Tag: "press center"

Posted July 11, 2017 by Nick

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - July 11, 2017

The digital divide between urban and rural areas remains, and some question government grants aimed at addressing it

Written by Rick Barrett

It’s getting easier to find high-speed internet service in rural Wisconsin, yet there are still places where a robust online connection is as elusive as the Hodag, a mythical creature that legend says prowls the Northwoods.

What’s more, critics of government grants aimed at boosting the service across the country say much of the money is being spent on internet speeds that are obsolete.

When the service providers focus on short-term profit, rather than building the best possible network, it’s not good for rural America, said Christopher Mitchell with the Institute for Local Self Reliance, a Minneapolis nonprofit that helps communities with internet access issues.

“I don’t blame the providers any more than I blame tigers when they maul humans. They are what they are. The problem is that government policy lets them do it,” Mitchell said.

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Read the full story here.

Posted June 20, 2017 by Nick

Consumer Reports - June 20, 2017

Are City-Owned Municipal Broadband Networks Better?

Written by James K. Wilcox

Cable providers are among the least-loved companies in Consumer Reports surveys. Some of the biggest—such as Comcast and Spectrum—earn low scores in multiple categories, including value and customer service.

Unfortunately, consumers have few options. A 2015 White House study found that three out of four Americans had access to only one broadband provider offering speeds of at least 25 Mbps, the threshold for high-speed service recognized by the Federal Communications Commission.

One response to this problem is municipal broadband, in which towns and cities launch their own internet services to serve both residents and local businesses. But these networks can be controversial. Some have faced lawsuits from private providers, and about two dozen states have passed laws that discourage municipalities from acting.

Where Municipal Broadband Works Well

Most municipal broadband providers are too small to make it into Consumer Reports' ratings. One exception is EPB-Chattanooga, a municipal broadband provider in Tennessee that is one of the top-rated services.

EPB launched as a public power company back in 1935 and added its internet service about 15 years ago. According to MuniNetworks.org, a website that tracks municipal broadband deployments, it is one of more than 500 such networks in the U.S. run directly by a local government or in cooperation with a private company.

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Read the full story here.

Posted June 19, 2017 by Nick

ArsTechnica - June 19th, 2017

Cable lobby tries to stop state investigations into slow broadband speeds

Written by Jon Brodkin

Broadband industry lobby groups want to stop individual states from investigating the speed claims made by Internet service providers, and they are citing the Federal Communications Commission's net neutrality rules in their effort to hinder the state-level actions.

The industry attempt to undercut state investigations comes a few months after New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filed a lawsuit against Charter and its Time Warner Cable (TWC) subsidiary that claims the ISP defrauded and misled New Yorkers by promising Internet speeds the company knew it could not deliver.

NCTA-The Internet & Television Association and USTelecom, lobby groups for the cable and telecom industries, last month petitioned the Federal Communications Commission for a declaratory ruling that would help ISPs defend themselves against state-level investigations. The FCC should declare that advertisements of speeds "up to" a certain level of megabits per second are consistent with federal law as long as ISPs meet their disclosure obligations under the net neutrality rules, the groups said. There should be a national standard enforced by the FCC instead of a state-by-state "patchwork of inconsistent requirements," they argue. ...

Consumer advocacy groups urged the FCC to reject the petition, arguing that the commission doesn't have authority to preempt states in this matter and that the state investigations are important for protecting consumers. If the FCC "allow[s] providers to make unrealistic claims with an asterisk," then "services with vastly different peak performance characteristics may be advertised as equal with true differences in performance revealed only on a web page somewhere that...

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Posted June 3, 2017 by Nick

Thomasville Times-Enterprise - June 3rd, 2017

EMCs could help fill broadband gaps

Written by Jill Nolin

ATLANTA — Electric cooperatives once turned on the lights in remote communities where power companies didn’t go because of the cost.  

State legislators are now asking whether these co-ops can do the same for broadband internet service, which continues to lag in some rural and even mid-sized communities. 

At least two of Georgia’s 41 not-for-profit electric membership corporations already offer fiber broadband service; at least one other, Central Georgia EMC in Jackson, is considering it. ...

