Tennessee, Colorado move to repeal anti-muni network laws

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam stated yesterday he has legislation to remove restrictions that prevent co-ops and municipalities from owning broadband networks. The governor will formally present this legislation to state legislators who will meet, discuss, probably edit, and hopefully pass it into law.

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Co-ops would be permitted to build networks, and municipalities could partner with co-ops in moving these projects forward. Municipalities could offer broadband at a wholesale level to cooperatives. “At that point, the cooperative could provide retail broadband service to individual customers who may be outside a municipality.” In addition to allowing electric co-ops to provide telecom services, State Sen. Janice Bowling has introduced legislation to allow municipal power utilities to expand services across Tennessee.

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Battle flagGovernor Haslam joins a growing number of governors, legislators, and community leaders working to reduce or eliminate legislative restrictions on community- and public private partnership-owned networks. It has been a long righteous battle and often 21 states had to find work-around for restrictions that legislators imposed.

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The various governors and legislators committing publicly to building more broadband infrastructure are turning the tide on efforts to repeal or negate the effects of anti-muni network laws. It is difficult to lead the charge for increasing deployments when you have laws crippling community broadband.

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State Senator Lucia Guzman drove a repeal effort in Colorado last year and is doing it again this session. Here’s the formal paperwork. The hearing for the bill is February 13 in the Business, Labor, & Technology Committee. I’m not sure if or when a hearing will be held in the State Assembly. Read More »

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Virginia’s Community Broadband Successes Give Truth To the Incumbents’ Lie.

Like an avenging angel of doom, state legislator Kathy Byron (R-Campbell County) blew into the opening session of the Virginia legislature bearing an incumbent-sanctioned (and probably ghost-written) anti-Muni network bill. As the Roanoke Times states, “In the spirit of naming bills the exact opposite of what they would do, her so-called “Virginia Broadband Deployment Act” would actually make it harder to extend broadband to areas that don’t presently have it — or don’t have enough of it.”

Battle flagIn response, the forces of community good saddle up and ride into battle, a battle that includes debunking the usual array of incumbents’ lies and distortions about muni broadband. Bristol Virginia Utilities’ public-own broadband execution wasn’t pretty, but incumbents try to paint every community network with the same brush, which is deceitful and silly. Consider these four Virginia success stories from over a dozen cities and counties. Read More »

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Fiber & Wireless – Stronger Together for Community Broadband

Google in June stunned some in the broadband world by acquiring wireless provider Webpass and “momentarily” exiting the fiber stage. Hybrid wired/wireless networks became the Next Big Thing – for a month. But what if hybrid infrastructure is the key that unlocks the doors to the next level of community broadband success?

Report coverMy new report, “Fiber & Wireless – Stronger Together for Community Broadband“, makes a business case for hybrid infrastructure by assessing community broadband in a historical context, as well as the capabilities of today’s fiber and wireless. I’ve included past and current projects since they can teach us how to get more value from broadband technologies that communities use.

Wireless in broadband has been deified, vilified, misunderstood, hyped to holy heaven, and in some circles, just plain ignored. To many, fiber can do no wrong, only become faster. Then came gig fiber. No, wait, now there’s gig wireless. We need a reality check!! We’re too fixated on speeds and feeds, bits and bytes. Read More »

Posted in Administration, broadband policy, digital divide, digital inclusion, Economic Development, funding broadband, General analysis, Implementation strategies, Making the business case, Managing costs, Needs analysis, Network business planning, Strategic thinking, Tactical thinking, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Resources/Interviews to Make Community Broadband More Successful

I showbbc-summit-sign-smaller you what community broadband success is. Besides executing effective needs analysis that enhances communities’ feasibility studies, my writings and radio show help you make sense of the business of broadband, the never-ending industry hype, and the craziness of broadband politics.

Here’s a little light reading and easy listening. I’ve accumulating a huge amount of broadband lessons, stories and resources that can help you, your staff and your private and nonprofit partners. Over the holidays or down time in trains, planes, and automobiles, you might find some “catch-up time.” Enjoy.

Community Broadband Snapshot Reports

These qualitative analysis reports help community stakeholders make better decisions and build networks that better meet constituents’ needs. They combine communities’ experiences, perspectives and insights. The reports tackle states’ anti-muni network laws, new sources of broadband funding, broadband’s impact on economic development and other vital topics.

Gigabit Nation

In over 230 archived interviews since 2011, I explore broadband issues, policies, and community broadband success stories. Guests on the show include mayors, broadband project leaders, government agency leaders and managers, public advocates. It’s a resource that keeps on giving – and growing.

Read More »

Posted in Administration, broadband policy, digital divide, digital inclusion, Economic Development, funding broadband, General analysis, Implementation strategies, Legislative action, Making the business case, Managing costs, Needs analysis, public private partnership, Strategic thinking, sustainability, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

How Election Day Can Shape States’ Community Broadband Laws

26 Colorado communities most likely will pass referenda this week to get back their rights to build public-owned broadband networks. Communities have decided it’s easier to run referenda elections then getting the prohibition rescinded.

A grassroots drive led by Wilson, NC and two state legislators will take on that state’s prohibition against community broadband. A win by the Democratic governor candidate, and electing some new Democratic legislators could definitely improve the grassroots’ efforts chances of success.

voteIn Tennessee and Alabama, several Republican legislators are gearing up to aggressively tackle their respective state prohibitions against public broadband. We should expect to see some major grassroots drive in Tennessee. The legislature most likely will remain Republican after election day, but who wins those legislative seats in rural areas will heavily influenced the outcome of that fight.

