municipal internet and the digital divide

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Municipal Internet and the Digital Divide Taylor Olmstead

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Created for an independent study on Media & the Digital Divide, this presentation discusses the latest developments in Municipal Wireless Internet and how they could be leveraged to lessen the divide in urban communities throughout America.


  • 1. Municipal Internet and the Digital Divide Taylor Olmstead

2. What is the Digital Divide? A review of basic concepts. 3. The Digital Divide The gap between those with access to information technologies and those who do not. May be the result of: Poverty Disconnected/Rural Location Lack of Knowledge or Technical Skills All of the above depending up on the individual and region 4. The Digital Divide Has been referred to as The Digital haves and have nots (Resolving) Has been researched since the late 1990s by governments and technologists alike Composed of two related phenomena known as The Two Gaps 5. The Two Gaps The Access Gap those situations where a gap betweenareas continues to exist even under efficient market conditions because a proportion of the population cannot afford to pay market prices (Marsical). The Market Efficiency Gap the difference between the levels of service penetration that can be reached under current plans and conditions, and the level one would expect under optimal market conditions (Marsical). 6. The Digital Divide in Urban America How urban poverty and the Digital Divide overlap in American cities. 7. An Access Gap Urban America has fairly effective internet connectivity based on market rates. However, large percentages of urban Americans do not have access to the internet due to inability to pay market prices or lack of knowledge. 8. Googles Kansas City Case Study Released in 2012, surveyed 3,219 Kansas Citians on their internet awareness, connectivity, and usage habits. Compared results to national surveys conducted by the Pew Center Google chose Kansas City as the first city for its fiber optic internet project Google Fiber And then restricted access to Fiber connections, but more on that later. Kansas, being a mid-level American city with a fairly high poverty rate makes it an ideal case study for this topic 9. The Disadvantages of the Divide in KC The majority of the population agreed that lack of internet access is a major disadvantage A higher percentage of KC residents agreed with this statement than respondents to the national Pew survey Job searching was cited as the activity most affected by lack of internet access in both surveys (Google) 10. Internet Connectivity in KC according to Google 17% say they do not get online at all And of that group 28% cite lack of access as the reason This can be attributed to lack of a computer or lack of connection (Google) 11. Broadband Connectivity in KC according to Google People with broadband or faster internet connections were shown to be more aware of the resources the internet has to offer People with broadband were also shown to spend approximately 10% more time on job or school related work online. (Google) 12. Internet Connectivity at Home for Students Kansas City, KS School District has a high rate of poverty, with around 90% of students on subsidized lunch programs (Liimata) Students in the Kansas City, KS School District all receive laptops for school- related work. Only 40% of those laptops are ever connected to the internet at the students homes. (Liimata) In the Kansas City Missouri Public Schools, it is estimated that 70% of students do not have Internet access at home. (Internet) 13. In our digital society, the unconnected are a growing underclassSimply stated, they are shut out of the benefits of connectivity that most of us take for granted. This is tragic in light of all the resources that are available on the Internet that have the potential to help an under resourced family move toward a healthier, happier and more secure future. (About) 14. Why Municipal Internet? Why the implementation of Municipal Internet access systems will benefit individuals, economies and society as a whole. 15. Rethink Market Approaches? The 1999 Resolving the Digital Divide Conference stated in a report to the President of the United States: While the market approach is important to this Nation it is necessary to realize that the market often fails to address issues of information inequality. (Resolving) 16. 