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Transcript: Community Broadband Bits Episode 256

June 6, 2017

This is the transcript for episode 255 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast. Doug Seacat from Clearnetworx joins Christopher Mitchell to discuss small private providers and big Telecom. Listen to this episode here.

Doug Seacat: That's definitely hurt the community as far as the competition build out in that area, and I think CenturyLink for that purpose definitely won.

Lisa Gonzalez: This is episode 256 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast from the Institute For Local Self-Reliance. I'm Lisa Gonzalez. Building a new Internet network requires expertise, planning, and funding. It's especially difficult for new entrants in a market where incumbents have a foothold and rules may work in their favor. In this interview with Doug Seacat from Clearnetworx we learn about some of the challenges his company's faced as it's worked to bring better connectivity to region 10 communities in Colorado. Christopher met up with Doug recently at the Mountain Connect Conference in Colorado to talk about Doug's experience. Check out what services the company offers at clearnetworx.com. Now, here's Christopher with Doug Seacat.

Christopher Mitchell: Welcome to another edition of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast. I'm Chris Mitchell. Today I'm coming at you from Mountain Connect in lovely Keystone, Colorado. I'm here with Doug Seacat, the owner of Clearnetworx. Welcome to the show.

Doug Seacat: Thank you. Glad to be here.

Christopher Mitchell: You are from Ridgway.

Doug Seacat: I'm actually from Montrose, Colorado. It's about 20 miles North of Ridgway.

Christopher Mitchell: Right. We're going to be talking about Ridgway. This is hardcore Western Rocky Mountains. Right? You've got a famous gorge right by there. Right?

Doug Seacat: Yeah. Well, Black Canyon's just right up the road. Yes. And we have broadband issues, just like everybody else.

Christopher Mitchell: So tell me about Clearnetworx. What is Clearnetworx?

Doug Seacat: Well, I've owned a company, actually Deeply Digital, for about 14 years in Montrose, and we service all the different communities around there. We take care of the schools and community area, as far as the governments and stuff there, so Montrose, Ridgway, Ouray are where we've been working for the last 14 years. We started Clearnetworx about four years ago to provide better Internet, because a lot of our customers didn't have that, and so in the last four years we've been building out fiber for the most part in those communities with some wireless to get to some of the outside areas that we couldn't serve with the fiber.

Christopher Mitchell: You're a private company. You don't get municipal money. You're not a municipal government or anything like that, just a standard company.

Doug Seacat: That's right. We had one big customer that needed served, and they called CenturyLink, asked for some service. CenturyLink gave them a quote and started the project. We approved the project. We approved the project, and, you know, I was working as an IT consultant for Deeply Digital for that customer. CenturyLink got there and said. "Well, I can not provide service like we thought we could."

Christopher Mitchell: It's not the first time I've heard that.

Doug Seacat: So I said, "Well, I guess we'll figure it out." We ran about two miles of fiber then for that company, and at that time we went to both the city and our local power company. They had some fiber also in those areas, and we needed some connections from them, which they asked me to go into -- There was another private company that was working on some fiber for a school at the same time in town, so they asked both of us to worked together. If we would work together, then the city and the power company would also work with us, so we kind of joined a new company, which was Clearnetworx at that time, and the power company and city gave us some access to some conduit and fiber that we needed to make those two connections happen. That's really where we started. We had about four miles of fiber at that point with their two miles and our two miles.

Christopher Mitchell: What's that power company?

Doug Seacat: DMEA.

Christopher Mitchell: Right. We've talked about them a little bit, Delta-Montrose Electric Association, a co-op. It's doing a lot of interesting things also.

Doug Seacat: That's right. Fast forward four years. They've talked about now purchasing us, and we've been building fiber for those last four years, and now they're interested in taking us on and working with us to continue that effort.

Christopher Mitchell: Right, but what brings us to this discussion and why Ridgway was on my brain was that you sought some state funding to be able to serve Ridgway with fiber networks that was available. I would term is as you ran into a buzzsaw. You kind of got screwed by the Public Utility Commission. I guess just briefly, what was the fund that you were seeking money from to be able to expand in Ridgway?

Doug Seacat: Well, I got some emails from several different entities in the community. You know, the county officials sent me an email, forwarded an email about the Colorado Broadband Fund. There was $2.4 million set aside for smaller, private companies to build out last mile. The DOLA funds were kind of set aside for middle mile, and this was supposed to be kind of a piece I think on top of that to get that fiber out to the last mile needs. We were kind of excited. We had already started a little bit of an idea with Ridgway and Ouray both, and we'd looked at both of those communities and decided that Ridgway was maybe our best opportunity to get some funding for. So we worked with the city and county officials there and came up with a plan to provide fiber to every home in Ridgway City and the outlying areas around Ridgway right there and then to also provide some LTE fixed wireless to some of the further subdivisions that we didn't feel like we could reach with fiber. We worked pretty hard. That was the first grant we'd ever gone for or even thought about trying for. You know, we're not grant experts by any means, but we knew how to build a fiber network, and so we thought we'd try it. I remember staying up super late several nights putting together that thing, and I had some great help with a few of our employees. We put together some that looked fairly official and sent it in. A few weeks later we found out that we had won that grant, and so we were very excited, but we knew there were some uphill processes that had to happen or would most likely happen, which did. We went through those, and it was a little bit of a challenge. We had to go through that process.

Christopher Mitchell: So Ridgway is a small mountain community. It already is served by CenturyLink, the telephone company that serves most of Colorado, but it's a few hundred people. What's the demographics of it like?

Doug Seacat: Yeah. The population of Ridgway's about 1,050 or so. The number that we had some up with were about 565 buildings in that community, and so we were planning on reaching those buildings, and those homes and businesses both, with fiber.

Christopher Mitchell: Here's where we get into I think more of the policy issue that I find insanely frustrating, which is the power of the CenturyLink in this case, but generally big telephone and cable companies that shape the law. Colorado has implemented what we call a right of first refusal to this grant program. We've seen this in many states, where basically you spent all this time, a small company, figuring out how to connect this community with fiber. In good faith you present it, you win the award, and then CenturyLink gets to appeal and say, "Actually, you have to give the money to us, because we were here first, and we are now going to do something there, even though we weren't going to build in Ridgway before. Now we will, basically because A, we'll get money to do it from the state, and B, we'll prevent competition from this other firm, Clearnetworx, that would have gone in with the money to build the network." Is that a correct characterization?

Doug Seacat: Yeah. I definitely didn't understand it at first. I knew there was this first right of refusal, and what did that mean exactly? I guess I didn't fully understand it. I probably should have checked into that a little bit more. After winning it, then I realized, "Well, shoot. Now, if they win the appeal process, they actually get that money," you know, which not only do I lose the million dollars that we needed or thought we had run, but I'm also now giving it to my competition to help compete with a company that doesn't have those funds to work with in the first place. There's stiff competition as it is, and so now here I just gave the another million dollars to compete against me, which was definitely frustrating once I figured that out, how that worked.

Christopher Mitchell: Now, one of the challenges is, and I think I have to look at the actual legislation, but it is not supposed to be the case that CenturyLink can say, "Well, we're just going to do some DSL, and we'll get the money, and that will deny it to Clearnetworx," because they should have to be doing something that's functionally similar. Right? Yet it sounds to me like through the appeals process maybe the people that were hearing the appeal didn't really understand the technologies involved, they were confused, or something. Can you walk us through how that happens? Because I think in theory if CenturyLink comes back and says, "Well, we could do DSL here," the board should have probably said, "Well, that's not what's being proposed." You know? We could spend a lot of money and get a really great network, or we could spend a little bit less money, but still a fair amount of money, and get nothing that's great, and not only on top of that, but something that we'll need a subsidy in five more years anyway to upgrade."

Doug Seacat: Right. Yeah. Well, that was the process. They had to come back with a plan that was sufficient and similar to our plan. We presented what we wanted to do. They were then given that plan to look at and figure out their plan and how they would tackle the same problem in Ridgway with getting service. When they came back their plan was to provide DSL and to upgrade some of their equipment to be able to provide faster speeds, but also to still stick with the same DSL technology, or maybe a little better DSL technology, but still using copper.

Christopher Mitchell: It sounds like it wasn't exactly clear, and they were kind I would say nebulous, which is, it's smart of them to do that, because they won.

Doug Seacat: But they were specific on what they were going to do. They are going to pull fiber to a couple of their DLSAMs and upgrade the equipment inside of those equipment racks for them to be able to provide better service in that area, but it was still a copper to the premise technology, depending on what technology they use necessarily is I guess indifferent to me. It's not fiber. It's something different. The first appeal, when they brought that back, the board did say, "Well, that is not similar." We actually won that first appeal and they were denied, but then the second appeal they came back again, a second time, and said, "Well, we're still going to use DSL, but we're going to offer 100-Megs (Mbps) service." We had also said we're offering 100-Megs (Mbps) service, so during the board discussion that kind of became we're both providing 100-Megs (Mbps) service, not really ones on DSL and one's on fiber, as much as we're both providing 100-Megs (Mbps) service.

Christopher Mitchell: To me it just seems ridiculous, knowing the technologies, because it's kind of like saying, "I'm going to build an interstate," and they have a dirt road, but they're arguing, "You can drive 100 miles per hour on our dirt road too. Right? Which is not correct and is not a proper comparison, so it's frustrating.

Doug Seacat: And only in one direction. We never even talked about upload speeds or what that meant.

