Tag: "consideration"

Posted January 15, 2021 by Ry Marcattilio-...

On Monday, a new bill introduced into the Arkansas State Legislature has the potential, if passed, to remove almost all existing barriers to municipal broadband in the state. SB 74 was introduced in the 93rd General Assembly, Regular Session 2021 by State Senators Breanne Davis and Ricky Hill and their counterparts Representatives Brian Evans and Deann Vaught. 

The legislation would substantially amend the state’s Telecommunications Regulatory Reform Act of 2013, which in most scenarios bans government entities from building and owning networks and delivering services to residents in pursuit of promoting competition and bringing Internet access to unconnected parts of the state.

SB 74 keeps an existing ban on providing basic local exchange service in place (i.e. telephone), but otherwise allows municipalities to build, buy, and operate network infrastructure to deliver digital voice, broadband, data, and wireless telecommunications service to anyone in the state. 

Slow Progress in Recent Years

Currently in Arkansas, municipalities are allowed to build or partner with private companies to build broadband infrastructure, but only if they acquire a grant or loan to do so and only do so in unserved areas. When policy veterans last commented on these particulars of the legislative landscape in 2019, they were worried that such geographic and financing restrictions would effectively preclude new networks, and they were right. 

SB 74 eliminates these two restrictions, which represents a significant step forward. It also adds consolidated utility districts to the list of eligible entities, removes the requirement to file a public notice, and dramatically expands the emergency services clause to include healthcare services, education, and “other essential services.”

This is not the first time State Senator Davis and fellow lawmakers have attempted to fix the state’s broken regulatory environment. In early 2019, SB 150 sought to do many of the same things, but in the end was altered by amendments such that it only allowed government entities to deploy broadband in unserved areas and only if they received...

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Posted January 7, 2021 by Ry Marcattilio-...

Bar Harbor, Maine (pop. 5,500) has been trying to get a municipal fiber network off (and into) the ground for more than half a decade. If local officials throw weight behind the most recent move, we may see momentum continue to build for faster, more reliable, affordable, and universally available Internet access for government use, commercial development, and maybe, down the road, residents as well. 

We last checked in with the town in 2016, when its franchise agreement with Charter had expired and negotiations for a new agreement had stalled. At the time, Bar Harbor was considering a $100,000 engineering study to flesh out the possibility of a municipal Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network or a $50,000 study to do so for a government-only network, but at the last minute the town’s Warrant Committee and Council decided not to move ahead on either at the last minute. Since then, the situation has remained more or less in stasis.

But with recent changes, Charter has signaled that it will begin to charge Bar Harbor $45,000 a year for access via – a ten-fold increase over the $4,500/year the town currently pays. With the company refusing to negotiate, on December 15 the Town Council, at the recommendation of the Communication and Technologies Committee (CTC), voted unanimously to place a $750,000 proposal to build their own institutional network onto the 2022 budget draft review. The general public will have the chance to vote on the measure in June.

Locally Owned Infrastructure at a Fraction of the Price 

A 2019 Casco Bay Advisors engineering plan offers some additional details in the potential network. It would run for 19 miles, both aerially and underground, to connect initially nine but up to as many as 25 government buildings (including town offices, public safety locations, water and waste water stations, public works, etc.), three schools, a library, and other sites like the town’s highway garage. Because of the surrounding topography, wireless doesn't work well on the island (Acadia National Park and Cadillac Mountain both disrupt lines of sight). A wireline connection would be miles ahead of what they currently have. Included in the roughly $750,000 build is slightly less than $270,000 in...

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Posted January 7, 2021 by Ry Marcattilio-...

As reported by KCHA news, Charles City's progress on municipal broadband has been halted by the covid 19 pandemic and consideration of budget priorities in the coming year. 

 

Posted January 7, 2021 by Ry Marcattilio-...

An accidential fiber cut in preparation for utility work led to a broadband outage in Worcester on Tuesday, leaving much of the city disconnected for the majority of the day. Business and distance learning were particularly impacted, leading many - including proponents and town officials - to point to the incident as yet another reason the city should get serious about municipal broadband. Charter is the city's only residential and business option at the moment. 

From a second story about the incident

Students still had assignments to work on, having already started their school day when the outage started around 9:30 a.m., she said. Their schools have given them extra time to complete any work that was due on Tuesday, however, due to the extended loss of Internet [access] . . . Part of the problem on Monday, however, was that school staff didn’t have some of the usual ways to reach students, since phone lines also went down. That means many families didn’t receive the Connect-Ed phone message Binienda sent out about the situation, in addition to missing emails and posts on the district’s website.

Posted January 4, 2021 by Ry Marcattilio-...

