Fast, affordable Internet access for all.
Content tagged with "boston"
Cities and towns all over Massachusetts are looking for alternatives to the big incumbent Internet Service Providers in their communities as citizens across the Commonwealth have grown weary of the high-cost, second-rate Internet service – and lack of competition – that plagues markets dominated by monopoly providers.
Gov. Charlie Baker and state lawmakers have yet to settle on how much of the Commonwealth’s American Rescue Plan funds should be devoted to expanding access to affordable and reliable high-speed Internet service in the Bay State. Meanwhile, a growing number of local leaders and community advocates are positioning themselves for the possibility of creating municipal telecommunications utilities to build publicly-owned broadband infrastructure.
Falmouth Leads the Way on Cape Cod
On Cape Cod in the Town of Falmouth (pop. 32,517), the citizen-led non-profit FalmouthNet is making major strides in bringing town-wide fiber-to-the-home Internet service to the second-largest municipality on the southeastern Massachusetts peninsula. (Full disclosure: both Sean Gonsalves and Christopher Mitchell serve as FalmouthNet Advisory Board members).
Having completed a feasibility study last year that laid out a detailed market analysis and financial forecast for building the estimated $55 million town-wide fiber network, FalmouthNet recently announced it has signed a contract with Tilson, a telecom construction and engineering firm based in Portland, Maine, to design the network.
Tenants often don’t know what level of Internet access they can expect in a new office location or home until they are already committed to moving in. Boston aims to change the unpredictability and improve the city’s connectivity by working with WiredScore to establish a Broadband Ready Building Questionnaire as part of the city’s planning and development review process.
Thinking Ahead For Better Development
Boston Planning & Development Agency (BPDA) and the city’s Department of Innovation and Technology (DoIT) have entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the company. The questionnaire will apply to new projects, planned development areas, and institutional master plans and will be used to assess a project’s impact on matters such as transportation, access to public spaces, environment, and historic resources. The questions will also serve to obtain public feedback.
WiredScore has developed Wired Certification, an international rating system for commercial real estate that offers several levels of building certification based on quality of connectivity. A high level of certification is not based solely on one provider that offers high capacity connectivity to a building. There are a number of factors that determine which level of certification applies to a WiredScore ranked facility.
Specialized For Boston
Boston and WiredScore developed a unique questionnaire that addresses the issues they consider most relevant. In addition to rights-of-way and entry to the building, the partners ask specifics about telecom rooms, delivery of service within the building, and the accommodation of future innovative technologies. They also ask property owners about ISP providers at the address and whether or not tenants have choice.
With better information, commercial and residential tenants can choose a home that fits their needs. According to Christopher:
One of the many problems with Internet access is the lack of reliable information about services at a given location. This agreement between Boston and WiredScore is a step in the right direction - better ISPs thrive in sunlight while the biggest cable and telephone companies rely on ignorance and monopoly.
This is the transcript for episode 245 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast. Brough Turner of Netblazr joins the show to explain point-to-point wireless service. Listen to this episode here.
Brough Turner: Here's the deal. It's $59.95 a month. No contracts. No teaser rates. No special deals. But we're not pulling any funnies on anybody and you can leave at any point.
Lisa Gonzalez: This is Episode 245 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. I'm Lisa Gonzalez. NetBlazr is a Boston wireless Internet service provider that focuses on urban delivery of high-quality Internet access. This week, Brough Turner, founder and chief technology officer, connects with Christopher to talk about the ins and outs of providing the point-to-point wireless service in an urban area. Brough gets into the technology and the guys discuss what might be in the future of wireless. Brough also shares his company's experience as a startup, some of the challenges they faced, and how NetBlazr is keeping up with demand. Check out their website, NETBLAZR.com, to learn more about the company, the technology, and the team. Here's Christopher talking with chief technology officer and founder of NetBlazr, Brough Turner.
Christopher Mitchell: Welcome to another edition of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast. I'm Chris Mitchell. Today I'm speaking with Brough Turner, the founder and chief technology officer for NetBlazr. Welcome to the show.
Brough Turner: Thank you.
Christopher Mitchell: We'll get into this in a second, but NetBlazr's a wireless firm. We're going to talk a lot about wireless technologies. Maybe you can just tell us a little bit about what you know about wireless networks. I guess a different way of saying that would be, tell the audience why they should listen to you.
