Fast, affordable Internet access for all.
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In a position piece released in October, Hillary Clinton voiced strong support for local authority:
“Three-quarters of US households have at most one option for purchasing the Internet service families now depend on for shopping, streaming, and doing homework. When alternatives do emerge, however, as they have in places like Kansas City, prices go down and speeds go up……Closing these loopholes and protecting other standards of free and fair competition—like enforcing strong net neutrality rules and preempting state laws that unfairly protect incumbent businesses—will keep more money in consumers’ wallets, enable startups to challenge the status quo, and allow small businesses to thrive.”
The effort to stop state laws that limit local choice on broadband initiatives requires more political leaders to take a stand like the one Mrs. Clinton takes here against local monopoly power in favor of fair competition. Voters must become better informed about the insidious impact of centralized corporate power on their local freedom and demand that elected officials embrace policies to decentralize power.
Over the past 12 months:
- Membership has grown from 32 communities to 121
- Population represented by Next Century Cities has climbed from 6.5 million to 23.9 million
- Member states have increased from 19 to 33
The organization has been recognized by the White House, testified before Congress, and has been instrumental in launching a number of awards. The organization has developed resources and organized events to assemble members who want to share innovative ideas. Learn more about their accomplishments at the blog.
We look forward to another year of working with Next Century Cities toward the goal of fast, affordable, reliable Internet access for all.
At a September conference in Lexington, Kentucky, Next Century Cities (NCC) hosted an influential and diverse group of leaders from the municipal broadband arena to share their experiences as leaders in community broadband. Four audio recordings, which you can find on NCC’s website, include panel discussions on a variety of issues surrounding the topic of financing for next generation broadband.
Recording #1: “Lexington Mayor Jim Gray and the Kentucky Wired Story” and Panel Discussion “Federal Support for Broadband Projects”
The first recording begins with Lexington Mayor Gray and the city’s Chief Information Officer as they discuss their ongoing efforts to make Lexington a gigabit city. These efforts are part of a broader initiative also discussed on building a statewide 3,000 mile fiber optic ring. Several Kentucky government leaders make remarks about the project, called Kentucky Wired, including their thoughts about the public-private partnership model that is helping make the project possible.
In the second part of the recording, former Rural Utilities Service Administrator and current Vice Chair of Broadband Communities Hilda Legg, leads a panel of several experts examining funding supports and offering recommendations and next steps for communities.
Recording #2: “Achieving the Last Mile”
Our own Christopher Mitchell, the Director of the Community Broadband Networks Initiative at ILSR and the Policy Director for Next Century Cities, moderates this panel that includes officials who have led municipal broadband initiatives in their communities. These officials share some of the challenges they have faced and solutions they discovered in their efforts to finance last mile infrastructure.
Recording #3: “Exploring Options and Approaches for Broadband Financing”
Over the past year, New England has been a hotspot for broadband initiatives, legislation, and experimentation. The trend will continue into September when Next Century Cities and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) host Digital New England: A Summit for Regional Broadband Leaders on September 27th and 28th in Portland, Maine.
From a description of the event:
Broadband is emerging as a critical driver of economic growth and prosperity in New England. The “Digital New England” broadband summit will bring together state, local and federal officials, industry representatives, community leaders and other key stakeholders to share real-world broadband success stories and lessons learned from across the region. The summit will also examine the gaps that remain and strategize on what still needs to be done to expand access to and adoption of high-speed Internet services for the benefit of all citizens.
The event will start with a welcome reception on Sunday evening. Monday's day-long summit will include discussions on numerous topics that cover investment, access, and adoption. Come listen to some panel discussions and participate in some break-out workshops.
The welcome reception will be held at the Gulf Maine Research Institute at 350 Commercial St. in Portland. Monday's summit will be at the Holiday Inn by the Bay, 88 Spring St. in Portland.
Take a look at the schedule for this free event and register online at the Eventbrite page.
Back in July, Next Century Cities released a short report, Connecting 21st Century Communities: A Policy Agenda for Broadband Stakeholders, exploring various policies and approaches that will improve Internet access. The brief is organized into sections on local government, state government, federal government, philanthropy, and community.
For this week on Community Broadband Bits, Lisa Gonzalez takes the mic to interview Deb Socia, Executive Director of Next Century Cities, and me, the Policy Director for Next Century Cities (which I do within my capacity at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance). We talk about the report, why we picked the policies we did, why we stuffed it full of examples, and as a bonus, Deb gives us an update of Next Century Cities and upcoming events.
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 bkfm-b-side for the music, licensed using Creative Commons. The song is "Raise Your Hands."
Gig.U, a collaboration of more than 30 universities across the country has just released The Next Generation Network Connectivity Handbook: A guide for Community Leaders Seeking Affordable, Abundant Bandwidth. The handbook, published in association with the Benton Foundation, is available as a PDF online.
One of the authors, Blair Levin, has been a guest several times on the Community Broadband Bits podcast, last visiting in January 2015 to weigh in on public vs. private ownership of broadband networks. As many of our readers know, Levin was one of the primary authors of the FCC National Broadband Plan in 2010.
