Tag: "speed"

Posted November 30, 2020 by sean

The failure of policy and leadership at the federal level in addressing the digital divide was ever more clearly exposed as Covid-19 restrictions were put into place last spring. And, as the pandemic continues to rage, daunting connectivity challenges remain. 

Yes, the Connect America Fund (CAF) II program has doled out over $11 billion since 2015 in subsidies to the big telcos like AT&T, CenturyLink, Frontier, Windstream, and Consolidated ostensibly to upgrade rural broadband to speeds of at least 10/1 Megabits per second (Mbps). But, as Doug Dawson, president of CCG Consulting notes, it’s been a massive subsidy failure given that “even in 2015, it was ludicrous to spend money to build 10/1 Mbps broadband” – the same year the FCC defined broadband as 25/3 Mbps, which means “the FCC was investing in new Internet infrastructure in 2015 that didn’t qualify as broadband at the time of the award of funding.”

And there is reason to doubt that those subsidized upgrades were even completed, even as the FCC just extended the CAF II program for a seventh year.

So as states — and in many instances, local municipalities — step into the breach, the National Governors Association has released a new report that outlines a list of strategies governors can use to increase broadband access in underserved communities. 

Published just before Thanksgiving, the report first lays out the challenge:

According to the FCC, in 2018, at least 18.3 million people lacked access to fixed broadband in the United States that meets minimum [I]nternet access speed of 25/3. 1 Of those 18.3 million people, representing 6 percent of the total population, 14 million live in rural areas and 1 million live on Tribal lands, which amounts to 22 percent and 28 percent of those respective geographic populations [even as] studies have claimed that the FCC data is undercounting the number of people in the U.S. without fixed broadband access, and that the total may be as high as 42 million people.

“In addition to lack of access, the cost of broadband services remains a considerable barrier for many households,” the report points out. “The COVID-19 pandemic has...

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Posted November 17, 2020 by Ry Marcattilio-...

We’ve written a lot over the last half year about communities around the country that have built fixed wireless networks to bridge the digital divide. Most recently, we’ve seen approaches which look to tackle particular inequalities that fast, affordable Internet access can help to alleviate: in Providence, Rhode Island, for instance, nonprofit One Neighborhood Builders built a network to tackle health disparities among Olneyville residents.

Today we’re covering a project in Pittsburgh that confronts another aspect of the digital divide laid bare by the pandemic: communities where connectivity options exist and low-income programs like Comcast’s Internet Essentials are available, but the minimum speeds offered are insufficient for households where multiple users need to work and attend school simultaneously. In a world where upload speed remains just as important as download speed, asymmetrical 25/3Mbps (Megabits per second) connections don’t cut it anymore. 

This is the problem that Every1online — a joint project by nonprofit Meta Mesh, Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Pittsburgh, two school districts, another nonprofit, and an array of local stakeholders — is looking to solve to get more than 450 families with students connected. They’ve built a fixed wireless system offering free connectivity to families across the Homewood neighborhood in Pittsburgh as well as nearby New Kensington and Coraopolis via 50/25 Mbps connections in a pilot program that will run for the next year. It’s a move that acknowledges that providing low-cost Internet access pegged at the lowest possible bandwidth tier disproportionately impacts vulnerable communities already living under the weight of a host of structural disadvantages.

Much of the greater Pittsburgh area has access to one or more wireline providers. But the city also suffers from a wealth gap for a large chunk of the population, centered on families of color (the Homewood neighborhood in particular). While low-income options exist, they aren’t fast enough for entire households which have been forced to...

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Posted November 13, 2020 by sean

In the interest of “closing the digital divide,” the FCC issued a Notice of Inquiry in August “Concerning Deployment of Advanced Telecommunications Capability to All Americans in a Reasonable and Timely Fashion.” According to the notice, the FCC still considers it reasonable and timely to define the minimum broadband speed as 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) download and 3 Mbps upload, the same minimum speeds the FCC first established in 2015.

It’s an important benchmark that is widely-agreed to be outdated in the era of families juggling multiple video chat calls and other digital tasks at the same time.