Like other urban centers in the U.S., Boston is filled with multi dwelling units (MDUs) and buildings that house multiple business tenants. Obtaining high-quality connectivity in such an environment can be a challenge, especially if choices are limited to just one or two incumbents with little or no competition. With the advancement of new fixed wireless technologies in recent years, however, residential and business subscribers now have better options.
This week, Christopher talks with Brough Turner, the founder and Chief Technology Officer at netBlazr. The company provides high-quality fixed wireless Internet access to residents and businesses across the city. Listeners who enjoy our occasional deep dives into the technical side of wireless connectivity, you’re in for a treat.
Brough and Christopher also discuss the company and the challenges they face working in a market traditionally reserved for the big incumbents. The guys spend time discussing the future of wireless and what Brough, who has extensive experience in this field, expects to see both in the short and long term.
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 Break the Bans for the music. The song is Escape and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.
In this week's Community Connections, Christopher chats with Anne Schweiger, Broadband and Digital Equity Advocate for the city of Boston. Schweiger talks about the challenges that Boston faces, including a lack of competition and adoption of broadband in the home. She talks about the importance of "baking good broadband practice" into building codes for cities.
In February, 2016 the Boston Globe editorial board came out in support of a municipal network.
Boston has its own conduit network and significant fiber assets, but residents and businesses must seek service from large private providers.
The Editorial Board from the Boston Globe recently kicked off a series titled "The Cutting Edge of the Common Good." The editors intend to offer suggestions for how to create a prosperous city through ideas to benefit Boston's 4.7 million residents.
Their first proposal? Build a municipal fiber network.
In the editorial, the Board point out how the city has always been a cutting edge leader, from Revoluntionary War to same-sex marriage. But when it comes to developing the tech sector, the "City on a Hill" is being edged out by Chattanooga, Lafayette, Louisiana, and Cedar Falls, Iowa. High-tech innovators are flocking to communities with municipal fiber networks.
As the Globe notes, connectivity could be better in Boston:
The truth is that our tech infrastructure is in the same dismal shape as our roads and bridges. Boston, like a majority of American cities, pays more for slower Internet service than our international peers. If Boston is to remain a global hub of innovation — and on the “cutting edge of the common good,” as Mayor Martin J. Walsh promised in his State of the City address last month — it should build a citywide fiber-optic network that allows each residence and business an onramp to the information superhighway of the future.
Even though the city has its own conduit network and significant fiber assets, residents and businesses must seek service from large private providers. The Globe Editors believe the city should rethink the current approach:
But the City of Boston should not gamble its future competitiveness in a Mountain View lottery, nor should it entrust such vital infrastructure entirely to private hands.
The private market would be the ideal solution in an ideal world, but in Boston the market has failed.
In a recent Boston Globe Opinion, Dante Ramos notes that Boston has a reputation as a technology hub. When seeking options and affordability, however, Ramos recounts the successful approach of Lafayette, Louisiana:
Today, the top broadband speeds advertised to residential customers in Boston are about one-ninth of what’s available in Lafayette. A municipal network in Boston isn’t inconceivable; the fiber-optic network now connecting scores of government facilities could theoretically become the spine of a citywide system.
Ramos acknowledges the challenges Boston would face if it were to take up such a project, but he also notes that it was no small feat for Lafayette. The economic development gains have more than justified the investment:
Half a decade later, though, the benefits have come into view. A company serving an active Louisiana film industry can use the Lafayette network to transmit massive quantities of digital footage. Employees of a major jewelry manufacturer in town can get medical advice remotely without having to go in and out of a highly secure plant. And the presence of the network is shaping investment decisions in subtle ways.
Ramos shares the story of his encounter with the owner of a local Internet consulting firm who chose the company data center location because it was within the LUS Fiber service area. He also valued the network's speed, reliability, and quality customer service.
Lafayette's network has also continually drawn in new employers, including three high tech companies in the fall of 2014. Along with those approximately 1,300 well paying positions come the multiplier effect on the local economy.
Ramos' piece inspired a letter to the Globe from Art Gaylord and Dan Gallagher, Chairman of the Board of Directors and Senior Consultant respectively, from OpenCape. The two find inspiration in the story of Lafayette but lament what they see as a lack of enthusiasm in the Cape Cod region.
