Fast, affordable Internet access for all.
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On the one hand, Cleveland is one of the worst connected cities in the nation. On the other hand, it’s also a metro region with among the highest Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) enrollment rates.
That’s because of the efforts of digital inclusion practitioners like Gina Burch, Program Coordinator at the Ashbury Senior Computer Community Center. In the second episode of our new Building for Digital Equity podcast, Gina talks about how they trained digital navigators to help enroll eligible Clevelanders into the program that provides a $30/month subsidy for low-income households to pay for home Internet service.
As a new nationwide campaign to boost ACP enrollment is underway, Gina touches on something that is key for enrolling skeptical would-be beneficiaries: the need for trusted messengers and organizations with roots in the community to be a part of the process.
She also highlights some of the challenges they are seeing on the ground and why having high-speed Internet access, as well as the digital skills necessary to get online, is about so much more than shopping or streaming movies. Gina talks about the link between Internet access and access to health care such as making Covid vaccine appointments.
You can listen to the 14 minute interview below or it can be played using the podcast app of your choice with this feed.
Gina Birch Loves Digital Equity at the Ashbury Center in Cleveland - Building for Digital Equity Podcast Episode 2
As she'll note in the beginning of this interview with Sean Gonsalves, Gina Birch loves her job as Program Coordinator at the Ashbury Senior Computer Community Center in Cleveland, Ohio. She discusses the remarkable transition in Cleveland from a city lagging in digital equity metrics to one toward the top of its game.
They discuss the Affordable Connectivity Plan, ACP, and some of the challenges associated with the digital divide. Finally, they discuss some of the lessons they have taken from the Net Inclusion conference.
This show is 14 minutes long and can be played on this page or using the podcast app of your choice with 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 see other podcasts from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance here.
NYC Co-op Told To Pull Free Service From Affordable Housing After City’s Reversal On Open Access Fiber
Last November we noted how New York City had scrapped its longstanding plan to build a promising open access fiber network. Not only did that stark reversal leave many partner ISPs high and dry after years of planning, some local community-run ISPs now say the city is forcing them to remove existing free service to affordable housing developments.
People’s Choice Communications, a small NYC cooperative cobbled together by striking Charter Communications workers, was one of several ISPs left in a lurch by the sudden reversal by the Adams administration.
Adding insult to injury, the ISP is now being told by the city to pull existing service provided for free to marginalized communities in The Bronx.
New York City’s original master plan was poised to be a game changer when it was first introduced back in 2020. The plan not only included a pilot program designed to bring affordable broadband to 450,000 residents of New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) buildings, but a plan to spend $156 million on a pilot open access fiber network.
The proposal was to showcase the real-world benefits of the open access model, which data suggests results in significantly lower costs and higher quality service thanks to increased competition. If successful, the city would have then considered a bigger $2.1 billion plan to deploy such a network citywide, providing a template for major metropolitan areas nationwide.
New Mayor, Old Playbook
With the election of a new mayor, everything changed.
City Cast Las Vegas recently aired back-to-back podcast episodes about Internet access in the region, "Why Does Our Internet Suck?" followed by "Who Can Fix Our Internet?" As an organization that both produces stories like that as well as stars on them, as our own Sean Gonsalves did in the first episode, we wanted to share why we think these are well done and should serve as good lessons for others covering these issues.
The interviewer, Dayvid Figler, is on point with questions and the show offers a concise description of the challenge and potential solutions. It turns out that Dayvid also worked as a trial lawyer though, so perhaps not many reporters will be able to simply summon that level of command to shape the conversation. Nonetheless, these two shows are wonderfully informative.
The first episode sets up the second, which is where I want to spend more time. Dayvid's questions help Sean explain what broadband is and why some neighborhoods are left behind - one of the more common questions we see on this subject. They discussed who owns existing networks and what fiber is and why we should care.
Dayvid lays the groundwork for the second show by asking why competition hasn't solved the problem of why people are frustrated with their Internet service and Sean explains that while there is no one-size-fits-all solution, the Institute for Local Self-Reliance believes communities need to take action to improve their service.
The second episode features Brian Mitchell, Director of the Nevada State Office of Science and Innovation. No relation to me, Christopher Mitchell, or my boss, Stacy Mitchell (none of us are related - there are just a lot of Mitchells, ok?).
*This is the first installment of an occasional profile on Local Community Broadband Champions where we focus not so much on the technology, construction, and financing of a community network build, but on the personalities of the people who make it happen.
When Devin Weaver isn’t vibing at the Otto Bar or checking out the underground music scene at Metro Gallery, or even playing his bass guitar at home, the 28-year-old network engineer enjoys spending time amid the web of wires in storage closets inside low- and mixed-income apartment buildings dotting the city’s landscape.
It’s where his network design handiwork all comes together, snaking through the buildings to the routers installed in individual apartment dwellings, enabling residents to get gig speed Internet service.
That’s on par with what the regional monopoly provider Comcast offers city residents who can afford it. But in the buildings that Devin has made his technical playground, hundreds of financially-strapped households who subscribe to the fledgling community network he oversees get it for free – thanks to the philanthropy of dozens of organizations including the Internet Society Foundation, the France-Merrick Foundation, and the Digital Harbor Foundation.
