Tag: "FTTH"

Posted April 6, 2012 by lgonzalez

LUS Fiber now offers its business subscribers the current ultimate in broadband speeds. An April 5th press release from LUS Fiber reports that business customers of the state's only community-owned ftth network now have access to 1 gig symmetrical internet connections.

The ability to offer such fast speeds in both directions is a big draw to business customers, boosting the potential for economic development. In the press release:

“Gigabit service from LUS Fiber is one of the most robust Internet offerings on the market today,” says Terry Huval, Director of Lafayette Utilities System and LUS Fiber. “We built this community network with a promise to the people of Lafayette that we will work hard to provide them with new opportunities through this unique, state-of-the-art fiber technology…and that’s just what we’ve done.”

We have reported extensively on events surrounding the development of, and contiued corporate attack on, the LUS Fiber system. The local Lafayette Pro Fiber Blog reporter, John, notes how this advancement is rare in the US because the LUS 1 gig service can be offered to all business customers, not just those considered part of a "business core."

John also provides an excellent analysis of how LUS Fiber uses a different customer service approach than traditional ISPs. While he reports on engineering details, he also dicusses a key policy difference between providing the best service and providing any service:

Oversubscription and "best effort" is the name of the game for almost all ISPs and the bandwidth available to the last mile customer is in practice limited: if all subscribers were to use their full bandwidth at once the available speed would drop to a small fraction of the promised bandwidth. LUS has always played that game a different way, minimizing oversubscription and ensuring that even during busy hours of the day the customer's full bandwidth is available. That's in marked contrast to what I used to experience on Cox when the kids in my neighborhood got off the bus.

Kids are a major factor in the development and growth of LUS Fiber. Long ago, City-Parish President Joey Durel and his team of innovative thinkers recognized the need for...

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Posted March 19, 2012 by lgonzalez

A recent article by Chloe Morrison on Nooga.com, highlighted the inquiries and envy from all over the globe about Chattanooga's awesome community fiber network. According to Rick Barrett of the Journal Sentinel, Milwaukee is one of many admirers with wandering eyes that keep taking a peak at Tennessee. No wonder! The "Gig City" has set the gold standard for connectivity. Additionally, the city has cleverly capitalized marketing the opportunities to spread the word about their network and to attract more economic opportunities.

Collaboration is the popular theme that is associated with development. When looking back in Wisconsin, collaboration seems rare to find. We have reported extensively on AT&T's attempts to instigate discord, drag out legal proceedings, and fatally halt the possibility of community owned broadband in Wisconsin.  If the Badgers want to compete in the digital economy, as they claim they do, they will have to stop listening to the big cable and DSL companies:

Only a few Internet users, such as a hospital or a large company, would currently benefit from the full capabilities of a gigabit network that can move large amounts of data at incredible speeds. It's like buying a Jaguar when a Ford Focus would be perfectly adequate, said Andrew Petersen, spokesman for TDS Telecom in Madison. (from the Barrett article.)

We have all read this tired comparison before and it still seems silly from a technological perspective. Planning for the future is critical when investing in essential infrastructure. Technological advancement moves at a fast pace, rather than an adequate pace.

Consider this assage from the Nooga article and consider how many of the benefits of a next-generation networks TDS would actually care about:

“The benefits are far-reaching—everything from a significant boost to...

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Posted March 18, 2012 by christopher

Chattanooga has established a summer program for forward-thinking people to explore a world effectively without bandwidth limitations (thanks to their community fiber network) -- the Gig Tank in the Gig City.

What could you do if bandwidth was no longer a barrier? Choose your track and bring your world-changing gigabit idea to the Gig Tank.

Whether you are an entrepreneur or student, there is an opportunity for you. But you better act fast! The deadline for applications is fast approaching -- get in your application before Tuesday, March 20 transitions into March 21.

They have prizes and plenty of other benefits for the people selected to join the program. If you are the first to identify someone who joins the program, you could get some cash money yourself - so check out this video and spread the word.

Posted March 14, 2012 by lgonzalez

Chelan PUD is asking the people of their rural community whether they “love” or “just like” their beleaguered and pioneering fiber-optic network. At a series of public input meetings to be held across the county over the next month, residents will have the chance to hear opinions from business, economic, and marketing consultants, as well as express their devotion, or lack thereof, to the network. The future of the network is in question and the Chelan PUD needs to hear from its owners.

At the first meeting, on February 28th, most residents of Chelan County said that having a locally owned and controlled network available to them was a priority. Consultants hired by the PUD said the fiber-optic network could be self-sustaining in the long term with changes in business planning. Recommendations included writing off internal debt, more aggressive marketing efforts to existing and ready locations, and collaborating with ISPs to obtain more subscribers in the open access network. Yes, the PUD Fiber-optic network has had its problems, including high installation costs due to the landscape and lack of conduit, changes in PUD leadership, and incompatible existing residential technology. Nevertheless, experts and the local community appear patient and cautiously optimistic. More meetings will follow; the next is scheduled for March 19th.

