How Monticello, MN’s FiberNet Weathered the Storm and Brought Community Savings — Community Broadband Bits Podcast Episode 428

In this episode of the podcast Christopher talks with Jeff O’Neill, City Administrator of Monticello, MN, about FiberNet, which is owned by the city but operates in a public-private partnership with local telecommunications provider Arvig. 

Christopher and Jeff delve into the history and development of the network over the last fifteen years. They discuss how business leaders began calling for the city to look for a solution to poor Internet speeds all the way back in 2005, why the city ultimately decided to build its own network, and how FiberNet persevered in the face of an early lawsuit so that incumbent provider TDS could slow competition as it began its own fiber buildout. Jeff and Chris then talk about the network subsequently weathering a vicious price war with Charter Spectrum which contributed to the fracturing of its relationship with early partner Hiawatha Broadband, but which also brought significant savings and better customer service from incumbent providers to everyone in town.

They end by discussing the multitude of community benefits realized today by having three competing providers in Monticello — two offering Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) in the city of 14,000 — and what it means for community savings and economic development for the city moving forward. Jeff ends by sharing some of the work he’s most proud of being involved in and what he sees as important for FiberNet in the years ahead.

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

Transcript coming soon.

This show is 35 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.

Subscribe to the Building Local Power podcast, also from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, on iTunes or Stitcher to catch more great conversations about local communities, the concentration of corporate power, and how everyday people are taking control.

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

Connecting A Neighborhood in Need in San Rafael, California – Community Broadband Bits Podcast Episode 427

The coronavirus pandemic has exposed with stark clarity the impact of the digital divide across the country, and exacerbated the problem especially among the economically disadvantaged and in communities of color. With the onset of a new school year, school boards, city councils, and local governments have been distributing hotspots, equipping buses with Wi-Fi, and subsidizing subscription plans so that students can continue to learn over the summer. This week on the podcast Christopher talks with one community in California that took efforts to connect residents a step further.

Christopher is joined by Rebecca Woodbury, San Rafael Director of Digital Services and Open Government, and Air Gallegos, Director of Education & Career for the nonprofit Canal Alliance, who together worked with a coalition of dedicated people to begin building a neighborhood-wide Wi-Fi mesh network over the summer in response to the pandemic, and connect one of the city’s most vulnerable populations: those living in San Rafael’s Canal neighborhood. Christopher, Rebecca, and Air talk about how it all came together, the impacts it’s already having, and the forethought that went into the network. 

They discuss the city’s work and the participation of local volunteers who helped jumpstart the effort, and the pivotal role played by the Canal Alliance, which has been fighting digital divide in the neighborhood for decades. The group also discusses lessons learned, expanding the network to reach as many resident as possible, and the ways that the coalition has tried to ensure that San Rafael’s Wi-Fi Mesh network works not just for the Canal neighborhood now, but in the future.

For additional detail on the San Rafael project, see our earlier story.

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

Transcript coming soon.

This show is 46 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.

Subscribe to the Building Local Power podcast, also from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, on iTunes or Stitcher to catch more great conversations about local communities, the concentration of corporate power, and how everyday people are taking control.

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

West Des Moines is Building a Citywide Conduit System and Google Fiber is First in the Door – Community Broadband Bits Podcast Episode 426

In July we wrote about West Des Moines’ announcement that it would build an open access citywide conduit system to spur broadband infrastructure investment, and how Google Fiber became the Iowa city’s first partner. 

In this episode of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast, Christopher is joined by Jamie Letzring, Deputy City Manager for West Des Moines, Iowa, and Dave Lyons, a consultant with the city, to discuss in more detail how things unfolded behind the scenes.

Together, the group digs into the how the city started with a long-term vision—called West Des Moines 2036—that, in part, brought local leaders together to discuss universal high-speed Internet access as a path to equity, economic vitality, and citizen engagement. Jamie and Dave share the challenges that came with a rapidly congesting right of way (ROW) landscape, and how that ultimately led to the decision to commit to a citywide conduit model that has attracted Google Fiber. Finally, Chris, Jamie, and Dave talk about what the citywide conduit system will do for business development and city residents once it’s complete. 

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

Transcript coming soon.

This show is 40 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.

Subscribe to the Building Local Power podcast, also from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, on iTunes or Stitcher to catch more great conversations about local communities, the concentration of corporate power, and how everyday people are taking control.

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

How One City Came Together to Provide Free Broadband To Those Who Needed It Most – Community Broadband Bits Podcast Episode 425

This week on the podcast Christopher talks with Jill Levine, Chief of Innovation and Choice at Hamilton County Schools in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Evan Freeman, Director of Government Relations at the city’s municipal electric and fiber utility, EPB, and Deb Socia, President of the Enterprise Center.

