Coffee with Jerry Smith on May 2

I met Jerry Smith, the County Broadband Manager, on May 2 at the Sugar and Cream Cafe to talk about progress on the Community Broadband Network. It had been three and a half years since my first post on this blog and almost exactly three years since the County Council put the Broadband Manager position in a County budget. Jerry acknowledged that progress has not been fast. Since negotiations are confidential till proposed contracts are presented to the County Council, I didn’t get much detail about them. Here are the main things we talked about.

Contract to Build and Operate the Los Alamos County Community Broadband Network

In an earlier conversation Jerry told me that he hoped to have a proposed contract presented to the County Council by October of 2023. Unfortunately circumstances transpired that necessitated starting over, and the County issued a new request for proposals. Jerry says that negotiations following from that new RFP are continuing. Since the current Council strongly supports the CBN, I think it’s important to get a contract to them before a new Council takes office in 2025. Jerry says he expects a contract to go to Council well before that.

San Ildefonso’s Grant Application for Middle Mile Fiber

On 2024-03-05 the County Council unanimously voted to approve grant matching funds to the Pueblo de San Ildefonso for their grant application for a New Middle Mile Fiber Optic Line Connecting White Rock to Pojoaque. (See my previous blog post for details.) Jerry says that the earliest that we could hear if the Pueblo gets the grant is the beginning of June. If they don’t get the grant, I hope the County and the Pueblo will try to negotiate a deal to build the link anyway.

Broadband Communities Summit

Jerry will attend the Broadband Communities Summit in Houston next week to learn how Multifamily Dwelling Units (MDUs) provide broadband. I was pleased last year when the home owner’s association at my condo in Portland Oregon began a transition from a Comcast Cable contract to providing broadband internet. Unfortunately other owners who prefer twentieth century technology objected, and now I’m paying $50 for cable that I don’t watch. Jerry says that about a third of the residences in the County are in MDUs and he wants them to have equal access to the CBN.


A Night at the County Council

The Motion

I am pleased to report that on Tuesday night Council passed the following motion unanimously:

I move that Council approve grant matching funds to the Pueblo de San Ildefonso for their grant application in the amount of $2,000,000 (two million) for a New Middle Mile Fiber Optic Line Connecting White Rock to Pojoaque contingent upon execution and approval of a written agreement with the Pueblo de San Ildefonso by May 31, 2024. I further move Council authorize the County Manager to sign and submit a letter of support (Attachment A) to be included with the grant application materials.

My Questions

By the time I read my prepared statement during public comments there had already been the Staff presentation and Councilors questions. So some of what I read had been rendered redundant. My statement was essentially the letter to Council that I reported in my previous blog post but boiled down to fit in three minutes. Here I will rephrase those questions again and give what I believe are the answers. The answers are my own based on a mix of searching the Internet, conversations, and surmise from listening to the discussion at the Council meeting. Some of the answers depend on an agreement between the County and the Pueblo that will only be completed if the Pueblo is awarded the grant.

What will the County pay and what will it get?

We will pay $4.4M and get access to 24 strands of dark fiber that run from White Rock to a REDINET node in Pojoaque. We will have access to that fiber for 20 years and then have a specific option for the following 20 years.

What would we use the proposed link for besides the CBN?

Los Alamos County uses the Lumen fiber that crosses the Rio Grande at Buckman as its primary path off the hill for its own traffic which already runs mostly on fiber inside the County. In the last year or so, Lumen has added a back up microwave link from Los Alamos to its hub in Santa Fe. That redundant low capacity link was on the drawing board but not in place for the December 2022 outage. During that outage, the County used an old REDINET microwave link to Pojoaque to stay connected. While I believe that the proposed fiber to Pojoaque would immediately become the County’s primary link off of the hill, I surmise that we would not sell access to our link to other customers such as LANL and LA-NET because that would compete with some of the ways the Pueblo hopes to use the remaining 120 fiber strands.

Is the capacity of the proposed link big enough?