However, according to the FCC’s most recent look at the issue, there remains “significant support for maintaining this benchmark.” Therefore, the notice went on to say, “we propose to maintain the 25/3 Mbps benchmark for fixed services.”

This, despite the objection of Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, whose official dissent noted that, in addition to the “nonstop criticism from consumers and Congress” over the FCC’s misleading data on how many Americans lack access to broadband, “in its last report, the FCC continued to use a broadband standard that is too low for a nation that has moved so much online.”

“Many households with multiple users are calling, watching, listening, gaming, and searching online all at the same time,” Rosenworcel noted. “But the FCC has been sticking with a download standard of 25 megabits per second that it adopted more than five years ago. We need to set audacious goals if we want to do big things. With many of our nation’s providers offering gigabit service, it’s time for the FCC to adjust its baseline upward, too. We need to reset it to at least 100 megabits per second.”

A year prior to Rosenworcel’s dissent, Next Century Cities submitted comments noting how much had changed both up and downstream since the 2015 standard was put in place.

“As more people work from home or engage in online education courses, the requirement of multi-tasking while participating on an HD video conference will overwhelm that 3 Mbps capacity, even if no other devices in the household are attempting to share the network.” 

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Posted November 3, 2020 by Ry Marcattilio-...

This week Christopher brings together Doug Dawson (Owner and President, CCG Consulting), Monica Webb (Head of Marketing Development and Strategic Partnerships, Ting) and returning guest Travis Carter (CEO, US Internet). 

The group first discusses Low-Earth Orbit satellite Internet access in the context of SpaceX’s Starlink public beta launch, and what it means for connecting unserved Americans in both urban and rural areas. Then, they dig into the future of cable as a wireline broadband technology, with frank talk about its longevity in the face of fiber as the industry begins talking about the penetration of DOCSIS 3.1 and future moves to DOCSIS 4.0. Finally, Christopher, Doug, Monica, and Travis spend time tackling the question of why we don’t see more small, private Internet Service Providers (ISPs) doing fiber projects in urban areas. They debate, for instance, Right-of-Way issues and the problem of access to capital.

We’re still getting the hang of it, so feel free to email us broadband@muninetworks.org with feedback and ideas for the show. We’ll also be providing an audio-only version, so stay tuned. 

Posted October 7, 2020 by Ry Marcattilio-...

Planning, designing, building, and maintaining a community broadband network involves a host of complicated technical, financial, and operational tasks, but being successful also requires having a game plan for marketing. 

FairlawnGig, Ohio’s municipal network for the town of 7,500 just north of Akron, is succeeding at the latter during the ongoing public health crisis. It has added a section to its website called Pandemic Positives, highlighting the stories of residents who have, like so many of the rest of us, been forced to move the bulk of our lives online. "In the year of social distancing," FairlawnGig introduces the stories, "work-from-home, and remote learning, we’re thrilled to bring you and your household the robust Internet service you need. FairlawnGig provides the bandwidth that to support all your needs, even the unanticipated ones, like a pandemic. As necessity is the mother of invention, we’re looking at 2020 as a chance to take lemons and make lemonade."

The network shares a collection of testimonials from users:

FairlawnGig has been a life saver during the pandemic. Both my husband and I are still working from home and each of us have at least three devices running at once. I’m a teacher at Forest Hill CLC and I can run 2-3 class meetings at the same time with my students while my husband is able to complete his meetings and work with no lag at all from the WiFi. We’re very happy to have this FairlawnGig!

I have been so impressed with the reliability and performance of the FairlawnGig service. Since March, I’ve been working from home and the service has been flawless… up until about two weeks ago when a garbage truck took out my broadband service. Within minutes of my call to FairlawnGig, two members of their team showed and found the fiber that connects to my house laying across the street. Within an hour, I was back online. If you ever had residential Internet service provided by one of the big telecom/cable companies, you would find the return-to-working-service part of this experience unbelievable. With FairlawnGig, this quality of service seems to be the norm.

The biggest change for us, besides not being able to see family and friends, is that we now have three people in our house working from home. We all agree that FairlawnGig...

