This Island Town Is Building a Public Broadband Network. Is It a Model for Bridging Digital Divide?

GeekWire has the details:

Anacortes, Wash., is a picturesque town on Fidalgo Island, 90 minutes north of Seattle. Best known for its marina, it’s a popular spot for travelers to stop on their way to the San Juan Islands. But there’s something else special about this place: its municipal government, which represents a population of about 15,000 people, is about to become a high-speed internet provider.

In a few weeks, Anacortes will join a growing cohort of cities, dissatisfied enough with the private sector, that have decided to offer internet service as a public utility.

Advocates for so-called municipal broadband say the internet is as vital to daily life as electricity or clean water — and they want to see it provided in the same way. Anacortes and other municipal broadband pioneers will provide a test case and, if successful, could be a model for bridging a widening digital divide between urban and rural communities.

Establishing a municipal broadband network is no small challenge, judging from Seattle’s repeated attempts. The city’s partnership with Cincinnati-based Gigabit Squared, promising to bring gigabit Internet to thousands of residents, crumbled in 2013 after the company failed to raise enough money to implement a high-speed Internet network using the city’s dormant dark fiber network.

Further progress has stalled since 2015, when the Seattle City Council voted down a $5 million proposal to begin developing a municipal broadband network.

Officials in Anacortes have spent the past few years researching how to become an internet provider, creating a plan, and building the infrastructure necessary. This month, the city plans to pilot service in three areas. If all goes well, they will expand the service area with the goal of providing internet to the entire community by 2023.

Continue reading HERE.

 

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Northeastern and Upstate California Connect Broadband Update

Published in Center for Economic Development News, Summer 2019

The Northeast and Upstate California Connect Consortia continues working throughout its 10-county region with the goal of improving high speed internet connectivity throughout rural Northern California. Led by Consortia Manager David Espinoza, the team has been actively engaging its communities to gather necessary data and information to meet the needs of its businesses and residents. Below are the most recent highlights of Consortia activities over the last quarter:

  • Consortia continue working with local governments to discuss potential CASF infrastructure applications in priority areas and to discuss best policy approaches for counties and towns to support expansion of broadband infrastructure and services. Consortia attended a Lake County Economic Development Meeting in Kelseyville (April 17th and June 25th, 2019) to discuss a Master Broadband Plan for Lake County.
  • Consortia worked to identify CASF priority unserved areas in each consortia county (using latest CPUC broadband availability data from March 1st, 2019) and shared these priority unserved areas information with incumbent, competitive and new entrant ISPs assessing potential project applications for CASF infrastructure grants and complementary USDA Reconnect Program grants.
  • Consortia reached out to ISPs in all 10 counties and provided detailed information on the rules and application process along with relevant data/information which helped ISPs to carry out business assessments. Also generated detailed maps of eligible areas including potential funding eligibility score (from 60% to 100%).
  • Additionally, consortia reached out to CAF2 grantees that might be interested in complementary CASF projects in unserved priority areas next to CAF2 areas.
  • Consortia provided assistance to ISPs to prepare CASF Infrastructure Applications, including providing data/information (broadband and demographics) relevant to geographic project areas and requesting letters of support from local governments, elected officials, anchor institutions and community based organizations.
  • As a result, of these efforts, two ISPS, Frontier Communications and Plumas Sierra Telecom, filed a total of six projects to serve around 1,100 unserved households in hard to reach rural areas in the counties of Modoc, Lassen and Plumas.
  • Consortia was present in the following broadband meetings in Sacramento: CETF Board of Expert Advisors Roundtable (March 7th, 2019), California Broadband Council Meeting (March 21st and July 18th, 2019), CPUC CASF Workshop (April 29, 2019), CPUC CD En Banc (May 20, 2019) and CETF-CAFWD Digital Inclusion Roundtable.

How YOU can help:

Gathering accurate information regarding internet speeds from businesses is critical to proving the case that improved broadband service is needed in rural California. You can help by  download the CalSPEED application to your desktop computers and run the CalSPEED speed tests daily.   CalSPEED desktop data validates internet speed and capacity, information that is critically needed to move potential projects forward.