15 Years Later The market solution (or lack thereof) has failed at addressing The Digital Divide in American cities, let alone in rural areas. 17. What is Municipal Internet? Internet provided at low or no cost to neighborhoods, cities or municipalities May be wireless or wired Cities/Municipalities with existing Municipal Internet (out of approx. 110): West Hollywood, CA Hermosa Beach, CA Lexington, KY Minneapolis, MN Monticello, MN Gahanna, OH Dublin, OH Philadelphia, PA Dallas, TX (Vos) 18. What can Municipal Internet Do? Provide access to those who cant afford it otherwise Create new infrastructure, and with it new job opportunities Drive business and commercial growth in connected areas 19. What Can Municipal Internet Do? This [municipal wifi network] is fantastic news for Glasgow on so many levels. It will benefit residents, businesses and visitors to the city alike - especially as the aim is to have it in place for the 2014 Commonwealth Games and to cover the city centre, athlete's village and the Clyde Gateway areas. "It will promote economic growth and make a major contribution to the council's ambition to make Glasgow a digitally connected and truly Future City. (Free) Councilor Gordon Matheson, Glasgow Executive Council 20. Technical Solutions Fiber Optics and Wireless Mesh Networks 21. What is Fiber Optic Internet? Fiber optics (optical fibers) are long, thin strands of very pure glass about the diameter of a human hair. They are arranged in bundles called optical cables and used to transmit light signals over long distances. (Freudenrich) 22. What is Fiber Optic Internet? A single copper pair conductor can carry six phone calls. A single fiber pair can carry more than 2.5 million phone calls simultaneously (Crosby). Fiber has virtually unlimited bandwidth and a longer reach than copper wiring, making it essentially future-proof. Fiber Optic Internet connections already are a reality for more than 1 million consumers in the United States, while more than 6 million in Japan and 10 million worldwide (Crosby). 23. Why Fiber Optic Internet? Less expensive Less signal degradation Light signals - Unlike electrical signals in copper wires, light signals from one fiber do not interfere with those of other fibers in the same cable. Low power Digital signals - Optical fibers are ideally suited for carrying digital information, which is especially useful in computer networks. Non-flammable Lightweight Flexible (Freudenrich) 24. 7% 15% 78% Fiber-to-the-Home Recipients in North America (as of May 2013) Homes With Fiber Homes Offered Fiber Homes Total Data Courtesy of: Fiber-to-the-Home Council (FTTH) 25. What are Wireless Mesh Networks? Networks built upon a series of wireless nodes Mesh nodes are small radio transmitters that function in the same way as a wireless router. Information is passed from a central connection point from node-to-node until it reaches the client computer. This process is called Dynamic Routing. (Roos) (KC) 26. What Are Wireless Mesh Networks? Connection is dependent upon proximity to a node. A computer near multiple nodes pulls signal from all of them, increasing its connections strength. Proximity is required, but line-of-sight is not. Can also be used to connect wired devices through wireless receivers/routers and can provide Power over Ethernet (PoE) in some circumstances. (Roos) 27. Diagram, produced by KC Freedom Network, showing how Wireless Mesh operates. (KC) 28. Why Wireless Mesh Networks? Fewer wires means less infrastructure and maintenance costs Network grows stronger and faster with the incremental introduction of nodes Allows use of the internet where no Ethernet connection is available Public transport, outdoor venues, etc. Nodes install and uninstall without requiring action by an IT professional (Roos) 29. Financial Solutions Public, Private and Non-Profit funded Municipal Internet 30. Three Financial Solutions Publicly Funded/Owned (Monticello, MN) Publicly Subsidized, Privately Installed & Operated (Seattle) Non-Profit (Kansas City) 31. Case Study: Monticello Fiber Net (Publicly Owned and Funded) In 2009, the city of Monticello, MN won a series of lawsuits against telecom companies allowing them to create a publicly owned and funded Fiber Optic Internet Service Provider (ISP). Monticello Fiber Net became the subject of considerable media hype for a brief period. Headlines from: Community Broadband News, Ars