Tag: "news"

Posted October 13, 2017 by lgonzalez

You may have noticed two new writers at MuniNetworks.org lately. Welcome Christopher Barich and Matt Marcus to the Community Broadband Networks team. Chris and Matt will be contributing to research, writing stories, working on resources, and helping keep up with all the developments in this sphere: 

 

Christopher Barich: Before joining ILSR, he interned with the U.S. Department of State and the Hudson Institute. He is a current MN Army National Guard officer and veteran. Christopher holds a Master’s of Public Policy in Global Public Policy from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota.

You can find him on twitter at: @chris_barich

Matthew Marcus: Matthew has a BA in Political Science and International Relations from CUNY Hunter College. Before joining ILSR, he worked as a Communications Associate at Medha Learning Foundation in Lucknow, India. He is a freelance writer, avid music collector, and lover of short fiction.

He’s on twitter at: @matthewmarcus91

We feel lucky to have both Christopher and Matthew aboard to help us share the news about publicly owned networks and telecom policy.

Posted June 9, 2017 by htrostle

Journalist Jill Nolin recently dove into the details of electric cooperatives and Internet service in an article for the Thomasville Times-Enterprise in Georgia. Rural electric co-ops offer an avenue for robust rural connectivity that is in keeping with the long-standing rural tradition of self-reliance.

Talking With The Cooperatives

The article features interviews with several local electric cooperatives (EMCs) for their perspective on providing Internet service. Nolin spoke with Blue Ridge Mountain EMC, an electric cooperative that has been offering Internet service for almost ten years.

“Sometimes you have to venture out and do what’s right because your members need you to do it, because they’re demanding you to do it and because it’s the right thing to do. That’s what we did. We ventured out. We didn’t take ‘no’ for an answer,” -- Erik Brinke, Economic Development Director for Blue Ridge Mountain EMC

Nolin explored several possible barriers facing electric cooperatives that want to provide Internet service: from murky legal territory to capital funding. Christopher 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,”

Nolin describes how the electric cooperatives are currently asking for the law to be clearly spelled out in the state of Georgia. 

Electric Cooperatives Across the Country

Many electric cooperatives around the country have started projects and programs to connect residents and businesses. At the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, we have counted about 50 electric cooperatives involved so far. Our report on North Carolina noted how the rural electric cooperatives could provide Internet access to many unserved communities in that state; changes in the law would allow better EMCs to...

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Posted January 21, 2015 by lgonzalez

The Madison Cap Times recently ran an editorial focusing on the surprising nature of mayoral races. We were also surprised - pleasantly so - to read the intention of the editorial board (emphasis ours):

The Capital Times will add its proposals to the mix, with a special focus on using emerging technologies to promote high-wage job creation and economic development. In particular, we'll advocate for the establishment of a municipal broadband system that can provide free high-speed Internet access to all Madisonians. 

...

Madison is a great city that does plenty of things right. But it faces major challenges, some of its own making, some imposed by reactionary state government, some dictated by our complex times. A mayoral race is the pivot point at which to discuss those challenges and the proper responses to them.

The Cap Times editorial reminds us that local decision making about connectivity is rooted in our choice of local leaders. We encourage Madison voters and all other communities facing the ballot to press candidates to address the issue of fast, affordable, reliable connectivity. If your community doesn't have it, ask your candidates what they intend to do about it.

Madison's mayor Soglin has been a leader on this issue via the U.S. Conference of Mayors, where he wrote and worked to adopt a resolution that called for restoring local decision-making authority to local governments.

Posted January 15, 2015 by lgonzalez

On January 14th, President Obama visited Cedar Falls, Iowa, to share his strategy to expand high-speed connectivity to more Americans, encourage competition, and galvanize economic development. Obama's plan centers around community networks and he announced that the next step will be eliminating barriers in 19 states that usurp local authority to invest in publicly owned infrastructure.

From his remarks [C-SPAN Video below]:

Today, I'm making my administration's position clear on community broadband. I'm saying I'm on the side of competition. And I'm on the side of small business owners... I'm on the side of students and schools. I believe that a community has the right to make its own choice and to provide its own broadband if it wants to. Nobody is going to force you to do it, but if you want to do it, if the community decides this is something that we want to do to give ourselves a competitive edge and to help our young people and our businesses, they should be able to do it.

The Obama Administration, through the Department of Commerce, recently sent a letter [PDF] to Chairman Wheeler to request the FCC use its authority to end state barriers that block local public investment. The Hill noted the letter and the President's speech together put gentle pressure on the FCC to take steps to restore local authority. The Hill also gave space to the cable industry, naturally opposed to restoring local authority after millions of lobbying dollars invested in passing anti-competitive legislation.

