Syndicate content
Updated: 8 hours 27 min ago

Central Vermont Internet: Communities Commit To Communications Union District - Community Broadband Bits Podcast 298

8 hours 50 min ago
Community Broadband Bits Episode 298 - Jeremy Hansen, Berlin Select Board Member and Founder of Central Vermont Internet

Earlier this month, twelve towns in central Vermont chose Town Meeting Day to ask local voters whether or not they want to band together to improve connectivity. Each community chose to participate in forming a regional Communications Union District, which will allow them to plan, bond for, and develop regional Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) infrastructure. For episode 298 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast, Christopher interviews Jeremy Hansen, local Select Board Member and the person who spearheaded the effort to bring the issue to voters in his region.

As Jeremy tells it, he didn’t need to do much convincing when local Vermonters learned about the Communications Union District structure. Most of the people in central Vermont rely on DSL and they overwhelmingly find it inadequate for their needs. The Communications Union District allows several communities to combine their strengths to work toward a single goal. Like water of sewer districts, the entity can issue revenue bonds so the infrastructure is publicly owned, but user funded. ECFiber is organized as a Communications Union District and serves 24 member towns in the eastern part of the state.

Christopher and Jeremy talk about how Jeremy researched, heightened awareness, and how when voters understood the pros and cons, their own common sense led them to approve this first step. He describes what’s next and what he’d like to see happen with the Central Vermont Internet initiative.

This show is 24 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed.

You can download this mp3 file directly from here. Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Thanks to Arne Huseby for the music. The song is Warm Duck Shuffle and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.

Tags: Vermontcentral vermont internetcommunications union districtelectionregionalruralplanningaudiopodcastbroadband bits

Call Of The Co-op Fiber In Northern Minnesota

11 hours 22 min ago

As an increasing number of rural cooperatives make the decision to offer high-quality connectivity in their service areas, communities where local telephone and electric cooperatives already provide Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) are seeing benefits today. Paul Bunyan Communications, offering broadband in Minnesota’s northwest region, has lured a new employer who will bring at least 150 new jobs to the area.

Nonprofit Building In The North

On March 16th, the nonprofit Delta Dental announced that it has decided to invest in a new operations and technology center in Bemidji, located about four hours and 200 miles north of the Twin Cities. The seat of Beltrami County, Bemidji’s population is around 14,300 and the community is the largest place for commerce between Duluth and Grand Forks, North Dakota. The Bemidji area is also home to three Native American Reservations and rests on the shore of Lake Bemidji. Several national and state parks and forests, along with a recreation area, attract tourists looking to escape the Twin Cities for more natural surroundings.

Paul Bunyan Communications started in Bemidji as the Paul Bunyan Telephone Cooperative when a group of local citizens organized as a cooperative after purchasing a small private telephone system and another municipal telephone system in a nearby town. After expanding over the years and taking the initiative to offer Internet access, cellular service, video, and several other services, the entity has shifted to become Paul Bunyan Communications in 2010.

The cooperative has been expanding the FTTH network ever since as The GigaZone. It’s received grants from the Minnesota Border-to-Border Broadband Program to help fund the expansions. As of December 2017, GigaZone connections reached more than 29,400 premises and covered more than 5,000 square miles in Beltrami County, also entering five additional counties.

According to Greater Bemidji Economic Development Executive Director Dave Hengel, access to the fiber network in the community was a “major factor” when deciding to locate the facility here. The nonprofit dental care provider was also interested in workforce, educational resources, and a community that was future minded. Delta Dental and community leaders haven’t yet determined the exact location of the $12 million to $13 million facility, but they hope to break ground this spring and open the location by the end of 2019.

More Jobs

The new facility will bring approximately 150 new positions with wages that range from $16 to $30 per hour. First positions opening up will be in the areas of administrative services, sales, and technology. Delta Dental predicts they will need to fill other positions at the facility in the future in development, web support, and finance.

“There will be entry-level and others that are more high-end, such as management and leadership type jobs,” Hengel said. “This will definitely be something that a BSU graduate would be very well positioned for, particularly those with a background in business development, marketing and information technology.”

Local communities interested in diversifying and sparking economic development have often found that investment in fiber optic infrastructure for better connectivity attracts a range of new employers, especially in rural areas. Places like Danville, Virginia; Springfield, Missouri; and Tullahoma, Tennessee, have experienced job growth because they have fiber available for potential and existing employers.

For more on the project, check out Lakeland PBS News coverage:

Tags: paul bunyan telephone cooperativeeconomic developmentjobsFTTHrural

Community Broadband Media Roundup - March 19

March 19, 2018


Mendocino County Broadband Alliance seeks input on community programs by Ariel Carmona Jr., Willits News

Los Angeles Eyes Greater Role for Community Broadband by Karl Bode, DSL Reports



Boulder launches new online platform for citizen engagement by Alex Burness, Boulder Daily Camera

Improving rural internet about more than watching Netflix by Andrew Eversden, Durango Herald

Legislature moving at the speed of fiber to get internet service to rural Colorado by Marianne Goodland, Durango Herald


That’s what happened last year in Ridgway, in Ouray County. Elevate, a new telecom provider operated by the local nonprofit Delta-Montrose Electric Association co-op, won a grant to provide high-speed fiber optic service to about 2,000-area residents and businesses. The service would have reached speeds at 1 gigabyte, among the fastest currently available.

But CenturyLink has been operating in the area for years, so the company exercised its right of first refusal and took the broadband grant. And they elected to provide internet service through copper lines. That’s about 10 times slower than fiber optic and can be more expensive to customers.



Senate discusses legislation to bring broadband to rural Missouri by Erin Achenbach, St. Louis Public Radio

Two bills aim to expand high-speed broadband in rural parts of Missouri through contracts with electric cooperatives.

“The intent of the bills is to codify for the first time that it is public policy of the state of Missouri to provide access to high speed, reliable broadband,” said Senate bill sponsor Mike Cunningham, R-Rogersville, in opening statements to a Senate committee last week.

Cunningham said Senate Bill 820 and its House counterpart, HB 1880, would also clarify existing laws relating to damage awards for property owners when rural electric cooperatives install fiber and other infrastructure on their land.


North Carolina

Study: Broadband expansion will be a community by community process by The Mountaineer



Spokane explores publicly owned broadband network intended to open up internet services, drive down costs by Kip Hill, The Spokane Spokesman

Spokane may be dipping its toe into the high-speed internet industry.

City lawmakers approved last month the creation of a working group to explore a publicly-owned municipal broadband network. City Councilman Breean Beggs, the sponsor of the plan, cautioned against an expectation that all citizens would soon be able to cut the cord with private internet companies. Instead he envisions a system where Spokane would lay the groundwork for other service providers. The councilman pointed to examples of cities in Idaho and elsewhere where public investments in fiber lines have led to lower prices for consumers.


West Virginia

Marion County Public Library expands digital, technological reach by John Mark Shaver, The Fairmont News

West Virginia Officials Look for Common Ground with State, FCC Internet Data by Max Garland, The Charleston Gazette [Government Technology]



Big Telecom Convinced Wyoming’s Politicians to Rewrite a Community Broadband Bill by Kaleigh Rogers, Motherboard Vice

A bill introduced in Wyoming that set aside money to invest in municipal-owned internet was revamped before it passed to favor Big Telecom. The bill originally listed “a city, town or county or joint powers board,” as eligible for state funding to set up a local ISP, but after consulting with industry lobbyists, elected officials changed the bill and it now limits funds to “public private partnerships.”

The bill, which has passed both the state house and senate and is expected to be signed by Governor Matt Mead, established a $10 million fund for building broadband infrastructure under the state’s ENDOW initiative—Economically Needed Diversity Options for Wyoming. The original text of the bill was fairly flexible, allowing towns or counties to apply for funds to establish municipal networks: publicly-owned and operated ISPs that function kind of like a public utility.



Cities Form Municipal Broadband Companies To Attract Companies And People by Mark Urycki, IdeaStream

Ohio cities need three important utilities to stay viable: gas, electricity, and water. Now a fourth utility is pushing its way into the conversation: internet access. More specifically high-speed internet access. Where once communities have had to hope that private companies would provide that service, more and more local governments are taking on the responsibility themselves. 

The US fight for net neutrality can help Australians get fast Internet by Dr. Kate Raynes-Goldie, Particle

Intrigued? Inspired? Frustrated? The US-based Institute for Local Self-Reliance has put together a Community Connectivity Toolkit for those looking to create their own community or municipal broadband. The first step is building support among local residents and businesses as well as supportive individuals who can champion the cause. The toolkit also provides a number of successful models and case studies that can be used to make the case as well as provide a proven structure for your local broadband network.

Communities lament 'rising tide' of broadband preemption by Ryan Johnston, StateScoop

If you’re a state or local public sector official, broadband has been on your mind lately — and if it hasn’t been, it needs to be, according to a panel of stakeholders at the National League of Cities (NLC) Congressional City Conference this week.

Held in Washington, D.C., the conference provided a platform for both municipal elected officials and advocates to address the question of local broadband deployment throughout the country. Questions were shared about the direction that states are heading as a result of the influence that large broadband providers have on state legislatures — concerns founded in recent Federal Communications Commission actions, and supported in the written NLC policy goals.

Can U.S. States Hang on to Net Neutrality? by Geoff Duncan, Tidbits

A new bill could finally ban predatory inmate phone costs by Sam Gustin, The Verge

AT&T-Time Warner merger would stifle competition by Adam Kline, Seattle Times

Combining AT&T and Time Warner would create a mega-media conglomerate with the incentive and ability to favor its own content over that of other entertainment companies and restrict competing distributors from accessing that content, ultimately limiting our choices as consumers.

Tim Berners-Lee: Monopolies and Lack of Public Infrastructure Are Ruining the Web by Kaleigh Rogers, Motherboard Vice

Cities Launch Plan to Protect Net Neutrality by Nicole Flatow, CityLab


Tags: media roundup

SEMO Fiber In Southeastern Missouri

March 19, 2018

For the past seven months, SEMO Electric Cooperative has been working on phase one of construction of a new fiber optic network in southeast Missouri. They recently announced that subscribers are hooked up and taking advantage of Fiber-to-the-Home in rural Scott County and in the towns of Miner, Advance, and Bloomfield.

A Necessity In Society

This is the first of five phases of a $40 million project that the cooperative decided to pursue in 2017. The co-op board saw that providing high-quality Internet access to was filling a demand that incumbents are not meeting, locals want, and assists the community. Homeowners, schools, and local businesses need broadband. Loyd Rice, the administrator of engineering services for SEMO Electric:

“Now we get to build out something that has become a necessity in society. The ability to have a broadband service that is effective now changes the whole quality of life for those folks. It’s definitely a necessity at schools. You can work from home.”

Like other electric cooperatives that have found value in offering broadband service, SEMO has certain advantages in both deployment and operations. Rice noted that they're finding that cost to construct are lower than expected because they’re able to build along existing infrastructure. “And so six seven months into now, we’re probably half to three-fourths the way through our first phase of the actual build,” he told CBS 12 KFVS.

Keeping Locals Updated

As they deploy GoSEMO Fiber, the cooperative provides video updates on its YouTube Channel, the GoSEMO website, and on FaceBook and Twitter. In addition to messages that provide updates on the progress of deployment, staff provides information on equipment. The videos are short and to the point. Here’s the latest, posted on March 11th, 2018:

There’s no installation fee and subscribers can choose from two symmetrical tiers:

100 Megabits per second (Mbps) for $50 per month

1 Gigabit per second (1,000 Mbps) for $80 per month

The cooperative will also be adding telephone and video services in the future.

