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Georgia State Plan, New Bills in Alabama, and Launch in Loveland, Colorado

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Approximately 1.6 million residents of rural Georgia currently lack high-speed internet access, but this could change under a new state broadband plan (PDF) released this month, AJC reported. According to Georgia officials, this will have a major impact on schools, hospitals, farmers, and more.

The plan requires the government to map areas in the state that do not have fast connections so that they can be targeted for future funding. However, less than one percent of the funding that would be required the wire the state has currently been approved.

AT&T Spokesman Riley Blount called the plan “an important first step to map the current state of broadband in Georgia,” although he acknowledged that there are still key details left to be resolved.

Alabama bills

Last week, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey signed two bills related to broadband, Yellow Hammer News reported. HB 400, or the Broadband Using Electric Easements Accessibility Act, allows the use of broadband capabilities within electric easements. SB 90 expands the Alabama Broadband Accessibility Fund by lowering eligibility for grant funding and broadening state support

“Small businesses all across the state can now expect a fair shot at the global economy,” said Speaker Mac McCutcheon. “It is an exciting time for the education community, entrepreneurs, for rural health workers and patients who will have access to advances in telemedicine and for our farmers who will benefit immensely from broadband.”

More than 840,000 Alabamians currently lack access to broadband, primarily in rural areas. Studies have demonstrated that increased broadband penetration is closely linked to economic growth.

Loveland, Colorado, launch

On Thursday, the city of Loveland, Colorado, launched a broadband internet initiative to bring affordable and fast connections to the entire city, reported the Denver Post. Starting in September, construction will start on installing fiber optics in front of every house and business in Loveland.

The launch follows six years of thorough planning, and City Councilor John Fogle called it “one of the biggest decisions City Council and city staff have made in the history of Loveland.”

The city has historically had great difficulty with internet connectivity. In 2013, an online standardized testing platform crashed, forcing administration staff to work from home. The new high-speed internet will allow the district to offer new classes in technology and robotics.

(Photo for AJC by Jenna Eason.)

Development Associate Emily McPhie studied communication design and writing at Washington University in St. Louis, where she was a managing editor for campus publication Student Life. She is a founding board member of Code Open Sesame, an organization that teaches computer skills to underprivileged children in six cities across Southern California.

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Fear of Big Tech in Auto Industry, Montana Hires Lightbox, USTelecom Hires Media Affairs Director

Technology advocacy groups are concerned about big technology companies entering the auto industry.

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Montana Governor Greg Gianforte

January 26, 2022 – A letter signed by nearly 30 technology advocacy groups and sent to government and agency officials Tuesday is warning of the dangers of tech companies entering the automobile industry, The Hill reports.

“Make no mistake: The expansion of Google, Amazon, Apple, and Facebook into the auto sector spells trouble for workers and consumers…As automation expands, these [auto workers] jobs are at risk and Big Tech cannot be trusted to lead that transition,” the letter said, according to the report.

Recipients of the letter signed by the likes of the American Economic Liberties Project and Demand Progress include Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, and Federal Trade Commission Chairwoman Lina Khan.

The Hill also reports that the groups are concerned about the treatment and usage of data and private information if these big technology companies do successfully expand their reach.

The letter comes as lawmakers and government agencies wrestle with what to do about the future of antitrust.

Montana is taking mapping matters into their own hands

Montana’s Department of Administration said Monday that is has hired location analytics company Lightbox to build a statewide broadband map, following in the footsteps of Georgia and Alabama in getting ahead of federal efforts to improving insight into what areas are underserved.

“The completed map will provide a detailed analysis of current broadband service levels throughout Montana while protecting proprietary data and will be used for allocating $266 million to unserved and underserved communities throughout Montana,” a press release said.

“Lightbox is a proven national leader in cost effective and efficient detailed mapping for state level broadband programs,” said Department of Administration Director Misty Ann Giles in the release. “This platform will serve as a key component to help ConnectMT reach its goal of deploying broadband throughout Montana to bridge the digital divide.”

Montana, which began searching for a data platform in October, is listed on data platform BroadbandNow as the worst state for broadband coverage and access, according to a November report.

USTelecom hires new senior director of media affairs and digital engagement

USTelecom, an association that represents telecom-related businesses, announced Wednesday the appointment of Emma Christman to senior director of media affairs and digital engagement.

Christman is joining the USTelecom communications team after working as the director of external affairs and engagement at Glen Echo Group. While there, USTelecom says she provided “a range of clients strategic counsel, content creation, media outreach and other services.”

Prior to her time at Glen Echo Group, Christman worked at Dewey Square Group as a senior associate and at Mobile Future as a community outreach director.

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AT&T Speeds Tiers, Wisconsin Governor on Broadband Assistance, Broadband as Public Utility

AT&T now has a 5 gigabit speeds for residential and business customers in 70 additional markets.

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Governor Tony Evers
Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers

January 25, 2022 – AT&T announced Monday the launch of symmetrical 2-gigabit and 5-gigabit residential and business broadband services to over 70 US markets.

