The Building a New Digital Economy (BAND-NC) program in North Carolina will give out 30 more microgrants this spring and summer to community anchor institutions, nonprofits, and local governments so that the latter can develop digital inclusion plans. The program is part of the state's goal to ensure that "North Carolina the first state in the nation where every county has a digital inclusion plan in place."
In response to the increased reliance on connectivity precipitated by the Covid-19 pandemic, the Minnesota Legislature is working on legislation to improve access to broadband, online education, and telehealth services throughout the state.
The Senate passed their version of the bipartisan funding bill, SF 4494, earlier this week, and the House has two similar pieces of legislation, HF 1507 and HF 3029, currently under consideration. If the bills are passed and signed into law, there would be a total of $20 million to $27 million (depending on how the different versions are reconciled) available in grants to support distance learning, telemedicine programs, and broadband deployment. Bill authors designed the legislation to prioritize the use of federal money for the grant programs before pulling from the state’s general fund.
Broadband Bills in House and Senate
The Minnesota Senate passed its version of the legislation, SF 4494, on May 4 in a unanimous vote. Representatives in the House have rolled the grant programs into a larger coronavirus relief package that is under consideration, HF 1507. This is in addition to keeping a separate House bill with the broadband funding provisions, HF 3029, alive in case HF 1507 fails to pass.
The bills direct grant funding to three connectivity issues: connecting students for distance education, expanding access to telemedicine services, and deploying broadband networks in unserved areas. To facilitate online education during the pandemic, the bills would make $8 million (SF 4494 and HF 3029) or $15 million (HF 1507) available in grants to schools through the state Department of Education to fund the distribution of devices like hotspots and to reimburse the cost of...Read more
If you're a regular visitor to MuniNetworks.org, you may also be someone ideally suited for a position we recently learned about with the Minnesota Department of Commerce. They're hiring a Telecommunications Analyst. The position application period is open until January 23, 2020, so now is the time to apply.
Check out the position posting here, where you can learn more about qualifications, salary, and benefits.
From the job summary:
This position performs a variety of tasks to fulfill the Department's statutory responsibilities with respect to the telecommunications marketplace. The telecommunications unit seeks to protect consumers from abusive tactics, and works to advance competition in a manner that is consistent with the public interest. The successful applicant will review new and existing telecommunications carrier petitions to determine compliance with statutory requirements and Minnesota rules. The position will investigate problems experienced by consumers, and competitors in the marketplace; draft reports for actions before the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission; and enforce statutes, rules and Commission orders.
Good luck and remember, the application deadline is January 23, 2020.
We're starting off the new year with episode four of the new podcast project we're working on with nonprofit NC Broadband Matters. The organization focuses on finding ways to bringing ubiquitous broadband coverage to local communities to residents and businesses in North Carolina. The podcast series, titled "Why NC Broadband Matters," explores broadband and related issues in North Carolina.
As we look forward to a new year, we're also looking back with this week's guest, Jane Smith Patterson, a Partner with Broadband Catalysts. Jane has a deep love for North Carolina and a deep interest in science and technology. Throughout her life, she has put those two interests together to help North Carolinians advance human and civil rights, education and learning, and to advance the presence of high speed connectivity across the state.
Jane's decades of experience at the federal, state, and local levels make her the go-to person to provide content for this episode, "North Carolina's unique broadband history and lessons for moving forward." She and Christopher discuss how the state has become a leader in science and technology, including the state's restrictive law limiting local authority. Lastly, Jane makes recommendations for ways to bring high-quality Internet access to the rural areas where people are still struggling to connect. The conversation offers insight into North Carolina's triumphs and challenges in the effort to lift up its citizens.
We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please ...Read more
Governor Jay Inslee started to promote his bill for better broadband earlier this year and, with any luck, Washington will have a solid foundation to expand broadband before the end of this year’s legislative session. SB 5511, a measure backed by the Governor, has sailed through the Senate, and has now appeared in the House. The bill establishes a State Broadband Office and earmarks funding for local broadband initiatives.