Briefly yes. Right now off the shelf routers for lighting up dark fiber have the following capacities:

  • 10G Legacy
  • 40G Common for recent upgrades
  • 100G Widely used for new networks
  • 400G Expensive leading edge for now

Jerry Smith has told me that the CBN RFP suggested vendors propose initially serving 6,000 customers. Since ISPs in the County only offer 100M connections at premium prices, I think the extreme worst case for initial demand would be 6k *100M = 600G  bits per second or 6 of the 24 fibers using current off the shelf 100G technology.

Can we easily upgrade the capacity of the link?

Briefly yes. The fiber itself has enormous capacity. We can exploit improvements in the technology of off the shelf electronics for connecting to the fiber as they come to market and as our needs increase.

Is The Lab going to use any of San Ildefonso’s fiber strands?

I suspect that the Pueblo will pursue that.

Can other telecom businesses use the link as back-up to help them prevent outages like December 2022?

I think that’s an option that will be negotiated between them and the Pueblo. Note that no law or regulation requires those businesses to provide any level of robustness for public safety.

Side Conversations

Before the meeting started, I spoke to Alvin Leaphart, the County Attorney, and Jerry Smith introduced me to Peter Fant from San Ildefonso Services, Eric Moores from the NM Office of Broadband Access & Expansion, and Jerrold Baca from REDINET. Here are bits of what I learned from them:

County Attorney, Alvin Leaphart

Mr. Leaphart acknowledged the challenge of negotiating an agreement1 with the Sovereign Pueblo. He says that it’s been done before, but he hasn’t done such an agreement himself. Before anyone starts building the proposed link from White Rock to Pojoaque, we will need formal agreements, and the exact details of those agreements don’t exist yet.

Peter Fant, San Ildefonso Services

I overheard Mr. Fant talking about the Lumen link that runs under the Rio Grande at Buckman. Roughly, the phone company negotiated something like an easement from the Pueblo when they first ran copper lines up the hill. The easement has a very long duration and its terms let the phone company upgrade to fiber. Because the Pueblo was unhappy about that, the deal for the new fiber from White Rock to Pojoaque will be only a 20 year lease with an option for a 20 year renewal, and the Pueblo will own the conduit and fiber.

Eric Moores, NM Office of Broadband Access & Expansion

I asked Mr. Moores who will decide what grant proposals get funded. It will be a panel of NM employees, and he emphasized that the panel is anonymous and he’s not on it.

Council Increased the Proposed Match

After Councilor Hand moved to approve the $1.8M match (as suggested in the agenda) for the Pueblo’s grant application, Councilor Havemann said that she wanted to approve more to increase the chances of the Pueblo getting the grant. I’ve forgotten exactly what happened after that, but another Councilor suggested going for up to $3M. After consulting with County Manager Laurent and Attorney Leaphart, they settled on approving a $2M match, and the motion passed unanimously.

There were three public comments and all supported the item: 1. Peter Fant representing the Pueblo. 2. Jerrold Baca from REDINET. 3. Me.

To summarize what I learned at the meeting on Tuesday:

  • This Council’s support for CBN (which I would call Better Los Alamos Broadband or BLAB) is strong and unanimous.
  • At the meeting on Tuesday this Council used time more efficiently than I’ve seen at meetings of previous Councils.

  1. Mr. Leaphart did not compare A Night at the County Council to A Night at the Opera 

Middle Mile Through San Ildefonso

In the agenda for the County Council meeting on March 5, 2024 item 10 A is Approval of Providing Grant Matching Funds for San Ildefonso Services’ Connect New Mexico Grant Application in the Amount of $1,800,000 with a Total Project Amount of $6,000,000 for a New Middle Mile Fiber Optic Line Connecting White Rock to Pojoaque. I wrote the following letter to the County Council asking that they approve the funds.


Dear Counselors:

Please support Agenda item 10 A, “Approval of Providing Grant Matching Funds for San Ildefonso Services’ Connect New Mexico Grant Application …” at your meeting on Tuesday March 5. If the application succeeds, it will provide a middle mile internet connection that Los Alamos County has sought for many years.

The County wide failure of most telecommunication service in December of 2022 demonstrated that a utility essential for safety is precariously fragile. That fragility is but one symptom of the failure of government at all levels to respond appropriately to changing telecommunication technology and business models. Fortunately Council has directed Staff to address that failure with the “Community Broadband Network” (CBN) project.

