A Grassroots Effort Pushed the New Hampshire Electric Cooperative to Add Broadband to Its Charter — Episode 434 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast

This week on the podcast Christopher talks with the city of Sandwich, New Hampshire’s Broadband Advisory Committee Chair Julie Dolan and member Richard Knox. The join us to discuss the New Hampshire Electric Cooperative’s recent vote to add broadband to its charter.

Sandwich is particularly poorly served in NH and they have been seeking solutions for a long time. In organizing around the electric cooperative (which covers 115 towns and includes 85,000 members), in less than a year local stakeholders have organizing two votes around the importance of quality Internet access which, at the beginning of October, pushed the co-op into the business. Julie and Richard share with Chris how it all unfolded and what it means moving forward.

Don’t forget to check out our new show, Connect This!, where Chris brings together a collection broadband veterans and industry experts live on Youtube to talk about recent events and dig into the policy news of the day. 

This show is 38 minutes long and can be played on this page or via Apple Podcasts or the tool of your choice using this feed

Transcript below. 

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.


Richard Knox: Well, that's the thing about a co-op, they are structurally able to be responsive, and sometimes they actually are.

Ry Marcattilio-McCracken: Welcome to episode 434 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast. This is Ry Marcattilio-McCracken here at the Institute for Local Self-reliance. A quick note before we begin, please check out our new show, Connect This!, where Chris hosts broadband veterans and industry experts live on YouTube to talk about recent events and dig into the policy news of the day. Check out our website at muninetworks.org with more details about the show, including an audio-only version of each episode.

Ry Marcattilio-McCracken: This week on the podcast Christopher talks with two members of the city of Sandwich, New Hampshire's Broadband Advisory Committee, Chair Julie Dolan, and member Richard Knox. They join us to discuss the New Hampshire Electric Cooperative's recent vote to add broadband to its charter. Sandwich is a particularly poorly served town in New Hampshire and they've been seeking solutions for a long time. In organizing around the Electric Cooperative in less than a year, local stakeholders forced a vote and barely lost.

Ry Marcattilio-McCracken: In doing so, they convinced enough people of the importance of quality Internet access that a second vote at the beginning of October, pushed the co-op into the business. Julie and Richard share with Chris, how it all unfolded and what it means moving forward. Now, here's Christopher talking with Julie and Richard.

Christopher Mitchell: Welcome to another episode of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast. I'm Christopher Mitchell at the Institute for Local Self-reliance and I'm up in St. Paul, Minnesota. Today, on an election day, we're going to talk about an election and it's going to be a fun one. You'll see why in a second, but I want to bring in two folks that were very involved with this. Two members of the Broadband Advisory Committee for Sandwich, New Hampshire. Chairperson of the committee, Julie Dolan, welcome to the show.

Julie Dolan: Thank you.

Christopher Mitchell: We also have Richard Knox who both is on that committee and he'll tell us about another organization he helped to found to push for better broadband. Richard, welcome to the show.

Richard Knox: Yeah. Thank you. Glad to be here.


Christopher Mitchell: I'm excited to talk to you. I've been in touch with you for some time just to get a sense of what's going on, but tell us a little bit about the New Hampshire Electric Cooperative. Before we get into the broadband, just more generally, New England doesn't have a lot of cooperatives, so it's a little bit rare, but what's its size and what's its relevance?

Richard Knox: It was founded about 81 years ago. I mean, 1939, which is when electric co-ops around the country were getting started because investor-owned companies weren't so interested in stringing rural areas for electricity. Now, it is serving 115 towns in New Hampshire, which might be a third of the towns and has about 84/85,000 members. Obviously, like most cooperatives, we members own it. They are a pretty robust company, I gather. They are well-funded and the service is pretty good and they have a great track record. They're only recently being ... Well, initially pushed and now seem to be enthusiastic about getting into broadband.

Christopher Mitchell: Yes. Before we get there, I want to ask Julie to tell us just a little bit about Sandwich since a lot of our story will be around that area. What's Sandwich like in New Hampshire?

