muninetworks.org

Syndicate content
Updated: 28 min 26 sec ago

Community Broadband Media Roundup- January 22

January 22, 2018

Alaska

Bill to require Alaska Internet companies to practice net neutrality by Leroy Polk, KTUU News

 

California

Palo Alto prepares for massive downtown 'upgrade' by Gennady Sheyner, Palo Alto Weekly News

Dean Batchelor, chief operating officer at City of Palo Alto Utilities, said both the gas and water lines were near the end of their respective life cycles. He pointed to recent water leaks on University Avenue as a sign that it's time to act.

Then, following the same logic, Utilities Department officials agreed to add fiber to the mix. Citing the City Council's recent advocacy for a "dig once" strategy for installing telecommunication infrastructure and its general support for expanding the city's dark-fiber-optic network, officials plan to install 2,750 linear feet of conduit in the same trenches that will contain the new gas and water pipes.

"One of the thoughts was, since we really don't have any fiber conduit going down University Avenue and since we're going to tear up 26 blocks, it made sense to go ahead and put in 2-inch fiber conduits," Batchelor said.

 

Colorado

Colorado Cities Keep Voting To Build Their Own Broadband Networks by Karl Bode, Tech Dirt

Some Cities Aren’t Waiting Around for Trump to Gut Net Neutrality—They Are Building Their Own by Valerie Vande Panne, Alternet

In contrast, according to Christopher Mitchell, director of Community Broadband Networks at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, concerned citizens of Fort Collins organized on social media and coordinated “broadband and brews” events at local beer hot spots, spending a total of about $15,000.

Telecom spent an “unprecedented amount of money,” Mitchell says, “but the voters were not scared by the cable and telephone companies. The reason that’s important for the rest of the country is that local government needs to be more aggressive in creating local internet choice.”

With slow approach, Erie may move on broadband initiative by Anthony Hahn, Boulder Daily Camera

Greeley has the chance to protect its residents with local broadband — Mailbox for Jan. 16 by Greeley Tribune

Loveland council should advance municipal broadband by Vi Wickam, Loveland Reporter Herald

 

Iowa

Internet service expanding in Dubuque by KCRG News

 

Massachusetts

Chicopee Electric Light working to offer municipal Internet to businesses then residents by Jeanette DeForge, MassLive

 

Oregon

Should the Rose City have publicly owned internet? By Emily Green, Street Roots

 

Tennessee

Electric co-ops eager to expand broadband connections to rural areas by Dave Flessner, Chattanooga Times Free Press

 

Virginia

Rural Area Broadband Top Virginia Legislative Priority by Alex Lemieux, Richmond Republican Standard

 

General

Harvard Study Shows Why Big Telecom Is Terrified of Community-Run Broadband by Karl Bode, Motherboard Vice

Report: Community broadband competitively priced by Sara Friedman, GCN

Report: ‘Clear and Unchanging’ Community Broadband Prices Beat Commercial ISP Networks by Joan Engebretson, Telecompetitor

 

Source: Community-Owned Fiber Networks, Responsive Communities

 

Researchers actually studied 40 community networks for the report, titled “Community-Owned Fiber Networks: Value Leaders in America,” but were unable to make price comparisons in 13 of those markets. In some cases, this was because there was no competitor offering comparable service. In other cases, it was because the commercial operator’s terms of service prohibited data collection.

 

In selecting the 40 communities for the report, researchers started with a list of 400 community-owned networks in the U.S. created by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, then focused in on fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) networks. Researchers noted that some of these networks serve multiple communities, but where that was the case, research focused on the community in which the network originated.

Study finds municipal broadband is up to 50% cheaper than telcos by Clive Thompson, Boing Boing

City-owned Internet services offer cheaper and more transparent pricing by Jon Brodkin, ArsTechnica

Formula for Rural Prosperity is Deregulation, USDA Report Says by Bryce Oates and Tim Marema, The Daily Yonder

Christopher Mitchell, a community broadband advocate with the Institute for Local Self Reliance, said the proposal looks like a document that will be used to eliminate broadband funding, not improve it.

“To me, this looks an effort to de-fund important programs that are bringing broadband to rural America, not a set of policy proposals looking to solve the problem,” he said. “It’s a report whose number one recommendation is to ‘establish executive leadership to expand e-connectivity.’ It’s a plan to make a plan.”

Study: Community-Owned Broadband Beats Commercial ISPs on Price by John P. Mello Jr., E-Commerce Times

Community Broadband: Privacy, Access, and Local Control by Nathan Sheard, Electronic Frontier Foundation

'Dig Once' Broadband Bill Introduced by John Eggerton, Broadcasting & Cable

House Dems want to give cities the right to build broadband networks by Harper Neidig, The Hill

The group, led by Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), say that protecting the right to build community broadband networks would help expand internet access to underserved communities and benefit consumers who already have access by promoting competition.

“Broadband Internet is the most vital tool of the 21st Century economy,” Eshoo said in a statement. “Unfortunately, millions of Americans are still acutely impacted by a complete lack of or an inferior broadband connection. The Community Broadband Act is an important step in bridging the digital divide and will help local governments enable connectivity, increase economic growth and create jobs.”

Also sponsoring the bill are Reps. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.), Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas), Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.). The Community Broadband Act would preempt states from passing laws that prohibit municipal broadband networks.

Rural Broadband-Boosting Bills Would Enshrine Towns' Rights to Build Their Own Internet by Kaleigh Rogers, Motherboard Vice

 

Tags: media roundup

FCC Ends Speculation On Broadband Speeds, Mobile Internet Access

January 22, 2018

On January 18th, the FCC ended months of speculation and released a fact sheet that included several key conclusions to be included in the 2018 Broadband Deployment Report. The most important is that the FCC continues to recognize that mobile Internet access is not a substitute for fixed access. The Commission has also decided to leave the definition of broadband at 25/3 Mbps (down/up).

Download the fact sheet here.

“Broadband” Will Not Slow Down

The Commission had proposed reverting to a slower definition of broadband from the current standard of 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) download and 3 Mbps upload. Under Tom Wheeler’s leadership, the FCC decided to update the standard to its current definition in January 2015, but current Chairman Ajit Pai and other Republican Commissioners suggested in last year’s Notice of Inquiry (NOI) that the FCC might effectively take us backward to a 10 Mbps/1 Mbps standard. 

The suggestion rankled better connectivity advocates and Internet users. Many recognized that lowering the standards would make it easier for the FCC to proclaim that the U.S. was making strong progress toward universal household deployment. The Commission would have been justified making such a conclusion under the standard because large sections of rural American receive DSL, fixed wireless, satellite, or mobile Internet access that would meet a lowered 10/1 standard.

Hundreds of thousands of people, organizations, and businesses filed comments opposing a slower standard. Many of them live in areas where 10/1 speeds are already available but who have been waiting for better options. Commissioners Rosenworcel and Clyburn also spoke out against the lowering broadband speeds. 

Commissioner Rosenworcel tweeted:

#FCC proposing to lower US #broadband standard from 25 to 10 Mbps. This is crazy. Lowering standards doesn't solve our broadband problems.

— Jessica Rosenworcel (@JRosenworcel) September 20, 2017

Often grants and loans from the FCC or the Rural Utility Service (RUS) only go to communities considered unserved or underserved. If the FCC redefined broadband, many rural communities would lose the opportunity to qualify for funding to improve broadband infrastructure. Large swaths of rural areas considered unserved under the 25/3 standard would magically transform to served areas if we lowered the broadband standard. 

People Need More Than Smart Phones

After several of us participated in the #MobileOnly Challenge, we have a new appreciation for the difficulties people face when mobile access is their only onramp to the Internet. We were especially relieved to learn that the FCC concluded that mobile and fixed services are not substitutes. The FCC suggested in the NOI that, because so many Americans relied only on their smart phones for Internet access and smartphone technology has advanced considerably over the past few years, the two are interchangeable.

A long list of research organizations like ILSR and advocacy groups that seek social justice and better connectivity opposed the concept of equalizing mobile and fixed Internet access. Next Century Cities organized the #MobileOnly Challenge along with 10 other groups, including ILSR, to help shine a spotlight on the trappings of this proposal. Participants restricted themselves to their mobile data plans for one day and shared their experiences via social media.

For those of us that live in urban areas and who often use our smartphones to access Wi-Fi from fixed connections at work or at home, switching to mobile only was inconvenient because we were suddenly aware of data usage, performance issues, and the difficulties of completing certain tasks on a mobile device. We couldn’t wait for the day to be over. For people in rural areas where fixed wireless connections are more dubious, the situation is unending and magnified.

Commissioners Clyburn and Rosenworcel will still participate in the #MobileOnly Challenge on January 26th. They want to highlight the fact that smartphone Internet access is not an answer to the digital divide and that we still have much work to do to achieve our goal of reasonable and timely deployment in the U.S.

The Speed Of Deployment

Regardless of the FCC’s decision to maintain a distinction between mobile and fixed services, the Commission also finds that it actually is meeting the reasonably and timely deployment mandate established by Congress in 1996. Commissioner Clyburn questioned the FCC conclusion in her statement released on the same day as the fact sheet and the draft report:

“By the FCC’s own admission, over 24 million Americans are still without high-speed broadband access where they live. For years telecom companies and government officials have promised Americans that “soon” they will have affordable, high-speed broadband. Yet millions continue to wait, hoping that this vital connection will bring economic development and prosperity to their community.

So how can this agency now claim that broadband is being deployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely fashion? Only by repeating the majority’s tired and debunked claims that broadband investment and innovation screeched to a halt in 2015.”

Commissioner Clyburn refers to Chairman Pai’s comments arguing that deployment had dropped off when the previous administration classified advanced communications services as Title II. There is no credible evidence of a decline in investment, and economic theory argues that investment is a function of competition more than other factors, such as regulation. Further, we've observed rural cooperatives and independent ISPs expanding Internet access at a healty rate in rural areas, regardless of how the FCC classifies Internet access.

Many of those who have publicly claimed that the Title II restricted investment also demonstrate an ignorance of the rules, as in this article where a small ISP claims Title II changed their cost of bandwidth. We fully agree that the FCC has demonstrated a failure in its ability to craft rules that small ISPs can easily comply with but the idea that Title II classification of Internet access led to any meaningful drop-off of investment in new networks is unsupported by evidence. For example, last year CenturyLink announced it would invest less in network expansion because it was buying Level 3 - consolidation was lowering investment far more than any regulatory matter. And now CenturyLink has announced it will invest less in rural areas as it focuses its diminished investment plans in metro regions. Its investments plans are shaped by factors far more influential than whether Internet access is Title I or Title II.

The Trickle Down Effect

Now that the FCC has established a position on mobile broadband and has determined that we should be moving forward rather than backward in speed requirements, state policy makers can follow their lead. As state legislators try to determine how best to allocate funding for local projects, they often rehash the same themes that mobile wireless, fixed wireless, and satellite are all “good enough” for rural communities. With the the anticipated 2018 Broadband Deployment Report, we now have the Trump Administration's official position: even they believe that mobile is no substitute for fixed access.

The fact sheet doesn’t mention satellite access specifically, but we hope to see mention of some of the issues subscribers face in the report. Many residents in rural America have turned to satellite access, typically advertised at the current 25/3 standard, because they don’t have access to fixed services or the DSL service in their area are unreliable and too slow for their needs. Unfortunately, satellite with its latency, data caps, high price, and unpredictable performance is a last resort, not an option anyone chooses when they have a choice.

This We Like

For weeks, people and organizations pushing for higher standards and more action to deploy broadband across the country have speculated about whether or not the FCC would vote to lower broadband benchmarks at the February meeting. The January 18th press release and fact sheet eases some of our concerns. Likewise, the matter of mobile Internet access as a substitution for fixed services appears to be off the table for now.

Policy changes are still needed to keep deployment moving in an upward trajectory and network neutrality protections need to be reinstated, but these recent decisions make us cautiously optimistic. We commend Chairman Pai and the other Commissioners for getting this one right.

Image of the FCC Commissioners courtesy of the FCC Office of Media Relations.

Image of the broken smart phone by Glavo, via pixaby.

Fact Sheet on Draft 2018 Broadband Deployment ReportTags: fccregulationmobilemobileonlybroadbandfixed wirelessmignon clyburnjessica rosenworcelajit pairuralfederal government

Publicly Owned Conduit: Network Neutrality Can-Do Tool

January 19, 2018

Ever since the FCC reversed network neutrality protections, an increasing number of local communities have started to wonder about the advantages of publicly owned Internet infrastructure, including conduit. At the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, we’ve received an uptick in requests for information from elected officials, community business leaders, and local citizens.

When folks are similarly curious about public-private partnerships, they wonder about whether or not a municipality or other form of local government can require a private sector partner ISP to adhere by the tenets of network neutrality. An agreement between public and private sector partners to bring better connectivity to a city or region is a contract between the involved parties; the FCC’s decision won't interfere.

Looking At Lincoln

Lincoln, Nebraska, has fine-tuned the art of working with private sector partners interested in using their publicly owned conduit for privately owned fiber. The city invested in an extensive conduit system back in 2012 to create an environment that would welcome private sector providers. Nelnet’s ALLO Communications uses the conduit to offer Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) in Lincoln. 

The city uses a Broadband Franchise agreement to allow ISPs non-exclusive use of their publicly owned conduit. In Section 4: Service Characteristics, Lincoln requires any private sector ISP that wishes to use their conduit to adhere by network neutrality rules, which they clearly spell out. You’ll notice that the city also imposes a “no data caps” rule:

Section 4: Service Characteristics. 

A. The System shall, at a minimum, provide the following capabilities and characteristics: 

1.Net Neutrality: In the provision of Broadband Service, Franchisee shall comply with the Open Internet regulations. 


2.No Blocking: Franchisee shall not block lawful content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices; and 


3.No Throttling: Franchisee shall not impair or degrade lawful Internet traffic on the basis of Internet content, application, or service, or the use of non-harmful devices; and 


4.No Paid Prioritization: Franchisee shall not engage in paid prioritization, where paid prioritization means the management of the System to directly or indirectly favor some traffic over other traffic, including through use of techniques such as traffic shaping, prioritization, resource reservation, or other forms of preferential traffic management, either (a) in exchange for consideration (monetary or otherwise) from a third party, or (b) to benefit an affiliated entity. 


5.No Data Caps: The Franchisee shall not assign Data Caps to Broadband Services provided within the Franchise Area. 


You can review Lincoln’s full Broadband Franchise document here. If your community is considering investing in conduit to attract private sector partners, Lincoln’s approach is good place to start.

Learn more about Lincoln’s project and all the ways they’ve realized benefits from their investment, by listening to Christopher interview David Young, the city’s Right-of-Way Manager, for episode 238, episode 228, and episode 182 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. We’ve also written several stories about their achievements, having followed their progress since 2012, so check out the "Lincoln NE" tag.

Lincoln, Nebraska, Broadband FranchiseTags: lincoln neconduitnetwork neutralitypartnershipfranchisefccFTTH

Retail Muni Fiber Networks Charge Less - Community Broadband Bits Podcast 289

January 17, 2018
Community Broadband Bits Episode 289 - David Talbot, Fellow at Harvard's Berkman Klein Center on Muni Fiber Pricing

Do municipal fiber networks offer lower prices than the their competitors? Yes, almost always, according to a study from Harvard's Berkman Klein Center called Community-Owned Fiber Networks: Value Leaders in America.

David Talbot, a Fellow at Harvard's Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society, joins us for episode 289 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast to discuss the study, conclusions, and challenges. He was last on episode 162 to talk about a report they did on muni fiber in Massachusetts. 

We talk about the challenges of doing an analysis like this, the range of results, and how pricing from munis tends to not only be lower but also more transparent. 

This show is 19 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: pricingmuniFTTHretailharvardberkman klein centerpublic v privatecompetitionaudiopodcastbroadband bits

Local Letter Expresses Support For Possible Greeley Muni

January 16, 2018

Now that they have removed the weight of Colorado’s restrictive SB 152, Greeley is looking forward to future solutions to poor Internet access. In a recent letter to the local Tribune, resident Richard Reilly offered three reasons why Greeley should develop a plan to move toward municipal broadband.

Reilly’s points are:

First and foremost, net neutrality must be at the heart of a municipal broadband. As the big Internet Service Providers start to throttle specific websites that compete or offer tiered packages, Greeley must commit itself to net neutrality. One price for full Internet access. Period.