Lessons from December 2022 County Wide Telecom Failure

I took two lessons specifically about our middle mile status from the 2022 failure:

  1. The telecom businesses in the county should have redundant connections off of the hill for reliability and safety.
  2. The failure showed that most internet service providers (ISPs) and other telecoms here use the Lumen link to get off of the hill. The claim, which I heard for many years, that LA County needed a middle mile solution before considering a CBN was faulty. Our CBN can connect to the internet (unreliably) through the same Lumen link that the incumbent ISPs use.

Questions about the San Ildefonso Project

While I hope that you pass a motion to support the grant application, I found the agenda item a bit thin. I hope that in your discussion of the item Staff can fill in more detail. Here are some questions that occurred to me:

  1. What would Los Alamos County get? Will San Ildefonso operate and maintain 24 strands for us for 20 years for a one time payment of $4.2M?
  2. I hope that we will use the link for our CBN. What else would we use the link for? Could we lease capacity to the incumbent ISPs? Are such leases allowed by REDINET? Would they be allowed by the agreement with San Ildefonso? Or does San Ildefonso itself plan to lease to those entities?
  3. I hope that soon we will hear about a proposed contract for building a CBN project to offer fiber to the premises throughout the County. If a CBN fails to materialize what could we salvage from our $4.2M investment in a fiber link to Pojoaque?
  4. What is the capacity of the link to REDINET that the project will provide? After Googling just now, I think 24 strands would provide 2.4 terabits per second with off the shelf technology and much more with anticipated technology. How much traffic can REDINET handle?
  5. Is the possibility that in the future we may need to upgrade the technology to increase capacity part of the discussions with San Ildefonso?
  6. Is LANL/DOE going to use any part of the bundle of 144 fiber strands?
  7. Will we or San Ildefonso or DOE be able to contract with other telecom providers to use the new fiber link as back-up to prevent a failure like December 2022?

Thanks to each of you for serving on the County Council,

Andrew M. Fraser


Report on 2023-01-24 County Council Meeting

Try this link to see video of the meeting. Rather than watch it all, you can skip to these good parts:

  • 1:53:00 Melanee Hand makes a motion
  • 1:56:30 Councilor Lepsch asks to see it written
  • 2:34:34 Motion passes

Councilor Hand’s initial motion was very close to the motion that I suggested in email to the Council the day before the meeting. When Councilor Lepsch said that the motion was long and he’d like to see it written out, Councilor Hand explained that “It was provided to all of us in an email from Andrew Fraser.” In the time they spent discussing the issue and editing the motion, they made it clear that they think that broadband infrastructure is like roads in that the County builds them without expecting to recoup the capital investment by use fees.

Here is the motion that the County Council adopted:

I move that the Council adopt the policy position that high quality reliable telecommunication including broadband is an essential utility and the Council directs the County Manager on the following items:

  1. Develop and maintain knowledge about telecommunication services in the County, and report to the Council at least annually on the status of those services. Specifically explain how the County will reliably contact residents in an emergency.
  2. Pursue a procurement option for a Community Broadband Network (CBN). In that pursuit, note that the Council values the following characteristics listed in order of importance:

A. The option is likely to actually be implemented

B. The network should permit open access

C. The County should retain ownership or an option to obtain ownership of the basic infrastructure

D. The network should provide the option of fiber to the premise to any resident who subscribes

E. The network should be built promptly


Letter to Los Alamos County Council

Dear Councilors,

I see that broadband is on the agenda for your meeting on Tuesday. I’ve read the agenda item and the attachments. While I would be pleased if you simply took the Recommended Action of directing “[the] County Manager to pursue a procurement for an open access network operator […]”, that Recommended Action ignores the weakness of general telecommunication infrastructure in the County that the outage in December demonstrated, and it fails to give guidance about the values the Manager should consider in pursuing the procurement. I recommend that you adopt a stronger motion with wording such as the following:

I move that the Council adopt the policy position that high quality reliable telecommunication including broadband is an essential utility which is not adequate in the County now. The Council directs the County Manager as follows:

