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City of Urbana Passes Resolution Supporting FCC Section 706 Authority

The Illinois community of Urbana, home of UC2B, recently passed a resolution in favor of FCC's section 706 authority. The community's fiber project is bridging the digital divide in this community of 41,000.

On March 17, the City Council voted unanimously to support the FCC as it considers action to discourage, prevent, and remove state legislative barriers that block municipal networks. 

The language is similar to resolutions from communities such as Sebewaing, VidaliaAmmon, and Moultrie. Urbana noted in its resolution that it has made substantial efforts to bring access to more people in the community.  We interviewed Carol Ammons from the U-C Independent Media Center and Brandon Bowersox-Johnson from UC2B in episode 42 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. Chris, Carol, and Brandon discussed the way the community is capitalizing on the rare urban FTTH network.

RESOLUTION NO. 2014-03-017R

A RESOLUTION TO SUPPORT FCC EFFORTS IN PROTECTING LOCAL AUTHORITY

TO BUILD BROADBAND INFRASTRUCTURE

WHEREAS, the universal availability of affordable high speed Internet access for all citizens has been identified as a national priority; and

WHEREAS, community/municipal broadband networks provide an option for market competition, consumer choice, economic development, and universal, affordable Internet access; and

WHEREAS, historically, local governments have ensured access to essential services by banding together to provide those services that were not offered by the private sector at a reasonable and competitive cost. This involvement has included electrification, public libraries, and other important services; and

WHEREAS, residents of Urbana have a history of advocacy for expansion of Internet access worldwide and the City has invested in local projects to achieve broader access that would not have been realized using private investment alone; and

WHEREAS, local government leaders recognize that the ability to thrive economically and to improve quality of life depends on connecting their communities, and they understand that it takes both private and public investment to achieve this goal; and

WHEREAS, attempts have been made in other states to limit or stop further local government deployment of municipal Internet services through legislation, which has the potential of reducing the ability of local government to provide important information and services to their citizens in a timely, efficient, and cost effective manner; and

WHEREAS, the DC Circuit Court has determined that Section 706 of the Federal Telecommunications Act of 1996 unambiguously grants authority to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to remove barriers that deter network infrastructure investment;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THAT THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF URBANA, ILLINOIS, supports FCC efforts to ensure local governments are able to invest in essential Internet infrastructure, if they so choose, without state-imposed barriers to discourage such an approach.

Louisiana and Michigan Towns Pass Resolutions to Support Municipal Network Authority

Two more communities have gone on the record as supporting local authority for telecommunications infrastructure investment. Communities in Vidalia and Sebewaing passed resolutions supporting the FCC's efforts to use its authority to discourage, prevent, and remove state barriers.

Vidalia, on the west side of the Mississippi in Louisiana, recently began offering free Wi-Fi in its new sports complex and along its riverfront. According to Mayor Hyram Copeland, the lack of free public access left local leaders feeling behind the times. From a Natchez Democrat article in February:

“I was embarrassed to say, ‘No,’ but now I can say we do,” Copeland said. “But the end result of all this is that we will have moved this community forward.”

Vidalia seeks funding for a fiber network. Apparently, they are ready with a design and have the technical expertise in-house, but lack of funds have held up the project.

Vidalia's Resolution is almost identical to those in Ammon, Moultrie, Westminster, and Chanute.

Vidalia Seal

We reported on Sebewaing, located in Michigan's "thumb," last summer. The community runs its own electric utility and, due to lack of interest from incumbents, decided a FTTH network was a project they needed to pursue. According Melanie McCoy, from Sebewaing Light and Water, the project is proceeding as planned.

Sebewaing's Resolution uses the same language to address the points we see in Resolutions from the other communities: the need for better access, the importance of broadband infrastructure to local economies, and the important role of local government in the decision making process. Each community has expressed its support of the FCC's decision to exercise its authority under Section 706 of the 1996 Telecommunications Act.

Georgia and Idaho Communities Pass Resolutions in Support of Local Authority

Two more communities recently passed resolutions in support of local authority for broadband networks.

We have written about Ammon and its open access network in southeast Idaho. The municipal network connects anchor institutions and wireless towers in the community of approximately 14,000 people. Chris spoke with Bruce Patterson, Ammon's Technology Director, in Episode 86 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast.