Secondly, speed needs to be a priority. Comcast and the other ISPs have received billions of dollars to build the infrastructure for gigabit speeds. If Greeley can commit to the infrastructure to offer gigabit speeds, other ISPs will struggle to survive in our city — and good riddance.

Thirdly, customer service is key.

Already On Track

Reilly’s suggestion follows the community’s decision last summer to fund a feasibility study. At the time, they expressed a hope that the study might encourage incumbents to offer better rates and services. In addition to better connectivity for the general public, Greeley’s Family and Recreation Center’s poor Internet access interfered with bookings. When the City Council decided to fund the study, they cited economic development as a key factor in finding ways to improve local connectivity.

Local Commitment

Since the City Council’s decision to fund the feasibility study, the FCC has repealed network neutrality protections and is considering lowering the speed definitions of broadband. Reilly writes that Greeley needs to engage in local action:

Greeley is in a unique position to protect its residents from a rogue administration. Despite the fact that a vast majority of Republicans, Democrats and independents support net neutrality rules, the FCC rolled back the regulations meant to protect the freedom to information in this country.

He is certain that the community would benefit from a publicly owned network and finishes his letter with a promise:

I will make the commitment today that if our city council delivers on these three principles — net neutrality, gigabit speeds and true customer service — I will sign up. Though we do not yet know what Greeley broadband will cost, I will gladly pay well in excess of my current service for local, fast and ethical Internet service.

Richard Reilly shares some frank thoughts that reveal his community's frustration with poor services from big incumbent providers that have pushed the limits on acceptable behavior. As the evidence mounts that publicly owned networks provider more reasonable rates, better services, and a more civic minded approach, we expect to see more letters from folks like Mr. Reilly.

Tags: greeley cocoloradolettermunisb 152gigabiteconomic developmentratespriceslocal

Community Broadband Media Roundup- January 15

January 15, 2018

California

Will free internet ever become a reality in Los Angeles? By Elijah Chiland, LA Curbed

Mitchell says wireless service like the kind Shapiro wants to provide could be appealing to residents—if it were free.

“That would be tremendous for low-income folks,” he says. “If it happened, I’d be singing."

Will San Francisco's City-Wide Fiber Optic Network Succeed? 10 Tech Pros Weigh In By Forbes Technology Council, Forbes

 

Colorado

Colorado Cities Move Forward on Municipal Broadband By Steve Dubb, Nonprofit Quarterly

According to the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, which tracks broadband developments nationwide, voters in the 19 Colorado cities and counties said yes to municipal broadband by a high margin—at an average yes rate of 83 percent.

Fort Collins, Where Net Neutrality Lives On By Zoe Papadakis, NewsMax

 

Kansas

City-run internet service a boon for Chanute By John Green, The Hutchinson News

 

Pennsylvania

'Outraged and disgusted' net neutrality supporters to march in Philly By Andrew Parent, Philly Voice

Organizers plan to call on Congress to preserve the regulations and treat the internet as a public service. Among other demands, they also want the city to install its own municipal broadband network and will call for universal, affordable internet access, co-organizer Meg Vyasan said on Friday.

 

Texas

What 'Smart City' Means: San Antonio Launches Committee On Innovation, Technology By Paul Flahive, Texas Public Radio

As a councilman, Nirenberg wanted to connect public institutions to CPS' unused fiber optic cable. The city is barred by state law from offering municipally owned broadband internet access to residents, but public properties including city buildings, public universities, parks and libraries can connect.

 

Wisconsin

Wisconsin groups join Microsoft's effort to close the rural broadband gap By Rick Barrett, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

 

Wyoming

Broadband initiative stands out in State of the City address By Austin Huguelet, Wyoming Tribune Eagle

Orr said she wants “all options on the table,” and mentioned that Fort Collins, Colorado, recently voted to allow a city-run network.

And Trowbridge, who has criticized Charter and CenturyLink for poor service and high prices in the past, said he had already started thinking about municipal broadband in Cheyenne.

 

General

Community-Owned Fiber Networks: Value Leaders in America By David Talbot, Kira Hessekiel, and Danielle Kehl, Berkman Klein Center

FCC plan to lower broadband standards is met with “Mobile Only Challenge” By Jon Brodkin, Ars Technica

"The FCC wants to lower broadband standards," organizers of the Mobile Only Challenge say on the campaign's website. "Pledge to spend one day in January 2018 accessing the Internet only on your mobile device to tell them that's not OK."

Trump Signs Two Rural Broadband Executive Orders That Will Barely Move the Needle By Kaleigh Rogers, Motherboard

To really solve this problem, the Trump administration is going to have to invest in real solutions. These could be costly, like providing grants or infrastructure budgets for the government to just build this internet itself.

Net Neutrality Loss Could Rekindle ISP Alternatives for Internet Access By Larry Greenemeier, The Scientific American

Slower Speeds, Less Access: The Public Agency Response To Rural Broadband By Craig Settles, The Daily Yonder

There are over 400 public-owned networks run by local governments or public utilities. Dozens of municipalities are moving forward. Over 80 electric cooperatives are running or building networks as well as an unknown number of public-private partnerships. A legion of small private providers such as wireless internet service providers (WISPs) and rural telecom co-ops need to join ranks with the public sector.

Trump's Focus On Rural Broadband Should Include Community-Owned Networks By Robert Seamans, Forbes

Trump's Rural Broadband Expansion Plans May Be Largely Ceremonial By Scott Morgan, KETR, Public Radio for Northeast Texas

Christopher Mitchell, director of the Community Broadband Networks initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance in Minneapolis, says the thing to keep in mind about expanding broadband’s reach into rural America is that a president’s executive orders may be well-intentioned, but can only go so far.

“Rural broadband [is] a large problem and Congress needs to get involved,” Mitchell says. “Without Congress’ help, the president is very limited in what he can do to improve the situation.”

States Push Back After Net Neutrality Repeal By Cecilia Kang, The New York Times

But the state lawmakers argue that they have an obligation to protect consumers with net neutrality rules and that local governments can approve or deny requests by telecommunications providers to operate in their states. They also argue that it is unclear if the Federal Communications Commission can declare a blanket pre-emption of states, something they say Congress would have to do. In 2016, a federal court ruled against the commission’s effort to pre-empt state laws related to municipal broadband networks.

Tags: media roundup

Missourian Reveals Rural Rubs Without Business Broadband

January 15, 2018

Directly north of Springfield, Missouri, sits Hermitage, a rural community of less than 500 residents. With only a few more than 200 households in Hermitage, it isn’t surprising that none of the big incumbent providers want to install the infrastructure to offer businesses or residents high-quality connectivity. A  recent Missourian article described what it’s like for businesses in a community whose owners need fast, affordable, reliable Internet access when it just isn’t available from the national ISPs.

Failure Expected

In Hermitage, entrepreneurs like local storekeepers cringe on the days when customers want to pay with credit or debit cards. Often their unreliable CenturyLink DSL service fails, sometimes for extended periods, which cuts into their revenue. Cindy Gilmore, who owns a local convenience store, has to either track down customers or take a loss when Internet access fails during mid-transaction and she restarts her modem.

Gilmore pays $89 per month to CenturyLink for service that is advertised as “up to” 1.5 Megabits per second (Mbps) download. Her speed test result on November 12th was .5 Mbps. Two weeks later a similar test reached the advertised speed and then two days later fell to .4 Mbps, which eliminated her ability to process credit card transactions, work from the office, or look up information she needed for supplies.

Rufus Harris works from home as an online car dealer and relies heavily on Internet access. As part of his work, he researches auto recalls and Carfax reports. The only option for Harris at his home office is CenturyLink and he pays $39 per month for residential “up to” 1.5 Mbps Internet access. He often finds himself, however, renting motel rooms for up to $400 per month because his Internet service at home goes down.

“It’s a shame when you pay for a service that you don’t receive,” Harris said. “We’re supposed to get at least 1.5 (Mbps) or up to, and most of the time it’s not near that good. A lot of the time, it might take 2 minutes to change from one page to the next.”

No Co-ops Yet

Unfortunately for Harris and Gilmore, no cooperatives are offering Internet access in their areas. We’ve documented several co-ops in Missouri, such as Co-Mo Cooperative offering gigabit connectivity in the central part of the state, that have succeeded where CenturyLink has failed. Much like bringing electricity to the very rural areas of the U.S., rural cooperatives are filling the gaps left by the companies that must first focus on profit. 

Businesses in Hermitage and surrounding Hickory County are turning to other solutions for now, with the hopes that state leaders will offer future solutions that take a long-term approach. I-Land, a local fixed wireless provider will be working with the Lightfoots, a couple who own Hermitage’s hardware store. The hardware store doesn’t offer online sales, but the Lightfoots consider the option to have broadband an opportunity to “make our job easier to serve people.”

Check out this video released as part of the Missourian’s report, Disconnected:

Tags: missourivideosmall businessruraldslcenturylink

Callaway Electric Co-op Marching On In Missouri

January 12, 2018

Central Missouri’s Callaway Electric Cooperative began offering high-quality Internet access in 2016 by collaborating with a local telephone cooperative. Since then, it’s subsidiary, Callabyte Technology, has continued to expand its services to members in local rural communities in its service area. Recently, the people of the small community of Holts Summit learned that the project is headed their way.

Anticipating Better Broadband

Holts Summit residents and businesses can expect to receive the opportunity to sign up for Callabyte services in 2018. Business development supervisor for the cooperative, Rob Barnes told attendees at a recent Alderman meeting that the co-op would likely divide the deployment into three phases due to the size of the town. Holts Summit is about 3.5 square miles and home to 3,700 people.

The community of Holts Summit obtains electric service from Ameren Missouri, rather than Callaway Electric; Holts Summit and the cooperative are developing a non-exclusive franchise agreement just as they would a private sector provider that wished to offer video services in Missouri. Businesses and residents in the town currently use satellite Internet service and cable Internet access from Mediacom.

"We've got a number of citizens that would like to start a home-based business, but won't because they don't have reliable internet right now," [City Administrator Rick] Hess said. "So this will be great for businesses."

Ever Growing Service From Co-ops

Calloway Electric Cooperative has been reaching an expanding list of communities and intends to provide service all of Calloway County. They offer Internet access, voice, and video bundles and people in their service area are signing up for all three.

“We are still surprised that the landline service is something people still are taking,” Barnes said. “But as you get out into the rural portions of Callaway County, cellphone service still doesn’t work very well.”

Callobyte stand-alone residential Internet access is available for 100 Megabits per second (Mbps) for $65 per month, 500 Mbps for $75 per month, or 1 gig (1,000 Mbps) for $95 per month. All speed tiers are symmetrical.

Within rural areas where large national providers don’t find it profitable to invest in high-quality Internet network infrastructure, rural electric and telephone cooperatives are providing the coverage Americans need. Often they already have the expertise, infrastructure, and processes in place to deploy and manage networks in these sparsely populated regions.

Read more about the increasing role of cooperatives in next-generation Internet access in rural America in our 2017 policy brief, Cooperatives Fiberize Rural America: A Trusted Model For The Internet Era. You can also learn about the important role of cooperatives in developing fiber networks in North Dakota in episode 288 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast; Christopher interviewed Robin Anderson from National Information Solutions Cooperative.

Tags: callaway electric cooperativemissouricooperativegigabitsymmetryruralrural electric coop

Schools In Janesville, Wisconsin, To Save Big With Fiber Network

January 11, 2018

As schools across the country look at their budgets, Janesville, Wisconsin, has decided to cut their future expenses with a fiber optic investment. This spring, the district will use E-rate funding to help finance a fiber optic local area network (LAN) in order to cut telecommunications costs by $70,000 per year.

Connecting Facilities

The school district will install 12 lines, eliminating leased lines and the associated expense. E-rate funds will pay for $1.6 million of the estimated $2 million project; the school district’s contribution will be approximately $400,700 and an additional $225,000 for engineering and project fees. School district officials calculate their contribution will be paid for in nine years. Fiber optic networks have life expectancies upwards of 20 years and in Janesville, District CIO Robert Smiley estimates this project will last for 50 years.

At a recent Board meeting, Smiley told the members that the new network will be like transitioning “to our own private Interstate.” In addition to better prices, the new infrastructure will allow the district to ramp up speeds to ten times what they current share between facilities. The system Janesville School District uses now has been in place since the 1990s.

The federal E-rate program started during the Clinton administration as a way to help schools fund Internet access and has since been expanded to allow schools to use if for infrastructure. School districts obtain funding based on the number of students in a district that are eligible for the National School Lunch Program. Funding for E-rate comes from the School and Libraries Program from the Universal Services Fund.

“Hello, Savings!”

Like many other schools that have chosen to switch to a district owned fiber network, Janesville sees a big advantage for voice communications. Due to the age of their phone system, they’ve had failures in the past. Last winter during a day of inclement weather, a large volume of incoming calls from parents overloaded the system and other parents who had signed up for emergency alerts on their phones didn’t receive them. With a new fiber network, the school district will be able to switch to VoIP.

The Greater Austin Area Telecommunications Network (GAATN) in Texas has been serving the Austin Independent School District (AISD) along with several other regional institutions since the mid-1990s. When AISD estimated savings due to the network in 2013, they calculated that the network had cut costs by around $5.8 million; much of the savings were due to eliminated telephone lines by switching to VoIP.

Better Budgeting

Along with public dollars and savings, Janesville will have an easier time anticipating costs for connectivity and for telephone service. When schools must pay to lease lines, they often encounter increases in rates with little recourse, making it difficult to budget from year to year. In times when budgets are being cut at the state level, administrators appreciate the consistency they find when switching away from big incumbents.

The district will start construction on the network in March.

Tags: janesville wischoolschool districtpublic savingse-ratefederal fundingwisconsinvoicevoiptelephone

Transcript: Community Broadband Bits Episode 287

January 11, 2018

This is the transcript for episode 287 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. Christopher Mitchell investigates the state of telecom in Appalachian Ohio and discusses the Mobile Only challenge. Listen to this episode here.

 

Lilah Gagne: On a good day, I will get one bar of LTE, if I put my phone in the window for about five minutes, and that's just to get a webpage to load.

Lisa Gonzalez: You're listening to episode 287 of the "Community Broadband Bits Podcast," from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. I'm Lisa Gonzalez. Last month, the FCC reversed network neutrality protections, a move both dreaded and disfavored by the majority of Americans. In 2017, they released a notice of proposed rulemaking that included several other proposals that caught the attention of groups pushing for universal access for high quality Internet service. The FCC is considering redefining the meaning of advanced communication services to include mobile and satellite broadband. They're also considering taking us backward by reverting to a slower speed definition. They expect to vote on the measure in February. The impact of each of these changes would especially affect local rural communities. There are people who already live in this netherworld of horrible mobile broadband, simply because big incumbent providers see no reason to invest in sparsely populated regions. You'll notice that some of the sound quality in our interview today's poor, because our guests come from an area of the country lacking good telecommunications access. In this interview, Christopher talks with two high school students who live in Appalachian, Ohio, Lilah Gagne. and Herron Linscott. They explain what it's like for those who are already caught in that very dark hole. He also speaks with Deb Socia from Next Century Cities. She describes the mobile only challenge, the organization's most recent effort to spread the word about the FCC's proposal. Several of us at ILSR will be making the mobile only challenge, including me, which I find very scary. And you can too. Choose a day to use only your Smartphone for Internet access. Tweet and post about it on social media. Let the FCC and your followers know about the experience, and challenge more people to do the same. You can learn more about it at mobileonlychallenge.com. Now here's Christopher with this week's guests.

Christopher Mitchell: Welcome to another edition of the "Community Broadband Bits Podcast." I'm Chris Mitchell, at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, up in Minneapolis. And today I have with me a very special guest some of you have heard before, Deb Socia, the Executive Director for Next Century Cities. Welcome to the show.

Deb Socia: Thanks, Chris. Great to be here.

Christopher Mitchell: Deb, it's great to hear your voice again, knowing that you're going to be back on the podcast. What have you been up to? Remind us what Next Century Cities is doing.

Deb Socia: Well, we continue to work with cities, towns, and counties all over the country, who either have or want to have cost affordable, reliable broadband, and we're advocating for our cities to receive the appropriate opportunities, so that they can either build their own or ensure that every citizen has access. And there's a lot happening around that right now, so we're pretty busy.

Christopher Mitchell: Yes. There is a tremendous amount happening around that. So Next Century Cities, just a quick clarification for folks, that still are a little bit confused about it. It's all kinds of cities. Some cities that have municipal networks are members, but you don't have to have a municipal network, and there's all kinds of cities, from cities that have built networks to cities that have not. What's the tiniest city that we have?

