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Content tagged with "connecticut"
Across New England, local-controlled, publicly-owned Internet infrastructure is on the rise -- from Bar Harbor, Maine to the Berkshires of Massachusetts. In Connecticut, however, it’s a different story. The Constitution State is a municipal broadband desert.
That may be changing, however, as Bristol (pop. 60,000) inches closer to becoming the first city in Connecticut to transform itself into a fountain of community-owned connectivity as city officials consider whether to use its federal American Rescue Plans Act (ARPA) funds to build a citywide open access fiber network. With $28 million in ARPA funds at its disposal, city officials have been in a months-long process of deciding how much, if any, of that money should be spent building fiber optic infrastructure.
The city’s chief technology staff has been working with a consultant to draft design recommendations for the network, which were anticipated to be presented to both City Council and the Financial Board in August or September.
“That plan has been completed but has not been presented to City officials as of yet,” City Chief Information Officer Scott Smith told ILSR in an email. “The consultants would like to present their plan in person to City officials and so we thought it might be more prudent to have them present it at an upcoming meeting of the Mayor’s ARPA Task Force. We are hoping that we can use some of the ARPA funds to fund a portion of this broadband buildout, especially in the areas of the City where we have a significant digital divide.”
Building this infrastructure would increase competition and address local concerns about the lack of reliable, affordable, high-speed Internet access.
“With the covid pandemic, it catapulted it to the top (of concerns),” Smith told the Bristol Press. “We have a digital divide issue in Bristol that is quite large.”
After working over a year to obtain licenses to deploy fiber across town, by this time next week the central Connecticut town of Plainville, home to approximately 17,500 residents, will begin construction of a municipal fiber network. When finished, the network will connect all town offices, public education facilities, public safety services, and wastewater treatment facilities.
Over a decade after high-speed fiber connections linking the town’s municipal center and a local high school to the statewide Nutmeg Network were first established in Plainville, multiple municipal buildings throughout town still lacked reliable broadband connections, and some had not been connected to the Internet at all.
With locally-based construction firm Sertex set to begin laying fiber for the townwide institutional network (I-Net) next week, which will include “12.5 miles of aerial cabling and three underground spans running beneath major highways,” that’s all about to change for the relatively dense, 10-square-mile community, reports Sertex.
Michigan broadband package repeals law prohibiting state grants from going to government entities
Montana Legislature duplicates federal limitations against schools and library self-constructing networks
U.S. House Republicans bill would give USDA authority over rural broadband, in place of FCC
The State Scene
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued an executive directive on Wednesday establishing the Michigan High-Speed Internet (MIHI) Office, a new state office tasked with developing a strategy to make high-speed Internet more accessible to Michiganders.
Gov. Whitmer has argued that more than $2.5 billion in potential economic benefit is left unrealized each year due to a lack of Internet access across the state. MIHI will be housed inside the state’s Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity (LEO). Speaking of the new office, LEO Acting Director Susan Corbin said, “We need to make major investments to support digital inclusion and this office will be focused on leveraging every dollar available through the American Recovery Plan and other federal programs,” reports WILX.
Michigan lawmakers are moving to answer Corbin’s call and recently proposed a $400 million one-time allocation of incoming federal relief funds to the newly created MIHI to work toward expanding access to broadband. With the funds, LEO would be tasked with maintaining a statewide broadband grant program, the Connecting Michigan Communities Broadband Grant.
Privately-owned broadband infrastructure builder and operator SiFi Networks is sprouting roots in cities from California to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
The Fullerton FiberCity network was SiFi’s first FiberCity — a privately built, financed, and operated open access network. Network construction in Fullerton started in November 2019 and involved over 600 miles of micro-trenching underground fiber, a technique designed to minimize traffic and neighborhood disruption sometimes associated with ripping up roads to install fiber conduit. The first residential customers were hooked up in June, with an anticipated completion date in the fall of 2021.
