Tag: "planning"

Posted July 11, 2022 by Karl Bode

Driven by Covid frustration and a boom in available grant money, Santa Clara County, California officials say they’re moving forward with their plans to explore a municipal broadband network, with the formal next steps expected to be announced at the tail end of this year. 

Last December, the board of supervisors in Santa Clara unanimously approved the creation of a publicly-owned fiber municipal broadband network. Spearheaded by County Supervisors Cindy Chavez and Susan Ellenberg, the project aims to provide “affordable, reliable high speed broadband service” to communities across Santa Clara County.

Santa Clara county contracted CTC Technology and Energy to examine various construction and funding proposals and develop a project master plan. County officials tell ILSR that the next report on that effort isn’t expected until November or December of this year, but the county is working on building a bridge toward a publicly-owned option in the interim. 

Hidden In Plain Sight

According to the California State Association of Counties (CSAC), 70,000 Santa Clara residents have no access to broadband whatsoever. Another 73,000 currently qualify as underserved, meaning they remain stuck on dial up or antiquated DSL incapable of meeting the FCC’s minimum threshold of 25 Megabit per second (Mbps) downstream/3 Mbps upstream to even be considered “broadband.” 

“The pandemic has exposed the digital inequity that has been hidden in plain sight in the heart of Silicon Valley for two decades now,” Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez told ILSR. 

“Our region has generated an unimaginable amount of wealth off of the Internet,” Chavez said. “We have transformed every facet of humanity in the last 25 years, but we also left more than 70,000 of our neighbors behind. Now is the time to fix that by bringing high speed broadband access to our entire community.”

State data indicates that another 689,000 of Santa Clara County’s residents currently live under a monopoly, resulting in high prices, slower speeds, and substandard customer service—all usually worse in already marginalized neighborhoods. All of CSAC’s data is pulled from...

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Posted June 9, 2022 by Ry Marcattilio

In March, the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and the National Digital Inclusion Alliance held a livestream event on the range of challenges and tools available to communities to accomplish infrastructure, equity, and inclusion goals. We called it Building for Digital Equity: Demystifying Broadband Policy and Funding. There, we discussed the new policies and funding options available that can be applied at the state and local levels to help communities improve their Internet services.

This time we will be focusing on organizing around broadband, community impact of the federal funding, and new initiatives in progress thanks to the grants communities are taking advantage of. 

Join us on Wednesday June 29th from 1:00pm-2:15pm ET as we discuss what's happening on the ground in these communities and what some of them are planning to do with the new federal broadband dollars. We are calling it Building for Digital Equity, Chapter 2: Claiming Broadband For Your Community. Register here.

This event will feature:

  • Your favorite co-host:  Christopher Mitchell of ILSR and Pamela Rosales of NDIA
  • Videos from communities discussing what they are planning and doing with the funding
  • Discussing the “how” in organizing communities
  • Guest speakers discussing organizing strategies, and success stories.
  • The return of the crowd favorite Broadband Trivia!

Looking forward to seeing you all there!

Event Links

Register for Building for Digital Equity, Chapter 2 here to get the livestream links; on the day of the event, it will also be available on Twitter, via @netinlusion, @communitynets and @muninetworks

During the livestream, you can also join the trivia game (link to follow).

Note: There is no need to join the trivia game ahead...

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Posted June 8, 2022 by Sean Gonsalves

This week on the podcast Christopher is joined by Ken Demlow, Planning Services Group Manager with HR Green, a leading employee-owned civil engineering and technical management firm with offices in nine states.

The pair dive into the world of consulting firms and how they help cities and towns across the United States figure out how to build and design local infrastructure, which includes the building of local broadband networks.

Ken, a nationally recognized expert on fiber deployment, walks through the process of how HR Green is first engaged by a community, covering everything from envisioning the scope of work and assessing existing community assets to the high-level design and financing of local broadband network construction.