Christopher Mitchell: Yeah. Of course, you were going to be providing 100-Megabits (Mbps), but that wasn't the ceiling. You could go much higher--

Doug Seacat: That's where we started. Right.

Christopher Mitchell: Exactly. I mean, to some extent did you feel like the board really had a sense of what was going on, or did they just have a sense that they were doing apples to apples and one costs less?

Doug Seacat: Well, I think it's kind of a perfect storm. There was just a lot of weather that day. The entire board membership did not make it to the meeting. There was some board members that definitely had the technical knowledge to understand the difference, and I think there was some board members that are just community officials, that 100-Megabits (Mbps) means the same thing to them, no matter what the technology. I probably needed to educate the board a little bit more and didn't fully understand that. I assumed the board members all understood the difference. It sounds like in this decision they could not use technology as a deciding factor. I mean, it had to be agnostic to technology, which is a piece that I feel like needs to change somewhat with that money. It doesn't make sense to spend money on an old technology, like you said, that's going to need to upgraded again in five years. Why waste that money now?

Christopher Mitchell: Well, when you say agnostic to technology I think, if I understand correctly, they shouldn't be choosing fiber over DSL just because it's fiber, but on the other hand, I think, you know, you're taking a lot of responsibility, when in fact I would say it's bad policy if we're expecting small business owners to become expert arguers in front of boards on these policies. That's not a good way of doing it, because it will always privilege the companies that have lots of lawyers. If you had argued that you were going to offer a gigabit, or even 10-Gigabit, or something like that, then probably they would have had a reason to go with you, or if there was able to bring the upload in and you could make that understanding.

Doug Seacat: We had to provide what we would charge for services, and I had a gig service on there. The board members I don't think fully knew our package or what we were offering. They probably read all the different proposals, you know, three or four months ago, and by the time this process was happening they had forgotten that we were offering 100-Megs (Mbps) and a gig. They just started talking about 100-Megs (Mbps), because that's what CenturyLink brought up, and I didn't have the ability to argue or to bring up, "well, we're also offering a gig." I definitely felt like if they would have known and read the proposals again before that board meeting, it would have been completely different, but it was what I brought up in that 20 minutes I had to talk, and I didn't discuss speeds all that much, because I felt like that wasn't even in question anymore. That first appeal process went over that, and they said that the speeds were not even a question, that our speeds were way faster. The second appeal was more about the number of people being served, and CenturyLink argued that they were servicing about 1,050, which is abut the population size, and I was arguing I was offering connection to 565 buildings.

Christopher Mitchell: Which is the correct measure.

Doug Seacat: You know, we can sit there and argue that, but --

Christopher Mitchell: I don't know about you, but my son lives in my home. He's another person, but he does not pay a separate bill for our Comcast line.

Doug Seacat: Right. That was my point, but that didn't seem to go over quite with the board, and our maps were identical. That's what I brought to the second meeting was our two maps. I put them up on the board and showed that our maps were identical, but the number of people in question was definitely a point that they made and decided I think to give it to CenturyLink based on their numbers versus mine.

Christopher Mitchell: So CenturyLink is doing something with copper now. They didn't get the full amount you would have got, because they're costs are lower, because they already have some infrastructure there. Do you know roughly what they got?

Doug Seacat: It was about $850,000.

Christopher Mitchell: Wow. Rather than giving you a million dollars and getting fiber to every home, they gave CenturyLink $850,000 to basically get slightly better DSL and presumably for some locations maybe 100-Megabit download, because there's been a lot of talk in the industry over copper about this G.fast standard, which allows you to get much higher speeds over copper, but it's very limited in terms of distance, and it requires pretty high quality copper that a lot of times you don't find in communities that have had networks for a while that have been being used and just suffered environmental degradation.

Doug Seacat: Right, which is a concern of mine in that town, where with Deeply Digital we have a number of customers that have DSL in that area, and the copper's been cut up a number of times. They're doing a road project right now where they're paving all the roads in Ridgway, and so they've been digging up the streets. Things have gotten cut. The CenturyLink repairmen have been out there splicing stuff back. It's old plant anyway. It's been there for a while as it is, and now I feel like in the last two years it's been beat up even more. TO try to get good service on that copper just seems like a challenge for sure for CenturyLink.

Christopher Mitchell: Do you have any sense of a timeline for when this project has to be completed and we'll have a sense of whether or not CenturyLink is delivering on what it claimed it would be doing?

Doug Seacat: Yeah. They have one year to complete it, and I think they've already started. I've seen them out there working. I don't know who follows up. I'm sure they'll see that it's completed. I don't know how many people are going to let us come into their house and do a speed test and see if we're getting 100-Megs (Mbps) or not in their living room.

Christopher Mitchell: I hope that a few will, because this is one of the things that is another Achilles' heel of these kinds of programs is that follow up, because I think, once again, if you have an incumbent that is trying to prevent losing customers, because CenturyLink knows that fiber is going to offer a much better product than they can offer, and so they would have to use their own money to compete if you had brought fiber in. They would have not offered as superior of a product, and so for them, even if they later get fined or something to some of the money gets taken away, they've gamed the system. They've won. I find it hard to believe that anyone's even contemplated what penalties would be that would be appropriate to what they've done to prevent competition.

Doug Seacat: Well, it hurt the community, Ridgway. I mean, I definitely am not going to build the same network that I was planning on building with that million dollars. You know, we're still building in that community, and there'll still be some competition, but to get it to every business and residential location is going to be a challenge for sure. I think that's definitely hurt the community as far as the competition build out in that area, and I think CenturyLink for that purpose definitely won, because they don't have to deal with me for that.

Christopher Mitchell: Right. Well, fortunately though you're undaunted. You're looking for other opportunities to expand and to improve access in Colorado.

Doug Seacat: Well, there's definitely a part of me that wants to figure out a different way of getting it done there for sure. We've actually started working with the power companies, both in Montrose and in Ridgway, to see what we can do to get fiber to that community still.

Christopher Mitchell: Great. Well, I'm glad to hear that, but it is frustrating to know that $850,000 basically went to making it harder for people in Ridgway to have good Internet access.

Doug Seacat: Sure. Yup. Yeah. It's too bad.

Christopher Mitchell: Thanks for coming on and sharing the story.

Doug Seacat: Yeah. Thanks.

Lisa Gonzalez: That was Christopher with Dog Seacat, owner of Clearnetworx, talking at Mountain Connect. We have transcripts for this and other Community Broadband Bits Podcasts available at MuniNetworks.com/broadbandbits. Email us at podcast@MuniNetworks.org with your ideas for the show. Follow Chris on Twitter. His handle is @CommunityNets. Follow MuniNetworks.org's stories on Twitter. The handle is @MuniNetworks. Subscribe to this podcast and all of the podcasts in the ILSR podcast family on iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever else you get your podcasts. Never miss out on our original research. Subscribe to our monthly newsletter at ILSR.org. We want to thank Arnie Huseby for the song Warm Duck Shuffle, licensed through Creative Commons, and we want to thank you for listening to episode 256 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast.

Tags: transcript

Community Broadband Media Roundup - June 5

June 5, 2017

Florida

Commentary: Spectrum says, if I cut my service, my bill goes...up? by Scott Maxwell, Orlando Sentinel

 

Maine

Franklin County group snags $43,000 grant to study broadband access by Kate McCormick, Morning Sentinel

 

North Carolina

Crowdsourced broadband mapping helps North Carolina clean its data by Colin Wood, StateScoop

"[There are] a lot of opportunities with [municipal networks] and co-ops but the Legislature seems unable to comprehend that the big national firms don't care about rural North Carolina," Mitchell said.

 

Pennsylvania

Extending broadband Internet service to rural areas remains a challenge by Kery Murakami, Eagle Tribune

 

Tennessee

High-speed chase: Nashville drives toward an ultrafast Internet future - despite potholes by Linda Bryant, Nashville Post

“Legal games are part of the problem in Nashville,” Mitchell adds. “What’s really frustrating is that normally it would be difficult to build a network in a city as large as Nashville. But when you are also facing AT&T or Comcast holding things up, getting things done becomes really hard.”

 

Virginia

The Internet started in Virginia. So why is broadband access is spotty? by Peter Galuszka, Washigton Post

 

General

Communities, not telcos, should define success of municipal broadband networks by Craig Settles, Daily Yonder

They stole our beautiful decentralized Internet, now we want it back by Giulio Prisco, Crypto Insider

Lawmakers seek to restore Internet privacy after repealing it by Paul Merrion, The Augusta Chronicle 

Hard data on municipal broadband networks by Sarah Barry James, S&P Global Market Intelligence

According to Mitchell, Yoo's study captured the Chattanooga network when it was still ‘small and growing,’ but misses ‘what's going to happen for the rest of the life of the network, which I think is the more important part.

Report discredits municipal fiber financials - but experts balk by Colin Wood, StateScoop

The methodology used in this research is "garbage," said Christopher Mitchell of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, because the researchers took data from an early period in development and assumed that things would continue at that same rate.

Institute for Local Self-Reliance questions conclusions of recent muni fiber network study by Laura Hamilton, CED Magazine

Local advocates push back on municipal broadband funding study by Mariam Baksh, Morning Consult

“They are using phantom costs,” said Christopher Mitchell in a phone interview with Morning Consult. Mitchell, who runs the broadband project for the Institute for Local Self Reliance, said the life of the fiber is up for debate. More importantly, he added, factoring that sort of depreciation is not appropriate for determining the prospect of the projects going forward.

