Tag: "muni"

Posted August 20, 2009 by Christopher Mitchell

There are so many interesting articles recently (some are actually a bit older than recent, I guess).

  • How did Sweden get so connected? BuddeBlog took a look at how Sweden has invested so greatly into advanced fiber networks. This short post looks at factors from geography to government policy that have helped.

  • Andrew Cohill, an advocate of both fiber and wireless networks, offers a simple explanation for why wireless can only be part of the solution to the problem of universal broadband. Wireless just cannot provide the same high reliability and speeds of wired connections.

  • Following up on yesterday's call on the FCC to stop ignoring muni broadband, Karl Bode observes:

    Interestingly, of the 51 "constituents" brought in for the 8 most recent workshops, just five don't work for a corporation -- and zero of them act as witnesses for consumer interests (so clearly, you've got your work cut out for you).

  • And finally, Timothy Karr at Free Press has been unmasking astroturf groups funded by major carriers. Learn more with this fun widget (available here).

  • Posted August 19, 2009 by Christopher Mitchell

    Geoff Daily recently put up "Hey FCC: Stop Ignoring Municipal Broadband!" It is a sentiment I wholeheartedly echo and amplify. If the FCC is going to chart a course for where America is heading, it should start with some communities who are already there - Burlington, VT and Lafayette, LA. These communities have built (Burlington) or are building (Lafayette) that networks that everyone will need if America will retain is leadership position in the 21st century.

    There are communities across the country that have found success building and operating their own broadband networks. Despite the caricature that municipal broadband invariably leads to boondoggles, that's just simply not the reality.

    That's part of the reason why I think the FCC needed to include municipal representation on these panels. There's a lot of fear, uncertainty, and doubt that's built up around municipal broadband that the FCC needs to be addressing on a factual basis. By not including municipal broadband on these panels I couldn't help but wonder if either the FCC was buying into these falsehoods or if they just didn't think municipal broadband was a significant enough player to include.

    The current FCC approach is akin to starting the Interstate Highway system with a series of workshops featuring horse breeders.

    In the meantime, the Economist has recognized the need for US regulators to get with the times. Fiber is the future - if it weren't for profit-maximizing companies and their lobbyists, talk of DSL would be followed by laughs.

    With broadband networks, the role of the state has less to do with limiting handouts than increasing choice. Fibre-optic networks can be run like any other public infrastructure: government, municipalities or utilities lay the cables and let private firms compete to offer services, just as public roadways are used by private logistics firms. In Stockholm, a pioneer of this system, it takes 30 minutes to change your broadband provider. Australia’s new $30 billion all-fibre network will use a similar model.

    Posted August 13, 2009 by Christopher Mitchell

    Folks in the Isle of Wight County in Virginia are looking to Wilson, NC, (which runs its own FTTH network called Greenlight) for inspiration as Charter will not expand broadband access locally. Interestingly, industry-backed Connected Nation would not consider these people to be unserved because they could buy wireless broadband cards that offer slow speeds at expensive prices and are still often capped at a monthly transfer of 5 Gigabytes ... which is to say not really a broadband option.

    Charter will not expand their cable networks because

    Charter requires that an area have a density of at least 30 rooftops per square mile in order to offer service, which leaves large swaths of the county, especially southern and western areas, without access.

    Sounds like a good opportunity to investigate a publicly owned network.

    Posted August 6, 2009 by Christopher Mitchell

    As promised a few weeks ago, Ellen Perlman has written a piece on the story behind the Lafayette, Louisiana publicly owned FTTH network. This might just be the best network available in the U.S. in terms of offering the fastest speeds at the more affordable prices and offering the most benefit to the community. The path was certainly not easy nor quick but they are now offering services. The video below is a good example of how communities can respond to incumbents that prefer to advertise and lie rather than invest in networks. Fortunately the folks down in Louisiana didn't take Slick Sam lying down - they confronted him and are building a modern network to ensure Lafayette can flourish in the future. They no longer have to beg absentee-run networks for upgrades.

    Posted August 6, 2009 by Christopher Mitchell

    Ellen Perlman of Governing has written a short history of the struggle in Lafayette, Louisiana (Cajun Country) to build a publicly owned (by the public power utility) FTTH network. She also highlights the role of citizen activists who worked quite hard to show community support for the network (see video below). An excerpt:

    Huval, the Lafayette utility’s director, advises municipalities interested in similar projects to be sure to do their research and hire experts. “Municipalities are going to face pushback, and it’s going to take different forms,” he says. They need a good plan to share with elected officials and the public and to use in reaching out to business, the education community and residents. “Make sure that what you’re trying to do is what they want,” Huval says. “No matter how good the idea, it’s climbing a steep hill.”

    But for Lafayette, at least, the climb seems to have been worth it. Recently, a Canadian company moved a call center to Lafayette, creating hundreds of jobs. Company representatives told city leaders that Lafayette had proved itself to be forward-thinking with its plan for high-speed fiber. Durel, when testifying before Congress, had facetiously told lawmakers that other companies would do well to come to Lafayette and plug in to its prized fiber. “Please send your technology companies to Lafayette, Louisiana,” he said. “We will welcome them with open arms and a gumbo.”

