Analyzing the Auction With Jonathan Chambers – Community Broadband Bits Podcast 321

A year ago, we last had Jonathan Chambers of Conexon on the podcast to discuss the pros and cons of the Connect America Fund. Since then, the FCC has held an auction to expand connectivity in rural areas as part of the Connect America Fund Phase II (Auction 903) and recently released news of the winning bidders. In episode 321 of the podcast, he’s back for another conversation on the process and the results.

In addition to a brief history on the Connect America Fund, Jonathan and Christopher spend some time discussing the arguments for and against federal funding dedicated to rural deployment. Do ISPs really want to serve residents and businesses in rural areas? Based on the results of the auction, the answer is yes.

As Jonathan notes, this year’s bidding process has been more transparent in years past, but in order for the program to be a true success, there also needs to be accountability. Christopher and Jonathan also discuss the results from this auction and the strong showing that rural electric cooperatives made in the auction. They talk about some of the technological challenges that may arise for some of the bidding firms that promised results that may be beyond their capabilities. Christopher and Jonathan also discuss some of the areas of the country where firms receiving Connect America Funds will deploy.

You can view lists of bid winners and the news release about the auction at the FCC website. There are also maps available at the FCC, to offer visual representations of areas to receive infrastructure, along with eligible areas, and related documents.We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

This show is 51 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed.

You can download this mp3 file directly from here. 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.

Neighbors Investing Through Neighborly – Community Broadband Bits Podcast 320

Plenty of local communities are interested in the possibilities of creating publicly owned Internet infrastructure but pause when it comes to funding. This week on the podcast, Christopher interviews Jase Wilson, CEO, and Lindsey Brannon, Head of Public Finance, from Neighborly. The firm is working with local communities and using an innovative approach to financing publicly owned infrastructure projects, including broadband networks.

Neighborly provides an online investment platform that allows individuals to invest in projects funded through municipal bonds. In addition to more traditional projects suited to the muni bond market, such as transportation, education, and housing, Neighborly is working with local communities that want to develop open access municipal networks. In this interview, Jase and Lindsey describe how the open access network fits so well with the firm’s philosophy.

In addition to helping drum up the capital for muni deployment, Neighborly sharpshooters recognize that the opportunity for individuals to invest directly in a municipal project in their community will help the project ultimately succeed. After all, the investment is about more than turning profit when it’s providing fast affordable, reliable connectivity in your own hometown.

Lindsey and Jase discuss some of their past work and talk about the new Community Broadband Accelerator program that offers additional tools to communities investing in open access fiber networks. Specifics about the program are available on the Neighborly website and during the interview we get to hear more about the advantages of participating in the Community Broadband Accelerator program.

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

This show is 36 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed.

You can download this mp3 file directly from here. Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Read the transcript of the show here.

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

A Monkeybrainey Plan to Improve Connectivity in San Francisco Public Housing – Community Broadband Bits Podcast 319

Communities who want the best for their citizens typically recognize the importance of digital equity and often take steps to develop digital inclusion programs. Last year on the podcast, we invited folks from the ISP Monkeybrains to explain how they were working with the city of San Francisco to develop a way to provide high-speed connectivity to residents living in several public housing facilities. We decided it was time to share the details of their model so other communities could consider their approach as a workable plan. Our summer Public Policy Intern Hannah Rank took on the task of writing a detailed report about the project. This week, she sat down with Christopher to offer a preview of what she’s learned.

In addition to an outline about the history of ISP Monkebrains and where they obtained additional funding for the project, Christopher and Hannah discuss the pros and cons of the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF). They discuss how a smart digital inclusion program as part of such a plan to offer broadband to lower-income households can help those enrolled and help keep overall costs down. Be sure to look for the release of our report this fall to learn more details about how San Francisco and Monkeybrains are bringing better connectivity to public housing to help residents participate in the digital economy. Until then, you can learn more about Monkeybrains and the plan by listening to episode 264 of the podcast.

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.

You can download this mp3 file directly from here. Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Read the transcript of the show here.

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

Are CAF II Investments Helping Rural Minnesota? Blandin Report Looks at the Data – Community Broadband Bits Podcast 318

In the most recent report from the Blandin Foundation, Researcher Bill Coleman from Community Technology Advisors and his crew put boots to the ground to examine the results of Connect America Fund (CAF II) investments. Bill recently visited our office in Minneapolis to discuss the report with Christopher for episode 318 of the podcast.

You can download the report, Impact of CAF II-funded Networks: Lessons From Two Rural Minnesota Exchanges here.

Bill and Christopher discuss the challenges Bill and his team encountered when they initially decided to gather documentation on what services CAF II funded projects brought to rural Minnesota. In order to get past those challenges, the researchers devised a methodology that other communities can reproduce.