Tags: media roundup

Celina, TX, Looking At Future Through Conduit Ordinance

June 5, 2017

Celina, Texas, recently started its journey toward publicly owned Internet infrastructure by adopting a smart, forward-thinking conduit ordinance. The decision to adopt the new Easement Ordinance is part of the city’s long-term vision to bring gigabit connectivity to businesses and residents.

Developers' Contribution

The new policy requires developers to install conduit and fiber-optic cable in underground excavation within the city limits. Developers pay for the installation and then convey the assets to the city. In order to reduce the need for excavations and cut costs, Mount Vernon, Washington, passed a similar ordinance years ago as they developed their network. Up to 90 percent of costs associated with underground deployment are often due to the excavation rather than materials; smart dig once policies like Celina's saves public dollars.

Internet service providers who wish to offer connectivity in the areas where city fiber and conduit exist will be required to use available dark fiber from the city, rather than deploying their own infrastructure. The ordinance does allow the city provide exceptions in order to promote competition and reduce any barriers to entry for new ISPs.

Before the city council unanimously voted to support the new ordinance in May, they took feedback from the community. According to the Celina Record, several local developers expressed excitement over the Gigabit City Initiative, but weren’t as enthusiastic about the ordinance. Their main concern was how the new rule would be implemented.

They have reason to be excited about the potential to add Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) connectivity to their new properties. In 2015, the Fiber To The Home Council’s study determined that FTTH access can add up to $5,437 to the value of a $175,000 home.

Residents Require Something Better

Scott Stawski of the Celina Economic Development Corporation (EDC) described how the organization had approached the incumbents - Suddenlink and AT&T - along with other 14 other providers about providing gigabit connectivity in Celina but none was willing to oblige:

“What we’re really trying to accomplish is that 100 percent coverage,” he continued. “That is not offered and is not planned on being offered by any of the current providers.”

Jay Pierce, who lives in Celina said that he uses three different Internet access plans in order to obtain the connectivity his family needs:

“We need something fast, and we need it fast fast,” he said. “I really hope that you guys, as a council, take everybody into account. Not just in the areas that are being developed, but the areas already developed. We need help now.”

As part of the Gigabit City Initiative, Celina is in the process of designing a middle mile fiber-optic network. The fiber deployed as a result of new development within the city will be integrated into the new network. Community leaders hope to encourage providers to serve businesses and residences via the new infrastructure; the city will use the network for municipal needs. Stawski said that areas of the community that are not along the new routes will need to be retrofit in the future. As the city develops the Gigabit City Initiative, it will need to consider how to address the issue of assisting areas of town that are out of reach of the new developments.

Preparing For And Encouraging Growth

The community has grown rapidly over the past few years jumping from about 1,800 people in 2000 to over 6,000 as of 2010. It’s location just north of Dallas where middle and upper scale homes are being built rapidly; several developers are building new homes in the area. Community leaders are trying to prepare for the future and take advantage of their strategic geographical location. Having fiber and conduit in place to bring better connectivity to businesses and residents will both attract newcomers and save public dollars in the long term.

“The reason why we’re doing this now is because Celina is in such a unique position,” Stawski said. “We’re 8 percent built out right now, but we have a clear line of sight of being 100 percent built out in 20 years. The cost of retrofitting a community is astronomical.”

2017 Celina, Texas, Fiber Optic Conduit Easement OrdinanceTags: celina txtexasconduitdig oncereal estateeconomic developmentordinanceeasementmt vernonmiddle mile

AmmonTHRIVE Pushing Boundaries Of R&D In Idaho And Beyond

June 3, 2017

Ammon’s fiber optic utility is opening up competition for residents and businesses in the Idaho community of about 15,000 people. Their software defined network (SDN) allows users on the network to increase efficiencies and explore all sorts of creative visions that require high-quality connectivity.

Innovation Just Keeps On Keepin' On

Now, Ammon is partnering with one of the providers on its infrastructure to launch the Ammon Tech Hub & Research Infrastructure Virtual Ecosystem (THRIVE). The project is available at no cost to researchers and developers and supports: 

1. Research requiring cloud functionality, high bandwidth, low latency network connectivity and a ‘living lab.’ 

2. Developers working on next generation networking services, products or Internet of Things (IoT) hardware in need of cloud functionality, high bandwidth, low latency network connectivity and a community of willing Beta testers. 

THRIVE is designed to allow Ammon premises that are connected to the Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network participate in projects so locals can contribute to research and development. In its press release, the city described research on aging and “smart” smoke detectors in its press release. The project will allow researchers and developer from all over the world to access Ammon’s network for collaborative projects.

Read the press release here.

For more on Ammon’s ground-breaking approach, check out the video we produced with Next Century Cities:

AmmonTHRIVE Press ReleaseTags: ammonidahoinnovationsoftware defined networkscollaborationresearchopen accessFTTHvideocompetition

RS Fiber Starts Connecting Last Four Communities

June 2, 2017

June will be an exciting month for people living in Brownton, Buffalo Lake, Fairfax, and Stewart in Minnesota. RS Fiber Cooperative will begin construction so those premises can connect to the Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network now serving six other communities in the central Minnesota region. This stage of the buildout should bring another 500 subscribers on to the network by the end of the year; the network already serves 1,100 premises.

Bringing The Last Towns Into The Fold

According to general manager Toby Brummer:

“As construction of the network continues, we expect our customer numbers to continue to grow. Once we have the final four towns connected to the network, construction can begin on Phase Two of the project which will involve bringing gigabit fiber service to the township members of the RS Fiber Cooperative.”

Customers who take FTTH service now can sign up for voice, video, and Internet access up to 1 Gigabit per second (1,000 Mbps). Addresses that are outside the fiber connection service area have been able to obtain service from the cooperative via its fixed wireless RS Air service.

A Story Of Peaks And Valleys On The Prairie

The RS Fiber Cooperative story began in Sibley and Renville Counties as a regional municipal effort but when Sibley County pulled out, the project had to restructure their plan and design a new strategy. Rather than leave the rural farms behind, the participants decided to form a broadband cooperative to serve as many premises as possible.

Local farms - some of which had no Internet access at all - needed high-quality Internet access in order to operate in the modern agricultural economy. National providers had decided that the area was too sparsely populated to justify investment, so the locals decided they needed to act.

The project has had its challenges, but has overcome each one and in the process won numerous awards. This past May, the RS Fiber Cooperative received the “Cornerstone Award” from Broadband Communities Magazine “for dedication, persistence, and vision in securing the benefits of broadband for their communities.” They received the recognition at the Broadband Communities Summit in Dallas early in May.

One Job At A Time

The network has already added ten new jobs to the region and network officials expect more economic development as it expands and takes on more subscribers.

Read the details about the RS Fiber story in our 2016 case study, RS Fiber: Fertile Fields for New Rural Internet Cooperative. You can also listen to Christopher's interview with Mark Erickson City of Winthrop Economic Development Authority Director and Renville-area farmer Jake Rieke who are both on the RS Fiber board; he spoke to them during episode 198 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast.

Tags: rs fiber coopminnesotasibley countyrenville countycooperativeruralgigabitFTTHfixed wirelessfairfax mn

Addressing UPenn Report: Dud Data, Unsuitable Approach

June 1, 2017

For the second week in row, our staff has felt compelled to address a misleading report about municipal networks. In order to correct the errors and incorrect assumptions in yet another anti-muni publication, we’ve worked with Next Century Cities to publish Correcting Community Fiber Fallacies: Yoo Discredits U Penn, Not Municipal Networks.

Skewed Data = Skewed Results

Professor Christopher S. Yoo and Timothy Pfenninger from the Center for Technology, Innovation and Competition (CTIC) at the University of Pennsylvania Law School recently released "Municipal Fiber in the United States: An Empirical Assessment of Financial Performance." The report attempts to analyze the financial future of several citywide Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) municipal networks in the U.S. by applying a Net Present Value (NPV) calculation approach. They applied their method to some well-known networks, including Chattanooga's EPB Fiber Optics; Greenlight in Wilson, North Carolina; and Lafayette, Louisiana's LUS Fiber. Unfortunately, their initial data was flawed and incomplete, which yielded a report fraught with credibility issues.

So Many Problems 

In addition to compromising data validity, the authors of the study didn’t consider the wider context of municipal networks, which goes beyond the purpose of NPV, which is determining the promise of a financial investment.

Some of the more expansive problems with this report (from our Executive Summary):

  • They erred in claiming Wilson, Lafayette, and Chattanooga have balloon payments at the end of the term. They have corrected that error in a press release. Other errors, such as confusing the technologies used by at least two networks, are less important but decrease the study’s credibility.
  • Several of the cities dispute the accuracy of the numbers used in the calculations for their communities.
  • The Net Present Value calculation is inappropriate in this context for many reasons and does not offer an accurate view of the financial performance of these networks or the larger context of the investment impact on the community
  • The authors demonstrate little familiarity with basic patterns of FTTH network economics.

Proceed With Caution

Communities that invest in fiber Internet infrastructure do so to improve economic development, expand educational opportunities, and attract entrepreneurs. They want to save public dollars, keep young people from moving away to find work, or enhance healthcare for residents. Unfortunately, Yoo and Pfenninger disregarded the first rule of Muni Research 101 - each community is unique. By abandoning the basic rule, the authors have generated another anti-muni piece of literature thinly disguised as an academic publication.

As with every piece of information that community leaders use to help them decide how to move forward, we encourage decision-makers who choose to review this report to do so with an intensely critical eye.

Download the full report.

For More...

