Community Broadband Bits 23 - Harold Feld from Public Knowledge

One hundred years after Teddy Roosevelt and AT&T agreed to the Kingsbury Commitment, Harold Feld joins us on Community Broadband Bits podcast to explain what the Kingsbury Commitment was and why it matters. In short, AT&T wants to change the way telecommunications networks are regulated and Harold is one of our best allies on this subject.

AT&T is leaning on the FCC and passing laws in state after state that deregulate telecommunications. Whether we want to deal with it or not, these policies are being discussed and consumer protections thus far have taken a beating. This interview is the first of many that will help us to make sense of how things are changing and what we can do about it.

We also discuss the ways in which the Federal Communications Commission and Federal Trade Commission spurred investment in next-generation networks by blocking the AT&T-T-Mobile Merger on anti-trust grounds.

Harold is senior Vice President of Public Knowledge and writes the Tales of the Sausage Factory blog.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show - please e-mail us or leave a comment below. Also, feel free to suggest other guests, topics, or questions you want us to address.

This show is 22 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.

Thanks to mojo monkeys for the music, licensed using Creative Commons.

Raleigh Plans Hobbled by State Ban on Municipal Networks

A recent article and video from Government Technology highlights the ambitious plans of Raleigh to harness the Internet to improve its attractiveness to forward-looking companies.

Unfortunately, Time Warner Cable convinced North Carolina's legislature that communities could not be trusted with the decision over whether it was a wise decision to invest in telecommunications networks.

So despite Raleigh's smart plans to build a fiber optic infrastructure that could be used to connect local businesses and spur new enterprises, it is prohibited from doing so. It can still offer services for free, which is why it can and does offer free Wi-Fi in some areas of town, but it cannot offer the services that would be most beneficial to the kind of companies that are most drawn to the Research Triangle Park area.

We look forward to a North Carolina that recognizes these decisions should be made at the local level, not by lobbyists working the state or federal capitals. But until then, we'll have to celebrate the jobs created by municipal networks in other states, where communities have the power to determine their own digital futures.

Los Alamos County, New Mexico, Asks Residents for Input

Los Alamos County is commonly known as home to the Los Alamos National Laboratory. It may soon also be home to an incredible next-generation network owned by the community. 

New Mexico's Regional Economic Development Initiative (REDI) received BTOP funding to construct a middle-mile fiber network connecting anchor institutions in Rio Arriba, northern Santa Fe, and Los Alamos Counties, along with the City of Espanola, and Pueblos of Ohkay Owingeh, Santa Clara, San Ildefonso, and Tesuque. REDI is also working with local coops and with municipal utilities to bring the network across the northern part of the state.

Los Alamos County is expanding from the middle-mile network in anticipation of bringing fiber to every premise in Los Alamos county, about 8,900 homes and businesses. The design for the project is 90% complete and cost estimates are around $61 million.

While initial possibilities included cost projections for 100 Mbps and 300 Mbps connections, the County is pursuing 1 Gbps connectivity after early debate. From an April, 2011 article in the LAMonitor.com:

“These are immediate local uses for the infrastructure. But it’s also a long-term need,” [Tobey] Johnson, [managing partner of the Broadband Planning Group] said. “When you look at making this type of infrastructure investment in your community, it’s essential that the infrastructure’s going to be utilized for the next 30 years. So while there might be a handful of examples for uses today, how will it be used five years from now, 10 years from now? How will it be used locally in the community? How will it be used to connect the community to the outside world? A lot of those advances are still coming down the road, but we feel the best starting point for infrastructure is to look at gigabit speeds.”

The network will be open access with the hope of creating meaningful competition for consumers in Los Alamos County. At this point, no financing mechanism is in place and the surveys include questions on the public's tolerance for debt on the project.

As the county begins to formulate a business plan, they are now conducting research directly with the public. According to the Los Alamos Daily Post:

As part of this survey, the County is interested in conducting market research to assess demand and interest in broadband services, as well as explore preferences regarding methods of financing the CBN project and willingness to pay for the various costs to install and operate the network.

The surveys will be conducted at Time Out Pizza in White Rock, the Mesa Public Library, The Coffee House and The Reel Deal Theater. The in-person surveys are in addition to the telephone surveys that were conducted in September. The survey should take less than 3 minutes to fill out.

The face-to-face surveys will supplement telephone surveys conducted in September. Project IT Manager, Estevan Gonzales, tells us the business plan may very well be completed by the end of the year.