A host of cities and counties in Arkansas are about to get a major broadband boost thanks to local officials taking steps to act on a grant program deployed by the state last year. Borne out of the state’s 2020 1st Extraordinary Session at the end of March 2020 in response to the Covid 19 pandemic, the new Rural Broadband I.D. Expenses Trust Fund Grant Program will disburse $2 million in funds divided into 30 one-time grants of $75,000 each to towns, cities, and counties to tackle the digital divide in the Toothpick State. The program is financed via Arkansas’ Restricted Reserve Fund with money given to the state by the CARES Act, and is administered by the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) Institute for Digital Health & Innovation. And while an array of projects have been awarded funds, money remains available and applications are being accepted on a rolling basis for those who have yet to take advantage.

A Win for Local Self-Reliance and Increasing Competition

The program is expressly designed to bridge the gap for communities that want to begin to improve local Internet access but are stymied by a necessary first step: paying for those economic, design, and feasibility analyses which require pulling together the wide range of options available in the context of local conditions. That’s where this program comes in, according to Rachel Ott, the UAMS Institute’s for Digital Health and Innovation Grant Director. Communities can use the work produced to apply for federal grants down the road, including the recently concluded Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF), the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s ReConnect Program, funds from the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, and any other forthcoming federal funding programs. 

Cities, towns, counties, and unincorporated communities are all eligible to apply. Non-profits and for-profit entities are also eligible to apply, but only in unincorporated communities. If they want to undertake projects in cities or towns, they are required to...

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Posted January 1, 2021 by Ry Marcattilio-...

Happy new year everyone!

We're still on hiatus here until Monday, but Annie McDonough, a tech and policy reporter at City & State, released a piece recently worth reading about the work we have to do in framing a post-Covid 19 policy future. It collects the results of conversations with "urban planning and policy experts, health care and environmental advocates, and local and state lawmakers about the bold steps they’d like to see taken in New York."

She frames the discussion:

[A]s the country begins the massive work of vaccinating people, we’re starting to imagine what life looks like on the other side of the pandemic. Do we revert to the status quo? Do we attempt to chip away at those long-standing inequalities with some version of the solutions we’ve tried before? Or do we use this crisis as an excuse to take big, ambitious swings? 

"New York," the piece says those experts collectively argue, "should use this moment to pursue bold policy ideas that not only aid our recovery, but ensure that in a future crisis, all New Yorkers are protected from the worst effects witnessed in the past eight months." 

Municipal broadband sits first on the list of the five ideas covered in the piece (the others being single-payer healthcare, radically more friendly multi-modal transportation, the end of exclusionary zoning, and a universal basic income) that McDonough offers as a result of those discussions. Among them, it has arguably both the strongest track record of existing success stories in the Unites States as well as deep support from a wide collection of diverse interest groups.

Head over to City and State to read the whole piece, stay healthy, and we'll see you back in the office next week.

Posted December 31, 2020 by Ry Marcattilio-...

The Milton, Massachusetts Municipal Fiber Initiative recently launched a friendly petition to collect signatures to present to the city select board in support of a city-wide Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network to increase competition, speed, reliability, and customer service while lower Internet access costs for residents. From the group's website:

We are a community-led effort to create a fiber-optic, municipal broadband network in the town of Milton, MA.  We believe a community-owned, state of the art, 100% fiber network is necessary to provide everyone in town - residents, town government, local businesses and non-profits - with better access, more choice, lower prices, blazing fast speeds, and superior reliability...now and for decades to come!

The group indicates that the town has already created a municipal broadband committee as well as a design and cost estimate done by CTC Energy and Technology [pdf]. 

From the petition:

To all our Milton friends and neighbors -

The MMFI is collecting signatures for a friendly petition to the Milton Select Board. Our intention is to demonstrate public support for municipal broadband, and to urge the board to take the next steps towards the establishment of a municipal broadband network.

The Select Board has made some great progress already with the appointment of a Municipal Broadband Committee.   The committee's efforts culminated in a cost and design estimate for the creation of a 100% fiber, municipally-owned broadband network, providing the town with a viable road map to a town-wide, fiber-to-every-premise network.   

We're asking you to join us in our efforts to keep the process going.  We hope we can make the case to you, our Milton friends and neighbors, that municipal broadband is an investment in Milton's future, a public asset that will serve community needs for generations. 

Massachusetts has seen a flurry of recent activity in municipal broadband. Falmouth is considering a network, and Whip City Fiber (Westfield, Mass.) is in the process of helping almost...

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Posted December 29, 2020 by Ry Marcattilio-...