    Posted July 24, 2009 by Christopher Mitchell

    Fiona's Morgan's 2008 article on Greenlight in Wilson, North Carolina. The article comprehensively covers why Wilson chose to do it and the issues involved with a community choosing to build its own network.

    The Buchans have better Internet access than you do, wherever you live in the Triangle, thanks to the $28 million fiber-to-the-home network the city of Wilson is installing to every address in its city limits. That network powers Greenlight, Wilson's fiber-optic-based Internet, television and phone service. Like its water, sewer and electricity, the city now provides high-speed Internet as another public utility.

    ...

    Yet there's one major difference: speed. Greenlight's Internet starts at 10 Megabits per second and goes up to 100, a speed common in nations such as Japan and South Korea, yet rare in the United States. Time Warner's residential Road Runner service offers no higher than 10 Mbps in much of the state. In Wilson, however, the company recently upped its top-tier speed to 15 Mbps "because of the competitive environment," a Time Warner spokesperson said.

    Posted July 23, 2009 by Christopher Mitchell

    In a recent article, the Star Tribune asks if Minnesota cities are shut out by broadband rules. Of course, this applies to all cities, not just those located in Minnesota.

    I'll soon put up an overdue piece with our reaction to the broadband stimulus rules - in particular, the decision of NTIA to ignore the public-interest requirement for private companies. In the meantime, this article has gotten some attention - thanks to Eldo Telecom for touching on it.

    Many Minnesota cities are giving up hope due to rules that privilege private companies who already have the necessary data and the means to jump through the red-tape hoops required by NTIA.

    The problem, as city and county broadband planners see it, has less to do with technology than with the sheer legwork required to create an acceptable proposal.

    Applicants must prove that all the areas they propose to serve would meet a narrow federal definition of being underserved -- that 50 percent or more households in the area lack broadband access, or that fewer than 40 percent of the households already subscribe to broadband. That puts the burden on cities and counties to undertake expensive and time-consuming door-to-door surveys, because telephone and cable companies don't reveal which areas they serve.

    In the meantime, private companies like Qwest are not even sure they will participate as they do not like the requirements that grantees operate the network without discriminating against some kinds of content (meaning they want to charge more to visit some sites than others). Though Qwest has not been as bullish on this money-making idea as AT&T, one assumes it is not too far off.

    Telephony's Ed Gubbins also comments on the many municipalities that have little hope of grants under NTIA's rules:

    One group of broadband stimulus hopefuls that has been in large part swept out of the running by the specifics of the plan is individual municipalities of any size. Though the stimulus plan stoked broad interest from municipalities earlier this year, many of them have been frustrated by the program’s preference for “underserved...

    Read more
    Posted July 10, 2009 by Christopher Mitchell

    Another in the series of Municipal FTTH snapshots from Broadband Properties Magazine, Gainesville Regional Utilities network is a utility owned fiber network that is slowly working its way to citywide coverage. They serve the city and surrounding unincorporated areas.

    The article covers their biggest challenges - including the importance of educating the population as to why the utility upgraded to fiber-optic connections.

    Posted July 7, 2009 by Christopher Mitchell

    Geoff Daily, from App-Rising.com, and I recently did a vidchat about muninetworks.org and its purpose. App-Rising.com pulled some key points from it, but you can view the entire 9 minute segment below.

    Posted July 7, 2009 by Christopher Mitchell

    This article details the philosophy, approach, and opposition to an effort to allow many communities in Iowa to build their own open access telecommunications infrastructure - full fiber networks. Many in Iowa feel particularly vulnerable to the new economy because their low density puts them low on the priority list for investments by absentee-owned companies:

    There is much talk in Iowa today about the need to attract and retain young people. Each year thousands of college graduates leave the Hawkeye State. Today in Iowa, there are more people over the age of 74 than under the age of five. No state grew at a slower pace than Iowa during the last century. Reversing these trends is going to take bold leadership and fresh ideas. OpportunityIowa was created to educate citizens about the vital role 21st Century communications infrastructure could play in doing just that.

    Daley argued that without local self-reliance, many towns in Iowa would not benefit in the digital economy because they would not have access to fast and affordable networks.

    The current cable and telephone companies serving Iowa have no incentive to replace their copper lines. They have to and they don't want to. They don't have to because they know consumers have no choice but to use their copper wires and they don't want to [encourage open access] because it may bring competition where they currently have none. In fact, the incumbent phone and cable companies have expressed their opposition to upgrading existing infrastructure in order to make Iowa a leader in broadband capabilities.

    The article ends with lists of both communities organizing referendums for Nov, 2005, as well as communities that already have telecommunications utilities. Ultimately, many communities authorized the telecommunications utilities but most of those have not followed up by building the envisioned networks.

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