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How Equal Access Santa Cruz is Bridging the Digital Divide – Episode 15 of Connect This!

On Episode 15 of the Connect This! Show, co-hosts Christopher and Travis Carter (USI Fiber) are joined by two representatives from the Internet Service Provider Cruzio: James Hackett (Director of Business Operations & Development) and Chris Frost (Director of Technology and Infrastructure). 

The topic of the day is Equal Access Santa Cruz, and how Cruzio is expanding its network with philanthropy to serve low-income households. They talk about the organizing and technical efforts that got it started, challenges along the way, and the success they’ve seen as a result of their collective hard work. 

The secret sauce of equal access programs? There is none. Just put together a coalition of groups that can continue to do what they already do best, the result of which is bringing affordable, fast Internet access to more families. School districts can continue to serve kids, community foundations can continue to raise money and build relationships, and the ISP can continue to construct and operate Internet connections and infrastructure.

One particular success of the project: bringing in a point-to-multipoint gigabit connection to 140 homes, two laundry rooms, and an office in one farm worker community, funded by the local agricultural firm, to provide free service for three years.

Read more about the project here.

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Watch here, or below.

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The Finance Edition – Connect This! Episode 14

On Episode 14 of the Connect This! show co-hosts Christopher and Travis Carter (USI Fiber) are joined by Doug Dawson (President, CCG Consulting) and Kim McKinley (CMO, UTOPIA Fiber) to talk public and private financing models for building network infrastructure.

The group dives into the numbers and talk about the economics that make networks succeed, and how to put together a recipe for success that accounts for favorable term length, rates, collateral, and surety. They talk about the different models to broadband buildouts, types of financing available to municipalities and small private ISPs, grant programs and economies of scale.

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Email us broadband@muninetworks.org with feedback and ideas for the show.

Watch here, or below.

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Middle-Mile Challenges and Internet Exchange Points – Connect This! Episode 13

On Episode 13 of Connect This!, co-hosts Christopher and Travis Cart (USI Fiber) are joined by Reid Fishler (Senior Director, Hurricane Electric) and Fletcher Kittredge (CEO, GWI) to talk about the issues that come up in building and maintaining backhaul routes and exchange points. During the show they discuss whether creating a small, rural ISP far from an exchange point is easier or harder now than it was 10 years ago. They talk how resiliency, competition, capacity, reliability, efficiency, cost, and innovation play into the topic, current middle-mile issues in California and Maine, and what the future of the space might look like.

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Email us broadband@muninetworks.org with feedback and ideas for the show.

Watch here, or below.

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Options Available to Cities Under the American Rescue Plan Broadband Rules – Episode 12 of Connect This!

On Episode 12 of Connect This!, hosts Christopher Mitchell and Travis Carter (USI Fiber) are joined by returning guests Doug Dawson (CCG Consulting) and Kimberly McKinley (UTOPIA Fiber) to talk about the recently released Treasury rules outlining the upcoming infrastructure funds going to states and local governments for critical infrastructure.

After talking for a few minutes about labor and materials shortages, the group dives into the language of the Treasury rules and to what extent they restrict the upcoming funds for cities and towns. They talk about the minimum speed requirements listed and what they mean for the underlying technologies the rules encourage, to what extent the rules represent the enaction of a bold vision for universal high-speed Internet access in the United States, and what kinds of outcomes we might see in the near and medium future.

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Email us broadband@muninetworks.org with feedback and ideas for the show.

Watch here, or below.

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How Open Access Networks Impact ISPs – Episode 11 of Connect This!

In Episode 11 of the Connect This! Show, hosts Christopher Mitchell and Travis Carter (USI Fiber) are joined by Kim McKinley (Chief Marketing Officer, UTOPIA Fiber), Pete Ashdown (Founder and CEO, XMission) and Cameron Francis (CEO, Beehive Broadband) to share their perspectives on open access networks.

The panel explore what open access is like for ISPs that use it and offer thoughts for those who are considering it. What’s in it for the ISPs?

Along the way they cover a lot of ground: the lower startup costs and fewer barriers to entry for new ISPs; how banks understand providers operating on those infrastructure models; the role, interests, and benefits of publicly owned open access networks; and the future of software-defined networks both on and as differentiated from open access systems.

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Watch below, or on YouTube here.

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Preparing for Broadband Funding in the American Rescue Plan- Episode 10 of Connect This!

