North Carolina Shoots For Universal Broadband Access By 2021

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North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory has released North Carolina’s updated State Broadband Plan, which sets the goal of universal statewide access by 2021. The governor claims that to date nearly 65 percent of classrooms are connected, and has committed to connecting 100 percent of classrooms by 2018.

According to FCC data, 93 percent of North Carolina is connected through a combination of anchor institution networks, private providers, and municipal broadband. However, the plan shows that more work needs to be done to connect rural communities. Continue reading

DC Court Upholds FCC Open Internet Order

 

In a 2-1 decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has upheld the FCC‘s Open Internet Order, which was issued last March and challenged in court shortly thereafter. The full text of the decision – 184 pages’ worth – is available here.

In a statement, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said: “Today’s ruling is a victory for consumers and innovators who deserve unfettered access to the entire web, and it ensures the Internet remains a platform for unparalleled innovation, free expression and economic growth. After a decade of debate and legal battles, today’s ruling affirms the commission’s ability to enforce the strongest possible Internet protections – both on fixed and mobile networks – that will ensure the Internet remains open, now and in the future.”

FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai disagreed. In a statement, he said, in part: “I am deeply disappointed by the D.C. Circuit’s 2-1 decision upholding the FCC’s Internet regulations. For many of the reasons set forth in Judge Williams’ [presiding judge on the case in the DC Circuit] compelling dissent, I continue to believe that these regulations are unlawful, and I hope that the parties challenging them will continue the legal fight. The FCC’s regulations are unnecessary and counterproductive.” Continue reading

Municipal fiber network will let customers switch ISPs in seconds

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Most cities and towns that build their own broadband networks do so to solve a single problem: that residents and businesses aren’t being adequately served by private cable companies and telcos.

But there’s more than one way to create a network and offer service, and the city of Ammon, Idaho, is deploying a model that’s worth examining. Ammon has built an open access network that lets multiple private ISPs offer service to customers over city-owned fiber. The wholesale model in itself isn’t unprecedented, but Ammon has also built a system in which residents will be able to sign up for an ISP—or switch ISPs if they are dissatisfied—almost instantly, just by visiting a city-operated website and without changing any equipment. Continue reading

This city’s leaders look to build a broadband network even as Comcast expands 

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Savannah city leaders are moving forward with a plan that could create a municipal broadband network in the coastal Georgia city.

What’s curious about the move is it comes on the heels of an announcement by Comcast that it will bring a super-high-speed network to Savannah beginning later this year.

The company’s Comcast Business division revealed in March that it will begin construction of a fiber-optic network in the third quarter of the year to bring download speeds of up to 10 gigabits per second to businesses, colleges and government agencies. Continue reading

Government-financed broadband is a bad deal for taxpayers

On June 6, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler will be in Pikeville for the SOAR summit to discuss the future of broadband in Kentucky and across the United States. His remarks are likely to turn into a pep rally for government-owned broadband.

Taxpayers shouldn’t cheer.

Government-owned broadband already has harmed Kentucky taxpayers. A few years ago, a handful of lawmakers dreamed up a plan for a statewide “middle mile” network calledKentuckyWired. The network would largely be financed by taxpayers, but managed by an Australian financing firm. The total cost of the project is pegged at more than $300 million with the state issuing $289 million in bonds to finance the project. State taxpayers would be on the hook for $30 million while federal taxpayers will kick in another $23.5 million. Continue reading

The Challenges of Closing the Digital Divide

I prefer to leave politics out of the delivery of broadband services across the United States, but it is a topic that is highly politicized because of government involvement. The “New York Times” interviewed FCC Commissioner Mig Clyburn with a decidedly supportive position that there exists an ever increasing digital divide. Articles like this one are not surprising with presidential candidates playing up class envy and income inequality to drum up votes. The interviewer did not ask tough questions or challenge Mig’s responses. Apparently the editors did not feel the need to do any fact checking either.

This interview contains inaccuracies that lead readers to believe that broadband deployments are also subject to the “great divide” that the media is constantly touting. Actually the opposite is true. Every new broadband deployment has a plan to cover low-income areas and provide free or subsidized broadband for low-income residents. These plans are independent of whether a local municipality or commercial enterprise are building the networks. Rural communities are taking matters into their own hands in several places and building their own broadband networks when no commercial provider will serve their area. Urban areas are the easiest to cover due to their density and short loop lengths. Urban areas typically have multiple service providers offering competition and discounted rates to low-income housing that suburban customers do not typically receive.
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Open Access

A key problem in improving Internet access has been ensuring residents and local businesses have high quality services. One means of ensuring high quality is via competition – if people can switch away from their Internet Service Provider, the ISP has an incentive to provide better services. However, the high cost of building networks is a barrier for new ISPs to enter the market – limiting the number of options for communities. Open access provides a solution: multiple providers sharing the same physical network.

Publicly owned, open access networks can create a vibrant and innovative market for telecommunications services. Municipalities build the physical infrastructure (fiber-optic lines, wireless access points, etc.) and independent Internet Service Providers (ISPs) operate in a competitive market using the same physical network. In this competitive marketplace, ISPs compete for customers and have incentives to innovate rather than simply locking out competitors with a de facto monopoly.  Continue reading