Connections Blog

Republicans and Democrats Alike Restore Local Broadband Authority in Colorado

Reprint with permission of Muninetworks.org Nov 5 BLOG:

Yesterday, Colorado voters in three counties and five municipalities were asked whether they want to restore local government authority to build or partner for broadband networks. A 2005 law, lobbied for heavily by incumbents, prevents local municipalities from offering telecommunications services, even if they already have the infrastructure in place.

According to the law, local communities can ask voters to reclaim local authority to establish a telecommunications utility. We have seen Longmont, Montrose, and Centennial take action in prior years. InLongmont, the community has successfully established a telecommunications utility and the community is loving it.

An interesting wrinkle in Colorado is the wide support across the state – communities that vote heavily for Democrats supported local authority for municipal networks in similar numbers that those in areas voting heavily for Republicans.

In Yuma County, where approximately 85% of voters supported the GOP Senate candidate, the measure to reclaim local authority passed with 72% of the vote.  Yuma County overwhelmingly voted for the Republican candidate for Governor and every race in Yuma County went to a Republican candidate. The cities of Yuma and Wray within the County also had their own ballot initiatives to reclaim local authority; those ballot measures also passed by 72%.

Rio Blanco County’s numbers were very similar to those in Yuma County. The only exception was that their ballot question 1A on reclaiming local authority passed with 76%. Again, every race went to a Republican candidate in Rio Blanco County.

Boulder, with considerable fiber assets already in place, decided to take the possibility of using those assets to the voters this year and the voters said yes. Much like the voters in Yuma, Wray, Yuma County, and Rio Blanco County, Boulder voters approved their measure 2C by a high 83.6%. Unlike the voters in Yuma, Wray, Yuma County, and Rio Blanco County, Boulder chose to support Democratic candidates in every race. Many of those races were not close.

Approximately 80% of San Miguel County voters, another region supporting Democrats in this cycle, chose to reclaim local authority on ballot measure 1A [PDF].

If we see communities described as strongly supporting either Republican or Democratic candidates also supporting municipal network authority, it is logical that communities with mixed support of both parties would also support local authority initiatives.

Cherry Hills Village in Arapahoe County and Red Cliff in Eagle County each presented similar ballot questions to voters and both passed. Red Cliff’s results are not official as of this writing but are projected at about 60-70% and Cherry Hills Village results are around 80%. Arapahoe County voters elected a mix of Republican and Democratic candidates with some races very close. Eagle County voters also chose mixed representation.

Yesterday’s election in Colorado showed us that supporting local government authority to build or partner in fiber networks is popular across the political spectrum. Regardless of their party affiliation, they agreed that those smart decisions should be made at home, not by legislators in Denver. And if they were going to give advice to the new Congress in DC, it would probably be to restore and preserve local decision-making on this issue.

GET INVOLVED. File @ FCC  Support the Wilson & Chattanooga petitions! Tell the FCC your story on why all options should be on the table, including local communities providing their own broadband networks. Tell them your story on why you deserve modern broadband service. How to file here.

 

PALO ALTO TO FCC: SUPPORT WILSON & CHATTANOOGA PETITIONS SO NO ONE IS LEFT BEHIND

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CLIC posts this excerpt from the City of Palo Alto’s Reply Comments to provide a flavor of some of the filings in support of the Wilson/Chattanooga FCC proceeding:

“Local control of critical utility and communications infrastructure is an important principle for the City of Palo Alto. In addition to supporting the effective delivery of municipal services, this principle of local control has benefited multiple high-tech companies which have thrived in Palo Alto for many years and created the foundation for countless innovative products and services we enjoy today. In California, public entities are generally allowed to provide communications services. Since the late 1990s, the City of Palo Alto has operated a 41-mile dark fiber-optic backbone system which supports the delivery of a variety of City services, including electric, gas, water and wastewater utility services, in additional to a number of other municipal services dependent on high capacity fiber-optic communications infrastructure.  Moreover, spare capacity on the City’s dark fiber-optic backbone system is licensed to commercial firms, the public school system and other organizations in Palo Alto, which further leverages the City’s fiber-optic asset and supports ultra-high speed broadband connectivity and innovation through the community.”…

“When the rest of the world is rapidly deploying essential 21st century broadband infrastructure, all options must be on the table for our country to remain globally competitive. Removing the barriers to broadband investment and competition as requested in the Opening Comments will encourage more communities to be better positioned to enable America to maximize all resources so that no one is left behind and unable to participate in this knowledge-based global economy.”

