Fast, affordable Internet access for all.
Content tagged with "houston"
Changing the Legislative Landscape in Texas - Episode 550 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast
This week on the podcast, Christopher is joined by Outreach Team Lead DeAnne Cuellar and John Speirs, Harris County, Texas' (pop. 4.7 million) Broadband Manager. Its county seat, Houston, is home to one of the largest ports in the world, and citizens and elected officials are working on projects to boost the region's economic development, climate resiliency, and connectivity to set a solid foundation for the next generation of citizens.
Christopher, DeAnne, and John talk about what's needed to close the connectivity gap for the 180k households that don't have access to basic broadband speeds, and what will happen if the state doesn't make its legislative landscape friendly enough to get the most bang for the BEAD dollars that will begin to arrive this summer.
This show is 30 minutes long and can be played on this page or via Apple Podcasts or the tool of your choice using this feed.
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.
In Our View: Don't Leave Out The Cities
The State of Texas is notorious for pitting communities against one another. This time around, it's the little town versus the big city in the funding arena to improve Internet access.
Last week, Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar kicked off his Texas Broadband Listening Tour 2022, scheduled to take place at 12 different locations statewide. The goal of his stakeholder listening tour is to collect feedback for Texas' newly created broadband development office and how the state should spend a once-in-a-generation windfall of federal resources to close the digital divide. Great news for a state the size of Texas with 29 million residents, right? It depends on where you live. The majority of the communities hosting a public forum are smaller communities. Remember the Alamo? Not Heger's office. Dallas and Austin made the list of stops, but San Antonio and Houston, with some of the state's highest populations, didn't make the cut for the tour.
Texas has both unserved and underserved communities living on the wrong side of the digital divide. From 8-80 years old, residents and businesses throughout rural, suburban, and urban communities are all harmed by the lack of community broadband infrastructure, unaffordable connectivity services, and digital discrimination.
We applaud the approach of public officials doing listening tours. However, we are deeply concerned that many states - red and blue - will ignore the needs of urban residents while focusing solely on solutions for rural areas. We laid this out more broadly in a policy brief we published last year. We can ensure everyone has high-quality Internet access, but we need to make sure that is the explicit goal.
Mesh Networks: They Are Out There
There are probably more mesh Wi-Fi networks operating in the U.S. than most of us realize. They require only one hard-wired connection to the Internet and there are many industrious, tech minded people out there who have the skills to set up this self-healing technology, though they are still working out the kinks.
A mesh network allows devices to engage each other without going through a central point. If I want to use my cell phone to call the cell phone of someone standing 10 feet away from me, the signal may travel thousands of times farther than it would have to because a cell phone company wants to track minutes, collect data, and more. In a mesh network, the two devices would just talk to each other without intermediation.
A recent Technical.ly article, explores a dozen communities that are using the technology to serve local residents.
The article provides some basic info on these local mesh networks:
- Redhook Wifi, Brooklyn
- Bamboowifi, Philadelphia
- SMesh, Baltimore
- Meta Mesh, Pittsburgh
- Digital Stewards, Detroit
- NYCWireless, New York City
- Personal Telco, Portland, Oregon
- MileMesh, Hoboken, N.J.
- Wasabinet, St. Louis
- TFA Wireless, Houston
- Meshnet Project, Seattle
- La Canada Wireless Association (LCWA, Santa Fe)
We have reported on mesh networks in Poulsbo, Washington, and Ponca City, Oklahoma. An attractive feature for those communities was the ability to expand the network as needed with modest investment. As Technical.ly reports:
Cable Company Ripping Off Houston
Amy Davis, Investigative Reporter for Click2 Houston.com and local channel 2, reports that Wave Vision, a Houston cable company, is not up to the task in the Lone Star State. According to Davis, the cable company may soon lose its license in Houston.
But the story won't end there because the state of Texas has preempted most local authority to protect consumers and the City's interests. Franchises like this one were grandfathered in when AT&T pushed its statewide franchising legislation that made the state responsible for enacting the franchises that allow video providers to put their cables in the rights-of-way and offer services to residents. And that law does not allow the state to refuse franchises to deadbeat corporations.
As long as a company fills out the form, the state must grant a franchise and the City has to abide by it. This leaves the City with only one option - taking the company to court. And that means more legal expenses. But when Houston wins the case, and it almost certainly will, it is not clear that they will be able to collect because the company will likely declare bankruptcy and the City will be just one of several with unpaid debts.
This is what happens when AT&T writes the legislation that takes power away from communities and puts it in the state or federal levels. State and federal government is not as responsive to citizens as local and is not equipped (nor authorized in many circumstances) to protect the public interest.
Now for the background on just how bad company is, another reminder of why communities must have the authority to build their own networks rather than being stuck with companies like this.
Customers have complained to the local Better Business Bureau 90 times and 61 of those complaints have gone unanswered, driving the BBB rating to an F for Wave Vision. (And those are just the complaints the BBB knows about!)