Read More »

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Do You Have Enough Money for Community Broadband?

The quest for money to build broadband networks is eternal, it seems. The schools, Health and libraries broadband coalition (SHLB) is hosting a webinar to help people on this quest.

shlbTom Koutsky (Connected Nation), John Windhausen (SHLB Coalition), and Nick Alexander (Level 3 come together to tackle the question of how to reduce broadband costs through competition and infrastructure. You also should download a report I wrote last year that helps communities find new ways to fund broadband deployments.

“If you don’t have broadband in a rural area by now, maybe it’s time to rely on somebody other than a telephone company,” Jonathan Chambers, former chief of the FCC’s Office of Strategic Planning and Policy Analysis, stated. “Cable providers aren’t building out in rural areas.” Read More »

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I Get Muni Broadband with a Little Help from My Friends

Particularly if you are in one of those States with restrictions on muni networks, communities could use some help with these friends: electric and other co-ops, and nonprofit organizations. Co-ops are starting to take note and commit to forming plans to develop community-focused (i.e. cheaper, faster, customer-serving) broadband infrastructure. Nonprofits as potential builders, owners and partners with communities aren’t talked about a lot in the media. However they should be.

Here are some thoughts to wet your whistle. These friends are valuable even if your state doesn’t have any prohibitions on community broadband.

Co-ops are your friends

Not only are co-ops good for teaching how to form effective legislative partnerships, they can be great allies on broadband projects. “The City of Montrose is also working on a community anchor institution network project along with others,” says Virgil Turner. “The Delta-Montrose Electric Association (co-op) partnered with our regional council of governments by providing dark fiber to substations near each of the region’s small towns. From the substations, the region is building into carrier neutral location within each town and then on to the anchor institutions.”

Read More »

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This Election, Take Muni Broadband Fight to Statehouses

In the land that gave the world the Internet, it’s amazing that so many other countries in the world have better, faster broadband. Yet we’ve legislated public Internet networks out the picture in some states. A handful of people hinder millions from the potential benefits of muni broadband.

Stop! Enough already! The FCC tried to beat the states in the courts, but that didn’t work. It’s time this election cycle to take the hardball politics to the state legislative arena where the source of the problem originated.

donttread-econdev-yellow1Communities – support your allies, convert opponents to allies, support your opponents’ opponent. And this doesn’t end in November. Cities need to develop strategies and tactics to establish legislative policies and support even in states that have no restrictions on muni broadband.

My update to “How to Navigate, Mitigate or Eliminate the Impacts of State Restrictions on Public Broadband” offers recommendations you should read. Legislators such as Tennessee’s Janice Bowling and Kevin Brooks, Alabama’s Tom Whatley and others from both sides of the aisle need your help. The incumbents, the true source of these anti-muni network laws, are powerful. But the battles to important give up.

Read More »

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Communities Determine What Broadband Success Is, Not Incumbents!

Over 500 public-owned networks operate in the United States, according to the Institute of Local Self-Reliance, including 89 fiber and 74 cable community-wide networks, and over 180 partial-reach fiber networks covering business districts, industrial parks and medical and university campuses. Evaluating these networks’ impact on job creation, education and stirring innovation, as well as their financial sustainability, uncovers hundreds of success stories that can be replicated.

A sizeable number of networks have been operating successfully since at least 2003, and some have been operating since the late 1990s. Check out out in our directory (to the left). These communities defined success as meeting the goals that communities used to justify the investments in their networks.

What happens, for example, if a town spends $1 million to build a network, and broadband is one of the main reason three companies moved to town and generate $500,000 in tax revenue? If the citizens are happy and feel tax revenues attributed to the network justify the expense, then that is a successful network. If a rural county’s citizens believe the quality-of-life benefits of highspeed Internet justifies the network costing $100,000 a year, they voted for that, and people are happier because of network-gereated services, then the network is a success.

Stop letting the incumbents dictate the terms of a community’s success. I’m compiling a directory of community network to help broadband teams understand how others measure success. The directory is an or-going project, but some trends are starting to take shape.

Read More »

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Stand with Tennessee, Tell AT&T To Back Down!

Year ago I was sidelined with a stroke and my blog went on hiatus. But it’s back and issuing a rallying call as Tennessee legislators try to remove that state’s restriction on public- and co-op-run broadband.

Battle flagBroadband community, make your voices heard, make a difference in Tennessee! This law has got to go. Write the Governor of Tennessee. Better yet, call him – 615) 741-2001. Demand these legislators to stand up for their constituents’ right to get the best possible broadband they can, and tell AT&T to get the hell out of away! Call ’em, e-mail ’em, then ask your neighbors to do the same.

Let’s be clear here. Muni broadband is not “unfair competition” by local government. When Wilson’s 12-person IT department several years ago planned, built and managed a network that delivered speeds 20 times faster than the best Time Warner Cable offered, that’s competing with superior technology. When Comcast customers switch to Chattanooga’s 10-gig network because EPB offers far better customer service, that’s competent competition. When tiny Reedsburg, Wis. refuses to compete against the large cable company on price, but beats competitors by offering greater value provided by local management, they compete based on local credibility.

Read More »

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