Tag: "charter"

Posted September 19, 2022 by Karl Bode

Last March, Caribou, Maine city council members expressed unanimous support for a charter amendment allowing the Caribou Utilities District to establish a broadband infrastructure division. It was just the latest move in a multi-year quest by the city to finally deliver affordable fiber broadband access to every last city resident.

Groundwork for the effort was laid one year ago, when city council members approved using $159,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds to craft a broadband engineering study with the help of Caribou’s Business Investment Group and executives from local ISP Pioneer Broadband.

Late last March, the Maine Senate unanimously approved LD 1949: “An Act to Amend the Caribou Utilities District Charter to Include Broadband Services,” which formally, as the name makes clear, provided approval for the CUD to expand its services into broadband access.

Now the hard work begins. 

The plan as it currently stands is to build an open-access dark fiber network to every unserved Caribou residential and business location. The city would own the network, but private ISPs would provide last mile service to customers. 

“We would like two or more ISPs to provide citizens with a choice of providers,” Hugh Kirkpatrick, Caribou Utilities District general manager, recently told the Bangor Daily News. “Competition should keep monthly prices lower and customer service higher.”

Pioneer has already expressed interest in being one of the providers, though the city is also still fielding proposals from regional cable giants like Charter Communications. 

Funding for the project remains up in the air, though the project will proceed with or without funding from...

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Posted August 25, 2022 by Ry Marcattilio

Join us live on Thursday, August 25th, at 5pm ET for the latest episode of the Connect This! Show. Co-hosts Christopher Mitchell (ILSR) and Travis Carter (USI Fiber) will be joined by regular guests Kim McKinley (UTOPIA Fiber) and Doug Dawson (CCG Consulting). They'll dig into recent news - from big cable companies and telcos going after BEAD grants, to the announcement of 25 Gigabit per second service across the footprint of Chattanooga's municipal network, to the future of streaming video, to a reflective look on how well (or not) we did with the broadband stimulus.

Email us broadband@muninetworks.org with feedback and ideas for the show.

Subscribe to the show using this feed or find it on the Connect This! page, watch on YouTube Live, on Facebook live, or below.

Posted August 23, 2022 by Sean Gonsalves

Although disappointing for advocates of local Internet choice weary of monopoly providers working to stifle competition, what we are seeing coming out of Montana’s state broadband grant program, Connect MT, shouldn’t be all that surprising.

Last week we learned that the state’s Department of Administration had recommended that nearly half of the Connect MT funding – $126 million – be awarded to Charter Communications, which has been aggressively lobbying Montana legislators (and funding campaigns in opposition to community broadband proposals in other states).

It did not go unnoticed by Montana Free Press deputy editor Eric Dietrich who recently reported that the recommended award to Charter “has plowed into rocky ground as (the state) considers a list of recommended projects this month.”

‘Not Perfect by Any Means’

The story raises questions about the state’s ranking system for proposed projects and notes that the lion’s share of grant money being recommended for Charter “has drawn the ire of smaller, Montana-based companies that want more support for their own networks.”

In hearings this month, Department of Administration Director Misty Ann Giles, the committee’s vice-chair, described the $258 million program as a learning experience for the state government, which hasn’t previously managed a large broadband program. The scoring system the department used to rank applications, she said at an Aug. 2 meeting, ‘is not perfect by any means.’

‘This is a first-in-kind program for the state of Montana, so there’s definitely some lessons learned,’ Giles said.

Giles and committee chair Sen. Jason Ellsworth, R-Hamilton, have also said the state will have the chance to fine-tune its awards process and fund additional projects as it works through additional federal broadband money it expects to receive through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

After passage of the American Rescue Plan Act, the Republican-controlled Montana Legislature established advisory committees to make recommendations to the governor about how the state’s Rescue Plan funds should be spent on infrastructure, including broadband.

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Posted August 17, 2022 by Karl Bode

One way or another, Grafton County, New Hampshire is lining up funding to build a massive new middle-mile network county officials hope will drive broadband competition—and more affordable fiber—into long underserved New Hampshire communities. 

Grafton was one of 230 U.S. communities that applied for a National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) Broadband Infrastructure Program grant. Grafton’s specific application asked for $26.2 million to help fund the creation of the 353 mile broadband middle mile network they’re calling Grafton County Broadband Now.

Costly Challenge from National Incumbent Providers

Charter Communications filed costly challenges with the NTIA challenging the application, falsely claiming that the county’s proposal was “duplicative” and Charter already provided broadband to the region. Most of the claims were based on older, unreliable data provided to the FCC by Charter dramatically overstating broadband availability.

