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Content tagged with "Arkansas"
Colorado state leaders have voted to eliminate long-criticized state barriers to municipal broadband networks. Community broadband advocates hope it will be a beacon for other states eager to bring more reliable and affordable high-speed Internet service to a market long dominated by monopoly providers.
The Colorado decision, made after years of citizen backlash to the counterproductive restrictions, is the latest inflection point in a retreat away from monopoly-backed state laws stifling creative efforts to bridge the digital divide.
On May 1, Colorado Governor Jared Polis signed Senate Bill 23-183. The new law formally eliminates an older 2005 law backed by regional telecom monopolies, which imposed cumbersome and onerous restrictions on Colorado towns and cities looking to build better, more affordable community-owned and operated broadband networks.
“SB23-183 removes the biggest obstacle to achieving the Governor’s goal to connect 99% of Colorado households by the end of 2027,” Colorado Broadband Office Executive Director Brandy Reitter said of the decision. “Each local government is in a unique position or different phase of connecting residents to high-speed internet, and this bill allows them to establish broadband plans that meet the needs of their communities.”
Colorado state leaders say the repeal puts them in a prime position to capitalize on numerous digital equity programs designed to address Colorado’s digital divide, as well as the more than $42 billion in broadband subsidies soon to be distributed courtesy of the recently-passed Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA).
“With large amounts of federal funding coming from the IIJA bill, we wanted communities to be ready to receive this money,” Colorado Representative Brianna Titone told ILSR.
Last year, Governor Polis signed an executive order formally setting a goal of connecting 99% of Colorado households by the end of 2027. Colorado state leaders have previously stated they expect their share of IIJA/BEAD funding to be between $400 and $700 million; money that can now be used more broadly on a diverse array of creative broadband solutions.
In 2012 the residents of Siloam Springs, Arkansas voted against building their own fiber network after some misleading electioneering by the regional cable monopoly Cox Communications. A decade later and local residents are still frustrated by high prices and a lack of competition, as city leaders are still contemplating what exactly they should try to do about it.
In June, the city released a new report by Finley Engineering and CCG Consulting showing the width and depth of the city’s broadband issues. That report was formally presented at an August city meeting before the city’s recently-formed Broadband Advisory Committee.
Survey Said …
The survey showed that 11 percent of Siloam Springs residents still lack access to broadband, 77 percent of city residents want greater broadband competition, and 88 percent say they’re paying way too much for broadband service. While residents also complained about sluggish upload speeds and outages, the biggest consistent complaint was high prices.
“The number one issue that came through loud and clear in the surveys is broadband pricing – practically every resident we heard from thinks current broadband is too expensive,” the study authors noted.
Siloam Springs is heavily dominated by a duopoly of just two providers: Centurylink and Cox Communications. But even calling it a duopoly is generous; the city’s survey found that Cox enjoys a 92 percent broadband market share within city limits. The lack of competitive threat reduces any real incentive for the cable giant to lower prices or expand service.
Join us today, June 2, at 5pm ET in the chat for the latest episode of the Connect This! Show. Co-hosts Christopher Mitchell (ILSR) and Travis Carter (USI Fiber) are joined by regular guests Kim McKinley (UTOPIA Fiber) and Doug Dawson (CCG Consulting).
The panel will dig into recent news on the BEAD program (including Alan Davidson's remarks at the Mountain Connect conference last week) and what we're likely to see with states that continue to maintain restrictions on municipal solutions. They'll also talk about the New York City Master Broadband Plan, and end with thoughts on Arkansas and Indiana creating middle mile consortia with co-ops.
Email us email@example.com with feedback and ideas for the show.
How Clarksville became Arkansas’ First Two-Gigabit City - Episode 506 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast
This week on the podcast, Christopher is joined by John Lester, General Manager of Clarksville Connected. The two discuss how Clarksville, a small rural community of about 10,000 in northwest Arkansas at the foothills of the Ozark Mountains, became the Natural State’s first 2 gig city.
Chris and John cover how Clarksville became the first city in Arkansas to issue bonds to build a municipal broadband network and how the city was able to navigate the state’s anti-municipal broadband preemption laws to provide its residents and businesses with reliable and affordable high-speed Internet connectivity.
They also discuss how the city was able to quickly build out the network before the onset of the pandemic and has reached a take-rate that surpassed initial projections. They go on to highlight the impact the network has had on powering economic development and boosting the local real estate market, while also exploring how the city worked with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to provide free connectivity to low-income residents living in affordable housing units.
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.
Welcome to In Our View. From time to time, we use this space to explore new ideas and share our thoughts on recent events playing out across the digital landscape, as well as take the opportunity to draw attention to important but neglected broadband-related issues.
As federal funds to expand high-speed Internet access began to flow to states and local communities through the American Rescue Plan Act, and with billions more coming under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, Big Telecom is beginning to mount its expected opposition campaign designed to discourage federal (and state) decision-makers from prioritizing the building of publicly-owned networks.
Predictably, a centerpiece of this anti-municipal broadband campaign is the trotting out of well-worn - and thoroughly debunked - talking points, arguing that federal funding rules should not “encourage states to favor entities like non-profits and municipalities when choosing grant winners” because of their “well-documented propensity to fail at building and maintaining complex networks over time.” That’s what USTelecom, a trade organization representing big private Internet Service Providers (including the monopolies) wrote in a memo sent last week to President Biden, the FCC, cabinet secretaries, House and Senate members, Tribal leaders, as well as state broadband offices.
