Last fall, advocates of a municipal broadband utility in Decorah, Iowa suffered a setback. The City had engaged Uptown Services to prepare a feasibility study for a fiber-to-the-home network in the northeast Iowa city of 8,127. The final report, handed to the City in the fall of 2017, reached the conclusion that a city-owned network was not feasible. The study drew criticism for a lack of detail (it consisted of a slide deck without accompanying narrative or spreadsheets showing detailed financial data). The study also did not attempt to identify a "break even" rate of penetration that is usually present in feasibility studies; it just reached a conclusion about what Decorah's take rates would likely be and advised that it wasn't feasible at those rates.
Undaunted, city leaders and the Decorah Fast Fiber citizen group have continued efforts to keep moving the project forward. Volunteers have taken the Uptown Services study apart and reconstructed the financial data needed for a better evaluation. The City is seeking consultants to provide a clearer measure of likely take rates and a business plan that could be financed. The Fast Fiber group continues to advocate through social media, pointing out that while Decorah's efforts seem to have stalled other cities in Iowa (Charles City, New Hampton, Vinton, and with its recent referendum Pella) are all moving forward.
Complicating the municipal telecommunications efforts in Decorah was the recent referendum to establish a municipal ELECTRIC utility and negotiate a purchase of Alliant Energy assets in the community. The vote was painfully close, but the official canvass found municipalization losing by 5 votes out of 2,765 votes cast. The group supporting the electric utility vote has indicated that they will ask for a recount.
On Tuesday, May 1, voters in Pella overwhelmingly approve the creation of the municipal telecommunications utility. 92% of the people who voted said yes to the referendum, with 8% voting no. Turnout was low, which is not unusual for a special election - especially one held in the midst of preparations for the annual Tulip Time festival.
Pella’s vote was the fourth telecom referendum in Iowa in the past 30 months. And while 92% seems like a high number, it was bested in Adair in 2017 (100%) and Decorah in 2015 (94%). Vinton’s referendum in 2015 generated “only” 88% voter approval, but it was the 4th attempt.
Just when you think you've seen it all...
DSL Reports relays an anecdote about a Comcast customer's interaction with a customer service rep who explained the reason the company needed to charge a $60 installation fee to upgrade from 300 Mbps to 1 Gbps service was...wait for it...because the internet would be so fast it could start a fire in the wall.
Shaking my head...
Read the full account HERE.
While community activists in Vinton and Decorah ran spirited campaigns to promote a "Yes" vote in their municipal telecom referendums in 2015, things are eerily quiet in Pella.
Voters in Pella will go to the polls next Tuesday, May 1st, to decide whether or not the city should be authorized to operate a municipal telecommunications utility. If approved by voters, the City is expected to move forward with a feasibility study this summer.
City Administrator Mike Nardini says to his knowledge there has been no campaign activity for or against the ballot issue. The only educational material that has been presented is a web page posted by the Pella Area Community and Economic Alliance (PACE).
Pella is currently served by Mediacom and Windstream.
We'll have results of the Pella referendum here on the Broadband Bytes website as soon as they are available Tuesday night or Wednesday.
Discovery Networks has announced that one of its networks will be changing names later this year.
Velocity, which was born as Discovery HD Theater in 2002, will become Motor Trend Network this fall. For more information on the change, CLICK HERE to read a story at Variety.com.
KDSM-TV, the FOX affiilate in Des Moines, is being sold as part of Sinclair Broadbcasting's required divestiture before its merger with Tribune Media. The new owners of KDSM and 8 other Sinclair stations will be Standard Media Group, LLC.
Sinclair is required to divest a station in Des Moines as part of its proposed purchase of Tribune Broadcasting, since Tribune owns NBC affiliate WHO-DT/13 and both WHO and KDSM rank in the top four in the market. KDSM does not have a news department and airs a 9 p.m. newscast produced by WHO.
For more details, CLICK HERE to read the story at the Upper Midwest Broadcasting web page.
A new product offering is usually announced with a big splash. However AT&T told the world about its plans for a new skinny bundle of services from a less likely place...a courtroom.
AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson was testifying in the antitrust trial where the US federal government is trying to block AT&T from buying Time Warner. When government litigators claimed that the merger would stifle competition, Stephensen let slip that AT&T is developing a new OTT skinny bundle called AT&T Watch. The package would include some popular programmers but NO SPORTS as a cost saving move and will be available for around $15.00 sometime in the next several weeks.
Assuming that Mr. Stephenson wouldn't fib about something like that while under oath, the possible launch of AT&T Watch bears watching.
The 2018 IAMU Fall Broadband Meeting will be held on Wednesday, September 26, 2018 at the IAMU Office and Training Complex in Ankeny. This is our traditional mid-year "check up" that provides Iowa municipal broadband providers with an opportunity to network and get caught up on new developments in the industry.
Mark your calendars now; registration materials will be coming in late summer.
The Iowa Heartland Chapter of the SCTE is offering a new training for telecom personnel who are involved in troubleshooting home networking issues. "Home Networking Challenges" will address both WiFi networking issues in the home as well as other wired protocols, including MoCA, ethernet, HomePlug, and others.
The training will be held live on May 2nd at IAMU in Ankeny and May 3rd at Kirkwood Community College in Hiawatha. Also, remote participation sites for the May 2nd training have been set up at Cedar Falls Utilities and Muscatine Power and Water.
All the registration information is available on the Iowa Heartland Chapter website at www.iowaheartlandscte.org/events--training.html
The citizens group "Campaign for DBQ Municipal Internet" presented a petition to the Dubuque City Council on April 2nd, requesting that the city fully investigate a municipal fiber network.
The petition contained over 600 signatures of Dubuque residents, frustrated by the level of service provided in the community. Mediacom is the incumbent cable provider and CenturyLink is the incumbent telephone company."
Christine Darr, one of the grassroots group organizers, says the FCC's repeal of net neutrality was a primary driver of the effort that began in late 2017. During remarks to the Dubuque City Council, Darr and others pointed out other concerns that are driving their advocacy. In particular, Campaign for DBQ Municipal Internet is urging the City to conduct a feasibility study to fully explore the benefits and costs of a network in the northeast Iowa city of around 58,000. John Swift, (right in screenshot above)a Dubuque resident and professed "internet power user", works from home. "The internet is important for me, and 2017 was a bad year for the internet," Swift told the Council, referring to the net neutrality ruling. "There simply isn't enough competition in Dubuque for me to just choose another internet provider that will protect my privacy and guarantee my content won't be throttled."
Dubuque City Manager Mike Van Milligan says city staff will conduct additional research in order to provide information to the City Council before their budget planning session this summer.
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Presented by the Community Broadband Action Network and curated by Curtis Dean.