Deb Socia: I believe it's Alford, Massachusetts. And if I'm accurate in my memory here, I think it's 400 people live there.

Christopher Mitchell: Right. I love hearing that, because then you go all the way across the country to the Southwest, and you've got Los Angeles, with quite a few more people, so-

Deb Socia: It's a wide range, and it's a wide range, and we do have counties as well. It's an interesting mix of municipalities. And we are anxious to have folks join if they're interested. They can check nextcenturycities.org, and it is free to join. And we're a non-profit, so it's a good mix of opportunities and unbiased information.

Christopher Mitchell: And this is an organization for city members, so what I would say to people who might be listening, who are activists, or business leaders, or just individuals in a community, who are frustrated with recent Internet policy issues, and maybe feel like their community needs better Internet access, than they can get from incumbents, is you should strongly encourage your City Council members, City Manager, Mayor, to look into Next Century Cities, and to join it to learn more about all the many options that they have, to try and make things better. Something will surely fit with their community.

Deb Socia: Absolutely. We'd love to have more communities join.

Christopher Mitchell: Deb, the reason I wanted to bring you on here was not to remind everyone how Next Century Cities is changing the country, a city at a time, but actually to talk about how the FCC is proposing to change broadband one bad rulemaking after another. The one that is happening here in January is something that we're not actually sure when it's going to get scheduled to be discussed, but it's this idea of including mobile broadband in the definition of advanced telecommunication services. And I'm curious, if you can tell me, what kind of gotchas we're looking out for, as the FCC considers this.

Deb Socia: It has not gotten as much attention, and we're concerned about that, because what the notice of inquiry said, that came out several months ago, was that, it was asking whether or not mobile service, 10. 1 mobile service would be adequate to be considered advanced telecommunications, so that, that person, that community, that rural community, if you had mobile service, could be considered as having broadband. You can't equate that with a fast wire line service. It is a complement but not a substitute, and we don't want to be lowering standards for what broadband is in this country.

Christopher Mitchell: So to be clear then, if you do not have a home connection that is 25 Megabits downstream and three Megabits upstream, you are not considered to have broadband, which is a speed that the FCC decided, after much analysis, was appropriate to be able for households to take full advantage of the modern Internet. And now, if you don't have 25, 3, but you do have a mobile device, that you can get a fraction of that speed, much slower, then suddenly you'll be considered to have broadband. I mean, that's literally what we're talking about, right?

Deb Socia: Exactly what we're talking about, which is incredibly concerning. I think the other piece of that notice of inquiry, that folks should know is that is they're also snaking that same claim around satellite service.

Christopher Mitchell: Right, and so here, there's just all kinds of issues around data caps and other problems that go along with considering either slow mobile service or satellite to be satisfactory. I mean, one that pops into my head immediately is just that we don't actually know who has access to these services. I mean, I might be in a Census block, and I might have pretty decent service, but my neighbor a mile away may have terrible access, and yet we would all be considered to have broadband now suddenly. And what are some of the other concerns that you have about changing this definition in that way?

Deb Socia: Firstly, I think as a country, it should be always our goal to set a standard that's actually a standard that meets the needs of the majority of Americans. And a mobile device with, as you said, a data cap is a very expensive alternative, and in addition, it can't meet the needs of multiple users within the same household. It's a confusing thing. The way that I think about it, as a former educator, is if I had a classroom full of students, and a lot of my students were failing, I would not raise the failure mark so that I could get more kids to succeed. I would instead, change the way I'm teaching them. I would change the intervention, so that children would learn what I needed. In this case, it feels like we're taking a standard, and in order to say more of America has broadband access, we're going to change the standard, rather than change the intervention.

Christopher Mitchell: Well I think that your problem is that, as an educator, you are not getting enough money from the parents of the failing children. Let me pivot to what we're going to do about it. I mean, one of the things that people sometimes don't get is what it's like to live without a high quality access. And so what is Next Century Cities proposing, along with a number of partners, at this point?

Deb Socia: We have just started something called the mobile only challenge with a group of partners. And what we're asking people to do is go to mobileonlychallenge.com and sign up to spend one day experiencing what so many of Americans experience, and that is only using your mobile device for all of your access that day, no laptops, no tethering, and just experience and Tweet about it with the hashtag mobile only, so that we can say to the FCC, we believe as a country, we should have higher standards, and we should be helping and working with communities to improve access and not lowering those standards.

Christopher Mitchell: Deb, who are some of the people who have signed on to participate in this?

Deb Socia: We have a wide variety, from folks who are gamers, to people who work in rural communities, to people who work on issues related to the digital equity issue in this country, right? So we know that it's very expensive to own a cell phone. It's very expensive to get home access. Sometimes you have to pick one or the other. And they are not equal to one another, and that makes it very difficult to experience. And we just want to recognize how hard that is and understand that we ought to have a goal of insuring everyone has fast, affordable, reliable home access, that can actually meet the needs of today.

Christopher Mitchell: So I go to the website mobileonlychallenge.com, and I'll pick a day, and then I'll use only my mobile device for that day. And what I do next to let people know about it?

Deb Socia: We would love it if people would share this information. They would share the mobile only hashtag and talk about this, read the notice of inquiry, understand what's actually happening, comment to the FCC, let people know what's happening, and let's demand a higher standard.

Christopher Mitchell: Well, I like that quite a bit. Now one of the things that I'm certainly hoping to see, as well, is that people will be maybe making a short video or something about their experience and sharing it on social media, ideally, earlier in January, to let other people know about it or even challenging people to do it, to talk about it. As somebody who uses ... I use Ting, which I've been very clear about, for a wireless service, and I pay by the bit, effectively, although because I have home wifi service, I use very little data, because I have a home cable connection that powers my wifi. One of the things I want to do is I want to see just how that would impact my monthly bill and to talk about that some.

Deb Socia: Right, and also to ... If you're making a video, how long is that taking to upload? It's definitely going to have an impact on your capacity to do your work and to engage in communication with your family and to actually enjoy entertainment. Can you livestream a video on your phone? I mean, it changes everything.

Christopher Mitchell: Well, you're running the risk now of a recursive loop, in that I will make a video, and then I'll upload it. And then I might make a video about uploading the video. And then I'll get stuck. If I disappear, come looking for me. One of the reasons that some people say we shouldn't worry about competition in the broadband space is that wireless is so capable now that it can just replace your home connection. Are these connections basically the same?

Deb Socia: They are not the same. Mobile broadband access is a great complement to wire line access. But it is not a replacement for it. I think the big issue is whether it's reliable, and whether you can have multiple users, and whether or not you have a data cap, and the cost. All of those things need to be considered. Maybe someday, mobile will be appropriately strong that we can actually consider it as a standard, but it isn't today.

Christopher Mitchell: Well, thank you so much Deb. I'm excited about this challenge, excited to see people's creativity in showing what their life would be like if they had to rely solely on it, rather than the fixed service that they most likely have. Thanks for coming on the show again.

Deb Socia: Well, thanks for inviting me, Chris, and I appreciate your support.

Christopher Mitchell: Now I'm speaking with Lilah Ganye, from Athens Ohio. Welcome to the show.

Lilah Gagne: Hi, nice to be here.

Christopher Mitchell: And are you in high school?

Lilah Gagne: Yes, I'm a senior in high school.

Christopher Mitchell: One of the reasons that I wanted to talk with you is that you do not have fixed broadband access in your home, right?

Lilah Gagne: No, that is correct.

Christopher Mitchell: So can you just describe for me how your life might be different from someone who does have fixed access in the home and is in high school?

Lilah Gagne: Yeah, so I mean ... Well, because in the high school ... Well, ever since middle school, actually, they had introduced Chromebooks, and all these new Google applications we had to use, especially in high school. It became more prominent my freshman year. And I guess it was just really hard, because every assignment was online, and sometimes I couldn't finish the assignment or even do it, because there's no Internet access at my house. And I didn't have a cell phone at the time, with data, so I couldn't look up anything. I mean, other students could get their work done, but I had to either stay in town really late, and it was just kind of ... It was a struggle.

Christopher Mitchell: I guess one of the things that I'm curious about is how does that impact your additional things. I mean, high school's not just about doing homework and learning. It's also about becoming a better rounded person and things like that. How did not having broadband access in the home impact those sorts of things or trying to research colleges and things like that?

Lilah Gagne: Well, I had to do ... All of my college research I did in the school, so during my study hall, I would have to research colleges. Or I would finish also all my homework at the school during my day, so I could do extracurriculars and not have to worry about staying in town super late at my mom's office doing homework. And also, I wasn't really involved in a lot of extracurriculars, because I was so worried about my academics more, because of the issue. So I didn't really get involved in anything until this year, senior year, because now I have unlimited data on my phone. And now I can use that at my house and look up everything I need to.

Christopher Mitchell: Well, that leads us into an important question, which is that there are some people in Washington DC that seem to think that if you have unlimited data on your phone, that that would be good enough and that we don't have to worry about getting you a better connection in your home. How do you respond to that?

Lilah Gagne: I would say it's actually still a struggle, because we do have unlimited data, and I can use that to look up whatever I need. But I've had to type all my papers on my phone. I take college classes at Ohio University, do post-secondary, and I still have to type everything and do all my assignments on my phone, because my plan won't allow me to use the hotspot capabilities to hook it up to a computer. So it costs extra, and so I still have to use my phone, so I would say that it is still very hard, and it is not a better option.

Christopher Mitchell: Well, I guess that my last question is, I mean, you seem like you are the kind of person who will persevere through many challenges to succeed. And I congratulate you for that. I'm curious if you know of other people around you who may have struggled more, because of their lack of access in their homes.

Lilah Gagne: I do. I have some friends that have no cell phone service where they are either. I'm lucky enough to have cell phone service and now unlimited data, but I have some friends that do have Internet. But they have a certain amount of Gigs they can use throughout the month, and if they use it all, then they have no Internet, and on top of it, no cell phone service. So if they do have data, they can't even use that. And some of them are homeschooled and don't go to public school, so they can't get their assignments done, because they don't have the opportunity I did to actually go to school, get work done, or look up things before they went home for their assignments.

Christopher Mitchell: Well, we really appreciate the reality check from Southeastern Ohio. And I hope that you have a good final senior year.

Lilah Gagne: Thank you.

Christopher Mitchell: And now I'm going to speak with Herron Linscott, the sophomore in Athens, Ohio. Herron, welcome to the show.

Herron Linscott: Hi, thanks for having me.

Christopher Mitchell: Now you're a sophomore, sophomore of what?

Herron Linscott: High school, yeah, I'm 15 years old.

Christopher Mitchell: Great. The reason we're having you on this show is to talk a little bit about what it's like to not have a fixed broadband access in your home. Is that right?

Herron Linscott: Yes.

Christopher Mitchell: And so can you tell me a little bit what that's like?

Herron Linscott: I think if I could just describe it in one way, it's inconvenient. It's really challenging, especially since schools are trying to modernize and put more materials online, put more references for students on the Internet. It's a lot of technology that's involved in our education these days. And I think that not having that reliable connection, it definitely puts a damper on your ability to connect with your teachers and to your peers.

Christopher Mitchell: And many of your fellow students, they do have Internet access at home, broadband access at home, I'm guessing.

Herron Linscott: Yes. I don't know the exact numbers, but it's definitely most of them.

Christopher Mitchell: And so do you feel like you're at a disadvantage then?

Herron Linscott: I mean, I do well, because I make it a case for all of my teachers. I explain to them that I don't have Internet, so I try and do a good bit of the work that requires an Internet connection at school. The biggest issue that I run into is actually extracurriculars. I'm a member of BPA, which is Business Professionals of America. I'm on the mock trial team, and through FFA, I do a lot of things through that. And all of them require a connection, which definitely is a problem for me. Google Docs are online. Emails are online. And so being not able to access those when I need them is really inconvenient.

Christopher Mitchell: Well, how do you make up for that then?

Herron Linscott: I do a lot of it by driving into town. My grandma lives in town, and she has Internet, so I do a lot of my schoolwork at her house, and then I will do ... That's for my extracurriculars. And then I also do a good bit of work at the school.

Christopher Mitchell: Oddly enough, I was one of the first people in high school to have Internet access, and that was when we were all on dial-up, and it was remarkable in the mid-90's that we could just go anywhere and get information without going to the library, that you could get current information just on the Internet. And so one of the things that I found amazing was just that I had all of these abilities to pursue my own studies outside of what I was doing in school, and it helped to prepare me for college in some ways. Do you feel like you're missing out on that?

Herron Linscott: Both of my parents have really good jobs. And my dad actually works at a university, and so I think that my experiences are not being limited, because I'm very involved in my community, so I wouldn't say that I'm missing anything, in regards of life experience. The main thing is that it's really just inconvenient when it comes to being connected. And in an era where everyone's connected with social media, and even, like I said, our schools, we're connected through Google Classroom. It does feel a bit isolated. I will give it that.

Christopher Mitchell: One of the last things I wanted to ask you was regarding mobile broadband. Right now there's a discussion at the Federal Communications Commission about whether households like yours, that don't have fixed access but where you could use a Verizon or an AT&T broadband, is that sufficient?

Herron Linscott: It is not.

Christopher Mitchell: And do have that option, for either one of them?

Herron Linscott: We had a Jet Pack. Verizon is the only server that will work at my house. On a good day, I will get one bar of LTE if I put my phone in the window for about five minutes, and that's just to get a web page to load. Streaming is not an option. Downloading is definitely not an option. And we did, we had a Jet Pack for a while through Verizon, which is a mobile hotspot, and that did not work in any way. And so eventually we just got rid of it. We discontinued. My grandparents, my other grandparents, who live up the hill, so their service is a bit better than mine, have one, but again, the service is spotty. And I have to be sitting right next to it, out the window, to actually connect and be able to use the Internet.

Christopher Mitchell: Is there anything else that you want to tell people what it's like growing up, it's sort of in this incredible information age and being locked out of it in some ways or at least being severely inconvenienced from accessing it?

Herron Linscott: Right. I think that a lot of it has to do with where we live, as well. I live in Appalachian, Ohio, and the area that I live in, specifically, is ... It's very communal, and there's a lot of connecting that goes on without the Internet, and so the fact that I'm able to still have these incredible life experiences without Internet definitely goes to say a lot about, that some things haven't changed about where I live and that it has remained the same. But I think that sometimes I do wonder. I'm like, oh wow, what if I could apply to this program and readily check my email whenever I needed to? And so I think that while it's limiting, it wouldn't complete negate chances of kids in Appalachian, but I do think that as we, as a region, are to advance, then the people around us have to be given a fair chance. And we need equal opportunities as people in urban areas.

Christopher Mitchell: I fully agree, and let's hope that before you get out of high school, we at least have hopes of achieving that goal.

Herron Linscott: That would be ideal.

Christopher Mitchell: Well, thank you so much for coming on the show.

Herron Linscott: Thank you.

Lisa Gonzalez: That was Christopher with Deb Socia, from Next Century Cities, and with Lilah Gagne, and Herron Linscott from rural Ohio. Remember to sign up at mobileonlychallenge.com and let others know what it's like, so they can spread the word, that we should only be advancing, not moving backward. We have transcripts for this and other podcasts available at MuniNetworks.org/broadbandbits. Email us at podcast@MuniNetworks.org with your ideas for the show. Follow Chris on Twitter. His handle is @CommunityNets. Follow MuniNetworks.org stories on Twitter. The handle is @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. Subscribe to our monthly newsletter at ilsr.org. Thank you to Arne Huseby for the song, "Warm Duck Shuffle," licensed through Creative Commons. And thanks for listening to episode 287 of the "Community Broadband Bits" podcast.

Link: Tags: transcript

Pricing Report From Berkman Klein Center: Muni Subscribers Get Better Rates

January 10, 2018

The FCC collects data from Internet Service Providers that reflects census blocks where they offer service to at least one premise. Currently, the Commission does not collect information about rates subscribers pay. A new report from the Berkman Klein Center dives into prices subscribers pay and also looks at trends from national companies as well as local publicly owned networks. The report, Community-Owned Fiber Networks: Value Leaders in America, supports what we’ve always found — that publicly owned networks offer the best all around value for the communities that make the investment.

Download and read the full report here.