There’s a new short essay out called “Future-Ready Information Infrastructure Must Be Open Access” from Underline, a firm which specializes in design, financing, construction, and operation of open access networks. It which outlines both the need for more growth of this model but also why, at this moment, we are particularly well positioned to do so today. Read a few excerpts below, but read the whole post over at Underline.

To develop the networks we need now, we must challenge the status quo & rebuild our information infrastructure from first principles: the only solution is open access, content and service agnostic, fiber-based networks.

Multi-purpose, open access fiber networks are equivalent to our “open access” roads. As the necessity of connectivity continues to extend far beyond sending email and online shopping—to virtual learning, remote work, distributed healthcare, new wireless solutions (e.g., 5G) and resilient modernized infrastructure—open access fiber networks are the critical and most efficient foundation.

We can and must efficiently build new information infrastructure as the foundation for resilient, flourishing communities to enjoy new economic opportunities, modernize other critical community infrastructure, and form a pathway to responsible energy creation and secure smart grid technology.

For more on open access networks, read our primer on the benefits they offer, or listen to Episode 424 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast below to hear Christopher talk with Jeff Christensen from EntryPoint Networks.

Posted December 16, 2020 by Ry Marcattilio-...

Cuyahoga County, Ohio’s Office of Innovation and Performance just issued a Request for Information (RFI) [pdf] which seeks to gather information from private vendors in the initial stages of a plan to improve connectivity for those on the wrong side of the broadband gap in Cleveland and the surrounding area. Responses are due January 15th.

Grace Chu, Cleveland Foundation Public Service Fellow with the Cuyahoga County Office of Innovation & Performance, spoke with us about the origins of the RFI and what the county hopes to get out of the request. The county released a new strategic plan in 2017, and broadband played a prominent role. In the time since, the county has partnered with local organizations (like DigitalC and PCs for People) in distributing devices and hotspots to get families connected. Their efforts have intensified during in 2020 and in the wake of the pandemic, but local officials seek a longer term, more comprehensive solution to the connectivity crisis. It sees projects coming to fruition over the next couple of years.

In the announcement, County Executive Armond Budish emphasized the scope of the digital divide and how the efforts they’ve taken during the ongoing Covid 19 pandemic:

Sadly, Cuyahoga County is one of the worst connected communities in the U.S., with 19 percent of households not having any type of internet service. While we’ve been working to lessen the digital divide through partnerships with the Cleveland Foundation and PCs for People—we provided broadband access to over 3,000 homes through this initiative—this RFI allows us to work toward a more long-term solution that can reach more people and provide easier access for those who need it.

In the request, the county signals its willingness to consider “a wide range of construction, operation, ownership, and financing options associated with public-private agreements, non-exclusive franchises, and other appropriate alternatives in its evaluation of business models to pursue. This includes creative solutions maximizing the efficiency of total investments by all parties while providing the scope of work...

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Posted December 10, 2020 by sean

Cape Cod, a peninsula in southeastern Massachusetts that juts out into the Atlantic Ocean like a flexed arm, has long been known as a top summer vacation destination and upscale retirement haven going back to when JFK launched his Presidential campaign from his family’s Hyannisport homestead.

During the height of the summer tourist season the population swells to over a million people as visitors from all over the world come to enjoy its picturesque beaches as well as its trails, shops, and seafood. And while the region’s economy is reliant on tourism, the Cape is home to 250,000 year-round residents spread out across 1,306 square miles in 15 towns, many of whom would like to see the regional economy become more diversified, even if the decades-old vision of transforming it into the “silicon sandbar” remains a pipe dream.

What members of a fledgling citizens group in the town of Falmouth have in mind may not be as grandiose as a “silicon sandbar,” but this week they got evidence that their vision of building a municipal-owned Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network is no pipe dream. 

Falmouth Feasibility Study

In the summer of 2019, David Isenberg – a longtime Falmouth resident, a former Bell Labs scientist, and Senior Advisor to the FCC’s National Broadband Plan – along with a handful of other residents formed the citizens group pushing for a FTTH network in Falmouth. They went before the town’s Economic Development and Industrial Corporation (EDIC) to lay out their vision. The group noted that Falmouth, the second-largest town on Cape Cod with a population of about 30,000 year-round residents, could do what 16 other Off-Cape Massachusetts towns have done – build a locally-controlled Internet access network. Then and there, Falmouth EDIC approved $50,000 for the study, concluding that “all sectors of Falmouth’s economy require reliable, high-speed Internet service.”

The results of the study conducted by CCG Consultants were released this week. The study found that more than 60% of residents and many businesses would subscribe, and that it would be financially feasible to build and operate the envisioned network.

“This new fiber network would eliminate the slowdowns and interruptions in [I]nternet service...

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