GWI Blog

Welcome to the GWI blog regarding telecommunications policy, rural broadband, and economic development in Maine and New England.

Fiber Drive: GWI Teams Hit the Street to Talk Fast Fiber

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The first kernel of our gigabit fiber to the home network in South Portland was created when South Portland’s IT Director Chris Dumais wrote an RFP for a network he needed to connect city buildings and asked that bidders connect homes and businesses along the way. We’re very excited to make this network available to South Portland residents, but the first phase of the network is really small and we need to connect customers really early in order for the service to be cost effective for people.  In fact, we can only connect a couple of hundred homes in a city of 20,000 and we need to sign as many as we can up by the end of the year if we want to install their service for free. This presents a really interesting problem for our team.  In a day when no one reads advertisements mailed to them, how do … Continue reading

Debunking 5 Common Objections to Municipal Broadband

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There is much excitement about the recent announcements by Rockport and South Portland that the two cities will be deploying 1 gigabit per second municipal broadband networks to homes. Not surprisingly, there is also anger and frustration from certain quarters – most especially the incumbent ISP’s who have little to gain and much to lose from the market entry of a competing network.  These large corporations have successfully employed a number of arguments to slow the tide of competition, successfully getting state laws passed against municipal broadband networks in 20 states. It’s only a matter of time before similar resistance pops up in Maine, so I thought it would be worthwhile to review the most common arguments against municipal broadband networks and check their validity. In doing so, we can be better prepared for the public debate that’s sure to come. There are five objections to municipal broadband that come … Continue reading

Maine Towns Lead the U.S. in Next-Generation Broadband

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If you follow next-generation broadband communications at all, you’re familiar with places like Kansas City, Chattanooga and San Antonio.  These were some of the first cities in our country to get gigabit speeds into homes either with the help of Google Fiber or through direct municipal investment.  These cities are part of a group gathering on Monday to discuss next-generation broadband availability that includes tech industry hubs like Boston, Massachusetts, Palo Alto, California and Santa Monica, California. It makes sense that these communities would gather together as part of a relatively exclusive list of just 31 communities from all around the country to be founding members of Next Century Cities – a bipartisan, city-to-city organization dedicated to ensuring the availability of next-generation broadband for all communities. Two names on that list that might surprise you are Rockport and South Portland, Maine. Small as the founding group is, Next Century Cities … Continue reading

The Power of “What If?” – Municipal Fiber to the Home

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Our first phase of building municipal fiber to the home in South Portland started, not as the economic development issue it eventually became, but as a basic IT requirement.  Chris Dumais, the City’s IT Director was faced with increasing costs for the dark fiber network that connects key city buildings, and he figured one up-front payment to lease a new network for many years would save money over the long term.  He put out an RFP, and he accomplished his goal. If the story had stopped there, it would have been a win for the city but it wouldn’t have been the statewide news story it became.  The story didn’t stop there.  Instead, Chris asked himself some powerful questions.  He shared those questions with those in attendance at the press conference on September 22nd: “What if we were able to provide a faster internet to businesses along our fiber route?” … Continue reading

3 Issues Before the FCC That Could Change the Internet

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This week Fletcher and I attended the Community Fiber Networks conference in Springfield, Massachusetts.  Community leaders throughout New England came together there to talk about the impact of better broadband to community development, share experiences in deploying networks, and discuss important policy issues around broadband deployments. During a panel discussion yesterday, FCC Special Counsel for External Affairs Gigi Sohn made a remarkable statement that I shared on Twitter: @GigiBSohnFCC “The next six months are going to be the most important months in the history of #telecommunications policy.” — Trevor Jones (@trevorjones71) September 18, 2014 Perhaps she was exaggerating for effect, but there are certainly some momentous topics being discussed at the FCC now that could shape the future of the Internet. Is the current FCC docket really that important? It wasn’t until I stopped to consider Ms. Sohn’s remark that I really appreciated just how sweeping the topics under consideration … Continue reading

With Maine Broadband the Mirror Hurts. Look Anyway.

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One of this week’s memorable moments came on Wednesday morning, as I watched Bloomberg TV’s two spots on Maine broadband with considerably mixed emotions.  Bloomberg reporter Michael McKee doesn’t pull any punches.  As you can see from this spot, he contrasts the 150 megabits per second available bandwidth in New York City to our statewide average of 9 megabits per second here in Maine and explains how our challenges of population density and geography make it a money losing scenario for ISP’s to build out fiber networks on their own. It gets worse. In a follow up spot McKee and his fellow commentators compare Maine to third-world countries in terms of broadband speed: Being defensive won’t get us anywhere. I’ve lived in Maine all my life. It’s natural to want to come to the defense of our home, and it would be easy enough to find some ground to do … Continue reading

Is Municipal Fiber Really the REA of our Generation?

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  Two weeks ago, I took time out from a vacation camping in Western Maine to travel to Rockport for the announcement of the new gigabit fiber to the home network we helped deploy there.  It was only much later, today in fact, that it occurred to me that I started my journey to launch Maine’s first gigabit municipal fiber to the home network in Bryant Pond – the home of the nation’s last hand-cranked magneto telephone exchange.  The juxtaposition of old and new on the two ends of my drive speaks volumes about how far Maine has come technologically since the early 1980’s, even as our CEO’s paper on broadband capacity in Maine showed just how far we still have to go. Another interesting juxtaposition between early 20th century and 21st century technologies came from Susan Crawford’s remarks that day.  I captured the quote in this tweet: @scrawford “Electricity … Continue reading

Why Having a Different Definition of Broadband Hurts Maine

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Today, Maine faces challenges with its broadband being significantly inferior to 48 other U.S. States. While our broadband isn’t deteriorating, the rest of the country is developing superior broadband solutions at a far faster rate. This has a lasting negative impact on Maine’s economy. In the early 2000’s, the term “broadband” became the common definition for Internet access that was faster, more reliable and had better quality of service than dial-up. The problem with the term “broadband” is that it has never had a precise meaning. Since the quality and availability of broadband access is critical to moving Maine up the national broadband ladder – and consequently attracting more businesses to Maine – one of the first challenges is to determine a mutually beneficial definition for broadband. How can business owners, technology providers, policy makers and consumers tackle the issues if we’re not speaking the same language? Here’s how we … Continue reading

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