Tag: "mayor"

Posted December 18, 2013 by Lisa Gonzalez

The City of New York plans to deploy free Wi-Fi in a 95-city-block radius in Harlem. Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced the plan on December 10. 

According to the press release, the project will be divided into three phases with completion scheduled for May 2014. The New York City Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications and the Technology Development Corporation will oversee implementation. The City will partner with Sky-Packets. The Fuhrman Family Foundation is providing a generous donation to the Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City to fund the first five years of the project.

From the Mayor's press release:

The Harlem WiFi network will provide a fast Internet connection from portable devices completely free of charge. The network will be available 24/7 in outdoors locations within the zone, with unlimited access. Enabling connectivity is a key component of increasing technology inclusion citywide. 

The network will offer free access to approximately 80,000 Harlem residents, including 13,000 living in public housing. We are curious to see how well the system works as there are so many Wi-Fi networks in that area already, they may interfere significantly with each other.

Posted December 17, 2013 by Christopher Mitchell
Nilay Patel, founder of tech news site the Verge, offers a nine minute interview with Susan Crawford on how we can improve access to the Internet in the US. Crawford is increasingly focusing on local action, which we have encouraged for years:
Nilay Patel: In this context, to say that you're hopeful about the government doing anything seems extremely foolish. And, you know, I'm an advocate of net neutrality. I enjoyed the book thoroughly. But I have no hope that our government will accomplish any of these goals.

Susan Crawford: Well, there's government, and there's government. I'm totally focused on mayors these days. I've given up on federal policy for the time being.

Patel: But why are you focused on mayors?

Crawford: Because mayors are sovereigns. Mayors can act. They have control over their rights of way. They can say, "We need fiber in our area."

Posted December 5, 2013 by Christopher Mitchell

On November 25, the Baltimore Sun ran this opinion piece by me regarding Baltimore's approach to expanding Internet access in the city.

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake recently spoke the plain truth: “You can’t grow jobs with slow Internet.”

This simple statement is the best explanation for why Baltimore is examining how it can use existing City assets and smart investments in the near future to expand access to fast, affordable, and reliable Internet access. It is also a slap across Comcast’s face.

The big cable and telephone companies have insisted for years that they already deliver the services residents and businesses need. But they also claim to offer reasonable prices that just happen to increase year after year with few customers having other options to choose from.

Baltimore’s reality is that Comcast does indeed offer speeds that are faster than many in rural Maryland can access. But they are not even in the same league as cities like Chattanooga, where every address in the community has access to the fastest speeds available anywhere in the nation, and at some of the lowest prices. There, as in hundreds of communities across the country, the local government built its own next-generation network.

Whenever a city announces the possibility of investing in a network, the cable industry public relations machine kicks into high gear. They argue that we have a plethora of choices for Internet access. The sleight of hand behind this claim is to include LTE wireless networks as a replacement for cable – something almost no household does because replacing your home wired connection with LTE will break your budget. According to bandwidth-management firm Sandvine, the average household uses more than 50 gigabytes of data each month. Between the data caps and overage fees from AT&T, that will cost over $500/month.

Meanwhile, the overwhelming majority of community owned networks are doing exactly what they intended – breaking even financially while providing a valuable public service. Big cable companies argue that these networks have failed if they aren’t making big profits each year, a misunderstanding of public accounting. Community owned networks aim to break even, not make a profit.

When Windom, Minnesota, ended a year with a $50,000 deficit from a network that kept many local...

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Posted November 5, 2013 by Christopher Mitchell

Seattle will choose its new mayor today in a race that was thrust into an unexpected media spotlight following the Washington Post story on Comcast contributions to the challenger. We covered it early from the perspective of how Comcast wants to send a message to other mayors that may challenge its effective monopoly.

However, it bears noting that mayoral candidate Murray was mostly caught in the crossfire. He had been silent on broadband issues (which should raise some eyebrows given its importance to economic development, education, and quality of life) but after the WaPo story, he proclaimed that he supported the gigabit challenge to Comcast.

Just because Comcast wanted to buy the challenger doesn't necessarily mean that Murray was for sale or would do Comcast's bidding in office. But we are now learning that Comcast has bought 12 meals for Murray as part of their lobbying effort. If nothing else, these stories should be a good reminder of who calls the shots in American politics. As long as we encourage firms to spend big money on elections, the biggest corporations will continue to have far more influence over our government than we do.

Back to Seattle - lest one think this is a clear cut case of pro-competition Mayor McGinn vs. Comcast puppet Murray, a prominent tech blogger in Seattle sets us straight regarding the nuance and complications of such a simple analysis. Brier Dudley starts be reminding us that most people are voting on issues aside from Internet access and continues with:

McGinn simultaneously abandoned years of city planning to build a citywide broadband network and bring fast, affordable service to everyone.

Instead, McGinn opted to part out the city’s fiber-optic network assets, offering pieces here and there to telecom companies. That approach basically...

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Posted November 1, 2013 by Christopher Mitchell

In a reminder of the power embodied in massive corporations like Comcast, Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn is facing a challenger buoyed with sizeable contributions from the nation's largest cable and Internet company.

Why is Comcast so interested in defeating Seattle's mayor? Payback and a warning to others. Lest any other big city mayors think it would be wise to help create competition to Comcast's effective monopoly, know that Comcast will finance your opposition.

