Broadband Bits Podcast Keeps Public-Sector Officials Inspired

These top 7 broadband-focused podcasts from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance cover public ownership versus private and the threats that monopolies pose, to name a few.

by / April 1, 2015

Podcasting is on the rise. New podcasts are created every day, more people are listening to them, and they’re becoming more profitable, with the most popular bringing in $10,000 to $50,000 per episode. Even the world of government technology has its podcasts, and the Broadband Bits Podcast is one of the best.

Each week, Chris Mitchell of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance interviews people involved with the world of municipal broadband – policy makers, community leaders and technologists who share their experiences and opinions about one of the most impactful technologies in local government. 

Mitchell is constantly meeting with officials in local governments large and small, but writing about everything he learns would be too time consuming, he explained. A podcast was a way to get the information out quickly and to let the most interesting voices in the space explain in their own words, he said.

“I think it personalizes some of these projects in interesting ways,” Mitchell said of Broadband Bits. “The information we put out on muninetworks.org is really designed to keep people inspired, and we’ve heard that regularly from people, whether it’s the podcast or the print stories or whatever it is we’re doing.”

The free, weekly podcast clocks at about 20 minutes, and each episode is available for download or stream directly from the Community Broadband Networks website. Mitchell said they have a relatively small, but loyal audience, generally logging about 500 downloads in the first week that each episode is released. He’s even been recognized by voice alone at a couple of conferences, he added.

The show frequently takes a case-study approach to its topic, and because it’s not usually topical, the material stands up over time, Mitchell said.

Broadband Bits started in June 2012 and has since published more than 140 episodes, so for readers of Government Technology looking to get started, Mitchell composed a list of his top 7 episodes.

1. Public or Private Ownership? 

“My favorite podcast I think was one we did with Blair Levin,” Mitchell said, referencing episode 132, in which he debates the former FCC director of the 2009 National Broadband Plan. “It was where he and I discussed his preference for private-sector investment and my preference for public-sector investment. It was the longest show that we’ve done, and I thought it was helpful. We focused on the areas where we agreed and then the areas where we disagreed, we weren’t really trying to one-up each other, so much as trying to explain our reasoning to the audience.”

2. Responding to “Crazy Talk” series

As a strong proponent of municipal broadband, Mitchell frequently hears from those who ideologically oppose a public investment approach to Internet access. In five episodes called Responding to “Crazy Talk,” Mitchell and his cohort Lisa Gonzales react to and attempt to dispel some of those common claims.

3. The Real Threats from Monopoly

Speaking with Barry Lynn of the New America Foundation, Mitchell addresses in episode 83 the threats that monopolies pose, what today’s political landscape looks like, and the historical context of today’s broadband landscape.

4. Jim Baller series

In this three-part series, Mitchell speaks with Jim Baller, senior principal of a Washington, D.C.-based communications law firm. Baller helps local government build community broadband networks, and in these recordings, he examines broadband history, examines a few fiber-to-the-home case studies, and explains some of the legal battles that have contributed to today’s legal landscape.

5. Dewayne Hendricks series

In this three-part series, Mitchell interviews the “broadband cowboy,” and they spend a lot of time talking about the wireless technologies that are often used to deliver broadband to remote locations. 
 
“There’s been an idea sometimes propagated in D.C., sometimes from state capitols, that people in rural areas don’t need as good of a service because they’re not as interested in broadband, and I usually ask the guest to respond,” Mitchell said. “And invariably, they describe all the ways in which people in rural areas go to great lengths to get Internet access. The value it highly.”

6. To Overbuild or Underbuild?

This brief episode features Mitchell and Gonzales discussing the question of how much a community should build when developing its network. The two cover topics like economics, fairness and challenges surrounding this common question.

7. State of Minnesota's Border to Border Broadband Fund

In episode 119, Mitchell reports on a piece of legislation in his home state, examining why the grant program was created and what other states can learn from it.
The Broadband Bits Podcast can be found on MuniNetworks.org.
Colin Wood former staff writer

Colin wrote for Government Technology from 2010 through most of 2016.