Fast, affordable Internet access for all.
The 4G offered by major wireless carriers (with the notable exception of Sprint) is a waste of money because it comes with strict data caps. These data caps actively discourage the types of activities that 4G enables. Activities that are made possible by 4G, such as watching movies or uploading video to the internet, are made impossible by the data caps. As a result most users will avoid taking advantage of these new services out of fear of incurring large overage fees. That makes capped 4G little more than a bait and switch, like being sold a handful of magic beans.I have been disturbed by statements from a number of policymakers and elected officials suggesting they believe the future of connectivity in rural America is wireless, specifically 4G because it is better than the horrible DSL that is mostly the only "broadband" connection available in much of rural America. President Obama has suggested that investing in 4G wireless will spur economic development in northern Michigan. Not hardly. What are small businesses going to use the last 29 days of the month after they exceed their data caps? People in Wired West have told me that those in charge of broadband in Massachusetts have at times been dismissive of their project to bring affordable, fast, and reliable broadband to everyone in their towns because the state would prefer to pretend that cheaper wireless solutions will accomplish the same goal. 4G wireless is not the solution to connecting rural America. It could be an interim solution while we build real broadband out to those areas, but it is insufficient as a solution in and of itself due to the many very real limitations of the technology and the business model of those controlling the spectrum necessary to access to it.
Redwood County’s Economic Development Authority (EDA) opted to move forward with a broadband feasibility study that would determine just what the county would need to do in order to get fiber to every premises. … The study, which is being conducted by the Blandin Foundation through what is known as the Robust Broad-band Networks Feasibility Grant Program. The grant, which includes up to $40,000 for the county as it addresses the needs of every community and farm site from one end of the county to the other, requires matching funds, which are available through the county EDA.Redwood County is in an interesting area, just north of the Windom area muni FTTH networks and west of the proposed project in Sibley and Renville counties. This study comes not long after Todd County started a feasibility study as well (the the latest on that). And though we haven't discussed it much on MuniNetworks.org, Lac qui Parle County to the northwest is working with a rural telephone cooperative to bring FTTH to many in their border as well. And then beyond them, we have Cook County going FTTH with their electric coop and Lake County going its own way, both with the assistance of the broadband stimulus awards. Minnesota could very well become the state with the most impressive rural connections. Unfortunately, thus far we have seen no assistance from the state in this matter, but perhaps the Dayton Administration will chart a new course.
SOUTH ROYALTON – Having completed its beta testing, and with the Phase I project nearly complete, ECFiber began connecting its first customers today. Eight customers have been beta-testing the system for the past two weeks, getting sustained 5Mbps symmetrical service. The Barnard General Store, one of the beta sites, has been offering the experience to customers via WI-FI, and has been finding folks on their doorstep at all hours, trying out the system. “It’s been amazing,” says Kim Furlong, one of the store’s proprietors. “Because so much more of what we do is online, it is truly a joy to reap the reward of high-speed internet. Dial-up, and even satellite, is such a time-robber. Fiber is very different – you can be more efficient, and that is exciting. At the same time, I have some trepidation. People are going to relocate here more permanently because of what is available, and that is probably going to change the fabric of the community.” According to Project Coordinator Leslie Nulty, 15 new accounts were opened within the first 24 hours after the doorstep delivery of information packets. Barnard Academy, another beta site, is also very excited about the service. They are planning an open house and community celebration of ECFiber’s arrival in mid-October. Barnard was chosen for the Phase I project because of its proximity to the central office and its large number of unserved users. Pre-registrations topped 90% before the project started. Phase II, to build out the rest of the town of Barnard, is in the planning stages, with an informational meeting set for Thursday night at 7PM at the Barnard Town Hall.
