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Christopher Mitchell's Ask Me Anything - Episode 533 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast
This week on the podcast, Christopher Mitchell join's Drew Clark on Broadband.Money's Ask Me Anything series, and in true fashion, he never ducks the hard questions. With audience questions, Drew and Christopher cover wide ground, including why the national broadband marketplace needs publicly owned infrastructure options, the benefits of open access models, how cities can prepare for BEAD and other federal funding, and other steps communities can take to make sure that when they do work with third-party ISPs that they maintain some measure of control (like performance-based contracts).
We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.
Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index. See other podcasts from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance here.
Thanks to Arne Huseby for the music. The song is Warm Duck Shuffle and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.
Drew Clark (00:00:00):
Joined by Christopher Mitchell. Christopher is the Director of Community Broadband Networks Initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. A bit of a mouthful, but it rolls off the tongue once you get used to it. And I L S R is really become quite a, a thinker and player and di dynamo of the, like, localism, if you, if you had to put a word on it, is why localism matters, how localism is important. And Chris has just, you know, carved out such an incredible role for himself over the last 14 whatever years at, in super local self-reliance as the director of this community Broadbands Networks program. Chris, it's so great to have you on the broadband.money. Ask me anything.
Christopher Mitchell (00:00:44):
Thank you. And, and I, as I told you to your face, the beard is really working for you. I love it,
Drew Clark (00:00:49):
<laugh>. Well, thank you. Chris, I ha I inspiration from so many people, including you and you know, Chris, we've, our journeys have, have we've definitely intersected multiple times. I think I started going to broadband communities conference around the same time as you did. And you, you might have hassled me of some stories that we had published on broadband breakfast back then. But you know, I, I had just am am am so impressed by everything you've done at muni networks.org as, as the r l goes. Just give us, give us a quick your, your take on what brought you, I mean, you're a Minnesotan, you've, you've gone to school in, in Minnesota. What kinda led you to I L S R and to this, this this, this domain of, of knowledge and, and PR an act an,
Christopher Mitchell (00:01:42):
It's a, it's a really good question. And, you know, it's not like I was hunting it out. there was a job that was available. The, the woman who had started the program and run it for two years had decided that she would like to move on. And so right before I graduated from the University of Minnesota Pub public Policy School this job came up and I had seen what I L S R had been doing. It seemed like the kind of organization that I could work at. And so I applied. they were looking for three things. A person that knew policy, a person that was somewhat technical, and a person that would work for a very low salary. And there was a very small number of people that fit that bill in the entire country. <laugh>. So here I am.
Drew Clark (00:02:23):
Well, I mean, you, you literally have become, you're not, I can't say you're a, you're a one man show anymore because you've got a lot of great, great folks there. and you, you've built up such an incredible resource, but what, what does it do? What does MUN Muni networks or community, the community broadband Networks initiative, what do you do? What would you describe as the core functions that you've been, been up to?
Christopher Mitchell (00:02:44):
I think it has to do with research and telling stories. You know, seeing what is working for communities out there to solve this problem, and perhaps these problems around making sure everyone has high quality internet access and they can use it. I would, every few years I feel like we change our focus a little bit just based on what is needed. And the way that we do that is we're constantly talking with people that are out and doing the hard work. And, you know, I appreciate that, that my team gets a lot of detention. I, I, I mean, attention, not detention, <laugh>. but I, I do think there's people out there that are doing tremendous work that people often wouldn't hear of. And the part that we do is just try to make sure people do hear of it. So and then when we hear people saying, well, you know, I really need this thing, or like, you know, there's this other piece that we can't figure out, then we try to figure out is that something that we could help with? Or, you know, do we know folks, you know, like people like you, people at Bendon Institute, people in other nonprofit organizations, people in banks, people in the I s P industry, you know, how can we bring people together to solve problems? so, you know, right now, like we're kind of making that pivot where we're doing more training than I ever thought we would be doing. Right. Terms of working with people to help them learn how to work in this industry.
Drew Clark (00:03:59):
We'll definitely come back to that and maybe some other pivots. But I gotta ask you, do you get asked or accused of being a journalist at times, Chris?
Christopher Mitchell (00:04:07):
Yeah, I mean, I, I do think people have you know, or are a little bit uncomfortable at times with what we are. And, and we try to, we try to have I would say standards that are like that of journalists and reporters. I think of us as reporters you know as far as noting, I mean, the Institute for Local Self-Reliance is not like pro municipal network necessarily. We are pro strong communities, right? We want communities that are economically and politically able to like chart their own course in life. And if we have failing municipal broadband networks, that's not gonna help the community <laugh>, right? So, so, you know, like we are seen as being pro municipal network, but we're very cautious in, in wanting to make sure that communities are making this decision in an informed way and taking it seriously.
Drew Clark (00:04:53):
Well, and, you know, as a journalist at, at broadband breakfast and we've, of course, we've, we've worked together many, many times in the past. We've crossed pub published articles and appreciate the things you've done for us, and hopefully we've been able to do some good things for you too. what what I value about what you do in this context is that you are factually straight. I mean, like, you'll, you'll get the news out there and it's, and it's good and accurate information. That's of course a threshold question. Of course, in society today, it's like so questioned, like, oh, facts, what are those? Right? But, but like, what, what, from your perspective, what is the, the value in making sure that that truthful stories are told about communities?
Christopher Mitchell (00:05:33):
Well, I think the value is off the charts because of a lack of local reporting expertise Yes. In this work. you know, one of the things that, that we rely on is local reporters who are reporting on this. And it, and it used to be that they might have some telecom background, but now it's more likely that they don't, and they're overworked, and we don't see as much local reporting on it. When we do, we've learned that we have to be very careful because local reporters can even confuse wifi and fiber optics. You're seeing that in multiple times, even in big markets. Yeah. So, you know, I feel like we, we feel like someone needs to be out there providing a record and getting things right, and admitting when we get things wrong, and trying to just inform people to make sure that we have we're learning the right lessons. Right. We don't want, I don't want people to be going off and thinking, we need to make this investment because this is exactly how these other people did it. And maybe that's not even how they did it.
Drew Clark (00:06:31):
Right. Well, let's, let's go to one important role you play, which is a, a debunker of AstroTurf campaigns. I mean, we, we see this repeatedly over and over again. big telecom companies will fund groups that then go out and say, oh, municipal networks bad. You know, we don't want socialism, right? We don't want municipal government owning broadband networks. First off, what, what's, what's wrong with that, right? I mean, is, is is it wrong or is it not wrong for, for municipalities to be socialist in their broadband? And secondly you know, wh why do you think this is such a recurring story of, of organization after organization kind of coming along and making these arguments as if they were some other entity?
Christopher Mitchell (00:07:20):
Yeah, this is, it's complicated in a variety of ways.
