Tag: "institute for local self-reliance"

Posted September 9, 2020 by Ry Marcattilio-...

The Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) is looking for a Broadband Writer/Editor to join a small team within ILSR focused on ensuring all Americans have fast, affordable, and reliable Internet access. 

With Katie leaving to add her acumen, insight, and research skills to ILSR's Energy Democracy team across the virtual hall, there's a signifcant void to fill. Coverage of electric cooperatives here might never recover, and we'll certainly miss her.

Check out the job duties and skills needed below.

Job responsibilities include:

  • Writing stories for MuniNetworks.org, a clearinghouse of the latest news, comprehensive reports, and statistics about community broadband networks.
  • Writing and collaborating with the team on larger reports.
  • Managing research ongoing on the cities and cooperative that are building networks.
  • Monitoring an overwhelming number of Google alerts and other streams of information to keep track of local developments around community networks.
  • Working with the team to develop and review research projects and creative efforts to share our work.

A successful candidate is:

  • An exceptionally good writer with the ability to convey complex ideas in a clear and compelling way. Able to write quickly when needed.
  • Attentive to accuracy, detail, and nuance.
  • Strongly motivated.
  • A strong analytic thinker who can identify the pivotal questions and gaps in a piece.
  • Possesses a genuine enjoyment of collaboration with a willingness to give and receive honest feedback. Skilled at helping team members improve the articles they contribute.
  • Passionate about the ILSR’s mission of countering corporate monopolies and building community power.
  • Enthusiastic about puns, alliteration, or some other means of playing with words.

Preferred qualifications:

  • More than 1 year of experience in journalism or writing and editing – ideally on broadband policy, tech, or related fields.
  • Strong knowledge of public policy processes or a tech/telecom background.
  • A bachelor’s degree.

This position is full-time working with a team based in Minnesota, but we currently work remotely and welcome applications from anywhere within the U.S. Position includes 100% employer-paid health plan,...

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Posted August 25, 2020 by Katie Kienbaum

With the end of the federal Keep Americans Connected pledge and the failure of Congress to pass comprehensive broadband aid, it’s clearer than ever before that local governments are the last line of defense against the digital divide, which has been exacerbated by the ongoing pandemic.

Some communities have already taken steps to connect their residents, during the global health crisis and beyond. For example, the public school systems in San Francisco and Portland, Oregon, decided to cover the cost of broadband subscriptions for low-income students. In Chattanooga, Tennessee, the city’s municipal broadband network is partnering with local schools to provide free Internet access to all students that receive free and reduced-price lunch.

However, in 21 states, legal barriers — often enacted at the behest of corporate telecom lobbyists — prevent local governments from investing in community broadband solutions to close the digital divide.

To help local governments that want to improve connectivity navigate the various opportunities and obstacles, we at the Community Broadband Networks initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) have teamed up with the Local Solutions Support Center (LSSC) to produce a number of helpful resources. We previously shared a step-by-step guide for establishing local broadband authority during the pandemic. Now, local officials and community advocates can access two more resources: a guide for local governments to act in the context of the pandemic, and an interactive state broadband preemption map.

View The Digital Divide and the...

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Posted July 31, 2020 by Katie Kienbaum

Get up to speed with how electric cooperatives are rapidly expanding rural broadband access by watching a recent webinar on the topic from the Community Broadband Action Network (CBAN). The webinar is part of CBAN’s Lunch and Learn series, and it features panelists Christopher Mitchell, Director of the Community Broadband Networks initiative, and Steve Collier, Vice President of Business Development at consulting firm Conexon.

View the webinar recording on YouTube or below.

Watch the Webinar

CBAN is an Iowa-based network of local governments, broadband providers, and community groups that advocates for better community broadband solutions. Its Lunch and Learn webinar series has covered a variety of topics, including digital inclusion and New Market Tax Credits.