Christopher probes Ken on the ins-and-outs of how communities can prepare to upgrade its telecommunication infrastructure, how local leaders can think about financing construction, as well as dealing with the challenges of rights-of-way and pole attachments – one of the most difficult aspects of building broadband networks. 

Demlow goes on to share his experience working with communities across the country and how local officials looking to close the digital divide in their towns can think about how to get the ball rolling.

This show is a little over 19 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed. You can listen to the interview on this page or visit the Community Broadband Bits page.

Transcript coming soon. 

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

Listen to other episodes here or...

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Posted April 25, 2022 by Sean Gonsalves

The city of Seattle is looking to beef up its Information Technology department as it seeks to hire a Digital Equity Program & Broadband Manager.

The position will be a part of the city’s Client and Community Engagement Division and, according to the job posting, will play a central role in managing “digital inclusion planning and grants, broadband planning and advocacy, low-cost Internet program support, cable franchise administration, wireless affairs, and legislative advocacy for digital equity and telecommunication policy issues.”  

Job responsibilities will also include “providing guidance to all levels of local government and public agencies, in partnership with community, on critical digital inclusion services for residents, and administration and enforcement of Seattle’s Cable Code

Other key job responsibilities include:

  • Serves as a working team manager for the Digital Equity Program to set goals and strategies, and to implement program delivery. 
  • Coordinates and advises on policy, program, and funding opportunities to create, promote, and increase access to equitable, affordable, high-speed broadband services. 
  • Builds relationships with public, community, and private leaders across the city and region to develop new opportunities for achieving greater digital equity and affordable broadband connectivity in Seattle and resolving issues that hinder progress toward Seattle’s Internet for All Initiative goals. 
  • Provides regulatory compliance oversight of Seattle cable operators and cable franchise agreements. 
  • Negotiates and administers franchise agreements, franchise renewals and transfers as necessary with incumbent providers and new entrants. 
  • Administers Seattle’s Cable Customer Bill of Rights and other customer advocacy matters. 
  • Prepares reports, recommendations, analyses, and legislation to inform elected officials, department leadership, the...
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Posted February 25, 2022 by Emma Gautier

With nearly 65,000 households unable to connect to the Internet at basic broadband speeds of 25/3 Megabits per second (Mbps), municipalities across the Green Mountain State have risen to the fore in formulating creative models for addressing the tens of thousands of homes without broadband access. Iterating on the EC Fiber (with roots back to the early 2000s), joint, municipally led projects have led to the creation of a total of nine Communications Union Districts (CUDs) at present, which places community-owned broadband at the forefront in Vermont.

What’s equally exciting is that the state has likewise stepped up, calling the CUDs the primary avenue by which it will solve the state’s connectivity crisis, and funneling at least $116 million in their direction in the next handful of years, with much of this spending dedicated to CUDs. To date, nearly 85 percent of Vermont’s municipalities and 90 percent of its underserved locations fall within a CUD. 

Otter Creek Communications Union District (OCCUD) is one of the newest additions, located in the south-central part of the state. It was conceived in July 2020 when the Vermont Department of Public Service awarded the Rutland Regional Planning Commission with a grant for a feasibility study and business plan to bring fiber broadband to the community. The town of Brandon then voted to create ​​OCCUD, and the town of Goshen voted to join the CUD soon afterwards. Today, Otter Creek comprises 14 member communities in South Central Vermont, including Benson, Brandon, Castleton, Chittenden, Fair Haven, Goshen, Hubbardton, Pittsford, Rutland Town, Sudbury, West Rutland, Poultney, Mendon, and Pawlet. 

As a new CUD, Otter Creek is still navigating the planning stages of the project, motivated by the opportunity fiber will provide to allow residents to “compete in the global economy.” Otter Creek’s feasibility study for a fiber buildout was...

