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A MuniNetworks Holiday Tradition
Along with family, appreciating what we have, and sharing our benefits, the holidays have a strong sense of tradition. Several years ago, our team put together "Twas The Night Before Muni Fiber" and we've made it a tradition to share it each Holiday Season.
We look forward to more collaborations, challenges, and sharing in 2018. Enjoy and thank you for your support!
Net Neutrality Repeal Threatens Some States More Than Others
On December 14th, FCC Chair Ajit Pai and the Republican Commissioners voted to present a huge holiday gift to big ISPs by dismantling network neutrality, despite outcries from the American people. When we examined FCC data to determine how many Americans would be left without market protections from known network neutrality violators, the numbers were discouraging. Now we’ve reached into the weeds to analyze the numbers on a statewide basis.
Percentage Of Population
The results reveal that a significant percentage of Americans will be limited to Internet access only from large monopolies that have a history of violating network neutrality and very strong incentives to abuse their market power.
Some states with higher population benefit slightly from competition relative to others — compare Florida’s 40 percent to 65 percent in Pennsylvania — but this also reflects the anti-competitive nature of big ISPs that tend to cordon off sections of the country and respectfully stay within their zones. Other, more rural states, such as Wisconsin at 66 percent, have few options because national ISPs just aren’t interested in serving areas where population is sparse and the pay-off is a long time coming. Lack of competition means high probability of service from one of the big four known violators in our study — AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, and Charter.
In this chart, we've listed states in order of greatest percentage of impacted population:
Net Neutrality Repeal Fact Sheets: By The Numbers, Maps And Data
Update 12/22/2017: Original maps generated on December 11th and used for these fact sheets understated the population of Americans forced to obtain services from known network neutrality violators. The problem is even greater than we originally calculated. We've update our maps and our fact sheets to reflect the more accurate data.
Network neutrality protects Americans from the ability of powerful ISPs to exercise unchecked power over what subscribers access and how quickly they receive certain content. The neutral characteristic of the Internet is one of its finest qualities. If Republican FCC Commissioners and Chairman Ajit Pai vote to shred network neutrality on December 14th as they’ve indicated, 177 million Americans will be left to the whims of a flawed market.
Mapping It Out, Presenting The Fact (Sheets)
We recently presented visualizations based on FCC Form 477 data that supports our findings on the way the repeal will limit vast swaths of people to a bleak Internet access future. Nationwide, approximately 29 million people have no broadband Internet access. Another 129 million will have no ability to change Internet access providers because there is no other option. Out of those folks, 48 million are forced to take service from an ISP that is a known network neutrality violator. Likewise, 146 million may have a choice between two ISPs, but about 52 million must choose between two network neutrality violators that have actively worked to undermine the policy for years.
Our team also parsed out the numbers for California and the East Coast from Maine to Virginia. The results are just as discouraging.
In our fact sheets, we focused on the number of people who either have no broadband access or who will be forced to take service from a firm that is a known violator of network neutrality. We've included our maps to help illustrate just how pervasive this problem is in each region.
Repealing Net Neutrality Puts 177 Million Americans at Risk
Update 12/20/2017: Original maps generated on December 11th understated the population of Americans forced to obtain services from known network neutrality violators. The problem is even greater than we originally calculated, particularly in New York. End update.
This Thursday, December 14th, the FCC plans to remove network neutrality protections. Republican Commissioners and Chairman Ajit Pai justify the decision by claiming that the market will naturally protect subscribers from predatory big ISP behavior. Unfortunately, the FCC’s own numbers disprove their theory. We dug into the data that reveals how 177 million Americans will be left without any market protection following net neutrality repeal.
Visualizing The Data
Using FCC 477 data, we created a visualization of relevant data. This map focuses on the people and businesses at greatest risk - where they are limited to options from providers that have violated network neutrality in the past or have admitted the plans to violate it in the future.
For a larger image, download this version [18 MB png].
Download Net Neutrality Repeal By The Numbers, U.S.A. Edition, fact sheet here.
The results are not inspiring. More than 129 million people are limited to a single provider for broadband Internet access using the FCC definition of 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload. Out of those 129 million Americans, about 52 million must obtain Internet access from a company that has violated network neutrality protections in the past and continues to undermine the policy today.
Totals Are In: Comcast Spends $900K In Fort Collins Election
A month ago we were following the election in Fort Collins in which Comcast had invested heavily to oppose a measure to allow Fort Collins can pave the way for a future municipal network. Comcast lost their bid to buy the election and their recent campaign report reveals that the bankroll they spent was much more than anyone realized.