Drew Clark (00:07:23):
Like, go for it. Take some time. So,
Christopher Mitchell (00:07:25):
So here, I mean, the idea of like, whether you're a socialist or not, being a binary, I don't, I don't get it. And you know, if we were to say, you know, this, the city that I live in, like almost all cities builds roads that are available to anyone for free using taxpayer dollars. That's socialism. Does that mean my city's socialist? No. You know, like it's, it's just the way we do it cuz it works, right? Because to do it otherwise would mean that we would have to be stuck with a lower quality of life, less business activity and that sort of a thing. So there are socialists who support municipal broadband and, and they see it as being something that is important for their ideology. there are people that are very open market who support municipal broadband because they see it as overcoming market failure.
but most of the communities that have done something, they don't waste their time on that, I don't think. Like, they just think we have a problem and we are going to try to solve it. And the way that seems to work for us is to make this investment and choosing one of the many different models around broadband. you know, I think the word socialist comes up largely from people who are just trying to discredit it, right? And people who, they don't have a real agenda. They don't really want to talk about kind of what socialism is, what markets need generally you know, and that sort of a thing, or the total lack of competition, this sort of monopoly environment where, where most people have one or two choices for a real actual high quality connection. and so, you know, I I I'm not a socialist. I I'm someone who has I I think a lot about these different issues and there have been times where I certainly flirted in my life with various socialist ideas. and at this point, like I feel like I'm very pro competition, very pro-market in ways that often require smart government investments to deal with the fact that bad government policy in the PA in the past has resulted in significant consolidation and a lack of choice.
Drew Clark (00:09:28):
Well, and, and I think that I mean obviously I'm, I'm, I'm throwing a scare term out there, but soon as I threw that, that scare term out there, we have a comment from Corey Howard saying the same thing. There is a trail of carcasses from failed socialist broadband efforts in Minnesota with defaults leaving taxpayers on the hook for more than 100 million late county RS five C of Monticello. Your first chance to go after a former ask me anything guested Chris.
Christopher Mitchell (00:09:55):
Yeah, no, I mean, you know, so of those, like, if you go to RS Fiber and, and, and I was there at the meeting in which they announced that they had not achieved the financial level of performance that they wanted to, or more specifically that they actually had the right amount of revenue, but they had in, because they screwed up their debt, they had much higher costs than were expected on the debt side that they were gonna have to tap into the tax pro the property tax base. and at that meeting where it was announced, I was really curious what was gonna happen. And actually I had a recorder there and I misused it. Classic issue, never try to use a new piece of electronics in a live environment. So I don't have a recording of it, but it was fascinating cuz people were saying, okay, that sucks.
It's disappointing, but when do we get the fiber out? You know, this is so important for the community. And if you, if you <laugh>, like, I mean, I don't wanna, I don't wanna turn this into like me against Cory Howard running L t d or anything like that, but like what we've seen is that there's not a lot of people who, when given the choice between RS fiber, whether that's the wireless service or the fiber service, which is run by h bbc, which is a wonderful company that has terrific reviews in, in southeastern Minnesota let's just say they're not hurting for market share, where they come up against some of the other companies that they compete against. so this is, it's actually the, the best example to talk about, right? So municipal broadband does not end up like Chattanooga often, you know, Chattanooga puts in, you know, let's
Drew Clark (00:11:28):
Let, let's take, let's take the spectrum. What's the best run city broadband and what's the worst run city broadband in your experience of hundreds that you've looked at? Hundreds.
Christopher Mitchell (00:11:37):
Yeah. So the best is chat. Well, so the best is difficult. There's different metrics, right? Chattanooga off the charts, financial success, right? The, because the community had come together years before. You know, Chattanooga isn't a story of fiber. It's a story of a community that has gotten lot of things right after they were in very difficult circumstances and they came together. And so people that are making large investments in Chattanooga, it's partially cuz of the fiber, but it's not only because of the fiber, right? So Wilson, North Carolina, very difficult situation. Much more difficult in economically in Chattanooga not being, re being brought up by the tide of other smart investments the city had made necessarily. Although in Wilson's case, they had a history of making smart investments. They they have done a wonderful job of trying to make sure that they have three different programs to connect low income folks, right? Just r off the charts. Wonderful, right? Longmont, Colorado, like launches, and in Intu a market where, you know, Comcast and CenturyLink are investing as well. and, and they hit like 50% penetration in just a, I think it was four years, five years, yeah. Off the charts, right? Vermont, Vermont, like the most rural state as measured by people who don't live in a metropolitan area. ma massively embracing municipal broadband, right? Because EC fiber has done such an amazing job, but they,
Drew Clark (00:12:58):
They've certainly had ups and downs. I mean, I remember age, so years we, we were there and they, they were kind of wrestling with the, the, the, the challenges. Ha haven't they had challenges? What, who, who is, who has not risen to the challenge, Chris, from your experience.
Christopher Mitchell (00:13:11):
Yeah, so, so I, let's just, I mean, I, I, I wanted to make the point, there's a bunch of success stories, like really off the charts ones, and then you have your middle cases, and that's more like some of these cities. And you know I, I'm not gonna pick any, I feel like they might feel like this, they might feel abused if I say any specific names, but there's a number of cities where they're barely paying the debt down. They're making all their cost, they're making all the operating expense payments, right? And and it's hard, right? It is freaking hard work for the manager of the system because, you know, maybe they have five, 10,000 subs and it is difficult. It's definitely possible to make it work with fewer, but until you get 15, 20, it's, it's, it doesn't really start to get any easier, right?
So that's the middle case. The worst case is places like Nell in Florida. Nell in Florida is one that hasn't talked about as much. I looked into it because I was kind of curious about it. I hadn't heard about them. All of a sudden they were launching this, and as best I can tell, I'm sorry if I'm getting this wrong. Someone in Nell who had some power was like, you know what would make money, fiber, let's build a fiber network. And they didn't consult with anyone, right? They just like, they just put money into it and assumed that they would have the right number of customers and that, that it would all work out and they would be able to sign people up and they sold it at a massive loss. Or I don't, I don't exactly know what happened there, but it was, it was dumb. That is not, I mean, that, that happens in a few places, right? Even if you look at like Ashland Oregon, Ashland Oregon is one of those common stories you hear about where people like Ashland, Oregon failed. And in the last year my colleague Sean was writing a story about it. I think one of us, one of
Drew Clark (00:14:50):
My Sean, Sean Gonsalves said, your, yeah,
Christopher Mitchell (00:14:52):
Sean Donals and who's just a, you know, one, I mean my team, boy, they're terrible to work with. Nobody should hire them. <laugh>. nobody
Drew Clark (00:15:00):
Christopher Mitchell (00:15:00):
It. Don't, don't post them. <laugh>. they, and, and there was this, they came up and I was sort of doing a fact check on it because they were like, yeah, like the networks throwing off $500,000 a year that's helping the city, you know, to you know, not raise other taxes. It's, it's, it's generating so much wealth. And I was like, no, that doesn't sound like Ashland to me. Ashland is a city where like 12 years ago, Joe Farnell like had to like, make some city significant changes to pull it out of the hole that it was in. It was, it had been poorly managed and other city departments were having to help pay for the debt because the network couldn't cover its own debt. Well, since then, they've, they've actually turned it around quite a bit, right? And, and that's the thing is that you can fix these mistakes when things go wrong. And there's no better example than that. Utopia. I'm not gonna spend any time on it, cuz your audience knows. Go on
Drew Clark (00:15:46):
And on. Yeah. UTOPIA
Christopher Mitchell (00:15:47):
Is like terrific.