For more on this report, listen to Christopher and Lisa discuss the approach in Episode 21 of the Building Local Power podcast. The discussion begins right around 17:00 into the podcast. We tackle the UPenn piece and touch on another report from the Taxpayers Protection Alliance that needed a response

Correcting Community Fiber Fallacies: Yoo Discredits UPenn, Not Municipal NetworksTags: reportcorrecting community fiber fallacieschristopher mitchellmisinformationchattanoogawilsonlafayettevernon caFTTHfinancebristol-tennesseeutopiaBurlingtonBurlington TelecomcaliforniatennesseeutahVermontlouisiananorth carolinacompetitionpublic v private

Fiber In The Oaks Of Texas

May 31, 2017

Hudson Oaks, Texas, will be deploying infrastructure this summer in order to bring high-quality connectivity to businesses and residents. At a recent city council meeting, community leaders authorized the project to allow the town of about 1,700 people to be the first to offer gigabit connectivity in Parker County.

Working With A Local Provider

The city will own the infrastructure and entered into a partnership with local Internet Service Provider (ISP) NextLink to offer service via the publicly owned fiber-optic network. NextLink is headquartered in Weatherford, about five miles from Hudson Oaks. Fort Worth is about 25 miles due east of Hudson Oaks.

According to the Weatherford Democrat, properties within city limits will be served by the new fiber service that will be funded with public investment. On the city’s Facebook page, residents asked questions and city administrator Patrick Lawler addressed them:

“The city of Hudson Oaks cannot by state law spend funds outside the city limits unless expressly given the authority such as we have with water. Fiber does not qualify for this exclusion. NextLink, however, may expand the service at their discretion. In order to prepare for that possibility we have placed additional fiber strands for future expansion.”

Earlier this month, the city authorized the issuance and sale of $1.54 million combination tax and revenue certificate of obligation to help fund the project.

Prices for Internet access should run around $50 - 60 per month for 50 Mbps and $150 per month for gigabit connectivity. Construction on the network should start this July.

Tags: hudson oaks txtexasFTTHpartnershipruralgigabit

Colorado Chooses to Subsidize DSL Rather than Fiber - Community Broadband Bits Podcast 256

May 30, 2017
Community Broadband Bits Episode 256 - Doug Seacat of Deeply Digital in Colorado, Denied Fiber Funding

In an exciting milestone, this is podcast 100000000. Or 256 in decimal - you know, for the squares. While at the always-amazing Mountain Connect event in Colorado, I snagged an interview with Doug Seacat of Deeply Digital and Clearnetworx. They sought a grant from the Colorado Broadband Fund to deploy fiber and wireless to underserved Ridgway in western Colorado. 

What happened next is shocking but hardly an anomaly. Using what is often called the "Right of First Refusal," where incumbents get to prevent competition in state broadband programs, CenturyLink not only blocked Clearnetworx from getting the grant but got itself a hefty subsidy for a very modest improvement in services.

Ridgway residents went from almost certainly having a choice in providers and gigabit access to seeing their taxpayer dollars used to not only make competition less likely but also effectively blocking the gig from coming to everyone in town. In this interview, we discuss the details. 

Read the transcript of the show here.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

This show is 20 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: coloradoright of first refusalpolicyuniversal servicedslFTTHg.fastappealgrantaudiopodcastbroadband bitsWirelesscompetitionincumbentcenturylinkruraldelta montrose electric associationridgeway co

Community Broadband Media Roundup - May 29

May 29, 2017

California

How not to close the digital divide by Blair Levin and Larry Downes, San Francisco Chronicle

 

North Carolina

Is your Internet up to speed? New map tool will track places in NC that need better access by Abbie Bennett, Charlotte News & Observer

Crowdsourced broadband mapping helps North Carolina clean its data by Colin Wood, StateScoop

Mitchell argues that the state is ignoring some of its best options by depending on a private market that has thus far consistently failed to serve certain areas of the state.

"[There are] a lot of opportunities with [municipal networks] and co-ops but the Legislature seems unable to comprehend that the big national firms don't care about rural North Carolina," Mitchell said.

 

General

Legislative efforts in Mo., Tenn. leave broadband advocates hopeful by Craig Settles, Daily Yonder

Advocates who say local governments and utility cooperatives should have more freedom to provide broadband in underserved areas scored two legislative victories this spring.

In Missouri, a bill that would have restricted the ability of cities, counties, or other public entities to run broadband networks was defeated. In Tennessee, the state passed a bill that expands the ability of electric cooperatives to get into the broadband business.

Ensuring every community in America has access to high-quality broadband by John Windhausen, The Hill

Municipal broadband financial analysis raises red flags by Joan Engebretson, Telecompetitor

Tags: media roundup

Transcript: Community Broadband Bits Episode 255

May 29, 2017

This is the transcript for episode 255 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast. Christopher Mitchell speaks with Kyle Hollifield of Magellan Advisors, a consulting group that works on community networks, about the importance of marketing. Listen to this episode here. 

 

Kyle Hollifield: The way you increase shareholder value for the municipal-owned network is for the owners of that network, which is your customers, to feel like they're part of the process. That's how you increase shareholder value.

Lisa Gonzalez: This is Episode 255 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. I am Lisa Gonzalez. Delivering fast, affordable, reliable connectivity is typically the first goal for communities that choose to invest in publicly-owned internet infrastructure. There are different business models and local governments usually hire consultants like this week's guest, to help them flush out which model suits their unique situation. Kyle Hollifield from Magellan Advisors joins Chris this week. This is one of Chris' interviews he conducted at the Broadband Community Summit in Dallas earlier this month. Magellan works with communities across the nation looking for ways to improve connectivity. In addition to a conversation about public-private partnerships, Kyle and Chris get into one of the areas municipal networks often find unfamiliar: marketing their services to potential subscribers. Now here's Chris and Kyle Hollifield from Magellan discussing public-private partnerships, and marketing for municipal networks.

Christopher Mitchell: Welcome to another edition of the Community Broadband Bit podcast. Coming at you live from Dallas, well, it's recorded live in Dallas at the Broadband Community Summit 2017. I got with me Kyle Hollifield, the Senior Vice President for Magellan Advisors. Welcome to the show!

Kyle Hollifield: Thanks, Chris, it's a pleasure to be here!

Christopher Mitchell: Kyle, I think you might have the best accent of everybody in this field.

Kyle Hollifield: Well, I don't know what that means but thank you very much.

Christopher Mitchell: It's that Tennessee drawl, it's very fun to listen to.

Kyle Hollifield: Well thank you, it's nice to know you have assets you didn't have to work for.

Christopher Mitchell: So quick background, why should anyone think that you know anything about municipal broadband community networks, that sort of thing?

Kyle Hollifield: I've been in the business since about 1978, believe it or not, and I've been in fiber optics and broadband since about 1984. My history goes way back to the first company to actually lay under-sea fiber optic cable which is Standard Telephone and Cable, which was the old ITTUK, we actually spun our own fiber across the ocean between Europe and United States back in the mid-eighties, and I was an integral part of that whole process. So that's kind of where the broadband piece started from the operations side, and then from there I developed a whole broadband strategy for British Telecom for their marketplace in the United States under different licensing and different OM-type of agreements that they had with other companies. And then beyond that, started and founded my own company in technology around IP voice stacks in 1987 and until 2007. Also have worked in municipal broadband in the Commonwealth of Virginia for over five years establishing, helping establish, I had a lot of help, establishing a very successful community broadband triple play provider, also doing a lot of middle mile stuff under the old B-top program to reach out to rural areas that needed some kind of economic stimulation.

Christopher Mitchell: And you gave a lot of advice. You have a big background in marketing, before broadband you've got all this broadband expertise, I know you've worked with a lot of communities over the years.

Kyle Hollifield: Yeah, the marketing piece actually came out of Proctor and Gamble. Fresh out of college, fresh out of the military, I finished my college degree and got an offer with Proctor and Gamble which to me, at least in those days, was like getting a PhD in marketing because they were the leader, probably still are, in real marketing and spent six years there as Assistant Brand Manager for a lot of very successful products. The general level marketing plus I have a degree in it, that helped also, then on the community broadband side, obviously I spent a lot of time on business development and marketing and one of the things that I think really was a huge help for myself personally and also maybe for the industry in some ways, is at the organization I was at, we had so many requests from other communities around the country saying, "How did you do this? Can you help us?" So we begin to help people just for free, when we had time, and unfortunately or fortunately it turned into a business. People kept saying, "Wow. I need more of your time. I'm willing to pay for it."

Christopher Mitchell: So you're doing a a lot of work with Magellan now, and working with cities and one of the things I've been talking to folks about at this event is trying to get a sense of whether we are seeing -- We know we are seeing a massive uptick of cities that are studying this, are cities actually doing things or are they just studying what they could do?

Kyle Hollifield: In our experience, they're doing both. This is an estimate, I don't have empirical numbers because I really haven't studied that part of it to any detail, but I would say roughly about 50% of the clients that engage us to do a feasibility study goes much beyond the feasibility study. Now it may not be a full build-out, but it may be they just adopt smart community policies that allow them over time to build a network, or it could be that they take the next steps of doing a pilot project to see how it goes. At least 50% of our clients are going to what we call the next step and getting board approval or mission approval to move forward in some ways that would enhance the opportunity to expand broadband.

Christopher Mitchell: I think some of the people that listen to this show are frustrated at some of those interim steps, and I think when we look at history, a lot of people misunderstand Chattanooga, or other utilities that are in the news, Lafayette, Louisiana, a lot of these utilities they didn't just say, "We're doing nothing today, tomorrow, we're building out fiber to everyone." These interim steps you've been in this business longer than I have, it seems pretty common that it's not an aberration that so many cities are starting small.