The bill is on the agenda for today's House Innovation, Technology & Economic Development Committee meeting at 10 a.m. PDT.
Difficult But Doable
In order to bring high-quality Internet access to all of Washington, millions and possibly billions of dollars of infrastructure investment are required. No one is certain how much completing the task will cost, and obtaining a better estimate will be one of the tasks of the State Broadband Office (SBO), which will be created by SB 5511. The bill allocates $1.2 million for the SBO.
Rural communities, economic development organizations, and tribes have all supported a measure to establish state investment in broadband infrastructure deployment across Washington. In January, Inslee met with leaders from communities across the state, including Colville Business Council member Susie Allen representing the Colville Tribes, to discuss the need for state funding:
“I have been working on broadband initiatives on our reservation for many years, but unfortunately, substantially, we still remain under-served and unserved, without broadband services,” said Allen. “The Colville Tribes have invested several millions of dollars to begin to meet this need, but we require assistance from the state and federal agencies to complete this work… The lack of broadband service creates not just an inconvenience, but poses real safety concerns throughout the reservation.”
The Colville Tribe has invested $6 million in order to connect the tribal government and under the terms of SB 5511, they would qualify to receive more funding in grants and low-interest loans.
The Tribe...Read more
On December 14th, FCC Chair Ajit Pai and the Republican Commissioners voted to present a huge holiday gift to big ISPs by dismantling network neutrality, despite outcries from the American people. When we examined FCC data to determine how many Americans would be left without market protections from known network neutrality violators, the numbers were discouraging. Now we’ve reached into the weeds to analyze the numbers on a statewide basis.
Percentage Of Population
The results reveal that a significant percentage of Americans will be limited to Internet access only from large monopolies that have a history of violating network neutrality and very strong incentives to abuse their market power.
Some states with higher population benefit slightly from competition relative to others — compare Florida’s 40 percent to 65 percent in Pennsylvania — but this also reflects the anti-competitive nature of big ISPs that tend to cordon off sections of the country and respectfully stay within their zones. Other, more rural states, such as Wisconsin at 66 percent, have few options because national ISPs just aren’t interested in serving areas where population is sparse and the pay-off is a long time coming. Lack of competition means high probability of service from one of the big four known violators in our study — AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, and Charter.
In this chart, we've listed states in order of greatest percentage of impacted population:
|State||Population Served Only By Big 4 Net Neutrality Violators...|
The Community Broadband Networks Team at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance invites you to lend a hand as we help build local economies in Minnesota and across the map. Today we’re participating in Minnesota's Give to the Max Day and we hope you’ll take a minute to contribute. Your donation allows us to assist local folks looking for ways to improve connectivity, but it goes even further.
Broadband And More
You're familiar with our broadband work, but the Institute for Local Self-Reliance also works with communities through our other initiatives. Our staff of policy and research experts investigate issues such as independent business, banking, energy, waste to wealth, composting, and the public good. We’ve been serving communities for more than 40 years.
ILSR champions local self-reliance, a strategy that underscores the need for humanly-scaled institutions and economies and the widest possible distribution of ownership. We work with citizens, activists, policymakers, and entrepreneurs to design policies that meet our needs. We want to make sure that the benefits of our political economy benefits all local citizens.
We need your help! Donate here and thanks for supporting our work.
With the best intentions, Kentucky announced in late 2014 that it would build out a statewide open access fiber optic network to at least one location in each county to encourage high-quality connectivity in both urban and rural communities. Hopes were high as rural residents and businesses that depended on DSL and dial-up envisioned connectivity to finally bring them into the 21st century. After almost three years and multiple issues that have negatively impacted the project, legislators and everyday folks are starting to wonder what's in store for the KentuckyWired project.
