Colorado Muni Networks Win Twin Victories at the Ballot Box!

One of the more deceitful of the telco/cableco tactics to eliminate municipal-owned broadband networks is the state-legislated local referendum asking citizens to approve these projects. Mercifully, the Colorado cities of Longmont and Centennial blew the doors off that strategy, and with barely a whimper from Comcast, a lead antagonist of that state’s public network efforts .

As Longmont discovered, these incumbent-engineered “referendum” laws cloaked in the illusion of democracy requires voter approval of even the intent to consider local government- or public utility-ownership of a broadband network. The sleight of hand at work here is this. City governments typically are the entity putting a measure to fund a broadband network on the ballot, but government officials are legally prevented from saying anything publicly in favor of the measure. Incumbents, on the other hand, can and have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars per election to defeat the initiative.

Yesterday, both Longmont and Centennial won their referendums (by 2: 1 and 3:1 margins respectively) to  control city-owned infrastructure and the means by which each city facilitates bringing better, faster broadband to constituents.

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Building the Gigabit City – My Latest Book Launches

Last week I released my first e-book, Building the Gigabit City. Enthusiasm for building broadband networks on their own or in public private partnerships is growing rapidly in communities across the U.S. But there’s so much that people need/want to know about community broadband, it’s almost impossible to bring it altogether in one place. Building the Gigabit City focuses on the needs assessment process. Do this part right and you significantly increase your odds for having a successful broadband project.

BGC smallerSuperfast broadband significantly boosts local economies, transforms education, improves healthcare delivery and increases local government efficiency. Building the Gigabit City helps you ask the right questions so you can do the same for your constituents.

Pulling valuable lessons from many of the 340 communities with successful broadband networks, this multimedia guide overflows with practical advice. Building the Gigabit City, produced in partnership with Gigabit Squared, helps rural and urban communities:

 

  1. ignore the hype surrounding gigabit networks;
  2. understand what super-fast access can and cannot do for your community;
  3. conduct effective needs assessment; and
  4. plan effective broadband strategy.

Here’s the Table of Contents

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Stemming Anti-Muni Network Tide with Economic Development Wins

Last Thursday, the forces for truth, justice and the community broadband way scored a major victory, rallying a <gasp!> bi-partisan coalition of Georgia state legislators to defeat the anti-muni broadband bill that would have left the state a broadband backwater. 94 Democrats and Republicans united to kill House Bill 282, which would have prevented municipalities from building networks anywhere incumbents offered at least 3 Mbps.

“With this vote,” states Catherine Rice, President of the SouthEast Association of Telecommunications Officers & Advisors, “Georgia has drawn a line in the sand, stating for the rest of the country that no one in the United States should be denied high speed broadband. The bipartisan majority that voted down House Bill 282 also demonstrates that having access to gigabit infrastructure is NOT a partisan issue, it is an infrastructure issue.”

Pretty amazing for a statehouse that’s locked up by the GOP. Want to know what the secret of defeating this back-assward bill was? Economic development. That’s right. The only thing that seems to counterbalance the lure of big telco bucks to vote against constituents’ best interests is the lure of potentially saving their economically frayed constituencies. I have nine success stories for you to boost your legislative efforts.

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Incumbents Try [Again] to Get Georgia State Legies to Kill Muni Broadband!

EXTRA! EXTRA! Read all about it! FCC Chair calls for a gigabit network in every state! Big telcos tell Georgia businesses and students 1.5 Mbps is plenty.

Wow.

You have to give it ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) and their state legislative handmaidens. Last year they tried to pass a Georgia law restricting the rights of municipalities to find their own best solutions to pitifully poor broadband. The full-frontal assault failed. So they changed tactics and are back again this year.

ALEC’s decided, “let’s try weasel-worded bills instead.” Bills full of soothing, innocuous words such as “level playing field,” and supported with nice sounding subterfuge such as “it only restricts investment to areas that are most needing it.”

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Small Providers in the Big Picture of FCC Broadband Initiatives

Monday I stopped by Oakland Children’s Hospital & Research Center to catch up with FCC Chairman Genachowski who was announcing the Healthcare Connect Fund (HFC), and giving a shout out to those in California who are advancing telehealth initiatives. The purpose of the HCF is to expand broadband access to healthcare providers, as well as to patients seeking healthcare services.

FCC Chairman Genachowski (l) with Children's Hospital President & CEO Dr. Bert Lubin (c) and Alex Briscoe, Dir. Alameda County Health Care Services Agency

FCC Chairman Genachowski (l) with Children’s Hospital President & CEO Dr. Bert Lubin (c) and Alex Briscoe, Dir. Alameda County Health Care Services Agency.                   Photo by Erin Goldsmith

I was fortunate to score a two-minute walking (literally) interview on the Chairman’s way to a tech demo at the hospital after his remarks. I wanted his take on an issue that ISPs (WISPs) frequently bring up, such as during this Gigabit Nation interview.

The Wireless ISP Association (WISPA) feels that FCC regulations inadvertently keep WISPs out of the broadband financing programs, such as HCF and the Connect America Fund (CAF), by heavily favoring ILEC’s at least in the first phase of these programs. I asked Chairman Genachowski if there is a way to create rules that result in more WISPs becoming a part of communities’ broadband solutions.

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An Open Letter to N Carolina Gov. Bev Perdue: Support Community Broadband

I just called North Carolina Gov. Purdue’s office to explain why passing H129 – that abomination of anti-muni network legislation – would be bad for the state and the community broadband movement nationwide – 919-733-2391. It’s your turn.

Here’s an open letter from Harvard professor and legal scholar Lawrence Lessig to Gov. Purdue. It’s worth the read.

Dear Governor Perdue:

On your desk is a bill passed by the overwhelmingly Republican North Carolina legislature to ban local communities from building or supporting community broadband networks. (H.129). By midnight tonight, you must decide whether to veto that bill, and force the legislature to take a second look.

North Carolina is an overwhelmingly rural state. Relative to the communities it competes with around the globe, it has among the slowest and most expensive Internet service. No economy will thrive in the 21st century without fast, cheap broadband, linking citizens, and enabling businesses to compete. And thus many communities throughout your state have contracted with private businesses to build their own community broadband networks.

These networks have been extraordinarily effective. The prices they offer North Carolinians is a fraction of the comparable cost of commercial network providers. The speed they offer is also much much faster.

Read the rest here. Then take action!

Day 58 – N. Carolina Broadband Battle’s Toll on Private Business

Another vote looms in another NC legislative committee that appears to be on the verge of pushing anti-muni network bill H129 a little further down the line. It’s time to rally one more effort to get on legislators’ phones and e-mail boxes. In particular, we need to involve those broadband supporters who haven’t had time to make a call yet, or are feeling just a little shy about getting on the phones.

It may be easier to get first timers to take a public step to help kill the bill if we reinforce the fact that the lack of effective broadband affects plenty of neighbors, friends and just regular folks throughout the state you don’t know, but who share the distinction of being Carolinians. Broadband is just technology, kind of cold and impersonal. But the lack of broadband that this bill will ensure has significant personal and local business consequences.

A letter was forwarded to me from Michelle Kempinski of Cedar Grove, NC who wrote to our group that’s fighting Time Warner et al tooth and nail on a daily basis. It paints a very clear picture of why we must continue this fight for as long as it takes.

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