Serving Rural Communities

SEMO started like many other rural electric cooperatives - with a group of farmers and business owners who wanted electricity in an area where private power companies and municipal electric utilities did not serve. In 1938, they obtained funding from the Rural Electrification Administration (REA) to build electric infrastructure. Since then, the service area has expanded and SEMO serves premises in six counties in southeastern Missouri. SEMO owns about 2,600 miles of electrical service line and their customer base is just under 16,000 members.

For more on how rural electric cooperatives are bringing broadband to rural America, check out our report Cooperatives Fiberize Rural America: A Trusted Model For The Internet Era.

Tags: semo electric cooperativerural electric coopmissouriFTTHruralcooperativesymmetrygigabit

Carroll County Continues Fiber Investment

March 16, 2018

In the early 2000s, Carroll County, Maryland, invested in publicly owned fiber infrastructure to reduce costs and improve services for public schools, county government, and Community Anchor Institutions (CAIs). In addition to meeting that goal, the county’s asset connected to the Westminster Fiber Network, a municipal Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) partnership that’s brought gigabit connectivity to a community that once struggled with poor Internet access. In order to build off that success in other parts of the county, the Carroll County Board of Commissioners recently voted to allocate $400,000 to provide grants for more Carroll County Fiber Network expansion.

Second Year In A Row

The funding for 2018 follows last year’s decision to provide $1 million to expand the network. Department of Economic Development executive director Denise Beaver told that Carroll County Times that the county’s broadband committee recommended the grants because ISPs’ reasons for not investing in the rural parts of the county were primarily connected to the cost of deploying fiber.

Carroll County's elected officials decided last year to focus on connecting industrial parks and directed staff to communicate with municipal leaders to learn more about opportunities for fiber in downtown areas to spur economic development.

The Carroll County Broadband Grant Program will provide grants of up to $25,000 per project to ISPs or other entities that ensure a 50 percent matching reimbursement. Each entity can receive no more than $100,000 per fiscal year. Eligibility includes a range of types of projects, including those that involve “…the construction, acquisition, or leasing of facilities or spectrum, land, towers or buildings used to deploy broadband service for business and residentially-based businesses.” 

Entities that want to apply for the grants need to be searching for funding that will bring connectivity to “unserved or underserved” areas. The county has decided to define those types of areas for purpose of the grants:

…Beaver said unserved would be defined as someone with no access to fixed Internet connection with speeds of 10 megabits per second downloads and one megabit per second uploads. Underserved would be defined as not have access to a fixed Internet connection of 25 megabits per second for downloads and three megabits per second for uploads from three or more providers.

Learn more about the Carroll County Network from Gary Davis, who spoke with us back in 2013 about the incredible savings and benefits the community has expereinced. Check out episode 43 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast.

Tags: carroll countymarylandregionalexpansiongranteconomic development

Holland BPW Expanding To Nearby Hudsonville

March 15, 2018

Holland, Michigan’s Board of Public Works (BPW) is in the process of incrementally deploying a Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network and will offer Internet access to local subscribers. Holland BPW will also deploy fiber to the nearby town of Hudsonville to a new downtown development.

Upgrading Downtown Hudsonville

Located about 15 miles northeast of Holland, the community of approximately 7,300 received a $1 million state grant to help pay for redevelopment in Hudsonville’s downtown. They’ve been working on the plan to make the area more walkable for more than 10 years in order to appeal to older residents and millennials. 

Because the project involves significant excavation of streets and sidewalks, planners have taken the opportunity to install conduit for fiber. Because about 90 percent of the cost of underground fiber deployment is attributed to the price of digging up rights-of-way, Hudsonville’s smart conduit decisions will make it easier for Holland BPW to bring high speed Internet access to the project area.

BPW’s fiber runs along the main road to Hudsonville and through the center of town; the presence of this fiber will make deployment easier and expedite BPW’s ability to connect premises. 

Following Demand

As part of the expansion, BPW will have the opportunity to offer gigabit connectivity to Hudsonville’s new coworking space, Terra Square. As soon as a minimum of 12 subscribers commit to service from Holland BPW, construction will begin. BPW is using the same demand aggregation approach as they decide where to deploy in Holland neighborhoods, although the number of required commitments varies depending on factors such as density and geography of each neighborhood.

Daniel Morrison, a local resident who writes for the HollandFiber grassroots group website, wrote:

I was initially tempted to complain, “why Hudsonville before my home?” but we should see this a good thing. It further solidifies that Holland BPW is an ISP. It shows their intent to go into new areas. We expect to hear a plan for going into Holland neighborhoods soon. We’ll be working to push that forward as soon as we can.

Check out this map of Holland BPW Fiber:

Tags: holland mimichiganmuniexpansioneconomic developmentFTTH

Hiawatha Broadband Communications: One Of The Small Players That Helped Shape The Internet - Community Broadband Bits Podcast 297

March 14, 2018
Community Broadband Bits Episode 297 - Gary Evans, Former President and CEO of Hiawatha Broadband Communications

Before the days when Comcast, AT&T, and CenturyLink were some of only a few ISPs for subscribers to choose from, much of the country received Internet access from small Internet access companies. In episode 297 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast, Christopher talks with one of the pioneers in bringing the Internet to everyday folks, Gary Evans. Gary is retired now, but he spent many years developing a company that is now known as Hiawatha Broadband Communications, or HBC.

HBC began more than 20 years ago in Winona, Minnesota, in the southeastern area of the state. The company evolved from an initiative to bring better connectivity to the community’s educational institutions. Since then, it has expanded, spurred local economic development, and helped drive other benefits. During its growth, HBC has always strived to work for the community.

Gary and Christopher reminisce about the beginnings of HBC, the challenges the company faced, and how they overcame those challenges. They also discuss some of the interesting partnerships that helped HBC continue to grow and that Gary and other HBC leaders used to develop the company’s culture. Gary’s been in the business a long time, and he has some great stories to tell, so we decided to make this an extended episode that runs a little over an hour.

You can play the show on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed.

You can download this mp3 file directly from here. Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Thanks to Arne Huseby for the music. The song is Warm Duck Shuffle and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.

Check out this short video from HBC's founders:

Image of the Winona bluffs courtesy of Kirs10 at English Wikipedia [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons.

Tags: hbcminnesotaeconomic developmenteducationruralpartnershipaudiopodcastbroadband bits

2018 Broadband Communities Summit Approaching: Austin, Texas

March 14, 2018

Don't forget about the Broadband Communities Summit coming up in April. The weather should be optimal in Austin, Texas, for shaking off winter blahs. From April 30th - May 3rd, attendees will be learning all about FIBER: Putting Your Gigs To Work at the Renaissance Hotel; you can still make it if you register online.

The agenda has developed nicely since we first told you about the event a month ago. View it here

CLIC For Results

On the afternoon of the first day, the Coalition for Local Internet Choice (CLIC) will be ready to present a special program, The Vital Role of Local Choice.

Great nations are built on great cities and towns. Over the last few years, communities across America have come to realize that their ability to achieve greatness, or even success, in the years ahead will depend on their ability to acquire affordable access to fiber-rich communications networks.


We will continue to help members of CLIC and our allies to be as effective as possible in opposing barriers to local Internet choice.  Emphasizing the positive, we will showcase successful local initiatives reflecting the benefits of local control for the community’s economic and broadband future. We will discuss the factual and legal arguments that work best in refuting the new wave of objections to community broadband and public-private partnerships. And we will finish with a deep dive into the experience of a small rural community that furnishes – an excellent example of how the public and private sectors working together can build a great community and an inclusive and advanced workforce. 

Difficult To Choose

Christopher will present at several panels, as part of the Economic Development Track Blue Ribbon Panel, which kicks off the economic development track on Tuesday, May 1st at 3.p.m. central time. He'll also be stepping in to other conversations to answer questions and propose them to some of the other experts on hand.

Broadband Communities Summits are known for the broad range of discussion issues:

  • Electric Cooperatives
  • Open Access
  • IoT
  • MDUs
  • Rural Broadband
  • Healthcare
  • Smart Policies to Encourage Deployment
  • Legal Issues that Affect Broadband Deployment
  • 5G
  • Telecommuting

To see what other experts in the field will be at the Summit, check out the list of speakers

Check out the agenda and register for the event. See you there!

Image of Austin Winter Sunrise by Erik A. Ellison (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons Tags: eventconferencebroadband communities magazinejim ballerjoanne hoviscoalition for local internet choice

Grassroots Group Taking Action In Cambridge

March 13, 2018

We’ve reported on many communities where citizen grassroots groups mobilized to implement change for better connectivity which often resulted in publicly owned Internet networks. Each community is different and some places require a more active group of advocates to bring change. A group of citizens in Cambridge, Massachusetts, have been working to bring attention to their community’s need for better options for several years. Recently, they formed Upgrade Cambridge, as a way to share information and spread the word about their initiative for a publicly owned fiber optic network.

Organic Organizing

Local Saul Tannebaum has consistently led efforts to bring municipal fiber infrastructure to Cambridge. Tannenbaum is one of eight individuals that are on the Upgrade Cambridge steering committee. He recently told the Cambridge Day:

“This grew completely organically. Folks starting contacting me in January asking what was going on with broadband and how they could help. People pulled in others in their own networks and the effort just took off…The city already knows how the Broadband Task force feels about this. It’s time for them to hear from others.”

In 2014, the City Manager appointed the Cambridge Broadband Task Force, which developed recommendations that they presented in 2016; Tannenbaum was a member of the task force. According to the founders of Upgrade Cambridge, the lack of response from the City Manager is driving the formation of the group. They feel that if community leaders hear from everyday Cambridge citizens and realize the magnitude of the problem, city leaders will feel more compelled to act.

The city also hired a consultant who recommended that Cambridge develop a dark fiber network, but find a private sector ISPs to provide last mile connectivity to businesses and residents via the city owned fiber. Another recommendation from the consultant in 2016 was that the city provide last mile fiber only to the Cambridge Housing Authority (CHA) locations. The task force disagreed with these recommendations.

The Cambrige Broadband Task Force also felt that the consultant recommendation was inadequate and too general. They did not feel confident in the consultant’s estimate of $187 million and suggested the city move forward with a feasibility study. With a study that incorporated community outreach, surveys, and detailed analysis, Cambridge could better determine an accurate cost and weigh it against the benefits.

Why A Muni

Members of the Broadband Task Force considered control over the network, including pricing and services, the most important benefit of a publicly owned asset. Cambridge residents now lack choice in ISPs and the service they get from their provider leaves many residents calling elected officials to complain. In their recommendations, the task force also stressed the fact that a network owned by Cambridge would allow them to “make decisions based on social need rather than business needs.” 

Census figures estimate that as much as 60 percent of lower income households don’t have Internet connections. The consultant hired by Cambridge conducted a telephone survey, which revealed only 5 percent of high income local households don’t connect. If both sources are accurate, the digital divide issue in Cambridge needs to be resolved as the task force recognizes.

Task force members pointed out that Cambridge is unlike the communities the consultant used for comparison. At the time, the community had a higher rate of Internet connections, Cambridge had and still has no electric facility, and the reasons for investing in a network in Cambridge would be primarily to bring better options and services to residents, rather than to attract employers. In their report and recommendations, the task force provided many questions that they wanted answered in a feasibility study. They felt that while the report held useful information, it didn't provide an accurate picture of the community and so it's recommendations lacked credibility.

Read the full report and the recommendations from the Task Force here.

