Fast, affordable Internet access for all.
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Located in southeastern Iowa, Dubuque (pop. 60,000) has considered the advantages of building a municipal network a number of times over the past fifteen years. Back in 2005, the city – as well as several other Iowa communities – voted to “grant the right to create municipal systems” (Telegraph Herald, 2009). The new legislation, however, did not result in many new telecommunications utilities.
The road to better connectivity has been a long one, marked by repeated battles between locals served by poor or no service and the city’s incumbent providers. In 2009, Mediacom used the state’s right of first refusal law to keep competition out of its territory, causing the city to “cry foul” and Dubuque to reconsider a public network. In 2015, the city of Dubuque and the Greater Dubuque Development Corporation joined forces to expand local connectivity in response to community demand. The partnership included convening private and public sectors to identify last mile infrastructure and foster collaboration, and supporting opportunities for expanded connectivity. By 2017, private providers including Wisconsin Independent Network, CS Technologies, Unite Private Networks, CenturyLink, and Mediacom had made efforts to serve some of the unserved areas, but pockets of the community were still left out.
Only more recently has a formal proposal been set forth, with the potential to create a robust middle-mile network designed to dramatically improve competition and incent private ISPs to invest in the un- and underserved pockets of the community.
A Formal Proposal for Public Broadband Infrastructure
Special Report: Baltimore Builds Muni Fiber, Prioritizing Equity - Episode 496 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast
This week on the podcast, radio producer Matt Purdy reports a story on Baltimore’s efforts to build a municipal broadband network that prioritizes equity for historically marginalized communities.
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.
Electric cooperatives illustrate the power that community-owned enterprises have to bring Internet access at scale to unconnected rural communities. Because of their work, states like Missouri (where 15 percent of all households only have access to broadband speeds slower than 100/20 Megabits per second, and only 38 percent have access to speeds of 100/100 Megabits per second or faster), will go from being among the least-connected states to one of those with the greatest connectivity in rural areas in coming years.
An infusion of federal funding shows how publicly owned infrastructure can go farther and move faster. Ralls County Electric Cooperative (RCEC) serves as example in Missouri, building on its existing broadband infrastructure to further increase connectivity in one of the most connected counties in the state.
Closing the Gap
Ralls County, located in the northeastern part of the state, is one of three statewide to provide fiber or wireless Internet access to over 90 percent of residents in its service territory. With $1.3 million in funding from the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) now in hand, RCEC is extending broadband access outside of its electric service area.
RCEC’s initial fiber buildout began in 2010. By 2014, it was the first electric distribution cooperative in Missouri to have built fiber out to all 6,300 of its members. 70 percent of RCEC’s members currently subscribe to its fiber services. Through its wholly owned subsidiary, the cooperative offers five speed tiers. Speeds range from 50/10 Megabits per second for $50/month to 1 Gbps/15 Mbps for $100/month in select locations.
Reaching Beyond its Electric Membership Footprint
Join Us Thursday, January 20th at 5pm ET to Talk About Fiber in 2022 - Episode 30 of the Connect This! Show
In this episode of the Connect This! Show, co-hosts Christopher and Travis Carter (USI Fiber) will be joined by Heather Gold (CEO, HBG Strategies LLC) and Milo Medin, an industry veteran who recently left Google as VP of wireless services.
The panel will tackle what we can expect to see in the broadband marketplace in 2022, with a special focus on fiber, including who is building it and why the capital markets are so hungry for it. What are we likely to see from builders big and small? What will competing against the national monopoly providers look like? Is fixed wireless a viable option ten years from now?
Email us firstname.lastname@example.org with feedback and ideas for the show.
As you curl up by the fire this holiday season, we invite you to take the opportunity to watch (or rewatch!) a collection of excellent short films and documentaries that explore the challenges, obstacles, and success stories for communities all over the country looking to improve Internet access.
From Cullen Hoback's "Do Not Pass Go," chronicling the impact of monopoly power in Pinetops, North Carolina, to fun and informative tours of the community networks in Ammon, Idaho and Sandy, Oregon, to a short history of the birth of community broadband in the United States, there's something for everyone.
Check out the Fiber Film Festival collection here, and please share!
Join Us Live Thursday, December 9th to Talk About ISPs Working in Rural Areas - Episode 27 of the Connect This! Show
Join us live on Thursday, December 9th at 6pm ET for Episode 27 of the Connect This! Show, where co-hosts Christopher and Travis Carter (USI Fiber) will be joined by Russ Elliot, CEO at Siskiyou Telephone, and Casey Irving, Director Of Business Development at Deeply Digital, to talk about the challenges and opportunities of being a carrier that's building rural areas.
The panel will discuss what they're looking forward to or afraid of with the new infrastructure money. They'll also share the conditions under which they see it as advantageous to work with local governments, and how communities can do work to facilitate projects that benefit both residents and locally based Internet Service Providers (ISPs).
Email us email@example.com with feedback, ideas for the show, or your pictures of weird wireless infrastructure to stump Travis.
When the FCC announced the winners of the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) last December, many industry veterans were surprised by the appearance of LTD Broadband as the largest recipient of funds. The company managed to snag more than $1.3 billion to serve 528,000 locations across 15 states, but its capability to do so immediately drew skepticism from many (including us).
