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April 21st Webinar: "Municipal Broadband: Competition, Opportunity, or Both?"

A diverse panel of telecom industry experts will gather on April 21st for a webinar to discuss the emerging partnership role of private Internet Service Providers (ISPs) within the growing municipal broadband movement.

Featured speakers at the webinar, hosted by the leading telecom industry blog Telecompetitor, will include:

  • Doug Dawson, President - CCG Consultants: Doug Dawson has nearly 40 years of experience providing support for the planning, fund-raising, technical and operational aspects of creating broadband networks. Dawson is also the author of POTs and PANs, a daily blog covering current issues in the telecom industry.
  • Mark Mrla, Business Unit Manager -  Finley Engineering: Mark Mrla is involved in the design, budgeting, scheduling, and implementation processes for power, telecommunications and technology projects for clients of Finley Engineering. 
  • Dan Olsen, Project Manager - Finley Engineering: Former General Manager for Minnesota's WindomNet, Dan has firsthand experience making a fiber network a reality. When the webinar is over, check out Episode #64 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast and listen to Chris interview him about WindomNet.

The hour-long webinar, sponsored by Finley Engineering, will air live on Thursday, April 21st from 2:00 - 3:00 pm Central Standard Time (CST). You can register to participate in the webinar on the Telecompetitor Website. Even if you cannot attend the webinar live, the organizers encourage you to register for the webinar because your registration instructions will include information about accessing Telecompetitor’s on-demand archives.

Once you register, you will receive instructions via email on how to join the discussion. The live discussion begins here on April 21st.

Knowledge Is Power

These discussions are essential for communities to learn the pros and cons of partnerships with ISPs. A growing number of local communities are watching as places like Westminster, Maryland, and Huntsville, Georgia, take smart approaches with potential partners. On the other hand, public private partnerships are fraught with risk. We encourage every community to carefully examine the facts, look at the options, and proceed with caution.

Next Generation Engagement Awards: Using the Internet for Civic Involvement

In addition to economic development, public savings, and a higher quality of life, better connectivity can promote more participation in the democratic process.

Next Century Cities, The Democracy Fund, and the Benton Foundation want to promote innovation surrounding ways high-speed Internet fosters participatory democracy and civic engagement. These groups invite communities to apply for a Next Generation Engagement Award.

Winning communities will receive:

  • Up to $30,000 for new or existing projects that help citizens become more engaged in the democratic process
  • Technical assistance to implement their plans
  • Connections with other like-minded municipalities
  • At least three communities will be selected for special inaugural Awards

Some examples of eligible projects suggested by Next Century Cities include: participatory budgeting; public transportation and urban planning; involvement in local government deliberations; or community concern reporting and response.

Instructional Webinar on April 20th, Learn More

For communities seeking guidance in applying or just looking for more information, Next Century Cities will host a webinar on April 20th at 3 p.m. ET. The webinar will be available here.

To learn more about the Awards, contact Todd O'Boyle, Deputy Director of Next Century Cities, at Todd(at) You can also download a fact sheet on the Awards for more information, along with the online Application, and the Budget, both of which must be submitted by June 15, 2016.

Deb and Todd Talk With Craig About The Awards

You can learn more about the awards and the project in this episode of Craig Settles' Gigabit Nation. He interviewed Deb Socia and Todd O'Boyle from Next Century Cities who provided details about Awards and how participants can learn more.

Good Luck!

Monday, Feb. 29th: New Report, Webinar from Next Century Cities & WifiForward

Next Century Cities and WifiFoward will present the results of new research on wireless technologies. The report (to be released on February 29, 2016) provides a detailed analysis of LTE-U and Wi-Fi in the context of local governments.

Major topics covered in the new report include the importance of Wi-Fi for local government operations, the potential effects of LTE-U interference, and the possibility of LTE-U and Wi-Fi coexistence. Next Century Cities, WifiForward, and CTC Technology & Energy will present the results of the research in an upcoming webinar.

The presentation is this coming Monday, February 29th at 1PM ET over Google Hangout and features:

  • CTC Technology & Energy’s Joanne Hovis and Andrew Afflerbach
  • Next Century Cities’ Todd O’Boyle 
  • WifiForward’s Bill Maguire 

The report will be released on February 29, 2016.

Register for the webinar here.

New Report, Webinars, on Public-Private Partnerships From CLIC and Benton Foundation

As communities across the country realize the big corporate providers may never bring the kind of connectivity they need, public-private partnerships (PPPs) are sprouting up everywhere. A new report by Joanne Hovis, Marc Schulhof, Jim Baller, and Ashley Stelfox, takes a look at the issues facing local governments and their private sector partners.

Interjection from Christopher Mitchell: Partnerships are emphatically not sprouting up everywhere. To be more correct, enthusiasm around the idea of partnerships is sprouting up in many places. But compared to the hundreds of municipal networks currently in operation, we could maybe name ten partnerhips in existence today.