Once the team had answered the technical questions about infrastructure, they analyzed the results and applied them to Minnesota’s statewide goals for broadband access. They determined that, in addition to lack of transparency regarding CAF II network plans, the tendency to invest in slower speeds, including DSL, will not help Minnesota achieve its goals. For people living in urban areas who have grown accustomed to broadband within reach, it’s hard to imagine the situation in rural Minnesota, where there are still homes that have no access to the Internet at all. The disparity in speeds and availability complicate the idea that rural folks should have access to high-quality connectivity at the same levels as people living in urban centers.

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

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 download this mp3 file directly from here. 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.

Sometimes Things Don’t Go As Planned – Pardon Our Podcast Delay

They say the “finger of fate” is fickle, but this week it was our recording equipment that turned on us. Unfortunately, time constraints and prior commitments didn’t allow Christopher the opportunity to make a useable recording of his interview with Bill Coleman from Community Technology Advisors Bill was going to be our guest for episode 318. As a result, we’ve had to shuffle schedules and episode 318 will be available later this week. Thanks for your patience!

Bill has promised to join us for a future episode. He and Christopher plan to discuss the report he and his team published for the Blandin Foundation on CAF II and how the federal program is doing little to help rural communities in Minnesota. Read more about the report here.

That’s Not All

In the near future, we plan to also interview Hannah Rank, a Public Policy Intern at ILSR, who has worked with us over the summer and is finishing up a report on ISP Monkey Brains. The company is working with the city of San Francisco to bring high-quality connectivity to lower-income residents living in the city’s public housing complexes. We look forward to sharing the details of how this local provider and the metropolitan community are finding a way to connect those who might have difficulties obtaining the Internet access we all need.

Until then, you can listen to Christopher talk to Preston Rhea and Mason Carroll discuss Monkey Brains and their project in episode 264 of the podcast. Last year they sat down to have a chat with Christopher.

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

Listen to podcast 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.

We apologize for the delay and want to thank you again for listening to the podcast.

Mapping Monopolies and Making Recommendations – Community Broadband Bits Podcast 317

If you haven’t already taken a look at our most recent report, now is your chance to get some insight before you download it and dive in. Profiles of Monopoly: Big Cable and Telecom, written by our Hannah Trostle, recently left ILSR to attend grad school, and Christopher Mitchell, transforms FCC Form 477 data into a series of maps that reveal a sad state of competition in the U.S. broadband market. For episode 317 of the podcast, Hannah and Christopher discuss the report and the main findings.

Download the report here.

Hannah and Christopher provide more insight into the main findings of the report, which analyzes where competition exists and where large national providers fail to invest. The result ultimately creates densely populated areas with more competition for broadband (as defined by the FCC) than rural areas. Due to their de facto monopolies, the top national providers capture huge segments of the population.

Hannah and Christopher also talk about the quality of the Form 477 data and the need for better benchmarks, we learn about why Hannah and Christopher felt that it was time to take the data and turn it into a visual story. You’ll learn more about their methodology in developing the maps and their analysis. Hannah, who created the maps that make the foundation of the report, shares some of the surprises she discovered. The two talk about the Connect America Fund and the policies behind the program and how the results have aggravated lack of broadband in rural America and how cooperatives are picking up the slack where big corporate ISPs are failing rural America.

If you want to learn more about how cooperatives are running circles around the big ISPs in rural areas, download our 2017 report, Cooperatives Fiberize Rural America: A Trusted Model for the Internet Era.

Read the transcript of the show here.

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 download this mp3 file directly from here. 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.

Mason County PUD 3 Uses Innovation for Strategic Deployment – Community Broadband Bits Podcast 316

When we spoke with Justin Holzgrove, Mason PUD 3 Telecommunications & Community Relations Manager, back in October 2017, we discussed how the public utility district in Washington was about to embark on expanding its services. This week, Justin is back and he’s joined by Isak Finer, who works as Chief Marketing Officer for COS Systems. The company is helping Mason PUD 3 develop strategic deployment plan with COS Service Zones, their demand aggregation tool.

In this interview, we learn about the decision to expand the use of the fiber infrastructure from electric utility support purposes to residential and business connectivity. As Justin describes, the county is filled with many small, rural communities. Traditional, large ISPs don’t typically find much motivation to serve these low density areas. Large numbers of electric customers let PUD officials know that they needed better Internet access and they wanted Mason County PUD 3 to supply the infrastructure.

In order to determine the best way to implement their build out, the PUD engaged COS Systems, a firm with a decade of experience in deployment planning, especially in large, rural areas. Isak gives us background on the company and their software that helps communities, such as Mason County PUD 3, take a thoughtful approach toward deployment to maximize opportunities and move toward success.

Christopher, Isak, and Justin also consider the meaning of “open access” and how that meaning changes depending on location. As technology improves, innovators find new ways to use open access infrastructure that push the limits of what we’ve seen up to now.

