For community leaders, advocates, and researchers who follow broadband policy, trying to stay up-to-date on the many variations of state policy across the U.S. is a daunting task. As approaches change, the work becomes more complicated. Now, the Pew Charitable Trusts has launched a new tool that helps keep all that information sorted and accessible — the State Broadband Policy Explorer. Manager of the Broadband Research Initiative at Pew Charitable Trusts Kathryn de Wit sits down with Christopher to talk about the tool for this week’s podcast.
Kathryn describes some of the challenges and discoveries her team encountered while developing the tool. She talks about the wide variations her team documented, especially in definitions, and their determination that those variations rely on who in each state determines which definitions will be used.
While working on the State Broadband Policy Explorer, Kathryn and her team were surprised to learn that, contrary to popular reporting, not as many states have established official offices of broadband deployment as they had expected. She shares commonalities between states that they found surprising while she and Christopher ponder some of the many ways the tool may be used moving forward.
When we released our Pocket Guide to 5G Hype, we expected to see some reactions from others on the unrealistic expectations about 5G. When this week’s guest contacted us because he disagreed with some of the Pocket Guide content, however, we knew we should bring him on the show.
Sascha Segan, PCMag.com’s lead mobile analyst has seen generations of mobile wireless come and go during more than a decade of reporting. In this interview, he provides more detail about 5G versus millimeter waves and he and Christopher talk about the distinctions. You’ll walk away knowing more than you ever thought you could about mobile wireless connectivity.
Christopher and Sascha also discuss 5G marketing that has swiftly turned into hype. They talk about the next generation in mobile wireless through a more practical lens, considering how it will impact rural connectivity, competition, and innovation. The each share their predictions for fiber optic deployment in rural regions and explain why — or why not — they believe rural communities will ever have access to fiber connectivity. Advances in technology move forward, notes Sascha, but the real issues that prevent ubiquitous coverage in the U.S. continue to be regulatory and political roadblocks.
Multiple studies in recent years indicate that properties with fast, reliable Internet access sell faster, bring in a higher price, and are in demand by potential buyers. Properties with slow or no Internet access languish. In Colorado, where the market is competitive and broadband is available in a good portion of the state, organizations like the Colorado Association of Realtorsplay an important role in protecting property owners rights. This week, Vice President of Government Affairs from the Association Elizabeth Peetz stops in to talk with Christopher.
Colorado is taking positive approaches toward expanding broadband in both funding and in policies that encourage deployment. Liz talks about how the Association has become involved in legislative advocacy and how broadband has become one of their priorities. She describes how the Association has weighed in on policy changes to help ensure the rights of property owners. Liz discusses collaboration at the Capitol to reach a common goal and Colorado’s investment in funding, especially in rural areas.
Christopher and Liz also talk about what people can do to let their elected officials and community leaders see the strong link between real estate and broadband policy. Allowing the market to function as it should can make a huge difference.
When rural Internet access providers work together to reach common goals, they improve their chances of succeeding. Groups such as the South Dakota Telecommunications Association (SDTA) help members get organized and pursue common needs together. The SDTA also provides a way for entities to connect with each other, research common challenges, and discover solutions. This week, SDTA Director of Industry Relations Greg Dean talks with Christopher about fiber optic deployment in South Dakota, a place that has more fiber optic connectivity than most people realize.
Greg attributes the healthy state of fiber deployment to the fact that small ISPs, such as municipal networks, networks on tribal lands, and cooperatives, have strong ties to local communities. He discusses some of the advantages in South Dakota, such as a collaboration that resulted in a statewide fiber optic backbone.
Christopher and Greg also spend time talking about funding for rural Internet access and how critical it is for organizations like the SDTA and its members to continue to push for deployment dollars. Greg hammers home the fact that connectivity is more important today then ever in places like South Dakota. He offers a few examples that illustrate situations unique to less populated areas that people who have never lived in a rural region might never have considered.
An increasing number of local communities are investigating ways to improve connectivity through municipal networks. Some of these communities must find a way to overcome state laws that preclude them from investing in broadband infrastructure, or have established requirements that make doing so prohibitive. Recently, we’ve seen reports on state laws that inflate the number of states with these types of preemptive barriers in place. It’s important that folks researching options for their communities get accurate information, so we decided it was time to address the confusion and recent state changes.
This week, Christopher and our Communications Specialist Jess Del Fiacco critique a list of states with preemptive barriers created by BroadbandNow. While we consider BroadbandNow a great resource, their definition of what makes a barrier goes a little farther than what is generally accepted among municipal network policy advocates. Christopher and Jess explain our definition and discusses the more general criteria BroadbandNow has adopted.
Jess and Christopher also discuss why we decided to remove a couple of states from our list, reducing it from 21 to 19. They offer recent examples of state legislation that rolled back tight restrictions and the reasoning behind those changes. Finally, Christopher and Jess talk about ongoing efforts, places where there is still significant risk of increased restrictions, and possible outcomes for state or federal preemptions that may reduce state barriers.
