rural

Content tagged with "rural"

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The Last Train - Episode 564 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast

We're more than 15 years and a hundred billion dollars into the alphabet soup of federal broadband infrastructure subsidy programs, and millions upon millions of households are stuck on deteriorating connections and capacity-constrained technologies. This week on the podcast, Christopher is joined by Jonathan Chambers, partner at Conexon, to talk about how the BEAD program is our last chance. And to make sure we get it right, we have to grapple with the array of long-standing failures - purposeful and not - that have gotten us to this point: the regulatory capture of the FCC, the willful ignorance of bad data collection and mapping, the acceptance of disingenuous "technology neutral" arguments, turning a blind eye to the imbalance in service and cost between our cities and rural expanses, and pretending that not every households in the country can have a first-class, affordable, reliable Internet connection.

This show is 40 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.

Open Access Fiber Network Comes to Rural Enclave in Washington

Public Utility Districts across the state of Washington have become key players in building out high-speed Internet infrastructure for residents and businesses in rural parts of the Evergreen State. One of those PUD’s, the Whatcom County Public Utility District (PUD) is now leading that charge in one of the most difficult-to-reach parts of the state, building an open access dark fiber network that will bring high-speed connectivity to over a thousand homes and businesses in Point Roberts.

Point Roberts is a pen-exclave of Washington State, about 25 miles south of Vancouver. (Pen-exclave: an area that can only be accessed through another country – in this case, Canada). The rural community, known for its peaceful beaches and mountain views, as well as its orca and eagle populations, is just under 5 square miles and home to about 1,200 residents.  

Designated to the United States in 1846 as the border between the United States and Canada was drawn along the 49th parallel, Point Roberts has a distinct geographic identity, which presents a unique challenge when it comes to building broadband infrastructure.

Panhandle Telephone Co-op Will Build Fiber Network in Rural New Mexico With $43 Million Grant

Panhandle Telephone Cooperative Inc. (PTCI) has announced the broadband provider will be dramatically expanding access to its fiber broadband services in New Mexico thanks to a new $43.4 million grant made possible by federal infrastructure legislation.

The Cooperative currently predominately offers fiber broadband, phone, and cellular wireless phone service to subscribers in Oklahoma and Texas. The $43 million cash infusion will allow the cooperative to expand access outside of its existing footprint into rural Union County, in northeast New Mexico.

As per grant rules, the network will deliver speeds of 100 Megabit per second (Mbps) downstream and 20 Mbps upstream, but the cooperative does not yet have a construction timeline or information on planned tiers and pricing.

PTCI’s existing deployments in Texas provide locals with uncapped fiber access at symmetrical speeds of 100 Mbps, 250 Mbps, and 1 Gbps for $60, $86, and $116 per month, respectively. The company stopped offering TV services in 2020, but launched its own cellular network in its existing territories starting in 2021.

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Panhandle Telephone Coop HQ building

The project’s $43 million grant for expansion into New Mexico was made possible courtesy of a recently announced fourth funding round for the U.S Department of Agriculture’s ReConnect Program. Last month the program announced another $714 million in grants and loans aimed at shoring up broadband access to long unserved or underserved rural Americans.

How Rural Internet Access is Being Transformed by Electric Cooperatives - Episode 559 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast

There are more than 830 electric cooperatives in the United States, serving more than half the country by geography. Electric cooperatives overwhelmingly serve regions that face population density challenges and income disparities as compared to their urban counterparts, as well as all of the other challenges that go with it: declining populations, hospital closures, increasingly frequent extreme weather events, and more. This week on the podcast, Christopher is joined by Brian O'Hara, Senior Director of Regulatory Issues for Telecom and Broadband at NRECA, to talk about how more than a quarter of the country's electric cooperatives have answered the call of their members and expanded into Internet service. 

This show is 25 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.

The Public Utility District Taking on the Olympic Peninsula - Episode 558 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast

This week on the podcast, Christopher is joined by Will O'Donnell, Broadband and Communications Director at Jefferson County Public Utility District in Washington State, to talk about the Herculean task facing the PUD: how to deploy an open access fiber network to the utility's 21,000 meters in some of the least-dense parts of the state. 

It's a project that will likely cost more than $200 million, but Jefferson County PUD is getting started now. It's using $50 million to reach the first 4,000 households over the next few years, covering miles of coastline and forest from the Hood Canal and Dabob Bay across the peninsula to the Pacific Ocean. Will shares how the combination of federal and state funding, as well as recent legislative changes freeing the PUDs up to offer retail broadband service, turned around local leadership since a 2019 study that showed intractable barriers to success. Now, Jefferson County is moving full-steam ahead. Construction begins later this year, and the PUD plans to operate as an Internet Service Provider (ISP) on the network alongside others. The secret sauce to keeping costs down and being successful? Using tried-and-true, conservative deployment models (at least at first), and a retail plan with managed Wi-Fi at its core to keep costs low and truck rolls to a minimum. 

Residents are already clamoring for the service.

This show is 25 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.

New Video: Coalition of Community Broadband Advocates Prevail in Louisiana

Sometimes local coalitions can beat Goliath.