On the recent webinar, the hosts and panelists talked about how rural co-ops provide broadband to a large and growing portion of rural America. They discussed the various reasons why electric cooperatives invest in fiber infrastructure, including smart grid applications, local economic development, and the needs of rural communities. Other topics of conversation included financing for co-op fiber networks, electric and telephone cooperative partnerships, and co-op member organizing efforts. For more, watch below.

Co-op Fiber Continues to Grow

Learn more about how rural electric and telephone cooperatives are bringing high-quality to rural areas with our report Cooperatives Fiberize Rural America: A Trusted Model for the Internet Era. See which co-ops are investing in broadband by viewing the rural cooperatives page on MuniNetworks.org, which features a periodically updated list of cooperative fiber and gigabit networks.

Stay up to date on how electric cooperatives are connecting their communities with our articles on rural electric co-ops.

Posted July 10, 2020 by Katie Kienbaum

The Institute for Local Self-Reliance’s (ILSR’s) Community Broadband Networks initiative is honored to be recognized as one of the top 100 Fiber-the-the-Home (FTTH) leaders by Broadband Communities magazine.

Broadband Communities publishes its annual Top 100 FTTH list to acknowledge the contributions that these companies and organizations have made to the fiber optic industry. “‘Building a Fiber-Connected World’ is the tagline of Broadband Communities magazine, and each year the FTTH Top 100 list recognizes organizations that lead the way in this endeavor,” the publication explained. In addition to ILSR, awardees include fiber vendors, network operators, business consultants, and broadband engineers.

MuniNetworks and Community Networks Make the Mark

In the list entry for ILSR, Broadband Communities said:

ILSR’s publications, including its MuniNetworks.org blog, toolkit and weekly podcast that covers broadband and more . . . have shown communities that controlling their broadband destinies is feasible and has the potential to improve local economies and quality of life.

Christopher Mitchell, Director of the Community Broadband Networks initiative, commented on the award:

We are honored to be once again named to Broadband Communities' Top 100 — the Broadband Communities publications and events have been essential in expanding community network approaches throughout North America. We could not have built our platform without their events and research over the many years we have worked together.

Broadband Communities recognized a select few community broadband networks in the FTTH Top 100, including UTOPIA Fiber, an open access fiber network serving more than a dozen Utah communities, and Co-Mo Connect, the broadband subsidiary of Missouri electric cooperative. The list also identifies a number of consultants that frequently work with municipalities and/or cooperatives, such as CCG Consulting, Conexon, and Finley Engineering.

View the full list. The current edition of the Broadband Communities magazine is...

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Posted July 6, 2020 by Katie Kienbaum

As the pandemic drags on, local governments across the country are looking for ways to connect their residents, who need better Internet access for everything from online education to annual taxes to telehealth appointments. But 19 states still place restrictions on cities and counties that want to invest in broadband expansion, hamstringing their ability to address urgent connectivity needs.

To help people figure out if their community is able to take action, we worked with the Local Solutions Support Center (LSSC) to develop a step-by-step guide for local officials and advocates. The guide includes the various considerations communities must make when developing a Covid-19 broadband response, including the extent of local government authority, state legal restrictions, and declaration of emergency powers.

LSSC describes the guide:

As the coronavirus pandemic spreads, local elected officials and advocates alike are asking what they can do for their communities across a range of policies — including to ensure that everyone has broadband Internet access available. This guide can help you determine whether your community has the authority it needs to adopt a particular policy.

View the guide on LSSC’s website or download the PDF below.

“What’s the Policy?”

The guide takes people through the following questions and action steps:

  • What’s the Policy?
  • Is there Existing Authority?
  • Is the Policy Expressly Preempted?
  • Is there a Conflict with State Law or Other Barrier?
  • What is the Extent of Emergency Powers?
  • Demand State Action

For the different steps, the guide offers an explanation, identifies examples from different states, and suggests resources for further research. For example, under “Is there Existing Authority?” the guide directs communities to look at state and...