Julie Dolan: Sandwich is a very rural, mountainous, tree-covered, a hundred square mile town, right smack dab in the center of New Hampshire. We're north of the major tourist lakes and just south of the White Mountain National Forest. Actually, our town encompasses thousands of acres of the White Mountain National Forest. We're sparsely populated. We're a town of about 1300 full-time residents. We do have quite a hefty summer population. Our population can more than triple to about 5,000 probably in the summer.

Julie Dolan: We are on the shores of a lake, Squam Lake, which is famous for its use in the movie, On Golden Pond, back in the 80s. It's a beautiful, but very rural town. Years ago, about 30 years ago, a cable company, cable TV company, wanted to come to town and string cable, but they wanted to only go to the very town center, which was more densely populated. They didn't want to go to the outlying more rural areas. The town fathers said, "No. If you're not going to cover the whole town, we don't want you here."


Julie Dolan: We've never had cable TV and the only Internet that we have available is through DSL, which is 40 to 50-year old copper wires, very corroded. That is a very unreliable service. Where I live, I can only buy three megabits per second. That's our speed and it's very unreliable and it goes out a lot. It's been a challenge for us obviously. Our committee was formed by the board of selectmen back in May of 2019 to explore ways to try to resolve the problem, which is a major problem for a lot of our residents. Then COVID hit and what was a challenge now has become a crisis.

Julie Dolan: Obviously like everyone, we have students who are trying to learn from home. We have parents that are trying to do their work from home and all of that has to be done with a computer that is unreliable. We have poor bandwidth. People have to fight for computer time. They have to drive ... Like we are now. We are in the adjacent town, in the library using their Internet because neither one of us has enough Internet to do this from our home computers. We are together now in the library in Moultonborough. It's such a problem.

Julie Dolan: We hear of parents that are driving their students to libraries and fast food restaurants to sit in the parking lot and use their Internet. Obviously people are trying to get their work done and it's very non-rewarding. We did hold some listening sessions back in the summer before COVID to gauge interest as to how people felt about this issue. There was overwhelming support to try to get this problem tackled, but we've run up into a lot of walls I'm afraid.

Christopher Mitchell: Sure. Let me just put my finger on the scale. I've spent some time up in that area, did some rock climbing for several years in a row at Rumney, did some camping during those trips. That part of New Hampshire has possibly my favorite diner in the whole world. It's been a long time since I've been there, but we loved everything about that area whenever we would head that way. It's a wonderful area.

Richard Knox: Just to place this for people who don't know New Hampshire. We're about an hour north of the state capitol of Concord. We're about two hours north of Boston.

Christopher Mitchell: Right. It is a beautiful area.


Julie Dolan: We're about due east from Rumney and the terrain is very similar.

Christopher Mitchell: Right. Now, the remarkable thing is that a year ago, the Electric Cooperative seemed like it was saying, "No way, no how. We don't want to get involved in broadband." To now being quite enthusiastic about it. I feel like your grassroots campaign is responsible for that with some ups and downs along the way. That's what we're going to talk about. Let me ask you, I think Julie, you mentioned that you had a town meeting to talk about these sorts of things, but Richard, let me ask you then to fill in. How did you first get involved in advocating around broadband here in the area?

Richard Knox: My wife had a lifelong connection with Sandwich and we'd intended for years to move here once we retired, which was about five years ago from Boston. Like many people who move here, we were blithe in advance about whether we would have adequate Internet. We got on a wireless, local co-op or nonprofit called CyberPine that used tall white pines, which rise above the rest of the forest as their towers to transmit. For a while that was okay, but it increasingly wasn't okay.

Richard Knox: Then we ran up against the fact that there really weren't any other alternative except the DSL and so we signed up for that with Consolidated Communications, their local phone company. That has deteriorated quite a lot over the last few years. Just case in point today, we are able to talk to you only because, as Julie mentioned, we went to the next town over because most of Sandwich apparently has no Internet service this morning through Consolidated DSL.