Now, a little less than a year later, the company's chickens are coming home to roost. In a recent ruling denying the company the expanded Eligible Telecommunications Carrier (ETC) status it needs to offer service in RDOF-awarded areas, the Iowa Utilities Board took LTD to task for a history of noncompliance and late payments:
Specifically, LTD had not complied with the Board’s February 22, 2019 order, as LTD had not yet filed a registration as a telecommunications service provider, was past due on its DPRS assessment, and had not yet filed an annual report with the Board for reporting years 2019 and 2020.
[B]eyond the procedural flaws in LTD’s Application, the company’s responses to Board . . . illustrate that LTD has routinely submitted regulatory filings with obvious errors, if filings were submitted at all . . . It is for this reason that the Board takes seriously LTD’s history of inconsistent compliance with this provision, as the regulatory burden is minimal and the consequence of failing to uphold the obligation ETCs pledge to carry out impacts the rest of the industry, the Board, and most importantly, the Iowans served by the program.
But the regulatory board took its comments a step further, basing its ruling also on the fact that the company's behavior in the state betrays what looks like a lack of ability to meet its bidding commitments during the auction:
The record in this docket does not merit the expansion of a credential that signals to the public that LTD has evidenced the technical and financial capabilities required to carry out the public interest obligations of those entrusted with federal funds. LTD’s responses and actions lack the candor that the Board would expect from a carrier seeking to evidence the expertise to take on this degree of expansion.
Nonprofit Alleghenies Broadband is leading a cohesive effort across a six-county region in south-central Pennsylvania to bring high-speed Internet access to areas that are unserved or underserved by reliable networks.
Part of its work is a recently completed Request for Proposals (RFP) in search of forming a series of public-private partnerships to help identify target areas and offer robust solutions to bring new infrastructure to the businesses and residents who need it most. As that process continues to unfold, however, the nonprofit is already working with city and county leaders to pursue a range of wireline and fixed wireless options that will result in better service and publicly owned infrastructure.
A Regional Approach
Formed in October 2020, Alleghenies Broadband is part of the Southern Alleghenies Planning & Development Commission. By coordinating efforts in six counties (Bedford, Blair, Cambria, Fulton, Huntingdon, and Somerset, collectively representing about 500,000 residents), it hopes to address the broadband gaps scattered across the region. Somerset, Fulton, and Huntingdon seem to be in the worst shape at present: while many residents have access to cable service, large swaths of the counties are stuck with DSL or satellite service only, leading to median download speeds of just 3.7-8 Megabits per second (Mbps) (see Fulton and Huntingdon coverage maps below, with satellite-only areas in grey). The remaining three counties also have significant gaps where no wireline access is available, representing thousands of households with poor or no service.
A bill dedicating $150 million of anticipated federal funding to create a new state broadband office to coordinate and accelerate the expansion of high-speed Internet access throughout Vermont passed the State House of Representatives last week with overwhelming bipartisan support.
On March 24th, the Vermont House approved H.B. 360 by a vote of 145-1, backing the creation of the Vermont Community Broadband Authority. If the bill becomes law it would help fund and organize the deployment of broadband infrastructure between Vermont’s nine Communications Union Districts (CUDs) and their potential partners, which include electric distribution utilities, nonprofit organizations, the federal government, and private Internet Service Providers (ISPs).
The bill was introduced in the state Senate last Friday, and discussed for the first time in the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday.
Enabled by a 2015 law, CUDs are local governmental bodies consisting of two or more towns joined together to build communications infrastructure. They were established to create innovative solutions to build broadband networks and provide a combination of Fiber-to-the-Home and fixed wireless Internet connectivity in their respective territories across Vermont, especially in areas where incumbent ISPs fail to provide adequate service.
Vermont’s CUDs, which have called for federal funding assistance since the onset of the pandemic, are ideally positioned to distribute funds in a way that will provide reliable and high-performance Internet access to every nook-and-cranny of the state. Vermont’s active CUDs have already constructed deep pockets of fiber.
Whether or not the CUDs will be able to reach the state’s goal of delivering universal 100/100 Megabits per second (Mbps) Internet service by 2024 now rests in the hands of Vermont’s Senate, Congress, and the Biden Administration as state and federal lawmakers wrestle with how to best expand access to broadband.
The FCC's Rural Digital Opportunity Fund results are a puzzle. RDOF was the recent auction for large swaths of rural areas of the U.S. that have no broadband access, in large part because they were the territories of big companies like AT&T, CenturyLink (now rebranding as Lumen in hopes of improving its dismal image among its subscribers), Frontier, Windstream, and others. Up to $16 billion was at stake though the auction will actually disperse some $9+ billion dollars because many areas were bid well below what was expected.
Please understand that this post is the best I can do right now - this is confusing and we are sorting our way through it. Please let me know if you can help us understand it. See our past coverage for more information.
The auction resulted in far more gigabit - 85% of locations I believe - than anyone expected, at far lower subsidy than expected. However, there is a lot of frustration and confusion because it is not clear that some of the top bidders can deliver. NTCA - The Rural Broadband Association - shared my original enthusiasm for RDOF and our concerns - best articulated over the years by Jon Chambers from Conexon - that the FCC was going to blow this auction by not ensuring those who bid had the capacity to deliver on the promised level of service. Shirley Bloomfield, CEO of NTCA, wrote this and recently tweeted on this:
Not feeling quite as bullish about this final outcome for RDOF #1 and worry that it will take years to show that rural America is still waiting for #broadband and resources needed will be gone. Hoping @FCC has a robust back-end review so the process won’t fail Americans again.