Together, the group discusses the recent landmark announcement by Hamilton County Schools of HCS EdConnect, in which the schools, local government, EPB, and local stakeholders and philanthropic organizations have come together and made it possible to connect all school children on free or reduced lunch programs in the district to free 100 Mbps symmetrical Internet access for the next ten years. The initiative will include not only 32,000 students but their families as well, and is the first of its kind in the United States — a success story at using a city-wide network to bridge the digital divide for economically disadvantaged students, and a decisive move to respond to unequal Internet access during a worldwide public health crisis

Jill, Evan, and Deb discuss the challenges of setting up the partnerships that made it happen, overcoming obstacles — including dealing with tens of thousands of new customers with unique skills and needs — and how they managed to pull it off.

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

Transcript coming soon.

This show is 31 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.

Subscribe to the Building Local Power podcast, also from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, on iTunes or Stitcherto catch more great conversations about local communities, the concentration of corporate power, and how everyday people are taking control.

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

Is Open Access the Future? – Community Broadband Bits Podcast Episode 424

For communities looking to improve Internet access for their citizens but that might be wary of becoming full-fledged Internet Service Providers (ISPs) themselves, open access networks offer a practical model for the future. Like roads, open access networks serve as publicly owned byways that telecommunications providers can then lease bandwidth on and offer a wide array of information services. They ensure competition, provide local control of underlying infrastructure, and lead to economic growth.

This week on the podcast Christopher speaks with Jeff Christensen, President of EntryPoint Networks, a consulting and software company working with communities around the country (including Ammon, Idaho) on open access networks. Jeff shares with Christopher what’s been happening recently, including some of the software upgrades EntryPoint has developed over the last year and the impact they’ll have both for administrators and users moving forward. 

Christopher and Jeff then dig into the future of state telecommunications policy, and the vision that communities need to have to confront the realities of existing cable and telecom monopolies around the country. They talk about the potential of government policies that promote competition rather than restrain it, and the possibilities for network innovation if we were to reframe how we think about Internet access in terms of having separate infrastructure and service components. Finally, they spend some time discussing practical steps communities can take, including defining the problem and then making low-interest loans to build open access fiber networks in their regions.

If you’re interested in learning more about open access networks, we break down basic models, concepts, and advantages. Or, listen to Jeff’s TedX talks, The Internet Disruption Every City Needs and Modern Networks, Innovation, and Cities or read his recent Medium post, “We Need Our Internet Access Networks to Be Something They Are Not.”

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

Transcript coming soon.

This show is 41 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.

Subscribe to the Building Local Power podcast, also from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, on iTunes or Stitcher to catch more great conversations about local communities, the concentration of corporate power, and how everyday people are taking control.

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

How Electric Cooperatives in Mississippi Have Taken the Lead in Broadband Expansion — Community Broadband Bits Podcast Episode 423

This week on the podcast Christopher talks with Ron Barnes, President and CEO Biloxi-based Coast Electric Power, an electric cooperative in Mississippi area, and Jon Chambers, Partner at Conexon, a consulting agency working with rural electric cooperatives to bring fiber to communities around the country. 

In January of 2019 Mississippi state law changed to allow electric cooperatives to provide broadband services to their subscribers, and Ron talks about how Coast Electric, which serves around 80,0000 residents across three counties, began its planning phase shortly thereafter. He relates how the current public health crisis moved up Coast Electric’s timeline, why the cooperative has committed in its buildout to connect the least densely populated areas of its service footprint first, and the challenges and rewards that go along with bringing high-speed Internet to Mississippi’s coast. 

Jon Chambers joins them to highlight how remarkable it has been to see Mississippi’s electric cooperatives spring into action over the last 18 months and play a leading role, and why it’s important that, already, 15 out of 25 have begun to plan their broadband plans with the injection of CARES Act funding. Together, the group discusses what these changes mean for digital equity and inclusion in Mississippi, since the new law requires the cooperatives to build to all of their customers.

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

Transcript coming soon.

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.

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

Subscribe to the Building Local Power podcast, also from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, on iTunes or Stitcher to catch more great conversations about local communities, concentration of corporate power, and how everyday people are taking control.

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

“We Can’t Build It and Just Assume People Will Come”: Digital Inclusion and Equity Today — Community Broadband Bits Podcast Episode 422

Today on the podcast we welcome Angela Siefer and Craig Settles. Angela is the founder and Executive Director of the National Digital Inclusion Alliance, and a tireless digital equity and inclusion advocate whose has worked to connect communities for over two decades. Craig is a nationally recognized consultant who works with public- and private-sector clients to build and improve networks. He hosts Gigabit Nation and is the President of Communities United for Broadband.