The Emerging World of Broadband Public-Private Partnerships: A Business Strategy and Legal Guide examines the practical considerations when investigating PPPs for better connectivity. The report was published by the Coalition for Local Internet Choice (CLIC) and the Benton Foundation. 

The Benton Foundation sums up the three models explored in the report:

  • Private investment, public facilitation – The model focuses not on a public sector investment, but on modest measures the public sector can take to enable or encourage greater private sector investment. Google Fiber is the most prominent example, but there is significant interest among smaller companies
  • Private execution, public funding – This model, which involves a substantial amount of public investment, is a variation on the traditional municipal ownership model for broadband infrastructure—but with private rather than public sector execution.
  • Shared investment and risk – In this model, localities and private partners find creative ways to share the capital, operating, and maintenance costs of a broadband network.

The authors also share expertise on a range of legal topics that often arise when working with a private sector partner. They share their years of experience with matters such as confirmation of authority at state and local levels, project planning, and common issues related to negotiating the agreement.

The report offers case studies from several networks to illustrate the findings. Among others, the authors write about Westminster, Maryland; Urbana/Champaign, Illinois; and Holly Springs, North Carolina. Each community has collaborated with the private sector in some unique partnership.

The Authors

Hovis and Schulhof, from CTC Technology and Energy, have worked with cities and states as to strategize and develop broadband master plans, business models, and feasibility studies. The firm has helped a number of communities as they have forged ahead with PPPs to create Internet networks.

Baller and Stefox, hail from Baller Herbst Stokes & Lide, PC, one of the top firms that handle communications law. They have decades of experience working with local communities and state and federal communications issues.

Worthwhile Recources

Given that PPPs are evolving as they become more commonplace, it pays to add this report - written by leaders in the field - to your library. Download and share.

In conjunction with the release of the report, CLIC will also hold a series of webinars on PPPs. The first is scheduled for February 25th, 11 a.m. C.S.T. and you can register for the free event online.

March 13th Webinar on Historic FCC Decision: Net Neutrality and Muni Broadband

In light of the recent FCC decision to restore some local telecommunications authority in Tennessee and North Carolina, it is time to examine the details. Join leading telecom attorneys Jim Baller and Marty Stern as they host a live BroadbandUS.TV webcast on March 13th to discuss Title II, network neutrality, and new possibilities for munis.

The event begins at 1 p.m. ET and is titled FCC Takes Charge - Net Neutrality and Muni Broadband: New Title II Rules for Broadband Access and Preempting State Limits on Municipal Networks. Registration is available at the BroadbandUS.TV website. More info about the event:

In this special edition of Broadband US TV we examine two historic decisions from the FCC: The decision to classify broadband access as a Title II service, and the preemption of state laws in North Carolina and Tennessee that placed limits on municipal broadband networks.  We’ll dive into these issues with two panels of prominent players and experts on both sides of these white hot issues.  Hear details about the rulings, predictions on implementation and court challenges, and what these rulings are likely to portend for broadband in America over the next year and beyond.  On the muni broadband panel, our own Jim Baller, lead counsel to Chattanooga and Wilson before the FCC, will go from host to panelist and mix it up with our other guests.  We’ll be sure not to cut him any slack.

Guests will be:

Title II and Broadband  -- Pipedream or New Reality                                     

  • Craig Aaron, President, Free Press 
  • Chris Lewis, VP, Government Affairs, Public Knowledge
  • Sarah Morris, Senior Policy Counsel, New America Foundation, Open Technology Initiative 
  • Hank Hultquist, VP, Federal Regulatory, AT&T
  • Barbara Esbin, Outside Counsel, American Cable Association
  • Jonathan Banks, Senior VP, Law and Policy, US Telecom Association 


Muni Broadband -- Striking Down State Limits 

  • Jim Baller, Senior Principal, Baller Herbst Stokes & Lide 
  • Joanne Hovis, CEO, Coalition for Local Internet Choice 
  • Christopher Mitchell, Director, Community Broadband Network Initiative, ILSR
  • Scott Cleland, President, Precursor Group 
  • Jeff Lanning, VP, Federal Regulatory Affairs, CenturyLink
  • Lawrence Spiwak, President, Phoenix Center

Participants will have the opportunity to send in their questions during panel discussion, so have your questions ready!

"Getting Started on Broadband" Webinar from Blandin on January 7th

The Blandin Foundation will be holding another informative webinar on Wednesday, January 7th. The event is titled "Getting Started on Community Broadband" and runs from 2 - 3 p.m. CST. You can register online for the free event.

However, we think it might better be called "Broadband in the Community" or something else because the focus is not on "community broadband" as that term is used in the vast majority of situations. This will likely be a good webinar for people new to broadband but will almost certainly not be focused on community networks.

Blandin Foundation consultant Bill Coleman and his guests will touch on comparisons between wired and wireless technologies, provide information on resources and tools for community broadband initiatives, and explore options to improve connectivity in your community.