Their Resolution 2014-0005, signed by Mayor Dana Kirkham, reads:

WHEREAS, the universal availability of affordable high speed Internet access for all citizens has been identified as a national priority; and

WHEREAS, community/municipal broadband networks provide an option for market competition, consumer choice, economic development, and universal, affordable Internet access; and

WHEREAS, historically, local governments have ensured access to essential services by banding together to provide those services that were not offered by the private sector at a reasonable and competitive cost. This involvement has included electrification, water supply, public libraries, and other important services; and

WHEREAS, the City Council of the City of Ammon recognize that their economic health and survival depend on connecting the community, and they understand that it takes both private and public investment to achieve this goal; and

WHEREAS, state constitutions and state statutes exist that may limit or prohibit local government deployment of municipal Internet services, which has the potential of prohibiting or limiting the ability of local government to provide important information and services to their citizens in a timely, efficient, and cost effective manner; and

WHEREAS, local governments, being closest to the people are the most accountable level of government and will be held responsible for any decisions they make; and

WHEREAS, the DC Circuit Court has determined that Section 706 of the Federal Telecommunications Act of 1996 unambiguously grants authority to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to remove barriers that deter network infrastructure investment;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the City of Ammon supports FCC efforts to ensure local governments are able to invest in essential Internet infrastructure, if they so choose, without state-imposed barriers to discourage such an approach.

In Georgia, Mayor William M. McIntosh of Moutrie also signed a similar resolution on March 4th. Moultrie is part of the Community Network Services (CNS) region where member towns in Thomas County enjoy the benefits of a municipal network.

We spoke with Mike Scott, Moultrie City Manager, in episode 39 of the Broadband Bits podcast. Scott told us how local government, schools, and residents enjoy services the large corporate incumbents would not provide.

Nearby Thomasville was able to eliminate a city tax due in part to savings and revenue directly related to the network.

CNS Logo

Moutrie's Resolution R03-2014-02 language:

WHEREAS, the universal availability of affordable high speed Internet access for all citizens has been identified as a national priority; and

WHEREAS, community/municipal broadband networks provide an option for market competition, consumer choice, economic development, and universal, affordable Internet access; and

WHEREAS, historically, local governments have ensured access to essential services by banding together to provide those services that were not offered by the private sector as a reasonable and competitive cost. This involvement has included electrification, water supply, public libraries, and other important services; and

WHEREAS, historically, local government leaders recognize that their economic health and survival depend on connecting their communities, and they understand that it takes both private and public investment to achieve this goal; and

WHEREAS, attempts have been made at the state level to limit or stop further local government deployment of municipal Internet services through legislation, which has the potential of reducing the ability of local government to provide important information and services to their citizens in a timely, efficient, and cost effective manner; and

WHEREAS, local governments, being closest to the people are the most accountable level of government and will be held responsible for any decisions they make; and

WHEREAS, the DC Circuit Court has determined that Section 706 of the Federal Telecommunications Act of 1996 unambiguously grants authority to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to remove barriers that deter network infrastructure investment;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the City of Moultrie supports FCC efforts to ensure local governments are able to invest in essential Internet infrastructure, if they so choose, without state-imposed barriers to discourage such an approach.

As more communities pass resolutions, we will share their activities. If your community has officially stated that it supports the FCC in its efforts to restore local authority, let us know so we can spread the word.

Kentucky Municipal Utilities Association Passes Resolution Favoring Local Control in Telecommunications

We recently reported that local leaders in Chanute and Westminster had passed resolutions supporting the FCC as it considers its authority. The Kentucky Municipal Utilities Association (KMUA) passed a similar resolution on February 28th.

KMUA members include 45 city-owned utilities including electricity, water, wastewater, natural gas, and telecommunications services. Members include places our readers are familiar with - Franklin, Glasgow, and Russellville - in addition to a lengthy list of other Kentucky communities.

The KMUA is publicly offering its support to the recent court decision finding that the FCC has the authority to remove or prevent state barriers.

The resolution reflects one of the KMUA credos, as listed on their website:

KMUA opposes any action, legislative or administrative, which would curb, limit, or remove local control of the operations of municipal utilities from their citizen owners. 