Close To A Million
When we analyzed Comcast’s investment in the Fort Collins election for our report, Comcast Spends Big on Local Elections: Would Lose Million in Revenue from Real Broadband Competition, we looked at the logic behind the big ISP’s investment to stop measure 2B. At the time, the front for Comcast and CenturyLink, Priorities First Fort Collins, had only spent about $200,000. Within two weeks of releasing our report, that figure rose to more than $450,000. The last campaign report, filed in early December, reports that the organization spent approximately $450,000 more. All told, the total amount spent by Priorities First Fort Collins for the compaign came to a whopping $900,999.
The grassroots organization Fort Collins Citizens’ Broadband Committee spent a little more than $15,000.
The measure to pass 2B to allow Fort Collins to amend its charter to simplify moving forward with a municipal network utility passed with 57 percent of the vote.
We looked at how much both sides spent and how their investments paid off. The anti-muni faction thought they could win by throwing money at the voters, but the locals who understand the problem in the community knew that education and leg-work were the key:
Learn about what it was like in the trenches for the Fort Collins Citizens' Broadband Committee by listening to Christopher interview Glen Akins and Colin Garfield in episode 282 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast.
Surpassing All Others
Transcript: Community Broadband Bits Episode 282
This is episode 282 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. Joining the show from Fort Collins, Colorado, Glen Akins and Colin Garfield describe the grassroots organizing that defeated a Comcast-funded astroturf group. Listen to this episode here.
Glen Akins: The $451,000 turned this from a local story to this small town in Colorado to a national news item.
Lisa Gonzalez: You are listening to Episode 282 the bonus episode of the Community Broadband Bits podcast from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. I'm Lisa Gonzalez. In Fort Collins, Colorado, the community voted earlier this month to change their city charter in order to simplify the process if the city decides to invest in high quality internet network infrastructure. Voters chose to opt out of restrictive state laws back in 2015. In an attempt to derail the campaign so that they wouldn't have to face the prospect of competition, Comcast and cronies led an expensive local disinformation campaign. Under the guise of a local grassroots group, they blanketed the community with misleading advertisements and literature. According to campaign disclosures, the Comcast front group spent around $451,000 to fight the local initiative. In end, the initiative passed. We reached out to two people in Fort Collins who were spearheading the campaign to pass Measure 2B. We wanted to hear how they did it. Colin Garfield and Glen Akins are here to offer their insight into what worked, what they would change and what they were thinking while pitted against the Goliath ISP. Now here's Christopher, with Colin Garfield and Glen Akins from Fort Collins Colorado.
Christopher Mitchell: Welcome to another edition of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. I'm Chris Mitchell at the Institute for Local Self Reliance up in Minneapolis and today I'm speaking with Colin Garfield, campaign lead for Fort Collins Citizens' Broadband Committee, welcome to the show.
Colin Garfield: Thank you, Chris. Pleasure to be here.
Christopher Mitchell: And also, Glen Akins who's also campaign lead for Fort Collins Citizens' Broadband Committee. Welcome to the show.
Glen Akins: Thanks, Chris.
Organizing For a Community Network, Against Big Cable - Community Broadband Bits Podcast 282
Fort Collins, like more than 100 communities in Colorado, had already opted out of the state law that requires a referendum prior to a city or county investing in an Internet network, even with a partner. But it went back to another referendum a few weeks ago to amend its city charter to create a telecommunications utility (though it has not yet decided whether it will partner or operate its own network).
After years of sitting out referenda fights in Colorado, Comcast got back involved in a big way, spreading money across the Chamber of Commerce and an astroturf group to oppose the referendum. And just like in Scooby-Do, they would have gotten away with it... but for local grassroots organizing.
We have a special second podcast this week because we didn't want to wait any longer than necessary to get this one out in the midst of frustration around the FCC bulldozing network neutrality. Glen Akins and and Colin Garfield were both campaign leads for the Fort Collins Citizens' Broadband Committee.
They share important insights to organizing around broadband Internet access and a strategy for success against hard odds. They had very little experience organizing and were up against a cable industry willing to spend more than $450,000 to defeat them, setting a record in Fort Collins elections.
For people who feel frustrated by the federal government handing Internet access regulation to the big monopolies, Glen and Colin offer hope and a roadmap for better Internet access.
All of our Fort Collins covereage is here. This is a previous interview with the Mayor of Fort Collins.