On Episode 10 of Connect This!, hosts Christopher Mitchell and Travis Carter (USI Fiber) were joined by Joanne Hovis (President, CTC Energy and Technology) and Doug Dawson (President, CCG Consulting) to talk about how communities can prepare for the unprecedented money poised to flow from the federal government for Internet infrastructure.

The panel first gives an update on the upcoming Emergency Broadband Benefit and how cities and small ISPs can plan for a successful deployment. They then discuss the upcoming infrastructure funding, including what to consider when putting together a plan, how to use the funds effectively, balancing the needs of today with a long-term plan, and how to avoid getting taken advantage of by bad actors.

Resources mentioned during the show include the Blandin Foundation in Minnesota and the Michigan Moonshot Initiative.

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Watch via this link, or watch below.

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Broadband Infrastructure Funding in the American Rescue Plan – Episode 9 of Connect This!

On Episode 9 of Connect This!, hosts Christopher Mitchell and Travis Carter (USI Fiber) are joined by Kim McKinley (Chief Marketing Officer, UTOPIA Fiber) and Doug Dawson (President, CCG Consulting) to talk about the recently signed American Rescue Plan Act, which has the potential to funnel an unprecedented level of funding to communities which can be used for Internet infrastructure.

The group talks about the different buckets of money that will become available and how cities, counties, and states might use them. They discuss the ways that communities can use the federal funds to reduce risk for local projects and push them forward, create partnerships with public organizations and private firms, and what local officials need to do to ensure that they are ready when the money starts flowing to effect long-term positive change.

Watch via this link, or watch below.

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Decoding the Emergency Broadband Benefit – Episode 8 of Connect This!

One component of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 was the Emergency Broadband Benefit, a $3.2 billion program designed to get families connected to available service that they otherwise might not be able to afford. The program provides a subsidy of up to $50/month for service (or $75 for tribal lands) as well as up to $100 for a device (with a household contribution) for as long as the money lasts.

On Episode 8 of Connect This!, hosts Christopher Mitchell and Travis Carter (USI Fiber) are joined by Angela Siefer (National Digital Inclusion Alliance) and Olivia Wein (National Consumer Law Center) to talk about how it will work and what their expectations are, including who will be able to take advantage of the program and what problems there might be for both the people who need it and the small ISPs that would like to participate. 

During the course of the discussion the panel talks about: eligibility requirements; the challenge of standing up a program quickly and making it available to the widest number of people possible; USI Fiber’s experience so far in becoming an eligibile provider; the device benefit available, and how providers can forge partnerships with groups like PCs for People to get hardware into homes; the need for digital navigators to help guide community members navigate the process of getting and staying online; and the long-term prospects for renewal of the program.

Mentioned during the episode was a recent study by Professor Lloyd Levine from the School of Public Policy, University of California, Riverside, California, on outreach programs (paywall).

Watch via this link, or watch below.

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Overbuilding and the Value of Real Competition – Episode 7 of Connect This!

This episode, co-hosts Christopher and Travis Carter (CEO, US Internet) are joined by Deb Socia (President/CEO, The Enterprise Center), and Brian Worthen (President, Visionary Communications and CEO, Mammoth Networks) to talk about overbuilding. 

The group talks about the importance of reclaiming the term as what it really is: plain old competition. They discuss the economics of building competitive broadband infrastructure in rural and urban areas, pending and related Washington Public Utility District legislation, and why we don’t see more small, competitive fiber builders around the country.

We also get the first installment of a recurring segment during the episode, wherein Christopher asks Travis to identify a picture of random piece of wireless infrastructure from the area around his house.

Referenced during the discussion was Benton Institute for Broadband and Society Senior Fellow John Sallet’s recent paper “Broadband for America’s Future: A Vision for the 2020s.”

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Building Business and Community Goodwill Through Marketing – Episode 6 of Connect This!

This week on Connect This! Christopher and Travis Carter (CEO, USI Fiber) are joined by Kim McKinley (Deputy Director and Chief Marketing Officer, UTOPIA Fiber) and Kyle Hollifield (VP of Business Development, Magellan Advisors), both veterans with years of experience.

Marketing means more that a logo with a snappy slogan, and it can be hard to quantify the value in taking precious dollars and applying them to tasks other than fiber in the ground and the supporting electronics.

The group emphasizes how important it is to get right from the start, and the impact it can have on take rates, positive word-of-mouth, and a sense of goodwill. They discuss why marketing should be both a budget priority and a central part of any business plan, and what it means for everyone from installation subcontractors to CEO to play a role. Travis, Kyle, and Kim share some of their favorite marketing success stories. 

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