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Connecting the Last Twenty Percent in Newark - Episode 587 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast

Newark, New Jersey (pop. 307k) has been operating a dark fiber network for more than a decade. In recent years, the city has expanded its efforts to leverage those assets in an incremental effort to improve connectivity and competition for local business and residents, while also building out a robust Wi-Fi network. The goal: build a portfolio of approaches to connect the last twenty percent of the city that doesn't have access today. 

This week on the podcast, Christopher is joined by Aaron Meyerson, Chief Innovation Economy Officer and Director of Broadband, and Anthony Avent, Technical Operations for City of Newark, to talk about the project. From reinvigorating the city's infrastructure with a new public-private partnership, to connecting almost a hundred large business locations, to enabling innovative smart-city applications to fight heat and pollution, to supporting more than 7,200 active Wi-Fi users every day, Newark isn't just sitting around waiting for someone to help solve local challenges. They're stepping up to the plate and tackling them themselves.

This show is 28 minutes long and can be played on this page or using the podcast app of your choice with this feed.

Transcript below.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show: please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

Listen to other episodes here or 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.

Edison, New Jersey Nabs $2 Million For City-Owned Fiber Network

Edison, New Jersey is proceeding with the construction of an affordable, gigabit-capable fiber network after receiving $2 million cash infusion from state leaders. The resulting network will be built on the back of decades’ worth of local frustration with the high prices, spotty availability, and slow broadband speeds provided by regional monopolies. 

The city spent $36,750 on a feasibility study in 2022 to determine the plausibility of building a citywide fiber network. The resulting study by Matrix Design Group found that 87 percent of Edison locals would likely switch to a city-owned and operated fiber network if the option existed.

Edison’s network is in the early stages of planning, and city leaders are only just starting to field competing bids from consulting vendors who’ll then draft a more comprehensive business plan.

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Edison Survey Results

In the interim, the city has received $2 million as part of the New Jersey fiscal year 2024 budget to help get the proposal off the ground.

"Access to the Internet is no longer a luxury, it’s a necessity,” State Senator Patrick Diegnan, Assemblyman Robert Karabinchak and Assemblyman Sterley Stanley said of the funding. “We commend Mayor Sam Joshi for making high-speed municipal broadband a priority for Edison."

In a post last year made to social media, Joshi detailed the city’s longstanding frustration with regional telecom monopoly Optimum, owned by French telecom giant Altice.  

Doubling the Number of Municipal Networks in the Next Five Years - Episode 563 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast

May 2022 witnessed something remarkable: the birth of a new nonprofit advocacy organization whose sole purpose was to speak up for the hundreds of communities that have built municipal broadband networks, and the thousands more that want to but don't know where to start. Now, the American Association for Public Broadband has named as its Executive Director as Gigi Sohn, former Biden nominee to the Federal Communications Commission. And she's ready to get to work.

Gigi joins Christopher on the podcast this week to talk about standing up support systems to promote and defend community-driven models to double the number of municipal systems in the next five years - including providing resources and countering dark-money astroturf campaigns -  while also making sure the Internet stays as open and equitable as possible, and not squandering the promise of BEAD.

This show is 46 minutes long and can be played on this page or via Apple Podcasts or the tool of your choice using this feed

Transcript below.

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.

 

Frameworks for the Future in Newark - Episode 511 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast

This week on the podcast, Christopher is joined by Seth Wainer, the former CIO of the city of Newark, New Jersey. During the conversation, Seth shares his time with the city from 2013-2018. He talks about the progress the city made in improving local connectivity across different arenas, from cataloging existing assets, to pursuing both wired and wireless self-funded projects (to more than 100 buildings today), to putting in vendor-agnostic fiber in downtown development, to coordinating utility projects to lower costs.

Christopher and Seth end the conversation by talking about the importance and power of reframing the question of broadband access, including what happens when we think of telecommunications infrastructure as a sustainable public service rather than a luxury good.

This show is 35 minutes long and can be played on this page or via Apple Podcasts or the tool of your choice using this feed

Transcript below. 

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.

Broadband at the Ballot Box

Broadband was on the ballot as voters went to the polls for Election Day in many areas. Here’s a quick run-down of what happened.

Colorado

The Colorado state law (SB-152) that bans local governments in the Centennial State from establishing municipal broadband service suffered another defeat at the ballot box. Since the law was passed nearly two decades ago, more than 150 Colorado communities have opted out. That number continues to grow and we can now add the town of Windsor to the list of municipalities in the state who have voted to restore local Internet choice.

At the polls yesterday, 77 percent of Windsor voters said yes to Ballot Question 3A, which asked “shall the Town of Windsor, without increasing taxes by this measure, be authorized to provide high-speed Internet services (advanced services), telecommunications services, and/or cable television services … either directly or indirectly with public or private sector partners?”

Community Broadband Legislation Roundup – July 26, 2021

Snapshot

New Jersey establishes state committee to strategize deployment of community broadband networks

Louisiana Senate amends bill, opening state grant program to municipally-owned providers

Washington laws expanding municipal authority to provide retail service take effect

The State Scene

New Jersey 

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, on July 7, enacted legislation (A.B. 850) establishing a new state committee tasked with evaluating where community broadband networks should be established across the state, by surveying areas where public networks would be most feasible to deploy.