Read the transcript of the show here.

Listen to episode 274 of the podcast for our earlier conversation with Justin.We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.This show is 34 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed.

You can download this mp3 file directly from here. 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.

Vistabeam Internet: Driven to Connect Rural Communities – Community Broadband Bits Podcast 315

When you hear founder and CEO Matt Larson talk about his company Vistabeam Internet, you’ll understand he and his team received the 2018 Provider of the Year Award at Mountain Connect. At the conference in June, Matt sat down with Christopher to discuss what it’s like to be in his shoes — starting up and operating a wireless Internet service company primarily in the rural areas in some of the most rural areas of the country.

It’s been about a decade and a half since Matt’s company began serving its first customers as Skybeam. The endeavor soon became Vistabeam and continued to expand throughout the areas where Colorado, Nebraska, and Wyoming meet. Vistabeam continued to grow, and now the company coverage area spans approximately 40,000 square miles. Matt explains his motivation behind starting Vistabeam and widening the service area as a way to connect people without Internet access and to bring a little competition to areas where incumbents needed “inspiration.”

In the interview, Matt describes some of the practicalities of working in the field and how his company has dealt with similar unique challenges. He also shares the way Vistabeam has evolved as technology has improved over the years and the differences between providing service in extreme rural areas and more densely populated areas. In this interview, you’ll go from policy to practicality and learn about the experiences of a local provider.

Read the transcript for this show here.

This show is 42 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed.

You can download this mp3 file directly from here. 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.

DMEA Co-op Serving Up Broadband and Innovation in Colorado – Community Broadband Bits Podcast 314

An increasing number of local communities in Colorado are finding ways to improve rural connectivity. The Delta Montrose Electric Association (DMEA), a cooperative bringing electricity to approximately 28,000 members in southwest Colorado, is in the midst of Elevate, their Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network that will connect all co-op members. We’ve brought co-op Board Members John Gavan and Brad Harding on the show this week to talk about the project and DMEA.

This conversation describes how and why the project got started and the plans for the future. Cooperatives are member organizations and this story is an example of a member-driven project that started when the community chose to improve their future. Significant employment losses in the region had the potential for widespread ripple effects and community members saw high-quality connectivity as a must for economic development.

John and Brad also discuss how the project is part of a larger effort to cope with the loss of electricity demand due to local job losses in the coal industry and a desire to stay on the cusp of innovation. With new infrastructure, the cooperative is investigating ways to offer such enhancements as electric vehicle charging and energy storage. They’ve also been taking a second look at local renewable energy generation facilities and wholesale contracts. DMEA and its members are taking new steps in self-reliance.

DMEA has produced a short video on the Elevate project:

Read more about how cooperatives are bringing broadband to rural America in our 2017 policy brief, Cooperatives Fiberize Rural America: A Trusted Model For The Internet Era.

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.

Read the transcript for this show here.

You can download this mp3 file directly from here. 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.

Image of the Gunnison River running through the Black Canyon of the Gunnison in Montrose County by Terry Foote, licensed through Creative Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0).

Catching Up With Terry Huval from Lafayette – Community Broadband Bits Podcast 313

We’ve been following the community of Lafayette, Louisiana, and their LUS Fiber community network from the early days. Director of Utilities Terry Huval was one of the people responsible for bringing high-quality Internet access to the community back in 2009. Terry is about to retire so we wanted to have one more conversation with him before he pursues a life of leisure.

The last time Terry was on the show, he and Christopher discussed the possibility of an LUS Fiber expansion. That was back in March 2015 for episode 144 and the network has since spread its footprint beyond city limits. Those efforts have inspired better services from competitors in addition to bringing fiber to communities that struggled with poor Internet access.

Christopher and Terry talk a little history as Terry reflects on the reactions of incumbent ISPs who tried to disrupt the LUS Fiber deployment. A winning strategy that has always served the advancement of the network, Terry tells us, has been to focus on the unique culture of Lafayette and its people. Marketing based on local pride has always kept LUS Fiber in locals’ minds. Terry discusses establishing pricing and how it relates to marketing and maintaining subscribers; in broadband, the situation is much different than with other utilities.

Terry spends some time answering a few questions on free Wi-Fi at the airport and the ways the network’s economic development benefits have kept the community’s youth in Lafayette. He also addresses how the city has dealt with state rules that apply to LUS Fiber but not to private sector ISPs and the way the city has dealt with those rules.

For more details about how the community of Lafayette developed its fiber optic network, check out our 2012 report, Broadband and the Speed of Light. You can also learn more about how to address some of the many erroneous and misleading claims about LUS Fiber and similar networks from our report Correcting Community Fiber Fallacies: Attacks on LUS Fiber.

Read the transcript for this show here.

This show is 30 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed.

You can download this mp3 file directly from here. 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.