For more details on this project, visit Los Alamos County's Communuity Broadband Network page, where the County provides links to documentation from the beginning of the process.

Community Broadband Bits 22 - Jason Grey from Danville, Virginia

While I was in Danville, Virginia, for the Broadband Community Magazine Economic Development Conference, I had a chance to sit down with Jason Grey, nDanville Network Manager. This interview is our 22nd episode of the Community Broadband Bits podcast.

Jason and I met five years ago when I first visited Danville to learn about its municipal open access fiber-optic network. Danville is located in southern Virginia and was hit hard by the demise of tobacco and the loss of manufacturing jobs. But the municipal utility loaned itself enough capital to build a fiber network connecting the schools -- by provisioning its own service, they were able to pay back the loan, make contributions to the general fund, and still have enough money left over to expand the network to connect local businesses.

The network has been a tremendous success, attracting new employers and helping existing businesses to expand. And the network is just starting to connect residents in a few neighborhoods. Read our stories about nDanville.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show - please e-mail us or leave a comment below. Also, feel free to suggest other guests, topics, or questions you want us to address.

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.

Thanks to mojo monkeys for the music, licensed using Creative Commons.

Upcoming National Conference for Media Reform - Great Deal

Free Press is hosting the next National Conference for Media Reform (NCMR) in Denver, April 5-7. Though the panels are not finalized, it is safe to assume that we will have a few on broadband and telecommunications policy. That's why I just registered for it and will undoubtedly be speaking on one or more sessions.

For a few more days, you can register for this conference at a remarkable rate - just $95 for the whole thing! Register here.

I always meet really inspiring people at NCMR and I expect this year to be one of the best. Denver is a great town and I expect people from Longmont to be there, talking about how they beat Comcast in a referendum where Comcast dropped $400,000 to protect its monopoly.

I can't overstate how much stronger our movement is when we come together to inspire each other and strategize face to face. I hope to see you there.

ECFiber Customer Shares Her Story, Locally Owned Network Continues to Grow

Last year, we reported that ECFiber was in the process of connecting rural Vermont, with a focus on connecting those who had no access to broadband. In addition to large investments from a limited number of investors, local citizens began lending funds to expand the network. 

In a recent open letter to the Governor, published in the Barre Montpelier Times Argus, Laura Zantzinger from Barnard describes how ECFiber touches her household. Zantzinger's home tech company can now expand because she has the capacity she needs from ECFiber. Zantzinger also discusses how fiber access helps her son academically:

My son attends an online high school in a program offered through one of the top universities in the country. He attends video conference classes, lectures, meetings, and myriad other communications online to California, and places all over the globe.

Two years ago, we moved out of state, renting a house elsewhere to get the Internet, because my son was not able to participate in class. His grades suffered because of it. Last year, we rented an office in another town where Internet was available.

Zantzinger describes two growing trends - home based businesses and distance learning - that require access to broadband. Zantzinger shares strong words of praise for ECFiber's mission, experienced by her first hand:

ECFiber’s approach has been open and community-oriented. They just want to get it built, pay it off, and hand it over to the towns. They are willing to make things work, even if it is hard, if it means they can serve the customer. Their priorities as expressed in the meetings were amazing to me.

According to the ECFiber blog, funding is moving forward to bring the network to neaby Woodstock. From the blog:

As previously announced, local supporters of the effort to build a fiber-optic hub inside the Woodstock library have agreed to match any similar pledge dollar-for-dollar up to $100,000. This means that, so far, the Woodstock community has advanced $15,000 toward the ultimate goal of raising $400,000.  The capital needed in Woodstock will pay to hang fiber-optic cable from the nearest ECFiber hub in Barnard, down Route 12 to Woodstock, and to construct a similar hub inside the library.

Vermont Flag

Once the library is connected, ECFiber hopes to extend to downtown businesses and the Woodstock Elementary School. The Woodstock capital campaign ends on December 3rd.

A new partnership for ECFiber will allow the network to expand via the proposed Vermont Telecommunictions Authority (VTA) Connector network as a backbone between the towns of Chelsea, Thetford, Strafford, and Sharon, all in Orange and Northern Windsor Counties. The Herald of Randolph reports on the story and notes:

The VTA connector can enable ECFiber to reach “several hundred new civic, business, and residential customers,” according to Irv Thomae, vice chair of the ECFiber governing board.

