Tag: "spectrum"

Posted January 10, 2023 by Karl Bode

From the miraculous benefits of WiMax to the hype surrounding 5G, U.S. wireless companies have long promised near-Utopian levels of technological revolution.

Yet time after time these promises have fallen short, reminding a telecom sector all-too-familiar with hype that fiber optics remains, for now, the backbone of bridging the digital divide. 

From Google Fiber to Starry, numerous companies have promised to use wireless technology as a supplement or even replacement for future-proof fiber. But more often than not these promises have failed to have any meaningful impact at scale. Worse, many wireless services often fail to deliver on a routinely neglected aspect of telecom policy: affordability.

That’s not to say that wireless doesn’t have an immense, integral role to play in shoring up the nation’s broadband gaps. 5G, rural and urban small WISPs, satellite, and other wireless options are all essential in bridging the digital divide and extending access to rural communities and tribal nations (see: the FCC Tribal Priority Window and the beneficial wireless options that have emerged). 

But reality continues to demonstrate that there’s simply no substitute for the kind of high capacity, affordable fiber efforts being deployed by a steady parade of municipalities, cooperatives, and city-owned utilities. And as an historic level of federal subsidies wind their way to the states, the distinction is more important than ever. 

A Rich History Of Wishful Thinking

The industry crown for unwarranted...

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Posted January 9, 2023 by Sean Gonsalves

Kicking off the new year, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s office announced $234 million of the state’s Capital Projects Fund (CPF) will be used to deploy new high-speed Internet infrastructure in the Peach State, courtesy of the American Rescue Plan Act.

The lion’s share of those federal funds, being administered by the state’s broadband office, will be gobbled up by the four national telecom giants operating in the state. The rest of the grant money will be shared by a half dozen electric cooperatives for smaller projects.

In total, the grants were awarded to 12 different applicants to fund 29 different projects across 28 counties.

“When combined with significant capital matches from the awardees, almost $455 million will be invested to serve over 76,000 locations in communities with some of the greatest need for high-speed Internet access,” the Governor’s office said in the Jan. 4 press announcement.

The Big Telecom winners were Comcast, netting almost $67 million for eight projects that looks to extend broadband access to nearly 28,000 locations; $39.3 million for five Spectrum projects that plan to pass nearly 19,000 locations; Windstream raking in $34.8 million for four projects to make high-speed Internet service available to 4,500 locations, and MediaCom hauling in $27.9 million for three projects to reach 8,200 addresses. 

The electric cooperative grant awards were:

  • Grady Electric Membership Corporation ($9.3 million; 3,620 locations). 
  • Mitchell Electric Membership Corporation ($9 million; 3,093 locations). 
  • Satilla Rural Electric Membership Corporation ($5.6 million; 2,533 locations). 
  • Oconee Electric Membership Corporation ($2.6 million; 1,134 locations). 
  • Middle Georgia Electric Membership Corporation ($2.5 million; 674 locations) 
  • Irwin Electric Membership Corporation ($433,109; 100 locations).

You can find the complete list of awardees here.

...

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Posted October 18, 2022 by Ry Marcattilio

This week on the podcast, Christopher is joined by Shayna Englin, Director of the Digital Equity Initiative at the California Community Foundation (CCF) to talk about a new report by CCF and its partners that reveals the systematic broadband cost inequities perpetuated in LA County by Charter Spectrum, the region's monopoly provider. "Sounding the Alarm," a pricing and policy impact study, shows not only that economically vulnerable households in Charter Spectrum territory pay more for slower service than those in wealthy neighborhoods, but that they are also saddled with worse contracts and regularly see fewer advertisements for the monopoly provider's lowest cost plans.

The result, Shayna shares, is that the higher poverty neighborhoods (often predominantly populated by households of color) often pay from $10 to $40/month more than low-poverty (often predominantly populated by white households) for the exact same service. Christopher and Shayne talk through the implications of these findings, and the report's call for policy changes to address Charter Spectrum's practices. They end the show by talking through some of the upcoming broadband infrastructure rules at the state level aimed at improving access and competition.

This show is 35 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed. You can listen to the interview on this page or visit the Community Broadband Bits page.

Transcript coming soon. 

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

Listen to ...

