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Register Now For Upcoming Building For Digital Equity Event
Our next Building for Digital Equity (B4DE) event is only weeks away. Have you registered yet?
Sponsored by UTOPIA Fiber, the June 7 virtual gathering will feature engaging debates on the hottest topics in broadband: the upcoming release of BEAD funds, the challenges around mapping, updates on efforts to boost enrollment in the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), and the looming implications for both urban and rural communities.
Like B4DE in the past, this event, slated to begin at 3 pm ET on June 7, will be cohosted by Pamela Rosales, from the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA), and our own Christopher Mitchell, Director of ILSR's Community Broadband Networks Initiative.
Register now for the event here.
As with previous B4DE events, this one will include informative, concise presentations, a series of interactive trivia games, and an introduction to new data tools for those working on the front lines of digital equity. It will all be livestreamed and will be available (and later archived) on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and LinkedIn, with live viewer questions answered by the panels.
Building for Digital Equity Podcast Series New Episodes
Meanwhile, be sure to check out our most recent episodes of our Building for Digital Equity podcast, which features short interviews with the people working in the trenches for digital inclusion.
Episode 7 is a discussion with Dwight Thomas, who built the first citywide municipal fiber network in Mont Belvieu, Texas. Thomas goes on talk about the importance of community engagement and how to make sure people can use the network once it is built before explaining his passion for discipleship and sharing knowledge.
Montana Tweaks State Ban On Community Broadband, But Most Restrictions Remain
Hoping to ensure it can actually spend its share of historic broadband funding, Montana lawmakers have tweaked the state’s restrictions on community broadband. However, experts say most of the state law’s pointless restrictions remain intact, undermining state efforts to bring affordable, next-generation broadband access to Montana residents.
Montana’s one of seventeen states that have passed laws banning or restricting municipal broadband networks. The bills are usually ghost written by telecom monopoly lawyers, and in many states either outright prohibit community-owned broadband networks, or are designed to make funding and expanding such networks untenable.
Montana’s specific law, Mon. Code Ann. § 2-17-603, only allow municipalities to build and deliver broadband alternatives if there are no other private companies offering broadband within the municipality’s jurisdiction, or if the municipality can offer “advanced services” that are not available from incumbents.
Covid home schooling and telecommuting needs highlighted the counterproductive nature of such restrictions, driving some states—such as Arkansas and Washington—to dramatically roll back their restrictions.
SAVE THE DATE: Building for Digital Equity
As communities across the country are implementing digital equity plans and looking to expand access to high-speed Internet connectivity, the second Building for Digital Equity event (#B4DE) of the year comes weeks ahead of when states will receive their BEAD funds from the bipartisan infrastructure bill.
Save the date and join us June 7 at 3 pm ET for #B4DE! As with previous B4DE events, this will be another virtual gathering that will offer up strategies to help simplify the complexities (and opportunities) of broadband connectivity. This event, sponsored again by UTOPIA Fiber, will focus on ways communities can foster meaningful action and advocacy.
Fresh off their most successful Net Inclusion gathering ever, the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) will join ILSR’s Community Broadband Networks (CBN) team for the event as NDIA’s Pamela Rosales will co-host the livestream along with CBN Director Christopher Mitchell.
The 75-minute free event promises to be informative and include a series of fun interactive games. It will also debut a point-counterpoint component that will focus on the pending release of BEAD dollars for both rural and urban areas and the challenges around mapping as states try to determine how to get the biggest bang for the buck.
Register now for the Building for Building for Digital Equity Event.
See our previous B4DE livestreams below:
Lehi City, Utah Breaks Ground On Open Access Fiber Network
Lehi City, Utah has broken ground on its new citywide fiber optic broadband network. The network, which city leaders say should take somewhere around three years to complete, will be built on the back of Lehi’s Utilities Department, part of a growing trend of U.S. utilities using an historic infusion of federal funding to expand affordable broadband connectivity.
The Lehi Fiber Network will operate as an open access network, meaning that multiple ISPs will be able to utilize the city’s new infrastructure, providing a much-needed dose of broadband competition to local residents and businesses alike.
Five ISPs have already committed to providing service over the city-owned fiber, with the first customers expected to see service sometime in early 2023. Lehi’s partner ISPs have yet to specify tier pricing, but data consistently shows that such open access competition routinely drives down costs and improves service quality in regions where it’s adopted.
After hiring Magellan to conduct a feasibility study, the city in 2020 approved financing the network with a bond it hopes will be fully paid off by broadband subscriber revenues. In 2021, the city announced it had chosen Strata Networks — the largest independent cooperative in Utah — to build and operate the network.