Drew Clark (00:15:48):
And, and what, and what I, what I, I would like to pull out of, of the Utopia example, but they're not alone. They are an open access success story where many different ISPs, internet service, spreaders, are offering service on a, a single open platform, a single open network. And, and we'll, we'll talk a little more about open access, but let's just close out this kind of criticism point that is both sides of the coin, right? And, and we got a question from Peggy, Peggy Schaffer Schaffer, who, who has done incredible work in Connect Maine. She asks, how can states and advocates make sure communities are on a level playing field when it comes to grants and data versus law, large incumbents. Maybe the flip side of that coin is Benjamin Kahn asks, critics of municipal broadband often compare state and community broadband efforts to an athlete who participates as both a referee and a player. So, on the level playing field, wh which is it are states are, are, are, are cities at a disadvantage or are they at an advantage when it comes to non-city municipal players?
Christopher Mitchell (00:16:52):
It's, it's not as easy as just picking one of those. and let me, let me just say quickly, I keep looking down. I, I am I'm always doing too many things and I'm remodeling some parts of my house and the windows are supposed to be delivered before 10:00 AM this morning. And as soon as we started is when they texted me to be like, it's on the way. So I was trying to like, coordinate with my wife to make sure she knows that these people are gonna be showing up. And it's always, there's always something with me. so I don't mean to be you know, distracted a little bit, but the the referee issue is one that I think is totally blown out of context, right? in general, cities are at a disadvantage relative to large companies, right?
This isn't, we're not talking about like a city compared to a local wisp but like compared to a charter spectrum, a Comcast, there's no city that has an advantage over those companies with the kind of scale that they have, right? I mean, like, those companies buy units in the tens of millions, and so they get price discounts, they get the front of the line, they get, they have, they have all kinds of capacity. Their marketing is done at like an incredibly low per unit cost, right? now cities have some advantages around debt in certain ways, not all ways. but right now, as, as the interest rates are flux in flu, we may certainly see cities are able to finance things less than certain other private companies. you know, cities have to operate in the open whereas private companies get to do things in secret that's both planning and also making mistakes, right?
I know lots of people who are very, I'm blessed by people who are open with me about the businesses that they run, right? And they make mistakes all the time. Like <laugh>, they're like, man, like I'm, you know, like they're not, they don't wanna, they don't wanna do the front page news that they screwed up this investment and then they fix it, right? Right. like that's, that's, that's the nature of working in the edge in, in a field like this. So cities do that though, and it, and like, it can be blown out of proportion. even networks that are a success may see someone who has political ambitions wanting to just lie about it in order to try to advance themselves. I mean, I think that's sort of what happened in Sun Prairie in Wisconsin. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. so, you know, these, these things are they're hard to compare. and I, you know, but I, I do wanna say that like, there's also not such thing as the private sector, right? Like a small scrappy company is very different from a large multinational company. And a small scrappy company could be run by someone who is duplicitous, who's, who's just basically trying to figure out how to flip that company and sell it before it all implodes. Or it could be run by someone who has a strong dedication to the community that's doing everything they can to try to help their community out.
Drew Clark (00:19:31):
Right? Let's, let's let's, let's make sure we transition into the discussion about the infrastructure investment in Jobs Act, which of course is the large 65 billion funds for broadband. The bulk of 'em, vast bulk of them going to the broadband equity access and deployment program. Two questions on this. The first is, what kind of the question of the day or the week is the, the maps and the, the, the apparent news? I I I, I am not willing to accept defeat just yet, but many people are saying the FCC has made speed tests redundant in terms of allowing local governments, local communities to effectively independently verify some ISPs claims. This is a question that Sarah, I Sterling here at Broadband Money asks. That's one part I wanna ask you about. How's this mapping and rollout process going? And secondly, I wanna get your take on the fiber versus wireless. you, you're, you're very much associated with kind of fiber is, is, is is important and good, but I know you're not an absolutist, so, so talk to me about where you see the best use of this 42.5 billion when it comes to the technologies deployed.
Christopher Mitchell (00:20:46):
Well, first, do we answer Peggy's question? I feel like we kind of skipped Well,
Drew Clark (00:20:49):
No, go ahead. Finish Peggy's question first.
Christopher Mitchell (00:20:51):
Okay. I mean, I, I would say that like a lot of communities if they're not gonna create their own I s p they're gonna not have a real say over the state funds, right? except for they could preference, hopefully most states will probably have a local letter of support kind of thing. And so you know, cities need to be paying attention to that. Not cities so much as rural communities more likely. but like rural communities that wanna build their own ISPs have to, I think, put together a credible plan because when a state's evaluating it, if, if it doesn't look like a community knows what they're doing with some sort of community led I S P, then they're not gonna be preference even if they get a few extra points here or there for being community owned.
Drew Clark (00:21:35):
Let, let's make sure we're, we're fully understanding this and digesting, cuz there's a couple pieces. Peggy asks, how can states and advocates support community applications and data collection? And then Jace Wilson of broadband money ads, how can communities and states that tend to ignore them, advocate for their proposals? And then Peggy asks another follow up, which is, when grants require community engagement, what evidence of that should grant reviewers look for? So let's, let's kind of make sure we've gotten everything in this bundle here.
