NH Broadband Study Committee

Good afternoon, Feb. 1, 2021

I'm Jim Isaak of Bedford, retired from the computer industry and an active volunteer in the world’s largest professional society for technologists: IEEE. I have been an advocate for broadband communications since the earliest days of the Internet, and most recently chairing the IEEE USA Committee on Communications Policy where I lead the development of a position statement on strengthening broadband initiatives.

The context of broadband Internet has changed significantly in just the last year or two. Virtual home based education, work, civic meetings, social connection, health care and entertainment have become essential. While the specific needs and options vary from community to community, it is critical that the state recognize the opportunities and remove obstacles as well as enabling local control.

Towns control decisions about local property tax rates, diversity in zoning, housing, education and even streets -- Internet access: affordability and capacity will become distinguishing characteristics of towns, attracting, discouraging or perhaps even seriously constraining residents. While I encourage every town to critically evaluate their current network situation, I also hope they will ask where they want to be over the next decade. Attracting new businesses, facilitating the growth of existing businesses and enabling entrepreneurs as the Internet continues to expand are opportunities towns need to consider.

The state can eliminate obstacles that prevent competition, particularly from municipalities, examples like PULSE service Loveland Colorado, and the leadership of the NH Electric Co-Op members demonstrate that municipal broadband is viable, and fiber to the residence with 1Gbit capacity for less than the average Cable bill is possible, even in rural and mountainous areas. Ensuring interested municipalities are empowered to take action is one step, also ensuring multiunit housing does not get locked into exclusive contracts that block alternative suppliers is another.

Competing based on a monopoly controlling the 'wire" to the residence is not in the consumer or public interest, any more than having a toll road controlling access to the home that bundles in delivery services while blocking or limiting competitors. At least one truly high bandwidth service, open to all content suppliers and services on a neutral, affordable basis is essential, and hopefully with 5G wireless, and other innovations, towns and residents may have options. Curiously our remote towns, taking their own initiative such as Lempster and Bristol may better meet the needs of 21st century industry and entrepreneurs than cities that have been locked into contracts with suppliers that have limited or negative incentives to assure affordable access with adequate capacity.

A state committee to study this issue is an important step. In addition to the defined sources of input and expert advice, I hope the committee will also seek input from related professionals including health care, our highly successful SNHU online University, and forward looking entities such as the IEEE - reflecting a diverse range of engineers, technologists and innovators.