We expect to see more resolutions like this as communities decide to go on record. The language is very similar to the Chanute and Westminster resolutions. We have made the document available below.

Westminster and Chanute Pass Resolutions Supporting FCC's Authority to Remove State Barriers

In light of the recent announcement, community leaders in Maryland and Kansas are rallying behind the FCC as it considers its authority under Section 706 of the 1996 Telecommunications Act. In a show of support, the Westminster Mayor and Common Council passed Resolution 14-01, a statement in support of restoring and preserving local authority to build networks. Twelve hundred miles away in Chanute, the City Commission took the same action with Resolution 2014-17.

Readers will remember Westminster as the central Maryland town that has carefully progressed forward in realizing better connectivity. The community recently approved a fiber pilot project as a way to test the water. Our contact in Westminster, Dr. Robert Wack, reported that interest in the network has blossomed even before the start of construction. The network has already attracted one new employer from New York.

Our 2012 case study, Chanute’s Gig: One Rural Kansas Community’s Tradition of Innovation Led to a Gigabit and Ubiquitous Wireless Coverage, tells the story of how the community incrementally built a world-class network. Without borrowing or bonding, Chanute's next-generation fiber network has enhanced education, economic development, and saved millions of taxpayer dollars.

This legislative session, Chanute has contended with threatening state legislation that could derail their expansion plans. The community is very close to a project that would offer fiber services to every premise in town.

Westminster Seal

Westminster's resolution, passed unanimously on February 24, reads:

RESOLUTION NO. 14-01 RESOLUTION of The Mayor and Common Council of Westminster

SUBJECT: STATEMENT IN SUPPORT OF THE FCC RESTORING AND PRESERVING LOCAL AUTHORITY TO BUILD NETWORKS

WHEREAS, the universal availability of affordable high speed Internet access for all citizens has been identified as a national priority; and

WHEREAS, community/municipal broadband networks provide an option for market competition, consumer choice, economic development, and universal, affordable Internet access; and

WHEREAS, historically, local government leaders recognize that their economic health and survival depend on connecting their communities, and they understand that it takes both private and public investment to achieve this goal; and

WHEREAS, attempts have been made at the state level to limit or stop further local government deployment of municipal Internet services through legislation, which has the potential of reducing the availability of local government to provide important information and services to their citizens in a timely, efficient, and cost effective manner; and

WHEREAS, local governments, being closest to the people are the most accountable level of government and will be held responsible for any decisions they make; and

WHEREAS, the DC Circuit Court has determined that Section 706 of the Federal Telecommunications Act of 1996 unambiguously grants authority to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to remove barriers that deter network infrastructure investment;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the City of Westminster supports FCC efforts to ensure local governments are able to invest in essential Internet infrastructure, if they so choose, without state-imposed barriers to discourage such an approach.

Local Authority

Chanute's resolution was very similar with special attention focused on local authority:

Preserving Local Control and Restoring Community Determination for Broadband Deployment

WHEREAS, local governments, being closest to the people are the most accountable level of government and will be held responsible for any decisions they make; and

WHEREAS, community/municipal broadband networks provide opportunities to improve and encourage innovation, education, health care, economic development, and affordable Internet access; and

WHEREAS, historically, the City of Chanute, has ensured access to essential services by providing those services that were not offered by the private sector at a reasonable and competitive cost. Chanute’s infrastructure investments have included electricity production and distribution, gas distribution, water treatment and distribution, wastewater collection and treatment, sanitation and landfill, streets, parks, and other vital community services; and

WHEREAS, local government leaders recognize that their economic health and survival depend on connecting their communities, and they understand that it takes both private and public investment to achieve this goal; and

WHEREAS, the universal availability of affordable, high speed internet access for all citizens has been identified as a national priority; and

WHEREAS, attempts have been made at the state level to limit or stop further local government deployment of municipal Internet services through legislation, which has the potential of reducing the ability of local government to provide important services to their citizens in a timely, efficient, and cost effective manner; and

WHEREAS, the DC Circuit Court has determined that Section 706 of the Federal Telecommunications Act of 1996 unambiguously grants authority to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to remove barriers that deter network infrastructure investment;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the City Commission of the City of Chanute, Kansas, supports FCC efforts to ensure local governments are able to invest in essential telecommunications infrastructure, if they so choose, without state-imposed barriers to discourage such an approach.

