheet from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance details the shortcomings of satellite Internet access and why it should not be considered an an adequate solution for communities. Satellite is unreliable, slow, and has high latency-- all of which make activities such as working from home, taking online classes, completing business operations, or even just watching Netflix almost impossible. It also tends to come with bad service plans that lock subscribers into long-term, expensive commitments paired with data caps that limit usage even further.


The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently announced the second round of providers who received funding from the Connect America Fund Phase II Auction. Viasat, a satellite broadband provider and one of the only big winners, was awarded $122.5 million. This funding is intended to expand high-speed Internet access in the United States, but as ILSR makes clear in the fact sheet, satellite is not the answer rural America needs. For a deeper dive into the technical side of things, a recent podcast from ILSR features a discussion between Jonathan Chambers, director of Conexon, and Christopher Mitchell, director of ILSR’s Community Broadband Initiative, about the Connect America Fund auction.  


If you're interested in learning more about why satellite is not the solution for rural America’s broadband problems from Christopher Mitchell, please email back here or schedule an interview through Jess Del Fiacco at 612-540-5997.



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Posted August 22, 2018 by Jess Del Fiacco

Broadband Competition Quite Limited in Rochester Region, Despite Flawed Federal Statistics


The FCC’s data has confused some elected officials into thinking Rochester doesn’t have a broadband problem. It does.


MINNEAPOLIS, MINN. —  Rochester has a thriving economy built around the Mayo Clinic but does not have many choices for high-quality Internet access, a factor that may limit its growth in the digital economy. Federal statistics for broadband are easily confused, leading some elected officials to erroneously conclude that Rochester has enough competition. 


In the latest policy brief from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR), their staff crunched the data and developed original maps that detail the sad reality of broadband competition in the Rochester metro area. Most residents within city limits have some choice in slower broadband services, but Charter has mostly cornered the high-speed market.


ILSR had to correct some of the FCC data, including a provider that inaccurately claimed to offer very high speeds to everyone. Even after those corrections, the maps almost certainly still overstate coverage and competition due to biases in the FCC data collection process that systematically overstate availability. 


 “Rochester and its surrounding rural communities have too few affordable and reliable Internet service options,” says Christopher Mitchell, director of the Community Broadband Networks initiative at ILSR. “While the urban center does hold some broadband competition, Rochester certainly needs additional investment to nurture local businesses and ensure the high quality-of-life Rochester residents expect.” Mitchell moved to Rochester at 14 and attended Mayo High School.


If you're interested in learning more about Internet access in and around Rochester, Minnesota and the benefits of community broadband networks from Christopher Mitchell, please email back here or schedule an interview through Jess Del Fiacco at 612-540-5997.


About Christopher Mitchell:

Christopher Mitchell is the Director of the Community Broadband Networks initiative with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. Mitchell leads the acclaimed MuniNetworks.org as part of ILSR's effort to ensure broadband networks are...

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Posted August 22, 2018 by Jess Del Fiacco

Statescoop delves into our recent report which finds national broadband coverage is grossly over-represented by FCC data. Christopher Mitchell, director of ILSR’s Broadband initiative explains how residents of Rochester, Minn and nearby rural communities have few options for reliable Internet and how this trend extends to other communities throughout the United States.

Here are Mitchell’s contributions:

“The main takeaway is that some elected leaders have been fooled by aggregate statistics in broadband deployment,” Mitchell said. “We did the paper to demonstrate how statistics can be abused.”

Federal statistics cited in the report indicate that there are 19 broadband providers in Rochester, a number that would indicate a high level of market competition. But researchers found that not a single location has access to 19 providers, and in a majority of the city’s geography, there is no competition at all.

The report shows that about 19,000 Rochester residents only have access to broadband services through Charter Communications, and about 42,000 people don’t have access to a wireline broadband provider at all. According to the FCC, everyone in Rochester has broadband access because the agency lumps in slower, more expensive wireless services with wireline providers.

As huge gaps in broadband availability have persisted in Rochester, FCC statistics have provided politicians with misinformation, the researchers said. The local government  basically gets a “convenient excuse” not to act, Mitchell said.

Read the full story here.

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...
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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...

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