Richard Knox: I always hesitate to call their phone tech support, because it can be a very frustrating and lengthy and not always very productive conversation. This morning I did because I wanted to talk to you. It was a very frustrating conversation in which they said, "You're in an outage area." I said, "Well, how big is the outage area?" They couldn't tell me. They said, "New Hampshire." When I asked to talk to a supervisor, she said, "Well, I can put you on supervisor call list, but I first have to get permission from my supervisor to put you on the list."


Richard Knox: After a while she came back and said the permission has been denied. I don't know how widespread it is, but from our local community bulletin board, it seems as though a lot of people are without service and have been for a few days. Then they say that I shouldn't expect anything before November 2nd. That tells you a lot about where we are and how desperate people here are to do just ordinary, everyday things.

Christopher Mitchell: Julie, let me jump in with you then. At what point did it become clear that the New Hampshire Electric Cooperative offered a solution for these challenges?

Julie Dolan: Well, I guess I want to start by saying that initially they offered no solution at all. They were polite, but very dismissive and had their reasons that they weren't going to get into the broadband business. They certainly never denied that they would help facilitate our moves forward, which at the time were trying to find a company that was willing to deploy fiber Internet and do it by funding it through the town by using our municipal borrowing power. Taking out a bond and having a company come in, set up the Internet, provide the ISP.

Julie Dolan: As we got bids for that process, as our committee went along and put out RFIs and RFPs and went through the process of evaluating different providers, and there weren't very many, it became clear that this was a very expensive proposition, which is certainly why for-profit companies are not interested in coming here.

Christopher Mitchell: That's right.

Julie Dolan: It's expensive the return on investment is small. We would have ended up having to take out a three to $4 million bond to float. Hopefully it would have been repaid by the company that came in by user fees, but that would still happen over a 20-year timeframe in which the town would be liable if something didn't work. It was a very risky proposition. Our whole town budget is less than $4 million. It was going to be a tough sell to the community and it was going to be taking quite an inordinate risk if we were to go that way. We did approach the co-op very early.


Julie Dolan: As a matter of fact, I attended their board meeting one year ago in October to plead, beg for any type of help they could give us. At the time we were looking at a company that was willing to string fiber, but wanted to do so in the electric space so we would have certainly needed co-ops blessing for that. Once again, they said, "Yeah, thanks but no thanks." Basically said, "Yeah, bye."

Richard Knox: To pick up the narrative there and to go back to your question about how the co-op got involved. There was a small group of us who are not ... There's overlap between the town committee, the official town advisory committee and this citizen action group, which we now call ourselves New Hampshire Broadband Advocates, that decided last spring to get an item on the New Hampshire Electric Cooperative's annual meeting, which is a sleepy affair that most people don't pay attention to or vote in to elect board members.

Richard Knox: We got a petition and 845 signatures, which is like almost twice as many as needed to get on the ballot with a proposal to change the bylaws merely inserting a clause saying that one of the purposes of the co-op shall be to facilitate broadband, which is a pretty broad mandate, but we wanted just to get it on there. The board of the co-op voted, it was I think, seven to three with one extension, to oppose that petition drive and put out the word that it might raise your electric rates, which are scary for a lot of people.

Richard Knox: We put on a pretty broad campaign using every local and statewide news outlet and social media and letters to the editor, and whatever that we could think of. Signs on the side of the road and everything. It requires two thirds to change the vote. Two thirds of the voting members. We got 64.4%. Technically, we lost, but within a week of that vote, the board decided that it was a big enough signal that they formed a subcommittee of the board to look into how they could do broadband. It was a victory as it turned out.


Christopher Mitchell: What I like to do for people who are listening, I feel like it would be useful to get a sense, as you're doing this campaign ... And I think it's worth noting. I mean, this is something that was new for you, right? You don't have a big history of organizing people and voting drives and things like that, is that right?

Richard Knox: Not at all.