In the Abstract, authors David Talbot, Kira Hessekiel, and Danielle Kehl describe their approach:

We collected advertised prices for residential data plans offered by 40 community-owned (typically municipally owned) Internet service providers (ISPs) that offer fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) service. We then identified the least-expensive service that meets the federal definition of broadband—at least 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload—and compared advertised prices to those of private competitors in the same markets. We found that most community-owned FTTH networks charged less and offered prices that were clear and unchanging, whereas private ISPs typically charged initial low promotional or “teaser” rates that later sharply rose, usually after 12 months. We were able to make comparisons in 27 communities. We found that in 23 cases, the community-owned FTTH providers’ pricing was lower when averaged over four years. (Using a three year-average changed this fraction to 22 out of 27.) In the other 13 communities, comparisons were not possible, either because the private providers’ website terms of service deterred or prohibited data collection or because no competitor offered service that qualified as broadband. We also made the incidental finding that Comcast offered different prices and terms for the same service in different regions.

The report offers frank visual comparisons of the authors’ findings. Most of the comparisons show big national providers advertising offering service in the markets, but there are a few places where small independents advertise services similar to that offered by the publicly owned network.

Comcast Chaos

The authors investigation discovered support for what many Comcast subscribers have complained about — the cable provider’s rates and terms are far from consistent across the country. They discovered:

Presenting prices as a range – Comcast sometimes defined a monthly price as a range (between $2 and nearly $15 monthly), leaving it unclear what consumers would be paying. 

Varying teaser rates – Comcast employed different teaser rate progressions, including a price increase after 12 months and two price increases over a period of three years.

Discounts for paperless billing and automatic payments – In four communities, the promotional price Comcast advertised in bold was only available to customers who allowed Comcast to automatically charge monthly payments to their credit card or bank. Prices were $10 higher for customers who did not agree, a practice that penalizes consumers without credit cards or bank accounts or who are reluctant to provide permission.

Service with or without a contract – In Issaquah, WA, and Longmont, CO, Comcast offered consumers a choice of taking service through a 12-month contract or doing so without a contract (and its potential cancellation fees) for $10 more a month. As a result, anyone who chose the plan without a contract but didn't end up canceling within the first year would spend an additional $120.

Suggestions

The report offers several suggestions, including that the FCC alter its data collection method from census block level to street-address level. Examining connectivity through a tighter lens would provide a more accurate view of the condition of broadband access in the U.S. ISPs should also provide information on prices that subscribers pay, which the FCC does not presently collect and state laws that restrict local telecommunications authority are not productive in our nationwide goal to bring broadband to every address. Publicly owned networks need more support, including better research:

Our findings, though limited in scope, point to the benefits of community fiber networks in providing broadband to Americans at prices that are more affordable. The national interest would be served by much deeper data collection and study.

Download and read the full report here.

Image of the computer by farabudi86 courtesy of pixaby.

Community-Owned Fiber Networks: Value Leaders in AmericaTags: reportberkman klein centerpricingratescomcastFTTHfccdatamapping

Transcript: Community Broadband Bits Episode 288

January 9, 2018

This is the transcript for episode 288 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. Robin Anderson of National Information Solutions Cooperative describes how telephone cooperatives brought high-speed Internet service to much of North Dakota. Listen to this episode here.

Robin Anderson: We have 18 smaller independent telcos in North Dakota 15 of those are cooperatives.

Lisa Gonzalez: You're listening to episode 288 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. I'm Lisa Gonzalez unless you've been to rural North Dakota. You probably imagine white sleeping planes dotted here and there with a herd of cattle or oil rigs. What most people don't realize is that rural North Dakota has some of the most extensive fiber optic networks in the country. Rural cooperatives An independent telecommunications companies have quietly been investing in North Dakota regional networks for years. In this interview Christopher talks with Robin Anderson from National Information Solutions co-operative. One of the many that helped establish the state's incredible connectivity. Robin and Chris discuss how the rural areas of North Dakota came to have some of the best internet access in the country. The people behind the deployments and what the experience is like for a smaller independent provider who sees the wisdom of rural investment. Now here's Christopher with Robin Anderson.

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 and I'm speaking with Robin Anderson, sales manager for National Information Solutions Cooperative in North Dakota. Welcome to the show.

Robin Anderson: Thanks Chris.

Christopher Mitchell: So let me just ask you briefly tell us what the National Information Solutions co-operative is before we get into how North Dakota has better internet access than the whole rest of the country.

Robin Anderson: So NIC we provide enterprise solutions for electric and telecom companies across the country actually started 50 years ago this year. And we we work with both electric utilities and telcos. And surprisingly our first three customers were electric fan and one telephone company back in the 50s who are still members of ours today but provide accounting and billing engineering software solutions for telephone cooperatives across the country are 850 members right now.

Christopher Mitchell: And the reason that I'm having you on the show to talk about North Dakota is for one thing you're a very entertaining person to talk to but you have a long history with cooperatives back in North Dakota and also your fellow Eagles fan. Thanks to Carson once the North Dakota sensation.

Robin Anderson: Absolutely. Yeah it's not too often that your boyfriend plays quarterback for the Eagles.

Christopher Mitchell: Here we are. I think if I say if I did a random calling around North Dakota I'd find a lot of his girlfriends.

Robin Anderson: Absolutely. A big fan and big eyes. And it said you know that's where I once played. But big championship game tomorrow so excited. A

Christopher Mitchell: lot yes. One of the things that I think most people are probably confused about is I just claim North Dakota has a really good Internet access. If you just asked a random person on the street they would probably think North Dakota being very low density probably has very poor internet access. So what is going on broadly in North Dakota.

Robin Anderson: Yeah so Chris I think if you ask people randomly they also say that North Dakota doesn't have indoor plumbing.

Robin Anderson: So I think the perception of our state is we have some issues that are a little bigger than just broadband but but on the broadband I think a big part of it is that while the independent telcos are about 96 percent of the geographic area of the state they serve less than 50 percent of the population. So with the majority of that population living in the highest populated areas that are served by you know the big guys lakes and create the link. They just haven't made the same investments in the infrastructure so the service in those areas I think is subpar to the to the very rural areas of the states. So naturally people think that you know if we can't we don't have great internet access in Fargo or Grand Forks markets. How could someone living in Carrington or Rame North Dakota have access to fiber to gigabit speeds.

Robin Anderson: But the truth is that North Dakota has the highest penetration I think of broadband in the country and the high percentage of fiber in the country. And you know when we started our project and a little bit of my background as I spent 13 years working for the local Telecommunications Cooperative here in Carrington and we went into a select area of Perth that was competing against class which is now CenturyLink obviously but we just we saw little or no reaction from them at the time. And I have a friend who actually worked for Quest's back in those days and he said quest was very aware of the fibre build in North Dakota. He told me that the CEO at the time had made the statement it would be cheaper and better for us to move people to Fargo than to provide them with the same level of service in those areas.

Robin Anderson: But what surprises me is we haven't really seen that embed still in those in the bigger populated areas that we have done in the in the rural areas. So you know when you talk about geographic area being 96 percent served by the telcos. That's a big part of the state. And and I think we're close to a 100 percent fibre to the home in those areas.

Christopher Mitchell: It is worth noting that a lot of the population of North Dakota is huddled up against the Minnesota border. Why yes. So when you see the North Dakota independence I'm curious for people who may not have the same background. You know there's sort of we divide the world between the big carriers like CenturyLink in North Dakota would be the major one and smaller firms that build networks basically companies that weren't a part of the AT&T Ma Bell System I guess. But the independents in North Dakota are the private companies or co-op or a combination of both.

Robin Anderson: It is a combination. We have 18 smaller independent telcos in North Dakota 15 of those are cooperatives. And then three are privately owned. And you know some of those areas that the independents are were Questor CenturyLink areas up until about in 1996 is they sold off a lot of those smaller areas to the to the co-op or the independents and just kept those major you know more urban areas of the state.

Christopher Mitchell: Why do you think that North Dakota to some extent other areas around here have been real leaders in rural fiber. Just to give you a sense when we we we just recently made a map of the co-op fiber in the country. There's a clear bias in the upper Midwest.

Robin Anderson: You know another reason that our area of the world in the upper Midwest being an early adopter and this is just the first personal thought but you know optical solutions was based out of Minnesota and it's always I was one of the first access companies to promote fibre to the home. Most people know them today as Calix they were purchased by Calix in 2006 to continue to be a leader with independent telcos and access. But Keith Carlson was the sales manager at oocyte at the time he is actually their second employee and was our sales manager at Dakotah central. And I mean I credit Keith with a lot of this too because the guy could sell ice could Eskimos.

Robin Anderson: I know I know he did because he convinced my CEO Steve Larson to do a first build.

Robin Anderson: And you know Keith Larson he's an accountant by trade I'm a sales and marketing person. I was all in and he was scared to death but I honestly don't know if our project would have happened without you know OS being really in this area and Keith's guidance and his ability to sell it on it at least not that early in the game. It might have been you know a few years later but at the time the less than 100 companies in the country building fibre to the home. And I believe less than 40 building an IPTV Hensler is a risk to say the least. But with OSFI up in this area in the Midwest and like I said it's Calix now today but they really were promoting fibre to the home and coming out and meeting with all the companies very early in the adoption of seeing fiber built across the country.

Christopher Mitchell: And my impression was that he was a salesman in the best sense of the word in that. One of the reasons that he did so well was he always was there when you had problems in the future too. He didn't just sell you and disappear. He'd work with you and make sure that the team worked with you to solve their problems.

Robin Anderson: Well absolutely and I think that comes down to just caring. Keith you know. Yes it was a business forum but you know you create friendships and I'll say this Keith is the first person who ever had a dog sleep in my house because you know you develop friendships and he'd come out and take my son hunting. But things are going to go wrong. And we had things go wrong. I'm not going to stay. It was smooth sailing. I remember after we had the first I don't know three or four businesses turned up in Jamestown and Newman signs was one of them one of the largest businesses in Jamestown. And all of a sudden their phone went down one day. And what do you do. And I called Keith and I didn't know you know where the where the issue with that but he showed up. He didn't just you know say try this. I mean him and their sales engineer Mark or PSEC at the time they showed up they drove to Jamestown. They

Robin Anderson: helped our guys. They stayed until it was up and running again. And even later when we had issues with video and nobody knew. Was it a myriad issue was it an amino set top box issue was it Calix. And again they showed up. They didn't point fingers. They just said you know what can we do to help you figure this out and I'll forever be grateful for Keith and the role he played in our project. And then you know projects across the state.

Christopher Mitchell: These are the kinds of stories I think get forgotten. People tend to think you know if you look at states have 30 percent fibre to the home access now mostly from Verizon. People tend to associate these technologies with the big companies. But it was the small folks you know the small companies with people who were going out and solving the problems and making it work that figured out how to make it work before the big companies even started picking it up. So I'm really glad that you shared that answer when we talk about how you have so much fiber investment. Is this the result of some sort of massive government program to just throw money at North Dakota. How did it come to be in so much of this was done even before the stimulus.

Robin Anderson: Right. Yeah I mean part of it was that we were seeing the demand there the need for more and better internet speeds and access a lot of the rural companies had access to low cost capital from our us as previous hours. I know for us that Dakota central when we looked at the Jamestown Project our US had just come out with the broadband loan program. So that allowed us to finance that project. We borrowed about 15 and a half million dollars from through that program and then about three and a half million dollars of cash into that project which we ended up eventually putting quite a bit more cash in because of the take rates were higher than we initially projected but we are one of the first to utilize that program. Let

Christopher Mitchell: me just jump in for a second to to note so this is in our U.S. borrowing program. So you're borrowing money but you're paying it back if there's any subsidy it's probably just on the edges. I would guess maybe a lower interest rate than you would get somewhere else or a longer term. But in general this is not free money it's your own money.

Robin Anderson: That's correct yep. Most of the money that we put into both the select and elect projects that we did at the time were through loan programs. I mean there were some stimulus grants available that and you know some combination of stimulus and loans. But but the majority of the majority of it was was loans for the co-op as well. A lot of it was just reinvesting back in the network and tightening up or co-op. So how we operate the business is a lot different than you'll see with the big guys. We're not. Our goal isn't to put money back into shareholders pockets. Our goal is to provide the best service possible and keep reinvesting in that network.

Christopher Mitchell: So right now you're talking over a fiber connection you have fiber to your home. How long have you have that.

Robin Anderson: I do. So we started with Dakota sencha we started with the CLX build first back in 2004 2005 and Jamestown and the plan there was to you know get our IPTV head in place and try and get as many customers on the network as we could before we went and build out to our eye like areas which is probably the opposite of what a lot of companies do. But I live in the rural areas so I'm six miles from the closest community and I've had fibre to the home at my house since I think about 2007. And you know basically live right next to our family ranch. And you know my husband and I both work from home. We've got a 100 meg internet connection to our house. I'm talking on a VoIP phone right now. My husband is on the other end of the house talking on his boy home for his company.

Robin Anderson: And yeah we couldn't we could not live and do the job that we'd do him as a national manager for a crop insurance company that you know covers 14 states and manage those guys in those states. And me as a sales manager for Nic it just won't be possible. You know when I look at it with and I feel alone we've got close to twelve hundred employees and a hundred of our employees are remote and most of those are in rural areas like I live just from the investment that's put in and put in with fiber.

Christopher Mitchell: And you said you had a greater take rate than was expected which results in you having to pay more. That makes sense of course because this is a large upfront investment if you have more people connecting it's probably in that time more than twenty five or three thousand dollars per home on average I mean probably a lot more than that. So but just briefly I'm curious even back then you were seeing a demand in rural areas that exceeded the again common wisdom of some people which would say that people in rural areas just don't care that much about internet.

Robin Anderson: Yeah I know at the time I think our pro forma show that we had to reach 40 percent take rate in the first five years of our buildout and being the marketing manager at the time are our process for selling the service was to pre-cell it. So we started with a marketing campaign several months before the fiber was about to go in the ground and we made a series of marketing campaigns that we went out to the to the homes with and then actually after the first three touches with those homes we had 30 percent had signed up before we put fiber in the ground and after that myself and our sales manager our county executive at the time we went around and knocked on every door before that hadn't signed up in front of in front of the plow crews and we we got another 15 percent through that door to door marketing.

Robin Anderson: So we were at 45 percent before we started putting fiber in the. Eventually I think after the first year in those first areas we built we were over 50 percent or close to 60. And I think in Jamestown today that number is in the 70 percent throughout the community. So now people you know they wanted the better service even though at the time you know the speeds were less than what we're doing now. But there was a there was a demand for it and it needs right and I think some of that too as we went around to the businesses before we started the residential build. I spent the first year just working with the commercial customers trying to get about 500 at the time we talked an access line still to get about 500 access lines signed up with the business community and the thought process was if we go off the mainline fiber route into those businesses and get get them signed up especially those that had a lot of employees that would help us in marketing it from that point forward with the employees taking it at their homes.

Christopher Mitchell: Now one of the things that I'm always interested in is some of the economics of this and my understanding is that the operating costs of the fiber networks is dramatically lower than that of the copper networks that these telephone call ups had been maintaining inso as they are paying off these loans mean that they are just really in good shape. I mean is that is that a big difference for a rural co-op.

Robin Anderson: No I think part of it is again that we just were reinvesting back in the network. That's that's the goal of cooperatives is not to pad shareholders pockets but to keep putting the money back in the network. What we saw at that time too was a lot of the telcos in North Dakota including Dakota central we had copper plant that needed to be replaced and we were trying to use that plant to deliver DSL service over it and push it further and further out. And and when you looked at it it was cheaper to replace that copper with fiber than put more copper in the ground. And obviously for long term reasons fiber was the best solution anyway with just happened to change out the electronics at the end of it as the need for more speed demands were coming. But yeah I think you know when you looked at the overall cost of the network it was better to put in fiber versus the copper that we had in the ground.

Christopher Mitchell: Well the thing that I remember and you may have still been with Dakota Central time but I remember seeing a press release touting North Dakota and I think it was a combination of DakTel and Dickey but I could be wrong - having the largest fibre to the home network in the world more than 10000 square miles.

Robin Anderson: I would say the first three in the state to really invest in fiber were Dakota Central, Dickey Rural Networks, and Bek and [Steel]. And so with Dakota Central and Dickey Rural basically we kind of border each other up to that just south of the Jamestown area. And as both of you know progressive companies and I would say statewide you see that it was you know really good cooperative leadership in the state. And having worked for Dakota central for that many years and then going to work for Pivot and now and ISP and kind of traveling the country meeting with other co-op. One thing that stood out to me over the years is that it's not not everywhere. Do you see how companies work together like we do in the upper Midwest and not just North Dakota but Minnesota South Dakota Wisconsin in our state we have meetings several times a year with different groups from every company.