  1. Develop and maintain knowledge about telecommunication utilities in the County, and report to the Council at least annually on the status of those utilities. Specifically explain how the County will reliably contact residents in an emergency.
  2. Make the information thus collected available to County residents. That information should include service options and advice on how to respond to outages.
  3. Pursue a procurement option for a Community Broadband Network (CBN). In that pursuit, note that the Council values the following characteristics listed in order of importance:
    A. The option is likely to actually be implemented
    B. The network should permit open access
    C. The County should retain ownership or an option to obtain ownership of the basic infrastructure
    D. The network should provide the option of fiber to the premise to any resident who subscribes
    E. The network should be built promptly


The first paragraph of my proposed motion expands the charge to Staff to include telecommunication in general. During the outage in December residents did not get any information about what was happening. To date we haven’t heard a comprehensive explanation of what services were affected and why. Nor have we gotten advice about how to prepare for or how to deal with any such future event. Because the utility companies that we rely on don’t take responsibility, it’s necessary for the County to step up. Items 1. and 2. are more specific about the scope of that responsibility.

Item 3. mimics the Recommended Action in the agenda and in addition lists values that characterize success. I think that one of the reasons the broadband effort ten years ago failed was because Council specified the network characteristics too tightly. The action I recommend is much longer than the Recommended Action and has more details. However, I intend for it to avoid killing the project with micro-management by saying only that we value characteristics A. through E. My proposed action does not require that the procured option have any particular characteristics. Now I will comment on each of the valued characteristics:

  • A. We do not want an option that is not likely to be implemented.
  • B. We want open access because we support freedom, and less idealistically we expect the competition that it enables to improve the quality/price ratio. The business model of the County’s dominate ISP, Xfinity, is selling entertainment and engagement. We want to separate the means of communication from the content.
  • C. We want to avoid the possibility of a monopoly ever buying the infrastructure that we build.
  • D. Fiber is the best long term technology.
  • E. The Federal BEAD program is going to provide $42B to other communities for building broadband networks. Once those communities start spending that money, they will be competing with us for resources to build networks. We will have better cheaper options if we can start before then.

Thanks to each of you for serving on the County Council,

Andrew M. Fraser


Coffee with Jerry Smith

I met Jerry Smith, the Los Alamos County Broadband Manager, for coffee Thursday morning December 8.

Mr. Smith is about to finish his first year with the County. In January of 2021 the Los Alamos County Council set Improving access to high quality broadband as one of seven priorities in their Strategic Leadership plan. They kept broadband as a priority in their plan for 2022

  1. The priority was manifest in the budget for 2022 that Council approved in April of 2021. The budget included a one time line for broadband design services and a recurring line for a Broadband Manager. Responses to the initial posting were not satisfactory, it was re-posted, and the County issued a news release announcing the second posting. Ultimately Jerry Smith filled the position after Christmas in December last year.

Note the following two points from the news release announcing the second posting:

  • The Broadband Manager position will direct, plan and oversee the research, development, design, implementation, construction, operation, and maintenance of the Community Broadband System.
  • The Broadband Manager position will be aligned to provide successful and timely implementation of projects and initiatives in line with County Management and County Council strategic goals.

Smith was hired to get a Community Broadband System built, and he is supposed do it with direction from County Management and in alignment with County Council strategic goals. I think we are fortunate that the County was able to recruit Mr. Smith. He understands more clearly than anyone I know in the County (in particular me, County Management, and the Council) the technical, financial, and political options and constraints for getting better broadband for us.

A Spectrum of Local Network Solutions

When I asked to meet with Mr. Smith, I thought that he was probably writing applications for some of the state and federal funds for broadband that I’d vaguely heard something about. I was hoping that the County would combine those funds with money raised by issuing bonds to build a communication utility that would be operated by the Los Alamos County Department of Public Utilities. That scenario would require approval at the ballot box by the citizens of the County of both the bonds and the creation of a new County Utility. Around the country I expect such elections to elicit well organized campaigns of opposition funded by the incumbent communication utilities. In part I wanted advice from Mr. Smith about how to campaign in support of such measures. I learned that the scenario I had imagined is not the most likely path to better broadband in Los Alamos.

