Tag: "rural"

Posted June 19, 2018 by lgonzalez

Late last year, Larimer County, Colorado, commissioned a broadband feasibility study to examine the possible solutions toward better connectivity across its more than 2,600 square miles. This week, three guests from Larimer County are here to discuss the community’s plan as it’s taking shape, Broadband Program Manager Drew Davis, Director of Economic and Workforce Development Jacob Castillo, and CIO Mark Pfaffinger. The interview was one of several Christopher conducted while at the Mountain Connect conference in Vail.

Drew, Jacob, and Mark discuss the results they’ve recently received from phase one of the feasibility study, the residential survey. They didn’t enter into the study with any preconceived notions, but the people of Larimer County still found a way to surprised county officials. In addition to confirming their belief that locals are an entrepreneurial sort, Drew, Jacob, and Mark were surprised at the wide range of people who expressed a desire for high-quality connectivity and the different ways they want to use broadband. Approximately 32 percent of residents responded to the survey, which was more than twice the expected rate; clearly, this is an important issue to locals.

Christopher, Drew, Jacob, and Mark also ponder the role of the county in bringing better Internet access to both residents and businesses. They intend to explore the many options available to them and continue the spirit of interdepartmental collaboration that has served them well so far. Larimer County leaders have included a broadband component in their strategic plan because they see how better local connectivity has become a necessity for the kind of life people expect there.

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.

Read the transcript for this episode here.

You can download this mp3 file directly...

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Posted June 15, 2018 by lgonzalez

In response to the FCC’s decision to end federal network neutrality protections, California and other states have introduced bills to fill the gap left by the Commission. Local communities who had flirted with the idea of publicly owned Internet infrastructure in the past have now taken a second and more serious look to counteract the FCC’s harmful policy shift. Assembly Member Ed Chau’s AB 1999, making its way through the legislative process, is opening possibilities for local communities to invest in their own Internet infrastructure. Chau recognizes that publicly owned networks are an option for more than network neutrality protections, especially in rural communities.

Attitude Adjustment

Our Christopher Mitchell travelled to California in May to testify about the bill as it worked its way through the committee process. AB 1999 could indicate that big telephone and cable companies now have less influence in state Capitols around the U.S. than in past years. We recently wrote about a New Hampshire bill that gives us similar hope — a piece of legislation signed by the Governor there that removed restrictions on local investment in broadband networks.

Like New Hampshire's SB 170, AB 1999 allows communities where big national providers don’t want to invest have more control over how they improve local connectivity. If passed, the bill will give California's community service districts the ability to develop public broadband networks and offer services. The language of the bill also requires that any networks developed by community service districts adhere to network neutrality rules.

Rural Communities Serving Themselves

Community service districts (CSD) are independent local governments created to provide services in unincorporated areas of a county. CSDs are...

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Posted June 13, 2018 by lgonzalez

Cortez, Colorado, has been serving public facilities, community anchor institutions (CAIs), and businesses officially since 2011. In 2015, they expanded to bring fiber connectivity to more businesses; today, seven providers offer services on their open access infrastructure. Now, Cortez is ready to take the next step by offering retail services to residents as an ISP; they’re engaged in a pilot project that will help them determine the best way to move forward. This week, General Services Director Rick Smith joins Christopher to discuss past, present, and future in this town of approximately 9,000.

The guys met up at Mountain Connect in Vail, where they’re joining many other industry and policy professionals discuss infrastructure, connectivity, and policy. While at the conference, Rick and the city received the Community Project of the Year Award.

Rick was on the show in 2014 to describe how this rural community incrementally built its network with local investment and state contributions. This time, Cortez is considering ways to shrink its digital divide and examining funding through ways other than traditional revenue bonding. They’ve also been working on regional efforts to help neighbors get the kind of connectivity needed for economic development. Rick describes how the outdoor equipment retailer Osprey has set up its headquarters in Cortez -- first on the list of necessities was not physical real estate, but the ability to access dark fiber.

As Cortez looks at challenges to achieve their goal of citywide Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH), they’re considering inventive and methodical ways to reduce costs. They are committed to bringing high-quality Internet access to every citizen in Cortez because they realize that, without action, residents face a potential monopoly provider.

This show is 29 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed.

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Posted June 12, 2018 by Staff

Rural Pinetop residents are getting a glimpse of  the treatment they are going to receive from Suddenlink,  even before the ISP has started offering service in the small North Carolina community.  According to locals, Suddenlink subcontractors are busting water mains, connecting fiber without homeowner permission, and spreading lies about the Town’s favored community-broadband provider, Wilson's municipal network, Greenlight Community Broadband.

A Bright Economic Future For A While

Back in 2015, this tiny, low income, town felt grateful to receive Fiber-to-the-home (FTTH), symmetrical gigabit Internet service from their electric provider, the municipal electric utility from neighboring Wilson. Suddenlink had turned their back on local residents for years, and before Greenlight began serving the community, a good day of Internet service from incumbent CenturyLink brought them 2 Mbps upload speed. 