Robin Anderson: So the CEO level the plant managers have a meeting where they get together a couple of times a year the marketing managers there's a lot of constant sharing of information and helping each other. And you know some of that probably comes from building and owning the Dakota carrier network or state fiber network but just good vision from the board of directors to leadership and employees buying into the projects has made a big difference. But yes that 10000 square miles from a geographic standpoint I believe it was the largest build and maybe still is today but at least at that time in the country.

Christopher Mitchell: So when you given your history in North Dakota and the fact that you do travel around the country of relationships with cooperatives everywhere when you hear people claim I'm going to make this up not quoting him specifically but it's true of the sentiment of many people out of Washington D.C. that we can't afford to bring fiber to everyone in rural America and that is just cost prohibitive. We have to go with some kind of wireless. You know how do you react based on knowing what that's already been done in North Dakota.

Robin Anderson: Yeah well I think part of it is we can't afford not to. And wireless is a great solution. In some areas but for long term best investment. I don't know that wireless has the reach or will that the needs are going to be especially for people working at home. And we start out migration in our state about the time we were doing our fiber build. I was actually interviewed for a Fargo Forum article called Saving North Dakota. I mean the reality is the young people are moving out and the elderly are dying. We were seeing Justin outflux of people now you know shortly after that we had the oil boom and we saw things happen in western North Dakota that we hadn't seen in a long time. And I talked about at that time going down to the urban areas and serving those makes the most sense.

Robin Anderson: You know what's going to happen to all these rural areas because the honest truth is where does your energy come from where does your food come from. I mean it's important that they have those same level of services that the urban area or urban areas do which was the whole purpose of universal universal service from the time it started was equal access everywhere. It can be done yes. Obviously the USF fund has helped that in reinvesting back in those networks. But I think the bigger thing is just you know having the fortitude and the guts to go out and do it and tightening up and making sure you can cash flow and part of that for our project to was not going out and hiring a lot of people. And you'll see that with some companies and especially with the bigger guys they do a project like this and go out and hire 20 30 40 people.

Robin Anderson: We doubled the size of our company and hired five employees. And you know the purpose at the time was everybody's going to have to work harder because we know it's going to be really crazy for the first you know five six seven years here. But at some point the network is going to be built and it's going to be as efficient or more efficient than it's ever been. And at that point you can't afford to have the overhead that you would have if you went out and doubled your employee based at the same time as trying to build a fibre to the home network. We asked a lot of our team and the managers. And you know everyone put in put in probably more time than even was expected but when it's done I still to this day will say it was you know will always be one of the highlights of my career.

Robin Anderson: And there's nothing more fun than seeing a project like that through from start to finish and and having it be successful.

Christopher Mitchell: That's a very good reality check to remember that you know I can do. I can look from afar and say wow look at all this that was done. But it's good to appreciate that there's a lot of hard days that people had to put in to make it happen.

Robin Anderson: A lot of hard days and a lot of help leaning on even vendor partners. I remember filling out IPTV content contracts and I didn't know what I was doing and sitting sitting at a card table in my living room you know from after the kids go to bed at

10:00 at night until midnight and actually texting or calling a vendor who is up watching hockey saying what do I do here how do I do this and you know help just walk through it. So

Christopher Mitchell: definitely it takes a team but can be done right and that's yet another good reminder as well that when people think all these things are so complicated in this that you know you can figure it out and most mistakes will be made and you'll deal with them and move along. You'll find me any network that hasn't made mistakes in being built. But I really appreciate the time you've given us to. Tell us about what's going on there. I have been long wanting to make sure people were aware that North Dakota had such incredible connectivity and just the sense that if we can build fibre to the home in North Dakota and we can build it in a number of other places as well with Cope's and such a cost effective manner this idea that we just have to abandon rural America poor broadband is clearly farcical.

Robin Anderson: Yeah I mean the long term we've got to make those long term investments and the demand for speed and capacity is going to continually increase. We know that. And if you want to provide the opportunity is like I said working remotely today both my husband and I I I don't know that we would have been able to continue to live where we live if we didn't have fibre to our house. In fact I'm confident that we couldn't. And that's what you're going to see if we don't invest in these rural areas. People are going to continue to move about to find you know what's there for them and it's not just not just the parents. Let's be honest the kids are driving a lot of this today. One my three kids are all home and they're streaming Netflix or they're doing school projects online. It doesn't seem like it seems like there isn't anything they do anymore that doesn't touch technology and so you know that need is greater today than it's ever been. It's going to continue to increase.

Christopher Mitchell: And I'll just say that even if you got people living in cities who think I just don't care those rural areas keep in mind that we have 100 senators. And if those 100 senators are broken down so that people only live in cities. That means that basically all the political power will be with the tiny minority of people who don't care about the internet who live in the middle of the country basically.

Robin Anderson: Absolutely and it is surprising today that when you look at I mean North Dakota is an example but I think we see it across the country. It is those you know urban areas. I mean the reality is we're seeing better fiber build in the rural areas than the urban areas. And you know while there are cable companies that are are picking up the slack there but we aren't seeing as big of a movement. I I speak probably for North Dakota more than anywhere. I definitely have better access rate here. And then you'll find in Fargo.

Robin Anderson: Yeah or that I can get. I can tell you that for sure. It's crazy really. Yes

Christopher Mitchell: . Well thank you for coming on the show. And we'll look forward to catching up with you again in the future. Thanks Chris.

Lisa Gonzalez: That was Christopher with Robin Anderson from National Information Systems cooperative in North Dakota. We have transcripts for this and other podcasts available at MuniNetworks.org/BroadbandBits. Email us at podcast@MuniNetworks.org with your ideas for the show. You can follow us on Twitter. His handle is @CommunityNets. You can also follow me networks at org stories on Twitter. The handle is @MuniNetworks. Subscribe to this podcast and the other ILSR podcasts- Building Local Power and the Local Energy Rules podcast. Access them on Apple podcasts, stitcher, or wherever else you get your podcasts. Never miss out on our original research. Subscribe to our monthly newsletter at ILSR.org. Thank you to Arne Huseby for the song "Warm Duck Shuffle" licensed through Creative Commons and thanks for listening to episode 288 of the community broadband bits podcast.

Link: Tags: transcript

Transcript: Community Broadband Bits Episode 286

January 9, 2018

This is the transcript for episode 286 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast. The staff of the Community Broadband Networks Initiative sit down to discuss the good and the bad of 2017 and what they expect down the road in 2018. Listen to this episode here.

Lisa Gonzalez: Hey everybody. Welcome to Community Broadband Bits Podcast. This is episode 286.

Christopher Mitchell: Also, known as, it's been five and a half, or six and a half years, or something. Can you believe we're still around?

Lisa Gonzalez: Today, we're going to do our annual prediction show, and we're going to be talking about what we predicted last year for this year, and then we're going to also create some predictions for 2018. I think we should start with the elephant in the room, that is network neutrality. Somebody make an elephant noise. Awesome, Nick. By the way, we have Nick, here, along with Hannah.

Nick Stumo-Langer: I just came from DC to do that, I'm actually not going to talk on this podcast anymore.

Hannah Trostle: Hello, everyone.

Lisa Gonzalez: Okay. The first thing we need to do is we need to start with a quote, and this is the quote we're starting with, "No good will come out of the FCC," any guesses, anybody? Any guesses?

Nick Stumo-Langer: Aristotle.

Lisa Gonzalez: Chris?

Christopher Mitchell: I think I should go by fearless leader, now.

Lisa Gonzalez: That's right, fearless leader. You're the one who said it when we were talking about [the] FCC, and yes, that ended up happening. Let's talk a little bit about network neutrality. We didn't really make a specific prediction last year, whether or not it would be revoked.

Christopher Mitchell: My prediction would have been, it would not have been, because I thought it would take longer, I literally didn't think that they would do it so quickly, but when you just say, "Hey, who cares about the public process, you can do things really quickly."

Lisa Gonzalez: Right. And, I think we were all in general agreement with that. But, let's just do a prediction on it right now, while we're talking about it. In general, I'd like to start with Chris, what do you think is going to be the reaction to this?

Christopher Mitchell: We're seeing a lot more organizing at the local level. People are taking this very seriously. I think that we will see the beginnings of a movement that's kind of like the environmental movement, but it will be for the internet, for people that want to make sure that internet access is preserved, and that it's not dominated by massive companies. I think people are rightfully afraid. The internet could turn into radio, which by the way I listened to this morning. I think radio in almost any urban area is a disaster. It was all ads. It was bad music. It was totally uninspiring. It was stupid talk. There's a fear that the internet could turn into that, and then basically be a very promising technology that is wasted by a monopoly capitalist system.

Nick Stumo-Langer: To those of you rebroadcasting this on a community radio network, thank you so much for your support.

Christopher Mitchell: No. I think community radio people would be one of the first people to admit that radio is a disaster, and in fact it is only these few outposts where you can actually have creative content that it sets it apart from all the rest of commercial radio, where you have freaking, like three people probably own half of the radio in the United States. It's awful.

Lisa Gonzalez: Chris, it's really all about internet radio, now. No one listens to the actual radio.

Christopher Mitchell: We're like three minutes into this show, and my heart rate is already up at an alarming level. One of the things that I think we will see is more of these broadband and beers kinds of events. We've seen them in Longmont, and Fort Collins, and in Colorado, where people get together, and they talk about these sorts of things, and I think that will lead to more local organizing, and local action. I really hope that people are starting to think about this. They're spreading the word on social media, saying, "Hey, next Tuesday a bunch of us will just get together at a local bar, that's locally owned, and we'll talk about this issue, and we'll see what happens, and we'll start organizing around it." That's what's going to be happening in 2018, I think. That will lead to action toward the end of the year, in general, to try and prevent more consolidation and basically corporate destruction of the internet.

Nick Stumo-Langer: Yeah. Chris, kind of going off of that, I really do think that the state level action, and the local level action about this is activating a lot, a lot of people. It's actually responsibility of organizations like ours, organizations like some of our allies to turn that activation into something productive, and I think that the broadband and beer is something that you're really good at as a model, and I think that, that's what we need to do is tell those stories of people, and I think, Lisa, that means you're probably going to be writing up a lot of stories about these kinds of events all over the place.

Christopher Mitchell: Lisa, I'm curious. You're a legal beagle, not a legal eagle.

Lisa Gonzalez: Boo.

Christopher Mitchell: And, I'm curious where you think this will be in one year? Will we have any resolution in the courts?

Lisa Gonzalez: No. We will probably be in court. There will be at least one lawsuit. I don't know at what level it will be. I would imagine it will probably still be within the first process, and I would imagine that it would be probably one lawsuit that has been a combination of different party's filing a lawsuit against the FCC.

Hannah Trostle: I agree with Lisa on this. I think it'll be at least a couple of years before we see net neutrality again.

Christopher Mitchell: I just wanted to make it clear for people who are listening, we will not be filing a lawsuit. It's sort of beyond us, and we are supporters of network neutrality, but we tend not to get as involved in these battles where there are already really great organizations fighting. We tend to focus on areas where no one's really working and trying to really push things along, more around the municipal network. We will not, ourselves, be filing lawsuits, although, I think there will be many lawsuits filed. I'll be curious to see if any of them get wrapped up, I mean, some of them will be quite easy to wrap up, I mean, the FCC very clearly violated some aspects of the Administrative Procedures Act with some of their decisions that had not been properly noticed and commented. Other aspects, things that we really care about will certainly take longer to wrap up. I agree.

Nick Stumo-Langer: My prediction for net neutrality and really looking at this in the future is this is going to be a way that people can understand the issue of concentration and monopoly in our economy. It is a tangible thing that they can look at and say, "We do not, we cannot have these providers having such sway over our internet access," and this helps us as a bridge for ILSR, because I'm more of the general person for ILSR on this podcast to be able to bridge into things like energy. To bridge into things like retail, and tech, and those types of things. I think this is a really, really useful moment that millions of people are really, really mad about this.

Lisa Gonzalez: You're right, Nick, a lot of people are really mad, and actually that will lead us into what I think is the next topic, state laws. As Chris pointed out, earlier, people are really upset about this, and there's been a lot of interest in local communities establishing their own municipal networks. We've seen a lot of articles written about. People have contacted us at a little bit higher rate than normal. As I think there will be a reaction to that, I think there's going to be even more bills introduced at the state level than there usually is that are potential barriers to local authority. Now, let's ...

Christopher Mitchell: Nope.

Lisa Gonzalez: Let's go back to last year. Last year, we were kind of looking at this as sort of a competition as to who predicted what, and how correct they were.

Christopher Mitchell: And, let's just put the big news upfront, Nick, was so wrong.

Nick Stumo-Langer: To set the record straight, because you can go back into our transcripts even, I said I was going to be bold, and that I hoped I was wrong, and I just really wanted to stir a controversy. I'm not taking a full L on this one.

Christopher Mitchell: This is classic Trump. Classic Trump from Nick, here, right now, which is you tweet out ridiculous things on both sides, so you can always say, "I was right. I was definitely right."

Lisa Gonzalez: Controversy stirred, Nick. Okay.

Christopher Mitchell: Nick, it's really great to have you back in Minnesota. Thanks for coming home.

Lisa Gonzalez: 15 states you predicted would have bills introduced to restrict local authority. Hannah, had predicted 10. Chris, had predicted five, and I had predicted between zero and five. There were six that we know that were introduced, but out of those several of those were not, didn't really go anywhere.

Hannah Trostle: We had a fight about whether to count them.

Christopher Mitchell: Well, to be clear, and you can go back and listen, or read the transcript, we were talking about serious fights. My position is that Lisa won the bet-

Lisa Gonzalez: Yay.

Christopher Mitchell: Even though, if we went by just how many bills were introduced, then I would have won the forecast.

Lisa Gonzalez: There you go. I win the satisfaction of winning.

Christopher Mitchell: And, just to refresh the folks, the biggest one was Virginia, and then there was a lot of coverage of the Michigan issue, although, in Michigan the bill was not actually, it never really went anywhere in the legislature. It was a bigger media fight, because people freaked out at how stupid it was. Then there was things that most people didn't notice, like there was Maine, and Alabama, and Georgia, maybe had a little bit, and one other that I'm forgetting. Oh, Colorado. Missouri was one, and Colorado, I think, it didn't even get introduced but it was close.

Lisa Gonzalez: Chris, you had thought that in Tennessee, and North Carolina, the states would actually rollback the rules.

Christopher Mitchell: Well, if you go back to the transcript, I love these transcripts, I should thank Jeff Hoyle for getting us started in doing that.

Lisa Gonzalez: Yes, thank you, Jeff. We love you, Jeff.

Christopher Mitchell: We started talking about it, and I predicted that in North Carolina that they would allow Pinetops to continue being connected but that they wouldn't do anything else. Then I was talking about how bullish I was on Tennessee, removing the barriers to Chattanooga, expanding in the other municipal networks that are doing so well. I talked myself into saying that I was going to be bold, I followed Nick's path of error, and I was bold in saying North Carolina would roll it back, but instead North Carolina really focused on just really the republicans doing everything they could to try to stop Roy Cooper who was elected governor from doing anything. Unfortunately, North Carolina has been more focused on political controversy than actually any sort of thing that would actually make the state better off.

Lisa Gonzalez: Right. You know, what that does is it points out that we don't have a crystal ball, and there's all these other external factors that really can influence what happens in telecommunications.

Nick Stumo-Langer: Especially, I think Michigan is a good case for this, knowing from the press releases we're sending out, and keeping track of these types of things, Michigan, was really a surprise, because they have a different kind of legislative calendar then a lot of these other states, and we were actually preparing kind of talking about what types of things are going to come up in the beginning of the year when a lot of state legislatures are in session, and then we were hit by this bill that would be really awful. I think it's instructive that we take these cases where it's actually kind of ridiculous the ways that they're carving out things, so municipalities cannot get access to funding for municipal broadband, or even exploring their options, and we point out, and we say, "Why are you making this argument?" I would agree with Chris, you know, we did focus on the big fights, but also we need to call out the faulty logic in the small fights that can just pop up randomly, as well.