This show is 27 minutes long and can be played on this page or via Apple Podcasts or the tool of your choice using this feed.
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.
Want to hear more from Glen and Colin? They recently spoke with Robert Bell from the Intelligent Community Forum on their podcast, The Passing of 2B - A conversation with Glen Akins and Colin Garfield of Fort Collins, Colorado.
Network Neutrality On MuniNetworks.org
The FCC is set to vote on whether or not to repeal network Neutrality under the deceptive guise of “Restoring Internet Freedom” on December 14th. Like others who study broadband and telecommunications policy, we’re distressed by the possibilities for the Internet and its users, should the Commission decide to repeal these protections. Because we use the Internet for so much in our daily lives, reversing network neutrality will give big ISPs like Comcast and Verizon undue power over what information we receive, our online business, and the result may negatively impact innovation.
We’ve gathered together some of our earlier posts on network neutrality to help explain why the policy is so important. In this collection, we’ve included some of our own writings as well as media that we consider paramount to understanding why we need to preserve network neutrality.
The Basics At 80 MPH (Video):
An old but a goody. In this video, Professor Tim Wu explains network neutrality, including paid prioritization. The video is from 2016.
The Big ISP Perspective (Video):
Many of us consider a free an open Internet a necessity to foster innovation and investment, but the words from the lips of the big ISPs are changing, depending on whom they’re talking to. This video reveals what they tell the government about network neutrality versus what they tell investors.
The Small ISP Perspective (Audio):
Like other small ISPs and municipal networks that offer services to the public, Sonic takes the opposite view of Comcast, Verizon, and other big corporate incumbents - they believe network neutrality is important and should be preserved. Dane Jasper, Sonic’s CEO and Co-Founder explains why innovation needs network neutrality in episode 261 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast.
Local Authority Wins Across Colorado; Comcast Loses In Fort Collins
Voters in 18 19 Colorado communities chose local telecommunications authority with an average rate of 83 percent. In Fort Collins, voters weren’t swayed by rivers of cash Comcast threw at them in the final month leading up to a ballot issue to pave the way for local fiber optic Internet infrastructure. By a comfortable margin, ballot measure 2B passed, allowing the city to proceed as it examines ways to improve competition and connectivity.
Fort Collins Voters Say Yes To 2B
Voters chose to amend the city charter in order to give the city council the ability to authorize the municipality to offer telecommunications services as a utility, rather than taking the issue to the voters in a separate referendum. The measure passed with a comfortable margin: 57 percent of voters approved the proposal.
The city has been investigating ways to improve connectivity for several years now because CenturyLink and Comcast are only providing a patchwork of substandard services. As a forward thinking community, Fort Collins wants to be sure that they don’t pass up any economic development opportunities. City leaders also feel that a municipal network is best positioned to offer affordable Internet access as a way to create an environment that is equitable and inclusive, especially for Fort Collins schoolchildren. The city is home to Colorado State University, which needs high-quality connectivity for research purposes. When considering the city’s social, economic, and development goals, the future ability to invest in Internet infrastructure makes sense. Comcast sees the measure as potential competition, the ultimate threat.
In order to allow the City Council to, at some date in the future, authorize the city municipal utilities to provide telecommunications services, Fort Collins needs to amend its city charter. Without this amendment, the City Council will need to take the issue to the voters, rather than by granting permission via ordinance. If Fort Collins decides to work with a private sector partner to deliver services, these same restrictions apply.
Comcast Buys Elections To Prevent Competition In Seattle, Fort Collins
December 8th Update: WOW! The latest campaign report discloses that Priorities First spent a total of $901,000 during this campaign. Congrats on overcoming that Goliath, Fort Collins!
Fort Collins Update: On November 3rd, Comcast's front group Priorities First filed their most recent campaign report. The report showed that the group spent and additional $256,326 on the Fort Collins campaign between October 23rd and November 1st. This brings big incumbent spending to stop compeition to almost half a million dollars.
As the company with one of the largest ISPs in the nation, Comcast Corporation makes daily investment decisions. They choose to put company funds into a variety of ventures, from theme parks to hair color; all that matters is that the investment pays off. This election season, Comcast is once again devoting funds to an investment it considers necessary - influencing elections in Seattle and Fort Collins, Colorado. We've prepared a policy brief to look deeper into Comcast's investment into the elections.
Download the brief here: Comcast Spends Big on Local Elections: Would Lose Millions in Revenue from Real Broadband Competition.