Bills, legislation, and ordinances

Bill amendments threaten community economic development

Submitted by acohill on Tue, 07/15/2014 - 11:26

From a very knowledgeable source:


"I learned yesterday that there are some amendments that will likely be offered to an appropriations bill in Washington that can further erode local authority for munis. I want to let you know about it, in the hopes that you will spread the word and contact your D.C. Reps. The amendments are expected Today or Wednesday so it is important we call members ASAP.


Right now, it is thought that Rep Blackburn from Tennessee will offer it. It is rumored to be an amendment that either restricts the FCC from preempting state anti-muni laws or just bans them outright.


We need to stop this from passing to avoid a snow ball effect that can set back the drive for local authority.


It is especially critical that communities with networks or those working toward investment contact their Reps' D.C. offices and tell them that Congress should not restrict the FCC. We need to contact them ASAP to let them know that the amendment is bad for local economies, education, savings, etc. and that the FCC should not have its authority limited in any way at this time.


Please let them know the implications and consequences if this moves forward. Please pass this on so we can reach more people."

FCC Chair Tom Wheeler argues for community-owned broadband

Submitted by acohill on Thu, 06/12/2014 - 08:48

The FCC has posted an article by Tom Wheeler, the FCC Chair. In it, Wheeler discusses the benefits that Chattanooga's municipal Gigabit fiber network has brought to the region, especially with respect to dramatic improvements in economic development and jobs creation. If you take the time to read it, the comments are just as interesting, as some folks local to Chattanooga argue with an ISP about the role of local government in telecom.

The fight over who controls broadband

Submitted by acohill on Tue, 06/10/2014 - 09:20

This article has a good short summary of the battle over broadband. There are many players, including the FCC, Congress, the incumbents, the states, and local communities. The incumbent cable and telephone providers want their monopoly/oligarchy status protected, preferably by legislation. The FCC has the difficult task of reconciling user interests with industry interests, and is mulling over the idea of redefining "broadband," which almost certainly won't turn out well. The definition of broadband is vague today but that vagueness has enabled a flood of innovation in telecommunications, with a myriad of new services and industry disruptions. Codifying "broadband" will likely produce a stifling of new services and businesses, and could damage local economic development if it becomes more difficult for communities to get the telecom infrastructure they need to retain existing businesses and to attract new ones.

FCC may move to knock down state laws banning muni broadband

Submitted by acohill on Thu, 05/01/2014 - 09:39

FCC head Tom Wheeler says the FCC may move to preempt state laws that make it difficult or impossible for local governments to create competitive broadband networks.

It is good news that the FCC is beginning to more openly support competitive municipal projects, but we will have to wait and see if this actually has any real effect. There is going to be pushback from some states, and there will be vigorous lobbying by the incumbents at both the state and Federal level to stall this initiative.

Showdown and slowdown in Kansas over muni broadband

Submitted by acohill on Thu, 02/06/2014 - 10:22

An old friend of mine once remarked, "In Texas, we have the best laws money can buy." Apparently, folks in Kansas can make the same statement, as a blatantly anti-muni broadband bill was introduced in the legislature last week. The bill was so stringent that it would have made the Kansas City/Google deal impossible, which is a good example of a public/private partnership that brings a lot of benefit to the residents and businesses of the city.

But the Internet exploded, and the bill has been tabled for the time being." You do have to give Kansas Senator Julia Lynn some credit for honesty, as she remarked, ""I visited with industry representatives, and they have agreed to spend some time gathering input before we move forward with a public hearing," she said."

At least she is not shy about admitting that the incumbents are telling her what to do, rather than the citizens that she supposedly represents.

These kinds of bills are going to continue to pop up, because the incumbents have been successful in states like North Carolina, where a slightly less stringent bill was passed about three years ago.

I remain an optimist in spite of these attacks on communities, because there are ways to get Gigabit networks into communities even if the state legislature has made it difficult to do so. Over at WideOpen Networks, we're already well on the way to solving this problem for good.