Clarksville began by introducing a supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system to their utilities. In only a few years, they’ve expanded to use the fiber optic infrastructure for improved connectivity for public facilities and businesses. They’re now focusing on a Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) project to offer fast, affordable, reliable connectivity to all premises in the city. John discusses the city’s investigation into the risks, rewards, and possible models as they worked with consultants to develop a plan. John also shares some of the possible plans for the future of Clarksville Connected Utilities and the surrounding area.
As a local entrepreneur and member of the community interested in driving economic development, Brian Eisele describes the ways the network impacts businesses and residents. He shares some of his own experiences along with other stories of growth related to the presence of the fiber network.
The Sprint / T-Mobile merger has been in process for about a year now, with a series of odd, dramatic twists and turns. Recently, a group of state attorneys general sued to stop the transaction. This week, Christopher talks with telecom policy experts Gigi Sohn and Blair Levin to get their takes on the whole affair.
We originally recorded the interviews for the Institute for Local Self-Reliance’s Building Local Power podcast, but decided that we needed to share them with the Community Broadband Bits audience. Gigi Sohn is a Distinguished Fellow at the Georgetown Law Institute for Technology Law & Policy and Blair Levin is a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institute. Both have been on the show before. You’ll also hear Hibba Meraay, our Communications Manager, give Christopher a hand.
During their conversation, Christopher and his guests discuss how the T-Mobile and Sprint merger will likely end in higher rates, affecting low-income subscribers the most. They talk about the history of the companies’ roles in the industry and how this merger, if it goes through, will shift the field. They also look back on precedent that provides a guidepost for blocking this merger, and compare the attitudes Wall Street and Washington take toward mergers.
Rio Blanco County in western Colorado is more than 3,200 square miles with a population of only about 6,400 people in the entire county. Due to the low population density and rural nature of much of the county, large corporate Internet access providers have not felt motivated to invest in broadband access. Thanks to public investment from the county, however, people living in Rio Blanco County are obtaining access to some of the best connectivity in the state. This week, Rio Blanco County’s Communications Director Cody Crooks is at the mic to tell us about their project.
While at the Mountain Connect conference, Christopher and Cody got together to record the interview so we could catch up on the progress of the fiber build. Subscribers in more than 80 percent of premises passed are connecting to the open access network — about double what planners originally anticipated. As Cody explains, folks in the county are “starved” for broadband, the price is right, and two providers offer choice. People are even moving to the county in order to connect to the network.
Cody also gets into some of the other benefits that people are enjoying due to better connectivity. He discussed how they’re funding the investment and the special concerns they have as a governmental entity. Christopher and Cody talk about western Colorado’s project THOR and how Rio Blanco County is involved in the regional initiative to expand affordable rural connectivity.
Check out this promotional video on the network:
Read more about the project’s evolution here.
We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.
This show is 26 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.
This week, we’re bringing another podcast interview that Christopher conducted while at Mountain Connect in Colorado. David Young, former Fiber Infrastructure and Right-of-Way Manager for the city of Lincoln, Nebraska, sat down to reminisce about the city’s network that began as conduit and has evolved into citywide Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH).
David has moved on to Kansas City in Kansas, but he was deeply involved in the advancement of Lincoln’s network that has done so much for competition and better connectivity in Lincoln. In addition to all the direct benefits that the city is enjoying from a gigabit fiber network, there’s a long list of indirect benefits that David and Christopher discuss that affect sectors such as education, economic development, and public safety.
Along with sharing the many ways the fiber infrastructure has helped the city and it’s people, David shares words of wisdom for other communities who may be considering similar investments. He offers some technical advice on deployment, important factors for communities working in a state with restrictions, and thoughts on their decision to choose a public-private partnership model.
Summer is the time for the Mountain Connect Broadband Development Conference, one of the events that Christopher is sure to attend every year. This year, it was held in Dillon, Colorado, and while he was enjoying the scenery, he collected a series of interviews. This week we hear from Brian Worthen, CEO of Mammoth Networks.
With its home base in Wyoming, Mammoth serves locations in eleven western states. They primarily provide wholesale middle mile service, but the company also offers last mile connectivity in select locations. Brian describes how, over time, Mammoth has developed a system of adopting combinations of technology to get the job done. They provide service in areas that are often sparsely populated, in areas where the geology varies, and Mammoth adjusts to the needs of their diverse customers.
The company received an award at Mountain Connect for their work on Colorado’s Project THOR. In this interview, Brian describes their involvement with the project and with several other local projects in the state. Christopher and his guest talk about cooperatives and their expanding role in delivering high-quality Internet access. They consider which levels of government are best suited to offer financial assistance to broadband initiatives, especially in rural communities, and discuss the potential for Low Earth Orbit Satellites to contribute to universal broadband access.
We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.
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.