With high-quality connectivity from Wilson’s Greenlight, the town began envisioning a new economic future. They recognized the importance of high capacity upload speed as an economic development tool to attract the professional and creative class. They wanted to attract doctors, lawyers, engineers, and digital media artists from Greenville and Rocky Mount to their town where the cost of doing business was low and the quality of life was high.

Tech entrepreneurs and other businesses community leaders in Pinetops hoped to attract need high capacity upload to share data heavy files, such as  x-rays, and blueprints from a home office or other place of business.

"Whose Side Are You On?"

In June 2017, the North Carolina General Assembly passed legislation, HB 396, mandating that the City of Wilson disconnect all its services from Pinetops within 30 days of being notified by a new provider that such retail service is “available” (words undefined but which seem like they could mean service is on for one home). The law is silent on Greenlight re-starting services...

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Posted June 12, 2018 by htrostle

Rural broadband policy can be hard to explain. That’s why we made this fact sheet. It explains how rural America can have high-speed Internet service without breaking the bank. Give this to your neighbors, to your co-op board members, city council members, county officials, or state legislators.

Download the fact sheet.

Quick Answers to Common Questions

This fact sheet is full of information that answers common questions, such as: What is broadband? What is Fiber-to-the-Home? Who doesn’t have access? How much money does the government spend to improve Internet infrastructure? What can we do today?

The fact sheet also explains the role of cooperatives and municipal networks in bringing high-speed Internet service to rural communities. About 60 electric cooperatives and more than 200 telephone cooperatives have fiber projects. Many small towns have also built their own networks. Explore more on our Community Network Map.

Take Action

Host a screening of the “Do Not Pass Go” video to educate your friends and neighbors on these issues. We’ve made a guide on how to host a screening and generate conversation in your community.

Create a local group to discuss Internet access: Why does your town need high-speed Internet service? What resources do you have? How much funding do you need? Sometimes the data doesn’t match reality. It’s up to your community to find a way to get the connectivity you need.

More Resources

If you liked this fact sheet, check out our other fact sheets here. Learn about municipal networks, net neutrality, and more. We also write daily stories and highlight in-depth reports. Subscribe to our newsletter to stay up-to-date on...

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Posted June 7, 2018 by htrostle

Thanks to the Blandin on Broadband Blog for bringing this report to our attention.

The University of Wisconsin Center for Cooperatives published a report, “Cooperatives and Rural Broadband: A Selective Survey,” in January 2017 on the role of cooperatives in providing broadband service. A Rural Cooperative Development Grant from the USDA (awarded in 2015) funded the project. The report offers step-by-step advice on broadband projects and dives into the details of Wisconsin’s cooperatives.

Key Takeaways

Researchers explore a select number of telephone and electric cooperatives across the country in order to determine the key factors that drive these rural institutions to provide broadband. They then bring this framework to look directly at Wisconsin’s 11 telecommunications and 24 electric cooperatives. 

Instead of focusing on residential service, the Center for Cooperatives narrows in on business parks and the economic development potential of broadband. Their research shows that telecom cooperatives are bringing gigabit connectivity to businesses in the least-densely populated areas. 

Electric cooperatives are also considering how to meet the demand for high-quality connectivity. The report offers an overview of the many ways electric cooperatives have become involved, from supporting local coalitions to offering Internet service themselves. 

For More Info

Read through to the end: the Institute for Local Self-Reliance even gets a shout-out as a resource. Also check out our rural cooperatives page for our latest research. The whole report is available on the University of Wisconsin Center for Cooperatives website.

Posted June 7, 2018 by lgonzalez

National ISPs with millions of customers are some of the most hated companies in the U.S. Poor customer service, contract tricks, and a refusal to upgrade services are only a few of the common complaints from subscribers who are often trapped due to lack of competition. Frontier Communications is proudly carrying on that tradition of deficiency in Minnesota. In fact, the company’s excellence at skullduggery has drawn the attention of the state’s Public Utilities Commission (PUC), which launched an investigation into the service quality of Frontier this spring.

So Much Going On Here

While many of us are used to some level of poor service when it comes to the big ISPs, Frontier in Minnesota accumulated so many complaints, the PUC felt they had no choice but to take action. According to Phil Dampier from Stop the Cap!, the Commission received 439 complaints and negative comments in a five-week period in early 2018. Some but not all, of the types of issues that subscribers described included:

  • Lack of telephone service for up to a week at a time.
  • Poor quality telephone service, including missed calls and noise on phone lines.
  • Subscribers charged for services they’re not receiving.
  • Service visits that accomplish nothing but for which customers are still charged.
  • Missed service appointments and long delays in getting repairs scheduled.
  • Mistaken disconnections, service additions customers did not ask for, and service errors.
  • Contract issues that include penalties for early termination, even if the subscriber told Frontier they did not want a long term contract.
  • Auto-renew contracts that customers were never told about.
  • Threats to customers’ credit if they don’t pay bills, even when there is a dispute regarding the charges.
  • Customer service promises of discounts not being applied, penalties on disputed bill totals, and checks sent to Frontier but not credited to subscribers’ accounts.