ADOPTED by the Governing Body on February 24, 2014.

Communities know their futures depend on the ability to bring fast, affordable, reliable access into their community. Because local leaders recognize that large corporate providers seldom build past low hanging fruit, a growing number now invest in their own infrastructure.

In Georgia, Tech City Opposed HB 282 With Official Resolution

We were happy to report when HB 282 failed to advance on the floor of the Georgia General Assembly House in a bipartisan vote. We were equally pleased to learn that at least one Georgia community passed an official resolution opposing the bill while it was making its way through the committee process. 

Alpharetta, an Atlanta suburb, is home to 57,000 people and calls itself the "Technology City of the South." The community has no municipal network and no current plans to invest in one, but nevertheless passed a resolution on February 25th which opposed HB 282.

A Bob Pepalis article on the decision quoted Councilman Jim Gilvin:

"Once again I think this is just a state legislator jumping into local business. And I appreciate their concerns, but we do a pretty good job around here, I think. And if residents don't think so, they will be more than happy to let us know," Gilvin said. "I'd appreciate it if they'd just let us handle our government."

Pepalis heard similar sentiments from Councilman Chris Owens via email

"This goes not only beyond local control, but also impacts our ability and other communities ability to be masters of our own destiny and influence on development as well as provides services to their constituents, both residential and commercial," Owens said. "If that's something in a community's best interests, who better to make that decision than a community rather than the state on behalf of the community."

First, the resolution [PDF] sums up the real world affects of the proposal, if it had passed:

WHEREAS, House Bill 282 would tie the hands of municipal officials in their efforts to build digital networks they need to attract economic development and create a high quality of life for their citizens; and

WHEREAS, House Bill 282 is a bill that would undermine self-determination of cities in the digital age as illustrated by the following:

  • Before a city could provide new high speed Internet, cable, telecom or broadband service, it would be required to:

-Receive the permission of the Public Service Commission; and

-Prove to the Public Service Commission that each census block the city wants to serve has no existing broadband service (Census blocks are the smallest geographic area the Census Bureau uses for data collection. There are 291,086 census blocks in Georgia).

  • Existing local government cable, high speed Internet, telecom and broadband providers would be subject to the following service area restrictions:

-A city would not be allowed to expand its network to provide service to any customers unless the customers have no existing broadband service, regardless of the speed; and

-The city would not be allowed to provide the service even within the city’s boundaries.

Alpharetta seal

The resolution also called out the bill's authors and supporters:

And WHEREAS House Bill 282 would reduce Georgia's competitiveness and ability to attract new jobs as illustrated by the following:

  • Many Georgia communities have slow or limited access to the Internet compared to regional and international peers. This Bill sends a strong state message to these areas – “we don’t care.”
  • This is an effort to “protect” profits for private companies and ignores the economic development challenges many communities face.
  • The final report of Governor Deal’s Competitiveness Initiative indicates that many parts of rural Georgia are at a disadvantage because of a lack of broadband service. House Bill 282 would limit the ability of communities to bridge the digital divide where private providers have decided those investments do not fit their business model.
  • While the proposed legislation purports to exclude “unserved” areas from its purview, the definition of “unserved” is so narrow that virtually no community would ever fall under the exception.

NOW, THEREFORE, the Mayor and Council hereby RESOLVE that the passage of House Bill 282 (Preemption on Municipal Broadband), as well as any similar legislation, is hereby opposed as not being in the best interest of the City of Alpharetta and other municipalities within the state; and IT IS FURTHER RESOLVED that a copy of this Resolution be delivered to members of the City’s local delegation.

While resolutions like Alpharetta's are not the only contributing factor to a state bill success or failure, it is another tool in the toolbox for local leadership. In addition to raising awareness at the local level, official resolutions give state and federal leaders a clear indication of how their constituents feel about specific proposals, providing a hook for media to cover the larger story.

Lafayette Republicans and Democrats Joined Forces for Fiber

Earlier this year, we published a case study that examined the LUS Fiber network and its origins. In it, we noted that both Republicans and Democrats backed the plan but here we focus on their resolutions in support.