As we started our conversation, Smith first emphasized that there is not just one path to a Community Broadband System, or in my words, Better Los Alamos Broadband (BLAB). There is a spectrum of options spread on an axis that one can think of as the degree of control and involvement that the County will have over the ongoing operation. Smith said that any satisfactory solution must provide open access. And while we didn’t talk about technical details, I think fiber to the premises is another requirement. Smith said that my idea that the Los Alamos County Department of Public Utilities would ultimately operate a fiber network as a fifth utility is at one extreme of that spectrum. At the other end is contracting with a for-profit company to build, own, and operate a network in the County. Such a contract would share the financial risk and require open access. Some of the solutions that lie in between those options would have the County own the network, and leave the operation to an outside organization. Smith believes that a local presence for service by the operator will be a consideration.

Open Access

For Smith the term open access is key. By that, I think he means residents and businesses in the County can choose from ISPs that are competing to use the same fiber plant. (Perhaps I can address the relationship between Smith’s notion of open access and the notion of open access science in another post.) He said that since 2013, the last time the County explored BLAB, other communities have implemented solutions at various points along the spectrum, and that we can use their experience to inform our choices. He talked about details of solutions several of those communities have used. I had heard about some of them before, and others were new to me. I may post a list with links in a subsequent post. Smith expects the County leadership to guide the option or options to pursue along the spectrum.

The Middle Mile

For many years leadership in Los Alamos used the absence of a middle mile solution to excuse delay in addressing BLAB. There is capacity available in the fiber that Lumen operates for LANL that crosses the Rio Grande at Buckman (failure of that link caused the December telecom blackout in Los Alamos), and I believe that all local ISPs either contract to use that fiber or use satellite links. Since Lumen has a monopoly, the prices are not attractive. Some time before Mr. Smith joined the County Staff, LANL began pursuing a redundant fiber link off of the hill. I had heard that PNM was going to allow fiber to run along side a new high voltage connection across the Rio Grand, and that the County would be able to participate. Mr. Smith explained that that solution may not be viable. He is working on alternatives that include a partnership with San Ildefonso and fiber through the Jemez.


While I had hoped that the County could combine our own money with state and federal money to build BLAB, I feared that we would not qualify for those programs because the service that Xfinity claims to offer would be deemed good enough. In a brief encounter with Representative Chandler some weeks ago, she explained that more severely under-served areas were the targets of her legislation. Smith confirmed that what Xfinity claims to offer will likely imperil our eligibility for either the state or federal programs. He explained that the FCC has a map that documents what broadband service is available anywhere in the US. The time window for challenging that map will close soon. As it stands the map makes us ineligible.

Here are links to the federal program BEAD, the NM program and the FCC map.

I don’t know exactly how Smith thinks the County can fund BLAB.

Community Engagement

In his first year Mr. Smith has made some public presentations. By Zoom I attended presentations to the County Council and the League of Women Voters. I also attended the Community Broadband Forum in October at which the agenda was

  • Listen to community members experience with internet speed and reliability,
  • Answer questions about the survey/speed tests, and
  • Discuss the project’s next steps.

I wish more people had shown up for that. If I am more concerned about community support for BLAB than Mr. Smith, it may be because it’s appropriate given our roles. I am a BLAB advocate, and he is a County employee.

What’s Urgent

  • The opportunity to challenge the FCC broadband map ends January 13, 2023. A Google search on January 13 FCC map yields a host of articles encouraging citizens to check the map. Smith sent me a Tip Card that lists the following reasons one can challenge the map:
    • Correct services or reported speeds that are not available for purchase.
    • Report a provider denial of a request for service or demand for connection charges that exceed its standard installation charge.
    • Report provider failure to schedule an installation within 10 business days of a request for service or failure to perform the installation.
  • When the $42B federal BEAD money gets awarded and begins to be spent, the market for resources necessary to build broadband projects will shift in sellers’ favor. We should get our project started before that happens.
  • The County Council presentation by Jerry Smith and representatives from the consultant, CTC, anticipated to be on the council agenda for January 24 will include results from the broadband survey. To be effective we, citizens who advocate for BLAB, should convey our concerns to Councilors before that meeting.

My Prepared Questions

Since the questions that I prepared were in part misguided, I have
left recounting them to the end of this post.

Q: What are your goals?

