Possibilities, Challenges, Risks : Chicopee, Massachusetts, Considers A Muni – Community Broadband Bits Podcast 335

By the time a local community is ready to light up their municipal fiber optic network, they’ve already invested several years’ worth of debate, investigation, and energy. While deploying a network is certainly a complicated task, educating the community, growing support, and helping elected officials determine the best approach is equally difficult. What’s it like in the early stages for those visionaries who feel that their city or town needs a publicly owned option?

This week we find out from Chicopee’s Joel McAuliffe, Councilor for Ward 1. He’s been advocating for a municipal broadband network for several years and his message is growing. In addition to working to educate his fellow council members about the need for local high-speed Internet access, Joel has reached out to folks in the community. Last fall, he encouraged citizens to sign an online petition supporting the proposal and to contact their elected officials to urge them to move forward on the matter.

Joel describes how the city has certain advantages that he’d like capitalize on for a citywide fiber network. He talks about local concerns that are driving the effort, such as high rates and poor services, and that with a municipal network to offer competition, he believes Chicopee can attract new business and new residents from the Boston area. Chris and Joel also discuss the challenges for a city council in making decisions based on technology when they are not well-versed in those technologies.

When Joel introduced his petition to the community, he also published this short video to encourage people to sign and share:

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

This show is 37 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed. You can listen to the interview on this page or visit the Community Broadband Bits page.

Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Thanks to Arne Huseby for the music. The song is Warm Duck Shuffle and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.

Organizing for Better Broadband in the Portland, Oregon, Region – Community Broadband Bits Podcast 334

This week on the Community Broadband Bits Podcast, we hear from Russell Senior and Michael Hanna from Portland, Oregon. Russell is President of the Personal Telco Project and Michael is a Data Engineer for Multnomah County; both are on the Board of the Municipal Broadband Coalition of America.

In this interview Christopher, Russell, and Michael discuss the goals of the Coalition and their current work grassroots organizing in Portland and across and Multnomah County for the Municipal Broadband PDX initiative. In addition to hearing how Portland and the surrounding county has reached a point where residents and businesses are ready for better connectivity, we also find out how these two organizers became involved in the efforts.

Michael and Russell describe the way the project has evolved after years of attempts to improve Internet access in the region and their approach toward organizing such a large area with a high population. Our guests describe some of the challenges they have coped with and other issues they anticipate along the way as well as the basic principles that create the foundation for their initiative. They also define their visions for a successful outcome and offer suggestions for others who are considering organizing for better Internet access.

Check out the clever short film created to help launch Municipal Broadband PDX:

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

This show is 37 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed. You can listen to the interview on this page or visit the Community Broadband Bits page.

Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Thanks to Arne Huseby for the music. The song is Warm Duck Shuffle and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.

Beyond Mapping With VETRO FiberMap – Community Broadband Bits Podcast 333

Whether it’s a local government or ISP that chooses to invest in fiber optic infrastructure accurate, dependable, mapping is critical before, during, and after initial deployment. This week’s guests deliver that service through VETRO FiberMap. CEO Will Mitchell and COO Sean Myers join Christopher to discuss their mapping platform, the creative ways they use it, and their expectations for the future of fiber networks.

Will and Sean explain how in working with ISPs and local communities interested in providing better connectivity, they’ve found that they’ve been able to adjust FiberMap to deliver specialized services. FiberMap has provided the information needed to not only deploy, expand, and manage fiber networks, but it has also allowed companies and publicly owned networks to develop marketing plans and expand their future visions.

Christopher, Will, and Sean discuss GIS data, where they can access it and where it’s more challenging to obtain this data that is so important to creating a successful deployment plan. They also get into some of the many projects where local communities have used VETRO FiberMap, including some of the better-known deployments in Maine, where recent changes in the law have encouraged an increase in regional efforts.

Check out this video and learn more about VETRO FiberMap at their website.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

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. You can listen to the interview on this page or visit the Community Broadband Bits page.

Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Thanks to Arne Huseby for the music. The song is Warm Duck Shuffle and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.

After 15 Years, OptiLink Still Innovating in Dalton, Georgia – Community Broadband Bits Podcast 332

Dalton, Georgia’s OptiLink has served the community for around 15 years, making it one of the first citywide Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) municipal networks. In this interview, Chief Technical Services Officer of OptiLink and for Dalton Utilities Hank Blackwood talks with Christopher about the past, the present, and the immediate future of OptiLink.