Net Neutrality Decision Raises Interest

When it became clear that Chairman Ajit Pai and the Republican Commissioners on the FCC would repeal federal network neutrality protections in February, Tannenbaum was one of many local municipal network supporters that suddenly became popular. He told the Cambridge Day in February:

In the last few weeks, people in Cambridge not associated with the task force have “come out of the woodwork and reached out and asked what they can do,” he said. “There is the very beginnings of some sort of grassroots group to work with the council so it gets the attention it needs. These are just people who think this should be done – and there are a lot of them. This has broad public support, so far as I can tell.” 

The issue has encourage many communities to consider options beyond relying on national ISPs that no longer have to follow rules against paid prioritization, throttling, and other network neutrality guidelines that protected subscribers. Like many other existing publicly owned networks and projects that are still being developed, Upgrade Cambridge addresses the issue on their FAQ page.

Changes, Requests, Moving Ahead

After unanswered requests for comment on what the city planned to do with the Broadband Task Force’s recommendations and a change in city leadership, Tannebaum and his group decided to form Upgrade Cambridge. The city did not appear ready to take action and has told local press that other priorities are more important than a municipal network. Nevertheless, the folks at Upgrade Cambridge feel that the consultant’s report was inadequate and they recognize that this is a multi-year process.

In order to educate the community and let elected officials know that citizens want to explore more options, they’ve decided to begin with public meetings. The first one is set for March 20 at 7 p.m.

Read the press release on Upgrade Cambridge here.

Check out this video from Cambridge TV:

2016 Broadband Task Force Recommendations Upgrade Cambridge Press ReleaseTags: cambridgemassachusettsgrassrootsconsiderationdigital divide

Community Broadband Media Roundup - March 12

March 12, 2018


Bill to expand broadband access in tribal communities passes house by Jesus Reyes, KESQ - California News Service

The Tribal Broadband Deployment Act would direct the Federal Communications Commission to improve broadband access in tribal lands within 30 months, according to the office of Ruiz, who authored the bill.

The legislation also seeks an evaluation of broadband coverage in Indian country and solutions to address the "digital divide'' that Ruiz said exists in those communities.

L.A. councilman proposes new department to improve broadband internet access by LA Times City News Service



The community discusses broadband at forum by Zach Clemens, Estes Park Trail Gazette

Boulder looks to Fort Collins in starting its own broadband network by Nick Coltrain, The Coloradoan

Fort Collins' broadband effort is earning attention in Buffs country.

Representatives from the city of Boulder are planning to visit with Fort Collins officials Tuesday to discuss the city's efforts to make municipal broadband a reality in the Choice City.



Is Bad FCC Data Holding Back Georgia’s Rural Internet Push? by Tyler Jett, Chattanooga Times Free Press (Government Technology)



Rural Communities Take Broadband Into Their Own Hands by Benny Becker, National Public Radio


Group forms to pressure city on broadband, saying ‘no alternative’ to municipal inaction by Marc Levy, Cambridge Day

A lobbying group has formed to pressure Cambridge into taking the next steps on investing in city-owned fiber for high-speed broadband Internet, members of a steering committee said in a press release today.

The group, Upgrade Cambridge, “intends to use the classic tools of grassroots organizing – meetings, leaflets, petitions and canvassing – as well as technological methods to mobilize residents,” according to the release, explaining that it was born out of frustration over the city’s lack of response to the findings of a municipal Broadband Task Force formed by the city manager in 2014.

Editorial: New broadband manager seems like a better fit for Greenfield by Greenfield Recorder

TMLP extending fiber-optic internet service to homes by Jordan Deschenes, Taunton Gazette



Rural Washtenaw County communities fight to bring broadband internet online by Sarah Rigg, Second Wave Media

Sharon Township supervisor Peter Psarouthakis can see fiber optic cable running along the road 30 feet from his home, but he can't take advantage of the broadband internet access it provides. That's because Frontier Communications, the company that ran the cable through the township, won't serve small rural communities like Sharon Township.

But the township, which lies between Manchester and Grass Lake, isn't alone. Getting broadband service to rural areas of Washtenaw County is a problem that many townships and villages face, and they are implementing a variety of strategies to address the lack of service.

Why Low-Income Communities Are Building Their Own Internet Networks by Eillie Anzilotti, Fast Company

In that respect, EII is similar to networks like NYC Mesh, a community-based internet service provider in New York City–the type of which is growing in popularity in the wake of the FCC’s December decision to roll back net neutrality protections, because community members decide the terms of the service. But EII is as much about education and community advancement as it is about internet service.

“Internet is often a top-down model and the information of where the tech goes and how it works doesn’t get transferred, so you keep people in the dark,” Nucera says. “We wanted to combine high-level wireless with high-level organizing.”


New York

Community broadband forum should be emulated statewide by Sun Community News Editorial Board


North Carolina

North Carolina Community Welcomes Broadband Expansion by Micki Bare, Government Technology

The largest fiber optic network in the state has reached into Randolph County, providing more broadband access to organizations and citizens, and adding another piece to the infrastructure puzzle.

MCNC, the nonprofit owner and operator of the N.C. Research and Education Network (NCREN), celebrated the completion of its Central Carolina Fiber Project with an event Tuesday at Randolph Community College.

The fiber network reaches from Greensboro to Hamlet, running directly through the center of Randolph County and connecting 22 Community Anchor Institutions (CAIs), all of which now have direct connections on MCNC-maintained fiber network facilities.

Avery County Chamber of Commerce Receives Grant to Expand and Improve Internet Access by Nathan Ham, High Country Press



Bill to deregulate broadband killed by Steve Marion, Jefferson City Standard Bearer

Erwin, Tn: Evolving from Railroads to Fiber Optic Cables by Sean Doyle, Smart Growth America



Town Meeting Day: Central Vermont looks to form fiber optic district by Elizabeth Gribkoff, VT Digger



Washington state’s net neutrality law is the beginning of a big headache for Internet providers by Brian Fung, Washington Post

Owning fiber, town considering broadband expansion by Scott Hunter, Grand Coulee Star

Washington state enacts net neutrality law, in clash with FCC by Klint Finley, Wired

Process to determine future of Click inches forward by Steven Dunkelberger, Tacoma Weekly


West Virginia

WV broadband council mulls combining federal, state data on internet access by Max Garland, West Virginia Gazette Mail



ISPs Buy a Wyoming Bill That Blocks Community Broadband by Karl Bode, DSL Reports

This is how big cable companies make sure they never face real competition by Chris Mills, BGR

The vast majority of Americans have no choice when it comes to home internet. By and large, a handful of cable companies have the nation divided up into a series of regional monopolies, giving the illusion of competition but no actual incentive to lower prices or offer good customer service. Realizing this, local municipalities have increasingly warmed to the idea of local, publicly-owned internet providers as an alternative to big telecom companies.

Where municipal internet has taken off, it’s overwhelmingly been loved by residents — which, of course, means that telecoms companies have to nip this potential threat in the bud. A truly incredible example of how telecoms companies use state-level politics to kill off the threat happened recently in Wyoming, where telecom lobbyists took a bill that would have given state grants to local communities to get high-speed internet, and used it instead to block public broadband.



Citizen engagement key to the success of Smart Cities by Guy Daniels, TelecomTV

“Dig Once” rule requiring fiber deployment is finally set to become US law by Jon Brodkin, ArsTechnica

Congress is looking to bring fiber internet to you faster with the Dig Once bill by Lulu Chang, Digital Trends

No, AT&T hasn't created internet fast lanes. But… by Marguerite Reardon, CNET

Cities argue 5G internet rollout laws violate property rights by Carey L. Biron, Christian Science Monitor

5G is in Danger of Being Oversold by Stacey Higginbothumn, IEEE Spectrum

Tags: media roundup

Mapping Broadband Competition In Idaho

March 12, 2018

Like many other states, connectivity across Idaho is unequally distributed. Urban areas may have a choice of one or two broadband providers while many rural areas have no options whatsoever. We have compiled the latest data from December 2016 into a map to highlight competition and show these disparities.

According to the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) 2018 Broadband Progress Report, 98 percent of urban areas and 68 percent of rural areas in Idaho have broadband service, defined by the FCC as 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) downstream and 3 Mbps upstream. While about 1 million people in Idaho have access to two or more options, nearly half a million people are not nearly as lucky. Approximately 327 thousand of the state's 1.683 million people have only one option for broadband service, and 169 thousand still do not have access to broadband. This, however, is actually a best-case scenario.

Failures In Broadband Data

These statistics and this map, like most broadband data, rely on FCC Form 477. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) complete the form explaining which census blocks they serve or could serve. Census blocks are the smallest unit of measurement for the U.S. Census, and they vary in size. Rural census blocks often cover more land mass than urban areas. ISPs need only be able to offer service to one person in a census block in order to claim the entire census block. This can lead to an overstatement of how many people are actually served. The FCC launched an interactive map with this data, and FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel has invited people to submit corrections to

This map of Idaho likely overstates coverage - not because the ISPs are untruthful or they break the rules they're required to follow when completing the form, but because Form 477 uses a benchmark that's too broad. Idaho likely has even more people without access to high speed Internet service and many more who actually have only one choice in broadband provider -- not two options -- despite what the data suggests.

Unequal Access

The unequal distribution of broadband service is most acute on the several Native American reservations in the state. Margaret Harding McGill, a technology reporter at Politico, dove into the details in her article “The Least Connected People in America.” At least 83 percent of the population on Idaho’s tribal lands does not have broadband access. At the same time, CenturyLink and Frontier have received funding to provide some service of 10 Mbps /1 Mbps, but this investment might not reach the reservations. 

McGill also highlights how the Nez Perce built a wireless community network in order to communicate data about the river otter and other wildlife populations. Residents can connect to the network, but the speeds are still too slow to be considered broadband at only about 3 Mbps. The tribe is considering pursuing Connect America Fund grants through the upcoming Phase II Auction. This would enable them to connect their salmon hatcheries and more residents to a high speed connection.

Other Tribal communities are taking steps to connect their members. To the north, the Coeur d’Alene constructed a network across their reservation. It’s called Red Spectrum Communications and is a mix of wireless and Fiber-to-the-Home. The U.S. Department of Agriculture provided a loan of $6 million and a matching grant of another $6 million toward the project in 2010.

More Idaho Community Networks

On the outskirts of the Nez Perce reservation, the Port of Lewiston has a small community fiber network that serves the port, some businesses, and community anchor institutions, such as the medical center and the state college. The fiber network connects with similar small networks in the Ports of Whitman and of Clarkston.

In 2016, the small city of Emmett began to build a network for city facilities and community anchor institutions, including the library and city hall. The city now has some public Wi-Fi and can use secure connectivity in the public park for their annual Cherry Festival. We spoke with Mike Knittel from Emmett for episode 296 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast, who told us how the city is discovering additional ways to use their investment. Idaho Falls also has a municipal dark fiber network that Internet Service Providers can lease to reach residents and businesses in an open access arrangement. 

The City of Ammon pioneered open access network in Idaho starting back in 2008. The city’s Technology Director Bruce Patterson focused on improving public infrastructure, and the department developed a cutting-edge software-defined network. The network improved competition among Internet Service Providers, offering city residents better options. Since then, Ammon’s network has won awards for public safety and been featured in a short documentary, Ammon’s Model: The Virtual End of Cable Monopolies.

Idaho’s community networks seek to fill the needs of local Idahoans, from providing basic Internet service to increasing broadband competition. Many parts of the state still have no broadband service or no choice in service, and the maps that we have only provide a glimpse of the problem.