For additional information about the Upstate California Connect Consortia, visit www.upcalbroadband.org

For more information about the Northeast California Connect Consortia, visit www.necalbroadband.org. Or, contact the Consortia Manager David Espinoza via email at despinozaaguilar@csuchico.edu.

5G Won’t Solve the Digital Divide

ILSR: Community Networks Fact Sheet

Since 5G connectivity relies on fiber optics that aren’t available in many rural areas, these communities won’t receive 5G access anytime soon. The same market reality discouraging investment in rural broadband will also discourage 5G investment. Even in urban areas, companies like AT&T and Verizon are unlikely to start investing in the low-income neighborhoods they have neglected for years.

This just one insight provided in the Pocket Guild to 5G Hype

Download HERE.

 

How Data Journalism Helped Power A Rural Broadband Revolution

One small magazine, one semi-retired reporter, and an award-winning series of studies using federal statistics that showed why broadband was critical to rural survival.

Trevor Butterworth
June 17, 2019

We are doing broadband,” said President Trump on signing H.R. 2, the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (aka, the “Farm Bill”). “Everyone wanted it so badly.”
Hardly anyone noticed, but to advocates of rural broadband, it seemed scarcely believable that wanting something so badly had actually ended in the funding to make it happen. But there it was: $1.75 billion over five years—which was coming on top of $600 million for rural broadband in the March 2018 omnibus budget bill.

Behind the wanting, though, was data—and notably, a series of studies looking at the impact of broadband access on rural population loss, and showing, over several iterations, an increasingly causal link between lack of access and population loss in America’s most disconnected counties.

The studies were done for a small business to business magazine, Broadband Communities, and its Editor-at-Large, veteran data journalist Steve Ross, who had taught students at Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism for years about the value of looking at the data (including this writer in 1997), when data journalism was called “computer-assisted reporting.”

Regulators had been headline attendees at the magazine’s conferences, so the studies were widely known and shared within the broadband community, but it was a series of calls from congressional offices in 2018 to talk about the findings that led Ross to think they might be helping to inform legislative change. As Ross notes, congressional staffers were “shocked” to discover that the studies came from an independent trade magazine and not an industry front group or advocacy organization.

What this story shows is that even a small magazine can help drive the kind of change that affects millions of Americans. And it did so because a journalist knew how to use federal statistics to tell a story.

Continue reading HERE.

This is a story of how leadership can solve a problem, by being diligent and unrelenting. If your rural community lack this kind of leadership your prospects of getting broadband is limited to waiting for the big telcos determine your density is sufficient to meet their ROI hurdles. How long are you willing to wait?

Broadband Speed and Unemployment Rates: Data and Measurement Issues

 

Study finds high-speed internet reduces Unemployment. Justification for making sure your community has high-speed access.

Abstract

We examine the effects of broadband speed on county unemployment rates in the U.S. state of Tennessee. We merge the older National Broadband Map dataset and the newer FCC dataset in lengthening our broadband access data over the period 2011-2015. Extending the dataset improves the precision of the estimates. Our panel regressions control for potential selection bias and reverse causality and show that broadband speed matters: unemployment rates are about 0.26 percentage points lower in counties with high speeds compared to counties with low speeds. Ultra-high speed broadband also appears to reduce unemployment rates; however, we are unable to distinguish between the effects of high and ultra-high speed broadband. We document beneficial effects of the early adoption of high speed broadband on unemployment rates. Better quality broadband appears to have a disproportionately greater effect in rural areas.

The full report can be downloaded HERE.

 

City Leaders in Bozeman, Montana, Declare Broadband Essential Infrastructure

In mid-April, city leaders in Bozeman, Montana, passed Resolution No. 5031 to officially declare broadband essential infrastructure for the city. The declaration comports with the city’s long-term goal to bring high-quality connectivity throughout the community.

All the details at Community Networks

Bangor, Maine, passed a similar resolution last summer. As communities make such formal declarations, they show their commitments to improving local economies and encouraging their constituents to consider connectivity an integral part of daily life.

Brookings Institute Metro Policy Paper, Signs of Digital Distress, in less than two decades broadband access has become one of the foundations of the American economy, joining water, sewer, power and energy as essential infrastructure.

It is encouraging that more city leaders are coming to recognize how vital broadband is to daily life and economic commerce. Let us hope your city leaders get the message “real soon now.”