Christopher Mitchell: Julie, similarly. I guess, Julie, let me ask you, what do you feel worked well and are there things that you would encourage other folks not to do as you're figuring out how to do this sort of a thing?

Julie Dolan: Because we did go down a lot of alternate roads as the Broadband Advisory Committee, the town committee, but we are all lay people. None of us have any technical expertise as to how to conduct this, but we have a broad mix of backgrounds on our committee. We have some business people. We do have some people that are very technical. We have a number of journalists, I'm a retired veterinarian. We have a lot of broad knowledge, but no specific ways to go. I found that one of the most frustrating things when we first started the broadband committee is the lack of general information that's out.

Julie Dolan: There seem to be a lot of local grassroots efforts, but it sure seems like people are bumping around in the dark until they finally find something that can work for them. I do almost wish that we had pushed the co-op harder right from the get-go but I think COVID, unfortunately is what broke the camel's back. I mean, literally it became such a crisis, our Internet situation, and then CARES funding became available. We scrambled around to try to get some of that, had a terrible debacle with the state, ultimately lost out on funding that probably could have gotten this job done.

Julie Dolan: But that was just a comedy of errors that just didn't work out. In the meantime, the grassroots effort, the Broadband Advocates group have certainly been the driving force in the change that's happened in the co-op. That has been completely miraculous. They've certainly known that our committee is there. Sandwich, we have worked very hard at publicizing our problems. We've been on all the local news channels. We've had articles published here and there. We've been on the radio with New Hampshire Public Radio. We have come up with our own publicity.


Julie Dolan: I call it being loud and proud. We are basically a group of rabble-rousers who will not back down. It takes some tenacity certainly to keep trying to move forward. You have to do that in a committee format where you have to abide by municipal rules and you have to all come to some kind of consensus, which can be contentious. It can make it difficult to deal with personalities who have a different idea about which direction to go in.

Christopher Mitchell: Especially in New Hampshire, which I think has a history of believing the best representative body is everyone representing themselves, right?

Richard Knox: Yes.

Julie Dolan: Yeah. They are.

Richard Knox: I think we have the largest House of Representatives in the nation.

Julie Dolan: We are very independent. Yes.

Richard Knox: The grassroots part of this was a really very small group of people initially as we got a lot of signatures. But in terms of people who were driving it, has no budget. We ponied up $550 out of our own pockets to run a series of spots in advance of that June election on national ... I mean, New Hampshire Public Radio, which has the best coverage. We just did it all ourselves. I think what we had in our side, as Julie mentioned, is the increasing salience of the issue that the pandemic brought.

Richard Knox: Timing is everything in life, I guess. It was very important, so that we had a receptive audience, not only in terms of desperate consumers, but interested media.

Christopher Mitchell: For the timing to be clear, you started your campaign before ... I mean, it was in 2020, so we knew that there was this illness out there in Asia at that time but you had the vote, I believe, in the summer after-

Richard Knox: It was June the first one. Then the second one this fall, which we can talk about if you'd like.

Christopher Mitchell: Yes. Basically, I mean, just to recap, you go to a lot of effort to try to rally people. You get just within 1.6% of where you needed, and at that point, the board and the manager get a sense, "Well, we need to do something on broadband," and they decide to move forward. I just happened to pick up a ... We listened to a podcast about this interviewing the manager. He was saying at that time, "Oh, well, we don't need to change our bylaws. Anyway, we're going to be doing this."


Christopher Mitchell: It felt like he didn't want to necessarily credit all of the hard work you all put into it. What happens in that time period and over the summer that things change again?

Richard Knox: Well, I think it's important to note that there was a difference of opinion within the co-op's board. Leo Dwyer, who's a selectman in Sandwich, the three people who run the town, is a board member of the co-op and had been for the last couple of years. He's a very strong proponent of broadband for us. He's also the liaison between the Broadband Advisory Committee and the selectmen. That was a great advantage. Then secondly, the board chairman was well-disposed towards having the co-op explore this and see what the feasibility was of them getting into the business.