The PUC wanted to hold public hearings to seek out other information from subscribers and those who had previous dealings with Frontier. In order to limit the public spectacle, Frontier and CenturyLink filed comments arguing that the PUC had no authority to review Frontier’...

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Posted May 25, 2018 by lgonzalez

Over the past year, towns in rural areas of Maine have mobilized and are taking steps to improve local connectivity. The latest is the community of Penobscot, where the local Broadband Committee recently released a Request for Information (RFI) to seek out firms interested in helping them bring broadband to the coastal community. Responses are due by July 11, 2018.

Read the RFI.

Design and (Perhaps) Implementation

Primarily, the Committee seeks to find a firm interested in providing engineering design. Penobscot clearly states that their goal is to bring symmetrical service to every premise, that speeds are consistent and reliable, and that they expect to see proposals suggesting speeds higher than the FCC’s 25/3 broadband standard.

Like many of the smaller towns in rural Maine and elsewhere, Penobscot isn’t jumping at the chance to operate their own fiber optic network. They're hoping that respondents will be ISPs interested in also operating the network and offering services via the infrastructure.

Goals for Penobscot

According to the RFI, many of the 1,200 year-round residents support themselves with home-based businesses, one of the many sectors that require faster upload speeds for day-to-day operations. In addition to craft and artisans, seasonal businesses cater to tourists that visit each year. People in Penobscot feel that it’s time to take steps to attract younger families to keep the community alive and thriving and Penobscot understands that broadband is a priority for their target demographic. They also want to convince seasonal visitors to stay longer or relocate and free public Wi-Fi is a priority.

logo-penobscot-me.png Other Maine towns, such as Rockport and Sandford, are investing in broadband; communities that continue to rely on slow DSL and cable networks will have a harder time competing for...

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Posted May 18, 2018 by lgonzalez

If you have fast, affordable, reliable Internet access, there’s a good chance you don’t live in rural America. With the exception of areas served by local municipal networks, cooperatives, and a few small independent ISPs, businesses and residents in rural areas suffer along with aging, slow, and often expensive connections. In a docu-series by Maria L. Smith, titled “Dividing Lines,” viewers get the opportunity to hear firsthand what it’s like for people who live in places where there is no high-quality connectivity. 

The docu-series uses the situation in Tennessee to focus on how big corporate ISPs like AT&T, Comcast, and Charter, heavily influenced the state legislature to revoke local telecom authority. The state is still subsidizing the big incumbents, but their not keeping their promises for better connectivity in rural Tennessee.

Smith describes her project and its purpose:

The online world is no longer a distinct world. It is an extension of our social, economic, and political lives. Internet access, however, is still a luxury good. Millions of Americans have been priced out of, or entirely excluded from, the reach of modern internet networks. Maria Smith, an affiliate of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society and Harvard Law School, created Dividing Lines to highlight these stark divides, uncover the complex web of political and economic forces behind them, and challenge audiences to imagine a future in which quality internet access is as ubiquitous as electricity.

This four-part series is being deployed by organizations and community leaders across the country, from San Francisco to Nashville to Washington, DC, in an effort to educate stakeholders and catalyze policymaking that elevates the interests of the people over the interests of a handful of corporations. 

Watch the trailer:

If you are interested in hosting a screening of the capstone video, email Smith@DividingLines.org

Visit the website for a second trailer and to learn more.

Posted May 9, 2018 by lgonzalez

Approximately 20 U.S. states have some form of legal restriction that creates barriers when local communities want to develop publicly owned Internet infrastructure. In North Carolina, where the state experiences a severe rural/urban digital divide, people are fed up with poor service from influential telephone and cable companies. Folks like Ned Barnett, Opinion Editor from the News & Observer, are calling on elected officials to remove the state’s restriction so local governments can do all they can for better connectivity.

Things Must Change

Barnett’s recent editorial begins out of frustration as he describes how unreliable Internet access forced him to take pen to paper. His own connection prevented him from tending to emails, doing online research, and his phone service also suffered due to momentary loss of connectivity at his office. He goes on to consider how the annoying but temporary inconvenience to him is a way of life for many in rural areas of his state.

While North Carolina has many of the same challenges as other states in getting rural folks online — lack of interest from national ISPs, challenging geography that complicates deployment — Barnett correctly zeroes in on the state’s restrictive HB 129. The law prevents communities with existing broadband infrastructure from expanding to neighboring communities and puts requirements in place that are so onerous, they make it all but impossible for communities considering similar investments to move forward.

Barnett rightly points out that the true purpose of the law was to protect national ISPs from competition, securing their position as monopolies and duopolies. He describes the problems with the state's approach and what North Carolinians have faced in the aftermath:

For one, Internet access isn't a consumer product. It's as basic as access to a phone, electricity or indoor plumbing. Secondly, there isn't any real competition involved. Rural areas often are limited to one provider offering slow access.

The Problem is Real

People familiar with the situation in North Carolina typically know the story of Wilson and Pinetops. When the FCC preempted HB 129 in 2015, Wilson expanded its municipal fiber optic...

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