And while construction of the fiber network in Fullerton isn’t quite finished yet, eight other communities across the country are in the process of becoming the next SiFi fiber cities.
In Salem, Ma., SiFi Networks announced at the end of November it had completed a “construction trial” which is a “practice run” ahead of the actual construction of the citywide network, slated to start this spring.
Once completed, the Salem project, in which SiFi Networks is partnering with GigabitNow, will offer the city’s 43,180 residents an alternative to the monopoly services of Comcast. GigabitNow, which will be the Internet Service Provider (ISP) for Salem FiberCity, estimates they will be able to begin providing services as early as summer 2021.
In the past few years, states around the U.S. have made incremental changes in their laws to ease restrictions on municipalities and cooperatives interested in developing high-quality Internet network infrastructure. When communities in Connecticut wanted to exercise their right to space on utility poles at no cost, however, pole owners objected. After a drawn out review of the state's "Municipal Gain" law, local communities have finally obtained the decision they've pursued to develop cost-effective publicly owned fiber optic municipal networks.
Process, Procedure, and PURA
In 2016, the state's Office of Consumer Counsel (OCC) turned to Connecticut's Public Utility Regulatory Agency (PURA) and asked the agency to clarify a 110-year-old state law regarding utility poles in municipal rights-of-way (ROW). In Connecticut, about 900,000 of the poles are scattered throughout the state and are prime locations for fiber optic cables for improved connectivity. Most of the poles belong to Verizon, Frontier, one of the state's electric providers, or are jointly owned by two or more of them.
The Municipal Gain Law was created in the early 1900s to give local communities reserved space with no attachment fee on the poles in order to hang telegraph wires. As telephone and other technologies evolved that required wiring, municipalities wanted to take advantage of the space. There were several lawsuits between pole owners and municipalities over the years with pole owner interests usually losing out to the needs of the public. By 2013, it became clear that amending the law to allow communities to access the municipal gain space "for any use" made sense and the state legislature made the statutory language change. Local communities saw the change as an opportunity to string fiber in the space, establishing publicly owned infrastructure on which they could partner with private sector providers for improved local connectivity.
Hartford, Connecticut, was abuzz in early November with policy and tech experts discussing the connectivity situation there and in the region. If you weren’t able to attend, or didn’t have the chance to stream it live, you can now watch video from the event.
The day is divided into a dozen separate videos, so if you’re interested in a specific panel discussion or presentation, you can easily find what you’re looking for.
Next Century Cities hosted the event along with Connecticut’s Office of Consumer Counsel and they described the event:
This one-day event brought together broadband champions from federal, state, and local government, as well as community leaders and policy experts. Features included a mayors’ panel, successful models in broadband deployment, E-Rate and funding opportunities, 5G and small cells, as well as an update about the recent municipal gain ruling in Connecticut.
Welcome with Cat Blake:
State Rep. Josh Elliot
Richard Kehoe for Sen. Richard Blumenthal
Successful Models Panel
Shoutout to Janice Fleming
Municipal Gain Update by Joel Rosenthal
Dividing Lines Premiere
Financing and E-rate Panel
It’s not too late to make your plans to attend "Connected New England: A Regional Broadband Convening" in Hartford, Connecticut. The November 8th event will bring an impressive list of broadband leaders to the Nutmeg State to share their expertise on all things broadband.
Special Local Focus
The theme of the event is “Local Solutions for Broadband Development” and is hosted through a partnership between Next Century Cities, the State of Connecticut Office of Consumer Counsel. If you’re a government, academic, or nonprofit employee, you can attend at no charge. Topics at the event will revolves around the most difficult challenges obstructing deployment in New England.
A mayor’s panel will include Mayor Luke Bronin and State Representative Josh Elliot along with elected officials from New Haven, Stamford, and East Hartford.
Gigi Sohn, former FCC advisor, and a Distinguished Fellow at Georgetown Law Institute for Technology Law & Policy, will deliver the Afternoon Keynote. We love Gigi!