Christopher Mitchell (00:22:03):
So the first thing is, I hope that N T I A takes this very seriously, and I think there's some signs that they will and, and hold states to the fire to make sure they are doing consultations with local governments as well as tribal governments. I think that's gonna be really important because there's much, there's many different needs there. And I think that there should be some mechanism for the states to be not the ones saying, yes, we did our consultations, but actually that there's some kind of checkup or ability for local governments to appeal. Not that one local government could stop an entire state by saying there wasn't a consultation, but if you have a bunch of local governments all saying, we weren't consulted, we don't feel like we have an opportunity, you know, there should be some, some process for that. And, and like so many things like speed tests, especially, you know, a few speed tests don't tell you anything, but like thousands of them do you see patterns emerging? And that's where that's where it's important to know how to use these, this sort of data that has to be collected. You know, when it comes down to the the fccs decisions, I think a number of states are gonna be using their own data much more than the FCC data. So so that's,
Drew Clark (00:23:08):
Let's, let's stop it back up on data. Okay. So, so moving to, to data, what we're basically talking about, of course, so that everyone knows that, you know, the, the Federal Communications Commission is charged with getting an updated map, not that they haven't had a few years to do this already. And an address level or location by location level address of where broadband is and isn't and what levels it is. And you kind of, the word on the street is, well, how, how do we, how do we test, how do we prove when a provider claims, oh yeah, we've got gigabit fiber there, there's no speed test that comes even close to that. And we, we had a demonstration of this on a broadband breakfast webcast on Wednesday about lots of speed tests not showing anything close to what's claimed. So, so so Chris, what, what's, what's your take on the fccs failures and what remedies might be available?
Christopher Mitchell (00:24:11):
I'm, I'm at a loss of what to say about the fcc. there's a lot of good people who are trying to do good things. There, there is a history of mistakes that were made that have left, led a a lot of things to be done. So I don't wanna sit here and say that someone's a bad person at the FCC in whatever position. but I feel like there's a reason that a lot of people have lost faith in it. I'm sympathetic to the idea that they don't wanna sort through a bunch of speed tests, some of which may have been done over a wifi router that was built 15 years ago, right? Or, and may, may be at the extent of its limit. Like I understand all of that. But the reason the FCC exists is that it's an expert agency, right?
Like the whole point is that Congress and others were like, we can't just decide these things. We need someone that knows what they're talking about. And I don't feel like there's a lot of credibility coming from the FCC on that, and I, and I would like to see that restored. so what that means in my mind is continuing to collect data rigorously you know, using robust standards. There's a, there's a whole fight right now about speed tests and the cable industry particularly saying that, that that the the mLab N D T test is is inappropriate. And I would agree, like if you're trying to like see him, I'm, I'm on a gigabit doxy three one connection, am I gonna, you know, am is the N D T test gonna be the appropriate way to measure that? No, it is not.
But if you're like on a D S L connection that's delivering seven megabits and it's claiming 30, that N D T test is the right test to be checking that out and seeing whether or not it works. so, so like, this is all like super complicated, but this is where we needed an agency that takes it seriously and comes out with it. But it's not to say it's easy, but like, it's literally the Y B FCC exists. Now tell me, did I, I mean, I I sort of like went off on that rant a little bit, but what redirect me if you want.
Drew Clark (00:25:59):
Well let, let's take a slightly different take, take on mapping. What, what's the point of this, Chris? I mean, we've talked about this before. You, you, you, you, you sometimes have the view, or at least maybe I'm, maybe I'm imagining from decades old conversation, what we need is a map showing whether there's fiber yes or no, right? And then if there's not fiber, let's figure out a plan to get, get
Christopher Mitchell (00:26:22):
Yeah, I mean that's, that's like, it's one, it's, it's, it would be a good, a better way of moving forward. But also, I mean, I'll just like, I just got a note from Travis because we saw that a certain company had started building fiber in a certain area and he had asked me Travis, who
Drew Clark (00:26:37):
Is, who is, who is Travis? Tell us who, Travis that
Christopher Mitchell (00:26:38):
Carter my frequent partner and friend of me on
Drew Clark (00:26:43):
The connect this webcast
Christopher Mitchell (00:26:44):
That you on the connect this webcast, but also real life like Travis and I, like, we joke that, like, I teach him like kind of how government works and he teaches me how ISPs really work from the inside. And and Travis and I, I mean, I just, it's too, I I I love working with him. We disagree on plenty of things, but like, but like, he's constantly of the mind of show me test, let's test it and that sort of thing. But anyway, he's, he's just making the point to me last night after the episode ended that not all fibers the same, right? Like you can have fiber companies that are doing a poor job, much like, so in St. Paul cable, Comcast does a pretty good job in my neighborhood, right? I have high reliability, I have decent speeds. A lot of my neighbors probably aren't using it.
which, which helps. but another part of St. Paul, it's bad in parts of Eastern North Carolina, for instance, and lots of other places, like, I mean, where you've got cable one Suddenlink, like some of these, no, these companies have been famous for just having networks that don't work significant percentages of the time. And, and so like, it's not enough to just focus on the technology, it's a good start, but like some of the cable networks work better than others. And there has to be some way of measuring that. We have, like the whole Sam knows system, and I, and I was pretty frustrated with that, but it would be better to have that and actually using that for reliability data, for testing jitter and other things that are becoming more important as moving from a hundred megabits to 500 megabits is less important than having a high qu than having a high a low latency connection, you know, than having a connection that has a very con continuous, high quality experience. So I, I'm, I'm off.
Drew Clark (00:28:23):
Well, and, and, and just just so everyone knows, Sam Knows is a is a British company that does tests under the Measuring Broadband America program of the Federal Communications Commission. It's basically a way to get kind of actual tests on boxes that are designated. So I sometimes liken normal speed tests as speed tests in the wild, whereas these measuring broadband America tests that Sam knows is doing and feeding back the FCC are, are specific, right? And a lot of the, there was just last weekend there was the telecommunications policy research conference. I was there, it was a great, great session. They were like six or seven or eight papers on broadband labels or broadband speed test, right? Because this is such a hot and important topic. And, and I, I don't think we can let this go, Chris. I mean, like, I don't think that that the fccs, you know, whatever, you know, failures not, not
Christopher Mitchell (00:29:15):
Doing, but the reason that we need mapping is cuz we don't trust local communities to know what they need. Right. And there's both good and bad reasons for that, right? Because you and I both can name communities where we would say, I absolutely trust this community. They, the map looks like they have good data. You know, there's a, every address is served by this company, that company claims to offer this level of service, and the map is not gonna capture what's going on there. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. But there's actually, actually probably you and I would probably still agree more communities where they just don't have that level of sophistication. But ultimately, I mean, you know, you're talking to someone from the Institute for local self-reliance, the mapping is always gonna be flawed, especially as long as we're not collecting pricing data attached to it. Yeah. and so it's, it's really a question of kind of what are we specifically trying to do? And and, you know, is this good enough together, it's not gonna be great. What we need is communities that take this seriously, right? If you go into a public works department and you ask them the difference between a blacktop road and a, and a concrete road, and they can't tell you something's gone horribly wrong, right? But like local governments haven't yet developed that sophistication around broadband. I think they will over time.