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Posted January 31, 2022 by Ry Marcattilio

Caroline Stratton, Assistant Professor in the School of Information at the University of Florida, has published a new article looking at the digital equity plans of four major U.S. cities with the aim of seeing how policy makers understand the genesis of digital inequity in their cities and how they frame solutions for addressing it. She does so with the hopes of offering recommendations for other cities that will undertake these types of efforts in the near future. To do so, “Planning to Maintain the Status Quo? A Comparative Study of Digital Equity Plans of Four Large US Cities” looks at recent-ish plans published in Portland, Oregon, Seattle, Washington, Kansas City, Missouri, and San Francisco, California.

The first third of the study includes a lot about meaning-making and the social construction of understandings of digital inequity that readers can skip without missing the bread and butter of the piece (which begins on page 51). After that, Stratton highlights a few important points that will be useful for cities embarking on digital equity work for the first time.

A Broken Marketplace Requires Community Solutions

First, she says, an understanding of digital inequity doesn’t offer much chance for change without being accompanied by a vision for solving it. Second, better city plans had larger and more inclusive coalitions from the outset, and were tapped into a variety of constituencies that represented a broader swath of lived experiences in these cities. Third, successful plans relied on the advice and participation of nonprofits, libraries, and other trusted community anchor institutions. 

Importantly, Stratton shows that even though “ISPs’ profit-seeking motive may dictate why particular communities lack Internet service entirely, or service that is high-quality and affordable . . . they are spared scrutiny in plans” in many cases. More than 80 million Americans live in areas with a functional broadband monopoly.

The study also points to the reality that digital equity advocates have been describing for decades - that there are a host of other inequities that perpetuate the digital divide. 

...

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Posted January 5, 2022 by Karl Bode

Since 1972, the Fort Pierce Utilities Authority (FPUA) has provided gas, electric, water, and natural gas services to Fort Pierce, Florida and surrounding areas. Now, inspired by efforts in cities like Chattanooga, the utility hopes to leverage that expertise to deliver affordable fiber Internet access to the city’s 45,000 residents as part of a significant expansion of its internal fiber network. 

Building on Its I-Net

Since the early 2000s, FPUA has deployed 110 miles of optical fiber via its FPUAnet Communications division. Initially, the project focused on bringing ultra-fast fiber broadband to large businesses, schools, hospitals, and other community anchor institutions. 

In 2018, the city decided to expand its footprint to boost the local economy and cement Fort Pierce’s future reputation as a smart city of the future. First by upgrading the company’s existing utility systems (connected to 30,000 existing customer energy meters), then by utilizing that access to drive expanded fiber connectivity to smaller business and residential customers alike. 

“We wanted to look at what we can do, and what are the needs in the community,” Jason Mittler, FPUAnet manager told me. “We have other local competition…Comcast, AT&T are competitors in the area. But in the realm of symmetrical speeds, no one really offers it.”

Fort Pierce certainly isn’t alone in that regard. Even the notoriously inflated FCC data indicates that most U.S. communities rarely have access to symmetrical speeds of 100 Megabits per second (Mbps) downstream and faster, and competition at those speeds is largely nonexistent. Addressing this market failure created an obvious business expansion opportunity for FPUANet that would not only bring additional value to its existing utility customers in the form of improved reliability and cost savings, but improve regional connectivity while keeping those dollars local

“Upload speeds here in Fort Pierce are not good,” Mittler noted, pointing to the top-heavy speed tiers of both cable broadband and DSL offerings. In contrast, FPUAnet will utilize GPON fiber...

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Posted January 4, 2022 by Ry Marcattilio

 

The new year is upon us, but don't let the mountain of emails in your inbox distract from a fantastic opportunity coming down the pipeline.

A philanthropic effort via Connect Humanity in partnership with EntryPoint Networks and Biarri Networks is giving out five Broadband Master Plans to communities to help bring the digital divide through an initiative they are calling Build Better Broadband. The comprehensive analyses will include everything from surveys of current access, to network design, to financial modeling and risk assessment. Applications are due January 14, 2022. 

Successful applicantions, the website points out, will focus on "speed, affordability, and overall access in diverse, low-income, and/or historically underserved communities through non-profit, community-owned, or public infrastructure." Communities of all sizes, from rural and urban areas, are invited to apply. Contenders will participate in an interview process in the first weeks of February, with winners announced at the end of the month.