GET INVOLVED: File your own Ex-Parte Comments.

Sample Comments HERE.

How to File HERE.

Wilson, NC on Public’s Vital Role in Deploying High Capacity Broadband

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CLIC readers should enjoy this detail from Wilson, NC’s Reply comments on the the vital role the public plays in the deployment of high capacity broadband for our country:

“…the Commission must also seek to ensure that America makes adequate progress in deploying high-capacity broadband networks. Why is this critically important? As CenturyLink candidly acknowledges in its opposition, “From an economic development, education, healthcare and public safety standpoint, fiber-based broadband is certainly in the best interest of the nation.” 4 Similarly, AT&T claims that it “shares petitioners’ desire to ensure that all Americans, including, but not limited to, those living in and around Chattanooga and Wilson, have access to world class broadband infrastructure.”5

“…Unfortunately,… the opposition does not want communities to play a significant role … According to AT&T and USTA, the Commission has a better option – it should subsidize extensions of low-bandwidth private networks through federal programs such as the Connect America Fund.6 In other words, it is fine for the federal government to subsidize low-capacity private networks, but it is inappropriate for communities to invest in their own state-of-the-art fiber networks, from which they and the Nation have so much to gain.”

The Reply comments then go on to quote Senator John McCain who, ten years ago, described what he saw as the appropriate policy framework for viewing the role of the public sector in deploying broadband networks:

“… when private industry does not answer the call because of market failures or other obstacles, it is appropriate and even commendable, for the people acting through their local governments to improve their lives by investing in their own future. In many rural towns, the local government’s high-speed Internet offering may be its citizens only option to access the World Wide Web.”

Summing it up, Wilson states:

“These words are as true today as they were in 2005. If the private sector will not provide communities the high-capacity fiber networks they need to drive and support economic development, educational opportunity, and much more, then the communities should have the right, unconstrained by incumbent-driven state laws, to do what they believe necessary to acquire such networks.” [emphasis added]

All footnote citations and these comments can be found on pages 4-6 of Wilson’s Reply Comments. Get involved! File your own ex parte comments in the Wilson/Chattanooga proceeding and tell the FCC why your community deserves modern levels of broadband and local internet choice. See here.

WHEELER ON LOCAL BROADBAND CHOICE & AMERICAN OPPORTUNITY

Chairman Wheeler

Amidst enormous applause and a final standing ovation, FCC Chairman Wheeler spoke to NATOA two weeks ago about the critical federal-local partnership that is essential for “all citizens” “to have access to robust broadband networks.” CLIC revisits this important speech and Chairman Wheeler’s focus on Lafayette’s local broadband victory to demonstrate the inherent value in local communities being able to determine their own broadband futures. Wheeler stated:

“The advantages of competition are so obvious and ingrained in the American psyche that many local communities have stepped up to facilitate it where the private sector has not. Communities are listening to the needs of their citizens and enterprises, engaging community stakeholders, and focusing on delivering competitive broadband services to respond to those needs.  As you know, two communities – Wilson, NC and Chattanooga, TN – have petitioned the FCC to preempt the laws enacted by state legislatures that prohibit them from expanding their community-owned broadband networks…. We will make our decision on those petitions on the record and on the merits. I am not going to comment on them any further.

However, I do encourage you to consider how local choice and competition can increase the broadband opportunities for your citizens. I love the story of Lafayette, Louisiana where the local incumbent fought the city’s fiber network tooth and nail, bringing multiple court challenges and triggering a local referendum on the project.  Thankfully, none of the challenges managed to prevent deployment – sixty-two percent of voters approved of the network in the referendum, and the Louisiana Supreme Court unanimously sided with the city – but they did delay deployment almost three years.  When the network was finally built, the community experienced the benefits of competition, as the local cable operator decided to upgrade its network..