The speed packages come with unlimited data with no additional equipment fees and don’t require annual contracts. The monthly price for the 2-Gig service is $110 per month for residential, or $225 per month for businesses, and the 5-Gig package is $180 per month for residential or $395 per month for businesses.

AT&T also boasts that it has reached 10-Gig speeds in the lab, but have yet to roll it out to customers.

Wisconsin governor encourages residents to apply for broadband assistance

Governor Tony Evers on Monday encouraged residents to apply for the Affordable Connectivity Program, a program that was administered by the Federal Communications Commission late last year and acts as an extension of the Emergency Broadband Benefit program.

According to BroadbandNow data, in Wisconsin, only about 20 percent of the estimated 650,000 eligible households were enrolled in the program, which represents approximately 1.6 million people and provides discounts of up to $30 a month for eligible households and up to $75 a month for homes on tribal lands.

Eligible households are also able to receive a one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet.

The FCC on Friday adopted new rules for the program, which includes limiting the subsidy to one per households to get more homes connected and making it easier for providers, who collect the money, to qualify for the upgraded program.

U.S. Senate candidate calls for broadband to be considered public utility

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Sarah Godlewski published Tuesday a plan that included a call for a push to make broadband a public utility.

Currently, 173,000 Wisconsinites do not have access to any internet provider, and 836,000 Wisconsinites only have access to one provider.

Godlewski promised that if she is elected to the Senate, she would “engage” and “ensure that Washington politicians finally start hearing Wisconsin’s rural voices.”

“In the 21st century, broadband internet access can no longer be treated as a luxury. [Goldewski] wants to make the internet a public utility in order to provide everyone in Wisconsin with guaranteed access to reliable and affordable internet service,” a Tuesday press release said.

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New Multitenant Proposal Praised, Dutch Fine Apple, Cameron Comms Expands in Louisiana

Associations including INCOMPAS and WISPA applaud new multitenant proposal.

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Apple CEO Time Cook

January 24, 2022 – Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel‘s proposal Friday to impose new rules that would ban some, but stopped short of other, exclusivity agreements between internet service providers and multitenant units is being lauded by some.

The proposal would ban exclusive revenue sharing agreements, in which the landlord gets a share of service provider contracts; require providers disclose to tenants “in plain language” the existence of exclusive marketing arrangements; and clarifies rules to allow for multiple service providers to use building wires to deliver service. The proposal will now go to a vote by the commission.

“For far too long monopolies have locked out broadband competition and blocked faster speeds, lower prices, and better service to a hundred million Americans who live in apartments and condo buildings. We are encouraged to hear that Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel has taken action to move forward on an Order in the proceeding,” Chip Pickering, CEO of Internet and Competitive Networks Association (INCOMPAS), said in a statement.

“We look forward to working with Chairwoman Rosenworcel and the entire FCC to forge a bipartisan decision that will enable every customer to choose their broadband provider and will lead to more competition bringing faster speeds, better customer service, and lower prices.”

In its own statement Monday, the Wireless Internet Service Provider Association applauded the proposal. “WISPA members have long-sought to open up the underserved Multi-Dwelling/Multi-Tenant marketplace to more providers,” the statement said. “We believe that the Chairwoman’s work represents great forward progress on the matter, which, when completed, should help consumers experience better and more affordable offerings for their broadband services.”

In submissions to the FCC late last year, housing and public interest groups urged the agency to ban all forms of exclusivity agreements, including marketing and revenue sharing arrangements, that they said lessened service provider competition for tenants.

Dutch antitrust authorities fine Apple

Dutch antitrust authorities have fined Apple €5 million after the company failed to adhere to an order to support third-party, alternative payment systems.

The Authority for Consumer Markets issued the fine on Monday a little more than a week after Apple said it would comply with the body’s order on Jan. 15; the ACM maintains Apple failed to comply. Apple was originally ordered to make changes back in December.

Though Apple is appealing the fine, according to Reuters, ACM said that the company would face weekly fines beginning at €5 million, going up to €50 million.

This comes after a slew of alleged antitrust violations levied against Apple in both the United States and European Union.

Cameron Communications expands in Louisiana

American Broadband Holding Company subsidiary Cameron Communications announced Monday its expansion into Westlake, Louisiana where it will deploy fiber-to-the-premises services and gigabit speeds for both residents and businesses.

The expansion into Westlake is a part of a broader initiative to further serve rural communities in the region, the company said in a statement.

“We believe everyone should have access to quality and reliable internet service and are excited to provide the Westlake community with an offering that brings the future of communications and entertainment into their homes and businesses,” Cameron Communications General Manager Bruce Petry said in the statement. “We understand the needs of Westlake customers because we have decades of expertise serving this region of the state and navigating the challenges that come with it.”

Cameron Communications is based out of southern Louisiana but maintains networks throughout the state and in several localities in Texas.

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