Together, Christopher, Angela, and Craig untangle the long history of broadband subsidies and racial bias, and how that has come to influence who has affordable connection options today. They also talk about the current stage of telehealth and the ramifications of the Digital Equity Act since its adoption a year ago. Angela highlights the importance of having state digital equity plans to address unequal access in anticipation of disbursing funds to close the digital divide during the pandemic. The group also talks about the costs of not being connected — in healthcare, in employment searches and job training, and in k-12 education — and how to make sure that both rural and urban broadband plans address everyone who lives there.

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

Transcript coming soon.

This show is 46 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.

Subscribe to the Building Local Power podcast, also from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, on iTunes or Stitcher to catch more great conversations about local communities, concentration of corporate power, and how everyday people are taking control.

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

Golden State Update: Broadband Subsidies and the Future of Rural Broadband in California — Community Broadband Bits Podcast Episode 421

This week on the podcast we welcome Ernesto Falcon and Steve Blum. Ernesto is Senior Legislative Council at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a powerhouse nonprofit organization defending civil liberties in the digital world. Steve Blum is President of Tellus Ventures Associates, which provides management and business development guidance for companies working in telecommunications. You can find him at tellusventures.com.

In this episode Christopher, Ernesto, and Steve talk about what’s going on with broadband in California. They discuss current legislation looking to make sure CA broadband subsidies result in high quality networks and don’t leave people behind. Then they talk about a competing bill, and the consequences of investing public dollars in old network technology destined to leave those on the wrong side of the digital divide stranded there for another generation. Finally, they talk about the impact of campaign donations and T-Mobile merger conditions on the future of broadband in the state.

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

Transcript coming soon.

This show is 35 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.

Subscribe to the Building Local Power podcast, also from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, on iTunes or Stitcher to catch more great conversations about local communities, concentration of corporate power, and how everyday people are taking control.

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

Selling Bandwidth to the Block with Althea Networks — Community Broadband Bits Podcast Episode 420

This week on the Community Broadband Bits podcast Christopher speaks with Deborah Simpier, CEO of Althea. Althea offers software and tools for communities looking to build and maintain sustainable networks. 

Althea works by installing custom firmware on the routers of its member-operators, connecting them all together in an ad hoc network that dynamically responds to the supply and demand of individual users on the network. That network is then linked to a commercial-grade backhaul connection, and users pay each other for bandwidth while configuring their own connection preferences and needs. Althea’s innovative software and staff help manage the connection in real-time. The result is a decentralized, flexible, privacy-focused community of devices. Althea exists in more that three dozen communities around North America, Canada, the Caribbean, and Africa.

Deborah reflects on how she came to the broadband space, and the origins of the first Althea network. Christopher and Deborah discuss what it means to play a central role in empowering communities to help create their own sustainable networks, and watching people put in Internet infrastructure themselves and take ownership. One example is Enfield, North Carolina, a state with some of the most onerous broadband restrictions which have resulted in poor connectivity options for that community. 

For related coverage of broadband efforts in North Carolina or mesh networks in action, search those tags at MuniNets.org.

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

Transcript coming soon.

This show is 32 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.

Subscribe to the Building Local Power podcast, also from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, on iTunes or Stitcher to catch more great conversations about local communities, concentration of corporate power, and how everyday people are taking control.

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

Tackling the Digital Divide in North Carolina- Community Broadband Bits Podcast, Bonus Episode Nine

For the ninth episode of our special podcast series “Why NC Broadband Matters,” Christopher talks with Doug Dawson, President of CCG Consulting. Doug is a veteran advisor to small public and private telecommunications carriers and an experienced, thoughtful voice in the broadband space. During their discussion, Christopher and Doug give the various levels of government across the United States a report card for their connectivity efforts during the pandemic, and talk about how the coronavirus has brought into focus the two digital divides facing our communities today. They consider what the broadband gap looks like between rural and urban areas, and the problem of adoption versus access for North Carolina communities facing obstacles to high quality Internet access.

Christopher and Doug also talk about whether SpaceX or other satellite providers are a solution to North Carolina’s rural broadband challenge, which leads them to reflect on the problem of the FCC’s current minimum broadband speed definition as a baseline for disbursing funds to providers connecting communities over the next ten years.

logo-nc-hearts-gigabit.png

We produced this episode and the “Why NC Broadband Matters” series in partnership with NC Broadband Matters, a nonprofit organization advocating for better connectivity across North Carolina.

This show is 37 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or with the tool of your choice using this feed, or at the NC Broadband Matters page. We encourage you to check out other “Why NC Broadband Matters” content at the podcast feed so you don’t miss future bonus content that may not appear in the Community Broadband Bits Podcast feed.

Transcript coming soon.

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

Thanks to Shane Ivers for the Music: What’s The Angle? by Shane Ivers – https://www.silvermansound.com a Creative Commons Attribution (4.0) license.