…. Local choice and competition are about as American as you can get.”

CLIC encourages you to get involved and let the Commission know why communities should have the right to decide their own economic and broadband futures. Take five minutes and file ex-parte comments, as we mention here.

 

GOOGLE TO LAUNCH ITS AUSTIN GIGABITS IN DECEMBER

It’s happening! Google will launch its much anticipated, ultra-fast Google Fiber Internet service this December, according to Google officials yesterday. Austin was named Google’s second U.S. city after Kansas City to get its Google Fiber 1-gigabit service. Signups will begin in December for new users in the southern areas of Austin, according to Mark Strama, head of Google Fiber’s Austin operations.

Last year, in response to Google’s Austin announcement, Grande Communications began rolling out 1 gigabit service to its customers in February, and Time Warner Cable and AT&T announced they were going to upgrade their networks. AT&T rolled out a 300 Mbps service this summer and this week announced it had upgraded those speeds to 1 gigabit.

Public -Private partnerships like these are what local net choice is all about, where local communities can use all the resources at their fingertips to encourage the deployment of modern broadband infrastructure and choice. As FCC Chairman Wheeler stated on September 4:

“We must build on and expand the creative thinking that has gone into facilitating advanced broadband builds around the country. For example, Google Fiber’s “City Checklist” highlights the importance of timely and accurate information about and access to infrastructure, such as poles and conduit. Working together, we can implement policies at the federal, state, and local level that serve consumers by facilitating construction and encouraging competition in the broadband marketplace.”

KEEP FILING COMMENTS FOR THE WILSON/CHATTANOOGA FCC PETITIONS — JUST MARK THEM “EX-PARTE”

Pencil photoYou can continue filing comments in the FCC Wilson (14-115) and Chattanooga  (14-116) proceedings! Until the Commission closes its “Sunshine Period,” the public can continue to file comments as long as they are marked “Ex-Parte” on the document. See our instructions on how to do this for quick “Express” comments or for longer “Expert” comments here. You can write about your personal broadband need story, a statement of support for the Wilson and Chattanooga Petitions, or respond to some of the Comments or Reply Comments posted here (by typing next to the prompt for “Proceeding” the number 14-115 for Wilson or 14-116 for Chattanooga.) All the submissions pop up for your reading pleasure. A sample format, if you are using the format of a letter for your Ex-Parte comments, can be found here.

FILE YOUR REPLY COMMENTS BY MONDAY FOR THE WILSON/CHATTANOOGA PETITIONS

We encourage CLIC members to get involved. Take five minutes and file an “Express” comment at the FCC website here for proceedings 14-115 (Wilson) and 14-116 (Chattanooga EPB), with your personal broadband need story or just a statement of support for the Wilson and Chattanooga Petitions, found here. You also can file longer support documents through “Expert” reply comments. Click here for How To File Reply Comments.

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If you miss Monday’s midnight deadline, you can file “ex-parte” comments until the Commission closes the sunshine period. More on this next week.

 

CLIC Welcomes Netflix’s Chris Libertelli to Our Board of Advisors

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On September 18, 2014, Chris Libertelli officially joined CLIC’s Board of Advisors.  Mr. Libertelli has been Vice President of Global Public Policy at Netflix since December 2011.  During his time at Netflix, he has been a champion for a variety of internet policy issues including efforts to increase competition among internet providers.  Prior to joining Netflix, Mr. Libertelli managed Skype’s government relations programs in the U.S., Canada, and Latin America.

Netflix has been a strong and consistent supporter of local internet choice.  Click here to read the comments Netflix submitted to the FCC in support of Wilson, NC and Chattanooga EPB’s petitions.

CLIC extends a warm welcome to Mr. Libertelli.  We look forward to the outstanding contributions he will bring to our Board.