Net Neutrality court decision: No telling how this will turn out

Submitted by acohill on Wed, 01/29/2014 - 11:03

A couple of weeks ago, a U.S. Appeals Court told the FCC that their net neutrality rule was invalid. This has caused a huge debate among broadband industry folks about what comes next. The court ruling hinges on the way the FCC categorizes services like TV, phone, and Internet as either a "telecommunications service" or an "information service." To make things even more complicated, the FCC definition of "common carrier" also factors into the rules.

I have read at least two dozen opinions about what all this means, and I have yet to see even one address what I think is the core problem: the FCC is trying to make rules about Internet use based on two definitions (information service, telecommunications service) developed decades ago when cable TV was based on a technology completely different from voice telephone service.

When we can deliver literally hundreds of services from competing providers over a single fiber strand to a customer, why are we trying to make rules based on outmoded and antiquated service classifications.

I have always been a contrarian with respect to net neutrality; despite protests from the incumbents over the FCC's net neutrality rules, I have always thought the incumbents were the biggest beneficiary of net neutrality, as it makes it more difficult to build a business case for a competitive network in a community. There is going to be some pain associated with migrating away from the current de facto incumbent monopolies that exist in most communities today. Better to get it over with sooner rather than later, and get more businesses and residents connected to a truly competitive fiber network, rather than trying to prop up the incumbents.

FCC net neutrality rules overturned....the Internet is not going to fill with tollgates

Submitted by acohill on Wed, 01/15/2014 - 17:17

This CNet article is one of the best summaries of the foofaraw over the FCC net neutrality reversal.

I have always been a contrarian on this issue. The big fear is that if the incumbents are free to charge differential pricing for different kinds of content, content will get more expensive. The classic example, which is used in the article, is that Comcast or Verizon will charge subscribers $10 a month more to access Netflix or Youtube because those services use so much bandwidth.

My response is "So? They are running a business. They should be able to charge whatever they want. If they price their service too high, a truly open market will introduce competition and they will a) lose customers, or b) lower prices."

Now this is where some people will start grumbling about incumbent use of public right of way and the obligation of right of way users to be "fair."

If Comcast raises their prices on their old-fashioned copper infrastructure, it might create the right market conditions for a new company to lay fiber...in the right of way...and provide a better service at lower cost. Net Neutrality, as currently conceived, benefits the incumbents more than it hurts them by discouraging "true" pricing and thereby limiting competition. I suspect that the incumbents find it useful street theatre to complain about net neutrality but actually like it. It keeps the riff-raff start ups out of their markets.

Do Not Track spat heats up

Submitted by acohill on Tue, 07/24/2012 - 12:50

The Do Not Track fight is heating up, with the big Web sites like Google and Facebook firmly opposed to the idea that they should not be allowed to track where consumers go and what they do online. The Federal government is threatening legislation that will require Web sites to allow an opt out option. It is a dilemma, as sites like Yahoo!, Google, Bing, and others make their money in large part by using tracking data to sell ads.

I think it is past time to let users make their own decisions about this. The idea that we can't use the Internet unless we give up all our privacy is an odd, even malicious one. Certainly business models will have to adjust, and we may have to pay for some services that were formerly free. But the problem is that right now, there is no such thing as a "free" service; it is just that the cost (giving up privacy) is obscured, tilting the business transaction in favor of the seller, rather than a more equitable balance between sellers and buyers.

South Carolina to businesses: Stay away--we have lousy broadband and high prices

Submitted by acohill on Fri, 06/08/2012 - 07:37

Following the success of getting legislators to outlaw competitive broadband in North Carolina, incumbents are busy trying to outlaw competition in South Carolina. That legislators would agree to support legislation that so obviously anti-business, anti-growth, and anti-jobs is baffling. Surely it is not that hard to raise campaign funds that legislators would vote against jobs and economic development. Stop the Cap! has the whole story.