A: Smith wants to build open access broadband over fiber to the premises in Los Alamos County.

Q: What are you working on?

A: Funding, middle mile solutions, relationships with vendors who could build and perhaps operate a fiber plant in Los Alamos County, and community engagement.

Q: What can I do to help?

A: Perhaps invite speakers to educate the public.

Q: What kind of support from the community would help?

A: See above. Smith emphasizes educating the community more than advocacy.

Q: What were the results of the survey?

A: Smith doesn’t know yet because CTC, the consulting organization, is late getting the results. That’s in part because Patrick Mulhearn, the consultant assigned to Los Alamos, has left CTC.

Q: I sort of folded together the three questions about communication, namely: Answering questions from the public; Connecting with the County Council; Creating a board or commission.

A: My notion of communication involves advocacy, and I think Smith is reluctant to participate in advocacy.

Q: Have you thought about buying Lumen’s local phone business? I thought that would be a way to get the County into the communication utility business slowly, and that from there we could improve service incrementally.

A: Smith says vendors don’t want small projects. Rather than taking an incremental approach, doing a big project all at once will be easier to manage, and the result will be better and cheaper.


Telecommunication Blackout

I plan to attend the Los Alamos County Council meeting tomorrow, 2022-12-13, and read the following as a public comment:

Over the weekend Los Alamos County suffered a broad telecommunications failure for more than 24 hours. It is not clear to me how broad or dangerous that failure was. However I believe that it was both broad and dangerous. Both local news outlets were down till Monday morning. During the outage the only way I found to connect to the outside world was to drive to Ashley Pond and use the public WiFi there. Even with that connection, no information about the outage was available.

Telecom is a utility and natural monopoly. Utilities are classic examples of enterprises that are best provided by government or heavily regulated. In the past government regulation made sure telephone service was universally available and highly reliable. As technology has made twisted pair copper phone service obsolete, policy at the federal level has made regulation of telecom almost impossible. The alternative is local government ownership or at least control of local telecom.

As a step in the right direction, Los Alamos County recently created the position of Broadband Manager, and Jerry Smith is working to provide you options for addressing the issue in the long term. I hope the weekend outage stiffens your resolve to actually implement a long term solution. In the mean time, I ask that you direct staff to track telecom failures here and provide timely information and guidance to the public. I believe that if the outage had been in a utility managed by the County DPU, we would have gotten more prompt information about what was happening and how to respond.

Again, I thank each of you for serving on the Council.


Test Markdown

This blog,, is my first and only blog. I set it up two years ago to support a petition to the Los Alamos County Council. It took quite a lot of time to select tools and set them up. The SpeakOut! plugin for WordPress worked out. However, I don’t like editing the posts in a GUI. So today I am trying out the Import Markdown plugin for WordPress. I plan to edit posts on my desktop computer and upload them to the blog.

Markup Languages

One feature that I like about markup languages is definition lists. Here are some of the tools that I’ve used for writing:

I used roff on an IBM 360-91 to write a paper on punch cards for an undergraduate history class. It didn’t go well.
I used troff and ditroff with macro packages on a Ridge-32 computer for a couple of papers for course work in graduate school.
The first scientific paper I published was written in MacWrite, a WYSIWYG tool. I decided that I prefer markup languages, and reverted to ditroff for my second publication.
I wrote my third publication in LaTeX. Using a LaTeX dissertation style, I combined that paper with my two previous publications to make my dissertation. I’ve used LaTeX ever since.
I have some experience writing computer code documentation with markdown. I like the idea, and I’m going to try it for the blog.

Using the Tools

Since markdown isn’t WYSIWYG, I’ll use local tools to preview my posts. Here is the whole sequence for getting this posted to

  1. Use a text editor to create
  2. Preview the document.
    • Make html: pandoc -s --metadata title="Testing Markdown" -o test.html
    • View the result with firefox firefox test.html. Sublists of the numbered list don’t look right here, but they are OK when imported into WordPress.
  3. Upload to using the GUI plugin Import Markdown.
    • From the menu on the right click Markdown/Import
    • Click on browse to select the file
    • Click on Upload file and import
    • Click on “here” in You can edit it here.
  4. Oops, I don’t like some of how that looks. I guess it’s OK that it doesn’t immediately post it. I’ll put the title in by hand using the GUI.
  5. Edit on my desktop computer, and in the WordPress GUI choose Parsedown Extra from the Markdown/Options menu. Remove double spaces and line breaks in the source which the importer translates to line breaks in the displayed text.
  6. Try uploading again, and success!