Nationally, electric cooperatives are relatively new to fiber broadband, but their involvement is “growing enormously,” said Christopher Mitchell, director of community broadband networks at the nonprofit Institute for Local Self-Reliance. 

And in some states, such as Missouri, electric cooperatives have become significant factors in improving broadband access in the rural communities where members have embraced the service. There are as many as 50 such broadband projects across the country. 

“I think the number one barrier to EMCs is not the threat of failure,” Mitchell said. “It’s a kind of inertia to keep doing what they have been doing, and I think that’s changing more rapidly than I thought, candidly. 

“But I think that’s the number one reason why we don’t see a hundred or 200 of the EMCs in this right now, although I think we’ll be there in another year or two from the rate of escalation we’re seeing,” he added. 

Cost is major factor, too. Mitchell said EMCs would likely need financial assistance from state or federal governments to launch a network in a reasonable timeframe. 

“EMCs could slowly expand over 10 or 20 years, but I think many of those houses will not be occupied over 10 or 20 years if they do not have a higher quality of service,” he said.

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Posted June 1, 2017 by Nick

Morning Consult - June 1, 2017

Local Advocates Push Back on Municipal Broadband Funding Study

Written by Mariam Baksh

A University of Pennsylvania study questioning the financial viability of municipal-owned networks for high-speed internet access is drawing criticism from local activists.

The dispute over how best to fund broadband networks in cities has proved a vexing problem for federal decision-makers. And the Penn study casts doubt on some methods favored by local groups.

The study concluded that 11 out of 20 municipal broadband projects were “cash-flow negative” over the five years from 2010 to 2014. It cautioned local decision-makers to carefully examine the data before committing to bonds for constructing and operating their own high-speed fiber networks. ...

“They are using phantom costs,” said Christopher Mitchell in a phone interview with Morning Consult. Mitchell, who runs the broadband project for the Institute for Local Self Reliance, said the life of the fiber is up for debate. More importantly, he added, factoring that sort of depreciation is not appropriate for determining the prospect of the projects going forward.

In one high-profile case, the report predicted it would take 412 years for the municipal broadband project in Chattanooga, Tenn., to “turn positive.” But according to a report by the Chattanooga Times Free Press, the city recently reported that it had already paid off its loans.

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Read the full story here.

Posted May 26, 2017 by Nick

State Scoop - May 26, 2017

Crowdsourced broadband mapping helps North Carolina clean its data

A new tool released by the state's technology agency is being used to refine coverage data reported by the FCC and open the way for new funding opportunities.

North Carolina's state technology agency launched a new tool for measuring broadband speeds across the state Wednesday as part of long-term infrastructure planning that could bring new connectivity to rural areas.

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A fact sheet published by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance shows that North Carolina has a deeply stratified rural-urban divide when it comes to broadband. Christopher Mitchell, ILSR's director of community broadband networks, blames the state's regulations for the disparity.

"The state perversely discourages investment from local governments and cooperatives," Mitchell writes in a 2016 report summary.

A 1999 statute limits the ability of electric cooperatives access to capital for telecommunications, while a 2011 law limits the power of local governments build internet networks.

In an email to StateScoop, Mitchell said North Carolina is "far too focused on AT&T and Charter. It is a real shame."

Disputes over how to fund the state's rural broadband efforts have been an ongoing debate in recent years. A plan sketched by former Gov. Pat McCrory had theoretically positioned all residents in the state with connectivity by 2021. Mitchell argues that the state is ignoring some of its best options by depending on a private market that has thus far consistently failed to serve certain areas of the state.

"[There are] a lot of opportunities with [municipal networks] and co-ops but the Legislature seems unable to comprehend that the big...

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Posted May 26, 2017 by Nick

S&P Global Market Intelligence - May 26, 2017

Hard Data on Municipal Broadband Networks

Written by Sarah Barry James

There is a dearth of good data around municipal broadband networks, and the data that is available raises some tough questions.

A new study from University of Pennsylvania Law School Professor Christopher Yoo and co-author Timothy Pfenninger, a law student, identified 88 municipal fiber projects across the country, 20 of which report the financial results of their broadband operations separately from the results of their electric power operations. Municipal broadband networks are owned and operated by localities, often in connection with the local utility.