UTOPIA Fiber Completes West Valley City Buildout
In an announcement at the Mountain Connect conference last week in Keystone, Colorado, municipally owned open-access network operator UTOPIA Fiber announced it has completed its build in West Valley City, Utah. It marks a major milestone, both for residents in the city (who have worked for years to take back control of their information infrastructure) and for the network as a whole (finishing work on one of the original partner cities in the project itself).
Herculean Push Since 2020
Work offically began on West Valley City in 2004, Executive Director Roger Timmerman and Deputy Director and Chief Marketing Officer Kim McKinley shared at the press event, but expansion efforts have not been steady over the last 18 years. Instead, for a myriad of reasons, progress has been made in fits and starts, with a burst in 2009 but most development happening over the last two years. Local leaders have long recognized the value in completing the build, with residents clamoring for years.
The work comes as part of a five-year accelerated broadband construction plan, though 75 percent of the progress in West Valley City, according to Timmerman and McKinley, has happened just in the last two years. This has been in part because the network has been able to leverage its excellent financial position to be the financial backstop for commercial debt without having to go to the bond market or get fiscal pledges from member cities. This has enabled UTOPIA to move more quickly.
Today, aside from a few Homeowner's Associations (HOAs) and Multi-Dwelling Units (MDUs), West Valley City has been ubiquitously connected to the open access, fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) network, unlocking the potential of fast, affordable, symmetrical connections for all (see map below).
Fierce Telecom reports Timmerman as saying that “this is a city where they did have cable and DSL options. They recognized those were insufficient for their community.” McKinley added at the event:
A New Municipal Broadband Advocacy Organization is Born
With an unprecedented opportunity for local communities to build their own ubiquitous high-speed Internet infrastructure, a new national organization has been formed to advocate on behalf of municipal broadband initiatives and to give local governments a seat at the table as federal and state officials craft legislation and grant programs to close the digital divide.
Today, at the Broadband Communities Summit 2022 in Houston, the group’s founding members held a press conference to announce the birth of the American Association of Public Broadband (AAPB).
“We were formed by a group of municipal officials in order to advance advocacy efforts for public broadband and to make sure they have a voice in Washington and in all 50 states,” said AAPB board member Bob Knight.
Knight went on to explain that while AAPB will be advocating for municipal solutions to local connectivity challenges, “we are model agnostic, whether you want to partner with a large ISP (Internet Service Provider), build your own network, or form a public-private partnership.”
A ‘Voice in the Conversation’
Noting that AAPB will work closely with ally organizations and industry groups, AAPB was founded primarily “because municipal networks didn’t have much of a voice in the conversation around broadband funding in the American Rescue Plan Act or the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act,” even as there was significant lobbying efforts on behalf of the big telecom companies.
AAPB Secretary Kimberly McKinley added that lawmakers are often assailed with stories about municipal broadband failures but that it was important for lawmakers to hear the whole story.
State Spending on Broadband | Connect This! Episode 40
In this episode of the Connect This! Show, co-hosts Christopher Mitchell and Travis Carter (USI Fiber) are joined by guests Kim McKinley (UTOPIA Fiber) and Peggy Schaffer (Connect Maine) to talk about the latest in state spending, and other broadband news.
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 email@example.com with feedback and ideas for the show.
Watch here on YouTube Live, here on Facebook live, or below.
Building a Fiber UTOPIA in Bozeman
UTOPIA Fiber continues to grow and is now exporting its expertise into Bozeman, Montana – one of the fastest-growing cities of its size and often listed among the best places to live in the country.
Referred to by some as “Boz Angeles” because of the influx of Californians to the area, this Rocky Mountain city of 53,000, nestled in Gallatin Valley, is about to become even more attractive as a rising tech hub for millennials. At the Broadband Communities 2021 Summit last month, it was announced that Bozeman Fiber, a non-profit organization created by the city to expand high-speed Internet connectivity across the region, has partnered with Utah-based UTOPIA Fiber to build an open access fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) network.
Bozeman Fiber has already built an open access fiber ring, serving city, county, and school facilities. It has also connected 200 commercial customers. The partnership with UTOPIA will allow Bozeman Fiber to extend the network across the city, passing 22,000 homes and businesses, with plans to extend further out into the more rural parts of Gallatin County down the road.
Network construction, which is estimated to cost $65 million, is slated to begin in the spring of 2022 and is expected to take three years to be completed.
“This is the first phase of a project that will cover the city and some areas of the county, and the intention is we’ll have future phases that reach further out into the county to hit more rural areas,” UTOPIA Fiber executive director Roger Timmerman said during the press conference announcing the partnership.
Bozeman Fiber CEO Greg Metzger added: “with this project, we’ll be able to attract and retain more businesses, and create jobs.”
County Provides Access to Bond Market