Jerry Smith and I Schedule a Meeting

There was an announcement in December of 2021 that Jerry Smith would take the position of Los Alamos County Broadband Manager. I wrote to Jerry, congratulated him and offered to meet after he started. He replied and said he would like to meet. Twelve months later we agreed to meet for coffee on 2022-12-08.

I will post a report on the meeting after I’ve had time to collect my thoughts. Here are the notes that I wrote to myself to prepare for the meeting:

  • What are your goals? Ideally I’d like Los Alamos County to add to the DPU a communication utility that would run fiber to any home in the County that wanted it. I suspect you have similar goals, but I’m not sure.
  • What are you working on?
  • What can I do to help?
  • What kind of support from the community would help? I think we may need a bond election. To add a communication utility to the DPU would require an election to amend the County Charter. Opinion pieces in the paper and letters to the editor might help prepare the voters for such elections. Do you expect opposition campaigns funded by incumbent telecoms?
  • What were the results of the survey?
  • Can you or other County Staff answer questions about broadband? I have a small list of folks who exchange email about supporting Better Los Alamos BroadBand. They have questions and ideas. Could the County provide a venue for such questions? Perhaps put them on a blog and then you address ones that are worth your time?
  • How well are you connected to County Council? Do you speak to Councilors outside of Council meetings? Have you attended any of the Monday Leadership meetings?
  • Would a board or commission be helpful?
  • Have you thought of buying Lumen’s local phone business?

Suggestions for the Broadband Survey

I was encouraged by the broadband presentation on Tuesday June 30. Both the County’s Broadband Manager, Jerry Smith, and the CTC consultant, Patrick Mulhearn, were knowledgeable and well prepared.

While we should avoid running an obvious push survey, I’d like to use the survey to get the community thinking about issues like privacy, censorship and total budget. The survey is part of an effort to find how County staff can support better broadband for Los Alamos County. To do that, it should tell us:

  • What ISP and other communication services are currently used in Los Alamos County
  • How much members of the community are currently paying for services
  • How satisfied residents are with current service
  • What present and future needs are

I offer the following suggestions on the survey as an advocate for broadband in Los Alamos who is a knowledgeable interested citizen rather than an expert.

  1. Put a link to the online survey in each of the roughly 8,000 utility bills the DPU sends out. Cover either a sample of or all of the small number who can’t/won’t use an online survey from home by hand-holding at the Municipal building.
  2. Allow people to say that they object to County involvement in broadband. Q: Check all that you agree with:
    1. For profit utilities will provide appropriate communication services and Los Alamos County government should minimize its role in the business.
    2. I am satisfied with my current ISP.
    3. Los Alamos County should at least have staff expertise in broadband and electronic communication to oversee franchise agreements and support development of broadband options for the community.
    4. I want Los Alamos County to actively participate in the broadband utility market.
  3. Ask how easy it is to find availability and pricing information.
  4. Get enough information about each users ISP contract to enable the County to start providing information about what’s available to the public.  Q: If you don’t have Internet service skip to the next question.
    1. What is the name of your ISP?
    2. What speeds does your ISP claim they provide up/down?
    3. How much is your ISP bill per month?
    4. Does that bill include other services, eg, modem rental, phone, cable?
    5. What is the duration of your ISP contract?
  5. Get information about the rest of the electronic communication/content budget.  Q: For each service listed here: Indicate if you have the service; How much you pay for the service per month; If it is part of a package:
    1. Landline telephone
    2. Cell-phone (total number and total cost per month)
    3. Cable television
    4. Streaming service, eg, Netflix
    5. News and magazines, eg, Wall Street Journal
    6. Other services delivered electronically
  6. Compare your experience with the Los Alamos Department of Public Utilities to your experience with your ISP.
  7. Do you trust your ISP with respect to: Privacy; Censorship; Pricing