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Posted June 1, 2020 by Katie Kienbaum

Last week, the Institute for Local Self-Reliance shared a statement on the killing of George Floyd and the ongoing and necessary protests against police brutality in Minneapolis, where ILSR has an office and where the Community Broadband Networks initiative is based. We are reposting that statement below.

 

“We are devastated by the racist treatment and senseless killing of George Floyd. Along with our neighbors in Minneapolis, we mourn his tragic death, and recognize the profound harm that decades of unjust and oppressive policies have inflicted on people of color in this city.

“As we grieve for George Floyd and for the city that has been our home for nearly 30 years, we pledge to continue to fight for economic and racial justice throughout our work. We desperately need to address the disenfranchisement and oppression that occurs, on a daily basis, across our country.

“We hope that justice for George Floyd’s killing comes swiftly, that peace comes to the streets of Minneapolis, and our community can focus on the healing that can only come with policies and practices that value all people.”

 

Photo Credit: Virgil McDill

Posted May 19, 2020 by Katie Kienbaum

Contrary to the common narrative of poor connectivity and dim prospects for rural America, the vast majority of rural North Dakotans have gigabit fiber Internet access available to them today.

Our case study, How Local Providers Built the Nation’s Best Internet Access in Rural North Dakota, explains how this came to be, highlighting how 15 telephone cooperatives and local companies came together to invest in their rural communities and build fiber broadband networks across the state. In the 1990s, those companies united to purchase 68 rural telephone exchanges in North Dakota from regional provider US West (now CenturyLink). Then, they leveraged federal broadband funds to deploy some of the most extensive fiber networks in the country, turning North Dakota into the rural broadband oasis that it is today.

Download the case study, How Local Providers Built the Nation’s Best Internet Access in Rural North Dakota [pdf].

A Model for Better Rural Connectivity

The case study explores North Dakota's exceptional rural connectivity through several maps and graphs and offers the following takeaways:

  • 15 local telephone companies and cooperatives took advantage of regional monopoly US West's failure to view its rural properties as profitable and acquired 68 of the provider's exchanges in rural North Dakota, creating the foundation for fiber networks that would one day crisscross the state.
  • More than three quarters of rural North Dakotans have access to fiber broadband today, compared to only 20 percent of rural residents nationally. Over 80 percent of North Dakota's expanse is covered by fiber networks.
  • National telecom monopolies refuse to substantially upgrade their rural networks even though they receive billions in subsidies, while local co-ops and companies continue to invest in their communities ⁠— proving the solutions for better rural connectivity already exist.

Read How Local Providers Built the Nation’s Best Internet Access in Rural North Dakota [pdf].

 

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Posted May 14, 2020 by Katie Kienbaum

In their recent, biased report bashing community broadband, the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) alleges that municipal broadband networks are “GON With the Wind,” but it’s really the report’s authors who have run off with reality. Though the report implies that the random subset of 30 municipal networks it features are all government “boondoggles,” TPA only alleges network failure or failure to pay debt in nine cases. After correcting for TPA’s errors, just eight of those 30 networks could be argued as failures.

To counter TPA’s erroneous and misleading claims, the Community Broadband Networks initiative has prepared a response to the report in which we summarize the many shortcomings of the report’s arbitrary approach, correct the authors’ numerous mistakes and omissions, and provide a city-by-city rebuttal of the report’s allegations.

View our response, “Fact Checking the New Taxpayers Protection Alliance Report, GON With the Wind” [pdf], now or download the file below.

“Puzzling” Report Discredits TPA

“The Taxpayer Protection Alliance has returned with another puzzling attempt to discredit municipal broadband networks,” we write in our response to the new report. “They have published a report, GON With the Wind, that mostly affirms that the community networks it picked to study are successful.”