Richard Knox: Third, through this campaign that tried and failed to change the bylaws in June, we did help elect another very strong broadband proponent to the board. That was sort of the inside advantages we had, as well as the pressure from the outside. I think we have to give that board, all of them, the 12-member board, a lot of credit for being responsive to that 64.4% positive vote. Then subsequently, that they really did pay attention. I was quite amazed that by losing, we got things really going.

Christopher Mitchell: I think that's really important. It's not the first time I've heard that. That's one of the reasons I really wanted to interview you, was to make sure people have a sense that there's a path here. Even if you lose, you might win. In some cases you might even win and lose. Who knows?

Richard Knox: Well, that's the thing about a co-op, is that they are structurally able to be responsive, and sometimes they actually are. It may take some pushing, it may take some ... It doesn't happen all at once, but over time and with outside circumstances and persistence, it really does work better than I would've thought.


Christopher Mitchell: Now, Julie, you mentioned the disappointment about the CARES Act funding. There was a situation in which there was money that was available. It was not able to be spent in Sandwich. That, to me, raises an interesting question that's related, which is, how do you deal with this situation where you get your hopes up and then it doesn't work out and then you get your hopes up? Where do you find the energy to keep moving forward on this issue?

Julie Dolan: I just go home and try to get on my Internet. Well, it's-

Richard Knox: It's a daily motivation.

Julie Dolan: It's so frustrating, and I'm retired. I basically check my email and read the news and watch some funny videos. I mean, I can't watch Netflix. I can't download. I can't stream a movie. I'm old and I have asthma and I stay home. I don't do ... Well, I work around my house, but we don't go anywhere. My husband and I are older and we both have health issues and there's a nasty virus out there. We're trying to be extremely careful. I can only imagine as a veterinarian, I was the vet for the whole town. I know so many people and I know what they're going through.

Julie Dolan: I know their kids. They're my neighbors, and I know what they're trying to deal with. I know it's hard for me and I can't imagine how difficult it is for them. I have the time now. I'm retired so I'm not doing anything noble. I'm just trying to be helpful. I'm on a couple of other town boards. I've just laid down the veterinary scalpel and I've picked up the rabble-rousing gene, I guess. It keeps me busy and my mind occupied and so I work with the town, but it's been frustrating. You hit the nail on the head when you said about the ups and the downs.

Julie Dolan: We have come so close to having everything just right for us, only to have it completely dashed. It has been a roller coaster. Once again, dichotomy of what it was like for me to attend the co-op board meeting a year ago in October, and then this October, just like this Tuesday, I attended virtually. I, once again, could only do it by audio because I don't have enough Internet to do it by video. Attended the New Hampshire Electric Co-op board meeting and they gave me a round of applause for being a thorn in their side. They have done a complete 180.


Julie Dolan: I feel like I'm best friends now, not necessarily with the board, but I think I am with them now, but I certainly wasn't their favorite person. I wasn't the CEO's favorite person, but we have just kept harping. We have just been in their face and continuing to talk about the issue. Certainly it was much easier to do when COVID hit. I don't like to use the term of never let a good pandemic go to waste, but we're trying hard to make something positive out of this terrible situation that we're all going through.

Richard Knox: As the Chinese character goes, I gather that crisis and opportunity are the same idea or the same concept. That a crisis does provide some opportunities that might not come along otherwise.

Christopher Mitchell: I just want to note that across the different podcasts and things like that, I've done, I think approaching 500 or more interviews, and that might be my favorite answer to a question ever, which is a very nice way of saying, "You moron. I have to live with this every day. Of course, I'm motivated." I very much appreciate that, Julie.

Julie Dolan: Well, I didn't mean to call you a moron.

Christopher Mitchell: No. You didn't. No. It was just if you read it closely, I think, but it was terrific. Thank you for that. Sorry. I interrupted you Dick. Go ahead.