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Yet Christopher Mitchell, director of the Community Broadband Networks Initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, argued that Yoo's study did not present an entirely accurate or up-to-date picture of U.S. municipal networks.

"When I looked at the 20 communities that he studied — and his methodology for picking those is totally reasonable and he did not cherry pick them — I was not surprised at his results because many of those networks are either in very small communities … and the others were often in the early years of a buildout during a period of deep recession," Mitchell said.

As an example, Mitchell pointed to Electric Power Board's municipal broadband network in Chattanooga, Tenn. — one of the five networks Yoo identified as having positive cash flow but at such a low level that it would take more than 100 years to recover project costs.

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In fact, without the revenue generated by the fiber-optics business, EPB estimated it would have had to raise electric rates by 7% this year.

According to Mitchell, Yoo's study captured the Chattanooga network when it was still "small and growing," but misses "what's going to happen for the rest of the life of the network, which I think is the more important part."

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Posted May 25, 2017 by Nick

Telecompetitor - May 25, 2017

Municipal broadband networks do not have a strong financial track record, according to an analysis conducted by the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Technology, Innovation and Competition. The municipal broadband financial analysis, which looked at 20 municipal fiber projects, found that only nine were cash-flow positive and that of those, seven would need more than 60 years to break even.

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An Opposing View

Municipal network advocate Christopher Mitchell, director of the Community Broadband Networks Initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, pointed to several flaws in the Penn Law municipal broadband financial analysis.

He noted, for example that a substantial portion of the 20 networks studied were “early in the process and very small.” He also argued that the 2010-2014 study period may have biased the results, as that period included a recession and subscribership for some of the networks has increased substantially since 2014. He noted, for example, that EPB’s broadband network in Chattanooga had about 50,000 to 55,000 subscribers in 2014 but has now hit the 90,000 mark.

The Penn Law authors’ approach was “not the proper way to measure these networks,” said Mitchell in a phone call with Telecompetitor. The analysis “doesn’t take into account jobs created or the impact on the municipal budget,” he said.

He argued, for example, that a municipality that previously paid $1 million annually for connectivity might instead pay itself $500,000 for connectivity on the municipal network.

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Read the full story here.

Posted May 4, 2017 by Nick

TechDirt - May 4, 2017

Maine The Latest State To Try And Let Giant Broadband Providers Write Shitty, Protectionist State Law

Written by Karl Bode

One of (several) reasons why American broadband is so uncompetitive is the fact that we continue to let giant broadband mono/duopolies quite literally write awful state telecom law. As we've long noted, more than twenty different states have passed laws making it difficult to impossible for towns and cities to improve their local broadband networks -- even in instances when the entrenched duopoly refuses to. Many of these laws even ban towns and cities from entering into public/private partnerships with the likes of Google Fiber. It's pure protectionism.

Maine is the 49th ranked state in broadband speed and coverage -- in large part due to rural markets. Despite countless years of subsidies, broadband providers consistently refuse to seriously upgrade these areas at any scale due to costs. And yet they refuse to let the towns do it themselves, either. State Representative Nate Wadsworth has introduced HP1040, aka "An Act To Encourage Broadband Development through Private Investment." Except like so many of these bills, the proposed law's name is a stark 180 from what the legislative measure actually does.

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And laws banning municipal broadband -- and especially public/private partnerships -- accomplish the exact opposite of that. And while large ISPs (and their ocean of paid think tankers, economists, and other doller-per-holler professionals) have tried to make this a partisan issue -- the vast majority of municipal networks are built in Conservative areas with broad, bipartisan support. That's because there's one thing we can all agree on: nobody likes the local cable and broadband monopoly.

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Posted April 25, 2017 by Nick

Date: April 25th, 2017

 

Bill Introduced in Maine Legislature to Limit Local Authority over Broadband Investment

HP 1040/LD 1516 would further entrench telecommunication monopoly power in The Pine Tree State.

Contact:
​Christopher Mitchell | christopher@ilsr.org

MINNEAPOLIS, MN – Maine State Representative Nathan Wadsworth (R-Hiram) introduced a bill to revoke local authority over building Internet networks needed by local businesses and residents. The ...

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