Christopher Mitchell: I'm curious to see what Hannah wants to say about this, but I feel like in general where democrats have power, they are totally failing to explain to rural America, or rural Minnesota, or rural North Carolina why they should start voting for democrats. I don't say this because I think people should be voting for democrats, our position is generally that we think whoever you vote for you should be demanding better representation from them, but it is very clear to us that in general the republicans have been doing a poor job of representing rural areas, because of all of the money that's going to the big carriers, the lack of investment in rural areas, and whatnot. What I'm finding interesting is I feel like there is a market opportunity, almost, for democrats, and they seem unable to talk to people in rural areas in part because I think they in some ways think of them as being more simple, and only interested in guns, or abortion, or something, and it just frustrates me as someone who cares so much about economics to see year after year the democratic party failing to make this an issue. There's no one competing for votes in rural America, I feel like. I would like to see people in North Carolina and elsewhere, you know, I'd like to see democrats really coming forward, the bold vision to actually connect these people to the internet, and force the republican party to actually do something other than shoveling money at the incumbents.

Hannah Trostle: Yeah. Sometimes it feels like the democratic party base their platform on all the billboards that they read in rural areas, rather than on what rural communities actually want, so many times in urban areas when I'm talking about internet service for rural communities, urban people are like, "But, what do they need it for? How does that work?" It's very simple that they haven't seen the connection between what they do and everyday life, also happens in rural areas. Just because it takes 20 minutes to get to a Walmart doesn't mean that they don't need to go there.

Christopher Mitchell: As we're sort of, I think we've wrapped up where we thought we might be, dealing with the state legislature, I would predict for the next year that there will be no new barriers that are enacted, and I think we will see fewer than five proposed. I think state elected officials have finally gotten the message, or at least leadership in these states has gotten the message that cracking down to move options for local internet choice is unpopular, so I predict that most of the bills we see this year will actually be to improve internet access in local internet choice. They'll be trying to empower municipalities, or perhaps protecting privacy, or things like that. I think we are past the area in which we have to seriously worry about barriers going through. It doesn't mean we can lower our guard. The reason that we will see few barriers is because we are ready to take them on, and we have people that are having beer together that are ready to get out in the streets and to organize to stop them. I think that's going to send a message, and we're going to see fewer barriers proposed.

Hannah Trostle: I think a lot of states will also be looking at what laws are on the record regarding coops, and removing some of the smaller barriers that they didn't even know where there. That happened just this year in Tennessee.

Lisa Gonzalez: I want to hear more about coops, but for the record I disagree with Chris, and I think there will be six or more.

Christopher Mitchell: I just want to pull out a quote from last year that hasn't come up yet.

Lisa Gonzalez: Okay.

Christopher Mitchell: Which is another quote from me, which I'm going to rate as possibly my best prediction, we all think the federal government is just going to say, "Rural America you can suck it," that was my quote and I'm standing by it. The federal government has basically told rural America, which overwhelmingly elected the republicans who are running this country, the federal government have turned their back on rural America.

Lisa Gonzalez: That's right, and we were all talking about that quote in the other room when we were preparing for this discussion, and we wanted to bring that up, as well. I think the rest of us are in agreement that, that still stands. Hannah?

Hannah Trostle: Sure.

Lisa Gonzalez: Nick?

Nick Stumo-Langer: Definitely.

Lisa Gonzalez: Hannah, cooperatives, are they going to help rural America?

Hannah Trostle: Yeah, definitely. Just this past year we have seen so many more cooperatives coming out of the woodwork and building internet service out to these far flung rural areas. I imagine that will just continue into this next year.

Christopher Mitchell: I predict in one year, when we're sitting here in the office, Hannah, might be at grad school, but we'll call her in, we're going to see more than 105. I'm predicting there is going to be, I was predicting a 100 by the end of the year, I'm going to be bold and say that next year we'll have a 105 rural electric coops that are offering some kind of service to businesses and residents.

Hannah Trostle: That almost feels like a conservative estimate.

Lisa Gonzalez: What's your number?

Hannah Trostle: I was thinking closer to a 150.

Lisa Gonzalez: Ewe.

Hannah Trostle: But, I was also counting partnerships with telephone coops.

Lisa Gonzalez: Sounds good. Partnerships, I was wondering about that, too, because we had also discussed that for the 2017 discussion. We had predicted, and I think we were mostly right that we weren't going to see a whole lot of movement on new partnerships. That there was a lot of chitchat but not a lot of action. I think that's correct.

Christopher Mitchell: Yeah. I think that's accurate in the sense that we define partnerships, which is both sides sort of actively taking a role. There has been more of these things that are called partnerships, where you may have the public sector building something and leasing it to the private sector, or something like that. That's a model that, again, we like all models, that's a perfectly valid model, but it's not what we would call a partnership. It's just an open access, or a lease arrangement, which is I think, again, is perfectly fine, it's just not the kind of partnership we see in Westminster, or we saw with the Urbana, Champagne communities, it's not even, I mean, where Huntsville, and Google is a lease arrangement, yet it wast kind of more a partnership than typical lease arrangements. I think we may see a few in 2018. I think that people are still trying to figure out how to do this. I still think that the best approach to move forward is looking at the city building assets itself, and leasing them, which again is in some ways what Westminster is doing, but the way that they have the financial arrangement with Ting makes it more of a partnership. I said there would be no more of those, really, I don't think we had a true partnership developed in 2017, so I'd stick by that.

Lisa Gonzalez: Hannah, and I have been talking about pole attachments. Now, not necessarily as they relate to partnerships, but she had made a prediction for 2017. She had predicted that more cities would be passing ordinances that dealt with one touch make ready, and related type smaller ordinances and rules that would help to advance an environment that would improve internet access. Do you want to comment on that, Hannah?

Hannah Trostle: What I actually said was I didn't think city's wold be doing a whole lot with poles this year and instead would be focusing on other small ordinances.

Lisa Gonzalez: Oh, okay. Sorry.

Hannah Trostle: Because I thought poles were too controversial.

Lisa Gonzalez: Oh, that's right. Okay.

Hannah Trostle: But as it turns out, a couple cities this year had several good thing happen with poles. Like, San Antonio, Texas passed an ordinance around that for One Touch Make Ready Policy. Louisville, Kentucky turned out okay.

Christopher Mitchell: Which is to say that they won their court case.

Hannah Trostle: That is perhaps more accurate. They did win their court case. This year I actually think there will be more One Touch Make Ready policies put in place.

Christopher Mitchell: Hey, all. Don't forget us in your year end giving. Hey, if you still have a few dollars left you can ship them to us to make more great content, do research, and make sure that we are generally providing the kinds of news and information that will help us to defeat the big cable and telephone monopolies. It's worth noting that when you support us it doesn't just make us feel good, and pay the bills, it also makes us get through those hard days when we've been punched in the mouth by the FCC, because knowing that you care enough to send us some money to make sure we can keep the doors open it really is helpful in those times when we're down, and I'm afraid we have a few of them a head of us. Please donate at ILSR.org/donate. Once again, that's ILSR.org/donate. Now, back to our prediction show.

Lisa Gonzalez: As far as large cities go, last year, Christopher, you had predicted that you thought there might be more larger sized cities that would be looking more seriously and maybe even investing in municipal networks. Now, we know San Francisco's taking it seriously. Seattle's still sort of on the table.

Christopher Mitchell: Not really.

Lisa Gonzalez: Okay.

Christopher Mitchell: Seattle has great work from Upgrade Seattle. They're a real model for how people can get involved and organized to push the city. The city has taken some steps to include broadband in its long-term planning, but the new mayor was pretty unequivocal that she is in the pocket of Comcast, and CenturyLink-

Lisa Gonzalez: That's right.

Christopher Mitchell: From what I can tell.

Lisa Gonzalez: That's right. I remember. Anyway, San Francisco. Any other? Do you think that's going to continue? Do you think there will be more larger cities?

Christopher Mitchell: I don't know. I'm curious to see. I mean, New York City has an RFP out, I believe, they're looking for an RFI of some sort where they are looking for proposals to where the city might invest in partners. That could take care of both our partner prediction and our large city prediction. I do think we'll see large cities continuing to try to figure this out, if only because of that net neutrality ruling, now. They're very concerned. This gets into a prediction of mine, and I'm curious Nick, what you think about it coming from the heart of DC, which is that I think we will see because of the net neutrality reversal I think we'll see some kind of harmless prioritization schemes where AT&T or Comcast will be creating some kind of products that engage in prioritization around telemedicine in order to just try and get people comfortable with the idea, so that later they can engage in other kinds of shenaniganery. Yes, shenaniganery with our connections.

Nick Stumo-Langer: You know, I think it's an interesting question, Chris, and I think really what we're looking at is it seems like twofold. Getting people used to the idea of paid prioritization, you know, through a helpful, I would even say not harmless, a helpful, like prioritizing telemedicine, or prioritizing those types of things that we really like. Then there's also the other route that I think is more likely that there's not going to be anything on prioritization, I think they're going to stay off of it for a year, until some of these legal cases kind of clear out and then they're going to start edging things in very slowly. I think everyone, and like I was saying before, a lot of people are paying attention right now. These ISP's know that they're already super, super unpopular. If they start monkeying around with it now, I think, that they might face a bigger backlash, and actually I think that this kind of leads into kind of trying to decide if we think that they're smart, or if they are foolish and they want to punch too hard, and overplay their hand.

Christopher Mitchell: Let's bring Hannah and Lisa in to see what they think. I'm definitely curious if they would back you, or back me in terms of where they're closer too, but let me just note in terms of their intelligence, they might be more intelligent than we are, because they won the net neutrality thing, and Comcast and AT&T just announced rate hikes in a bunch of areas. They don't feel the pressure, even right now when they're supposed to be on their best behavior, supposedly. Lisa, what is your expectation in terms of prioritization or other obvious abuses of net neutrality?

Lisa Gonzalez: There is evidence that they're already abusing network neutrality as we pointed out before, so I think they're just going to continue with what they're already doing and I think it's going to be like the boiling frog syndrome, they're just going to continue to ramp it up. But I think that they're embolden, and I think that they realize that the time that they have now is short lived, so I think that they are going to go ahead and go for the gusto and get what they can as long as they can. I think that they are banking on inactivity from people, I don't know if things are going to change in the near future, but I would say by the end of the year they'll be more obvious about breaking what we would consider network neutrality tenants.

Hannah Trostle: I actually agree with Nick. I think they going to play the long game and not push their luck immediately.

Lisa Gonzalez: Within this year, Hannah?

Hannah Trostle: Within this year. I imagine within the next, all of my predictions are three years out.

Christopher Mitchell: I like it. We'll have to write all those down and make sure we don't lose the note.

Lisa Gonzalez: I'm going to doctor the record.

Christopher Mitchell: That all came about talking about the large cities. I think we will continue to see large cities thinking about this, making smaller investments. I really hope Madison, which is a 300,000-isch does move forward with a citywide network that they're talking about, they're looking for partners.

Nick Stumo-Langer: I will note that people from or around Madison do not want to be called a large city, so they will say they are a small city, so take that Chris.

Christopher Mitchell: Well, that's fair enough. There is wiggle room in the definition thanks to the imprecision of the English language. Nonetheless, larger cities, I think, will be more likely to do these sorts of things because they will be dealing with residence and businesses that feel like they are really captured. Now, I want to, so Lisa-

Lisa Gonzalez: No.

Christopher Mitchell: The question is with the AT&T, Time Warner merger, which the Department of Justice has said that it does not want to see happen, what will happen?

Lisa Gonzalez: It's bittersweet. It's so bittersweet. I do not think it will happen.

Christopher Mitchell: You think AT&T and Time Warner next year will not be the same company?

Lisa Gonzalez: I think that they'll just withdraw the whole thing.

Christopher Mitchell: I think that's my hope, and I think you're right. I think the Department of Justice has a good case, even though the Trump administration is probably engaging in blatant crony capitalism.

Lisa Gonzalez: Agreed.

Christopher Mitchell: Over CNN.

Lisa Gonzalez: Agreed.

Christopher Mitchell: You know, it's unfortunate and I certainly don't think that I would be supporting this if the Department of Justice hadn't put forth such a good justification for blocking it. I hope that, that will slow down other mergers, but Nick as a fellow host of the building local power podcast, I just want to insert broadband in there somewhere, it's just my instinct, what are you thinking about mergers in the next year?

Nick Stumo-Langer: I don't think we're going to see a merger that divides the advocates who are concerned about concentrated economic power like the AT&T and Time Warner merger, but I don't think particularly that the Trump administration will do anything about the mergers that are up right now, or ones that are going to be announced in the future. The Trump DOJ antitrust had, is a former mergers and acquisitions lawyer and lobbyist, and maybe there is some foul play with CNN, however, again, I don't think that this should happen on the merits, and I think we're going to look at AT&T and Time Warner, Bayer, Monsanto, CVS, Aetna. We're going to look at all these things in the future, and either from our dystopian Health Scape where everything is by and large like in Wally, or we're going to look at it and say, "This was a turning point, where people stood up and said, "This is not okay. We cannot consolidate all these industries under a single entity anymore, because this is just too dangerous for our economy and our political economy."

Lisa Gonzalez: Hannah?

Hannah Trostle: I think most of the mergers will go through. I think the AT&T, Time Warner merger will go through, but I'm not happy about it. I do not have a hopeful outlook for this upcoming year as far as mergers go, guys.

Christopher Mitchell: This is a great time to throw in the continued consolidation that I expect to see from the municipal side, and sort of the small-scale consolidation. We have Schurz, it looks like they bought Burlington Telecom against our advice. We see Bristol, Virginia as is going to finally be privatized, shortly. The number of small firms that we've long thought were extemporarily localized P's-

Lisa Gonzalez: HPC.

Christopher Mitchell: Have been bought. Yes. Exactly, they're one of them, has been bought. I expect to see more consolidation in that space. I think that the net neutrality rulings and the general sense from the federal communications commission, the entire federal government that they're just going to allow monopolies to exert pressure on their rivals, means that they're rivals have to get bigger in order to be competitive. I think we're going to see more consolidation. I think we'll see, I'll say, five cities that we might be surprised by, can sell their network. I will be incredibly disappointed and angry for those weeks, whenever that happens, if it happens on a Tuesday for the rest of the week I'll be angry in the office. I'm sorry about that guys. You are all going to have to bear the brunt of that, but we're going to see some cities selling their networks, and they're going to make money at it and they're going to temporary think it was a good idea, because running these networks is difficult, but in the long-term they're going to be screwed. They're going to just be stuck with another monopoly, and it may not be a monopoly tomorrow, but in 10 years I'll bet you that there are very few local companies left that are on these consolidation sprees. This consolidation is a way to ultimately sell to a national player that will pay them a lot of money. I'm very fearful of consolidation at the local level, and I'm also fearful of continued consolidation of Backhaul. I feel like the markets are being distorted, and it makes it harder to establish competition, even as we see more energy to create competition in the local space it will be harder to sustain that in the face of the kind of rivals that are being created.

Lisa Gonzalez: I agree. I think you're right. I mean, you can only go so far with your local network then you have to connect to something and if that's only controlled by one person, or one company, and they tell you what's happening. You are stuck. You know? I agree with you, only I don't think it'll be five that will be privatized, I'm guessing it will be fewer. I'm saying three or less. Anybody else have any other predictions before we wrap her up?

Nick Stumo-Langer: My prediction that's a little bit outside of the conversation we've had, it really focuses on media and coverage of the kinds of things that we're interested in, in the Community Broadband Networks Initiative, I think that there's going to be more coverage of all the different kinds of models, and options that cities and broader communities have, specifically in response to the net neutrality fight, but also just in subpar internet access generally, I think that this is an issue where more general business reporters, general political reporters are sitting up, taking a little bit more notice and kind of getting out of the silo of covering internet access from a corporate boardroom, or from the FCC. I think that there are going to be more stories of people and how they've gotten better connectivity, which is a great space for us to be in, because we have those stories at MuniNetworks and we have the experience. We're talking to these people all the time, and like we've said, before, there's a range of models and it's what's right for your community, and I think that a lot of the journalists are really kind of trying to get their heads around this, and we can help them with that, so that's good.

Christopher Mitchell: Let's end on a note of something that I think is quite positive, and I don't know if this is a prediction, we can just fake a prediction out of the end of it, but it's around the media coverage. Nick, you just made me think, a year ago I don't think Jon Brodkin was writing so fiercely against the cable and telephone companies in the way that we see today from Ars Technica, from Motherboard. There's some really good writing that's being done from legitimate tech press that basically says, we can't reprint these lies from the cable and telephone companies. When the cable and telephone companies, or some of the FCC commissioners come out and they just say things like, "The internet was never regulated before 2015," which is so obviously wrong on so many different levels because let's just be clear, net neutrality was a norm, it was enforced under other rules that it later turned out were not enforceable. Prior to that they were still considered rules that had to be followed, and even prior to that the federal government for many years required that anyone who owned telecommunications like wires for DSL, or for dial up had to share them with everyone, which was far more big government, far more overreaching, stifling, whatever you want to claim. These people that are opposing net neutrality are saying. These are claims that are ridiculous, and if my son, who's just learning how to talk were to say them I would say stop lying, Jackson. My point is just that we see legitimate press saying this is ridiculous and I think that's good, but I also think that's bad, and I'm worried about it, because we're losing an ability to have a shared conversation, and I'm just curious if anyone else has any thoughts on this sort of shape that we're seeing in the media, where some of these lies have pushed media past its breaking point. To where they just say, "We cannot reprint this crap."