A group of municipal leaders and their private sector small ISP partners submitted an ex parte filing with the FCC today stating that they see no reason to fear Title II reclassification of Internet access. The statement, signed by a variety of towns and providers from different areas of the country is reproduced in full:
Dear Chairman Wheeler,
As a group of local governments and small ISPs that have been working to expand the highest quality Internet access to our communities, we commend you for your efforts to improve Internet access across the country. We are committed to a free and open Internet without blocking, throttling, or discriminating by ISPs.
As local governments and small ISPs, we wanted to ensure you are aware that not all local governments and ISPs think alike on matters like reclassification. For instance, on July 18, 2014, the mayors of New York City; Portland, Oregon; and San Francisco called on you to issue the strongest possible rules to guarantee Net Neutrality. Each of these communities is also taking steps to expand and improve high quality Internet access to their businesses and residents.
Our approaches vary but are already resulting in the highest level of service available because we are committed to expanding high quality Internet access to supercharge local economies and improve quality of life. We have no interest in simply replicating older triple play model approaches. We want to build the infrastructure of the future and we see nothing in the proposed Title II reclassification of Internet access that would hinder our ability to do that. As Sonic CEO Dane Jasper has strongly argued, ISPs that don’t want to interfere with their subscribers’ traffic should expect a light regulatory touch.
We thank you for your leadership during this difficult period of transition. We understand that many of our colleagues have trouble trusting the FCC given a history that has, in many cases, ignored the challenges small entities face in this industry. But whether it has been increasing the speed definition of broadband, or calling for the removal of barriers to community networks, we have been impressed with your willingness to take on powerful interest groups to ensure the Internet remains a vibrant, open platform.
We look forward to working with you to ensure that future rules recognize the unique challenges of small providers and innovative approaches to expanding access.
Yet another major news outlet has endorsed the President's position in support of local telecommunications authority. On January 26th, the Boston Globe went on record to endorse the concept, urging the FCC and Congress to work together to ensure local communities have the right to make their own connecitvity decisions.
The Globe suggested that, rather than allowing the FCC to take the lead with the Wilson and Chattanooga petition decisions, federal lawmakers take action:
A better approach would be for Congress to settle the issue itself, by preventing states from interfering with cities and towns that want to start their own Internet services.
The Globe Editors note that rural areas are the hardest hit by large corporate provider indifference, that it is those same parties that drive the state barrier bills, and that, "This status quo is bad for customers everywhere."
Globe Editors get behind a bill recently introduced by Cory Booker, Claire McCaskill, and Ed Markey that wipes out state barriers in the 19 states where they exist and prevents state lawmakers from enacting new ones. The Globe acknowledges that the support is lopsided today...:
But this shouldn’t be a partisan issue, and it isn’t one on the local level. Red states like Georgia, Kentucky, Iowa, Oklahoma, and Utah all have successful municipal Internet programs. Politicians tempted by campaign contributions from the telecommunications lobby, or skeptical of any proposal backed by President Obama, should remember that consumer protection is an issue that voters of all stripes support.
Municipalities are increasingly realizing they need to take steps to ensure fast, affordable, reliable Internet access for local citizens. Some are doing the work themselves with publicly owned projects while others seek public-private partnerships. In order to capitalize on collaboration, a group of city leaders are now forming Next Century Cities.
On October 20, 2014, they will webcast the official launch from Santa Monica at 9:30 a.m. - 1 p.m. PT / 12:30 p.m. - 4 p.m. ET. From the announcement:
We're proud to announce the official launch of Next Century Cities. Next Century Cities is a new, city-to-city collaboration that supports community leaders across the country as they seek to ensure that all have access to fast, affordable, and reliable Internet. Founding Partners represent dozens of cities from across the United States.
On October 20, we will be officially launching at Cross Campus in Santa Monica, CA. Our event will bring together mayors from communities across the country, as well as successful technologists who have helped to implement and run some of the nation's most impressive broadband networks. We're proud to host mayors and leaders from across the country for a series of thought-provoking discussions about how high-quality broadband Internet has begun to empower American communities.
Featured speakers will include
- Mayor Pam O'Connor, Santa Monica, California
- Mayor Andy Berke, Chattanooga, Tennessee
- Mayor Joey Durel, Lafayette, Louisiana
As part of the event, Susan Crawford will moderate a panel discussion with Mayors and city leaders from a variety of communities.
The event will also include a panel discussion moderated by Christopher Mitchell with information and innovation leaders from the cities of Santa Monica, Boston, Kansas City, Portland, Raleigh, and Lafayette.