Technica, DSL Reports 32. Where is Monticello Fiber Net Now? Installed in the community, still in operation, but not doing very well financially. Fighting a price war with rival provider Charter Communications. (Keene) Facing a class action suit from initial investors. The lawsuit alleges that the city failed to disclose material facts that indicated the project would be unable to generate enough revenue to make it feasible (Anderson). Without a management company The press release cited numerous factors dogging the publicly-owned fiber network, many related to moves by its private competitors, including a crippling lawsuit and subsequent appeals brought by telephone provider TDSaccumulation of interest debt due to lawsuit delays, inadequate recovery of legal damages, and a series of predatory pricing practices by cable and telephone incumbents (Vogel). 33. Case Study: Seattle, WA &Gigabit Squared (Publicly Subsidized, Privately Installed & Operated) The mayor of Seattle attempted to have municipal wifi installed through contractor Gigabit Squared In the next election Comcast backed his opponent, who won the election The new mayor claimed hed honor the commitments made to Gigabit Squared, but would not expand the network beyond the original size. (Soper) 34. Where is Seattles Municipal Fiber? In December, 2013 outgoing Mayor McGinn addressed delays due to Gigabit Squareds financial troubles: He says that he hasn't exactly given up on the private sector, but he'd campaign for the government to build its own network if he could (Moon). On January 7, 2014 the new mayor, Ed Murray announced the end of the project before ground had even been broken: Mayor Ed Murray has declared the citys deal with startup broadband company Gigabit Squared dead (Parkhurst). 35. Hope for the future in Seattle. Mayor Murray has stated hes seeking other companies with a more realistic financing mechanism to lease the fiber and move forward with the program (Parkhurst). Its a utility, in my mind, Murray said. The city has done a very good job of providing affordable electric rates because we have a public utility. So I think there are a variety of models, including a hybrid model that might get that affordability (Parkhurst). Photo Credit: Office of the Mayor of Seattle 36. Case Study: Kansas Citys Connecting for Good (Non-Profit) When Kansas City was selected as the first pilot city for Google Fiber Michael Liimata had an idea. He co-founded a non-profit called Connecting for Good rented some office space in the new KC Startup Village Google announced they would not be providing to multi-family homes (ie: housing projects and apartment buildings) in the first round of Fiber. (Liimata) Photo Credit: Connecting For Good ( Aside: KC Startup Village is a residential neighborhood that was selected to get Fiber early, and so a number of start-ups moved in and began renting houses as live- in office spaces. 37. Case Study: Kansas Citys Connecting for Good (Non-Profit) Connecting For Good began collecting used computers to repair and provide for low- income families They began the KC Freedom Network, a wireless mesh network designed to provide internet to low-income communities and housing projects (Liimata) Juniper Gardens mesh network brings free in-home Internet to 300 families (Connecting). 38. Where is Connecting For Good now? Still expanding their network, currently providing internet to about 500 households for free. Prepping their Urban Neighborhoods Initiative CFG will be providing technicians and equipment to install neighborhood- wide mesh networks in underserved areas Conducted a feasibility study of the project for the Kansas City school systems Awaiting recognition/support from the Kansas City government A lot of times people make policies who don't understand the technology, but here we are working with the technology and not being heard (Liimata) 39. The Ideal Solution A combination of technical and financial approaches aimed at bringing municipal internet to the unconnected in American cities. 