• 07Mar

    Here is a podcast where I discuss clean energy, local economy, and the power of a publicly owned utility. The podcast is about 15 minutes if you would like a listen.

    Local Energy Rules Podcast

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  • 20Oct

    Topics discussed:

    1. Development
    2. Affordable Housing
    3. Transportation
    4. Broadband

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  • 19Oct


  • 15Feb

    Our City Charter recognizes 3 needs that are so critical to our community that it “constitutionally” created boards to over see them. They are Public Utilities, Parks, and the Library. The library remains critical to our community and usage continues to surge every single year. 20 years ago the library was built too small as a result of cost saving measures. Now we have a chance to address it. Unlike other levels of government we actually have to pay for the things we get, as such there will be a cost associated with the expansion. As always, I subscribe to the belief that we do it right the first time, and this means a significant investment. Read more…

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  • 16Aug

    If you are passionate about the broadband issue / Charter Monopoly, I invite you to the Rochester City Council Committee Meeting on Monday August 17, 2015 at 3:30 in Room 104 at the government center.  It is a fairly small room so come early to get a seat as I hope supporters of municipal broadband take the time to attend. The facts and the public are clearly in favor of taking steps to crack the Charter monopoly. Remember, because of changing technology broadband will be able to supplant subscription TV in very short order. Here are 6 things to know: Read more…

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  • 29Mar

    Hello all,

    I thought you might like an update on Broadband / Cable. There has been a lot of news.

    What you should to do:

    1)   Contact all council members & mayor by email, phone, social media, and in person and tell them that broadband is important and the entire community deserves quality affordable broadband.

    2)   Write a letter to the editor on the importance of community broadband and why you don’t think the current environment is OK.

    Common Q&A


    1. Q: “I am more concerned about the lack of competition in cable, why do I care about broadband?”
    2. A:

    i.     I realized I was confusing some people It is important to understand that the city does not prevent other cable companies from coming to Rochester. The reason that they do not come here is that they would have to build a $50 million (estimated) network and hope that they can sign up enough customers to pay for that cost understanding that the incumbent providers will try to bankrupt the new competitor with temporary specials. By creating our own municipally owned broadband utility we can permanently ensure competition.

    ii.     The network that can deliver broadband can also deliver video. The city could deliver video services or contract with a 3rd party to do so or simply rent our network to private companies to deliver these services. I believe the study will show that video services can help pay for the cost of the network.


    1. Q: Do community broadband network work?
    2. A: Yes, and they are incredibly popular as well. Right now there are hundreds of publically owned networks around the country. Alcatel Lucent is currently working with 30 cities in the United States and all 30 are cash flow positive (not losing money).


    1. Q: Can the city own a broadband network?
    2. A: Yes, the FCC has made this crystal clear.


    1. Q: Does the city need to have a referendum for broadband?
    2. A: No, the state of Minnesota has a 100-year-old law that states that cities must have a referendum to operate a telephone exchange. If we, as a city, wanted to bundle telephone with video and broadband we would need to do a referendum. That would be silly though as anyone can get phone through broadband easily. Additionally we could partner with a private vendor to offer those services.


    1. Q: How much would this cost?
    2. A: We are trying to evaluate this. If a system cost $50 million that would translate to about $3 per home / business per month.  In other places the creation of a public network typically reduces costs $20 or more per month. Currently broadband in Rochester costs $60 per month for regularly priced broadband.


    1. Q: What if I don’t want government competing with private industry?
    2. A:

    i.     This has more to do with ideology. We already have government services provide in water, storm water, electricity, sewer, police, fire, education, etc. I like to remind people that RPU’s customer satisfaction is around 90%, what do you think Charter’s is?

    ii.     There are options where we could build out a fiber system and lease it to a private business. I suspect this will increase costs and decrease service as we introduce a profit motive.

    iii.     The one critical thing that we need is community ownership of the network. If we don’t own the network we will just find ourselves at the mercy of another company.


    1. Q: What if the system fails?
    2. A:

    i.     The reason we study this ahead of time is to ensure that it won’t fail. We understand that if we created a municipal network Charter, CenturyLink and others would try to price us out of business.

    ii.     If the network never produced a penny of revenue the cost to the average family or business would probably be around $3 per month. That is before savings to local governments.

    iii.     Define fail… In the case of Monticello the finances collapsed however the average citizen is saving about $25 dollars a month and has far better service than before.


    1. Q: What about Charter’s jobs in Rochester?
    2. A: Charter is not a charity. Their jobs in Rochester are here because there is a business case. They also refuse to indicate home many of these jobs pay a living wage, I suspect many do not. The reality is that Charter is an out-of-state corporation that takes a great deal of money out of this community forever. Whoever provides broadband in Rochester will have a number of jobs here. Overall we would be far better off by keeping all that broadband money in the region.


    1. Q: Isn’t CenturyLink already investing in Rochester?
    2. A:

    i.     Yes they are, so is Charter however this is unlikely to help many homeowners. Both companies are interested in serving the most profitable customers, which does not include existing homeowners.

    ii.     2 companies is not a competitive marketplace. While it is more competitive than just Charter we would need half a dozen before we could expect to see real competition in terms of price, speed, and customer service.

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  • 11Feb

    Here is information I sent to the council.

    Please contact elected officials and make sure they know this is important to you.  Also sent a letter under 225 words to letters@postbulletin.com

    You can contact elected officials here.

    Read more…


  • 10Feb


  • 19Nov

    Here is my most recent letter to Charter and my responses.  I respect the ongoing discussion, but I want action.  I want results.

    10/30/14 Letter from Charter

    • Because we value the public’s right to oversee the job we do, public channel locations should hold an easily accessible location as required by our current contract.
    • Charter has turned digital boxes from a service delivery tool into a profit center.  Our citizens should be able to purchase boxes at a reasonable price and not face monthly fees for cards or HD.
    • 1/3 of our kids in school receive free or reduced lunch.  None of those families can afford the $55 per month for basic unbundled broadband access.  Regardless of income broadband is vital for all people looking to find a job, receive education, apply for assistance, or just exist in a modern society.  Broadband is a critical need, not unlike water, sanitation, or energy.
    • The citizens of Rochester deserve better service. I expect our next franchise agreement will set standards for customer service addressing wait times and clear communication of rates and charges.
    • Rochester citizens deserve clear transparent pricing.  The deal that a person threatening to leave Charter receives should not be different from a widowed senior who is not comfortable bargaining with trained sales people.
    • In order to maintain leverage and prevent future abuses we must limit franchise agreements to 1 year.
    • We must minimize hurdles for companies wishing to do business in Rochester.  We can allow businesses to serve smaller parts of the community, or create deals where we build a fiber backbone and lease capacity as an alternate means to enter the community.
    • Your comments on the wages paid in Rochester do not live up to your promise to share how many jobs pay a living wage.  Your starting wage of $11.50 is not a living wage which in Rochester is closer to $13.50 to $14 per hour.  The information shared fails to live up to the commitment to share how many of Charter’s jobs in Rochester pay a living wage.
    • At this point promises of change remain just empty promises.


  • 08Nov

    Here is a Science Friday report about a wave of municipal fiber installations sweeping the nation. In comparison to other parts of the world we have terrible prices and speeds. In many cities you can get 1 Gig download and upload speeds for under $40 per month.


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