Kyle Hollifield: That's correct because you have to remember that first of all they're really averse to risk, and they also have a fiduciary responsibility to the rate-payers, to the taxpayers, and to the community in general. And it's a balancing act because they really have three basic responsibilities. First responsibility is to take care of the community assets in a very responsible way. The second responsibility is to try to have some kind of control over the community's progress in the future. And the third is to try to figure out how to best leverage the assets that the community has in a way that will create an environment that will allow for more economic development, it allows for, we call it better quality of life, that term has been used way too much, but it certainly is in things like better education services, better healthcare services -- We see a lot of aging in place now on the healthcare side, especially in rural communities and that's becoming really dependent upon broadband. Those three areas is why they take those interim steps, they want to make sure as much as possible that they lower their risk and also leverage the most out of the reward that they would get on what risk that they do take.

Christopher Mitchell: Now I don't want to tar the communities you're talking about that are taking these initial steps but, there's perhaps the 50% of the communities that are not moving forward, this morning I was talking with some folks from an ISP that work with cities, and we were talking about this "I want a pony" problem. Which is something Carol Feld termed and I think it's a great term for cities that basically say, "Look, this is what we want. We want fiber to every home, we want control of it as a city, we want it to be open access, we don't want to pay a dime, we want y'all to build it for us." I'm curious when you are dealing with a community like that, how do you respond?

Kyle Hollifield: Well, I would take it further I call it the Sparkle Pony. It's beyond the pony.

Christopher Mitchell: It's a specific breed of magic pony.

Kyle Hollifield: Exactly, and like the great white whale, it's very elusive, talking about animal metaphors. One of the things that I try to convey to communities who take that approach is that it's very hard to expect private enterprise to invest in something that you want to invest in. Especially when you're asking them to carry the entire load, and give you some measure of control at the same time. Investment and control go together. So one of the things I try to council them on is even if you get someone that willing to do this, the amount of control that you're going to give up, the amount of things that you may want for your community that you necessarily probably won't get, is what this is going to lead to. And then the reality is, I can't think of one case where a community has issued an RFI, or RFP, or just a press release and said, "Hey, come to our community! We're great people, we've got wonderful opportunities. We'll help you in some ways, maybe we'll help the permitting process, maybe not. Maybe we'll help you with some right-of-ways, and we expect you to put up all your capital and to build a network." Well that's just not how a private enterprise works. I think that when you throw those Hail Marys out there, it's more of an issue of trying to placate the demand as opposed to actually taking some kind of action that will be positive for the community. I think that's really the political piece of this that sometimes we miss.

Christopher Mitchell: Oh I think that's absolutely right, and I've railed against this in my session the other day in which I said- this is something I've said about state leaders and federal leaders in the past, I hadn't said it about community leaders until more recently and that's this idea that: "Broadband is so important, it's vital for our community, we need it for the jobs for tomorrow, there's nothing more important than it, and we will not spend a dime on it." It doesn't work!

Kyle Hollifield: Exactly, in your personal life, if you don't invest, you don't get a return. It's just pure economics. I think what communities have to look at is, the question is, for communities is, how vital is a real high-speed, very secure, extremely reliable broadband, how important is it to your future? That's really the question you've got to ask. It's a very similar question to a water treatment plant. What does that mean to your community and is it worth a 25-year investment, and are you willing to wait, take the long view and say, "Hey you know what? This is a long-term investment, this is not a retail sales operation." Although it may boil down to that at some point, the reality is this is not where you're going report to the shareholders a reporter and have a return on investment that makes you look like you're a genius in finance. What it really is, is a community asset to be shared by the community. One of the things that we do a lot is we do a lot of negotiations with public-private partnerships. A lot of our clients are involved today in public-private partnerships. What's important about that is, the private enterprise world has a certain way of thinking and doing and working. The municipal, or the community, world has a different way and two different mission statements. The private enterprise is very simple, we all know it, it's to increase shareholder value. Period. That's their mission. Community organizations are to serve the public, so the question is how do you meld those two together? It's a very difficult process, you've got to understand both sides and you've got to find common ground in the middle. And it's very difficult. That's one thing I want to bring up sometimes I think sometimes both on the enterprise side and community side are kind of naïve about where that middle ground is and they have a really hard time finding it. So we hope that we can bring some of those expertise to that process.

Christopher Mitchell: I've been pretty critical of too much hype in the public-private partnership, and I'm sure that you agree, I also think that there's a lot of promise and I think as we work these things out we'll have models and more ideas. The challenge that I have is what the term "partnership" means at this point. I was at an event, there's a municipal network and Comcast competes against that municipal network but also it's a rural area and that municipal network buys transit from Comcast to get to the wider internet. Comcast sponsors the lunch, they're up there talking, nobody is listening, and I'm sitting with the guys from the small community and suddenly Comcast is talking about how they partnered with this rural community to deliver broadband, not only doing it themselves but enabling the community to do it with the transit. And the guys look at me like "Partnered? I buy stuff from you!" And I looked at him and I said, "Yeah, I partnered with Delta to get to this event. I partnered with Exxon to drive down the street." So when we try to track partnerships, we don't see that many of them. I'm curious, it strikes me there's be many more attempts that there's been successful real partnerships actually signed on the dotted line and everything. Am I right?

Kyle Hollifield: You're absolutely right and what I spoke to earlier is the reason for that. That common ground. A real partnership is both parties have skin in the game, both parties can realize a return from the partnership. Otherwise it is a business transaction, it is not a partnership. So that's why you see so many that are rare. And I put blame on both sides of that equation, by the way, because I've worked on many of them, and I can tell you right now --

Christopher Mitchell: There's often good people on both sides --

Kyle Hollifield: And good intentions. But on the community side, municipal side, county side, regional side, governmental side let's say, one of the big stumbling blocks is the political issues around "How do we do this in a way that it looks fair and transparent? How do we give everybody a shot at it so that we don't get criticized for being a non-partisan player." But the problem is, you can't enter into a partnership unless you are a partisan player. So there's this dichotomy between transparency, which a private company may not want as much transparency as you think you have to give, so on the community side that's a real challenge for them. There's ways to overcome it, but you've got to think it out, you've got to plan it out, you can't just be haphazard. You're going to be attacked, no matter what, you're going to be attacked, because if you're doing a public-private partnership, and even if everything is going well, the other private partners that didn't get the deal are going to attack you. Community leaders are going to attack you because the question is going to be "How do we know we got the best deal?" Okay? On the private side, oftentimes because of this demand for shareholder value enhancement, they're too greedy, and I don't mean greedy in a bad way, they're just too demanding knowing that the community can only do certain things at a certain level. So I think that's the main two reasons you find this really hard part -- It's really hard because you've got to find this middle ground where everybody can live, and operate in, and be partners in and its very difficult. That's why you see very few of them happen, however, it's really worth the effort. There's no doubt in my mind about it. I'm like you, I'm very critical of the PPP and everybody hyping it and talking about it when it's so hard, but I take a different approach. My approach is if it's really difficult, it's probably worth it. It's the ones that are really easy that don't work out.

Christopher Mitchell: One of the things that we've seen is people will attack consultants and say, "Consultant's always going to say you should just build a municipal network," and in fact one of the reasons we're talking about public-private partnerships is I'm a hard-core supporter of the right of cities to make their decisions and to build networks where it makes sense, but we all recognize not everyone should build and operate their own network. And so this is an important tool for those many communities where building and operating or owning their own network may not be appropriate.

Kyle Hollifield: Exactly, and I rail against those folks that say that our community, our consulting community, always tells people they should do something because they think there's income for us on the back end. I really rail against that. Because if you're a bad consultant, and you tell people to do stuff that fails, your name is tied to that.

Christopher Mitchell: We've seen consultants that have disappeared already. It's not the situation where every consultant that worked in the space is still out getting new customers.

Kyle Hollifield: Or even should be. To take it a step further.

Christopher Mitchell: One of the things I love about consultants you're all very competitive. I think every consultant has a critical view of every other consultant, and that's --

Kyle Hollifield: It's a self-policing industry if you think about it in a lot of ways. Even when we've been engaged in this, it's really important, and even if it fails, the community has learned a lot through the process. They really understand how complicated and what a heavy lift this is, so the next time they take a run at it, they're not neophyte anymore. They're loaded, they understand what their asset base is. That's a big issue they come to these things sometimes they don't even know "What's your vertical assets worth?" "We don't know we even got any." That why you need a consultant, right? "How much revenue are we giving to the incumbent and can we shift that? How do we aggregate demand?" I wanted to bring that up because it's really important because it is not a wasted time if it doesn't work because you're prepared for the next time you have the opportunity. I wanted to really highlight that because I've seen it over and over.

Christopher Mitchell: I just want to second that, I think it is a really good point. Communities that succeed in this are not communities that hit a grand slam the first time up to bat. They are communities that struck out, struck out and they stuck with it and they learn lessons and they figured out how to make it work.

Kyle Hollifield: Exactly.

Christopher Mitchell: Moving to communities that have gotten on base, let's just push that metaphor, they've built a network. Now one of the challenges, and I think you'll agree, and if we look at municipal networks that have struggled, and some that have failed. Failed is such a hard word because you're talking about a multi-decadal infrastructure, could fail for five or seven years and then be great after that. But there are networks that have not met the desires or the expectations. Many of those, perhaps the majority, perhaps a strong majority, it's because of a failure to, as you would say I think, execute the marketing plan.