Back in early 2005, Lafayette was preparing for a referendum on whether the city owned utility should issue bonds to build a FTTH network. Though Cox cable and BellSouth (now AT&T) were running a fierce campaign to scare voters, both Republican and Democrat parties in the community came together to support the community owned network -- both found ways of incorporating this important investment into their political philosophies.

In February, the Democrats were the first to pass a resolution supporting the city's fiber optic plan [pdf]. Recall that Joey Durel (the mayor then and now) is an ardent Republican.

We, the members of the Lafayette Democratic Parish Executive Committee, believe the project will enhance businesses, enrich our lives, and prepare our children for the future. With proper planning, future generations will see profits generated by this project stay in this community and improve businesses and lives for generations to come.

Improving local communities has been the traditional purpose of the Democratic Party. With that in mind, we commend City-Parish President Joey Durel for his bold initiative to make this plan a success.

A few weeks later, the Lafayette Republican Party endorsed the network [pdf] as well:

Lafayette Republican Party seal

... Whereas, the “Fibre Optic to the Home” service would create the potential for new economic opportunity for Lafayette, and in our opinion far exceeding the financial risk,

Whereas, we believe the LUS Plan represents an investment in infrastructure as opposed to direct competition between government and private business, which would violate a basic principle of Republican Philosophy,

Be it Resolved this 10th day of March, 2005, the Lafayette Parish Republican Executive Committee (RPEC), endorses and supports the effort by the Lafayette Utility System to make “Fibre Optic to the Home” services a reality for the citizens, institutions of learning and business’ of the City of Lafayette and beyond as time and resources allow.

With those resolutions, the parties released a joint letter of support and "Request for City Residents to Vote YES" on July just before the referendum.

Dear Lafayette Residents,

We all have a unique opportunity together, to make a decision for our city and ultimately our region by voting in favor on the LUS Fiber To The Home & Business Initiative in the upcoming Bond Election.

While our committees came to our conclusions differently - BOTH parties agree that this opportunity is good for Lafayette. This decision is landmark and we have the ability to set our community apart and distinguish ourselves for many years to come as a leader in technology innovation and implementation.

Because Fiber To the Home & Business is truly a “tide that will lift all boats”, create competition, lower costs, and improve Lafayette’s technological infrastructure, we ask that you make a concerted effort to get out and vote “YES”, whether you are voting absentee, from Tuesday, July 5th – Saturday, July 9th, or at the polls on Saturday, July 16th.

The referendum passed by a 62% - 38% margin. The grassroots organizing in Lafayette was unlike anything we have seen anywhere else, which is why we so often return to stories about LUS Fiber (see related stories).

Rural Todd County Embarks on Fiberband Feasibility in Minnesota

Todd County, a rural community "where the forest meets the prairie" along I-94 in the geographic center of Minnesota, is the latest of many counties to examine local solutions to their lack of affordable, fast, reliable, and certainly universal access to the Internet. This could be a blueprint for how to initiate a process to improve broadband in a rural community.

Todd County is quite rural, with about 10,000 households and businesses that could be wired for service.

From what I have learned, this initiative originated with a group of beef farmers who are tired of being left behind on the rural world wide wait. They pushed the Todd County Livestock Advisory Committee, which pushed on the County, which approved the following resolution [pdf]:

RESOLUTION OF SUPPORT TO ESTABLISH RECIPROCAL BROADBAND SERVICES COUNTY WIDE, KNOWN HEREAFTER AS TODD COUNTY FIBERBAND

WHEREAS, the world’s cultural and economic environment is becoming increasingly more knowledge-driven and information-based, and Todd County citizens, businesses, and agriculture need access to that information, and;

WHEREAS, research indicates that introduction of broadband in to rural areas increases the rate of job growth and income of rural areas and that the presence of broadband in a community is the greatest indicator of future economic success, and;

WHEREAS, broadband access has evolved from a luxury and entertainment item to an essential infrastructure for business, health care, education and government and the speeds needed to maintain local and global competitiveness are greater than telecommunication companies serving Todd County are willing to provide, and;

WHEREAS, demand exists for broadband access, but without a concerted and unified effort being made to obtain appropriate access for the citizens of Todd County, it is likely that demand will not be met, and;