Drew Clark (00:30:25):
Well, and, and this, this is kind of the way I I was led to this, Chris, is, is, you know, I'm obviously the, the furthest thing from a socialist <laugh>. I mean, we, we haven't had many one-on-one political talks, but, but I'm, I'm, you know, the opposite of that, right? And yet, and yet the argument that I hear these AstroTurf groups make is, is so absurd because here's the, here's the bottom line. The cities are the custodians of their rights of way they need to be, they must be. Right? We, we have a public good, it's called roads. I mean, you made the point, right? We're not gonna have a competing networks of roads. So because you have that underlying infrastructure that's a public or, or even just the, the right of way, that doesn't mean the city needs to own everything. Right? And this is kind of where Utopia Fiber and Amin, Utah and, and others am in Idaho, excuse me, come in.
Right? Which is that there's, there's a, a thing called open access where there's different tiers, and one tier or one layer can own can be the, the ownership layer, right? The, the city can own it, right? And Detroit is, is, as I understand it, kind of on this pathway, I'd love for you to a add a little more where the city would, would be the owner, but then someone else and another private entity would operate it, and then still other entities offer service. So, so let's talk a little bit about open access and maybe some of the appealing or also the drawbacks of open access as a broadband method.
Christopher Mitchell (00:31:51):
Yes. Open access I think is terrific. you know, as you know, and people that follow me will probably know I am, I tend to really support open access not the exclusion of other models. I fundamentally believe that there are correct models for some places. And in some places you know, hoping for the best from an incumbent is possibly the best model if a local government has a history of corruption. so like, there's all kinds of different models. Open access is one that I desperately want to see continue to grow because I love the internet. And I really, so let's just for a second, go back. Like I was, I was blessed in that my father went back to college when I was young. And and so he got into computers at the right time in the eighties and nineties.
And I grew up with a computer in a way that most kids, especially kids in my circumstance did not. And I happened to get on the internet in the early nineties. you know, I was on Prodigy in like the late eighties or early nineties even. And and I had a sense of this, and I, I could always do what I wanted to do, right? I had websites with dumb 15 year old opinions, right? Like <laugh> and, and permissionless Innovation is something that I've always cherished. And when I look around, I think it's really great. And I worry even that, you know, I'll, I'll say that, you know, whether you're talking about like a utility mindset like Cedar Falls, Longmont, Colorado, Chattanooga, brilliant networks that are terrific and absolutely willing to work with local entrepreneurs, but at the same time, those entrepreneurs have to go there and, and kind of present their case to them, and they're gonna get a fair hearing.
But the idea that you go to AM and Idaho in, in some other places in time, you know, to be able to engage in like using the the software defined networking and to try a new experiment, that's just so important. I think we need to have, we need to have millions, ideally, tens of millions of Americans in thriving areas that have open access to kind of see what we can do with networks. Maybe a lot of those ideas won't work out, but I think we, we don't wanna foreclose that path because we have too much, too many networks being owned by people that are nervous about change and don't see a value in having you know, this permissionless environment. So, so I see open access. It's not about lowering the price. It's a nice side effect. The idea that we can have innovation in different ways, I think is really important.
Drew Clark (00:34:12):
Well, well, well, so how, how do you see this, this playing out with, with the bead funding, right? What, what changes could we see in the American telecommunications landscape because of bead, right? And what can, what can communities, cities do to be best positioned to take advantage of bead funds?
Christopher Mitchell (00:34:30):
Nothing. <laugh>, I mean, let's be clear. Like bead is going to, like, on the order of 10 billion US households, right? Like 42 and a half billion dollars, it's mostly gonna go to rural areas. not just rural areas, but rural areas where at and t and CenturyLink and Frontier already got billions of dollars to improve their networks there, and they kind of forgot to do it over the six or seven years they were supposed to do it. So we're, we're putting more money into those areas, but that this money's not going, you know, largely to Detroit, right? Detroit is using rescue plan funds a different bucket of money, which is important. And Congress really did a great job of, of doing that. The Department of the Treasury got those rules right, to enable this, but beads mostly not going to cities where there's a tremendous need both for low income.
And I think there's potential for, for the innovation where open access, it'd be very interesting to see in, in larger cities. not to say anything about West Valley, you know, which I know like has is is probably the largest municipal open access network. you know, so, so I just, I feel like when it comes to bead, we have to remember the Biden administration keeps using his talking point internet for all. And, and the people there, they truly believe that they want to get there. Bead is not that vehicle, okay? Bead is about connecting the 10 million households that were screwed by the big telephone companies.
Drew Clark (00:35:46):
All right, well, that's, that's a downer. But, but, but what, what can, what will happen in, in the marketplace, right? I mean, could open access get a new life from, from this or not, right? Or, or, or will there be new opportunities for, for, for rural co-ops, right? I mean, that's electric coop.
Christopher Mitchell (00:36:05):
There are some, and there are some rural co-ops and rural applications that will be open access. I don't know that we'll have a hundred thousand, 200,000 homes that are connected to open access because of be, I mean, it could be, and that would be a substantial, you know, growth of, of open access homes. but I think, you know, the, the answer is, is that cities need to prioritize this, not in a way that you need, you know, I was talking with people from Baltimore last night in the Digital Equity Learning lab, which is an amazing program for helping educate people about what their communities could do around broadband. And, and the question was, you know, what would it cost to build everywhere in Baltimore? What more than Baltimore is going to willing more I'm than able or willing to put into it?
And so the question is, you know, what can you do? And I, and I feel like, you know, this has been a candid conversation, so I'll just keep saying things that I've said more quietly and I've been less public about. I'm deeply disappointed we didn't do more in Seattle. in terms of the community broadband movement, I felt like there was a push in Seattle to do citywide municipal fiber. And I respect that that was what people that were leading that push in Seattle wanted to do. I think there was a real opportunity there to have said, let's spend 10 or 30 million over the period of like one to three years and, and really have an, an interesting connection focused on the lowest income neighborhoods that have been left behind. I felt like that's the level of support you could have shaken loose from Seattle. They chose not to do that. They chose to try to get, you know, on the order of many hundreds of millions of dollars from municipal broadband. And I think that was unrealistic. But open access can grow. The, one of the things I love about open access is that you can grow it incrementally,
Drew Clark (00:37:42):
Right? Let, let me, let me, I'm gonna shake one more point on this, but before we move to some others, which is this, this being bead and, and, and bead funding for, for areas that might be more quote, urban, suburban fringe. I mean, Alan Davidson, in the interview that, that we did together in in, in Keystone, Colorado, he emphasized how important it is to N T I A, that there is a hundred by 20 access, and that it's affordable, right? I mean, key, isn't there some way to show you know, again, even if the FCC is not gonna pay attention, the states may pay attention. The states may have the ability, the state broadband offices to say, well, we wanna, we want some of this money to go to this area, like in this part of Denver or this part of Washington that has really bad results in our actual speed results. And the, and I mean, do, do, do you see any hope for that? Or what, what are our, our best, what is the best way to get that result?