Born and raised in Baltimore, Devin works for Project Waves, a non-profit organization founded in 2018 by an old high school classmate of his, Adam Bouhmad, to bring broadband to mostly low-income households in Baltimore City.
A Small, Rising Wave of Connectivity
As states and local governments look to leverage the flood of federal funds for the creation of ubiquitous high speed Internet access, an upcoming conference promises to be packed with practical insights from leading broadband experts on how to maximize the moment.
The Broadband Communities Summit 2022, which will once again be held in Houston, Texas at the downtown Marriott Marquis from May 2nd through May 5th, is an annual four-day event. Expected to draw over 1,200 participants, this year’s theme will be “Fiber: The Lifeblood of the New Economy.” It will be organized around a multitrack agenda, numerous workshops, and showcase an exhibit hall with dozens of vendors – all of which provides attendees with valuable networking opportunities with broadband systems operators.
The agenda will offer a variety of key features, including:
- Expanded program addressing the booming multifamily housing segment
- Exclusive closed-door sharing session in owners' forums
- Insight into evolving business models
- Special hot topic clusters grouped around central themes, including financing opportunities and partnership models
- Expert advice and strategies for using broadband to create jobs and attract and keep businesses
- Legal strategies symposium
The opening day of the summit kicks off with several workshops, including a Broadband Breakfast mini-conference that focuses on both private and public financing; a workshop on the “flavors of open access (networks)” moderated by our own Christopher Mitchell and UTOPIA Fiber’s Chief Marketing Officer Kim McKinley; and a workshop on how the public and private sectors can work together to develop successful broadband partnerships, presented by the Coalition for Local Internet Choice (CLIC) President Jim Baller, CTC Energy and Technology President Joanne Hovis, Executive Director of the National Digital Inclusion Alliance Angela Siefer, and Fiber Broadband Association President and CEO Gary Bolton.
Join Us Thursday, March 10th at 5pm ET, To Get Technical, Talk Serving MDUs & More! - Episode 36 of the Connect This! Show
In this episode of the Connect This! Show, co-hosts Christopher and Travis Carter (USI Fiber) are joined by Christy Batts (CDE Lightband), Robert Boyle (Planet Networks), and Jim Troutman (Jim Troutman (Tilson Broadband & NNENIX) for an exciting technical conversation.
The panel will dig into serving MDUs, building passive vs active networks and more!
Email us email@example.com with feedback and ideas for the show.
Join Us Thursday, March 3rd at 5pm ET, To Talk Definition of Broadband, MDUs, Redlining and More - Episode 35 of the Connect This! Show
It’s been one long year since Chris took a bet with Travis over the FCC updating the definition of broadband, and this week we’ll find out who won (not looking good, Chris). In this episode of the Connect This! Show, co-hosts Christopher and Travis Carter (USI Fiber) are joined by regular guests Kim McKinley (UTOPIA Fiber) and Doug Dawson (CCG Consulting) to talk about current events in broadband.
The panel will talk about the FCC definition of broadband, MDUs, other recent news and will continue their conversation about redlining and digital discrimination.
Email us firstname.lastname@example.org with feedback and ideas for the show.
Join us live on Thursday, December 16th at 5pm ET for Episode 28 of the Connect This! Show, where co-hosts Christopher and Travis Carter (USI Fiber) will be joined by returning guests Doug Dawson (CCG Consulting) and Kim McKinley (UTOPIA Fiber) to catch up on the news of the week and check in on a number of issues.
The panel will discuss, among other things, the transition from the Emergency Broadband Benefit to the Affordable Connectivity Program, restrictive access and exclusive wiring agreements in apartment buildings, and where the NTIA is on administering the more than $42 billion in new broadband infrastructure.
Email us email@example.com with feedback, ideas for the show, or your pictures of weird wireless infrastructure to stump Travis.
New York City is looking to take a bite out of the Big Apple’s broadband gap for residents living in newly built affordable housing.
Last month, the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) released revised Design Guidelines requiring new affordable housing projects that use city funds to be “designed and constructed to provide high-quality [I]nternet access and service as part of their lease contract and at no additional cost to the tenant.”
That means all new affordable housing buildings that use city funds must be wired, “to the maximum extent feasible,” to offer free high-speed Internet access that supports “four simultaneous moderate users or devices, with preferred system capacity of 100 Megabits per Second (Mbps) upload and download, per unit.”
The guidelines further stipulate that residents should also be given the option to increase their household’s level of service “at their own cost.”
“As we continue to produce affordable housing at record pace, this Administration is equally committed to ensuring that housing contributes to creating a more equitable and sustainable city. That is why our new Design Guidelines incorporate lessons learned from COVID-19 and follow best practices to promote equity, health, and sustainability,” HPD Commissioner Louise Carroll said in a press release when the new guidelines were announced.
HPD officials said the health and economic fall-out of the pandemic had a “devastating” and “disproportionate” impact on low-income city residents, particularly communities of color.