Watch Ammon’s Model: The Virtual End of Cable Monopolies Below

broadband competition in Idaho, similar to a population density map diagram showing possible overstatement of fcc broadband dataTags: mapidahocompetitionnative americansmappingfccincumbent

Port Partnership Power In Washington; Bill Passes

March 9, 2018

Last week we reported about the uncertain position that faced Washington ports might find themselves in, should they decide to bring better connectivity to the areas within and around their service areas. We are pleased to learn that the state legislature saw the light and chose to pass the bill without the proposed harmful Senate amendments. It's good news, but the final bill isn't ideal. 

The Problem; The Proposed Solution

Current law allows ports to develop and use fiber optic infrastructure for its own uses both within and beyond their geographic borders; they can only offer wholesale services to other entities within their borders. HB 2664, as introduced, removed the geographic restriction for wholesale services. Communities like Bellingham want to attract ISPs to their cities to compete with incumbents and encourage better prices and services. With the ability to use fiber from the port and possibly integrate it into an expanded network, a city like Bellingham could save time and considerable expense if they wish to invest in Internet infrastructure throughout the community.

Local advocate Jon Humphrey, who has been following this bill and others in his area, noted that the bill had much to do with population density. There had been a change to the original language of bill — the “rural” port requirement, which effectively protected national ISPs from any competition. Humphrey wrote, “This is where the modification of the bill should have ended.”

To The Senate

The bill had no problem passing the House, but when the Senate took it up, they added several amendments that distressed Humphrey and others watching the bill and rooting for it to pass.

We were also concerned about the amendments, including a change that required projects to prioritize unserved and underserved areas. Serving such areas is certainly critical, but this type of language in legislation serves to protect incumbent ISPs from competition rather than to bring high-quality Internet access to areas ignored by those same incumbents. Allowing some level of competition in more densely populated areas helps support projects that reach into less populated unserved and underserved areas.

Humphrey expressed concern over another amendment that, in his opinion, limited partnerships and would create de facto monopolies:

One amendment created a loophole allowing the telecoms to eliminate competition by Washington’s ports. The Amendment says, “A port district under this section may select a telecommunications company to operate all or a portion of the port district’s telecommunications facilities. For the purposes of this section, “telecommunications company” means any for-profit entity owned by investors that sells telecommunications services to end users. Nothing in this subsection is intended to limit or otherwise restrict any other authority provided by law.”

Washington is known for its open access networks and the fact that multiple ISPs provide services to residents and businesses via publicly owned infrastructure. The arrangement allows subscribers to have choice, which helps keep prices reasonable and encourages better customer service. Often Public Utility Districts, such as the Grant County PUD, provide open access infrastructure and multiple ISPs offer services to subscribers. When we spoke with Grant County PUD’s Russ Brethower for episode 279 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast, 24 companies offered services via their fiber optic network.

As Humphrey pointed out, issues with network neutrality need to be considered before the state legislature imposes a restriction limiting partnerships. The amendment the Senate had proposed violated the spirit of Washington’s open access tradition.

House Substitution Prevails

Fortunately, when the amended bill came back to the House, they rejected the changes that the Senate had made to protect big incumbent ISPs. When the House returned the bill to the Senate without the changes, the Senate accepted the bill and sent it on to the Governor.

It was mostly good news, except that the House substitute bill the Senate had reviewed included the provision that port districts adhere to a much higher level of transparency than incumbent ISPs. Last week, we thought the provision had been a Senate amendment, but on closer inspection of the legislative process realized that the provision was already in the bill when the Senate received it. Regardless of when the provision became part of HB 2664, language like this can discourage private sector partners from working with communities that open up their publicly owned infrastructure. When competitors have access to so much information, it can be difficult to compete.

Humphrey describes the result as "a step in the right direction":

I'm happy with it because I live in Whatcom County/Bellingham and the population density clause was keeping our port from helping our citizens get better broadband solutions. I believe that we all need access to more ethical, locally provided, telecom solutions. In Bellingham, most people still are dealing with virtual monopolies provided by overpriced, expensive, anti-net neutral providers.

Read the final bill here.

HB 2664 as passed by the LegislatureTags: washingtonstate lawslegislationhb 2664 waopen accesspartnership

Broadband Bond On Ballot In Sharon Township, Michigan

March 8, 2018

On May 8th, voters in Sharon Township, Michigan, will decide whether or not they want to pursue an initiative to invest in a publicly owned fiber optic network. People in the community of less than 2,000 people don’t expect the national ISPs to bring them the connectivity they need, so they will decide if they should take another approach to connect every one with high-quality Internet access.

Like Nearby Lyndon

Sharon Township residents and businesses find themselves in the same type of situation Lyndon Township faced before they decided to take action to develop a network. There is limited wired Internet access in the community, but it’s almost always slow DSL from Frontier or AT&T. Many people must rely on expensive and unreliable satellite for service. Comcast also claims to have a small presence in Sharon Township.

When township supervisor Peter Psarouthakis tried to connect with representatives from incumbents to talk about improving services, he couldn’t reach anyone who could make decisions. Next, community leaders asked smaller companies to serve their areas, but "They told us they have no plans to operate in our township because we don't have enough people, and the return on investment isn't going to be there for them.”

Pressing On

When residents and business owners completed a survey in 2013 as the community considered what route to take, 70 percent of respondents said that their current ISP did not meet their needs; 95 percent expressed an interest in alternative choices for Internet access. Since then, community leaders have hired a consultant to develop a feasibility study and Sharon Broadband Yes, a grassroots group advocating for a fiber network, has formed to educate the public.

The group is asking voters to pass a broadband bond proposal to allow the community to issue $4.9 million in general obligation bonds to fund a fiber optic network project. Community leaders accepted the estimate from the consultant’s feasibility study, which was completed about a year ago. As in Lyndon Township, the bonds would be repaid with a “millage” in which local property owners pay a certain dollar amount per $1,000 of taxable value of their home. In Sharon Township, that figure is $3.2583 or 3.2518 mills.

Because higher valued property would pay a higher amount toward the project, the Sharon Broadband Yes group has offered a “High-Speed Internet Millage Calculator” on their website. The calculator allows property owners to input what they currently pay for Internet access and the taxable value of their property so they can make a comparison to what they will likely pay if the project proceeds. 

Sharon Broadband Yes also provides answers to many questions that people typically ask, addressing large matters about the project or practical questions potential subscribers might have about their service. They’re educating people in the community so voters can make an informed decision about the bonding proposal.

View the ballot language here.

Feasibility In Sharon

CCG Consulting presented the results of a feasibility study in February 2017 and their first recommendation was that Sharon Township partner with other communities in the region to create a larger ISP. According to the Sharon Broadband Yes FAQ page, the town plans to build and own the infrastructure and work with an operator. 

The nonprofit Michigan Broadband Cooperative (MBC) has worked closely with Sharon Township, Lyndon Township, and a list of other communities in the region that are considering investing in Internet infrastructure. Eight member communities, which include Sharon and Lyndon Townships, belong to the cooperative.

You can learn more about last year’s successful ballot measure in Lyndon Township and MBC by listening to episode 272 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. Christopher interviewed Ben Fineman from MBC along with Marc Keezer and Gary Munce from Lyndon Township.

Sharon Township Broadband Bond Ballot Sharon Township Feasibility Study February 2017Tags: sharon township mimichiganruralmichigan broadband cooperativeelectionbond

Central Vermont: "YES!" On Communications Union District

March 7, 2018

We recently learned that a group of communities in central Vermont had decided to ask voters if they should form a communications union district to develop a regional fiber optic network. On March 6th, twelve of thirteen communities who took up the proposal at Town Meeting passed it, and the thirteenth will address the subject in May.

Clearly A Demand

We reached out to Jeremy Hansen, a Board Member in Berlin and the person who’s spearheading the effort to improve connectivity in the region. He told us:

I'm humbled and encouraged by the outpouring of support for this effort here in Central Vermont. There is clearly a demand for an Internet Service Provider that we, as a community, are about to start building. Two more towns outside of those that had it on their Town Meeting agenda (Elmore and Moretown) discussed CVI today, too, and they both look poised to apply to join us once we have our first board meeting.

Communities that passed the measure are Barre City, Berlin, Calais, East Montpelier, Marshfield, Middlesex, Montpelier, Northfield, Plainfield, Roxbury, Williamstown, and Worcester. In Berlin, East Montpelier, Middlesex, and Worcester the community took up the question with a floor vote and it passed unanimously. The town of Barre will bring up the question at its Town Meeting in May.

Looking East For Inspiration

As an elected official, Hansen has heard many complaints from constituents about poor Internet access and inadequate customer service from ISPs in his town of Berlin. As he's researched the problem, he's found that other communities in the region have faced the same problems. 

When looking for solutions, Hansen learned about ECFiber, which serves 24 member towns to the east. The publicly owned fiber optic network is organized as a communications union district, a relatively new designation in Vermont that is similar to water or sewer districts. ECFiber is publicly owned infrastructure developed by multiple communities, which allows them to issue revenue bonds to fund a telecommunications project.

Learn more about ECFiber and communications union districts in episode 251 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. You can also read more about ECFiber; we've covered their success over the years.

Over the past year, Hansen has approached towns in the region and asked community leaders to consider bringing membership in the communications union district to voters. Based on results from yesterday’s vote, people in the area are ready for better Internet access. Comcast and Consolidated Communications (formerly Fairpoint) operate in the region.

What’s Next For CVI Member Towns?

Now that towns have decided to participate in the communications union district, each town will need to select a representative to belong to the governing board. Hansen has said he hopes to begin construction by 2020 and that the district will likely next seek out a company for a feasibility study and a develop a business plan.


Now the hard work begins as we work together to provide reasonably-priced, high-quality, community-owned, ultra high-speed Internet access to all homes, businesses, and civic institutions in our member towns!

Congrats and best wishes to these central Vermont communities who are beginning this journey of local self-reliance! 


The image of the bridge in Berlin, Vermont, by Magicpiano (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

Tags: Vermontcentral vermont internetcommunications union districtregionalelectionlocal

Transcript: Community Broadband Bits Episode 296

March 6, 2018

This is the transcript for episode 296 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. Emmett, Idaho, built a community network to connect public facilities and community anchor institutions. Mike Knittel, the Systems Administrator, joins the show to explain how the small city did it and what's next. Listen to this podcast here.

Mike Knittel: They never once asked about the cost or any of that. He simply asked me. When is it going to be there for me?

Lisa Gonzalez: This is episode 296 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. I'm Lisa Gonzalez. We first took note of Emmett, Idaho, about two years ago when the city was in the process of constructing a fiber optic network to provide connectivity for its municipal facilities. At the time they had already made plans for the future which involved using publicly owned infrastructure to connect businesses and possibly one day Fiber-to-the-Home for residents. A lot has happened in Emmett since then. In this interview Christopher talks with Mike Knittel. He describes how the project is moving along and now Emmett has discovered new ways to use their infrastructure beyond what they'd initially planned and possibilities for the future. Mike also gets into how lack of quality connectivity has the community embracing the project. Now here's Christopher with Mike Knittel from Emmett Idaho.

Christopher Mitchell: Welcome to another edition of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. I'm Chris Mitchell with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Sitting under a fresh coat of snow waiting for the next fresh coat of snow wrapped in a proper Minnesota weekend up here today I'm talking with Mike Knittel the Systems Administrator for Emmett in Idaho. Welcome to the show.

Mike Knittel: Hey Chris, thanks a lot for having me. Really appreciate the invite.

Christopher Mitchell: Absolutely. I had a fun time sharing a table talking with you a bit at the Ammon unveiling maybe six months ago now. Ammon a longtime favorite community of ours. Sounds like you're doing really great things in Emmett. so I'm excited to learn more about them. But let's start with just a brief description of Emmett for I'm guessing most people who haven't been to Emmet.