Connect Humanity describes itself as a "fund advancing digital equity."

We support, catalyze, and scale holistic solutions providing people with the Internet access and means needed to participate fully in a digital society. We believe that one of the best ways to support communities to achieve digital equity is through comprehensive Broadband Master Plans.

EntryPoint Networks specializes in software-defined, open access networks. The firm worked with Ammon, Idaho, and continues to collaborate with communities around the country. Biarri Networks specializes in design and engineering services.

This looks like a unique opportunity to kickstart local efforts, get organized, and set up for success as lots of funding comes down the road. Read the FAQ here, and apply todayApplications are due January 14, 2022. 

Posted November 29, 2021 by Ry Marcattilio

The recently passed infrastructure package is going to drive an unprecented amount of money to broadband projects over the next few years, which means that communities that begin serious planning and preparation now will find themselves in the best place to succeed in the near and medium future. Dozens of cities have announced plans to use Rescue Plan funds to begin surveying, mapping, developing feasibility studies, and contracting high-level designs, signalling a commitment to improving local Internet access and backing that commitment from that flexible pot of funding.

But maybe local officials in your community have shown a reluctance to heed the call that poor Internet during the pandemic has negatively impacted students, small businesses, or efforts to work from home. Or the city council has already earmarked those funds for needed water or sewer upgrades. The good news is, a philanthropic partnership has launched an effort to help out a handful or communities.

Connect Humanity, in partnership with EntryPoint Networks and Biarri Networks, is giving out five Broadband Master Plans to communities to help bring the digital divide through an initiative they are calling Build Better Broadband. The comprehensive analyses will include everything from surveys of current access, to network design, to financial modeling and risk assessment. Applications are due January 14, 2022. 

Successful applicantions, the website points out, will focus on "speed, affordability, and overall access in diverse, low-income, and/or historically underserved communities through non-profit, community-owned, or public infrastructure." Communities of all sizes, from rural and urban areas, are invited to apply. Contenders will participate in an interview process in the first weeks of February, with winners announced at the end of the month.

Connect Humanity describes itself as a "fund advancing digital equity."

We support, catalyze, and scale holistic solutions providing people with the Internet access and means needed to participate fully in a digital society. We believe that one of the best ways...

Read more
Posted October 4, 2021 by Jericho Casper

Need better Internet access in your community but don’t know where to start? Or maybe you’re in the middle of a community broadband project but have hit a roadblock?

Be one of 100 broadband champions attending the Michigan Moonshot Broadband Summit at the one-day event on Tuesday, November 9th in Traverse City, Michigan. 

The Michigan Moonshot Summit is a day-long conference focused on helping representatives of local governments, community anchor institutions, and economic development groups navigate the hurdles involved when pursuing a regional or community broadband project. The event will include workshopping opportunities where attendees can collaborate with industry thought leaders to address impending issues and identify solutions.

Merit, a statewide educational and research network run by Michigan’s public university system, is hosting the event. Michigan Moonshot is Merit’s effort to improve Internet access in the state by collecting accurate data, disseminating educational resources, influencing policy decisions, and connecting communities to funding.

“From determining ownership models and drafting network designs, to navigating the grant landscape, developing public-private partnerships, and deploying mapping initiatives, this year’s focus is singular — ACTION,” reads the Moonshot Summit website.

To attend this year’s event, “attendees must be a Merit Member and/or Broadband champions who are part of regional planning, building, and running efforts; economic development groups and local governments; or, institutions, community anchors and municipalities addressing the ‘digital divide.’”

Breakout Sessions and Speakers

The first breakout session of the Moonshot Summit will assist municipalities in “Navigating the METRO Act.” 

Aspen Wireless Founder and President, Jim Selby, and Municipal FTTP Program Manager, Mike Reen, will walk communities through METRO Act requirements to provide an understanding of the mandatory steps communities are required to complete before constructing their own broadband...

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