christopher mitchell

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Save The Date: Next B4DE Event Will Focus On Pathways To Affordable Connectivity

With the end of the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) upon us, digital inclusion practitioners are encouraged to save the date for the second Building for Digital Equity (#B4DE) event of the year.

The popular (and free) virtual gathering – co-hosted by Institute for Local Self Reliance (ILSR) Community Broadband Networks Initiative and the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) – will be held on June 10, 2024 from 3 to 4:15 PM ET.

B4DE June Save Date Flyer

Coming on the heels of our last B4DE event in March, the theme for this installment will be “Pathways to Affordable Connectivity.”

It will feature an informative agenda that focuses on what digital equity advocates across the nation are doing to address broadband affordability and the pressing need for creating sustainable solutions for communities. 

You can register for the event here.

As with the previous #B4DE events, the June live stream will once again be sponsored by UTOPIA Fiber and co-hosted by NDIA’s Pamela Rosales and ILSR’s Community Broadband Networks Initiative Director Christopher Mitchell.

RantanenTown Ranch Turns Into Broadband Playground For Tribal Broadband Bootcamp 11

TBB11 marked an exciting development for the Tribal Broadband Bootcamps.

For this latest and newest iteration, TBB co-founder Matt Rantanen graciously permitted TBB to make a permanent fiber ring installation on his property, RantanenTown Ranch, last month. While TBB will continue to host bootcamps in partnership with Tribes in different regions of North America, the launch of this permanent broadband practice arena allows TBB to chart a new path towards even more in-depth and hands-on training.

Here is a photo-filled look at the many days of prep and three days of immersive programming that went into making it happen.

“Just the fact that we saw the fiber model in its open aspect with all the drama and issues right in front of us; my friends is the best learning methodology!” – TBB 11 Attendee

TBB 11 Photo Essay Matt Pull

Ready or Not

Of course, building an entire, operating fiber network across RantanenTown Ranch was a massive undertaking that involved a lot of prep work.

TBB 11 Photo Essay Spencer Matt Tractor


Life After ACP B4DE Today

Today, the first Building for Digital Equity livestream of the year will begin at 3 PM ET. The entire event will zoom in on the imminent end of the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) with the lineup of speakers sharing on-the-ground perspectives and approaches being adopted at the community level as they work to keep financially-strapped households connected beyond ACP.

Last minute registration are still being accepted to fill up the last few seats for the virtual gathering here.

B4DE Life After ACP flyer

Here’s the run-of-show:

NDIA’s Amy Huffman will set the table on where things stand with the ACP wind down process before two lightning rounds take center screen.

For the first lightning round Margaret Käufer, President of The STEM Alliance, will give an overview on the short and long-term community work her organization is doing in upstate New York in the face of ACP’s demise. That will be followed by Jason Inofuentes, Program Manager for the Broadband Accessibility and Affordability Office in Albemarle County, VA, who will spotlight an ACP supplement program his office is pursuing and how they see things moving forward.

Tribal Broadband Bootcamp Advances: Underground and Above

The Tribal Broadband Bootcamps (TBB) – a three-day intensive learning experience focused on building and running Tribal Internet networks – are becoming even more immersive as the 11th TBB is now underway at the homestead of TBB co-founder Matthew Rantanen.

As more Tribal nations build out their own broadband networks to deliver service to Indigenous communities in the most disconnected areas of North America, broadband-minded Tribal leaders and instructors continue to gather in different Tribal regions across the country several times a year for the ultimate Indian Country networking experience.

TBB 11 Matt and Spencer

This time participants descended on “RantanenTown Ranch” in Aguanga, California – part of southern California’s Inland Empire region near Temecula.

With help from ILSR’s Community Broadband Networks Initiative Director and TBB co-founder Christopher Mitchell, and a handful of other instructors, the ranch has been transformed into a working demonstration site so participants could better learn the technologies involved in constructing broadband networks, while taking a deep-dive into what it takes to operate a network.

All of the previous bootcamps offered hands-on training. But, this particular bootcamp took it up a notch as TBB instructors set up a full deployment demonstration, illustrating how fiber is buried and/or deployed aerially.

Digging In

IN OUR VIEW: ‘Without Political Power, There is No Path to Digital Equity’

For decades, ILSR has recognized that communities need to be engaged on Internet access issues to make sure that everyone – from low-income, historically marginalized residents to small businesses and even municipal departments – have the Internet access they need to thrive in the digital age.

Digital equity is essential to help resolve other challenges and the current chasm between the haves and have-nots makes solving many other challenges – like education – more difficult.

To further the quest for greater digital inclusivity, recently ILSR’s Community Broadband Networks Initiative Director Christopher Mitchell put together a panel for Net Inclusion 2024, a conference convened by the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) that drew 1300 attendees and was by far the largest digital inclusion conference held in many years of doing this work.

Entitled “Without Political Power, There is No Path to Digital Equity,” the panel was originally going to focus on the importance of structural change – and how we cannot ensure everyone is connected by relying solely on the networks already present in neighborhoods that see quite low broadband penetration. Instead, the panel discussion went a bit deeper than that and landed on an observation often made by Joshua Edmonds from Digital C in Cleveland. To paraphrase Joshua, we cannot coupon our way to digital equity.