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Posted October 5, 2022 by Ry Marcattilio

This week on the podcast, Christopher is joined by Matthew Douglas, Broadband Manager at the Hoopa Valley Public Utility District. At the start of the pandemic, HVPUD launched a wireless network initiative using $2 million in CARES Act funds to benefit Tribal members who had poor or no connectivity options. Matthew shared the lessons they learned during the process (including at one of the first Tribal Wireless Bootcamps), including navigating old-growth forest, navigating equipment and signal challenges in a particularly grueling topography, working with vendors with things don't go as planned, and managing sector costs. Recently, the effort won an NTIA grant to embark on a new fiber work and a wireless backhaul build to bring in significant new capacity to increase speeds and resiliency in the region.

This show is 33 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed. You can listen to the interview on this page or visit the Community Broadband Bits page.

Transcript coming soon. 

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.

Subscribe to the Building Local Power podcast, also from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, on iTunes or Stitcher to catch more great conversations about local communities, the concentration of corporate power, and how everyday people are taking control.

Thanks to Arne Huseby for the music. The...

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Posted September 12, 2022 by Ry Marcattilio

Join us live on Friday, September 16, at 1pm ET for the latest episode of the Connect This! Show. Co-hosts Christopher Mitchell (ILSR) and Travis Carter (USI Fiber) will be joined by Deborah Simpier (Co-founder at Althea Networks, Sommelier Finance, and Gravity Bridge) and Sascha Meinrath (Palmer Chair in Telecommunications at Penn State University, Founder of X-Lab). They'll discuss the advantages of different wireless deployments (LTE vs. licensed spectrum vs. unlicensed spectrum) as compared to fiber, the present and future of distributed, member-owned networks, and more.

Email us at broadband@muninetworks.org with feedback and ideas for the show.

Subscribe to the show using this feed or find it on the Connect This! page, watch on YouTube Live, on Facebook live, or below.

Posted August 24, 2022 by Emma Gautier

The Tlingit and Haida Tribes will leverage $15 million in Rescue Plan funding to bring LTE-based 100 Mbps symmetrical wireless connectivity to 10,000 unserved residents in and around the city of Wrangell, located on Wrangell Island in southeast Alaska. The Internet Service Provider in charge of the buildout is the newly-launched, tribally-owned ISP Tidal Networks. The project is a pilot the tribes plan to expand to all residents of the island, and eventually to other communities in the region.  

The pilot is made possible by Tlingit and Haida’s successful participation in the FCC’s Rural Tribal Priority Window, which allowed tribes to claim space on the 2.5 gigahertz spectrum band. Back in 2019, Tlingit and Haida partnered with southeast Alaska village tribes to gain access to the spectrum, and worked throughout 2021 to “discuss [Tlingit and Haida’s] broadband initiative and opportunities to partner for the broadband project.” 

Utilizing Spectrum to Make Connectivity Feasible

Alaskan tribes have been particularly active participants of the Rural Tribal Priority Window, which was first announced by the FCC in early December 2019 and closed on September 2, 2020. Over one third of the nearly 400 tribes that applied were located in Alaska. The Yakutat Tlingit Tribe, the Sitka Tribe of Alaska, the Hydaburg Cooperative Association, and the Organized Village of Saxman also successfully gained access. To hold the spectrum license, tribes were originally required to provide service to 80 percent of residents no later than two years after obtaining it, and 100 percent of residents within five years. Since then, the FCC has doubled the requirement window to four and eight years, respectively. 

Tlingit and Haida secured spectrum in several communities in the southeastern part of the state, which has allowed the tribes to design a plan for broadband deployment that could be fully covered by the $15 million in Rescue...

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Posted July 26, 2022 by Ry Marcattilio

Join us live on Thursday, July 28th, at 4pm ET for the latest episode of the Connect This! Show. Co-hosts Christopher Mitchell (ILSR) and Travis Carter (USI Fiber) will be joined by Peggy Schaffer (Director, ConnectME), Andrew Butcher (President, Maine Connectivity Authority), and Christa Thorpe (Community Development Officer, Island Institute).

The panel will dig into recent anti-municipal propaganda in the New England area, with an emphasis on Maine. They'll talk about the astroturf campaign being waged by groups like the Alliance for Quality Broadband (a front organization for Charter Spectrum) and recent blows to municipal broadband they've fueled in places like Southport and Readfield. The panel will talk who really loses out when the monopoly providers persuade voters and local officials to defer leadership on imrpoving community connectivity. Christa Thorpe will join halfway through the show to share her experiences and perspective.

Subscribe to the show using this feed, view the show on YouTube Live or on Facebook Live, or find it on the Connect This! page.

Email us broadband@muninetworks.org with feedback and ideas for the show.