Julie Dolan: That's okay. I tend to talk too much. I think another instance of how effective this has been and surprising ourselves, this whole campaign over the last four or five, six months, and getting the co-op to turn around 180 degree. Another example is that when they began to explore getting serious about it and getting into the business, their lawyers discovered that in fact, they did need to change their bylaws in some respects in order to be able to invest in infrastructure and make decisions without going out every time to the whole membership for a vote, which obviously would be impossibly unwieldy.


Julie Dolan: They called a special election for this fall, and they came to me and our little group and said, "Well, you did such an effective job in raising the rabble before, could you help us with this campaign?" We said, "Well, sure." We did it again, and this time the vote was just a couple of weeks ago, there were 88.4% of the voting members who said, "Yes, we want you to do this. We will change your bylaws in order to enable you to do this." Also, important to note is that more people voted in this special election, which is hard to get anybody to pay attention to.

Julie Dolan: Like 30% more than voted in June and that was 23% more than voted the previous June. I think that speaks in volumes about the response of the co-op, the response of the co-op members. I mean, when can you think of a ballot initiative that ever got 88% of anything? It's been quite ... I like to use the tagline, democracy can work sometimes, if all the stars are aligned and you really are talking about something that people feel a great need for.

Christopher Mitchell: That's where we are today. I look forward to ... I hope in a year, we'll see still more progress. We'll be able to check in with you and find out that you have a sense of when it's all going to be built and you're going to be connected and you can move on to greater problems that you'll be able to solve from your couch. Hopefully.

Richard Knox: Yeah. I hope we can give you some really positive news. I mean, this has all been very heartening, but it doesn't mean that people have the service yet. I think 2021 is going to be terrifically important. We hope that our town and others in New Hampshire who are hurting will benefit from the ... I think it's something like $68 million that's earmarked from the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund and that reverse auction that's imminent.

Christopher Mitchell: It's actually about 16 billion and yeah, some of your areas are eligible and so hopefully that will move the needle and get things going for you. I just want to make sure people heard the number.

Richard Knox: Yeah. Sure. Yeah. Yeah. Our share is ... In fact, the co-ops-

Christopher Mitchell: Oh, so that's what you were saying. Yeah. Right. Okay. Thank you.

Richard Knox: Yeah. Let me clarify. New Hampshire, I think is earmarked for something like 68 million out of that 16.4 billion and the co-ops service area I think is something like around 15 million. We hope that some of that money will flow that will make some things possible.


Julie Dolan: We are also exploring USDA grants. We are hoping that there'll be another COVID relief package. Our governor put in $50 million to do broadband. They only spent 13 million because of the stringency of the application process that we once again lost out on. We'd like to hope that there'll be another relief package coming. This is on our governor's agenda, certainly, as well as our federal delegation.

Richard Knox: He's a Republican by the way. This really does have, I think, some legs in both sides of the aisle, both in the-

Julie Dolan: Yeah. There's bipartisan support for this. I guess, timing once again, like Dick said, is quite an issue on this. You do have to work hard to figure out how you can make use of the funding that's out there.

Christopher Mitchell: Yes. I think the work that you've done should put you at the front of the list if there's new funding available. Just you'll be more prepared.

Julie Dolan: If not, we'll be screaming bloody murder.

Richard Knox: Yeah. They don't ... We're not relaxing that effort.

Julie Dolan: We threaten them now, "You're going to get a call from Julie, unless you get this done."

Christopher Mitchell: That's wonderful. This will be running on Tuesday so it's a good election year fodder, a good Election Day fodder.

Richard Knox: Well, it's going to be a happy election story at least.

Julie Dolan: Don't say that. [crosstalk 00:31:35].

Christopher Mitchell: Nobody knows what anyone's politics are. There's going to be some people happy, some people unhappy.

Richard Knox: Yeah. I'm talking about our election.

Christopher Mitchell: Right.

Richard Knox: The co-op election.

Julie Dolan: Oh, okay.

Richard Knox: No matter what happens in the rest of the world, this is a positive thing.

Julie Dolan: Once again, I can't commend the co-op enough for their change in attitude. It has been remarkable. When at first we met with them, we were hit with the CEO and their lawyer. Those are the only people that would talk to us.

