A recent report by the Institute for Local Self Reliance in Minnesota points out the problems with the FCC's National Broadband Map.
The National Broadband Map, based on Form 477 information submitted by ISP's, has come under fire across the industry as painting a much more rosy picture of broadband availability than actually exists. The ILSR report narrows its focus to a defined geographical area around Rochester, Minnesota to show just how bad the federal statistics are.
The report's findings are not at all surprising. Spend a few minutes on the FCC's map and you'll start to notice numerous discrepencies, likely caused by errors on Form 477 as submitted by ISP's or as inputted by FCC staff. For example, does anyone really believe that Lenox Municipal Utilities has fiber-to-the-home in a 4 square block area of Pella, Iowa (just one of the discrepencies your author has scratched his head about when looking at the map)?
Hat's off to Christopher Mitchell and his team at ISLR for their continued hard work at supporting community broadband and helping cut through the noise of self-promotion that large ISP's have created.
Vinton Municipal Utilities (VMU) has reached an important milestone in their efforts to explore a municipal fiber utility.
At a special Board of Trustees meeting on August 16th, Vinton approved a motion to hire FARR Technologies to conduct engineering and design of the fiber network and to prepare plans and specifications to seek construction bids. The design work will be completed around December 1st and Vinton is hoping to get bids on the project in December and January.
88% of Vinton voters approved a municipal telecom referendum in November 2015. After FARR completed a feasibility study in 2017, VMU continued their due diligence by conducting a community-wide survey and issuing an RFI for possble partners. Those efforts reinforced the feasibility study's showing that a project in Vinton is feasible. The preliminary cost estimate for a GPON FTTH network in Vinton was $8.9 million.
:The Federal Communications Commission recently released an Order and Report on pole attachments that may have an impact on municipal electric and telecommunications utilities. Included in the order were "One Touch Make Ready" rules designed to allow quicker deployment of new telecommunications cables on existing poles.
The second action taken by the FCC is a Declatory Order to prohibit express and de facto moratoria imposed by state and local governments on applications and permits to deploy wireless or wireline telecommunications services and/or facilities. According to Jim Baller with Baller Stokes & Lide, PC,
"The wireless industry has mounted a major campaign in Congress, at the FCC, in state legislatures, and at the local level to clamp down on traditional state and local management of public rights of way and facilities. We’re doing our best to push back in each of these arenas, and we’ll keep you informed of significant developments. "
Consumer Reports has released the results of its 2018 survey on satisfaction with telecommunications companies. And incumbent providers in Iowa are all at the back of the pack.
When it comes to cable TV companies, Mediacom came in last out of 25 providers with a customer satisfaction rating of 57/100. And according to CR, this is not .unusual
Joining Spectrum and Optimum at the bottom of the ratings were CenturyLink, SuddenLink Communications, Atlantic Broadband, Frontier Communications, and Mediacom, a perennial last-place finisher. (emphasis added)
The news was a bit better for Mediacom in the ratings for internet providers...but not by much. In fact, all of the large incumbent ISP's with a presence in Iowa fell toward the bottom of the rankings.
At the top of the Consumer Reports ratings for internet service providers? SURPRISE...the nation's largest municipal provider!
Top-rated EPB, a municipal broadband service run as a public utility in Chattanooga, Tenn., was one of the few bright spots for internet service. It was the only company to receive a top mark for value. It also got top marks for speed and reliability.
Of course Iowa has a sizeable quantity of municipal providers, but none are large enough to s
show up in the CR rankings.
The fate of the Fox regional sports networks (RSN's) could have a big impact on cable TV operators nationwide.
One thing we do know: in order to smooth regulatory approval of its purchase of Fox, Disney has agreed to sell the 22 RSN's, home to 44 professional teams as well as countless college athletic contests. According to a report at Bloomberg, possible new owners could include both traditional broadcasting conglomerates such as Sinclair Broadcast Group (likely feeling a bit miffed by Tribune's recent rejection of their merger), a "new media" company such as YouTube (owned by Google) or Amazon, or a buyout firm of investors. Or, you could see some combination of new owners, including the potential for some professional teams to buy back their own RSN and run it themselves. This last option is apparently being explored by the Chicago Cubs when their agreement with NBC Sports Chicago expires.
A final unknown: the impact of carriage availability and costs for cable operators.
In March, a new organization was launched to help communities that are trying to bring better broadband to their citizens. It's not just about talk, it's about action.
The Community Broadband Action Network (CBAN) was established to provide a collaborative network and marketplace for communities, community-based broadband providers, and solutions providers. CBAN’s goal is to provide pathways for successful action by enabling communities to:
The Community Quandry
Many communities find themselves with broadband services that are not meeting their citizens' needs. Incumbent providers are too big or profit driven to address concerns over reliability, availability, speed, and other shortcomings. The challenge they face is how to improve broadband, which has become an absolute necessity for community growth and development in the 21st century.
Advocates and community leaders who want to solve this challenge are usually left to their own initiative to determine where to start and, once beginning the process, where to go next.
CBAN was founded by Curtis Dean, Todd Kielkopf, and Jon Anne Willow to assist these communities by:
CBAN offers free membership to communities and advocates seeking solutions for better broadband in their communities.
Communities and Providers - Natural Allies
Natural allies exist in today's broadband landscape...communities with broadband challenges and existing community-based broadband providers. Although the business models vary - from municipal utilities to independent telecommunications companies, cooperatives, and mutuals - they share the common focus of serving their communities to the best of their abilities.
Community-based providers can benefit from working with the "have not" communities that are striving for solutions. These collaborative efforts can take many forms, including joint ownership, joint operations, wholesale relationships, and others.
CBAN offers free membership to community-based providers who are interested in partnering or collaborating with communities that are looking for better broadband.
Vendors - Connecting The Dots
At some point in the process of evaluating their options for better broadband, communities will need services from the experts that provide consulting services, construction, technology, software, and other needed resources. That's where CBAN's Vendor Membership enters the picture.
Companies who provide these services are always trying to identify where their next opportunity will be coming from. Not knowing where communities are in their process means that these solutions providers unnecessarily spend time and efforts contacting community leaders who are not in a position to work with them.
CBAN's Vendor Membership allows these companies to become part of an ecosystem that will help grow their business in the municipal market.
Questions about CBAN? Give me a call or drop an email!
It's been a crazy summer for your humble author of Broadband Bytes.
I'm not complaining, it's a GOOD kind of crazy. Between providing assistance for several municipal broadband projects and helping launch the Community Broadband Action Network, I've been neglecting my Broadband Bytes duties, and for that I apologize.
However, it's a new month, so its time to get back on the broadband bike and pedal into the future!
Broadband Bytes News
Presented by the Community Broadband Action Network and curated by Curtis Dean.