Save The Date: #B4DE Life After ACP

With the nation's premier digital inclusion conference in full swing right now in Philadelphia – and with yet another banner year in broadband in the making – the first Building For Digital Equity (B4DE) livestream event of the year is now set for March 20.

As you read this, the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA), organizers of Net Inclusion 2024, are engaging with hundreds of digital inclusion practitioners, advocates, academics, Internet service providers, and policymakers from across the nation at the conference. Joining them there in the City of Brotherly Love is a full complement of the Institute for Local Self Reliance (ILSR) Community Broadband Networks team. The energy and ideas from the event will inform the upcoming B4DE that will feature the theme: Life After ACP.

B4DE March 2024 save the date flyer

We encourage you to save the date and register here for the popular (and free) virtual gathering to be held March 20, 2024 from 3 to 4:15 PM ET.

Coming on the heels of our last B4DE event in December, digital inclusion advocates are strategizing around how to tackle the broadband affordability challenge as the FCC winds down the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP).

New Municipal Broadband Networks Skyrocket in Post-Pandemic America As Alternative To Private Monopoly Model

As the new year begins, the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) announced today its latest tally of municipal broadband networks which shows a dramatic surge in the number of communities building publicly-owned, locally controlled high-speed Internet infrastructure over the last three years.

Since January 1, 2021, at least 47 new municipal networks have come online with dozens of other projects still in the planning or pre-construction phase, which includes the possibility of building 40 new municipal networks in California alone.

Building for Digital Equity End of Year Encore

Capping off a banner year in broadband, ILSR and NDIA’s final Building for Digital Equity livestream of 2023 this week had its largest audience to date since the online quarterly series started in 2022.

Digital Equity Unwrapped: End of Year Reflections/The New Year Ahead, sponsored by UTOPIA Fiber, featured timely topics and practical insights from an array of frontline digital inclusion practitioners, teeing up Net Inclusion 2024 – the biggest in-person gathering of digital equity advocates in the nation.

That event will be hosted by the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) in Philadelphia, February 13-15, 2024.

If you missed the #B4DE 2023 finale or would like to see it again, you can watch it in its entirety below.

It includes lightning round presentations from the Administrator for Chicanos Por La Causa (CPLC) Nubia Estrada and OCA Asian Pacific American Advocates Policy & Organizing Manager Eric Kim; a preview of this year’s Trailblazer Awards with a special guest appearance by Rebecca Kauma, LA County’s Director of Digital Equity; and an update on the work being done by Shaping Our Appalachian Region (SOAR) Digital Navigator Ashley Smith.

Putting a bow on the holiday season event was keynote speaker Patrick Messac, Director of the Bay Area-based digital equity nonprofit #OaklandUndivided. Messac connected the dots on the importance of equitable infrastructure investments, mapping, and ways local communities might leverage the FCC’s new rules to address digital discrimination.

Countdown To Last Building for Digital Equity Event Of The Year

Digital Equity Unwrapped: End of Year Reflections/The New Year Ahead is just a week away, as seats are filling up fast for next Tuesday’s Building for Digital Equity (#B4DE) event.

The popular (and free) virtual gathering – slated for December 12, 2023 from 3 to 4:15 pm ET – will highlight important milestones in broadband over the past year and take a look ahead for what promises to be another busy year for digital inclusion practitioners across the country.

There’s still time to register for the event here.

Co-hosted by the Institute for Local Self Reliance (ILSR) Community Broadband Networks Initiative and the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA), the final #B4DE of the year will serve up practical insights on everything from Digital Equity Act planning to how communities are confronting digital discrimination.

B4DE December 2023 flyer screenshot

The event will be sparked by lightning round presentations featuring Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) Administrator for Chicanos Por La Causa (CPLC) Nubia Estrada and OCA Asian Pacific American Advocates Policy & Organizing Manager Eric Kim. Each will give a concise overview of their outreach work with “covered populations.”

AARP and ILSR Continue to Support “Covered Populations” With Broadband for Beginners Workshops

As state and local broadband leaders engage “covered populations,” as defined under the Digital Equity Act, AARP and ILSR’s Community Broadband Networks Initiative has been working in partnership over the past two years to deliver “Broadband for Beginners” workshops in states across the country that target individuals 60 years of age or older – and those who work with them.

Next month, on Dec 7 from 8:30 AM to 5 pm ET, AARP Maine and the ILSR team will wrap up the year with an in-person workshop in Bangor, Maine. The all-day event is designed to demystify broadband technology and help empower older adults to join the effort to expand digital equity, most especially those who have been reluctant or fearful to explore the opportunities broadband access offers.

older adult hands on computer

There is still time to register here.

The agenda will serve up a veritable buffet of broadband topics and leave participants stuffed with confidence in how to advocate for their needs in an increasingly digital society.

“We are thrilled to be working with AARP in Maine,” said ILSR Community Broadband Networks Director Christopher Mitchell. “The state of Maine is making great strides on Internet access and we look forward to supporting that work with many of the people responsible for it.”

Inline image of older adult typing on laptop courtesy of StockVault, CC0 1.0 Universal