InfoWorld also pointed out cable industry opposition to the Obama proposal, noting that they were ready to mount a strong offense and will likely join Congressional Republicans to fight any roll-back of state barriers. A decision from the FCC on whether or not to change state laws in North Carolina and Tennessee is expected in February.

As for the incumbents, there was no love...

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Posted January 8, 2015 by lgonzalez

Our readers have heard the media murmur around municipal networks steadily grow to a loud hum during the past year. An increasing number of local press outlets have taken the opportunity to express their support for municipal networks in recent months.

In communities across the U.S. letters to the editor or editorial board opinions reflected the hightened awareness that local decisionmaking is the best answer. Support is not defined by political inclination, geography, or urbanization.

Last fall, several Colorado communities asked voters to decide whether or not to reclaim local telecommunications authority hijacked by the state legislature and Qwest (now CenturyLink) lobbyists in 2005. Opinion pieces from local political and business leaders in the Denver Post and the Boulder Daily Camera encouraged voters to support the measures. Downtown Boulder Inc. and the Boulder Chamber wrote:

Clearly a transparent public process is appropriate for identifying the best path to higher-speed infrastructure. One thing is certain. Approving the exemption to State Law 152 is a step in the right direction.

Expensive service, poor quality connections, and limited access often inspire local voices to find their way to the news. Recently, City Council Member Michael Wojcik from Rochester, Minnesota, advocated for a municipal network for local businesses and residents. His letter appeared in the PostBulletin.com:

If we want to control our broadband future, we need to join successful communities such as Chattanooga, Tenn., and Lafayette, La., and create a municipal fiber network. In many cities around the world, residents get 1 gigabyte, bidirectional Internet speeds for less than $40 per month. In Rochester, I get 1 percent of those speeds for $55 per month. I believe if Bucharest, Romania, can figure this out, Rochester can as well.

Last summer, Austin Daily Herald reporter Laura Helle...

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Posted May 29, 2014 by lgonzalez

In the wake of the Comcast Time Warner Cable proposed merger, an increasing number of local communities across the country are expressing their dissatisfaction with their broadband options. The Concord Monitor recently published an editorial suggesting the community prepare for publicly owned fiber.

Concord's main street will soon be excavated; the Monitor recognizes that this creates an excellent opportunity to adopt a dig once policy. As we know from places such as Sandy, Oregon and Mount Vernon, Washington, dig once policies accompanied with intelligent conduit policies can make a significant impact. Deployment costs less and happens faster when the network's foundation already exists.

The Monitor notes that the merger underscores the importance of municipal networks to protect affordable access:

The companies serve different geographic regions, so proponents of the merger claim prices won’t increase. The flip side of that, of course, is that prices won’t go down because the two companies won’t compete against each other for future business. The merger needs regulatory approval and may never happen. But other factors suggest the city should, as technology expert Susan Crawford suggests, see high-speed internet service as a basic utility like the provision of electricity or water.

Crawford is the author of the new book Captive Audience: The Telecom Industry and Monopoly in the New Gilded Age.

“Truly high-speed wired internet access is as basic to innovation, economic growth, social communication and the country’s competitiveness as electricity was a century ago,” Crawford contends in the book, “but a limited number of Americans have access to it, many can’t afford it, and the country has handed control of it over to Comcast and a few other companies.”

That’s the situation in Concord.

The monitor recognizes that the FCC's proposed regulations for the Internet could lead to higher prices passed on from content providers to consumers. The threat to network neutrality underscores the importance of municipal networks.

New...

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Posted July 29, 2012 by christopher

The news that the New Orleans Times-Picayune would dramatically cut back on its printed edition led to a fine article discussing the role of the digital divide as it becomes harder to live without access to the Internet.

It’s harder to profit from the investment in broadband infrastructure in rural areas where fewer residents live further apart. Among poorer residents, broadband – and even newspaper subscriptions – tend to be luxuries for job seekers or people who are still trying to rebuild homes damaged by Hurricane Katrina nearly seven years ago. The Picayune’s decision to print only three days a week means fewer newspapers will get passed around local barber shops, beauty salons, cafes and convenience stores — places where many people who don’t have broadband access at home often go to exchange information about what’s happening in their neighborhoods.

Access to the Internet becomes more important every day but our policymakers continue to rely on some of the most hated corporations in the nation (with good reason) to deliver it. And they continue to fail. Communities should continue investigating how they can take greater responsibility for solving their problems locally.

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