Kyle Hollifield: That's exactly right. Every client we have that goes into this, and we have three today that are building complete networks and we're standing them up for them, and we're doing a lot of stuff for them. When they ask me what the biggest risk is, the biggest risk is not implementing the plan that's put before you and being able to execute on that plan, especially when it comes to marketing, sales, operation and support. Most of the time a community had a pretty good brand when they start out, because they already provide services at some level. And we can rail against community and government all we want to, but the reality is when that four foot snowfall comes, you like to see those socialist snowplows out there getting you to work, okay? And for economic development it's really important. You want to be able to turn on your electricity without having to say I need to meter how many things I have going at one time, you want to be able to turn on the switch and say I got all the electricity I ever need. It's really important. So communities as a whole start out with a positive, a net positive. The question is how to leverage that net positive and keep it going. This is a really important piece of that and its called your brand. I tell people all the time, your brand is not what you say you are, it's what your customers say you are. That's your brand. And they forget that, they think a logo or slogan over top of the building is their brand, and its really not, its what your customers say about you. Every touch point with a customer, this is really important about the information piece, I don't care if its contacting the CSR to begin a service offering, I don't care if it's talking to a knock about some kind of service issue, I don't care if its talking to a person that runs the public relations for the city or for the utility or whoever it is, every touch point helps define that brand. It's not just the marketing people's opportunity, or responsibility, its the entire business. What I find is, the ones that are really struggling, they don't set an expectation from above day one, "Hey, we're in a competitive environment, this is different and everybody here is in marketing and sales." No matter what your job is, your real job is to satisfy the client, the citizen, the customer in such a way that they say "Wow, I got a lot for my money." And that's really the starting point then you have to actually implement that whole procedure and you have to have ways to check it, and ways to test it and do all kinds of marketing surveys and analysis, its a continuous -- Some people think that once they reach their penetration rate that's in their business plan, they're done. No they just started, that's the start! And you have to continue that process.

Christopher Mitchell: Let me see if I got this right, and I'm going to perhaps overstate

it gently: people hate the telephone company, they hate the cable company. They often really like their local utility, particularly if its a well-run one as you're describing. Local utilities, sometimes I've seen this, particularly local electric utilities, municipal electric utilities, and they come into it and they say, "Well this is going to be easy, half the community is going to take our services off the bat. It's technically superior, they love us, they hate our competition, word of mouth, boom, we're done." That's it. It doesn't seem to work out so well. It doesn't get you the majority of the market, it doesn't necessarily get you enough customers to meet your business plan. What's wrong with that approach, what more do you have to do?

Kyle Hollifield: There's not necessarily anything wrong with the thought process, but again it's not a plan, it's a thought. So all of us in our life make assumptions everyday that don't work out. Should I turn right here at the traffic signal or should I go straight? How do I get there quicker? Those assumptions are not based on facts, they're just based on our feeling. So it's absolutely correct that utilities and communities and municipalities have that -- and you can look at any consumer report you want to look at, and their competition is always at the bottom of the list for customer service. So they have this feeling, "Well this will be fairly easy," but what they don't really understand is this is a community engagement process, this is not selling products and services. You can always have the best price, you can always have the actual fastest speed, you can have the best brand, but if you don't engage the community in way that they feel they are a part of this, then you're just another vendor. And you're just as good as the next promotion comes out from the competition. So that's where the -- one thing the communities that do it well, they have a very low churn rate. They're down to 1% churn rate at the most --

Christopher Mitchell: And churn is where you get disconnects --

Kyle Hollifield: Constant disconnects and reconnects and disconnects and reconnects -- The churn rate for the industry, for the incumbents and for-profit businesses is much higher, why? Because people want to see that next promotion, they're waiting for that next promotion. You may not accept that if you are a community broadband, I'm not going to do it that way, but it's a fact of life, so you got to figure out a way to continue to deal with that. And the best way to deal with it is not so much to have continuous promotions the way they do, but to engage the community in a way that they feel that they're a part of the process. "This is my network. I have to support my network." And its not always in dollars and cents, it's in a lot of different ways. So you have to put together programs and events and a whole overview of the community to get them engaged in that process, where they understand this is their network, it is not the utility's network or the city's network to sell you something, it's your network and the more you invest in it, the more you are going to get out of it. But you have to be able to get them to that point.

Christopher Mitchell: And this is not where you get to that point, you're done, go home, take a nap. It's a situation where you have to keep doing it, so I think as we're running out time, there's a couple of things that I've learned from you over the years and one has been that you need to reevaluate this on a regular basis, right? You're not like, "Oh, it's been another year, time to re-evaluate the marketing plan." And it's not a situation where you get 75% of the business you can just sit back and relax, because you have to maintain those relationships.

Kyle Hollifield: Exactly, a lot of times I kind of relate it to being married. You know? If you want a long-lasting good marriage, you pay attention to it all the time, right? You don't forget anniversaries, you don't forget birthdays and survive.

Christopher Mitchell: Say two men that frequently travel away from their wives.

Kyle Hollifield: Exactly! Like us. But obviously I know we both make up for it when we get home. It really is like a marriage because what you've done is you've said to the community "Give us your trust, that we're going to fulfill your needs in a way that's going to enhance your life and make the community better. Give us that trust." And we have to earn that trust on an ongoing basis. You can't take it for granted. And we don't have enough time today to really go into all the details of how you could do those things, I can just tell you that if you have a really sharp, comprehensive marketing plan that lays out what all that looks like on a daily, weekly, monthly basis, and how you continue to regenerate that community engagement in different ways whether it's supporting Boy Scouts, whether it's providing uniforms for local baseball teams, all those things are investments that come out of your marketing budget where that child goes home and tells their parents "Hey look here, I got a brand new pair of cleats and and didn't have any money to buy one, wow, I'm going to continue buying service from the municipal broadband network."

Christopher Mitchell: You've painted this picture in the past when we've talked about this where the utility may have a marketing program where they have this community fund that will buy those cleats and then the kids playing soccer, the grandmas watching it, three days later big cable company comes and knocks on her door and says "Hey, we'll lower your bill." This is a woman that might be living on a fixed income. And she's thinking, "I can't do that to my community."

Kyle Hollifield: Because what happens again, like I said, the community has buy-in that it's their network. If you ever lose that situation where they don't feel it's your network, that's where you start having problems. So that's the difference between increasing shareholder value and providing services for the community and that's the two different ways to look at it. The way you increase shareholder value for the municipal-owned network is for the owners of that network, which is the customers, to feel like they're part of the process, that's how you increase shareholder value.

Christopher Mitchell: Great. Thank you Kyle, I think this has been a wonderful conversation.

Kyle Hollifield: You're quite welcome and thank you very much.

Lisa Gonzalez: That was Kyle Hollifield from Magellan discussing public-private partnerships, and talking about marketing for municipal networks.

Christopher Mitchell: Hey everyone, I just wanted to thank you for listening and helping out now to create a stronger internet ecosystem making sure everyone has high quality access. Please tell your friends, tell others who might be interested about this show if you have a chance to rate us on iTunes, please do. Several people already have, we really appreciate all the comments and we really appreciate you taking the tie to listen to us.

Lisa Gonzalez: We have transcripts for this and other Community Broadband Bits 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 where the handle is @MuniNetworks. Subscribe to this podcast and all the podcasts in the ILSR family on iTunes, Stitcher or wherever else you get your podcasts. Never miss out on our original research, subscribe to your 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 255 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast.

Tags: transcript

Rural Telephone Cooperative Forges Its Own Path In Michigan

May 29, 2017

Can’t get telephone or Internet service? Have you tried starting your own company? In 1998, John Reigle did just that with the support of the community and Michigan State University. Today, Allband Communications Cooperative provides not only telephone service, but also cutting-edge, high-quality Internet access and environmental research opportunities in rural Northeastern Michigan.

A Story Of Promise, Betrayal, And The Telephone Company

We connected with Allband representatives who shared details about Allband's interesting and dramatic history as told by Masha Zager back in 2005. They kindly provided updates and let us know what's in store for this by-the-bootstraps effort that started in the woods of Michigan.

When John Reigle moved out into the woods past the small town of Curran, Michigan, he didn't intend to start a brand-new venture. He simply wanted to build a home and work on his consulting business; he just needed telephone service.

The large incumbent telephone company GTE (which later became Verizon, which still later sold off this service area to Frontier) had assured Reigle that the lot where he planned to build his house would be easy to connect to their telephone network. They quoted him a price of about $34 and scheduled an install date. Trusting that the telephone company’s representatives knew the service area, Reigle moved forward with his plans to build.

After he finished constructing his house in 1998, Reigle contacted the telephone company to finalize his service connection. Despite the earlier assurance that his location would not prove a problem, Reigle found that he was miles away from the GTE network. This time, the company quoted $27,000 to run a copper telephone line from the highway to his new house. 

His consulting firm could not operate without a telephone so he decided to bite the bullet and agree to the steep price. GTE rescinded its quote, however, and no matter how much Reigle offered, the company would not run telephone service to his new house.

Obviously perturbed, Reigle filed a complaint with the Michigan Public Service Commission only to discover that he had built his house in an unassigned area. Despite the previous promises from GTE, the Michigan Public Service Commission noted that legally GTE could not be forced to provide service in that area.

That is when the Michigan Public Service Commission told Reigle:

“If you want telephone service, start your own phone company.” 