Hank describes the original purpose for bringing fiber into the community. From utilities to businesses to residents, city leaders realized that Dalton needed better connectivity and that the best source was a hometown utility that cared about subscribers. In addition to economic development, advancing telehealth, and inspiring entrepreneurs, the OptiLink network has allowed the community to celebrate its diverse culture.

Now that it’s time to update their video offerings, says Hank, OptiLink has discovered a great new video product that is attracting new subscribers. Over the years, they’ve tried to introduce new technologies to Dalton in order to keep the community up to speed and now that they’re introducing gigabit service, they are truly a tech city.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

This show is 28 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed. You can listen to the interview on this page or visit the Community Broadband Bits page.

Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Thanks to Arne Huseby for the music. The song is Warm Duck Shuffle and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.

UTOPIA Is Not A Dream, It’s a Network – Community Broadband Bits Podcast 331

When anti-muni groups have taken aim at publicly owned networks, they’ve often put UTOPIA in their crosshairs. The Utah Telecommunications Open Infrastructure Agency has had times of struggle, but those days seem to be over. The network is expanding, subscribers are touting the benefits that come with the choice of an open access network, and other communities are reaching out to UTOPIA for advice. Days in UTOPIA country are sunny.

In this interview, Christopher speaks with Kimberly McKinley, UTOPIA’s Chief Marketing Officer, about the new and improved UTOPIA. Kimberly describes some of the ways the agency has adjusted their thinking from public entity to public entity with a competitive edge. She notes that marketing isn’t something that organizations such as public utilities think they need to worry about, but in the world of connectivity, strong marketing strategy pays off.

Along with lessons learned, Kimberly shares the triumphs that have turned UTOPIA into the leader in the region. UTOPIA’s footprint is growing, their services are expanding, and they’re influencing more communities. They’ve worked hard to reach this level of success and we see their trajectory to continue upward.

Check out more coverage of UTOPIA on MuniNetworks.org.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

This show is 18 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed. You can listen to the interview on this page or visit the Community Broadband Bits page.

Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Thanks to Arne Huseby for the music. The song is Warm Duck Shuffle and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.

Catching Up in Cali with Jory Wolf – Community Broadband Bits Podcast 330

This week, Christopher presents the last of the interviews he conducted while at the 2018 Broadband Communities Economic Development Conference in Ontario, California, in October. As long as he was in the Golden State, he decided to check in with Jory Wolf, Vice President of Digital Innovation at Magellan Advisors.

Jory may work in the consulting field now, but he’s known by the MuniNetworks.org audience as the man behind Santa Monica CityNet. When he retired from his position as CIO at the city after 22 years, Jory didn’t settle for the slow lane. Now he’s working with communities all over California and in other states find ways to improve their local connectivity.

In this interview, he sits down with Christopher and discusses several of the many California projects he’s been working on, including regional initiatives in South Bay and Ventura County. Jory shares some of the discoveries that local communities have made as they’ve sought out ways to make the most out of their existing assets and develop new types of partnerships with the private sector. With his years of expertise and his ability to find ways to overcome challenges that local governments encounter, Jory has the right skillset to help his clients prepare for a future of better connectivity.

You can also listen to Jory and Christopher discuss CityNet in a podcast episode from 2014.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

This show is 28 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed. You can listen to the interview on this page or visit the Community Broadband Bits page.

Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Thanks to Arne Huseby for the music. The song is Warm Duck Shuffle and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.

Political Will and Local Broadband Initiatives – Community Broadband Bits Podcast 329

While Christopher was in Ontario, California at the 2018 Broadband Communities Economic Development Conference, he took advantage of the opportunity and recorded several discussions with experts to share with our Community Broadband Bits Podcast audience. This week, we’re presenting his conversation with Deb Socia, Executive Director of Next Century Cities, and Bob Knight, Executive Vice President and COO of Harrison Edwards. His Public Relations and Marketing Firm has some special insight into the broadband industry.

In their discussion, Deb, Bob, and Christopher get into the challenge that faces every community that searches for ways to improve local connectivity — political will.

We often report on communities that are considering some level of investment in publicly owned Internet network infrastructure. From convening committees to commissioning feasibility studies, to entering into talks with potential partners, there are many steps that a community may take that may lead to nowhere. The reality is that moving from consideration to implementation is a path filled with potential pitfalls, especially when elected officials face challenges from incumbents bent on maintaining their positioning in a community. It’s also a process to determine if a publicly owned network is right for a community, because each place is different and each local government faces the process of discovering what’s best for them.