In July of 2022, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards and several state lawmakers visited Lake Providence in East Carroll Parish to announce the community had secured a $4 million grant to build a fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) network in one of the most poorly connected parts of the state.

But, as we first reported here, the monopoly cable provider Sparklight (formerly known as Cable One) filed a challenge to the grant claiming the cable company already serves 2,856 homes there. Following Sparklight’s multi-state campaign to prevent competition in areas where the company operates, the challenge brought the project to a grinding halt, sparking Delta Interfaith to leap into action. With the help of allied organizations, the coalition was able to secure a major victory for community broadband in rural Louisiana.

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Delta Interfaith logo

The Power of Community-based Coalitions

Worries Mount Rural Digital Opportunity Fund Default Money Will Be Wasted

Concerns are mounting that over $2.8 billion in potential broadband grants doled out by the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) could be wasted, further eroding the already well-criticized program’s disjointed effort to expand broadband access across rural America.

In 2019, the Ajit Pai FCC created the $20.4 billion RDOF with an eye on shoring up affordable broadband access in traditionally unserved rural U.S. markets. The money was to be doled out via reverse auction in several phases, with winners often declared based on having the maximum impact for minimum projected cost.

During phase one of the program, the FCC stated that 180 bidders won $9.2 billion over 10 years to provide broadband to 5.2 million locations across 49 states and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. But of the $9.2 billion in winners, over $2.8 billion has gone into default, meaning the bidder couldn’t actually deliver on promised projects. 

We've tracked the RDOF awards since the auction concluded, including for the providers that defaulted on their wins.

These issues have not only imperiled RDOF program funding, but have thrown a wrench in the works of numerous additional government efforts to shore up broadband access, from the FCC’s long-criticized quest to accurately map U.S. broadband access, to the implementation of newer grant programs overseen by other agencies.

NEK Broadband Gets $17.5 Million Boost as Vermont CUDs Continue Charge Toward Statewide Broadband Access

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has awarded a $17.5 million grant to NEK Community Broadband (NEK Broadband), providing another shot in the arm for Vermont’s fast-growing collection of Communications Union Districts (CUDs). Such CUDs continue to play a starring role in Vermont’s efforts to finally conquer the digital divide.

NEK Broadband’s latest grant comes from the USDA’s ReConnect Loan & Grant Program, which helps defray the costs of network hardware and broadband deployment to rural and traditionally underserved U.S. markets.

The program this week doled out an additional $714 million in grants and loans to projects across 19 states.

NEK Broadband officials say its $17.5 million award will be combined with a $5.8 million investment to deliver affordable fiber access to 3,295 homes, 94 businesses, 183 farms and 11 educational facilities across 22 towns in Orleans, Caledonia, and Essex counties in Vermont.

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NEK Broadband logo

“For too long, large pockets of our state have been denied this critical resource because companies haven’t found it profitable enough to invest,” Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders said in an announcement of NEK’s latest grant. “This federal funding is transformative, because the money is going directly to the very communities who will benefit, instead of having to go through those who care more about profits than delivering service.”

How the Core Values of Small ISPs Contribute to Internet Access and Digital Equity for All - Episode 556 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast

This week on the podcast, Christopher is joined by Angela Siefer (Executive Director, National Digital Inclusion Alliance) and Matt Larsen (CEO, Vistabeam) to talk about connecting the unconnected and doing digital equity work as a small Internet Service Provider (ISP). They talk about creating a culture of inclusion inside and out and working with local communities to get the most value out of every dollar. In a marketplace that heavily favors the largest cable and telephone providers, Angela and Matt share the ways that they participate in grant programs and how they actively build peer networks to exchange knowledge and make sure the Internet works for as many of us as it can.

This show is 34 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.

ARPA Grant Supercharges New Hampshire Electric Cooperative’s Broadband Plans

After receiving $50 million in new federal funding, the New Hampshire Electric Cooperative (NHEC) has begun a major expansion of its fiber network across large swaths of the state, providing many long-frustrated rural residents access to ultra-fast, affordable broadband for the first time ever.

NHEC currently provides electricity to 88,000 largely rural homes and businesses across 118 New Hampshire communities. In October of last year, NHEC received a $50 million grant from the New Hampshire Business and Economic Affairs Department, made possible by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

“NHEC is a member-owned, nonprofit electric cooperative and our business is providing essential services to rural New Hampshire,” NHEC President/CEO Alyssa Clemsen Roberts said after the grant infusion. “We welcome the opportunity to provide much-needed high-speed internet to the same areas that NHEC first electrified more than 80 years ago. Grant funding is helpful to our plans to reach all underserved members, and we are grateful for the trust placed in us by the BEA to get the job done.”

That money is being used to shore up NHEC’s growing expansion into broadband access via NHEC's wholly owned subsidiary, NH Broadband. NH Broadband began planning its expansion into broadband in 2019, buoyed by another $6.7 million grant made possible by the CARES Act and the Connecting New Hampshire Emergency Broadband Program.

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NH Broadband logo

NHEC spokesman Seth Wheeler told ILSR that the initial CARES Act grant helped the company deliver affordable fiber access to 1,500 NHEC subscribers in six towns. The new $50 million grant will supercharge a cooperative effort by NH Broadband to expand that broadband access to 15,000 current NHEC electricity customers.