Grafton County surveys actually indicate the majority of county residents still can’t get access to the FCC’s base definition for broadband, 25 Megabits (Mbps) per second downstream, 3 Megabits per second upstream. Availability data across the county will likely look even worse should the FCC pass a new proposal to boost the definition of broadband to 100 Mbps.

Between Comcast and Charter, incumbent cable giants challenged 3,000 of the 4,000 census blocks covered in the NTIA application, even in areas that didn’t make much sense. Regional leaders previously told us the challenges were an attempt to bog long-needed local broadband improvement efforts down in bureaucracy.

Devil in the Details

Grafton’s grant application was rejected by the NTIA, though officials told the...

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Posted August 5, 2022 by Sean Gonsalves

Spurred to action by inadequate high-speed Internet service as the pandemic besieged their communities, local officials and citizen volunteers in five rural Maine towns formed the Southwestern Waldo County Broadband Coalition (SWCBC) in an effort to bring ubiquitous and affordable broadband to its portion of Waldo County.

Two years later, the SWCBC is close to securing a major victory for local Internet choice in the face of a well-funded opposition campaign sweeping the Pine Tree State as the Big Telecom lobby and its allies try to undermine the very idea of publicly-owned, locally-controlled broadband networks in Maine and elsewhere.

The five SWCBC towns clustered about 30 miles east of Augusta – home to approximately 5,600 Mainers – are looking to create what is known as a Broadband Utility District (BUD). Four of those towns (Freedom, Liberty, Palermo, and Searsmont) recently voted in favor of establishing a BUD. Montville will be the last of the five towns to vote on whether to BUDdy up with the neighboring municipalities via an Interlocal Agreement (ILA). That vote is slated for August 23.

Similar to Communication Union Districts (CUDs) that the neighboring state of Vermont is relying on to deliver reliable and affordable broadband to its residents and businesses, Maine state law “allows towns to band together to form a community-owned organization, controlled by the municipality members but a legally separate organization - a regional non-profit utility. The BUD is allowed to incur debt that is separate from and not guaranteed by the municipalities.”

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Posted August 2, 2022 by Ry Marcattilio

Join us live on Thursday, August 4th, at 4pm ET for the latest episode of the Connect This! Show. Co-hosts Christopher Mitchell (ILSR) and Travis Carter (USI Fiber) will be joined by regular guests Kim McKinley (UTOPIA Fiber) and Doug Dawson (CCG Consulting) to talk about all the recent broadband news fit to print.

They discuss recent wins by communities in Holland, Michigan, Lancaster County, Nebraska, and Bozeman, Montana and recent fines levied against Charter Spectrum and Frontier. They also talk about churn in the Affordable Connectivity Program, the cost of grant requirements in BEAD, and the difficulties of faithfully mapping and reporting fixed wireless deployments.

Subscribe to the show using this feed on YouTube Live or here on Facebook Live, on find it on the Connect This! page.

Email us broadband@muninetworks.org with feedback and ideas for the show.

Watch here on YouTube Live, here on Facebook live, or below.

Posted August 2, 2022 by Ry Marcattilio

This week on the podcast, Christopher is joined by Sean Gonsalves, Senior Reporter and Editor at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. During the conversation, they talk about the value and concrete results of going small and stacking up targeted wins as a path for cities facing less of an appetite for big, bold projects, before digging into recent astroturf campaigns by monopoly Internet Service Providers (ISPs).

Led by the Alliance for Quality Broadband (AQB) (really a lobbying group including providers like Charter Spectrum and others), municipal broadband efforts have seen recent setbacks in places like Southport, Maine. It's a campaign being waged both in print flyers and online facebook ads, with AQB driving misinformation efforts and attempting to scare citizens away from upcoming votes on projects to improve local connectivity after years of underinvestment by incumbents (like Charter Spectrum). 

Christopher and Sean fact check the Alliance for Quality Broadband's bogus claims about the failure of muncipal efforts across the country in places like Pennsylvania, Minnesota, California, Florida, and Vermont, and unpack the deep-seated fear of competition driving such efforts.

Listen to Christopher's in-depth interview with Harold Depriest about Chattanooga, referenced in the episode.