The 19-member Broadband Access Study Commission “will consider the logistics of deploying community broadband networks and report on its findings to the Governor and the Legislature,” reports ROI NJ. “The mission includes completing a comprehensive study of the success and failures of similar networks around the nation, the costs of constructing and maintaining networks, and the costs to subscribers for monthly access.” 

The Commission will also evaluate impediments to broadband access in the state, including those related to physical access, affordability, and digital literacy. After submitting recommendations to the state Governor and Legislature, the committee will dissolve within a year of its first meeting. 

Louisiana 

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards recently signed a bill (H.B. 648) allocating $180 million of incoming federal relief funds toward establishing a grant program - open to both public and private broadband providers - aimed at jumpstarting the buildout of Internet infrastructure to unserved communities across the Bayou State. 

Community Broadband Legislation Roundup – March 19, 2021

Snapshot

A California ballot initiative would empower voters to build their own Internet access solutions.

The Oklahoma House sends seven broadband bills to Senate.

New York and North Carolina initiate statewide digital inclusion programs.

Virginia is second state to pass comprehensive privacy legislation. 

See the bottom of this post for some broadband-related job openings. 

The State Scene 

California Legislation Could Lead To Massive Investments in Public Broadband

As lawmakers in the Golden State look to rectify a reputation of having one of the highest student populations without Internet connectivity, bills aiming to expand access to 98 percent of California households by increasing investments in public broadband infrastructure were launched early in California’s legislative session.

Though there are several other bills pertaining to broadband that have been introduced in Sacramento, we focus on these four because, if passed, they would have the biggest impact on municipal networks.

S.B. 4, sponsored by State Sen. Lena Gonzalez, D-33, would create a new state-backed bond program, enabling local governments to finance more than $1 billion in public infrastructure projects through bond issuances. The low-interest debt for the projects could be repaid over multiple decades. 

NBC News Looks at 5G, Expanding Internet Access, and RS Fiber Co-op

Ever since the term “5G” came on the scene, the big ISPs have dedicated themselves to expanding hype about what the technology will accomplish, especially in rural areas. In a recent NBC News Signal segment, Dasha Burns took a look at rural and urban connectivity, the digital divide, and considered the demands and limitations of 5G.

She provides a simple explanation for why 5G can only have a limited impact in rural areas. She also touches on some of the issues that create parallels between the situation for people in urban areas who might not have access to 5G when it finally arrives. To address the urban component of digital equity, Burns went to Newark, New Jersey, and met with students who, due to economic limitations, rely on public access to the Internet.

Burns visits rural Minnesota to check out RS Fiber and talks with one of the many local people in the agriculture industry, a crop consultant, that needs high-quality connectivity from the broadband co-op. We get a peek inside the RS Fiber headquarters. For more on the rural Minnesota cooperative, download our 2016 report, RS Fiber: Fertile Fields for New Rural Internet Cooperative.

Check out the 5:25 minute video:

IP Transition Catches Fire Island - Community Broadband Bits Podcast Episode #52

We welcome Harold Feld, Senior Vice President of Public Knowledge back to the show to discuss the latest update in the so-called IP Transition. Back in episode 32, Harold explained the five fundamental protections needed for our telecommunications system. Today he returns to discuss the ways in which some of the islands devastated by Sandy are being turned into Verizon experiments as Verizon refuses to rebuild the copper phone number or upgrade to fiber; instead Verizon is installing an inadequate substitute, as we covered in this story. Harold explains why this turn of events in New York and New Jersey is an important harbinger for the rest of us and why states should not premarturely deregulate important consumer protections like carrier of last resort and public utility commission oversight. Read the transcript from this show here. This show is 15 minutes long and can be played below on this page or subscribe via iTunes or via the tool of your choice using this feed. Search for us in iTunes and leave a positive comment! Listen to previous episodes here. You can can download this Mp3 file directly from here. Find more episodes in our podcast index. Thanks to Eat at Joe's for the music, licensed using Creative Commons.

Verizon Plans to Abandon Copper Wires In Islands Damaged by Sandy

Victims of Sandy are still recovering from the killer storm that ripped through the east coast last year. Two places hardest hit by the "Frankenstorm" were Fire Island, New York and the Barrier Island in New Jersey. In addition to homes and property, residents lost phone and Internet communications when telephone wires went down. They are still waiting to be reconnected.

Our readers know about the huge fight that has embroiled consumer advocates and the leading telephone providers in the past few years. AT&T and Verizon seek deregulation to escape the "carrier of last resort" obligation that requires maintenance of traditional copper lines for telephone service. AT&T and Verizon want to shed that responsibility in favor of wireless service that is less expensive to maintain, even though it does not support the range of uses today's copper networks do. 

Verizon is the incumbent telephone provider in Fire Island and Barrier Island but decided it will not repair damaged lines. It wants to instead deploy its inferior Voice Link wireless service on the island.

The Voice Link technology basically attaches to your house and uses Verizon's cellular network to connect the telephones in your home. Homeowners can continue to use their home phones, but the quality tends to be worse than on a proper wired telephone network. 

Under federal law,  telephone providers are obligated to replace or repair downed copper lines unless they substitute with a "line improvement," such as fiber-optic lines. Voice Link cannot be described as a "line improvement" - the only benefit it provides is that it costs Verizon less to build and maintain.