Watch here on YouTube Live, here on Facebook live, or below.

Posted June 6, 2022 by Ry Marcattilio

Join us live on Thursday, June 9, at 5pm ET in the chat for the latest episode of the Connect This! Show. Co-hosts Christopher Mitchell (ILSR) and Travis Carter (USI Fiber) will be joined by Alan Fitzpatrick (Co-Founder and CEO of Open Broadband in North Carolina) and Matt Larsen (CEO of Vistabeam).

The panel will discuss the range of wireless approaches used in rural and urban areas to reach subscribers, how it competes with fixed broadband deployments using various technologies, and the advantages and challenges of it brings to the tool chest. They'll also talk about unlicensed versus licensed spectrum, Tarana, and how the federal broadband funding programs will change the landscape for fixed wireless in the near and long term.

Subscribe to the show using this feed on YouTube Live or here on Facebook Live, on find it on the Connect This! page.

Email us broadband@muninetworks.org with feedback and ideas for the show.

Watch here on YouTube Live, here on Facebook live, or below.

Posted May 10, 2022 by Sean Gonsalves

An effort to foster digital sovereignty and support tribal citizens to build and operate their own broadband networks in Indian Country is gaining momentum.

Responding to the challenges of COVID and the opportunities created by the federal attention and investment into tribal broadband, our own Christopher Mitchell, Director of the Community Broadband Initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, prominent Tribal broadband advocate and 20-year veteran behind the Tribal Digital Village, Matt Rantanen - along with a loose coalition of public interest tech people - have organized a series of trainings to help tribes tackle building and running networks for themselves. 

These Tribal Broadband Bootcamps build on the work of Internet Society's North American chapter at an Indigenous Connectivity Summit. The first Bootcamp, held in the summer of 2021, brought together nearly two dozen tribal citizens from five indigenous nations who gathered in southern California to learn how to build and operate wireless networks using their FCC license for 2.5 GHz spectrum access. The second bootcamp, held in March 2022, focused both on wireless and fiber networks. The third bootcamp, slated for next week, will be the first on the sovereign territory of the Yurok Nation in northern California.

Tribal Connectivity Front and Center

Each bootcamp is a 3-day intensive learning experience that invites tribal citizens to come together with experienced network architects, managers, and policy experts to walk participants through what it takes to build a local broadband network, how to operate as Internet Service Providers, and handle the associated technical challenges.

While many rural areas outside of Indian Country lack decent access to broadband, the lack of high-speed Internet connectivity on Tribal reservations is particularly acute.

For decades, Tribes have been overlooked, ignored, and defrauded by telecommunications companies who, for the most part, have only sought to extract...

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Posted February 16, 2022 by Karl Bode

Last year, the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation in Washington State were one of 327 Native Nations to receive wireless spectrum as part of the FCC’s Rural Tribal Window program. Since then, tribal leaders have put that spectrum to use by offering free wireless services that have proven to be a lifesaver during the Covid-19 crisis.

The Rural Tribal Window program offered tribal access to one 49.5 megahertz channel, one 50.5 megahertz channel, and one 17.5 megahertz channel in the 2.5 Ghz band. Tribal applicants could apply for one, two, or all three of the channels, depending on availability.

Building Community Capacity

The Colville tribes say the spectrum allowed them to bring connectivity to 80 percent of the reservation in two phases. The already-completed Phase One brought access to the communities near Keller, Washington, while Phase Two will bring access to the remaining communities by 2026. 

“COVID was a shock to everyone, and it became obvious as time went on that there were a lot of kids who had no access to the Internet or devices to connect with,”  Andrew Joseph Jr., Chairman of the Colville Tribal Council, told ILSR. “With school going to virtual learning, and the importance of the Internet generally in this day and age, it was necessary to ensure that something be done to make the Internet accessible.”

In addition to the wireless network plan, the tribes are also stringing fiber along Highway 155 between Nespelem and Omak, Washington. Cumulatively, the projects hope to finally bring access to long-neglected areas, many of which aren’t particularly remote yet have been historically neglected by regional monopolies. 

“There are temporary networks in all four districts now,” Joseph said of the project’s progress. “There is not a hard count of all connections. The Tribes have grant applications pending to help fund the next step in the project plan, which includes the need to bring Internet access to more and remote areas, as well as laying down the building blocks for additional opportunities in the future.”

Searching for Permanent Solutions

Like many Native Nations, the Colville tribes are frustrated by the federal government’s long-standing tradition of throwing billions of dollars at regional...

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