WHEREAS, this body wants its citizens to maintain the highest quality of life and its businesses to be as competitive and productive as possible, the highest speed, highest capacity broadband, and other telecommunications services are critical for maintaining a healthy and competitive community, and;

WHEREAS, high speed, high capacity access to telecommunications services should be thought of as an essential public service that should be available to all citizens of Todd County, similar to the way the street and highway system is available to all citizens, and;

WHEREAS, private sector providers are currently unwilling and/or unable to provide the highest speed, highest capacity access to broadband services to the citizens and businesses of Todd County via last mile fiber, wireless or other means.

NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED,

  1. That this body supports any action to establish by any means legally available, a municipal telecommunications utility system county wide that provides the highest speed (reciprocal) internet, highest capacity access to broadband services, and;
  2. with the passage of this resolution this body supports efforts to bring reasonably priced, stable and accessible quality broadband access to all places in Todd County, and;
  3. that this body supports and adopts the following goals:
    1. All places within the city limits of a city within Todd County shall have fiber to the premise broadband services at a reasonable price no later than 2014, and;
    2. All places within Todd County, regardless of location, shall be able to access quality broadband services at speeds of no less than 20 mbps download, and 10 mbps upload by no later than 2016.
  4. That this effort will from this point forward be known as the “Todd County Fiberband Initiative”.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that all resolutions or parts of resolutions in conflict with the Resolution are hereby repealed to the extent of such conflict and that provisions of this Resolution are hereby declared to be separable and if any section, phrase or provision shall for any reason be declared to be invalid, such declaration shall not affect the validity of the remainder of the sections, phrases and provisions hereof.

Todd County Logo

Note that they set goals and are prepared to build a network to meet them -- compare that to the state of Minnesota, which set hollow goals and identified no path to actually achieving them. This is one reason we prefer local governments more involved -- they are far more likely to actually get something done.

Todd County's next step was to reach out to many in the community with the following letter as well as copies of a blank letter of support [pdf] and a clean copy of the resolution [pdf] for additional organizations to show their support.

On behalf of the Todd County Board of Commissioners, the Todd County Development Corporation, the Long Prairie Healthy Communities Partnership, the Todd County Healthy Communities Partnership and the Todd County Livestock Advisory Committee you and/or your organization are invited to sign on in support of the Todd County Fiberband Initiative.  

Broadband is quickly becoming a necessary infrastructure, and its uses are growing beyond our local capacity.  The Todd County Board and other organizations feel strongly that the time is now to take this in to the hands of the community.  Todd County must come together as a community to stand up for our future. 

Please join the Todd County Board of Commissioners and other organizations throughout Todd County in supporting deployment and availability of high speed, reciprocal broadband to be available throughout this area.  Also, please feel free to share this letter and resolution with any individual or entity you think may be interested.  Should you desire more information or an electronic copy of these enclosures, please contact: 

Staples Word, a local newspaper covered the impressive news and noted that Staples had already started its own feasibility study.

Swanville, a nearby town straddling the county line, decided to wait on supporting the resolution to see what happened in following steps.

On May 2, the Todd County Development Corporation officially joined the effort by passing a resolution in support of Fiberband.

The first big meeting to discuss the idea came on May 12, with a meeting at the Long Prairie/Grey Eagle high school with 75-80 people in attendance for a panel and discussion. This is an impressive turnout considering the early stages and long drive for some attendees.

The Independent News Herald offered an excellent recap of the meeting, including some of the comments from speakers:

logo-blandin.png

He [Mark Birkholz of Arvig Communications Systems] also talked a little about the National Broadband Plan which entails delivering 100mg service to 100 million homes.

“For the others, they say that 4 mg will be fast enough. Imagine walking along the freeway at 3 to 5 miles per hour as the cars on the freeway are zipping past you at 75 mph. That is what the 4 mg service would be like,” said Birkholz.

Karl Samp from the Blandin Foundation also stopped in briefly to speak. He said that change was coming and that it is the only constant.

“If you want to compete in this economy and have your kids come back, you have to have high speed,” he said.

Mark Erickson of Fiber to the Farm in Sibley County (which we have written about previously) spoke about their motivations and lessons learned.