In addition to not even alleging network failure in most cases, TPA’s report struggles with a basic understanding of the telecommunications business, fails to correctly cite and use facts, and relies heavily on a discredited study. In particular, we note the many sloppy errors that the report’s authors make in the section on Chattanooga, Tennessee:

We examined their sourcing for claims made in the Chattanooga case study and found numerous problems. The most obvious is related to the claim on page 15 that Chairman Ajit Pai reversed former Chairman Wheeler’s effort to limit state preemption policies. The 6th Circuit reversed the FCC Order while Chairman Wheeler was still in office, long before Republicans won the 2016 election. Oddly enough, TPA correctly characterized this on page 16.

Furthermore, the report excludes relevant...

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Posted May 13, 2020 by Katie Kienbaum

Yesterday, the Transnational Institute (TNI) released The Future Is Public, a book that explores international municipalization efforts and the benefits of public ownership. In addition to tracking the successful transition of water, waste, energy, and other essential services to public ownership in hundreds of communities, the book describes how local governments in the United States have increasingly invested in municipal broadband networks.

Chapter 9, “United States: Communities providing affordable, fast broadband Internet” [pdf], analyzes the significant growth of publicly owned broadband networks across the country. The co-authors Thomas M. Hanna, Research Director at the Democracy Collective, and Christopher Mitchell, Director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance’s Community Broadband Network initiative, explain in the chapter:

In the United States, one of the fastest growing areas of municipalisation and local public ownership is high-speed broadband Internet networks. This is due, in part, to the failure of the highly concentrated, corporate-dominated telecommunications sector to provide fast and affordable service in many parts of the country – especially rural areas, smaller towns and cities, and communities with low levels of income and economic development.

Download The Future is Public and the chapter on municipal broadband on TNI’s website.

Municipal Broadband’s “Proven Track Record”

Tens of millions of Americans still don’t have access to broadband, and Hanna and Mitchell point to telecom monopolies as the reason for the disparity. “A corporate oligopoly in the telecommunications sector is a major reason why wide swathes of the country (both geographically and socioeconomically) are left with inferior or unaffordable service,” they argue.

As case studies, the chapter features several local governments that have responded to inadequate connectivity by building their own fiber optic networks to connect residents and businesses, including Wilson, North Carolina; Chattanooga, Tennessee; and...

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Posted May 12, 2020 by Katie Kienbaum

Late last month, we reported on Frontier Communications’ claim that it now offers broadband in 17,000 rural census blocks in an effort to remove those areas from the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC’s) upcoming rural broadband funding program. At the time, we expressed concerns that the provider may be exaggerating Internet speeds, and after publishing that article, we heard from Frontier subscribers, local officials, and private companies who shared their own doubts over the accuracy of the company’s reporting.

Earlier today, the Institute for Local Self-Reliance filed comments with the FCC to draw attention to Frontier’s questionable claims. “We are concerned that Frontier may have overstated its capacity to actually deliver the claimed services in many areas,” the comments read.

We call on the FCC to either investigate or to simply refuse Frontier’s disputable claims to ensure unserved rural areas aren’t prevented from receiving subsidies to expand broadband access. The comments argue:

Allowing Frontier to so remove hundreds of thousands of Americans from one of the most significant rural broadband programs in history would send a strong message that there is no claim too far that the Commission will be skeptical of . . . Frontier is all but inviting the Commission to make an example of it and serve notice that the Commission intends to ensure Americans in rural regions have real opportunities to connect rather than continuing to play games with bankrupt firms.

Download ILSR’s comments to the FCC at the agency's website or below.

Inconsistent Reports Raise a Red Flag

We have seen inconsistencies in Frontier’s past reports to the FCC on its broadband offerings, which the company is required to file twice a year. A few years ago, Frontier reduced reported speeds in a number of census blocks from 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) download and 3 Mbps upload — the FCC’s minimum definition of broadband — to just below broadband speeds.

Our analysis of federal data shows that the 17,000 census blocks that the company recently reported as having access to broadband have seen similar inconsistencies. In December 2018, Frontier claimed that more than 3,000 of those blocks suddenly had...

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