Nick Stumo-Langer: I think what you're seeing is a response by many legitimate media organizations to these lies, and also it bears out in the report, and the polling about what people want from net neutrality, or from internet service providers. I think you're worried that we might not be able to have this full conversation as predicated on some of the fake news type things, the choosing your facts, and all that, but there is a point where the rubber meets the road and if you're not able to get a certain service from a provider and you have no other option, it's an easy thing for anyone regardless of their political affiliation to notice. What I think it might actually be is these reporters are channeling some of the legitimate rage of many people for the cable monopoly lies that we see. This is a breaking point and it's only because you've been so frustrated before with the opposite problem, that why are these major outlets publishing what Comcast is telling them? Why are these major outlets publishing what AT&T tells them without questioning it? It's making you uncomfortable because it's a big sea change to see them challenging the kind of power that exists, and I think that it's finally them sitting up and saying something.

Hannah Trostle: I think part of it, too, is the media just feels like it needs to respond much faster, so it's really simple to reprint a specific thing, a spokesman said. It can add to the story, but without the specific context of how the market actually works and what the spokesperson is trying to get across, everyone who's listening to that isn't really getting the whole story.

Christopher Mitchell: Yeah. I think it's worth calling out that some people like Phil Dampier, Stop the Cap, and Karl Bode, and basically Mike Masnick and people at Techdirt, DSL Reports. Some people have been calling this out for a while, and it's been wonderful being able to read their voices, and Ars Technica, and other places like Motherboard with Vice, which has gone in this direction, more in terms of calling out on it, just calling out lies straight up. It is interesting that we're seeing a little bit of the blurring of the lines, I think, between a willingness to call out the official spokespeople and say, "No. This is ridiculous. It's too much."

Nick Stumo-Langer: It's called investigative reporting.

Christopher Mitchell: Yeah, I guess, I'm just curious to see where it goes. I mean, my sense is that in a year, you know, we'll see people accusing Ars Technica of being fake news, maybe. I think unfortunately everything is becoming politicized and we're already seeing it with some of the folks from American Enterprise Institute and things like that who are unabashed supporters of the big incumbents are saying that Jon Brodkin is biased and this and that.

Lisa Gonzalez: Well, that's an advantage we have. You know? We deliver news as well, but we are a research organization. We can't be called fake news. We can't be called fake research.

Christopher Mitchell: Well, this is one of the things that I think we do, and we try to do, it's a good note to end on, because I think that we try to describe the world as it is, and there are times when people are so worried about winning arguments that they forget to be able to observe things in an honest manner, and to be able to truly describe how the world works. You all know that we have conversations on a regular basis in the office to try and test out our assumptions, to be able to say, "Are we crazy? Can we measure this? How do we know that this is really happening?" We try to be accurate. At the same time, we have a bias toward we believe that local economies are better, that we want to have freedom to have self determination, and that sort of thing. We have a value system that we impose upon it, because we think it's better if Bristol owns a network, then if they sell it to another local company, and we have arguments about that. But at the end of the day we are trying to be honest about describing the world, and I think Jon Brodkin, you know, a lot of the writers, they're trying to describe the world, and on the other side, we're facing some people who think that the incumbents are good and that the wireless [providers] presents more of a competition than we expect. You know, people like Will Reinhardt, I think, Ryan, who honestly believe that we're better off giving Comcast more power, because they can be innovative and things like that, but they're a minority of our opponents. Many of our opponents are just getting lots of money from the big cable and telephone companies to just say whatever they have to say in order to get those companies more power. I just find that incredibly frustrating and I'm really glad that we see less of those claims uncritically reported in the press now.

Lisa Gonzalez: We will end on that, because that's our fight song. Rah-rah. It keeps us going. Thank you so much, Nick, for coming back from DC.

Nick Stumo-Langer: Thank you for having me.

Lisa Gonzalez: Thank you, Hannah, for your wise words.

Hannah Trostle: Thank you, Lisa.

Lisa Gonzalez: And, thank you Christopher for leading us to the truth about municipal networks.

Christopher Mitchell: Oh, yeah. After all that to claim that it's the truth, capital T, truth.

Lisa Gonzalez: Oh, yeah, like an I in internet.

Christopher Mitchell: You're welcome everyone for avoiding that fight today.

Hannah Trostle: Chris's new word this year is internetification.

Lisa Gonzalez: That's right.

Christopher Mitchell: Also, I learned that the founder of Ting, well the founder of Tucows, which is a parent to Ting he used fiber eyes, which we used in a title of a report this year, previously, so we were not very original with that, either.

Hannah Trostle: That report features the word internetification.

Lisa Gonzalez: Thank you everyone for listening to episode 286 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast. Have a great holiday and thank you for sticking with us through 2017.

Link: Tags: transcript

North Dakota's Exceptional Fiber Networks - Community Broadband Bits Podcast 288

January 9, 2018
Community Broadband Bits Episode 288 - Robin Anderson of National Information Systems Cooperative

With only about 757,000 residents and more than 710,000 square miles North Dakota is ranked 53rd in population density among U.S. states, territories, and Washington DC. There may not be many people there, but North Dakota has some of the best connectivity in the United States. Why? Rural cooperatives and independent companies have made continued investments.

In episode 288, Christopher interviews Robin Anderson, Sales Manager for National Information Solutions Cooperative. Robin’s been working in the industry for years and has been involved in bringing better Internet access to rural areas in North Dakota. She has firsthand experience with the issues that arise during deployments and describes the camaraderie that grew naturally out of necessity when small, independent providers worked to achieve their goals to improve connectivity for cooperative members and rural subscribers.

Robin also touches on how federal loan funding helped so many of the cooperatives get started with fiber and how they took the next steps to self-fund as the demand grew. Christopher and Robin talk about the economics of fiber optic networks for cooperatives and the reasoning behind fiber investment in rural areas. They discuss some specific examples of the way collaboration in North Dakota has resulted in better networks.

Read the transcript for this show here.

This show is 28 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: north dakotaruralcooperativerusloanfederal fundingaudiopodcastbroadband bits

Funds For Fiber In Blandford, Massachusetts

January 9, 2018

Blandford, Massachusetts, will work with Westfield Gas & Electric (WG+E) to develop a publicly owned fiber optic network. In order to help get the project started, the state’s Last Mile Program has awarded Blandford a $1 million grant.

The funding grant is part of $45 million allocated to broadband infrastructure last fall. In November 2016, the Governor signed a bill that directed the funding to help improve connectivity in western and north central Massachusetts.

Blandford’s network will connect to approximately 96 percent of its premises, including all the residents located on the town's public roads. A little more than 1,200 people live in the town that covers about 53 square miles. The hilltown community is known for the Blandford Ski Area, which has operated for more than 80 years.

Working With Westfield

Blandford joins a list of other western Massachusetts communities looking to WG+E for their expertise and to act as project managers. WG+E trucks began working in Otis last June and the towns of Ashfield, Shutesbury, Goshen, Colrain, Rowe, Chesterfield, Alford, and Heath have also decided to work with WG+E.

Westfield announced almost a year ago that a Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) pilot project had been so successful that they determined expanding the project to a citywide network made the most sense. Since then, they’ve been expanding one neighborhood at a time and are still working on covering the entire community of 42,000.

In the mean time, WG+E has also branched out to work with other communities like Blandford. They’ve helped prove that even small communities can establish high-quality Internet network infrastructure. WG+E have taken on differing roles with these other municipal partners, depending on what level of expertise the community seeks.

Learn more about WG+E’s network and their work with neighboring communities in episode 205 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast.

Tags: blandford mamassachusettsgrantwestfield mamunilast mileruralFTTH

Community Broadband Media Roundup- January 8

January 8, 2018

Colorado

After beating cable lobby, Colorado city moves ahead with muni broadband By Jon Brodkin, Ars Technica

The city council in Fort Collins, Colorado, last night voted to move ahead with a municipal fiber broadband network providing gigabit speeds, two months after the cable industry failed to stop the project.

Fort Collins, Colorado moves ahead with civic broadband after net neutrality repeal By Anna Hensel, Venture Beat

Fort Collins, Colo., Will Create Broadband Utility, 'Committed' To Net Neutrality By Bill Chappell, NPR

On its webpage devoted to the broadband project, Fort Collins says that the city "is committed to the principles of Net Neutrality," adding, "The City Broadband Plan does not call for any restrictions on access including uploads, downloads, delivery methods or providers (email, Skype, Netflix, etc.)."

The broadband plan is going ahead despite a Colorado law that prohibits local governments from creating broadband networks; Fort Collins voters overrode that law in 2015. In November, 19 more Colorado cities and counties voted to opt out of the law — joining around 100 others in the state, The Denver Post reported.

Fort Collins Votes to Build Its Own Gigabit Broadband Network by Karl Bode, DLS Report

A Colorado Town’s Municipal Broadband Will Ensure Local Net Neutrality By Brad Jones, Futurism

 

Kentucky

Glasgow, Ky. Nears End of Negotiations to Install Broadband via Kentucky Wired By Melinda J. Overstreet, Gov Tech

 

Massachusetts

Blandford gets $1 million state grant to build broadband network with Westfield Gas & Electric By Hope E. Tremblay, MassLive

"The ability to have fiber to the home is absolutely critical for the long-term stability of the town and ability to attract new residents to our community," said Adam Dolby, chair of the Blandford Select Board, in a press release. "This project would not be possible without the dedicated commitment of our Municipal Light Board and the incredible support (both logistical and financial) from the Baker-Polito Administration.  We are excited to begin working with Westfield Gas & Electric on our implementation."

$1 Million awarded to support broadband connectivity in Blandford By Samantha Kaufman, WWLP

 

Minnesota

Dakota Broadband becoming a reality By Kara Hildreth, Farmington Independent

'If it were easy it would have been done by now': Why high-speed internet remains elusive for many in rural Minnesota By Tim Gihring, Minnpost

 

North Carolina

2017 ‘a year of momentum’ in Wilson By Brie Handgraaf, Wilson Times

The Federal Communications Commission’s repeal of Obama-era “net neutrality” rules in December had broadband customers again wondering about the future of their connection to Greenlight. Will Aycock, general manager for Greenlight, reassured customers that the public utility wouldn’t compromise access.

“The market continues to evolve and future efforts to ensure equitable access to a free and open internet will require collaboration,” Aycock said. “Communities seeking to address these issues should consider all options, in particular public-private partnerships with existing providers as well as new entrants that want to compete to deliver high-speed broadband service.”

 

Texas

Reichman: City should do more to promote broadband By Jeff Reichman, Houston Chronicle

At the core of the net neutrality repeal is the idea that broadband competition will give consumers more options. In other words, if one internet service provider starts blocking your favorite sites or slowing down your video stream, or if your provider is too slow or too expensive or too unreliable, you should be able to take your business elsewhere. The city can do more to encourage competition between broadband internet providers.

 

General

Net Neutrality: Will US users swerve around non-neutral ISPs? By Ian Scales, Telecom TV

Connect Americans Now aims to improve rural broadband By Connect Americans Now, Farm Futures

Protecting Net Neutrality at the State and Local Level, Indivisible

A hyperlocal way to ensure net neutrality is for cities to create their own independent internet provider. Being free from the whims of companies such as Verizon and Comcast, localities can ensure that their public internet is net neutral. Unfortunately, 20 states* have posed some barriers to enacting municipal broadband. In those states, state lawmakers need pressure to overturn the roadblocks. In other states, local mayors and city councils could work to establish municipal broadband.

The FCC is Preparing to Weaken the Definition of Broadband by Karl Bode, DSL Reports

Can municipal broadband save the open internet? By Danny Crichton, TechCrunch

Unfortunately for millions of Americans, they have almost no choice in the matter either way. According to an analysis from the Institute for Local Self Reliance (ILSR), roughly 129 million Americans have options for internet access only from previous net neutrality violators. And for tens of millions of Americans who still only have one ISP to “choose,” there is little hope of avoiding the effects of net neutrality.

The FCC Disqualified a Bunch of Rural Communities from Receiving Internet Funding After Big Telecom Said They Already Have Internet By Kaleigh Rogers, Motherboard

“You might have a census block outside of a city that comes close to the city, so a few people can get DSL there, and then the entire block is considered to have access when in fact it does not,” said Christopher Mitchell, director of community broadband networks for the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, a nonprofit that advocates for local solutions for sustainable development. “That’s important here because the FCC is removing a lot of census blocks from potential subsidies on the assumption that everyone in that block has service.”

Is the US Municipal Broadband movement about to gather pace? By Ian Scales, Telecom TV

Tags: media roundup

Longmont Reduces Rate For Residential Gig

January 8, 2018

In the midst of price increase announcements from Comcast and others for 2018, gigabit subscribers in Longmont, Colorado, are enjoying a price decrease from their publicly owned network, NextLight.

Happy New Year

As of January 1st, standard residential gigabit Internet access rates dropped from $99.95 per month to $69.95 per month. According to Longmont Power and Communications (LPC), about 28 existing subscribers obtained gigabit speeds at the old rate; along with any new gigabit subscribers, the existing customers will receive the new rate.

In addition to this most recent price reduction, NextLight offers a loyalty bonus for subscribers who obtain service for 12 continuous months. Gigabit subscribers who qualify have rates reduced to $59.95 per month. Charter Members — residents who subscribe for services within three months that service is available within their area — are able to receive gigabit connectivity for $49.95 per month as long as they keep their services. Charter Member rates stay with the premise if they sell their home and take that rate with them to their new residence. NextLight subscribers can also sign up for 25 Mbps service for $39.95 per month.

All speeds are symmetrical so subscribers can take advantage of the robust upload speeds. Subscribers are better positioned to work from home and establish at-home businesses. With symmetrical connectivity, Longmont’s school children can take full advantage of web based home work programs and adults who want to pursue distance learning don’t have the hurdle of poor Internet access to handicap their goals.

Part Of The Success

In addition to affordable rates, NextLight offers promotions to increase sign-ups. Subscribers who successfully refer others will get one month of free service for each new subscriber. NextLight is extending the promotion to its Digital Voice service during the first three months in 2018.

"We're customer-based and customer-focused," Longmont Power and Communications General Manager Tom Roiniotis said in a statement.

"This is a further opportunity for residents who didn't sign up during the initial city wide buildout so that they can become part of the success that Colorado's first Gig City has proven to be."

Tags: longmontcoloradoratespricesmunigigabitsymmetryFTTH

Arlington, Virginia, Delivers Digital Inclusion

January 5, 2018

People living at the Arlington Mill Residences in Arlington, Virginia, are on track to obtain no-cost high-quality connectivity this fall, likely through the ConnectArlington network. The initiative is an example of how one local community plans to use its publicly owned Internet infrastructure to reduce the digital divide on its home turf.

The Homework Gap

Within Arlington Mill’s 122 affordable units, live 159 children; approximately half of the residences do not subscribe to an Internet access service. Because homework is increasingly dependent on a child’s ability to work online, kids at Arlington Mills must contend with the problem of finding access to computers and the Internet. For households that do subscribe, no-cost Internet access would free up monthly resources from $50 - $75 per month.

The Department of Technology Services (DTS) and Department of Community Planning, Housing, and Development (CPHD) are collaborating to support the Arlington Digital Inclusion initiative. The initiative will start in Arlington Mills by providing free Wi-Fi to each unit and will eventually move to other properties owned by the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing (APAH). As the program moves forward, the city plans to seek out private donations and other grants to reduce the digital divide. The program will also be exploring ways to help residents obtain reduced cost or free devices or computers to take advantage of the high-quality connectivity. APAH has already applied for a 2019 Community Development Fund grant to cover the cost of training and notebook computers for residents.

APAH expects to choose an ISP that will use ConnectArlington, the county's dark fiber network infrastructure.

The network began offering dark fiber services to business customers in 2015, but the infrastructure has been in place since 2012. Arlington took advantage of several infrastructure projects, including traffic control upgrades and other public safety improvements, to expand its fiber footprint. In 2014, Christopher spoke with Jack Belcher, who shared ConnectArlington's backstory, for episode 97 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast.