With American Rescue Plan funds flowing into state government coffers, about a third of the nation’s 50 states have announced what portion of their Rescue Plan dollars are being devoted to expanding access to high-speed Internet connectivity.
The federal legislation included $350 billion for states to spend on water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure, though everything we have seen suggests that the vast majority of that will not go to broadband. There is also another $10 billion pot of rescue plan funds, called the Capital Projects Fund, that mostly must be used to expand access to broadband.
Laboratories of Broadband-ification
As expected, each state is taking their own approach. California is making a gigantic investment in middle-mile infrastructure and support for local Internet solutions while Maryland is making one of the biggest investments in municipal broadband of any other state in the nation. And although Colorado does not prioritize community-driven initiatives, state lawmakers there have earmarked $20 million for Colorado’s two federally-recognized Indian tribes to deploy broadband infrastructure with another $15 million devoted to boosting telehealth services in the state.
Undoubtedly, individual states’ funding priorities vary. Some states may be relying on previously allocated federal investments to boost broadband initiatives and/or have been persuaded the private sector alone will suffice in solving its connectivity challenges. And in some states, such as Illinois, Minnesota, and Maine, lawmakers have prioritized using state funds to support broadband expansion efforts while other states may be waiting on the infrastructure bill now making its way through Congress before making major broadband funding decisions.
As of this writing, 17 states have earmarked a portion of their Rescue Plan money (totaling about $7.6 billion) to address the digital divide within their borders. Those states are Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Montana, Missouri, Virginia, Tennessee, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin.
Join Us Live Thursday at 5pm ET for Episode 22 of Connect This! Show: Longmont, Colorado and Clarksville, Tennessee
Join us live this Thursday, October 14th at 5pm ET for Episode 22 of the Connect This! Show, where co-hosts Christopher and Travis Carter (USI Fiber) will be joined by Dennis Pappas (Longmont, Colorado) and Christy Batts (Clarksville, Tennessee) to talk about large municipalities successfully deploying broadband infrastructure for an array of community benefits.
Longmont, Colorado's Nextlight has been wildly successful during its first five years of life in uncommon ways. Clarksville, Tennessee's CDE Lightband has overcome early challenges to bring significant savings to the public, especially to members of the municipal electric utility. Christopher, Travis, Dennis, and Christy come together to unpack how they got there and what it means for the future.
Email us firstname.lastname@example.org with feedback, ideas for the show, or your pictures of weird wireless infrastructure to stump Travis.
In years past, states have implemented preemptive laws that make it more difficult or impossible for communities to build their own Internet networks.
These state barriers were often enacted at the behest of large telecom monopolies to limit competition, and include everything from outright bans on municipal broadband networks to oppressive restrictions and requirements which create legal uncertainty for communities attempting to offer telecommunications and Internet services, including via partnerships.
When the Covid-19 pandemic hit the United States in March 2020, there were 19 states maintaining significant restrictions on municipal networks. Today, the number of states upholding these barriers has been reduced to 17. The pandemic served as a turning point in the fight for local authority, and in the past year, Arkansas and Washington adopted legislation significantly rolling back legislative barriers on publicly owned broadband networks.
In February of 2021, both chambers of the Republican-dominated Arkansas State Legislature voted unanimously to send Senate Bill 74 to State Governor Asa Hutchinson, who signed the bill into law. The legislation grants government entities the authority to provide broadband services and expands the financing options available to municipalities to fund municipal broadband projects.
In May of 2021, Washington State Governor Jay Inslee signed two bills expanding municipal authority to provide retail Internet services to end-users, House Bill 1336 and Senate Bill 5383. Both bills reduce barriers to municipal networks, but House Bill 1336, which completely removes all previously-held restrictions on public broadband in the state of Washington, is expected to take legal precedence.
Report: Six Community Broadband Networks Demonstrate Diversity of Approaches to Connectivity Challenges
There are more than 600 wireline municipal broadband networks operating across the United States today. And while the ongoing discussion about our information infrastructure by Congress has placed a renewed emphasis on publicly owned endeavors to improving Internet access, the reality is that cities around the country have been successfully demonstrating the wide variety of successful approaches for decades.
In this report, published by the Benton Institute for Broadband and Society, ILSR's Sean Gonsalves, Christopher Mitchell, and Jericho Casper profile how six community networks in a diverse range of places stepped up to meet the needs of their communities, bringing faster, more reliable, and more affordable service.
- Huntsville, Alabama
- Conway, Arkansas
- Ocala, Florida
- Dalton, Georgia
- Ammon, Idaho
- Cheshire County, New Hampshire
The projects above, the report shows, run the gamut from municipally owned and operated fiber networks, to cable system upgrades, to last-mile open access networks, to public-private partnerships.
Communities seeking to create a more competitive broadband market and/or target low-income neighborhoods with high-quality, modestly priced service are increasingly building their own networks, whether in partnership with ISPs or on their own. Local governments considering this option have to do their homework to find appropriate consultants, vendors, business models, and more.
But as the communities profiled here demonstrate, there are many models and opportunities to improve Internet access.
Municipal networks in the United States have proven that when dollars are invested in publicly owned information infrastructure, they often return value back to the community several times over. This new fact sheet [pdf] highlights municipal broadband success stories from across the country and some of the many benefits the networks have brought to the communities they serve.
These networks are directly accountable to the community and have proved themselves for more than 20 years in some cases, bringing lower prices to households than the large private providers. Municipal networks and partnerships account for 9 of the top 10 fastest broadband networks in the nation.
For timely updates, follow Christopher Mitchell or MuniNetworks on Twitter and sign up to get the Community Broadband weekly update.