Watch the most recent episode of the Connect This! Show to see Christopher and Travis Carter (USI Fiber) talk with Peggy Schaffer (Director, ConnectME), Andrew Butcher (President, Maine Connectivity Authority), and Christa Thorpe (Community Development Officer, Island Institute) about anti-municipal broadband efforts in Maine.

This show is 38 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed. You can listen to the interview on this page or visit the...

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Posted July 26, 2022 by Ry Marcattilio

Join us live on Thursday, July 28th, at 4pm ET for the latest episode of the Connect This! Show. Co-hosts Christopher Mitchell (ILSR) and Travis Carter (USI Fiber) will be joined by Peggy Schaffer (Director, ConnectME), Andrew Butcher (President, Maine Connectivity Authority), and Christa Thorpe (Community Development Officer, Island Institute).

The panel will dig into recent anti-municipal propaganda in the New England area, with an emphasis on Maine. They'll talk about the astroturf campaign being waged by groups like the Alliance for Quality Broadband (a front organization for Charter Spectrum) and recent blows to municipal broadband they've fueled in places like Southport and Readfield. The panel will talk who really loses out when the monopoly providers persuade voters and local officials to defer leadership on imrpoving community connectivity. Christa Thorpe will join halfway through the show to share her experiences and perspective.

Subscribe to the show using this feed, view the show on YouTube Live or on Facebook Live, or find it on the Connect This! page.

Email us broadband@muninetworks.org with feedback and ideas for the show.

Watch here on YouTube Live, here on Facebook live, or below.

Posted July 12, 2022 by Sean Gonsalves

In the 1980s, Rancho Cucamonga proclaimed itself “The City with a Plan.” Back then, the plan was to remake this once rural enclave known for its vineyards into more than just one of the many sunny suburbs of Los Angeles. The vision was to leverage its stretch of the famed Route 66 highway as a branding and economic development tool and transform the city into a premier destination within the Inland Empire metropolitan area along the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains.

That forward-looking spirit was revived again 30 years later as city leaders looked to cultivate a digital vineyard with the creation of a “Fiber Optic Master Plan” – a six-year $13 million investment plan that targets the city’s new development.

Today, Rancho Cucamonga (its name was derived from a Native American word meaning “sandy place”) owns and operates Rancho Cucamonga Municipal Broadband in partnership with Onward, a local private Internet service provider.

The city built, owns, and maintains the physical infrastructure, which is managed by the Rancho Cucamonga Municipal Utility (RCMU). Onward, which is based in the city, provides gigabit speed Internet access to the network’s 525 mostly residential subscribers as the network slowly expands to reach yet-to-be-built residential developments.

Targeting Greenfield Projects and Businesses

The move toward municipal broadband began in earnest in 2016 when the city hired Magellan Advisors to develop a plan that would leverage the city’s existing fiber assets and expand its municipal utility fiber network to “greenfield projects” and the city’s business parks (see the map below that shows blue areas where service exists and orange areas where service is coming).  

“We had a bit of a...

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Posted May 6, 2022 by Ry Marcattilio

Two recent victories in digital equity work out of California give cause for celebration this week. AB 2748 Telecommunications: Digital Equity in Video Franchising Act and AB 2751 Affordable Internet and Net Equality Act both passed the Communications and Conveyance Committees this week; the former by a margin of 10-3 and the latter 7-3.

Sponsored by Assemblyman Chris Holden, AB 2748 would have a range of impacts if passed, including  giving the state CPUC and local governments more power in negoitating with providers to ensure that there is no discimination based on neighborhood household income that leads to inequitable access to service. It also revises franchise fee agreements at the local level. Read the full bill analysis for more.

From the press release:

"Although DIVCA originally intended to address inequitable broadband access, it remains pronounced across California cities," says Shayna Englin, Director of the California Community Foundation Digital Equity Initiative. "AB 2748 modernizes DIVCA by establishing equal access requirements as policy, and makes them enforceable through a reasonable application process for franchise renewals. We are pleased to co-sponsor Assemblymember Holden's bill, as the legislation will bring us one step closer to ensuring every Californian has access to fast, reliable, and affordable Internet [access]."

AB 2751 would create a Net Equality Program which would require that most state agencies only do business with Internet Service Providers (ISPs) that have a low-income plan offering of $40/month for 25/3 Megabits per second (Mbps). Read the full bill analysis for more.

Public testimony for AB 2751 highlighted the significant disparity in service speeds and prices that disadvantage low-income Californians by the state's two monopoly providers: Charter Spectrum and AT&T:

AB2751 is a modest but vital step toward leveraging the state’s massive...

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