The meeting showed enough interest for the County to commit $20,000 to a feasibility study. Arvig, a potential private partner, has put up another $20,000 and the Blandin Foundation has put up a match of $40,000 to get the study rolling. Blandin's match support in other communities has been very helpful to communities who are reluctant to put too much money into a study that may tell them the network is too difficult and expensive to build.

Resolution and Statement In Support of WiscNet

As more people and organizations in Wisconsin learn of AT&T's attempts to kill a taxpayer-money saving network in Wisconsin, the list of letters supporting WiscNet is increasing. We want to highlight two. The first is a resolution from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls Faculty Senate [pdf]:

Whereas, on Friday, June 3, 2011, the Wisconsin Legislature's Joint Committee on Finance passed motion 489 that contained a provision that would eliminate WiscNet as a department or office within the UW-Madison Department of Information Technology and eliminate $1.4 million in funding for WiscNet for 2012-13; and

Whereas, WiscNet provides vital broadband network access to all public institutions of higher education including the UW System (UW), Wisconsin technical colleges and many private colleges and universities in Wisconsin, 95% of public libraries and 80% of school districts; and

logo-uw-river-falls.png

Whereas, without WiscNet, these institutions would be forced to seek internet services from private telecommunications providers. All schools and public libraries could see a significant average cost increase greater than the current costs through WiscNet; and

Whereas, Wisconsin taxpayers benefit from millions of dollars in savings through the services WiscNet provides to these educational institutions; and

Whereas WiscNet embodies the “Wisconsin Idea” and it has fostered collaboration between higher education, K-12 education and public libraries for the past 16 years that will disappear; and

Whereas, motion 489 could undermine the ability of UW faculty members to receive grants and conduct their research; therefore,

Be it resolved that the University of Wisconsin River Falls Faculty Senate request a motion be introduced to delete sections 23-26 of Motion 489 on the floor of the legislature before the budget bill is approved by the legislators and sent to Governor Walker for his signature; and

Be it further resolved, that the University of Wisconsin-River Falls Faculty Senate requests the Wisconsin Legislature restore WiscNet funding so this cost-effective internet service for all Wisconsin institutions of higher education, K-12 schools, and public libraries remains viable.

The second is a statement from the Council of University of Wisconsin Libraries [pdf]:

logo-uw-system.png

The Council of University of Wisconsin Libraries (CUWL) is urging you to remove sections 23-26 of the UW System budget. The “telecommunications” section of the legislation as it is proposed would severely limit broadband connectivity throughout the state of Wisconsin and would cut the innumerable services the UW System libraries provide to the citizens of the state of Wisconsin.

WHEREAS service to broadband Internet access through WISCNET is mission critical to the academic success of students, faculty and staff;

WHEREAS service to broadband Internet access through WISCNET is mission critical to libraries and library users across the state of Wisconsin;

WHEREAS University of Wisconsin system libraries depend heavily on consortial agreements that provide network or information technology services such as Internet 2 and EDUCAUSE;

WHEREAS University of Wisconsin system libraries enable access to members of the local communities, K-12 schools, visiting scholars, international visitors, via WISCNET connectivity;

WHEREAS University of Wisconsin campuses and University of Wisconsin Extension’s provide direct connections to communities, hospitals, public libraries, etc.

WHEREAS, if legislation of this bill passes the UW System libraries, public libraries, private colleges and universities libraries, K-12 libraries, special libraries, local historical societies and museums, hospitals, local municipalities and other public offices will be severely hindered in providing affordable and outstanding bandwidth internet access to their users;

WHEREAS, the passage of sections 23-26 of the UW System Budget Bill would have devastating and deleterious effects on our collaborative services such as “universal borrowing” for all UW collections, high-speed interlibrary services, on-site access and services to visitors, and cooperative purchasing of databases and electronic resources.

THEREFORE, The CUWL library members strongly urge you to remove said sections of the bill and to provide WISCNET the support it should have from the state of Wisconsin.

Albemarle Joins Growing Group of North Carolina Towns Officially Opposing TWC Bill

Another community in North Carolina has passed an official resolution opposing the Time Warner Cable bill to limit local authority to decide whether to build their own broadband network. Albemarle joins a growing list of other resolutions we have been able to collect, listed below this text.