In a PCWorld article about the report, Levin commented on funding and on local control:
“Nearly every community we worked with saw public money as a last resort, when no other options for next generation networks were available,” he said. “But our group view was that the decision should be made by the local community.”
The report underscores the importance of local decision making authority, whether each community chooses to go with a municipally owned model, a public private partnership, or some other strategy.
Levin and his co-author Denise Linn also address issues of preparation, assessment, early steps, things to remember when developing partnerships, funding issues, and challenges to expect. They assemble an impressive list of resources that any group, agency, or local government can use to move ahead.
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Next Century Cities, a nonpartisan coalition of 100 communities working to expand Internet access, recently published "Connecting 21st Century Communities: A Policy Agenda for Broadband Stakeholders." This resource brings together timely research, best practices, and examples of successful approaches from around the U.S. and the world - all focused on encouraging ubiquitous Internet access for all. Chris Mitchell, Director of the Community Broadband Networks Initiative and the driving force behind MuniNetworks.org, serves as Next Century Cities' Policy Director.
From the report:
This Policy Agenda offers policies that will move communities in the direction of fast, affordable, and reliable Internet access available to all. Expanding high quality Internet access in a community, whether large or small, can yield a multitude of benefits for residents—from improved health services, to new opportunities for small businesses, to higher property values, to a stronger local economy.
The policy agenda addresses five key stakeholder groups:
- Local Government
- State Government
- Federal Government
Within each category, the report offers ways to optimize stakeholder participation and maximize their impact. This policy agenda provides information on a number of other resources so is an excellent starting point for any community leader interested in learning more about improving local connectivity. You can obtain the report online at the Next Century Cities website or download the printer friendly PDF below.
Next Century Cities, the nonpartisan coalition of 100 communities across the country, recently announced its new publication, "Connecting 21st Century Communities: A Policy Agenda for Broadband Stakeholders." ILSR's Christopher Mitchell serves as the Policy Director for Next Century Cities.
This policy agenda covers a wide array of topics at the federal, state, and local level. Each recommendation aims to move communities closer to ubiquitous Internet access. Suggestions include smart municipal codes, research techniques, and ways to empower citizens. In addition to establishing a detailed road map, the agenda provides real-world examples from the U.S. and elsewhere. This document is comprehensive, bringing together a large volume of the best information from multiple sources.
From the Next Century Cities Press Release:
“In the 21st century, Internet access has emerged as more than just an information superhighway – it has become critical infrastructure — connecting citizens, businesses, and communities alike to new opportunities,” said Deb Socia, Executive Director of Next Century Cities. “This new policy agenda from Next Century Cities is designed to give communities across the country a guide for how leaders from all levels of government, as well as other stakeholders, can work together to make tangible progress in creating the broadband infrastructure needed today.”
You can also download the PDF version for a more printer friendly document.
Whatever format you choose, Next Century Cities' new policy agenda is a must for your library.
Last week, the FCC made history when it chose to restore local telecommunications authority by nullifying state barriers in Tennessee and North Carolina. Waiting in the wings were Rep. Marsha Blackburn and Senator Thom Tillis from Tennessee and North Carolina respectively, with their legislation to cut off the FCC at the knees. [A PDF of the draft legislation is available online.]
Readers will remember Blackburn from last year. She introduced a similar measure in the form of an amendment to an appropriations bill. Blackburn has repeatedly attributed her attempts to block local authority to her mission to preserve the rights of states. A Broadcasting and Cable article quoted her:
“The FCC’s decision to grant the petitions of Chattanooga, Tennessee and Wilson, North Carolina is a troubling power grab,” Blackburn said. “States are sovereign entities that have Constitutional rights, which should be respected rather than trampled upon. They know best how to manage their limited taxpayer dollars and financial ventures."
Thom Tillis, the other half of this Dystopian Duo, released a statement just hours after the FCC decision:
“Representative Blackburn and I recognize the need for Congress to step in and take action to keep unelected bureaucrats from acting contrary to the expressed will of the American people through their state legislatures.”
For Immediate Release: February 26, 2015
Contact: Christina DiPasquale, 202.716.1953, Christina@fitzgibbonmedia.com
BREAKING: Cable Companies Lose Big at FCC, Barriers to Community Broadband Struck Down
Two southern cities today persuaded the Federal Communications Commission to recognize their right to build their own publicly owned Internet networks where existing providers had refused to invest in modern connections. The 3-2 FCC vote removes barriers for municipal networks in Chattanooga, Tennessee and Wilson, North Carolina, to extend their high-quality Internet service to nearby areas.
Said Christopher Mitchell, Director of Community Broadband Networks at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance:
“Cable companies lost their bet that millions spent on lobbying to stifle competition was a wiser investment than extending high-quality Internet to our nation’s entrepreneurs, students and rural families.
“Preventing big Internet Service Providers from unfairly discriminating against content online is a victory, but allowing communities to be the owners and stewards of their own broadband networks is a watershed moment that will serve as a check against the worst abuses of the cable monopoly for decades to come.”
The FCC decision sets an historic precedent for towns working to offer municipal broadband networks in twenty states that have enacted limits or bans on local governments building, owning, or even partnering to give local businesses and residents a choice in high speed Internet access. Three-quarters of Americans currently have either no broadband or no choice of their Internet provider.