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Posted July 15, 2020 by christopher

Iowa is home to many community networks, from co-ops to muni cable, fiber, and other technologies. Three communities in the state have just recently made important announcements about their plans, and several others are moving forward with networks. There is so much happening in Iowa right now that shows potential for other states that don't limit competition.

There is a long history of local broadband excellence in Iowa for new networks to draw on. Cedar Falls Utilities was just recognized as the fastest ISP in the nation by PCMag. It has well over 20 years of success, but recent years have seen it sharing its expertise and facilities to lower the cost for other communities to build networks without reinventing the wheel. Local private Internet service provider ImOn is also a partner for these networks, offering voice services.

Many of these networks being built will be able to share services and lower their costs by being on the same ring to get some scale benefits despite being smaller communities. I remember many years ago when Eric Lampland of Lookout Point started pushing for this ring, and I am dumbfounded why we don't see more of this cooperation among munis and small providers in other states. Thanks to Eric and Curtis Dean of SmartSource Consulting who helped me with background for this Iowa update.

We have a brief mention of West Des Moines's recently announced partnership with Google Fiber in here, but we're finishing a longer post that solely examines their approach. Between this, that, and our Coon Rapids podcast this week, it is officially Iowa week on MuniNetworks.org!

Vinton

Vinton's new municipal fiber network has just started connecting subscribers, leading to a memorable testimonial in the local paper, Vinton Today:

As a gal that uses the Internet every day, and as someone who had the chance to briefly use...

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Posted June 23, 2020 by Ry Marcattilio-...

This is the tenth year that PCMag has conducted its Fastest Internet Service Providers (ISPs) test, and it comes at a time when tens of millions more Americans across the country are working from home. This time, the results show two significant categories of winners — municipal networks and private-sector ISPs using publicly owned fiber or conduit — which  says a lot about the state of high-speed Internet. Like last year, municipal networks and their private sector partners along with locally-owned providers dominated the rankings.

PCMag’s methodology doesn’t seem to have changed much in 2020. Using a customized tool, the outlet tests ping, jitter, and per-second data throughput on the download and upload side of things. The results are weighted 80% towards download and 20% towards upload. From June 1st to June 2nd, 443,940 tests were completed, with the magazine ruling out non-U.S. benchmarks for a final aggregation of 358,358 tests. The minimum threshold to earn a place on the list is 100 tests, and PCMag breaks down the results in two major categories: Fastest Major ISP (those with at least a million subscribers) and Fastest Overall ISP. Read the full report here.

PC Mag Fastest ISPs

Cedar Falls Utilities Dominates

The biggest news is that municipal network Cedar Falls Utilities (CFU) took the top spot as Fastest ISP in America by a wide margin. Founded in 1994, CFU connected its first broadband customer in 1996 and completed its Fiber-to-the-Home upgrade for all subscribers in 2013. That year, the city of 41,000 became Iowa’s first Gigabit City. Today, the utility serves around 15,000 homes and businesses. CFU has also been in the news recently after announcing a 10 Gigabit-per-second (Gbps) symmetrical tier for $105/month for city residents and $110 for those living in rural areas of its service footprint. They have also been doing their part to close the homework gap by offering 15 Mbps Internet...

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Posted April 21, 2020 by Katie Kienbaum

There’s a belief out there that households don’t really want or need more than a basic broadband connection, much less gigabit connectivity. This mistaken impression especially affects rural areas, where observers point out that a resident may have more fingers on their hand than Megabits per second (Mbps) on their current Internet connection, so surely they’ll be satisfied with a bump up to broadband speeds of 25 or 50 Mbps.

However, in our experience at MuniNetworks.org, demand for high-speed connectivity is actually quite robust in rural areas where the infrastructure exists. We’ve heard from rural cooperatives that many of their fiber network subscribers opt for higher speed tiers and that gigabit take rates near 30 percent in some instances. This suggests rural areas are much more likely than more urban areas to opt for tiers above the lowest cost option.