We have covered Seattle's various attempts at improving Internet access though we have admittedly not written much on its public-private partnership with Gigabit Squared. Gigabit Squared is a new firm that is starting to work with cities that have fiber assets to deliver services to residents and businesses.

The plan in Seattle is to create a large pilot project in at least 12 neighborhoods offering Internet service at speeds far faster than Comcast but at a lower price. Gigabit Squared is using city owned fiber to build its backbone network and working with the City to expand that network.

However, little has happened in the past 10 months since it was announced except some signs that Gigabit Squared was still trying to raise the necessary capital. We understand that some will start to get services early in 2014.

In the meantime, Comcast has donated heavily to Mayor McGinn's rival Ed Murray at a time when many expected the Mayor to already have a challenging race. From the Washington Post story:

Comcast's donations to political action committees (PACs) suggest Comcast has poured dramatically more resources into defeating McGinn. The Broadband Communications Association of Washington PAC, which received 94 percent of its 2013 contributions from Comcast, donated $5,000 to the group People for Ed Murray less than a month after Gigabit Squared's pricing announcement. That was the PAC's largest single donation. Unsurprisingly, People for Ed Murray has made significant expenditures supporting...

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Posted June 26, 2013 by Lisa Gonzalez

Longmont, Colorado, kept its eye on the prize. City leaders' vision, to bring high-speed connectivity to residents, businesses, schools, libraries, and government facilities began many years ago and the community faced multiple challenges. Citizens knocked down legislative barriers through referendum, fought corporate misinformation campaigns, and contended with tough economic times. Throughout the ordeal, community leaders held fast and now the vision is becoming a reality.

Current Mayor Dennis Combs inherited the project but he understands what the vision will bring to the community. In a recent article in the Boulder County Business Report, Combs focuses on economic development, education, and lifestyle as primary driving factors and says:

These are just a few reasons why it’s important for Longmont to realize its vision of being a connected city. If the city moves forward and deploys this network, it will join a number of elite communities around the country where citizens can work, learn, and live using the latest technologies available.

After ample opportunity to invest in the network Longmont residents and businesses asked for, Comcast chose to spend significant resources repeatedly trying to block a municipal network.

Fortunately, Combs and previous leadership took action to fix the lack of connectivity rather wait forever for two providers that did not want to invest in the community. Longmont's vision would never be this close to reality without leaders and citizens who chose a path of local self-reliance.

Posted April 2, 2013 by Christopher Mitchell

Opelika Mayor Gary Fuller and Jennifer McCain, partner of the Motive Group discuss why this Alabama town is the first to build its own fiber optic network in the state.

In short, Opelika had long been fed up with the services offered by Charter Cable and Charter was not amenable to meeting the community's needs. They decided to build a FTTH network that would meet Smart Grid needs as well as delivering telephone, television, and Internet access. Due to state law, they had to hold a referendum to offer television services. Despite a misinformation campaign, the community overwhelmingly supported building a community owned network.

Toward the end of our discussion, Mayor Fuller offers some thoughts on what it takes for an elected official to commit to an expensive investment where one has to pay all the costs and stand for re-election before the benefits start to accrue. In short, it takes courage. And having the unanimous support of the City Council is helpful also!

Read the transcript from our conversation here.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show - please e-mail us or leave a comment below. Also, feel free to suggest other guests, topics, or questions you want us to address.

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Listen to previous episodes here. You can can download this Mp3 file directly from here.

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Thanks to D. Charles Speer & the Helix for the music, licensed using Creative Commons.

Posted March 22, 2013 by Lisa Gonzalez

“Fiber is the key to assuring Palo Alto's long-term position as the Leading Digital City of the Future"

That was Palo Alto Mayor Greg Scharff who was giving his State of the City Address at Tesla Motors in February.

Mayor Scharff described 2013 as "the year of the future" for Palo Alto, with technology and infrastructure as two of the city's most pressing priorities. Scharff called for developing a plan to expand and optimize the city's current 33 miles of fiber with the aim to bring that fiber to homes and businesses. Scharff echoed the recent Gigabit City Challenge, offered by FCC Chairman Genachowski, noting that Palo Alto users should be have access to 1 gig, minimum.

Jason Green of the Mercury News reported on Scharff's speech in which he referenced the city's long desire to provide high speed access to residents:

"Ultra-high-speed Internet has been a Palo Alto vision for a long time. Now is the time to fulfill that vision," Scharff said. "Google has recently deployed ultra-high-speed Internet in Kansas City. Palo Alto can do better and has all of the elements that will make this a success."

Scharff also referred to how the city is currently using its fiber and some of the benefits:

“In 1996, our city built a 33-mile optical fiber ring routed within Palo Alto to enable better Internet connections.  Since then, we have been licensing use of this fiber to businesses. For the past decade, this activity has shown substantial positive cash flow and is currently making in excess of $2 million a year for the city. We now have that money in the bank earmarked for more fiber investments."

We spoke with Josh Wallace, from Palo Alto's Fiber Optic Development, in episode 26 of the Broadband Bits podcast about how the city uses dark fiber to connect businesses. As we noted in the past, a thorn in the side of Palo Alto's plan to offer lit services is Comcast, which has been willing to engage in dirty tricks in other communities to stop community owned networks....

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