Christopher Mitchell (00:38:38):
I think it varies state by state. you know, there's, for instance, you know, I think Maryland, Maryland's governor has is a totally reasonable person. I think we, we would all agree that there are some unreasonable people out there running different states. And at the same time that that state is not gonna prioritize Baltimore, even though there's really important things that could be done, and the federal government has put enough money in that the state could really make a big difference in, in Baltimore or Annapolis, some of the places. But, but there's political dynamics in all of these places. you know, in my own Minnesota, we just see freaking 9 billion surplus and, and broadband's super important, except maybe we won't spend very much of that on that. We'd rather argue about it, wait for the election to pass. And I mean, this is, this is the reality of what happens, right?
And and so when it comes to this issue, like when I see happening is a potential future, is there's this talk about how we're putting all this money into broadband, you know on the order of 60, 70 billion in the broadband infrastructure, when you total up the C P F and all the different stuff, you know and there's a sense of we're really gonna fix broadband. We're putting all this money into it, right? And yes, for people that are living, you know, in exce herbs and in the more rural areas, I think they're gonna see dramatic differences. But I think most voters in, in the ne in the next presidential administration are gonna be like, how are my prices have gone up twice? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, I don't see any new providers really being available here. Yeah. And, and the question is, is, is what happens then?
Is it is it less of an issue because we don't have dramatic stories about about rural families you know, not having access, we're still gonna have the kids at the Taco Bell, right? That's gonna keep happening because we haven't really dealt with that in any kind of systematic way. So there might be in different areas political pressure to actually try to resolve that. And as long as we have people like Josh Edmonds who are stepping up and, and building trust in the community, and then in making smart investments to say, we're gonna, we're gonna try and do this in a way that that really doesn't just do the bare minimum, but actually provides unique benefits to populations, and in this case, an open access fiber network in, you know, hope Village in Detroit that's gonna be a big difference.
Drew Clark (00:40:54):
So there's a question from Dan Grossman, which I think is a really good one. many incumbents have seen the air of their ways in the past couple of years and are committed for real, says Dan, to building fiber to the home this time. It is more than just talk. They know that their continued existence depends on it. They have recapitalized by committing to investors, they will build out fiber to the home and get good roi. Why why should communities not consider these kind of partnerships with an incumbent? Is Dan's question.
Christopher Mitchell (00:41:28):
Well, not only are cities considering them, cities are giving them tremendous amounts of money, right? There's a tele competitor, I think had an article about Windstream and Frontier have captured 200 million for upgrades. I mean, these are companies that recently came out of bankruptcy. Frontier's been fined by just about every state it's operated in. I mean, it's been sued. It's just, as a company, I can't imagine one that you trust less, and yet they still keep racking in all of this money. you know, from, from state, federal and local partners you know, public entities that, that give them the money. so, so it's on the table, and I wouldn't say that it should be off the table, but if I'm in a community, I would, it would be a very hard decision to say, yes, let's use our hard earned taxpayer dollars, you know, to give more money to at and t or even to Comcast.
A company that I'm on the record is saying operates pretty well, particularly in comparison to its rivals in the cable industry. but you know, they, they're doing a 10 billion stock buyback. You're telling me that we should be giving taxpayer dollars that are scarce to companies. That that's basically, you're telling their shareholders, they don't have any productive use of investments, so they're just gonna buy shares back with their billions of dollars in profit. I, I think that's the sign of how broken the system is, right? At and t Frontier, these companies have a history of failing to meet community needs, and people get so caught up in the fiber and saying, yeah, all we need is fiber. Well, I don't know if I had a choice in North Carolina between Open broadband, fixed wireless and fiber from at and t, I'd be, I'd be really, you know, checking it out.
And I mean, and I think at and t Fiber gets a pretty good mark, you know, a pretty good marketplace review. But this is a company that will sell your data at the first opportunity. It's a company that's gonna raise your bill every chance it gets, you know, we're in a unique place right now where Wall Street is pouring money in private equity into fiber networks, and we're gonna, it's gonna look like there's a lot of competition, and we're gonna look like at and t and these companies are gonna be more competitive and have to like, and have to deal in a more competitive environment. But it's a mirage. It's all gonna get sort of back into monopolies. There's gonna be a, a, you know, a a year or two where we see massive consolidation again, and it's all gonna disappear unless there's some sort of local stake in it. All
Drew Clark (00:43:41):
Right, so, so, so let's get at that. What's, what's the way to avoid that bad result? You've just laid out what's the local engagement
Christopher Mitchell (00:43:48):
Having so it is not just owning it, that's, that is a preferable approach. I mean, you don't necessarily have to operate it, but there's other situations where you know, like in places, so there's in New Hampshire and Maine consolidated an, an incumbent that was hated you know, is now a trusted partner among some of these communities. And the communities own the network as a and consolidated basically Mesa debt payments on. So there are a a variety of approaches. A different one would be a community that has a right of first refusal. So, yeah, no worries. I get distracted too. a community that has a right of first refusal in in terms of,
Drew Clark (00:44:28):
I just wanted some light back on. Yeah.
Christopher Mitchell (00:44:30):
<laugh> in terms of a change of ownership. So communities might say, I want a partner, I don't even wanna own it. I want this partner to own it. And two years later, that partner gets bought by someone. Well, do you have are you with having a seat at the table for that discussion? You can set up a contract that does uc, two B, the champagne folks say, you know,
Drew Clark (00:44:46):
No, I was about to ask for specific examples, and you're giving one uc, tob, what did they do? in this contract to speak?
Christopher Mitchell (00:44:52):
They had a right of first refusal, I believe, to to get the accent, to get the the to own, to, to buy the network if it was gonna be
Drew Clark (00:45:03):
Sold network, if it, if it's being sold.
Christopher Mitchell (00:45:04):
Or, and even that case, they didn't, they were like, eh, we don't wanna buy it. And, but they still had a seat at the table because they had a stake, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And so, so like, there's contractual things like that that can be done. you know, if you're contracting with someone like this has come up with certain wireless providers who I fear are overstating what the technology can do, and wireless technology does keep getting better. We kind of skipped over the fiber wireless.
Drew Clark (00:45:27):
Yeah, no, we let, let, we'll come back to that too. But,
Christopher Mitchell (00:45:30):
But, so if you're working with a company that you feel like you may not have the faith that, like, they don't have a track record, like CTC in Minnesota does, CTC has worked with tons of communities, it's a co-op, they're, they're trusted, right? But you have someone you think these people might do a good job, you wanna have a performance based contract where it says, all right, you're agreeing that in year two you will be passing this number of homes with this level of speed. And if you are not doing that, then you will either forfeit the money or you won't get the money, or there's some penalty, right? You don't wanna, you wanna make sure that this is specific. So, hey, the windows were delivered. I just got the text. I don't have to worry about it.