40. Technological: Fiber Powered Wireless Mesh Kansas Citys Connecting For Good and the KC Freedom Network implement Wireless Mesh technology to connect low-income neighborhoods and housing developments. Under the current system, it costs them $7-9 per month to provide wireless internet to an entire housing project. (Liimata) (KC) 41. If this network were powered by a Fiber connection, the network could provide competitive speeds to unconnected areas at little to no cost. (Google) 42. Financial: Subsidized Private Installation, Non-Profit Operation Subsidized Private Installation: Similar to Seattle Local government choses a private partner to install the Fiber network Should be an established entity, not a start-up Avoids the risk of financial set-backs Private partner hands over the network upon installation 43. Non-Profit Operation: Similar to Connecting For Good A non-profit, or coalition thereof, acts as a donor funded ISP for low- income areas Higher income areas could be served by a more traditional ISP with a set pricing limit to avoid a situation like Monticello Speed could also vary between free service provided by the non-profit ISP and paid service provided by the traditional ISP The low-maintenance fiber infrastructure and the low-cost wireless mesh network would situate this solution easily in a non-profits realm of capabilities (provided proper donor support) Financial: Subsidized Private Installation, Non-Profit Operation 44. In Conclusion Internet access is like the fifth utility (Liimata). It is necessary for modern life and pivotal in decreasing poverty and unemployment. A Fiber Powered Mesh Network would allow cities to provide faster internet to low-income neighborhood at minimal cost. Fiber Optics are the fastest, cheapest and most future-proof infrastructure solution. Mesh networks allow for widespread coverage at minimal costs. Financing such a network will require the co-operation of governments, industry, and the non-profit sector for the greater good of entire communities. 45. Works Cited "About Us." Connecting for Good. Connecting for Good, n.d. Web. 26 Mar. 2014. Anderson, Jake. "Lawsuit Filed Against MN City Over Troubled Telecom Project." Twin Cities Business. MSP Communications, 13 Feb. 2014. Web. 01 Apr. 2014. "Connecting for Good | Bridging the Digital Divide." Connecting for Good. Connecting for Good, 2014. Web. 01 Apr. 2014. Crosby, Tim. "How Fiber-to-the-home Broadband Works" 28 March 2008. 31 March 2014. Fibre-to-the-Home Council. G20 Economies with the Highest Penetrations of Fibre-to-the-Home + LAN. Digital image. Fibre-to-the- Home Council. Fibre-to-the-Home Council, Feb. 2012. Web. 31 Mar. 2012. "Free Open Air WiFi for Glasgow." Glasgow City Council. City of Glasgow, June 2013. Web. 27 Mar. 2014. Freudenrich, Ph.D., Craig. "How Fiber Optics Work" 06 March 2001. 31 March 2014. FTTH Council. Fiber to the Home: Some Quick Facts. FTTH Council. Fibre-to-the-Home Council, 6 June 2013. Web. 31 Mar. 2014. Google, Kansas City Mayor's Bi-City Innovation Team. "The State of Internet Connectivity in KC." Google Fiber. Google Fiber Blog. 22 June 2012. Published Presentation. "Internet Access for Low Income Families." Connecting for Good. Connecting for Good, 2014. Web. 26 Mar. 2014. KC Freedom Network. Kansas City Freedom Network, n.d. Web. 31 Mar. 2014. 46. Works Cited (Contd) Keene, Jamie. "Is Charter Fighting Dirty with Minnesota's Monticello Fibernet?" The Verge. Vox Media, Inc., 9 Mar. 2012. Web. 01 Apr. 2014. Liimata, Michael. Telephone interview. 12 Mar. 2014. Mariscal, Judith. "Digital Divide in a Developing Country." Telecommunications Policy 29.5-6 (2005): 409-28. Articles Plus. Web. 25 Jan. 2014. Moon, Mariella. "Seattle's High-speed Internet Project Delayed Due to Money Problems." Engadget. AOL, Inc., 10 Dec. 2013. Web. 01 Apr. 2014. "Office of the Mayor of Seattle." Mayor Ed Murray. City of Seattle, 2014. Web. 1 Apr. 2014. Parkhurst, Emily. "Seattle's Fiber-network Deal with Gigabit Squared Is Dead." Puget Sound Business Journal. American City Business Journals, 8 Jan. 2014. Web. 01 Apr. 2014. Resolving the Digital Divide: Information, Access, and Opportunity, Conference Report. Arlington, VA: National Coordination Office for Computing, Information, and Communications, 2000. 2-24. ERIC. Web. 2 Feb. 2014. Roos, Dave. "How Wireless Mesh Networks Work" 20 June 2007. 31 March 2014. Soper, Taylor. "Mayor McGinn: Seattle Should Create a Public Fiber Internet Utility If Gigabit Squared Fails." GeekWire. Geekwire, LLC, 12 Nov. 2013. Web. 01 Apr. 2014. Vogel, Jennifer. "Management Company Pulls out of Monticellos Fiber Network." Ground Level. Minnesota Public Radio, 30 May 2012. Web. 01 Apr. 2014. Vos, Esme. "Updated List of US Cities and Counties with Large Scale WiFi Networks." US Cities and Counties with Municipal WiFi Networks. Muni Wireless, 7 June 2010. Web. 27 Mar. 2014.