From the Blandin on Broadband blog webinar announcement:

Two important trends are driving more communities to consider community engagement in broadband availability for the first time. First is the fact that broadband as a necessary element of everyday life is not a theoretical discussion anymore.  Almost everyone wants broadband so that they can participate fully in 21st Century life.  What might have been hyperbole ten years ago is now undeniably true.  Lack of broadband lowers property values and impacts quality of life.  No doubt about it.  Second, the availability of state and federal fund to address rural broadband issues seems to be growing.  Unprepared communities will soon see the funds flowing to their better prepared neighbors, thus motivating communities to get busy and play catch up.

This event is part of the Blandin Community Broadband Program (BCBP) Webinar Series and will be archived with past webinars. The series focuses on providing resources for rural community leaders where adequate connectivity is often lacking. In addition to community broadband initiatives, webinar topics also cover issues such as adoption, legislative changes, and access to grants. From the BCBP website:

BCBP webinars are designed to provide rural Minnesota leaders with information they can use to help transform their communities into tech savvy places to live, work and visit. Communities serious about attracting tourists, new businesses, entrepreneurs and young people must consider technology and Internet access as an essential amenity for community economic growth and vibrancy.

"Ask Us Anything" Event on Organizing For a Network and Open Access on Dec 17

Last month, we held our first "Ask Us Anything: An Open Talk on Muni Networks" event for people interested in learning more about municipal networks. We were pleased by the turn out and by the quality of questions participants threw our way. We will hold our second "Ask Us Anything" event on December 17th at 2:00 p.m. CST.

This time, we will try narrowing the conversation a bit with focus on organizing a network in the first 30 minutes and open access approaches in the last 30 minutes. We hope that you will send us a question when you register and encourage you to bring more questions to the event.

You can register at GoToWebinar.

If you were not able to our first "Ask Us Anything," it is now archived and available to view.

"Ask Us Anything" on Organizing for a Fiber Network Ready For Viewing

On November 5th, we opened up the lines of communication for our first "Ask Us Anything: An Open Talk on Muni Networks" event. That event is now available on our YouTube Channel or viewable below.

We find many communities and their citizens are interested in exploring municipal networks as a possible method to improve connectivity but don't know how to get started. We approached the event with no agenda or expectations and spent the entire hour answering questions.

As we expected, participants asked about ways to grow support, what challenges to expect, and how to find resources to educate the community. There were many other questions that represented a broad spectrum of involvement in community network projects. This was our first attempt in this format and we are about to announce an invitation to a second discussion that will be held on Wednesday, December 17, at 3 PM EST.

See video

Christopher to Present at "Maximizing Fibre Infrastructure Investment in Europe" Seminar on Nov. 19

Christopher is visiting Brussels, Belgium this week to present at a conference organized by the Swedish Association of Local Authorities (SALAR) and Stokab (The City of Stockholm IT infrastructure company). The seminar, "Maximizing Fibre Infrastructure Investment in Europe," is scheduled for Wednesday from 2 - 6 p.m. local time - that's 8 a.m. - noon EST in the U.S. 

The event will be livestreamed on the Bambuser channel and we will also make a link available to the archive after the event. 

According to the seminar announcement, main discussion will focus on:

How should the telecom market be structured in order to encourage service-based competition and innovation?

How can municipalities and regions engage in fibre deployment without risking to harm competition and making private companies less willing to invest?

Does the interest for investments in broadband and OTT services increase if it is possible to get access to fibre by municipalities and regions, not providing services themselves?

Chris will lecture on fiber rollouts in the U.S. He will be joined by a list of industry and research leaders, including:

  • Benoit Felton: Chief Research Officer, Diffraction Analysis
  • Jonas Malmlund: Partner, Consulting, Deloitte AB
  • Crister Mattsson: Senior Advisor, Acreo Swedish ACT
  • Anthony Whelan: Director, Electronic Communications, Networks and Services, DG Connect, European Commission
  • Gunnar Hokmark: Vice President EPP, European Parliament

The event will be at the Radisson Blu EU Hotel in Brussels.

For more about the event and details on each presentation, take a moment to view the announcement below.

Questions About Munis? Call Us on November 5th!

People searching for better local connectivity contact us regularly, asking for information on how they can get the process started in their community. On Wednesday, November 5th from 3 p.m. - 4:30 p.m. CST, Chris Mitchell and Lisa Gonzalez will host an online unwebinar. "Ask Us Anything - An Open Talk About Muni Networks" will be an opportunity for anyone to join and ask questions or join the discussion.

Are you interested in starting a local initiative to improve connectivity? Are you looking for resources on where to begin? Are you interested in learning about other communities with similar concerns? 

This event depends on audience participation, so come with your questions ready! We are counting on you to drive the conversation. Participation is free and you can register online.

We have no set agenda and this is our first attempt at this format - but our intention is to have a moderated discussion based on what people want to discuss. Based on the volume of interest in how to start a community owned network, we expect that to be a focus.