Christopher Mitchell: Yes. I think one of the things that we probably should focus on is that you didn't make them the enemy, right? This was always-

Richard Knox: No.

Christopher Mitchell: ... focused on the issue.

Julie Dolan: We had a grassroots effort, but we also kept our lines of communication open. Our broadband committee, mostly via the CEO, but we did find that we had to get to the board. Sometimes that can be a tough job getting past the management to the board. You have get to the board.


Richard Knox: It does have a salutary effect if you just show up.

Julie Dolan: Right. Yeah. If you just keep your face in there and they go, "Oh God, it's her again." But they'll know that you're going to keep harping on your issue.

Christopher Mitchell: Was it persistence then that allowed you to break through to the board, do you feel like? Was that a big key?

Julie Dolan: I think that's a hindsight question, but in hindsight I'd say yes, we've been very persistent.

Richard Knox: Yeah. Well, I mean the votes counted.

Julie Dolan: We've been very public and very vocal, even before COVID. We have made this an issue right from the get-go.

Richard Knox: I want to put in a plug for my pet issue, which is communication. I'm a journalist. I've written and reported for 50 years on healthcare and medicine and that stuff. I believe strongly that communication is very important. Good communication is important and necessary and it's sort of a sine qua non for getting anything done. I think this shows that that's really the most important thing, is to get the arguments out there. For instance, when the co-op says, "Well, it's going to raise your rates."

Richard Knox: Well, we could come back and say, "No. There are other co-ops who have done this, and they're doing fine." Just this past week and on an another instance in which this illustrates how the co-op has changed, they unanimously passed a resolution in support of the broadband effort that has many whereases detailing the results of a feasibility study that they did by the NRCT that came in saying, "You can do this. You're well-positioned to do this. It's not going to harm your electric business or raise their rates.

Richard Knox: You're in a strong enough position." That was important. Then they put that out. Again, it shows you just how much things have changed in the past few months really.

Christopher Mitchell: No. I think those are very good points that we want to include in this. That actually reminds me of one that Dick you suggested that I should poke Julie about, which is, what does it mean to think like a dog?


Julie Dolan: I guess it speaks to what you were talking about of our roller coaster ride. As a veterinarian, I used to tell people ... People get so worried about what's going to happen, how things are going to unfold. I used to say that people in general, and women in particular, want to know how it's all going to unfold. It especially comes true when people have a tough decision to make about their pet usually. That's where I would say, "You just need to think like a dog. Just worry about where your next meal's coming from. Don't get too hung up on everything else.

Julie Dolan: Just keep your eye on the prize, on the next thing that you have to worry about, which is where your next meal is coming from. Let the other stuff just come after that." I don't think it's anything important. It's just like you spoke to, it's just what gets me up and going again after we've just been knocked down because something else isn't going to work. You dust yourself off and you just go, "Okay. Where's my next meal coming from?"

Christopher Mitchell: I think this is a great place to end it. Thank you both for all your time today. This has been a really fun conversation.

Richard Knox: Yeah. It is. I hope we can have more.

Ry Marcattilio-McCracken: That was Christopher talking with Julie Dolan and Richard Knox. We have transcripts for this and other podcasts available at muninetworks.org/broadbandbits. Email us at podcast@muninetworks.org, with your ideas for the show. Follow Chris on Twitter. His handle is @communitynets. Follow muninetworks.org stories on Twitter. The handle is @MuniNetworks. Subscribe to this and other podcasts from ILSR, including Building Local Power, Local Energy Rules and the Composting for Community Podcast. You can access them anywhere you get your podcasts.

Ry Marcattilio-McCracken: You can catch the latest important research from all of our initiatives if you subscribe to our monthly newsletter at ilsr.org. While you're there, please take a moment to donate. Your support in any amount keeps us going. Thank you to Arne Huseby for the song, Warm Duck Shuffle licensed through Creative Commons. This was episode 434 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast. Thanks for listening.