County Funding

A grant supported by county Tax Increment Funding (TIF) will pay to get the project rolling. In December, the Arlington County Board unanimously voted to approve the $94,500 grant to APAH, which will cover the cost of hardware and software, maintenance, and approximately $25,000 toward Internet service, and dark fiber fees to ConnectArlington, if the ISP APAH chooses delivers services via the publicly owned infrastructure. As APAH looks for an ISP, they will seek out a provider that is willing to make in-kind contributions to cover any fees beyond the amount prescribed by the grant.

Funding for this project comes from the Columbia Pike TIF, which was established “to help finance affordable housing initiatives and other public services and improvements as determined by the County Board in support of the Columbia Pike Neighborhoods Area Plan.” The fund supports infrastructure improvements for affordable housing; the Arlington Mill Residences are within the neighborhood.

Read more about the initiative in the staff report.

Other communities have used TIF to fund Internet infrastructure build-outs, including Eugene, Oregon, and Valparaiso, Indiana. TIF allows a community to borrow against future increases in property tax revenue in an area where a project will be developed.

Not Only Students

While it’s true that many of the residents are Arlington Mill attend school, other people living in the apartments also need Internet access. There are elderly folks and others who need to use the Internet to access health information, apply for jobs, and research essential services. Right now, many of them must find access away from home to complete those tasks.

“APAH is thrilled by the County’s support for bridging the digital divide for our residents at Arlington Mill,” said APAH President and CEO Nina Janopaul. “Half of our residents have no reliable access to the Internet. Students use Internet portals to complete their homework. Parents need the Internet to follow their children’s progress in school. Workers need the Internet to apply for jobs. This program removes a major barrier for our residents to fully participate in our community.”

Image of Arlington County by Arlington County [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

Tags: arlingtonvirginiadark fiberdigital dividelow-incomemdueducationtax increment financinggrant

UTOPIA Reaches Milestone

January 4, 2018

Thing’s have been looking up for the Utah Telecommunications Open Infrastructure Agency’s fiber optic network (UTOPIA) in recent years and in December network officials reported they’ve reached a significant financial milestone. For the first time since the open access network began operations in 2003, revenue will cover bond payments and will provide a 2 percent dividend to most of the member communities.

Despite The Limitations

In keeping with state restrictions, UTOPIA can only provide wholesale services via their fiber infrastructure. Ten ISPs offer residential services on the network, which establishes ample competition and all its benefits for subscribers, including lower prices, better customer service, and the ability to switch providers. Businesses can choose from 25 ISPs.

The wholesale-only model, however, significantly reduces the revenue communities can expect from their investment, which was the case with UTOPIA. The eleven member cities bonded approximately $185 million, but revenue limits due to the restriction, some early management decisions, and general apprehension from member communities, created political controversy. At one point, member communities considered selling out to Australian investment firm Macquarie.

Fortitude Paying Off

In 2011, eight of the member communities created the Utopia Infrastructure Agency (UIA) in order to spur more network expansion. UIA collaborates with UTOPIA as a separate entity; its purpose is to deploy the network in more locations and connect more premises and has issued the dividend to its member communities.

Communities in the region chose to stick with their investment, however, and gradually, as Jesse Harris from FreeUTOPIA noted in 2016, negative public opinion turned around. Things for the eleven member communities were on an upward trajectory and soon neighboring communities would also experience the benefits of the publicly owned network.

Last spring, UTOPIA started a branching into nonmember towns by entering into a franchise agreement with Bountiful, Utah. Executive director Roger Timmerman described the deal as a “natural progression” and a “win-win for both UTOPIA and non-UTOPIA cities alike.” Network officials have since entered into similar agreements with Kayesville and Springville City. They’ve also discussed an arrangement with Taylorsville.

As the network grows, reaches more premises, and brings in more revenue, member communities like Orem feel more secure in their initial investment. The additional revenue goes a long way toward debt service for the necessary infrastructure.

“That is a savings of $50,000 to Orem,” said Roger Timmerman, UTOPIA’s executive director.

“A portion of the debt being covered by UTOPIA/UIA is as much about the money as it is about the message this sends to Orem residents about the direction that the organization is heading,” [Orem city spokesman Steven] Downs said. “It is a large financial benefit to have the debt payment being offset, but it also clearly suggests that the demand for this service is increasing rapidly.”

UIA continues to deploy throughout the region, having recently completed construction in an area near a local golf course. This spring they will begin more construction in Orem to meet intense demand, according to Timmerman. Four hundred homes in Orem connected in 2017 bringing the current total in the community to 1,200. The UTOPIA network will pass an additional 2,000 in Orem in 2018.

Downs added, “In my four years working for Orem city, I am yet to encounter someone who has said that they don’t need greater Internet capacity in their home, and it is unlikely that the demand for bandwidth will ever decrease.”

Tags: utopiautahregionalopen accesswholesale-onlyfranchiserevenuebondexpansion

Transcript: Community Broadband Bits Episode 285

January 3, 2018

This is the transcript for episode 285 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. Christopher Mitchell sits down with David Young of Lincoln, Nebraska, again to discuss 5G and competition. Listen to this episode here.

David Young: It's definitely a passion for Lincoln. Oftentimes you hear stories about how government restricts investment our government hampers investment the Lincoln broadband model was specifically designed to encourage investment. You

Lisa Gonzalez: You are listening to episode 285 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. I'm Lisa Gonzalez. We always like reporting on Lincoln, Nebraska. The community of about 280000 people in the eastern side of the state started with a plan to install conduit to attract private providers. Over the past few years their investment has attracted an ISP interested in providing fiber to the premise began a small cell project for better local mobile service and increased competition. Nebraska is one of around 20 states with laws that usurp local telecommunications authority. Lincoln found a way to make local lemonade out of state lemons. When Christopher attended the broadband community's economic development conference in Atlanta in November he had the opportunity to talk with David Young. David has been on the show before and took some time to share an update on what's been going on with Lincoln. And there is a lot. Now here's Christopher with David Young from Lincoln, Nebraska.

Christopher Mitchell: Welcome to another edition of the Community Broadband Bits podcasts coming to you live from a hotel room overlooking the Atlanta runway's which you may hear from time to time. This is Chris Mitchell with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. Once again with David Young the fiber infrastructure and right of way manager from Lincoln Nebraska. Welcome back. Thank you. Thank you Chris. It's great to have you back. As you said there has been many people at this event where broadband communities in Atlanta for the fall series of the economic development gathering. It's a wonderful event and everyone who's here has listened to you apparently on a podcast in the past. That's been nice.

David Young: That or they're just being really nice. I don't know

Christopher Mitchell: Right. The fact that they're aware that you and I get together, I'll take that.

David Young: Yes. I think everybody who listens to your podcast is here.

Christopher Mitchell: Let's so let's just recap very briefly. What's interesting about Lincoln? What you've done. That you don't tell us everything, but for people who haven't gone back yet but will go back upon listening to this show. What's a very quick thumbnail sketch of what you've done in Lincoln?

David Young: So what Lincoln did was build a broadband infrastructure model that complies with existing restrictive state laws but yet encouraged investment of over $200 million in broadband in our community we have competitive access we have affordable access. We have net neutrality provisions and we have infrastructure all by creating a plan and partnering with the private sector to deliver that plan

Christopher Mitchell: And who are you partnering with?

David Young: Oh the list.

Christopher Mitchell: Well let's talk in particular, the fiber to the home company.

David Young: Fiber-to-the-Home is Allo communications,

Christopher Mitchell: Allo -- A L L O.

David Young: Yes. French for hello I believe. Not Google, Allo which is a different thing.

Christopher Mitchell: They stole it.

David Young: Yes that was very interesting to see in the stadium this last weekend.

Christopher Mitchell: Yes and the University of Minnesota Football Games we also have the Allo ads.

David Young: Yes. And you can't tell us is it a good thing or a bad thing. I don't know. I don't think Allo appreciates it. Allo communications at least. But it is kind of interesting. Everybody thinks that Google by Allo communications. How did that happen?

Christopher Mitchell: Yeah no, name collisions are brutal, yes. Now the other piece of what you've done you have this wonderful conduit which I'm going to sideline. People can learn a bunch of your previous podcasts as every attendee of this conference knows. And we did a separate discussion. I was also talking about small cells. What's Lincoln doing on small cells? and this is one of my favorite things. What's your main motivation on small cells?

David Young: We're really focused on fiber business and Fiber-to-the-Home. Fiber for Mobile is the next frontier for Lincoln, and so small cells encouraging the investment in small cells by creating a standard process or a standard poll and a standard path to yes for carriers has been very exciting.

David Young: We have I think 45 polls that were approved in this last group of permits are submitted and we have another 45 50 polls will be submitted even before the end of the year. And our goal is to deploy 200 small cells in the next year to half and up to 500 by 2020. And

Christopher Mitchell: you've discussed how you've already have a contract with Verizon. You're not actually the one deploying you're enabling them and working with them to get it done.

David Young: We do. Verizon contracts with the city. We also have a contract with Sprint and before the city council in two weeks we have a contract with and that which is AT&T vendor. And so our goal is to have all three carriers with contracts before the end of 17 and then next year if T-Mobile is listening you should give me a call.

Christopher Mitchell: One of the things that I always enjoy about your discussion is that there is a focus about what the proper role of the city is in many of us would like to see cities that are getting an appropriate compensation that's commensurate with some of the value of using public rights of way for the billing equipment. But the focus should be on enabling investment in the community and that's something that you've kind of had your priorities lined up on.

David Young: It's definitely a passion for Lincoln. Oftentimes you hear stories about how government restricts investment our government hampers investment the Lincoln broadband model was specifically designed to encourage investment so fast churn times on permits. Easy to understand agreements. Fair compensation for both parties. Really at the core of what we do. It's a very customer service focused program and the customers in this instance are the infrastructure providers. So cable companies telephone companies broadband companies cell phone companies. We want to do business with them. We want the investment in Lincoln and we do that by making ourselves fair easy to understand and making the process very clear. And we've been rewarded with over 200 million dollars in private investment starting this program.

Speaker 8: So one of the things that you've also been rewarded with is a kind of seat at the table with state negotiations. We haven't talked about it a lot on this show but there are many discussions at the state level some of them don't have a whole lot of representation from the municipal side. But your experiences give you credibility and you were able to talk with some of these folks who are on the industry's side maybe pushing too hard and making overly broad promises about what's going to happen if the state kind of steamrolls municipal networks to let sit these big companies do whatever they want.

David Young: So yes last year I was involved in the small cell bill that was in Nebraska and I think 30 other state bills many of which failed. A few of which passed and several other ones were passed are now being litigated. The challenge is there's always two sides to every story. Some of the hesitance by communities to allow this infrastructure to be built is understandable based on past behavior of a few players in the industry. Fast forward 20 years municipalities haven't forgot that and they're very challenged with some of these models. But the reality is we need to deploy the infrastructure and not every community is like Lincoln welcoming people with open arms and standard agreements and have put the work in to build those models so the carriers are going to the state they went to the Fed in 2015 and were denied.

David Young: So now they're going to the states. Some states senators don't necessarily understand the technology and some do.

David Young: But in Nebraska specifically the carriers came in and committed to the mantra they were using was just going to be the answer for rural broadband. And we asked for commitments specific monetary commitments timelines schedules for when they were going to deploy in rural broadband with the specificity in place we would be happy to support a state wide agreement. The carriers backed off and said no it really wasn't about rural broadband now it's about you know paying too much. Wow. We have a market rate approach to how we created our leasing model. Here's the infrastructure and you guys agreed to it. OK well it's not about that then and now it's about process. So I think it's a little disingenuous sometimes. And if we're all going to have a you know open and honest conversation yes we need to deploy the infrastructure yes we need to make the process fair.

David Young: Yes the compensation needs to be fair. If you're going to as a carrier if you're going to commit to a trillion dollars of infrastructure for rural America. Great. Let's talk about a public utility model where you know the attachments are ten dollars. If you're not going to do that and I don't see anybody lining up to do that then I think you should pay market rates. I think that's fair.

Christopher Mitchell: One of the things that you and I have talked about and I use in my presentation to the entire room taking full credit myself is for this builds on something that people should be aware of which is there's a lot of talk about 5G as though it will be a big solution in rural areas. First of all the 5G specification hasn't settled what it is. It is not widely believed to be particularly friendly to rural. It's more of an urban kind of technology.

David Young: Right. Short range high bandwidth. Yes.

Christopher Mitchell: Right. And so there is definitely a sense many of us that industry is just telling a credulous group of legislators anything to get their way. Now you suggested that hey if this is the claim that this is going be great for rural America how about the just report you know some of them invest more their investments are so we can have a sense over multiple years whereas this technology being deployed. How was that received.

David Young: It's challenging. Mean you don't want to paint your the other side of the table as being dishonest or having nefarious goals in mind their business and they're trying to do business for themselves. I appreciate that. I think that that's where the voters expect that the city to come in and play fair. It should be the service should be for everybody.

David Young: As you know the carriers push back on all requests for any reporting or or any kind of mandated deployment schedule or service for all that's just not a model they want to be in. It's interesting what's happening at the FCC right now whether or not broadband will remain a title to infrastructure and whether that will be pushed onto cellular communications. And if it is I think you have an interesting model there. But right now under this administration I don't think that's going to happen.

Christopher Mitchell: Let's switch gears a little bit to talk about U.S. ignite that's what's going on with you'll see that people will be aware of what does U.S. ignite.

David Young: Honestly very exciting stuff right now a lot of buzz in the municipal broadband community. Yes Ignite is a partnership between National Science Foundation and Northwestern University. And what they're doing is creating programs to utilize next generation gigabit networks US Ignite has several programs smart gigabit communities power platform for advanced wireless research and gigabit applications.

David Young: And they are creating coalitions of cities to work together on these problems and in order to be in the game you have to have a gigabit community you have to have a fibre network. And it's very exciting. Some of the things are working on even not being awarded grants just the process of going through creating your collaboration with US Ignite which anybody can find out more information at US hyphen ignite dot org. It really has caused our community our Chamber of Commerce our university our city our nonprofit organizations to come together and start looking at next generation what are we doing to research how we're using these networks and the economic value of the network to our community specifically the power projects are amazing. Even though Lincoln was not awarded the power project we're moving forward with building a test bed for wireless next next generation wireless infrastructure by partnering with five different industries.

David Young: And it's amazing just having the conversation. So yes ignite really I think he's doing very good work and raising the bar for communities who now have gigabit networks on how to use them and who to partner with. Do

Christopher Mitchell: you feel like you would be doing these sorts of interesting things if you weren't involved in some level with expanding infrastructure and improving infrastructure in the city.

David Young: You know it's tough. I love what I do. I love the industry that I work in. I don't know of a more exciting infrastructure to work with really.

Christopher Mitchell: So let me ask you how do you think US Ignite makes a difference in Lincoln in coming years? I mean you mentioned that there was like this partnership more people working together.

David Young: What's actually happening on the ground in Lincoln. US Ignite is working with us to connect our coworking space to our supercomputer at the University with the 10 gig network and then taking that infrastructure and connecting it to internet too. So entrepreneurs in the coworking space and Lincoln will be able to access 30 city gigabit initiatives to work on those applications via 10 gig to 100 gig connection at no cost. So that is exciting for us. That's one thing we had not thought of doing until talking with us ignite on their SGC smart gigabit communities project and we hope to have that live first quarter of 2018.

Christopher Mitchell: Great. Well thank you David for coming back on the show and I look forward to having you again in 2018 with some exciting new project.

Christopher Mitchell: Good to talk to you Chris as always. Thanks.

Lisa Gonzalez: That was Christopher with David Young from Lincoln, Nebraska. We've interviewed David before on the podcast so be sure to check out other conversations about Lincoln's projects and stories we've written. To learn more we have transcripts from this and other podcasts available at many networks dot org slash broadband bits. Email us at podcast at me dot org with your ideas for the show. Follow Chris on Twitter. His handle is @CommunityNets. Follow MuniNetworks.org stories on Twitter where the handle's @MuniNetworks. Subscribe to this podcast and the other

ILSR podcasts: building local power and the local energy rules podcast you can access them from Apple podcasts stitcher or wherever else you get your podcasts. Never miss out on our original research by also subscribing to our monthly newsletter at eyeless our dot org. Thank you to Arne Huseby for the song "Warm Duck Shuffle" licensed through Creative Commons and thanks for listening to episode 285 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast.

Link: Tags: transcript