Mike Knittel: Yeah absolutely. So you know Emmett sits just outside of Boise, Idaho. We're kind of a bedroom community to Boise, definitely rural. And we're about 7,000 people so hopefully a lot of people listening to the podcast can kind of relate to our similar situation and setup and, you know, you mentioned the city of Ammon. And I got to say you're right they are a leader in our state without a doubt for some of these projects and have definitely helped us along the way with advice and really appreciate everything they're doing on their end.

Christopher Mitchell: That's great. And one of the things that we've been learning is the extent to which they're a leader in the nation. Actually we just found a city in Alabama that was considering what they could do to improve Internet access and they watched that video that we helped to do. I know that communities in Ohio have also benefited from that. So, you know, it's -- it's terrific. I'm really glad that they're lending that helping hand locally too. But you have an interesting approach I think, you know, in some ways you're definitely going your own way. You started with some investments for municipal assets as many communities have. Why don't you walk us through what you're doing.

Mike Knittel: I'll probably take even one step even further back from that just to kind of set that stage for, kind of, where we've come from and where we're at now and where we're going to but we're we're kind of a unique situation as is a lot of rural communities. You know like I said very small 7,000 people so up until just two years ago our city actually had really no structured I.T. support. So you know you have multiple departments throughout the city everything from police, fire, public works, cemetery, parks department, library, you know, all these different departments that were kind of literally doing their own thing. Right. So everybody had their own servers. Everybody had their own Internet contracts phone service contracts. It was -- it was very segmented. But you know I don't think it's necessarily untypical for communities our size to kind of be in that situation if you will.

Christopher Mitchell: You know, I actually think that that's not uncommon for cities of any size. It seems like, and just to give a sense, I mean one of the things that that's probably frustrating is as a person with the title systems administrator would be, you know, if you had to call another department you had to pick up the phone and dial 7 digit number rather than having an internal system that would be a lot easier and probably be up more.

Mike Knittel: Absolutely you're 100 percent correct. The city finally got to the point where they they recognized the value of having that in-house structured I.T. support. Right. So they created the systems administration department just two years or so ago. And I've been heading that up since then. And you know one of my main goals out of the gate was just getting our city facilities connected right so we could share those same type of resources like you mentioned something as well as a phone or phone system that would be you know internal on the city's network. So that was one of the first things that we set out to do. You know, we did what I think most people do and we went to an incumbent provider and said, hey, if we want fiber to each of our facilities. You know what, what does that look like? And when we got that quote back it kind of put us back on our heels a little bit because, again being a rural community, the city doesn't have a lot of you know capital expenditure especially for a brand new departments to facilitate some of those needs especially at those expenses. And so one of the things that you know we immediately identified. So I went to a guy that I worked very closely with, clients in our public works department, and, you know, went over this price quote with him and you know we were both fairly quickly identified like, hey we could probably build this for a lot cheaper than going this route with the incumbent and then we own the infrastructure. So, you know, we're in a good situation where the city owns the streets and the alleys and all the roadways we have the construction equipment on hand we have the crews on hand. And I will tell you what none of this for us would be possible without the help and teamwork with our public works departments. And you know, I always tell people that small communities are always resilient and they're very adaptive. So when they're faced with these things. You know I didn't have any experience building fiber. Clint and his staff didn't have any experience really building fiber but we made that determination. Like, we're going to do this as a team and our public works department really has that go getter attitude and let's get this done. So, you know, you start forming kind of those I guess inner city partnerships and you can really get a lot accomplished for a relatively low price point. So that's exactly what we did. We've started to even though again we're only a short term into our projects. That's what we've started to do. So we've we've essentially adapted the in-house kind of dig=once policy. Right. So now when public works has a road project or a water or sewer project we're evaluating that for space for fiber conduit. Right. And in fiber cable and saying hey is there value here two to comingle these projects. And once the trenches open we lay the conduit and fiber and the pull boxes and away we go. And so that's been working very very well.

Christopher Mitchell: I have to say that once again I you know this is a similar reaction I had and also had great coordination with the public works and maybe there's something in the water in Idaho. But one of the things that we hear that commonly derails projects is not getting that reaction. Let me just put an exclamation mark right there because it's really worth noting that public works when they react negatively they can really kill a project so having them not only on board but enthusiastic is tremendous and people should know that.

Mike Knittel: Oh it's a game changer. There's no doubt. And I said it before, I say it again, I could not do what we're doing without their camaraderie and teamwork that goes into it. There's no doubt. And you know that's one thing that I will say about our project so far too. We have literally done everything house whether it's fusion splicing the fiber. I take care of that. Public works helps with the construction side and does all that we pull our own cable. We've done it so far 100 percent in-house. Now I realize that there's that that may change from in time with some special needs that we might have that we don't have that capability but so far that's really what is driving us to. And there's a lot of sense of accomplishment with that too. It's been working very well so far.

Christopher Mitchell: And do you plan on doing locates? Is that something that the public works already did where if a homeowner's going -- going to dig up the yard, they're supposed to call a number and then you identify things under the ground for instance. Do you handle that yourself?

Mike Knittel: Absolutely. So you know our public works obviously has already does that for their utility for sewer, water, that kind of infrastructure. And so we are and when I say we the systems administration department is taking on that responsibility for the fiber utility. We take care of all that.

Christopher Mitchell: So what's what's next I mean you're -- you're serving your municipal functions and that's going to I'm sure results in some savings. But do you have greater ambitions to improve Internet access for others?

Mike Knittel: Yeah absolutely and it's very interesting because you always kind of think start small. Right. So back to getting our own facilities connected, you know, that was our focal point. But one thing that we really took on the mindset of is let's make sure and build in the capacity for future growth. We don't know what future growth necessarily he's going to look like let's build the capacity and what would. Specifically what I mean is we're putting in three or four conduits at a time right because the conduits the cheap part it's the construction and getting it in the ground that's the expensive part. So. So we've really taken that mindset of OK we don't know what this is going to bring for the future but let's build plenty of growth. So you kind of start there right. And then the focus being OK we're going to get our city facilities connected. That's all great. But then you start to really realize what you can leverage the network for and the infrastructure for beyond just kind of those immediate needs. So. So we've fortunately just geographically the way we were laid out we were able to get fiber to our city water tower very quickly. And the way that our cities are kind of set -- we're in a valley. So the water towers a pretty high point. So I was almost immediately able to connect all of our facilities through a fixed base wireless deployment that's backhaul by our fiber optics. And so, you know, with that we were able to immediately change to a you know an IP based phone system like you mentioned earlier that's, you know, saved us a ton of money shared broadband infrastructure for the city facilities. Again as things kind of evolve you realize wow okay there's some more stuff we can do here. So for instance we get cameras up at our city facilities for public safety that sort of thing that is all backhauled on the fiber infrastructure. One of the other things that we are excited about doing is as we build out the network in the infrastructure we're deploying public access Wi-Fi right. So we are Wi-Fi systems set up to where, you know, our staff can connect and stay connected at any city facility whether that be a park or the cemetery or well sites so that they can stay connected to the infrastructure they need to. But we're also able to segregate a part of that network to allow guest access for the public to enjoy being connected at those various facilities. So I'll give you one quick example. Our main city park, which is the largest one that we have, is we have that blanketed with Wi-Fi access points. So one of the things we're able to do that we're very excited about is we have a yearly event like many communities do. Ours is called the Cherry Festival where you have the carnival and vendors and so forth come in and it's sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce is the one who really facilitates that event. Historically the vendors would come in and the Chamber would have to facilitate some sort of connectivity for those vendors to be able to process credit card transactions or whatever that might be. And now for the last couple of years we've really been able to help them facilitate where we were actually set up a secure private section of the Network for Those vendors. So we prevision the network give them secure connective access and maybe even a higher rate than what we would the normal public. We don't charge them a dime for that. We're able to facilitate that in just a few minutes of me provisioning the network to do it. So those are some things that we're starting to see. One of the other things that we realized we could start leveraging. And this seems like such a small scale maybe to some folks but, you know, in the same city park we have a set of two different sets of bathrooms. So for bathrooms historically in the evening either the police departments or public works department was responsible for getting out and locking those bathrooms to prevent vandalism over the nighttime hours. When you do that that's all fine and that method works. But if there's a better more efficient way. That's what we're starting to look to leverage our broadband infrastructure. So what we ended up doing is installing Wi-Fi connected locks on all those bathrooms. Well now we can set locks schedules back to things or events like the Cherry Fest where we can issue out special entry codes to fourth for folks to be able to get in. For certain folks to be able to get in to utilize the facilities. And now we've eliminated that and been more efficient of our staff's time they no longer have to go out and if the police department's busy with calls as they usually are sometimes those those jobs wouldn't even get done. So we've really started to leverage this broadband infrastructure for kind of those outside the box things to improve the efficiency and operations of the city.

Christopher Mitchell: That's been really exciting and I think it's worth noting that your ability to add these sorts of things to your network. I think you're unconstrained. You know if you were leasing even if you find the park but you were leasing access to it you might be thinking a little differently because you don't have full control over it. You don't know if it's going to be there in future years or this and that but you know in my rider you have a set of certainty because you have ownership of the network that allows you to think differently of how to use it.

Mike Knittel: Absolutely. I mean we've really cut our own red tape. Right. So the mindset changes from, you know, whether I'm contracting it out or so forth what are they going to let me do as opposed to what can we do. What's the most, you know, what we're we're really trying to be creative with different avenues that will not only improve our efficiency but service citizens better. So that's, you know, another thing to lead into that too is you know we recently started to deploy our first air quality sensor. Right. Once again leverages our broadband infrastructure to pull real time data for air quality that can then be disseminated to the citizens to make better decisions right. So in Idaho we are, especially our county where we reside, we have a lot of forestry in the nearby counties so when we get say like a forest fire during the summer it's not uncommon to get a huge influx of smoke and other pollutants and you know then there's there's decisions that start to be made by things like the school district and so forth that like, hey do we need to cancel sports practices? and there's resources out there. Right. That you can get things like air quality reports for your area. But it's not the same when you can have direct localized pinpointed accuracy of those readings to be able to help the public make better decisions.

Christopher Mitchell: I think that's one of the things that we're seeing from more of these devices being deployed is just how variable it can be just even over you know a square mile you can have dramatically different readings in different areas.

Mike Knittel: Absolutely and again the more detailed the data that you can provide. And realistically especially at the price point. I mean we're not talking about very much money to be able to deploy things like this. It's just a no brainer you have the infrastructure there. You add on to the leverage the broadband that you have. So it's huge and we're looking forward to deploying more of those sensors. But like I said we literally just put out our first one a couple of months ago and have really been testing with it lately and look forward to moving forward with that more.

Christopher Mitchell: Now when you were financing the network or figuring out you know how to put the money together did you benefit from a grant from the state.

Mike Knittel: We did. So one of the most recent grants that we received was around $40,000 which actually when we are doing our own construction. $40,000 does go a long way for us. It'll enable us to deploy conduit and fiber for about 13 block lengths of main streets in our city and we have married this up with, it's actually, a number of different projects. There's a new water transmission line, new water service lines for the residents, a section of it includes a sewer replacement, and then there's a road project. And now we've -- we've comingled with this project as well. So we're really maximizing tax dollars in these projects and these deployments. Does it sometimes take a little bit longer? You bet. I mean if we had all the money in the world we could contract it all out and get it done very quickly. But we're being very smart about it and it allows us to scale ourselves as well when it comes to the maintenance and operations of the network.