A RESOLUTION OF THE CITY OF ALBEMARLE URGING MEMBERS OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY AND GOVERNOR PERDUE TO OPPOSE 11129 AND S87 (LEVEL PLAYING FIELD/LOCAL GOVERNMENT COMPETITION ACT) AND ANY LEGISLATION WHICH WOULD PROHIBIT OR LIMIT THE ABILITY OF LOCAL GOVERNMENTS TO PROVIDE BROADBAND OR ANY OTHER COMMUNICATION SERVICES OR SYSTEMS

WHEREAS, Senate Bill 87 and House Bill 129 have been introduced in the 2011- 2012 Session of the General Assembly of North Carolina; and

WHEREAS, these bills do not provide a level playing field to cities, towns and counties, but greatly hinder local governments from providing needed communications services, including public safety networks, and especially advanced high-speed broadband services, in unserved and underserved areas; and

WHEREAS, these bills impose numerous obligations on cities and towns that private broadband companies do not have to meet; and

WHEREAS, while private companies declare top-quality broadband service is cost prohibitive, the United States continues to lose ground to other nations in broadband access, user cost and growth in number of users, falling behind the United Kingdom, Korea, France, Japan, Canada, Estonia, and now China, each of which provides Internet access at speeds that are some 500 times faster than what the private providers in the United States and at less cost; and

WHEREAS, the bills would prohibit North Carolina cities and towns from using federal grant funds to deploy or operate locally-owned or operated broadband systems, thereby denying N.C. residents access to federal assistance available to the rest of the country and hindering employment opportunities; and

WHEREAS, deployment of high-speed Internet is a new public utility vital to the future economic development, educational outreach and community growth in North Carolina necessary to replace lost textile, tobacco, furniture and manufacturing jobs; and

WHEREAS, the General Assembly has already established: (1) rules governing Public Enterprises (NCGS Chapter 160A, Article 16); (2) strict rules in the Budget and Fiscal Control Act governing all municipal budgets and expenditures, including hearing and disclosure requirements (NCGS Chapter 159, Article 3); and (3) strict oversight of municipal borrowing by the Local Government Commission (NCGS Chapter 159, Article 2); and a local government must comply with all of those requirements in order to undertake providing an enterprise service to its community ; and

WHEREAS, the bills are counter to the Local Development Act of 1925 in NCGS Chapter 158 that allows local governments to aid and encourage economic development in communities throughout North Carolina; and

WHEREAS, North Carolina law has long permitted local governments to engage in public enterprises, and there is no justification for treating communications enterprises differently from other public enterprises that are essential for healthy local economies; and

WHEREAS, historically it was government that funded much of the cunent corporate telecommunications infrastructure in the United States and government paid for and developed the Internet on which these providers depend for their profit; and

WHEREAS, there are telecommunications designers, equipment manufacturers and suppliers, in North Carolina who will be negatively affected if local governments are not allowed to provide needed communications services, meaning North Carolina will lose more jobs as a result of prohibiting public investment in high-quality, advanced broadband infrastructure; and

WHEREAS, H129 and S87 will effectively shut down existing municipal fiber and wireless broadband systems, stop new municipal broadband systems, interfere with and limit smart grid and other energy management systems, prevent collaboration among local governments through regional public safety networks, hinder the deployment of intelligent transportation and other traffic management systems, bar municipalities from working with school districts and community colleges on shared networks, and interfere with basic government operations and will thereby stifle job development and investment in our local communities, undermine the ability of communities in our state to compete in the global economy and respond to local needs, and interfere with the effective and responsive operation of local governments; and

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED By the ALBEMARLE CITY COUNCIL THAT:

  1. The City Council opposes Senate Bill 87 and House Bill 129 and urges all members of the North Carolina General Assembly to vote "no" in committee and, if necessary, on the floor of the General Assembly.
  2. Copies of this resolution be sent to the Governor, the Secretary of Commerce, the General Assembly's House and Senate leadership, the sponsors and co-sponsors of H129 and S87, and our local House and Senate representatives.
  3. The foregoing resolution was adopted by the City of Albemarle, NC on March 21, 2011