Additional panels will hit on:
- Municipal Gain Update from the state’s Office of Consumer Counsel
- 5G & Small Cells Panel - Josh Broder from Tilson will moderate
- Successful Models Panel - Christopher Mitchell will moderate
- Financing & E-Rate Panel - Deb Socia from Next Century Cities will moderate
The agenda for Connected New England has shaped up to be full of valuable information, which makes November 8th is a great time to visit Connecticut. If you live in the Nutmeg State, or one of the nearby states, the drive to Hartford will end with an impressive list of speakers and thoughtful panels. You can register here for "Connected New England: Local Solutions for Broadband Development," to be held at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford.
This one-day event will bring together broadband champions from federal, state, and local government, as well as community leaders and policy experts. We will feature a mayors’ panel, successful models in broadband deployment, E-Rate and funding opportunities, 5G and small cells, as well as an update about the recent municipal gain ruling in Connecticut.
People, People, People
In addition to Hartford’s Mayor Luke Bronin, State Representative Josh Elliot will welcome attendees. Mayor Bronin will then join the Mayor’s Panel with his peers from New Haven, Stamford, and East Hartford.
You’ll recognize several of the voices participating at the event as some of the panelists include Community Broadband Bits podcast guests Fletcher Kittredge from GWI, Aaron Bean from Westfield Gas & Electric, and Tom Coverick of Keybanc Capial Markets.
Gigi Sohn, one of our favorite policy thought leaders, former FCC advisor, and a Distinguished Fellow at Georgetown Law Institute for Technology Law & Policy, will deliver the Afternoon Keynote.
Topic, Topics, Topics
Other panels include:
Next Century Cities is busy organizing another get-together for broadband advocates, community leaders, and policy gurus. “Connected New England: Local Solutions for Broadband Development” will happen on November 8th in Hartford, Connecticut. Save the date!
In addition to Next Century Cities, the state’s Office of Consumer Counsel will also be hosting the event. The action will occur at the Legislative Office Building, 300 Capitol Avenue.
This one day event will bring together broadband champions from federal, state, and local government, as well as community leaders and policy experts. We will feature a mayors' panel, successful models in broadband deployment, E-Rate and funding opportunities, 5G and small cells, as well as an update about the recent municipal gain ruling in Connecticut.
Keep your eyes open for registration information. If you’d like to be a sponsor, contact Cat Blake for details. You can email her at cblake(at)nextcenturycities.org.
In May, Connecticut’s Public Utility Regulatory Agency (PURA) struck a blow at local authority when the ruled that communities could not use their protected utility pole space for municipal fiber deployment. Big cable and telephone companies cheered, broadband advocates and communities that need better connectivity decided to take action. Now, PURA faces lawsuits that challenge the decision from the Office of Consumer Counsel (OCC), the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities (CCM), and at least three local communities that just want high-quality Internet access.
The focus of the controversy is Connecticut’s Municipal Gain Space Law, which was first established in the early 1900s to guarantee municipalities the ability to hang telegraph wires. The municipal gain space is a location on all utility poles — publicly or privately owned — situated in the public right-of-way. After multiple law suits over the years in which cities and the state typically won, Connecticut’s legislature finally amended the language of the law to allow government entities to use the municipal gain space for “any use” in 2013.
Almost two years ago, we reported on the petition filed by the OCC and the State Broadband Office (SBO) with PURA asking for clarification on the law, which included establishing clear-cut rules on using the municipal gain space for fiber optic deployment. They felt the rules needed cleaning up because some incumbents in Connecticut were still finding ways to thwart competition and stop or delay plans for municipal fiber deployment.
In addition to using restrictive pole attachment agreements, incumbents were exploiting the lack of definition in the statute to slow make-ready work, question who pays for make-ready work, and generally delay municipal projects. Time is money and losing momentum can drive up the cost of of a project, which in turn erodes a community's will to see it realized.
The Decision in Question