Creation Of The Cooperative

Professor Ron Choura from Michigan State University’s Telecommunications program worked at the Michigan Public Service Commission at the time. He connected with Reigle, and the two hatched a plan to create a brand new telephone company. Commuting hours each way, Reigle took classes from Professor Choura in order to implement the idea. By late 2003, they had put together a business plan for a nonprofit telephone company and incorporated it with the state. 

Reigle and Choura did what no one had done in more than 20 years: they created a brand new Incumbent Local Exchange Carrier (ILEC). Telephone companies are either ILECs or Competitive Local Exchange Carriers (CLECs). A key difference between the two is that ILECs may receive funding from the federal Universal Service Fund, which is distributed to subsidize connectivity in rural communities. 

When the federal government created the system to regulate telephone companies in the 1980s, they assumed that all ILECs would be created at one time: the entire U.S. was carved up into non-overlapping areas for the telephone companies. Any telephone company created after that would have to compete with the incumbents. 

Up to now, the federal government only had a process for approving new competitive telephone carriers; creating a new incumbent was an entirely new procedure. The Federal Government required Choura and Reigle to obtain many waivers in order to qualify as an ILEC and receive Universal Service Funds.

Allband Communications was not only going to be a new ILEC, also a new utility cooperative, which put it under the purview of the United States Department of Agriculture. As a cooperative, Allband Communications could receive funding from the United States Department of Agriculture. Most utility cooperatives were created during the 1930s for electricity and during the 1950s for telephone service.

An increasing number of telephone and electric cooperatives are providing high-speed, Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) service throughout the U.S., but have the benefit of decades of experience in providing utility services to their local community. Without that past experience and community trust, Allband Communications' venture seemed a bit more risky, but the cooperative had community support from folks who wanted reliable 911 service.

Cooperative Funding And Paperwork

Allband Communications received some seed money from a LinkMichigan grant of about $212,000. The grants were awarded in the early 2000s to help spur telecommunications planning and deployment. In August 2004, the cooperative also submitted a loan application to the USDA Rural Development office. While they waited for that application, they began to build an all fiber network with $6.24 million in RUS funding. At that point, the cooperative was still waiting on several waivers from the FCC in order to receive its ILEC status.

Finally, the FCC approved several of the waivers in 2005, and the USDA Rural Development Program officially awarded about $8 million to the cooperative to start its project. It didn’t take long for Allband to build out its network, which began providing service to its first cooperative member in November 2006.

Within a month, the FCC approved the remaining waivers to make Allband an official ILEC. Allband was then able to join the National Exchange Carrier Association, saving money on administrative expenses, keeping costs down, and start receiving Universal Service Funds. 

In August 2010, the co-op received an American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) grant of $9.7 million to build out their network further into underserved areas. Check out their service area map which covers and area of around 3,600 people.

Looking Forward

Allband Communications Cooperative continues to focus on the current needs of the community. The cooperative’s latest projects include expanding the fiber network, improving small business efficiency, and increasing home safety.

The network expansion extends into the new “Allband Multimedia area,” which is outside of Allband Communications original cooperative area. In order to encourage digital inclusion, Allband is offering credit for construction of the network. Those within the cooperative’s footprint who have not yet connected are eligible for a $1,000 credit to put towards extending the cable to their house. Those in the “Allband Multimedia area” can get a $500 credit. The goal is to make the expansion of the network affordable for the community.

Allband Communications is not just expanding their network into new areas, but also into the office sector. The co-op launched Unifi, a way to seamlessly connect office devices, enabling telephone calls to be taken on cellphones, laptops, or tablets. The Unifi program also includes features like screen-sharing and video conferencing.

At the same time, Allband Communications has launched LifeWatch, a live-feed video monitoring system that can be used for everything from home security to caring for elderly relatives. They've set up the LifeWatch system on their website, which features a feed of local wildlife from the Allband facility backyard.

Giving Back To The Community

The goal of Allband Communications has always been to improve the community by providing much needed connectivity to their neighbors. The service territory is in an economically distressed and historically underserved area of northeastern Michigan. Allband brought reliable 911 service to the community in addition to telephone and fast, affordable, reliable Internet access. Stand alone residential Internet access is available at 100 Mbps download and 50 Mbps upload for $59.99 per month. There are not data caps and subscribers can also bundle with voice services.

The cooperative not only provides home Internet service, but also connects community anchor institutions, such as government facilities, libraries, or schools for free or reduced rates. Allband Communications is providing much needed connectivity to local churches: Beaver Lake Community Church, Calvary Baptist Church, and Spratt United Methodist Church. Allband is donating connections of 100 Mbps to the churches.

Allband communications has also started a nonprofit called Allband Communications Education, Wildlife, & Research Opportunities (ACEWR) that provides educational opportunities, workforce development, and wildlife research. ACEWR allows the cooperative to collaborate with universities and research institutions across the United States. The nonprofit also has an online workforce development program to train locals in new skills, empowering them to succeed in the 21st century economy. ACEWR’s location in the Michigan woods also makes it a prime spot for research on local wildlife, endangered species, and conservation projects.

Looking forward, Allband Communications hopes to partner with local governments in forming public-private partnerships. Working together with the support of the community is key to a project’s success. This quote from the cooperative’s history page best summarizes their role:

“Allband and its mission is proof that collaborative efforts between community driven rural telecommunication providers and government can correct the digital divide that traditional providers with traditional business models cause and fail to correct.”

Picture of Carnberry Lake in Curran, Michigan, courtesy of Homes.com.

Tags: michigancooperativeruraldigital dividetelephoneallband communications cooperative

Michigan Radio Features Midwest Energy & Communications

May 27, 2017

Bob Hance, President and CEO of Midwest Energy & Communications, formerly known as Midwest Energy Cooperative, spoke to Michigan Radio on the current plans for a high-speed, fiber optic network and the importance of rural connectivity. 

Midwest Energy & Communications offers speeds of up to 1 Gigabit per second (1,000 Mbps) and has started to expand to new areas in southwest Michigan. Despite concerns that folks might not sign up for Internet service, demand has far exceeded expectations. 

Industrial Park Gets Service

An industrial park in Niles, Michigan, specifically requested to be connected to the high-speed network. Many of the tenants had considered relocating because of the previously shoddy connectivity. Thanks to Midwest Energy & Communications, those businesses chose to stay put. The co-op now serves about 80 percent of the industrial park with high-speed fiber. 

Listen to the full interview here.

For more about the history and structure of the cooperative, check out our own interview with Hance on Community Broadband Bits Podcast Episode 225.

Bob Hance of Midwest Energy on Michigan RadioTags: michigancooperativeelectricruralrural electric coop

MBC Partnering To Bring Internet Home For VA School Kids

May 25, 2017

The Mid-Atlantic Broadband Communities Corporations (MBC), a broadband cooperative with member communities in Virginia, recently announced that a new project will bring Internet access to students at home to help close the “homework gap” in Charlotte and Halifax counties.

Homework At Home

Approximately half of the K-12 students in the two southern counties don’t have Internet access at home, interfering with their ability to hone the skills they need for future success. To address the issue, MBC and its partner Microsoft obtained funding from the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission and will implement the project which reach 1,000 households and approximately 3,000 students. Students will be able to tap into their schools’ networks to access online assignments and resources from home. The service will be free.

The project is an expansion of a pilot program based on white space technology, which we’ve written about before. White space technology has been used in similar projects by libraries in New York, North Carolina, Colorado, and Mississippi to extend Internet access to communities where people have limited access. White space technology isn’t interrupted by dense forests or hills, so works in the Halifax and Charlotte county terrain.

Better Connectivity, Better Economy

MBC formed in 2004 as an open access network, funded by the Virginia Tobacco Commission and the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration. The network also received American Recovery and Reinvestment Award (ARRA) funding in order to connect schools and community anchor institutions in southern Virginia and to extend the reach of the network even further. The network now consists of more than 1,800 miles in 31 counties.

The presence of better connectivity has helped spur economic development to the tune of at least 1,100 jobs and $2.1 billion in private investment. In addition to attracting a new Microsoft data center, the network has helped expand coverage for the region by allowing other networks to connect to MBC’s extensive fiber footprint.

Learn more about MBC and its approach from Christopher's 2015 interview with Tad Deriso, President and CEO of MBC, for episode 146 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast.

Tags: mid-atlantic broadband cooperativevirginiaruralschoolwhite spacesfixed wirelesslow-income

New Report Dissects "Boondoggle Map"

May 24, 2017

Usually, we ignore the misinformation released by the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) but their latest efforts are so shady, we felt it was our responsibility to shine a light on its lack of validity and the organization's credibility. Our report, Correcting Community Fiber Fallacies: Taxpayers Protection Alliance Edition, takes a deeper look at the TAP's most recent attempt, which is filled with errors and a blatant disregard for the truth.

What Is A "Boondoggle" Anyway? This Map!

When we looked deeper, we discovered that TPA’s "Broadband Boondoggles: A Map of Failed Taxpayer-Funded Networks" is more misinformation than map. 

All of the basic errors in the map display a lack of attention to detail; our short report examines the deceitful characteristics of this resource. Our purpose in publishing this report is to caution community leaders and citizens who are investigating publicly owned infrastructure; the TPA is not a credible source.

One of the more obvious errors: Sandy, Oregon, appears in Utah.

The map is also visually deceiving because it includes 213 communities, but only provides information for 87. Of the 213 on the map, the TPA only label 14 as "failures," which means less than 10 percent of the networks they document fit their own definition of "failure."

Clearly, TPA has proven that it seeks to spread any and all information it can find to discredit municipal networks, regardless of accuracy. Communities, public officials, or staff that research the option of publicly owned networks should review our report if they have ever considered the data in the Boondoggles Map.