“Cheese-makers and software developers alike need last-mile broadband to reach twenty-first century markets,” he remarked.

ECFiber has already raised $1.3 million from local investors this year to support fiber optic technology in their towns, and the agreement to use VTA’s “backbone” will make those funds go farther, Thomae said.

ECFiber continues to be an exciting model for a self-funded, next-generation network connecting those who have been largely left behind by state and federal policies that are more concerned with doling out subsidies to large, absentee companies building obsolete networks.

Brunswick, Ohio, Uses County Fiber to Drive Economic Development

Last summer, Medina County Schools announced a savings of almost $90,000 a year by switching from Time Warner Cable to the new Medina County Fiber Network. Scheduled for completion in late November, the network consists of a 151-mile loop and will provide bandwidth to government facilities and businesses. The project is mostly funded by the Medina County Port Authority, which will own the loop, and receives support from a stimulus broadband grant administered by the NE Ohio nonprofit, OneCommunity.

Loren Genson reported on local businesses' enthusiasm as the network makes its way to Brunswick, where fiber will pass through the Brunswick Industrial Park. Genson attended a meeting to update the community. From the article:

LeHotan, who owns All Construction Services on Industrial Parkway North, said improved fiber-optic broadband speeds will keep business in the industrial park and recruit new businesses to the area.

...

Brunswick Economic Development Director Tim Smith said he promotes the fiber-optic network when talking to businesses interested moving their operations to Brunswick.

“I see leads that come in, and one of their requirements is high-speed broadband,” Smith said. “Our industrial park is right on the throughway. … Now we have this to offer as well.”

Clearly, current and potential Medina County employers recognize the value of the network. Dave LeHotan, owner of a local construction company, spoke at the gathering:

“It’s like a garden hose: You can only get so much water out of it, so much use at a time,” he said. “But this is like a fire hose, much more powerful.”

LeHotan said getting the upgraded infrastructure will help attract more businesses not only to Brunswick but all along the two loops that connect the entire county.

“This is really necessary even for small companies,” LeHotan said. “You can form a small company and all of a sudden the next thing you know you’re shipping 1 million products and only 15 percent of them are nearby.”

This is just one of many examples of community broadband networks allowing local businesses to thrive -- we have documented many more examples on our Community Broadband and Economic Development Fact Sheet.

Give to the Max Day!

Today, November 15th, Minnesota non-profits join together for a 24-hour statewide day of giving. Donations made to ILSR during the 2012 Give to the Max Day will enter all of our donors into a pool that could result in a bonus donation being added to our totals. You can donate here.

All of our Community Broadband Networks work is a program of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, which has worked with communities to apply local solutions to problems for 38 years. Any support that you can give will be very much appreciated and help us to continue help communities to build great connections to the Internet.

Click this link to visit our Give to the Max donation page – We thank you very much for your support!

MAG-Net Digital Dialogue on Community Broadband and Local Economies

In October, Media Action Grassroots Network (MAG-Net), hosted the panel discussion Community Broadband as a Path to Thriving Local Economies and Neighborhood Development as part of their Digital Dialogue series. As you may remember, our Christopher Mitchell was scheduled to participate. While Chris very much was looking forward to the opportinty to present, Delta Airlines had other plans for him.

Even though Chris was detained and not able to participate, the conversation was informative and worthwhile. If you missed it, you can now listen to it from the MAG-Net website. The conversation is just about an hour long and includes as speakers:

Community Broadband Bits 21 - Benoit Felten on Stokab

For this week's Community Broadband Bits, we venture outside the U.S. to interview Benoit Felten of Diffraction Analysis about the Stokab muni fiber network in Stockholm, Sweden. Stokab appears to be the most successful open access fiber network in the world.

Benoit has just published a case study of Stokab and is an expert on broadband networks around the planet. Our discussion covers how Stokab was built and what lessons it has for other cities. Because Stokab was started so long ago, other local governments will find they cannot simply duplicate it -- times have changed.

Benoit also writes regularly at Fiberevolution and can be found on twitter @fiberguy. Benoit and I last appeared together in a roundtable discussion about bandwidth caps.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show - please e-mail us or leave a comment below. Also, feel free to suggest other guests, topics, or questions you want us to address.

This show is 30 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.

Thanks to Fit and the Conniptions for the music, licensed using Creative Commons.