Drew Clark (00:46:06):
<laugh> Hey, windows arriving. Well, my last question, this is actually from Ben Conn short of launching their own municipal broadband efforts. What are some of the most effective actions communities can take? And you kind of answered this in terms of infrastructure, but he then asks to bridge the digital divide in their area. Which programs have you observed the greatest impact for, again, not just infrastructure, but like the, the application, the use, the digital equity. What are your, some of your thoughts on that, Chris?
Christopher Mitchell (00:46:35):
So I, I'll say that I think this is tremendously important, and I have not put as much time into it because I think the National Digital Inclusion Alliance does a really great job. And if they weren't there, I feel like we would've made it a bigger priority. So I don't have as many examples out of the gate, but what we see is the need to build trust. So there are people let's say, let's talk about the lower 10% of income folks who may not even have an income at that level, but the people who are the most hard up, largely in cities. But this happens in rural areas too. There are places that they go and they trust. It might be a food shelf, it might be you know, a social services place. It might be a faith group. those are the entities that need to be involved in this, right?
They need to be involved in having the digital trainings and doing device distribution and things like that. We need to engage them, not just so they could do an introduction, but so that they can make this a part of the services. we need to basically have trust in order to get this accomplished. And this isn't a thing where, all right, we got the devices out and we did two years of trainings, we're done. There needs to be groups that are continuing to work on this, not because of the problem's gonna get worse every year. It's gonna get easier cuz of as people grow up and digital natives and whatnot. But it's still an ongoing issue. So we need communities to take it seriously to form a group, you know, or to have existing groups that take this on as a part of their mission and do it, and not saying, all right, you know, like, like A A R P, you know, is gonna handle it. A r p is doing a tremendous job. we work with them regularly. They have courses you know, the the senior planet I'm, I'm missing, I'm, I didn't prepare for that. So they have a variety of courses. They're terrific and like they, but they need to be plugged into local groups that are reaching a different part of the community. Like there's people out there who are doing this. This is more about building connections now than it is like trying to figure out a new curriculum.
Drew Clark (00:48:28):
So we We've got a little more, more than 10 minutes. I, I wanna make sure to get three areas and we can handle, handle any order you want. I wanna talk about the tribal broadband bootcamp that you've been doing. I wanna talk about wireless and fiber and we chat around this, but let's kind of come back to this. And we got a really great question from Anu ne Niagara, I hope I have that name right. He's with Connectivity Capital and he says thank you for your time. and he wants to focus on emerging markets. We haven't seen municipal broadband really take off in Africa. Asia and community networks are struggling to scale beyond around a hundred households. How do you envision broadband infrastructure gets built for the rest of the world? So let's tackle, tackle those three tribal wireless fiber and global and, and global broadcast.
Christopher Mitchell (00:49:15):
Let's do global first cuz I, I have the less knowledge about this. I mean, there's, there's groups like apc and, and others that work in Africa and around the world on this issue. South Africa has community networks that are somewhat different. Brazil has some community networks, but he's right. The United States and Sweden have the vast majority of municipal networks. And in part it's a, it's a, it's a legal structure. Not every, every country, and in fact, I think most countries don't live, have the level of autonomy that states and cities do from the federal government. and also, you know, it may not make sense in places that are smaller and and are more homogenous than the United States are. So I feel like what is needed is locally rooted companies, and we need to make sure that, that the political and legal systems do not disadvantage local community networks. And so, you know, what that means is like networks that are operating on the scale of 50 to a hundred thousand users, probably as you get to a million users, it's much harder to actually care about the communities you're serving, I think. So scale is a major issue, and I think we should be prioritizing overlapping networks that are small enough that they're responsive to local needs, which is a bill a bit, a bit of a kumbaya. I don't know how you do that in different places. Right. So,
Drew Clark (00:50:32):
All right. Well, so, so tell us about training. You mentioned how I l Sr has reinvented itself several times. would you consider the training you've been doing and the, the tribal broadband bootcamp part of that? Tell us a little bit about how that came to be.
Christopher Mitchell (00:50:44):
Sure. And I should say this is from the Oregon Tribal Broadband Bootcamp, the University of Oregon hosted a wonderful event. we had a lot of people that came out. These are have been three day events, three hard day events. we did the first one we called it a tribal wireless bootcamp in, in 2021. And the focus is bringing people on from tribal lands who are interested in building their own networks. And in three days, we can't give people a certification, you know, even if, even if I was 10 times better at, at what we do, you know, in the instructors that we have, there's so much you can do. So it's focused on helping people become less intimidated demystify the technology. And so we call the Tribal Broadband Bootcamp now because although we started with a focus on 2.5 gigahertz because of all the hard work that was done to make sure those licenses were available to many in Indian country.
and some people were really focused on that. And so in a, in a subsequent one, we had people that had fiber expertise come in and we did fusion splicing. And and talked a lot about how one goes about it, where you get more information, what are the key things you have to worry about? And a number of people were like, I thought fiber was like super difficult and would not, would be beyond our skillset. But I'm learning that, you know, with the right teachers and, and the right, you know, sort of like in starting in the right direction, we can do it. And so some of the people that we'd worked with are now building fiber optic networks and usually hybrid fiber optic and wireless networks. So our goal is to basically say, this stuff is not impossible to learn, right? You need to know the right people, people like Travis who I have yet to get to one of these events, but has done some virtual presentations to say, yeah, it can be hard and it can be easy once you get the hang of it, but like, if you take it seriously, you can learn it.
And that's what we are focused on. And that's both for people who are doing technical work, people who are doing administrative work but basically saying, here's a bunch of experts. We're gonna, we're gonna be very we're gonna be very humble and like, and humble's not the right word, but it's an open environment where anyone can ask any question. And we're not anyone with an anyone that comes in and says, I know how to do everything right, and everyone else is a fool. Right? They get kicked out. And that's where it's nice that Matt ran tannin, who I work closely with is for people who don't know him, just do a Google image search on Matt Ran Tannin. And you'll see that it's very easy for us to set the cultural tone of like, we're not gonna take any crap from people
Drew Clark (00:53:09):
Christopher Mitchell (00:53:10):
So we've had the most amazing groups of people come together and everyone has something to contribute. Everyone learns something. And it's just been a, a really magical experience. And I feel totally, again, blessed by funders that have stepped up you know, Schmidt Futures Google actually other funders that have stepped up, you know, philanthropy, even some private companies who had given money to support one thing, and then that money got redirected to us. you know, that might have been surprised that, you know, that I was involved in something they funded. Like I'm just, it is one of those things that like, even people who disagree with me and may not like me, they might say, you know what? This tribal broadband bootcamp thing, it's, it's a piece of the solution and we're not gonna, you know, we want to help support it. So that's been terrific.