THE INTERNET ASSOCIATION FILES AT FCC IN SUPPORT OF LOCAL NET CHOICE

The Internet Association  represents the interests of America’s leading Internet companies and their global community of users, including: Airbnb, Amazon, AOL, eBay, Expedia, Facebook, Gilt, Google, IAC, LinkedIn, Lyft, Monster Worldwide, Netflix, Practice Fusion, Rackspace, reddit, Salesforce.com, SurveyMonkey, TripAdvisor, Twitter, Uber Technologies, Inc., Yelp, Yahoo!, and Zynga.  On Friday, this noteworthy association filed comments in support of the Wilson, NC and Chattanooga petitions requesting the FCC to preempt their state laws which inhibit the deployment of broadband networks.

The Internet Association called on the agency to implement pro-consumer policies to bring faster and better broadband service to all Americans, promote competition and choice in the broadband market, and protect an open Internet:

“The Internet is an indispensable tool that is necessary to stay competitive globally, and the Commission has a mandate to ensure the deployment of advanced broadband services nationwide,” said Michael Beckerman, President and CEO of The Internet Association. “Access to high speed Internet service is not a luxury in today’s economy. It is a necessity. Policymakers must encourage broadband abundance and ensure high speed Internet service is deployed everywhere.”

“The Commission is right to carefully examine state laws adopted to prevent a local government from creating a high speed broadband service, especially in municipalities that are underserved. As stated above, in conducting its assessment, the Commission should carefully examine not only whether these state laws are standing in the way of deployment of broadband into new areas, but whether they are impeding the deployment of truly advanced services.”

Get involved. File your Reply comments by September 29, 2014, under “Submit a Filing” or “Submit a Filing (Express)” found here. The dockets are 14-115 (Wilson) and 14-116 (Chattanooga).

 

CLIC Commends Chairman Wheeler for Recognizing the Importance of Local Net Choice

Once again, CLIC thanks FCC Chairman Wheeler for his recognition of the importance of local Internet choice embedded in two separate letters responding to Congressmen who wrote him on the issue of FCC preemption of state anti-competitive broadband laws.

On July 22, 2014, Chairman Wheeler responded to various questions posed in a letter dated June 12, 2014, from Rep. Blackburn (R-TN) and other House Republicans asking why he would preempt anticompetitive state broadband laws. He began by recognizing the critical importance of local Internet choice and FCC’s obligations under the Communications Act:

“…Around the country, communities have focused on the importance of ensuring that their citizens receive the benefits of broadband, and some have concluded that investing in their own broadband efforts — or authorizing others to invest in their behalf — will provide more competition and the economic and social benefits that accompany competition for their residents and businesses. Section 706 of the Communications Act charges the Federal Communications Commission with ensuring that broadband is being deployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely fashion. I believe that competition is a strong means to that critical goal.”

Again on August 11, the Chairman responded to a bi-cameral letter of June 27, 2014, from Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) Ranking Member of the House Energy and Commerce committee, and other House and Senate Democrats. Chairman Wheeler emphasized that he was “heartened” by their “support for community broadband” and their “recognition of the vital importance of robust broadband to our country as a whole, and to smaller communities in particular.” He noted how “some [communities] have concluded that investing in their own broadband effort will provide more competition,” “economic” and “social benefits,” and yet “many states have enacted laws that place a range of restrictions on communities’ ability to invest in their own future.” While recognizing “the important role of state governments in our federal system,” he noted that “state laws that directly conflict with critical federal laws and policy may be subject to preemption in appropriate circumstances.”

Throughout both letters, Chairman Wheeler made it clear that such issues are not to be “taken lightly” but warrant “careful consideration of all relevant and policy issues.” He pledged that there would be an “open proceeding” to ensure “the fullest opportunity for comment” and evaluation of “all relevant factual, policy and legal issues.”

CLIC encourages the public to file such comments in this critical proceeding, and provided sample comments and instructions on how to file at the FCC HERE. Comments are due August 29, Reply Comments on September 29.