Even if the majority of rural subscribers don’t need the very highest broadband speeds, it’s important to note that the demand is there and will certainly continue to grow. As federal and state governments invest in rural broadband deployment, they must ensure that the networks they’re subsidizing can meet current and future needs.

Co-ops Feed Need for Speed

Roanoke Connect logoBack in January, Telecompetitor reported that Curtis Wynn, CEO of Roanoke Electric Cooperative in North Carolina, shared on a press call that two thirds of the co-op’s broadband subscribers selected a speed tier above the lowest and cheapest option of 50 Mbps. This isn’t because the co-op’s members have extra money to burn. “We’re one of the poorest areas of the nation. We have a lot of low-income individuals who are our members,” Wynn told a reporter in 2019.

Last month, we spoke with representatives from another electric cooperative, Oklahoma Electric Cooperative (OEC), for episode 398 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. They told us that many of their members also choose to subscribe to above-baseline speeds. The co-op only...

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Posted January 10, 2020 by lgonzalez

From the "Not Just Tired, but SICK and Tired Files" comes a letter to the editor of the Jackson County Floridian. Cynthia Cuenin, who has lived in the area for almost 30 years, says she's ready to call it quits and find a new community. Why? Because she can't get the Internet access she needs for her business.

Not only are the service options unacceptable, but the prices are too high. Cynthia also expresses exasperation at the negative impact on her children's education:

I also have two school-aged children who can’t even get online to do their dual enrollment at Chipola with enough confidence to take a test online! We live in unincorporated Jackson County, outside of Grand Ridge, very near I-10, which has high speed fiber optic cables running down it!

She notes that she pays around $250 per month for 25 Mbps, which rarely reaches the advertised speeds. "Right now I am at 1.97 Mbps for download speed!" she writes (exclamation points hers).

Jackson County has contemplated their connectivity problems in the past. Most recently in the spring of 2019, county leaders discussed potential public-private partnerships. In 2018, areas in rural Jackson County were targeted for Connect America Fund Phase 2.

Florida is one of 19 states that restrict local telecommunications authority. If Cynthia's local community were encouraged rather than discouraged from investing in high-quality Internet access infrastructure, she would have more options and the providers offering service would be compelled to do a better job at more reasonable prices. She writes:

The internet is no longer a luxury; it is a necessity, like electricity. One cannot function in today’s society without it!

After years, and years of this garbage, and being ignored, I am now looking to put my home on the market, and move my family and business out of this area, just so we can have some of the basic services...

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Posted July 3, 2019 by lgonzalez

Since 2011, PCMag has collected speed data and written about the country’s Fastest ISPs based on download and upload results. This year’s results reflect, once again, that locations with publicly owned broadband infrastructure contribute to communities’ ability to offer faster connectivity.

How They Did It

PCMag asked readers to use a special speed test developed specifically for this reporting that measured download and upload speeds. PCMag's Speed Index assigned to each ISP represented 80 percent download speed and 20 percent upload speed. Filtering out non-U.S. tests, they ended up with 256,016 tests that applied to the comparisons. If, however, a location (for state and regional comparisons) or ISP had fewer than 100 tests, the folks at PCMag did not consider it a contender.

While editors further broke down results so as to stack major ISPs against each other in a head-to-head comparison, they also looked at all the results in a general comparison. PCMag broke down the results further by region and city. For more details on the results, check out the full article.

Munis New and Not-So-New

FairlawnGig in Ohio made the list this year, adding a third municipal Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network to the list. The city’s retail service began serving residents with gigabit connectivity back in 2017, after firmly establishing their fiber services for local businesses.

When contemplating the investment, city leaders adopted the approach that their fiber optic network would be an essential piece of infrastructure on par with sewers or roads. Fairlawn used municipal bonds with no intention of turning a profit; they considered the network an investment that would keep the Akron suburb competitive. Residents, businesses, and institutions in Fairlawn, however, have enthusastically signed up for fast, reliable, connectivity where residents can get gigabit Internet access for $75 per month.

pcmag-2019-fastest.png Fairlawn’s municipal FTTH network will keep company with a veteran to the list — Longmont, Colorado’s...

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