Christopher Mitchell: And you mentioned that there's some cost savings from having your own voice system rather than obviously leasing to each different physical location a different bill and in charge on the overall. Would you say that this is saving the city money or has it been something where it may cost more but the benefits are worth it?

Mike Knittel: So it is absolutely saving us money. There's no doubt we did that study. It is saving us a huge chunk of money which then allows us to reinvest that money in other parts of the network or the build out. Right. So again improving the efficiency and the way that we do things allows us to really stretch that tax dollar and maximize it to its full potential.

Christopher Mitchell: So where would you like to see yourself in five years? I mean what -- how will telecommunications look different in it in five years, Mike?

Mike Knittel: It's very interesting and again we're still very much in that phase of connecting our facilities and building out with a broader concept in mind. So although I don't have all of the answers yet as to where I see it the things that I am seeing is that there's there's very much community support for for this. And I'll give you an example. I recently was asked to do a presentation on the fiber optic for our rotary group, so Rotary being the civic organization that's across the country. It was interesting because it was my first kind of public presentation on the fiber and the concepts of fiber and kind of how it works. And as I was setting up for that presentation that at a lunch meeting I'm kind of looking around the room and let me remind you I mean Idaho's one of the most conservative states in the union. I mean we're very very red. And especially them it's very agricultural based so I'm looking around the room and I'm seeing like these old farmers and I'm thinking to myself oh boy I'm not sure how they're going to react and what I mean by react is do they feel like the local municipalities should be in this realm of building their own fiber optic network.

Christopher Mitchell: Right. I mean there is a stereotype of these people even care about internet access. I mean this is something they feel is important to their livelihood to their quality of life.

Mike Knittel: Absolutely. Absolutely. And even if they found it to be important to them once again do they believe that we should be the ones right meddling in it? So. So those are the things that are kind of going through my mind some kind of getting a little nervous but as I go through the presentation it's very interesting to see people's reactions and I'll never forget one gentleman that was there owns a business in our in our downtown heart district and he never once they never once asked about the cost or any of that. He simply asked me when is it going to be there for me. That's what he cared about. I want it now. When's it going to be there. Right. So even as the meeting progressed these farmers are sitting kind of quietly. As it progresses what I'm finding is that the questions that they're starting to ask are more of why isn't the incumbent providers? shame on them. Why have they not built out and improved our speeds in our access? Shame on them. So I'm I'm getting a lot of actually support saying thank you. Type of thing right. And never forget one of the farmers that came up to me after the meeting and I'll be honest with you I'm not a farmer I'm not in the agriculture business. I don't know how farmers specifically use broadband. I know there's a lot of technology out there that that is being leveraged in the agricultural sector but it was very intriguing to me because I asked him if he's this particular farmer is on a fix based wireless service. You know slower speeds, pretty high bill, and I said hey what so tell me what do you use broadband for your business. And he says it's a lot for us. We do everything from our supply ordering, feeding schedules. He says My Tractors are all connected through cellular four rotations of planting that sort of. I was just kind of blown away. I'm like wow that's that's awesome. And so he was again. He was very supportive of of kind of that initiative and the presentation wasn't even necessarily a this is what we're going to do and this is how we're going to do it to get to you guys. It was more of a this is why the city started to head down this path to save money to connect. Here's kind of what we have in mind. You know broader scope and here's how fiber kind of functions and what sets it apart from you know a typical corporate type network. So even with limited details they were I would say energized. I have not received any negative pushback in anybody that I've come across in in my city as we talk about it. It's been very interesting.

Christopher Mitchell: Yeah that fits broadly with the experience that we've heard from others. I think that elected officials are often cautious about this and I certainly think that they have some good reasons to be but I think those who are demonstrating some real leadership on the issue often find that people are hungry for it and they really want to see more action because they have given up on hoping that some big company that is headquartered you know 3,000 miles away is actually going to do anything for them right right. So is there anything else we should touch on from Emmet before we wrap it up?

Mike Knittel: You know, I think just as again just to give people ideas in other municipalities the project that we're going to start to explore and I don't know how this will pan out yet but we're going to we're going to give it a test run. And again this comes back to that making efficient use of our time and money leveraging our broadband. But one of the things that we're going to be looking at is automated water collection water meter collections. Right. So deploying a device that connects to the network that will receive those water readings from all of the the water utilities out there. So currently right now we have staff that goes out with wireless handheld devices and literally has to walk the routes of the water meters to collect that data and bring it back to the city hall for billing purposes and that sort of thing. We're going to look at this leveraging the network to deploy essentially kind of small sites that would collect that data. That would eliminate staff time. A lot of staff time having to go out and collect that information. But it's it's one more step. The icing on the cake for the citizens is that right now they have really no way unless they call City Hall and request to go have their water meter read to see what their current usage is. Well with a system like this the system automatically takes readings every 15 minutes. So again we're back to that real time data to be able to provide the citizens to make smart decisions. You know a lot of the problems that we see kind of day in and day out are things as simple as water leaks cost people a lot of money because they have no idea that they might have a water leak under their house or something like that. But a system like this then all of a sudden sets it up for not only efficient use of your employees time. I mean that's what pays for the system but then the icing on the cake is being able to be alerted they're notified that hey you might have a problem you might check your water service. So it turns to your local government to be more proactive rather than reactive to those types of issues. So we're excited about exploring that and seeing where that takes us.

Christopher Mitchell: Excellent. It's a great place to wrap up. Thank you so much for coming on the show and telling us about what you're doing. And now I think serving as an inspiration for many other communities that are trying to do something like this.

Mike Knittel: Absolutely. We're always willing to help. Chris I appreciate you having this on the show. And if anybody ever has questions comments were always available I'm willing.

Lisa Gonzalez: That was Christopher with Mike Knittel from the city of Emmett in Idaho discussing their fiber optic network project. We have transcripts from this and other podcasts available at Email us at with your ideas for the show. Follow Chris on Twitter. His handle is @CommunityNets. Follow stories on Twitter. The handlers @MuniNetworks. Subscribe to this podcast and the other ILSR podcasts --Building Local Power and the Local Energy Rules. podcasts you can access them on Apple podcasts, Stitcher, or wherever else you get your podcasts. Never miss out on our original research. You can subscribe to our monthly newsletter at We want to thank Arnie Huseby for the song "Warm Duck Shuffle" licensed through Creative Commons, and we also want to thank you for listening to episode 292 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast.

Link: Tags: transcript

Tennessee Local Authority Bill Halted In Committee

March 6, 2018

Senator Janice Bowling has long been a champion for rural broadband in Tennessee. On March 6th, her bill SB 1045 came before the Tennessee Senate Commerce and Labor Committee and the members chose not to advance the bill. Once again, big telephone and cable company interests win out over the needs of rural Tennesseans.

Download SB 1045 here.

Information Session 

Sen. Bowling presented information about the bill at a February 27th meeting of the committee. She introduced SB 1045 last year and it was added and removed from committee hearing schedules several times; HB 1410, the companion House bill from Rep. Weaver, encountered similar treatment. SB 1045 would allow municipal networks and cooperatives to provide broadband service beyond their service areas. Communities that don’t have municipal networks, will regain local authority to invest in Internet infrastructure.

Explaining The Need

In her February 27th presentation, Sen. Bowling described how rural areas in the state are crippled in various ways by the lack of high-quality connectivity. She provided a map that visualizes the disparities between rural areas, communities with fiber optic networks, and urban areas.

She described the need for fiber for economic development:

In rural Tennessee, if we have what is called an industrial park, and we have electricity…you have running water, you have some paved roads, but if you do not have access to fiber at this point, what you have is an electrified cow pasture with running water and walking trails. It is not an industrial park.

Bowling, whose district includes Tullahoma, has been working in this space for a long time and has gained knowledge from technical experts and business leaders. LightTUBe, her community's municipal fiber optic network, has been serving residents, businesses, and municipal facilities since 2009. The network has boosted economic development, improved education, and public savings, but nearby towns still suffer with older Internet infrastructure because LightTUBe is precluded by current law from expanding beyond its service area.

 It’s clear that she’s listened to their needs and encapsulated those needs into a smart vision for rural Tennessee’s broadband future. During her presentation, she discussed the fact that SB 1045 relies on a symmetrical 25 Megabit per second (Mbps) definition of broadband; any size business needs to be able to send data as efficiently as it receives it.

The Senator also took some time to dispute one of the common misconceptions about how munis are funded. She noted that ratepayers, not taxpayers, fund Tennessee’s municipal networks that bring benefits to everyone in the community. She stressed that municipal networks and cooperatives in Tennessee are managed well and provide the connectivity that people need when large corporations won’t serve their areas. 

We can no longer leave the people of Tennessee hostage to profit margins of large corporations. We appreaciate what they’re doing. We appreciate where they do it, but in rural Tennessee we will never meet their profit margins and so we can no longer be held hostage when we have the ability to help ourselves.

Sen. Frank Nicely from Strawberry Plains commented that his community was very supportive of the bill. He noted that the state had “done well” through deregulation, which is the goal of SB 1045 and he wondered why the administration did not support a deregulation bill when the current President was an advocate for deregulation. Apparently, the current Governor does not support SB 1045, instead continuing his support of last year’s action, which provided funding to rural communities without removing limits to authority. 

Nicely expected the Governor’s office to also support SB 1045.

"I just don’t understand with what’s wrong with taking the bridle off and letting the horse run,” he asked an official from the state’s Department of Economic Development. “I haven’t heard a good argument agains this bill yet,” he said.

Co-ops And SB 1045

The bill would also eliminate the limitations that hamper where electric cooperatives can offer broadband services. Telephone cooperatives are now able to collaborate with other telephone systems beyond their service area by interconnecting their lines for telephone service; this bill expands that authority to broadband service. Likewise, electric cooperatives obtain the express ability to collaborate in a similar fashion with other entities for broadband connectivity to members and nonmembers.

Fixed Wireless And Fiber

Sen. Kerry Roberts from Springfield asked Sen. Bowling a few questions about fixed wireless. Often we see legislators argue that fixed wireless is a better alternative than fiber for both rural and urban areas because it’s cost effective. 

What legislators and others tend to forget is that, even though fixed wireless technology seems to improve every year, it still requires fiber for backhaul. The more we rely on fixed wireless, the more fiber we will need. As Sen. Bowling pointed out, rural Tennessee’s trees and mountains make widespread deployment and dependency on fixed wireless an unrealistic option with existing fixed wireless technology. While the situation may change in the future, rural folks need to connect now with future-proof fiber to participate in the 21st century economy.

No Debate, Just A Bad Decision

On March 6th, the Committee took up the bill after using a week to study it. At the hearing, Sen. Bowling presented petitions from several rural counties signed by residents and businesses in areas without high-quality connectivity. Many of these communities are neighbors to places like Morristown, Chattanooga, and Tullhoma, an would like to receive Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) from their neighbors, but current law prevents it.

Joe Malgeri, a consultant from rural Jefferson County, Tennessee. He presented research that supported the connection between municipal networks and economic development. Mr. Malgeri used historical and geographical analysis and made connections between a 1999 law that allowed municipal electric utilities to offer Internet access and economic improvements in the communities that now have fiber networks.

Sen. Nicely once again expressed support for the bill. He described how his district is near Morristown and Newport but communities in his district are not able to receive services from them. He “doesn’t have a good reason to give them” for why people in his community don’t have access to high-quality Internet service.

No testifiers opposed the bill and none of the members offered comments in opposition to the bill or gave reasons for their votes other than Sen. Nicely. Members voted against advancing the bill with 3 yeas and 4 nays. In the end, the Committee let down rural folks in Tennessee and chose to vote to preserve the telephone and cable monopolies. We hope rural Tennesseans were watching and remember moments like this the next time they go to the voting booth.