Consider the Source

If your community is seeking better connectivity, thorough research will be the foundation of how you proceed. As part of your research, be sure to review the organizations that offer information.

From our report:

This brief report does not claim all municipal networks are successes. Municipal networks are challenging in the best of circumstances and local governments must perform due diligence before making decisions in this area. However, we have seen networks that are unqualified successes attacked as being failures by groups that, like TPA, are more focused on delegitimizing the idea of government than determining the best policy for building community wealth. 

Download the full report.

Check out our other "Correcting Community Fiber Fallacies" report on LUS Fiber.

Correcting Community Fiber Fallacies: Taxpayers Protection Alliance EditionTags: reportcorrecting community fiber fallacieschristopher mitchellmisinformationchattanoogacedar fallssandy orwilsondanvillerockport me

Fort Collins, CO, Considering November Ballot Measure

May 24, 2017

After tentative plans to work with a private sector partner fell through, Fort Collins is still moving forward. The city wants the option to provide residents and businesses with gigabit connectivity as a municipal service, necessitating a ballot initiative in November to change the city charter. The ballot initiative would allow the Light and Power Utility to provide Internet services and may also ask voters to consent to use municipal bonds to fund the Internet network infrastructure project.

The city estimates the project will cost between $125 million and $140 million and will cover the entire city and its “growth management area,” which is land that is expected to be annexed in the future.

A Long And Winding Road

In 2015, voters in Fort Collins reclaimed local authority by opting out of SB 152, which discourages cities from investing in Internet infrastructure in order to offer services themselves or with private sector partners. The pro-local sentiment was so popular that 83 percent of voters supported opting out.

From there, the city pursued a partnership with Axia. However, the Canadian company pulled out of discussions with Fort Collins and a similar deal with Bloomington, Indiana. Axia’s parent company, Partners Group, was reportedly hesitant to enter the U.S. market and compete with large, incumbent providers Comcast and CenturyLink. Axia Networks USA was operating MassBroadband 123 in Massachussetts and filed for bankruptcy earlier this year, leaving the state searching for another company to manage the statewide fiber-optic network.

The city is still open to partnering with a private sector partner, but is leaning toward providing services through their existing Light and Power Utility. We've seen other deals between municipalities fall apart when they seemed like sure things, which indicates that municipalities must always take care when establishing a relationship with a potential partner.

Santa Cruz and Cruzio were well on their way to entering into a partnership, but the project did not materialize. In Urbana-Champaign in Illinois, the partnership ended when iTV3 sold its assets, leaving the communities to the devices of the new partner. There are partnerships that can be mutually beneficial, as in the case of Westminster, Maryland, but each community needs to vet their partner and then vet some more. The reality is that partnerships involve risk.

City Looks To Provide Services

While the city is open to partnerships with incumbent Internet Service Providers (ISPs), it appears to favor offering services itself, citing a desire for local control and better customer service. Council Member Ross Cunniff discussed residents’ desire for city-provided Internet services:

“When I talk to citizens, really the main question on their minds isn’t should we, it’s “Why haven’t you gotten around to doing it yet?’ I think it’s time for us to get around to doing it.”

Deputy City Manager Jeff Mihelich also highlighted the urgency of constructing the network:

“We think right now is the time to get in, get the fiber in place, to build the system and future-proof it so that way, when the speeds increase over time, it will be right for it.”

Tags: fort collinscoloradoballotconsiderationpartnershipsb 152

Considering PPPs, Marketing For Munis - Broadband Bits Podcast 255

May 23, 2017
Community Broadband Bits Episode 255 - Kyle Hollifield, Senior Vice President, Magellan Advisors

While attending the Broadband Communities Summit in Dallas, Christopher had the opportunity to interview some of the people he’s been wanting get on the show, including Kyle Hollifield, Senior Vice President from Magellan Advisors.

Magellan and Kyle have been working with a growing list of communities across the country exploring opportunities to improve local connectivity. In addition to helping communities find ways to bring better telecommunications services to residents, local leaders are turning to Kyle and Magellan for advice on what to do about better connectivity for businesses, community anchor institutions, and government facilities. Kyle and Christoper discuss the considerations local communities wrestle with as they search for the best approach for their unique situation.

As many are considering public-private partnerships, they need to balance expectations and goals. Kyle offers sage advice to communities that are seeking a private sector partner to invest in their area. For local governments that decide to invest in municipal networks, marketing services can often be an unfamiliar challenge; Kyle has a way of pinning down some of the important factors that can fall by the wayside but are crucial to keeping subscribers happy.

Read the transcript of the show here.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

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: audiobroadband bitspodcastpartnershipmarketingfeasibilityconsiderationpublic v privateconduitpolicy

Highlands Looking For A Partner: RFI Responses Due June 9th

May 23, 2017

Highlands, North Carolina, deployed a Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) infrastructure and fixed wireless complement to serve the community. The small rural community has been operating the municipal network in the Appalachians since late 2015, but is now considering passing the mantle to a private partner. They recently released a Request for Information (RFI) and responses are due June 9th.

High In The Appalachians

Tourism is one of the town’s staple economies, as it’s known for its natural surroundings atop the Nantahala National Forest in the mountains. While less than 1,000 people live in the town all year, summer tourists swell the population to around 20,000. There are several country clubs nearby that cater to the affluent second-home owners in Highlands and there are at least 500 homes that are valued at $1 million or more.

The FTTH network does not serve the entire community. Local leaders want the network available to the entire community, in part to keep second home owners in Highlands for extended periods of time. With better connectivity, many could work from home. The community also operates a municipal electric utility that owns 2,600 utility poles and 110 miles of line, most of it aerial. Interestingly, the Highlands Electric Utility serves over 3,000 accounts, some in the suburban Atlanta areas.

Highlands issued the RFI to search out  provider that would be interested in expanding the FTTH network and acquiring more customers for the network as a whole. They still want to own the infrastructure, but hope to attract a provider willing to lease the existing network and add to it.

Read the rest of the RFI.

Responses are due Friday, June 30th.

Tags: highlands ncnorth carolinarfipartnershipFTTHfixed wirelessappalachiansrural

Francis Ford Coppola Appeals To FCC On Behalf Of Net Neutrality, The Arts

May 22, 2017

The new FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has not been shy about letting the public know that the agency, under the new administration, will undo many of the net neutrality protections of the Obama years. Unsurprisingly, the FCC website has been taxed with heavy traffic as concerned citizens reach out to comment.

Many of us consider what will be available to us if ISPs are able to decide which content has access to “fast lanes” through paid prioritization. Artists who create that content have the same concern.

This short video from Public Knowledge highlights the words of Francis Ford Coppola in his open letter to the FCC. He asks the agency to remember its place in history and to protect artistic innovation from corporate greed. In other words, “leave the gun, take the cannoli.”

Tags: network neutralityinnovationvideofccpaid prioritizationpublic knowledge

Community Broadband Media Roundup - May 22

May 22, 2017

Colorado

Fort Collins likely to put city-provided broadband services on November ballot by Kevin Duggan, The Coloradoan

 

Maine

Proposed legislation aimed at protecting Mainers' Internet privacy by Portland Press Herald

 

Minnesota

Is there a market for city-owned Internet service? by Randy Petersen, Rochester Post Bulletin

The need for improved technology took Robison to the April 17 Rochester City Council meeting to join four other residents supporting a proposed market study regarding municipal broadband. The concept of a city-supported Internet service in Rochester was first broached by the council in 2015 in an effort to ensure adequate access to high-speed Internet service at a reasonable price.

Council member Michael Wojcik has been advocating for action from the start, noting quality Internet access is needed to keep local students and businesses competitive. "Broadband is key for information for a lot of people, particularly younger generations, and going forward, it becomes more and more critical," he said.

 

Ohio

Study: Ohio statewide broadband office, investment fund could help boost rural access by Theo Douglas, Government Technology

 

General

National Digital Inclusion Week helps build nationwide momentum for digital equity by Zack Quaintance, Government Technology

Tucows' Noss: Google Fiber's realignment won't have a material impact by Sean Buckley, FierceTelecom

ISP deregulation discourages competition by Josh Maasberg, Daily Evergreen

FCC commissioner: 'Net neutrality is doomed if we're silent' by Lucas Matney, TechCrunch

Small but powerful: Despite objections, small ISPs need net neutrality too by Sara Kamal, Public Knowledge

Tags: media roundup

Can't Make It To Mountain Connect? Periscope It

May 22, 2017

Spring is the season for Mountain Connect. This year, it’s all about Building Sustainable Communities through Smart Networks; the event starts today and runs through May 24th in Keystone, Colorado. 

Christopher will be participating in a panel on Tuesday at 12:15 p.m. The title of the discussion is “Broadband Policy Lost In The Woods,” and speaking with Christopher will be Blair Levin from the Brookings Institute. Phil Weiser from Silicon Flatirons will moderate.

Can make it? You can still follow the action at the conference via @MountainConnect and @CommunityNets. There will be Periscope broadcasts of some of the panel discussions throughout the conference.

Some of the other topics will include:

  • Navigating Rights of Way and Pole Attachment Agreements
  • Intelligent Transportation Systems
  • Wireless Considerations
  • Smart Utilities
  • Evolution and Impact of Over the Top Content
  • Digital Government Services
  • How can we Partner with our Incumbent Providers
  • Navigating Financing Options

View the full agenda online.

Tags: conferencecoloradochristopher mitchellblair levinvideoevent