Virginia wants data centers

Submitted by acohill on Thu, 05/31/2012 - 09:05

The Virginia state legislature has passed bills providing new incentives to locate data centers in Virginia. The rapid adoption of Software as a Service (SaaS) and cloud-based data and services is creating demand for places to put all the data. And with data centers, there are jobs:


“With his signature on this legislation, Governor McDonnell has further positioned Loudoun County as a world class location for the data center industry’s leading operators,” Loudoun County Chamber President & CEO Tony Howard said. “The Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce fought hard for this legislation because it will provide our County a powerful new competitive advantage that can be used to generate significant new commercial investments and create many new high-paying jobs that will be needed to build, service and operate these high tech data centers.

North Carolina called a "tech turkey"

Submitted by acohill on Mon, 04/09/2012 - 09:47

The Institute for Self Reliance has put out an interesting infographic highlighting the mis-match in North Carolina between the City of Salisbury's tiny fiber network and TimeWarner. State legislators passed a bill last year that essentially outlaws any community investments in fiber on the theory that TimeWarner needs to be protected against the supposed unfair advantage of local governments. My guess is that all the North Carolina legislators accomplished is to send entrepreneurs contemplating relocation to another state.

Georgia Legislature: Let's drive businesses out of the state!

Submitted by acohill on Mon, 01/30/2012 - 15:39

Via MuniNetworks, some Georgia legislators are getting substantial campaign contributions from the incumbent telephone and cable providers to pass a law making it illegal for communities to create competitive broadband infrastructure. The big win in North Carolina last year, where the legislature did pass such a law, has spurred similar efforts in Georgia and South Carolina.

SOPA and PIPA meet OPEN

Submitted by acohill on Mon, 01/23/2012 - 11:48

The truly awful SOPA and PIPA bills have been stalled, but Rep. Darrell Issa of California has introduced OPEN, the Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade Act, in the House. OPEN has been written more narrowly to target only offshore counterfeit and bootleg sites, and does not give the Federal government the expansive powers to arbitrarily shut down any site; SOPA and PIPA managed to eliminate both due process and free speech in a single bill.

If you click through to this article to get more information, the interesting stuff is at the end, where writer indicates that the bigger picture is that Silicon Valley (i.e. Internet techies) are really in a war with Hollywood (i.e. 20th century film and TV distribution models). The Internet is enabling lots of competition with the traditional Hollywood film and TV studios and distribution companies, and SOPA and PIPA were going to help shut down any perceived competition.

I do not think it is quite that convenient a meme. Instead, I think Hollywood is at war with itself, and right now, the dinosaurs of that industry still have the upper hand. Movie and TV content producers and developers that embrace new distribution forms (which the dinosaurs don't like) have much to gain.

But as I have been saying for years, traditional TV is already dead. Hollywood is still in denial.

SOPA and PIPA: Get ready for the Net Police

Submitted by acohill on Wed, 01/18/2012 - 09:42

Major sites on the Internet are displaying either a black banner (e.g. Google) or are completely blacked out, meaning there is no access to site content today (e.g. Wikipedia). The two bills (SOPA is the House version, PIPA is the Senate version) are appallingly bad, as they toss due process out the window and give unelected bureaucrats the right to shut down any site in the U.S. without any actual proof of a copyright violation--all that is needed is an unfounded accusation. But wait! Like a Ginzu knife ad, there is more! If the site is hosted outside the U.S., and many, if not most of the actual counterfeit and bootleg content sites are, bureaucrats can order every single U.S. Web site to remove all links to the offending site.

Really? Really?

How?

This is what has been missing in the whole SOPA discussion: enforcement. If SOPA is passed, the Federal government will have to create a whole new bureaucracy--let's call it what is is, the U.S. Bureau of Net Police. The Net Police will be responsible for swooping down on bloggers, business Web sites, community network-supported discussion boards, and all sorts of other entirely innocent and useful Web sites and forcing them to remove links. How will they do this, you ask? Well, my guess is they will start with enormous fines, say $1,000/day for each offending link, and if you aren't quick enough, Net Police SWAT teams will show up, toss a few flash bang grenades through your door, confiscate anything that looks like computer, arrest you, and toss you in jail. All because your Quilting Club site accidentally linked to some offshore site selling bootleg fabric.