Sen. Bowling, who’s dealt with this kind of result in the past told the Committee that she will be back with another bill to help rural Tennesseans get the Internet access they need. Thank you, Senator Janice Bowling.

You can watch the discussion about SB 1045 at the February 27th Committee meeting:


Image of the Tennessee State Capitol by Andre Porter (imagN Images) (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

SB 1045Tags: tennesseesb 1045 tnlegislationruralcooperativestate lawseconomic developmentvideo

Fibering Up Emmett, Idaho - Community Broadband Bits Podcast 296

March 6, 2018
Community Broadband Bits Episode 296 - Mike Knittel, Systems Administrator of Emmett, Idaho

Emmett, Idaho’s Systems Administrator Mike Knittel joins Christopher for episode 296 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast this week. Mike explains how the city of about 7,000 has taken a similar approach as other municipalities by first investing in Internet infrastructure to unite the city’s needs. We get to hear their story.

Emmett, however, has taken advantage of its self-reliant can-do attitude to collaborate among departments and build its own network. Mike explains how working between departments reduced the cost of their deployment, has helped them speed up their construction, and has created groundwork for future expansion. Mike also shares some of the ways that Emmett is discovering new and unexpected ways to use their infrastructure and how the community has supported the project.

Mike has some plans for Emmett's new infrastructure and we can't wait to check in with him in the future to find out all the new ways they're using their fiber.

Read the transcript for this show here.

This show is 29 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed.

You can download this mp3 file directly from here. Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Thanks to Arne Huseby for the music. The song is Warm Duck Shuffle and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.

Tags: emmett ididahomuniruralaudiopodcastbroadband bitsfixed wirelesscollaborationdig onceincremental

Community Broadband Media Roundup - March 5

March 5, 2018


San Francisco: Building Community Broadband to Protect Net Neutrality and Online Privacy by Katharine Trendacosta, Electronic Frontier Foundation

Mayor Farrell Advances Plan for Municipal Fiber Internet by Ellen McGrody, Bay City Beacon

This week, the San Francisco Municipal Fiber Blue Ribbon Board released a report recommending a set of provisions that ISPs using the city’s infrastructure will have to follow, the latest in a set of recent moves towards to the rollout of municipal fiber in San Francisco. Since taking office last month, Mayor Mark Farrell has overseen significant commitments toward the rollout of the proposed fiber optic network.

San Francisco Internet Challenges Feds, Major ISPs by Garrett Bergthold, San Francisco Weekly



Longmont officials, low-income housing residents grappling with property manager to get NextLight by Sam Lounsberry, Longmont Times-Call

Stalled negotiations between the property manager of Longmont affordable housing complexes and officials with the NextLight municipal high-speed internet service have confused residents about their potential access to the broadband network.

Mission Rock Residential manages both Quail Village and Cloverbasin Village low-income apartments, and has left residents to choose between private-sector internet providers such as Comcast — which has an exclusive marketing agreement with Mission Rock — by shunning proposals from the city to install NextLight.

While Mission Rock is far from the only property management company or landlord to stay off the award-winning NextLight fiber-optic network, some Cloverbasin residents say its deal with Comcast and exclusion of NextLight contradicts its business model of providing affordable housing; the city's internet service offers speedier connections often at lower rates than private providers.



Senate unanimously passes bill encouraging broadband internet expansion by Nick Bowman, Gainesville Times



Quincy officials eye municipal internet network by Sean Philip Cotter, Wicked Local Quincy

A municipal internet network would give people an alternative, and, hopefully, one that is less expensive, Cain said.

Cain’s resolution specifically mentions broadband internet, which comes to homes via landlines. In Braintree, the Braintree Electric Light Department has provided municipal broadband service for years.

Cain said he’s open to exploring any way of providing internet service.

“Let’s put together a plan and an assessment,” he said.


New York

North Country hungry for broadband details by Pete Demola, Sun Community News

Rural New York Communities Prepare for High-Speed Internet by Chris Potter, Government Technology

Bad Internet in the Big City by Susan Crawford, Wired



Could Portland Adopt Municipal Broadband? By Christen McCurdy, The Portland Skanner

According to the Institute for Local Self-Reliance’s Community Networks page, more than 750 American communities have built publicly owned broadband networks.

“When a community is served by a municipal network, the infrastructure is a publicly-owned asset, similar to a road or an electric utility. There are a variety of models from full retail, in which the city takes on the role of an Internet Service Provider like Comcast or AT&T, delivering services directly to residents and businesses, to Institutional networks in which only municipal facilities receive services,” said Lisa Gonzalez, a senior researcher for the institute’s Community Broadband Networks Initiative.



Bringing broadband to rural Virginia by John Edwards, Roanoke Times



Washington State Passes Nation's Toughest Net Neutrality Law by Natalie Delgadillo, Governing



Push for internet via TV airwaves comes to Wisconsin, despite broadcaster opposition by Erik Lorenzsonn, The Cap Times

Meanwhile, Mitchell said that the Institute for Local Self-Reliance is supportive of white space technology, although he said that the ultimate goal should remain a fiber-optic network — a more costly, but much more reliable and fast connection.



Internet Service Providers Systematically Favor White Communities Over Communities of Color by Kaleigh Rogers, Motherboard Vice

A 2016 report from Free Press, an open internet advocacy group, found that 81 percent of white Americans have access to home internet, compared to 70 percent of Hispanic Americans and 68 percent of African Americans. This gap is most severe at the lowest income level, according to the report, but that’s not the whole story.

“Even if you account for people’s income, there’s still a disparity in black and brown communities that can’t be explained by financial difference,” said Brandi Collins-Dexter, the senior campaign director for media, democracy and economic justice at Color of Change, a nonprofit civil rights advocacy group.

Bipartisan bill aims to prove the value of broadband access for all by Issie Lapowsky, Wired

Court Rules FTC Lawsuit Over Throttling Can Proceed by Karl Bode, DSL Reports

In short, the ruling means the lawsuit against AT&T for lying about throttling can move forward. It also means the FTC still has some authority to regulate broadband providers, of particular note given the success ISPs have had in convincing the Trump administration to gut the FCC's more comprehensive authority over ISPs.

The FCC’s New Broadband Map Paints an Irresponsibly Inaccurate Picture of American Broadband by Karl Bode, Motherboard Vice

The Problem With America's New National Broadband Map by Rob Pegoraro, CityLab

The map’s biggest downfall lurks behind its search-by-address function, which suggests a precision that its underlying data usually can’t deliver. The FCC data doesn’t get more granular than census blocks—statistical areas that can span a city block or several counties. Within census blocks, internet access can vary quite a bit. Just because your closest neighbors have broadband doesn’t guarantee that you’ll have any.

An FCC spokesman said the agency is considering asking for more detailed coverage data from providers, but warned that this could be “burdensome.”

The map also doesn’t cite prices. The FCC doesn’t collect that information, much less factor in complications like the discounts that cable firms offer for bundling TV, phone, and internet service.

Tags: media roundup

Taunton Pushes For More Residential Subscribers

March 5, 2018

Businesses in Taunton, Massachusetts, already have access to fiber optic connectivity offered by Taunton Municipal Light Plant (TMLP). In an effort to bring better connectivity to the rest of the community, TMLP is now connecting residents through a “fiberhood” approach.

The Process

TMLP’s customer base already consists of about 20 percent residential customers; they now serve about 450 premises. When the community decided to invest in the infrastructure in1997, the focus was on bringing high-quality connectivity to local businesses. Now, TMLP hopes to expand its network to nearby communities’ residents with $69.95 per month symmetrical gigabit FTTH service. TMLP will also offer Internet access at $34.95 per month for symmetrical 50 Megabit per second (Mbps) service and voice services for $19.95 per month. They will not offer video service.

In order to determine which areas will receive service next, TMLP is asking potential subscribers to sign up at their website to express interest. Once a designated area achieves a 25 percent level of interest, residents can submit applications for installation at their homes. When applications have been approved, TMLP begins deployment in their neighborhood.

Time To Branch Out

Currently, TMLP offers FTTH to one apartment complex and a neighborhood near the high school. The city’s school system obtains connectivity from TMLP, as does a local hospital and its clinics. TMLP wants to expand to neighborhoods in Raynham, Berkley, North Dighton, and Lakeville. 

Officials expect brisk demand and comments from local residents confirm that expectation:

“Wish they’d come to the Whittenton area...(TMLP Online is) much more affordable, especially for those who don’t wish to have television and only want WiFi or for those who live alone and need a very basic, simple package deal,” said Michelle Gaoulette, a Taunton resident.

The small number of residential subscribers who live in the areas where FTTH is available seem to appreciate it:

“We have it and love it... it’s wonderful not having to pay a cable bill,” said Kevin Camara, a Taunton resident who currently receives TMLP Online service.

Tags: taunton mamassachusettsFTTHmuniexpansiongigabitsymmetryfiberhood

Transcript: Community Broadband Bits Episode 295

March 2, 2018

This is the transcript for episode 295 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. Patrick Mulhearn joins the show from Santa Cruz County, California, to explain permit processes, local governments, and economic development. Listen to this show here.

Patrick Mulhearn: It's really going to come down to to local governments to to fill these gaps some way.

Lisa Gonzalez: This is episode 295 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. I'm Lisa Gonzalez. California's Santa Cruz County is known for its bustling beaches and its natural inland beauty. It's within driving distance of Silicon Valley and offers a high quality of life for people who aren't interested in living in a large bustling city but still want the activities found in a coastal community. In this interview Christopher talks with Patrick Mulhearn from Santa Cruz County. He discusses how county officials turn to better connectivity as an economic development tool. And he describes the challenges they faced. He also talks about the policy change Santa Cruz County has adapted to encourage ISPs to improve services and the results of those changes. Patrick and Christopher also talk about what Santa Cruz County is working on next. Now here's Christopher with Patrick Mulhearn from Santa Cruz County in California.

Christopher Mitchell: Welcome to another edition of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. I'm Chris Mitchell with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance in Minneapolis Minnesota. Today I'm talking with Patrick Mulhearn a policy analyst in the office of supervisor Zack Friend of Santa Cruz County. Welcome to the show. Thank you for having me. So let's just start with a little bit of Santa Cruz County, people may not be entirely familiar with your lovely little oasis south of San Jose. But what should people know about it who aren't familiar with it?

Patrick Mulhearn: We are the second smallest county by geography in the state of California around 250,000 people total in the unincorporated county. And in our various municipal jurisdictions about 150,000 just in the unincorporated county we are a coastal town. So there's a concentration of development along the coast by about 40 years ago. Locals put in a series of protective ordinances to maintain green space and agricultural lands protect them from development. So while we are pretty densely urbanized along the coast the interior is very rural and intended to be so for in perpetuity. It sounds like a lot of California. We are special in that we are also about 30 miles from Silicon Valley. So a great many of our residents here in the county commute everyday into Silicon Valley so they're engineers or employed by tech companies. Several of the major tech employers send buses down here to pick up their employees. So there are a lot of cars on our highway that are traveling north into Silicon Valley where we've become a bedroom community for Silicon Valley. So a lot of tech consumers here a lot of people that are very concerned about their access to the Internet

Christopher Mitchell: And you're on good terms with the city of Santa Cruz, right? and a fair amount of people live near the city but are in the county's jurisdiction. Realizing that the County of course has jurisdiction over the city but there's a fair amount of people. Despite the agricultural lands and whatnot that live outside of Santa Cruz, right?