Drew Clark (00:53:54):
Well, and that's a great pivot to the wireless versus fiber question. I mean, look, and look you know, I, my my motto, my personal model is better broadband, better lives, right? You've heard that a million times, Chris, and, and, and to me it's really just a way of saying, yes, we need better higher capacity internet, but we also need like it to be useful for our people, right? And there are some situations where you need wireless, right? I mean, what, talk, talk, talk about this fiber versus wireless and, and what's the future of this, in my opinion, very vibrant industry of wireless internet service providers, if just they could get out of their own way and decide they're gonna build fiber in those places, that it makes sense to do so.
Christopher Mitchell (00:54:34):
Yeah. One of the things I love about wireless is that you can do it at small scale. And I think that people that want to do that should be able to do it, right? Like, I don't want to dismiss those efforts. I think that there's certain people who, you know, they're not gonna, they don't wanna run a hundred person operation and they think they can do a good job with that technology. They can do that. It's hard to run a fiber network to 50 people, right? Although there's a couple of examples. so wireless is important for a variety of reasons. And one is, and I feel like this is one of the things people never listen to me on, but we need overlapping networks. We don't need one network to rule them all. We need overlapping networks for a variety of reasons, from redundancy, for political reasons, to, there's all kinds of different reasons that we wanna have overlapping networks rather than some sort of like, you know, planning and engineering genius of like, we're just gonna have one fiber network and it's gonna do everything for everyone.
I don't, I don't like that idea, right? The thing about wireless is that when the pandemic hit, you know, if, if we had said, you know what we need to do, we need to like build fiber as rapidly as possible. Now far taxes, which is rolling out to 70,000 people fiber to the home in, in like 18 months has kind of blown my mind. So like, but that doesn't happen very many places. There's special circumstances there. if we had said we're gonna do fiber to a bunch of places when the pandemic hit, there'd be a bunch of people still waiting for fiber. It takes time to deploy. Whereas we're able to deploy wireless networks, we weren't able to deploy wireless connectivity inside the home in many cases. But lots of communities came together and like Providence built a pretty cool network that rapidly could deliver health related services to people, you know in, in, in different areas of the most hard hit part of of providence in Rhode Island.
And, and so wireless can do that. there are places where wireless may be less costly than rural, although I keep hearing these, these reductive analogies that I don't think are accurate. you know, I am, I'm curious to see what we can do in the longer term with delivering high quality speeds. Sorry, not high quality speeds. I wanted to say not speeds. High quality performance that involves, you know, good speeds, but also reliability 24 hours a day out into rural areas. I am not convinced that we have a lot of evidence that you can do that. Yes, you can do that to two homes. Can you do that to every home in the area? Is, is a big question. and so I don't wanna foreclose that I would say seven or eight years ago I was pretty smart and I knew that wireless, you know, was not gonna be able to do a lot of this stuff.
But, you know, we're constantly reevaluating. It's a running joke that we're going through. Tarana is is up on Travis's Tower in, in a part of Minneapolis or the suburb of Minneapolis. And, and you know, I taking that evidence seriously from what I hear from people about Tarana at the same time, like, it's not gonna solve all the problems. So fiber optic brings the opportunity to have that low recurring cost. And so this is something we talk about with the tribes particularly where don't just look at what can get the do job done fastest, don't look at what's the cheapest to build. But particularly for tribes where you have a very, like a very challenged community in terms of resources, you know, what is gonna be sustainable over the long term. And a wireless network may turn out to be, have too high operating costs to work over five or 10 or 15 years. On the other hand, wireless could be great to say, we're gonna build wireless today. We're gonna get people a connection, and over the next four years, we're gonna see what kind of models we can develop to build fiber out to some of those folks. And we're gonna do the next generation of wireless for those we can't reach. Fine. That's great. Let's do it that way.
Drew Clark (00:58:15):
Yeah. Well, our hour has sped by. Before we go though, I've got one final question for you. And it involves you tilting your camera or your, your, your view upwards here. sure. So these are some of Chris's photographs. tell us a little bit about your photography business, your passion photography, and how it relates to broadband, Chris.
Christopher Mitchell (00:58:37):
I mean, the relation to broadband is not very, very great and it's, it's so bad I'm so compartmentalized in my life. that I went to an event yesterday. My organization was hosting a different part of I L S R and I didn't even think to bring my camera. And so I called my wife and asked her to bring it to me so I could take some photos of it, because in my mind, like I'm doing one job or the other job, <laugh>, before I went to grad school, I started a sports photography company. I work for colleges and universities as well as youth sports teams, mostly the occasional other clients. I haven't done a wedding in years and I hope I can keep that up. and and I just love sports photography. I like getting out there and I have these long relationships with clients and I've shot national championships. I've I've shot some professional, you know, N F L games and other professional games. That's not my favorite thing to do. I prefer, I really love division three sports. I love the gophers. I was actually out this morning shooting cross country for them. Cool.
Drew Clark (00:59:32):
What's your favorite sport to take pictures of, Chris? Oh,
Christopher Mitchell (00:59:35):
Time of the year. So soccer is my favorite, hands down, but there's nothing as much fun on like an April day on a blue sky, you know, shooting baseball women's volleyball, the sort of six V six volleyball. Yeah, I shot the national championship for that for Stanford, and that may have been the best sporting experience of my life. I mean, it's just, it's an amazing environment where you have the crowds coming out. women's softball has the best cheers and just like, enthusiasm from the dugouts. And like, if you have a game that's going to extra innings, it's just you know, your heart's beating. It's, it's thrilling. you know, I love a men's college basketball, like, particularly, I like women, the women's game too, but the men's game, getting above the rim and just trying to get those photos, it's it's terrific. I'm not a Minnesota native. I've been here long enough. I'm, I'm figuring out hockey, but like everyone else is a better hockey photographer than I am. So
Drew Clark (01:00:26):
Christopher Mitchell (01:00:26):
I just love, I'm gonna shoot a regatta for the first time next weekend. Oh, cool. Yeah.
Drew Clark (01:00:31):
Well, again, it's our time is fed by we, we will have our next ask Manny thing two weeks from now with Deborah Cynthia, who I know you know Chris wonderful of aha Althea, Althea boy. I'm, I'm, I'm flubbing up my names today. But keep, keep keep watching and make sure to join the broadband.money community. It's free. Go to discuss dot broadband money and you can find a wealth of resources, including ask many things such as the one we've just concluded, but much, much more that will help you in putting together your application for the I I J A programs On behalf of Chris Mitchell I'm Drew Clark with Broadband Breakfast. We'll see you next time.