Very good news continues to come from Wired West. From a press release:August 13th will be a historic occasion for many Western Massachusetts towns, as they form a joint cooperative to build and operate a state-of-the-art telecommunications network for residents and businesses. Founding member towns have traditionally been unserved or underserved by existing broadband providers. The new Cooperative, called WiredWest, will create a community-owned network offering high quality internet, phone and television services to member towns. Today, most WiredWest towns have only partial coverage from limited-bandwidth broadband technologies. WiredWest's goal is not only to create fair access to broadband for all member town residents, but also to provide very high-quality services on a reliable, state-of-the-art network that will meet the escalating bandwidth requirements of businesses and home owners, and provide enough capacity for many decades. The proposed WiredWest network will connect to the Massachusetts Broadband Institute's middle-mile fiber-optic infrastructure to create a robust network from end to end. Twenty-three Western Massachusetts towns have taken the necessary steps to join the WiredWest co-operative by passing votes in two consecutive town meetings. Seventeen additional towns are in the process of voting and are expected to join the Cooperative over the next year. A map of WiredWest towns and their progress can be viewed on the WiredWest website. The WiredWest Cooperative is utilizing "Municipal Light Plant" legislation, initially drafted in 1906, when rural towns faced a similar crisis of access to fundamental services from a lack of electricity. In 1996, the provision of telecommunications services was added to the statute, which enables municipalities to build and operate broadband services in the Commonwealth. The leadership team and working groups are focused on finalizing a business plan, putting financing together and early network planning. The group recently received a $50,000 planning grant from the Massachusetts Broadband Institute, and has also raised additional funding from local businesses and individuals to assist with start-up requirements. The incorporation will take place in Cummington, a town in the geographic center of WiredWest's territory.
"AT&T and Verizon have slashed the frontline workforce, and there simply are not enough technicians available to restore service in a timely manner, nor enough customer service representatives to take customers' calls. Let me share some statistics. Since 2004, AT&T reduced its California landline frontline workforce by 40%, from about 29,900 workers to fewer than 18,000 today. The company will tell you that they need fewer wireline employees because customers have cut the cord going wireless or switched to another provider, but over this same period, AT&T access line loss has been just under nine percent nationally. I would be shocked if line loss in California corresponds to the 40 percent reduction in frontline employees. "Similarly, since 2006 Verizon California cut its frontline landline workforce by one-third, from more than 7,000 in 2005 to about 4,700 today. I venture that Verizon has not lost one third of its land lines in the state."Note that AT&T, Verizon, and other massive incumbents like Comcast have been wildly profitable over this term. The same trend holds in cellular wireless - as noted by the Wall Street Journal:
The U.S. wireless industry is booming as more consumers and businesses snap up smartphones, tablet computers and billions of wireless applications.
Phase 1, with construction under way (see photo) and scheduled to go live in early August, brings an ultra-high-speed fiber loop from the ECFiber central office near I89 Exit 3, along VT Routes 107 and 12, to the center of Barnard. ECFiber expects to begin connecting businesses and residents who live on this route in early August and will provide detailed subscriber information closer to that date.ECFiber has 23 member towns, but Barnard could be the most enthusiastic. This is as grassroots as it gets:
At its June meeting, the ECFiber Governing Board authorized an initiative to extend service to the rest of Barnard town. This requires a second round of capital-raising through a similar "friends and families" offering directed specifically to residents, businesses, and others who wish to support the deployment of universal broadband in Barnard. Loredo Sola, ECF Governing Board Chair commented, "When we first took our plan to Barnard, we were inundated with residents offering to pay the entire cost of extending the Phase 1 trunk to their homes. This enthusiastic response inspired us to authorize a Barnard-only fund drive." ECFiber will be organizing informational meetings for Barnard residents and businesses to explain the details of the plan. When sufficient funds have been committed to build out the entire town, the Barnard Local Fund will close, and construction of Phase 2 can begin.Barnard had 94% of the community presubscribe! The success of ECFiber comes without any support of the state, which has continued to pretend wireless connections and out-of-state corporations will provide the networks necessary for the economic development needed by communities. Valley News took note of the story and expanded on it:
Without other funding streams, it could take seven to 10 years to build out to all 23 towns, Nulty said, but the company is committed to seeing it happen.