But don't worry...lawmakers have assured us that this is not the "intent" of the law. So what could go wrong?

FCC proposes new universal service fund approach

Submitted by acohill on Mon, 11/28/2011 - 14:27

Fred Pilot of Eldo Telecom writes about the proposed changes to the Universal Service Fund, which would now be called the "Connect America Fund." At first glance, this does not appear to make it easy for community-owned broadband projects to tap this money.

Is the telecom lobby killing municipal and community broadband?

Submitted by acohill on Tue, 11/08/2011 - 09:01

The Atlantic Cities has a very well researched article on the recent vote for muni broadband in Longmont, Colorado and the broader push by some of the incumbents to lobby for state laws that effectively outlaw community broadband projects and indirectly grant the incumbents a monopoly on telecom. Read the whole thing.

Longmont, Colorado votes YES on community broadband

Submitted by acohill on Wed, 11/02/2011 - 08:46

The citizens and the City of Longmont, Colorado have been engaged in a long running battle with the incumbent providers over the right of the City to build its own broadband infrastructure. In a referendum held on Tuesday, it appears that by a two to one margin, the referendum has passed. Chris Mitchell at Muni Networks has an excellent summary of the effort.

Daily Yonder: Will revised USF rules benefit rural communities?

Submitted by acohill on Wed, 10/19/2011 - 08:39

The Daily Yonder has a great piece on the challenges rural communities face in getting adequate broadband services. It is a fairly long article, but worth a complete read because there are really two stories in it. The first is how a locally owned service provider was forced out of business by an incumbent, to the detriment of the community and local economic development. The second part of the story is the proposed new rules for the Universal Service Fund (USF). The USF money can be tapped by incumbent phone companies to expand service, but many of them are writing off, selling off, or limiting investment in rural parts of their service territories. The USF money ought to be available to both incumbents and communities that want to make broadband infrastructure investments. Citizens and businesses pay, via taxes, for the USF, and to deny communities the right to use their own money to improve their economic circumstances is troubling. Let's hope the new rules level the playing field for access to those funds.

USF reform may not have desired impact

Submitted by acohill on Sun, 07/31/2011 - 10:26

Eldo Telecom has an excellent critique of the proposed USF reform. My concern with any USF reform is that it should allow community-owned broadband efforts access to USF funds. There is no reason why a community that builds its own open access infrastructure should be forced to channel their portion of USF funds to legacy networks.

End of the world: NC governor refuses to veto anti-broadband bill

Submitted by acohill on Mon, 05/23/2011 - 08:29

Governor Perdue of North Carolina has indicated that she will not veto the anti-community, anti-economic development, anti-jobs, anti-rural anti-broadband bill recently passed by the North Carolina legislature. Instead, she will signal her "displeasure" by allowing it to become law without signing it.

This may not be the end of the world, but it is certainly a catastrophe, first and foremost for rural communities in North Carolina, who have been thrown under the bus by their own representatives, and second for other states and rural communities in the U.S. Expect that the incumbents, emboldened by this success in North Carolina, will try to purchase more laws in other states.

For those that remain unconvinced this is a problem, read this letter from a major North Carolina high tech software firm (the hugely successful Red Hat Linux). Here is the bottom line from the article:


"...One of the most difficult and expensive line-items in this multi-million dollar project was securing a broadband link to the site in rural Chatham County. I spent more than two years begging Time Warner to sell me a service that costs 50x more than it should, and that's after I agreed to pay 100% of the installation costs for more than a mile of fiber. .... Community broadband initiatives reach more people faster, at lower costs, leading to better economic development. Take it from me: had I been able to spend the time and money on community broadband that I spent in my commercial negotiations, there would be more jobs in Chatham County today."

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