Local Communities Are Best Suited To Deploy Community Networks
There is no one-size-fits-all method of deploying across a state filled with communities and landscapes as diverse as Kentucky. From the urban centers like Louisville and Lexington to the rocky, mountainous terrain in the southeastern Appalachian communities, demographics and geography vary widely. But most lack modern Internet access and local ISPs have found it hard to get affordable backhaul to connect to the rest of the Internet.
There are several municipal networks in Kentucky, some of which have operated for decades. In addition to Glasgow, Paducah, Bowling Green, Frankfort, and others, Owensboro is currently expanding a pilot project that proved popular. As our own Christopher Mitchell discussed at the Appalachia Connectivity Summit, several cooperatives have made major fiber-optic investments in the state.
When it comes to connecting residents and local businesses, we strongly believe local entities are the best choice. Local officials have a better sense of rights-of-way, the challenges of pole attachments, and the many other moving pieces that go into network investment. Projects with local support see fewer barriers - people are more willing to grant easements, for instance.
As a state, building an open access fiber network into each county makes sense. States also need to connect their offices, from public safety to managing natural resources and social services. Rather than overpay a massive monopoly like AT&T...Read more
On August 1, 2017, the Franklin County Infrastructure Bank awarded Grove City, Ohio a $2 million loan to support their construction of a municipal fiber optic network.
The Grove City Plan
According to the city’s Request for Proposal (RFP), the city is focused on first establishing an institutional network (I-Net) and plan to expand it to serve local businesses over time. The initial fiber optic network will connect Grove City to the South-Western City Schools, the townships of Jackson, Prairie, Pleasant, and the Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio (SWACO). The goal is to create a network with a baseline of ten gigabits symmetric service, ten times the speed of current connections provided by Spectrum (formerly Time Warner Cable).
According to Mayor Richard “Ike” Stage, the increase in network speed will attract businesses and will generate a 100 new jobs for the city. Josh Roth, Senior Program Coordinator for Economic Development and Planning, has said “that Grove City has committed to one hundred jobs over the next three years.”
During the August 1, 2017 general session, the Franklin County Board of Commissioners passed the resolution to authorize the loan to the city of Grove City.
Franklin County Commissioner Kevin L. Boyce celebrated the project:
“[T]he fiber optics really makes a difference because companies will look at whether to expand or move there [Grove City]. It could be a deciding factor. Those are jobs that are retained that you may not see."
For more information on the positive relationship between publicly owned Internet network infrastructure and reyaining or...Read more
Two Ohio State Senators are taking a page from Minnesota’s playbook to expand rural broadband connectivity. Democratic Sen. Joe Schiavoni and Republican Sen. Cliff Hite recently announced that they would be introducing legislation to create a grant program modeled after the Minnesota Border-to-Border Broadband Grant Program.
Putting Money Into It
The program is expected to expand broadband Internet access to approximately 14,000 rural Ohio households per year. State officials estimate that 300,000 homes and 88,500 businesses in rural areas of the state do not have access to broadband connectivity.
In Minnesota, the Department of Employment and Economic Development hosts the Office of Broadband Development, which administrates grant awards and management. The Ohio bill will place the responsibility for the program in the hands of their Development Services Agency (DSA).
Grants will be awarded of up to $5 million for infrastructure projects in unserved and underserved areas; the grants cannot fund more than half the total cost of each project. Recipients can be businesses, non-profits, co-ops or political subdivisions. The bill allocates $50 million per year for broadband development from the state’s Ohio Third Frontier bond revenues.
The Ohio Third Frontier is a state economic development initiative aimed at boosting tech companies that are in early stages and helping diverse startups. The Ohio General Assembly appropriates funds to the program, much like the Office of Broadband Development in Minnesota.
Minnesota Setting The Trend
This isn’t the first time politicians have looked longingly at Minnesota’s plan to build more network infrastructure in rural areas. Ralph Northam, Virginia’s Lieutenant Governor, released an economic plan for his state this summer and addressed the need to improve connectivity in rural areas. In his plan, he suggested that the state adopt clear goals “[s]imilar to the legislation Minnesota has passed.”
His report...Read more