Bob and Deb have worked with many local officials and have seen firsthand the types of issues that can fracture political will toward a local broadband initiative. In this interview, they share their observations, how those issues affect local communities, and provide pointers for constituents that want to support their local leaders.

Read the transcript of the show.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

This show is 28 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed.

Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Thanks to Arne Huseby for the music. The song is Warm Duck Shuffle and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.

Getting Up to Speed With Sandy, Oregon – Community Broadband Bits Podcast 328

For the next few days, Christopher is at the 2018 Broadband Communities Economic Development Conference in Ontario, California. As he always does while he’s out of the office, rubbing elbows with folks from the field, he’s recording some interviews with people like this week’s guest, General Manager of SandyNet and IT Director for the City of Sandy, Oregon.

Joe has been on the show before, the last time in 2015 when he and City Council President Jeremy Pietzold brought us up to speed on all the ways their network had benefitted the residents and businesses of Sandy. This time, Joe is offering another update. Over the past few years, Sandy has grown quickly and so has the popularity of SandyNet and its $60 symmetrical gigabit.

Joe and Christopher touch on some of the characteristics of the municipal network that make SandyNet so popular, including the fact that it is local and that the people behind it are part of the community. Sandy is now looking at their long-term strategy, which includes folks beyond the city limits. There have been challenges for the community, which Joe describes and he provides words of advise for other communities that are considering how to begin investigating the possibility of developing their own publicly owned network.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

This show is 25 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed.

Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Thanks to Arne Huseby for the music. The song is Warm Duck Shuffle and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.

Revisiting Reedsburg: LightSpeed’s All-Gig Telecommuter Paradise – Community Broadband Bits Podcast 327

It’s been a while since we last visited with Reedsburg Utilities Commission General Manager Brett Schuppner. He’s back on the show again to help us spread the word about this Wisconsin town’s decision to switch all their muni network subscribers to affordable gigabit connectivity and to eliminate all other tiers.

Brett and Christopher get into why the RUC decided that going all-gig would benefit the community’s residents and businesses and how they decided that their role was to provide the service and let the community run with it. RUC has been offering high-quality connectivity for about 15 years, making it one of the oldest publicly owned networks in the U.S.

When Brett was on the show in 2015, he and Christopher talked about the RUC’s plans to expand. “Deja vu” as the same topic comes up again on this week’s episode. The RUC has been awarded funding to help pay for expansion to two nearby communities that need Internet access for the 21st century. Brett shares information about those communities and the logistics behind the projects.

Located about an hour from Madison, RUC’s affordable LightSpeed provides the connections that area Wisconsinites need to telecommute. Brett and Christopher also touch on Reedsburg’s recent designation as a certified Telecommute Forward! community. The certification lets companies know that the city and areas served by LightSpeed have the capacity to support remote employees.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

This show is 23 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed. You can listen to the interview on this page or visit the Community Broadband Bits page.

Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Thanks to Arne Huseby for the music. The song is Warm Duck Shuffle and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.

Small Town Does Fiber Bigger In Texas – Community Broadband Bits Podcast 326

We don’t often get the opportunity to interview people from Texas, so when we heard about Mont Belvieu’s gigabit fiber optic network we knew we had to have them on the show. When we learned that four officials from the east Texas town would join us we said, “Even better!” City Manager Nathan Watkins, Director of Broadband and IT Dwight Thomas, Assistant City Manager Scott Swigert, and Communications and Marketing Director Brian Ligon are on the show this week to talk about their publicly owned network, MB Link.

Before they were able to provide the fast, affordable, reliable service to residents all over town, Mont Belvieu had to assert themselves in a legal proceeding against the State of Texas. In this conversation, the guys discuss their elegant argument that won over the court. You’ll also hear why community leaders decided that, even though Mont Belvieu had a thriving oil and gas industry, they felt that investing in high-quality Internet access for residents was a goal they aimed to achieve for the public good. The residents in Mont Belvieu drove this project.

People in Mont Belvieu have clambered to sign up for the network. Our guests discuss how they’ve used their town’s strengths to market the services they offer and how they continue to use communications to help subscribers get the most from MB Link. The guys also talk about how the city plans to add businesses to the network and the reactions from incumbents.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

This show is 27 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed. You can listen to the interview on this page or visit the Community Broadband Bits page.

Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Thanks to Arne Huseby for the music. The song is Warm Duck Shuffle and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.