Patrick Mulhearn: Yes, yes. Most of our unincorporated areas that are inhabited are what are considered rural residential areas so they are not concentrated aggregations of people but there are still aggregations of families and neighborhoods in fact on parcels ranging in size from from one acre to three acres. But will it'll still be a community of people all living together and all of those people are for the most part somehow involved in technology. So we have educators we have small business owners.

Christopher Mitchell: And as I said before a lot of commuters into Silicon Valley and I think it's worth noting that because of the nature of our conversation and talking about the kind of density and the the way that the population is distributed because both you and supervisors Zach friend have worked very hard to try to make Santa Cruz County as inviting to investment to improve telecommunications access as possible. That's my impression from afar.

Patrick Mulhearn: Yes yes absolutely that's that's been the plan.

Christopher Mitchell: So let's maybe start at the beginning. At what point did you come to realize that, you know, that at least the incumbents viewed some of the policies perhaps as restricting investment and that they would need to be looked at?

Patrick Mulhearn: This broad broadband policy was actually one of the positions that that Zach ran on. So we coming into office already had some idea of how he wanted to pursue this. But of course once we got into office we realized that things were a lot more complicated than they looked on the outside. Initially our goal was to improve economic development in the county by increasing the amount of broadband capacity so we can maybe lure high tech companies down here or even convince some of the larger tech companies who have a great number of employees down here to maybe create satellite facilities and then you know pipe in very high capacity high speed broadband into those areas so that it would be cost effective for them to have facilities down here. When we get when we actually started the policymaking process though we realized that like a lot of jurisdictions in California especially coastal jurisdictions the the land use ordinances and policies of the county were very restrictive designed to slow down and inhibit development and to preserve things the way they currently are. We also didn't have any money in the capital to actually build our own fiber networks or even to put in our own conduit. So we wanted to find a way to make it easier for other people to invest here. And we started our conversations with Comcast and AT&T specifically and then a couple of local Internet service providers. But our our initial focus was on the major international incumbent type facilities and asked them specifically well what is it that we're doing wrong. What is it that we're we're. What are our policies that get in your way. I mean they were they were very candid about the types of things that would make the Santa Cruz County more attractive. Now this is also occurring kind of at the same time as the Google Fiber craze was going on. And so we were also able to get a copy of the sort of the requirements that that Google had for their fiber initiative that the types of policies and ordinances that they would look for in a jurisdiction if they were to partner.

Patrick Mulhearn: And so we we also incorporated some of those ideas and to our initial policymaking. But the whole idea was because we had no public funding for it to find a way to encourage private investment. And so that that was our focus from the beginning.

Christopher Mitchell: And what kind of things were they noting? I mean did it have to do with taxes with no right of way permitting? What were some of their issues that they would like to resolve?

Patrick Mulhearn: Almost exclusively with the permitting process. The way things were set up before every every individual project had to have its own discretionary permit now. So we have two types of permits, you have discretionary permits and administrative permits and the discretionary type requires public notice. And it goes through a staff review process and at any point it could be derailed for any reason. It leaves a lot of a lot of opportunity for people to interfere with the development or to challenge it all the way up through this review process. While in administrative permit is basically if you take these boxes you if you meet these requirements then you are issued a permit. There's no discretion there's no public noticing requirement. Furthermore having to do individual permits for each of these projects required individual fees every time. And so it became quite expensive for anybody and time consuming to go through this process. So we initially focused on finding ways to aggregate all of the permits into one. So we were able to to able to streamline the process that way where you were you could provide all of your all the sites that are going to be working on. So for example AT&T if they wanted to put in 12 new boxes to serve their new fiber network they would just have to give us a list of all of all the boxes, meet all of the sort of the administrative requirements, and then we would issue them a permit that would be good for all of their devices. Initially we did a test run with their sort of their first round of permits to see how well it worked and whether it was going to work for them. And it seemed to. They were able to develop their infrastructure in about nine months. And that was all we heard from them. I should clarify that the projects that they were interested in working on were in areas that were already served by fiber. So they were improving at one point they had a fiber to copper to home system and they were upgrading it to fiber to home. So they were improving the, you know, their download speeds and their capacity but basically providing a product that was already available in the areas that they were working

Christopher Mitchell: Right in some ways it sounds like they had identified the audience that they felt they would get the most profit from and that they were the most focused on and they were you know just interested in serving that audience which is of course one of the critiques that many of us have which is that almost regardless of a permitting process that these companies are going to some of these companies are going to engage in some pretty significant redlining or a behavior that appears to be close to that.

Patrick Mulhearn: Yes unfortunately and it's, I mean, obviously for different reasons than we typically associate with redlining by the way. And they have a profit model that they intend to follow and they're going to go after the easy money which is high higher density areas just having more people per mile rather than miles per people. And that's that's the challenge for us.

Christopher Mitchell: And I think it's just worth reiterating I mean one of the concerns that any network builder has and a permitting process is that it be predictable and one of the biggest problems isn't necessarily the fee that's charged it's the amount of time it would take to go through it. So you took the you took that uncertainty out of it by finding ways of making sure that they'd be able to predict it. I mean you know when it comes down to filling out forms and things like that companies like AT&T have a million people that can do that. They have no problems with that. It's all about the predictability.

Speaker 7: Yes. And I think honestly that's has been part of the problem with development county wide in Santa Cruz County, California, is the predictability of the permitting process. Honestly, the pursuing reform just for broadband facilities has has opened up to include a wider discussion about permitting here for any project. And so I think that that's been kind of an unintended consequence of the conversation is that we were now also addressing how we process building permits for houses or for developments to to create. Like you say more a more predictable sort of arc.

Christopher Mitchell: Excellent. I think that's important. As someone who you know doing home improvement and things like that will have to be dealing with permitting. I hope all cities are are looking at that because it's a challenge. I think it's one of the bigger challenges that the young policymakers are going to have to deal with in terms of giving people faith in local governments. But I think the key lesson of what we're talking about here is actually that you addressed what is identified as the key bottleneck that large providers identify in terms of what discourages their investment. You remove that bottleneck and it sounds like the only thing that happened was areas that already had better access simply got much better access and the kinds of things that you wanted to happen which was far better access in the areas that had been left behind that those areas are still waiting for investment.

Patrick Mulhearn: Yes, that is 100 percent accurate. So now I mean we have gigabit speeds to people who had 500 megabit downloads previously and I still have 90,000 - 100,000 people who are scraping by with maybe they have a legacy DSL connection or they're using satellite or some other alternative or they're trying to negotiate with the incumbents to to run a line out to their neighborhood too. We've had we've had one neighborhood that's been successful with that.

Christopher Mitchell: Yeah. It's rough. And that's why, you know, most of the show focuses on what folks are doing to try to improve access because other they've given up on this sort of hope or or they never had it to begin with. So I think the second part of the show what I'd like to focus on is the sense of what comes next for Santa Cruz County.

Patrick Mulhearn: We have what we're calling a Broadband Master Plan and that initiative has been folded into a an inter-jurisdictional working group called the Fiber Initiative Team. And it's their job now and it includes policymakers from both the city and the county ,from our public works and planning departments, and our economic development department to try to flesh out our fiber map and to also identify areas where we think targeted investment should be made to improve broadband resources. The whole idea here is to act strategically find areas, for example, for economic development reasons could use better fiber access. We have, for example, a medical corridor with hospitals and doctors offices and medical imaging offices, and they're all concentrated in this area, and the fiber that is currently being sold, cyber access that's been currently being sold at these institutions, is kind of outrageously priced. And so we're wondering whether if we put in perhaps a municipal project or found some other way to to help someone else come into there, we might be able to leverage them a market environment that would allow for maybe lowering some of the costs and then we could perhaps attract some more startup type companies to come into that area. One of the nexuses that we're looking at is the University of California Santa Cruz. It's the home of the Human Genome Project. And so what are what are some ways that we can facilitate this nexus between the human genome project and our existing medical companies here. Maybe the catalyst would be better broadband access. So those those types of conversations that we're having at the fiber initiative team define better ways to utilize the existing network and to find ways to encourage economic development strategically from more rural areas though there there really isn't a lot of activity by the incumbents. Nor apparently any interest but we do have a local Internet service provider that is very interested in expanding their network. And about three years ago Sunesys has put a new four terabyte fiber trunk that goes straight through the middle of this undeveloped area in Santa Cruz County. And theirs is an open network so anybody can lease strands of fiber and run their own -- and run their own network off of that. And so this local ISP they're called CruzIO is looking to use that backbone to expand their network into the rural areas. And their plan is to use line of sight wireless broadband to beam their their product down into some of the topographically less accessible areas and then run fiber from nodes in those areas to the houses in the valleys and up on the hills. Right now it very much looks like a homebrew ISP. So we have one neighborhood where there is a guy who lives on a hill and he put a radio mast up there, catches the wireless signal, beams it down to another house below him, and then they are running their own fiber between the houses that way. So we're trying to find ways to facilitate that process make it easier for them again through permitting or land use decisions make it easier for them to expand on this. This very much homegrown Internet service provider that they're working on and we're looking to replicate that model in a couple of these these more, I won't call them dense, but there are rural residential areas with, you know, around 200 homes in the areas. And so we're trying to take this as a model and maybe we can reach these people that way. Doing it just sort of ad hoc homegrown network.

Christopher Mitchell: You know we've run across a number of these often actually in California or other western states where there's usually someone that's interested in figuring this out themselves sharing with their neighbors and see what's up what happens next. So it's it's great that that spirit is alive in your neighborhoods.

Patrick Mulhearn: Yes it's very exciting and they're very enthusiastic about it and honestly we have the right -- with the right people working on it because these people at their day jobs are our engineers for you know tech companies. So that's what they do.

Christopher Mitchell: People who you know if something doesn't work, they view that as a challenge, not a setback, right. Yes.

Patrick Mulhearn: Yes exactly, exactly.

Christopher Mitchell: Well that's terrific. I really appreciate you coming on to share information particularly about the actions you've taken and the results I'm sorry. You know as always that when you go through that kind of effort and you make something happen to find out that it's not generating the results you want. But I think it is it is good to have that hard evidence that some of the incumbents I don't want to paint with too broad of a brush. But no matter cities and counties do. There are a number of companies that simply will not solve the issue for low-income households or even people that just live in areas that might be a little bit harder to serve and we need to figure things out. So I'm glad that you're also working on that.

Patrick Mulhearn: It's really going to come down to to local governments to have to fill these gaps some way. It's often said that the states are laboratories of democracy and it really is the local government that are able to do these, pursue these harebrained policies to see what works. And so I think it's important that we all communicate with each other so we can see well this is working and this isn't working and maybe amongst all of us together we can create some kind of model policies that we can apply elsewhere throughout the country and maybe achieve some kind of success.

Christopher Mitchell: Yes, definitely. And that's one of the things that I'm sure that you appreciate especially since you have such a county that has such varied density and geography, is that we need many models because there's different types of communities the different kinds of models. So absolutely. Thank you for taking the time to come on and share your experiences with us.

Patrick Mulhearn: Thank you for having me.

Lisa Gonzalez: That was Christopher with Patrick Mulhearn from Santa Cruz County, California. We have transcripts from this and other podcasts available at Email us at with your ideas for the show. Follow Chris on Twitter. His handle is @CommunityNets. Follow stories on Twitter. The handle is @MuniNetworks. Subscribe to this podcast and the other eyeless our podcasts Building Local Power and the Local Energy Rules podcasts you can access them wherever you get your podcasts like Apple podcasts or Stitcher never miss out on original research by subscribing to our monthly newsletter at Thank you Arnie Huseby for the song "Warm Duck Shuffle" licensed Creative Commons and thanks for listening to episode 295 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast.

Tags: transcript