Providers lease from the PUD (state law prohibits them from competing directly with retail services) and proceeds from wholesale electricity sales have allowed the network to continue expanding. As we have reported in the past, the PUD is an open access network and while it has not been able to pay down its debt, and has had some difficulties, the PUD network has recognized value in the community, as evidenced at this first meeting. It certainly beats not having access to the essential infrastructure necessary to succeed in the modern economy.

John Tomkins, a Plain resident wants fiber, if it comes to his area. “Business is going to go where they can get a high-speed network. Let’s give our county the opportunity to grow.”

Chelan PUD is finding creative ways...

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Posted March 8, 2012 by christopher

Chattanooga's EPBFi community fiber network has been one of the most celebrated muni networks in the nation. They were the first to offer a gigabit to anyone in the city and have launched a bounty for geeks that relocate to the "Gig City."

They have connected 35,000 subscribers to the network, blowing away their original goal of 26,000 by the third year. They have attracted thousands of new jobs that would not have materialized if they simply accepted the AT&T/Comcast duopoly for their community.

The Times Free Press reports:

At the current rate, EPB can shave seven years off the time it will take to pay off its telecom debt, becoming virtually debt-free by 2020 instead of 2027 as projected, Eaves [EPB CFO] said.

Even so, the government utility still is spending money to sign up new customers, a process that will increase debt until 2013, Eaves said.

The utility has $51 million in total debt so far, but it only needs 30,000 customers to break even on operational costs, Eaves said.

"We are currently cash- flow positive from an operations standpoint, but still increasing debt to fund the capital associated with signing up new customers," he said.

As we frequently remind our readers, finances are complicated. Even though the network continues to do very well, its debt will increase for a few more years while it continues rapidly acquiring new subscribers. Each subscriber takes years to pay off the debt of connecting them.

Recall that EPB unexpectedly got a Department of Energy stimulus grant to deploy its smart grid much more rapidly than planned for. As the electric division owns much of the fiber fabric, the grant does not impact the finances of the Fiber-Optic division, aside from allowing EPB to roll the network out to more people more rapidly. The changed plan increased their costs and their revenues over the original plan.

Posted February 16, 2012 by christopher

Susan Crawford's op-ed in Bloomberg makes a tremendous case for publicly owned broadband networks.

She notes the importance of broadband and the failure of big cable and DSL companies to meet the growing needs of communities, just as the electrical trusts were insufficient to electrify much of America.

I'm a bit biased because she cites our work:

Today, the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, which advocates for community broadband initiatives, is tracking more than 60 municipal governments that have built or are building successful fiber networks, just as they created electric systems during the 20th century. In Chattanooga, Tennessee, for example, the city’s publicly owned electric company provides fast, affordable and reliable fiber Internet access. Some businesses based in Knoxville -- 100 miles to the northeast -- are adding jobs in Chattanooga, where connectivity can cost an eighth as much.

Though I encourage readers to read the full column, I love the conclusion:

Franklin D Roosevelt

Right now, state legislatures -- where the incumbents wield great power -- are keeping towns and cities in the U.S. from making their own choices about their communications networks. Meanwhile, municipalities, cooperatives and small independent companies are practically the only entities building globally competitive networks these days. Both AT&T and Verizon have ceased the expansion of next-generation fiber installations across the U.S., and the cable companies’ services greatly favor downloads over uploads.

Congress needs to intervene. One way it could help is by preempting state laws that erect barriers to the ability of local jurisdictions to provide communications services to their citizens.

Running for president in 1932, Franklin D. Roosevelt emphasized the right of communities to provide their own electricity. “I might call the right of the people to own and operate their own utility a birch rod in the cupboard,” he said, “to be taken out and used only when the child gets beyond the point where more scolding does any good.” It’s time to take out that birch rod.

Posted February 1, 2012 by christopher

Local governments are often looking for low-risk options for expanding broadband access to residents and local businesses. There are not many. Seattle put some extra conduit in the ground as a part of a different project that was tearing up the streets but Comcast was the only provider interested.

The problem with a haphazard program of putting conduit in the ground is that while it benefits existing providers, it does very little to help new entrants. And conduit is inherently limited -- only a few providers can benefit from it and when used up, there is no space for more providers.

In short, more conduit may slightly improve the status quo but it does little to get us to a future where residents and local businesses have a variety of choices from service providers offering fast, reliable, and affordable access to the Internet.

Smart conduit policy can lay the groundwork for lowering the cost of a community network, which can get us where we want to be. It may take time, but will create benefits far more rapidly than private providers will be building next-generation networks in most of our communities.

John Brown, a friend from Albuquerque, New Mexico, has offered some tips for communities that want to develop smart conduit policies. Brown runs CityLink Telecommunications, an impressive privately owned, open access, FTTH network that connects residents, businesses, schools, muni buildings, etc.

We tend not to support privately owned networks because for all the great work a companiy like CityLink Fiber does, one does not know who will own it in 5, 10, or 20 years. However, we recognize that CityLink Fiber is a far better partner for communities than the vast majority of companies in this space.

The following comments are taken from an email he shared with me and is permitting me to republish. Direct quotes are indented and the rest is paraphrased.

Not all conduit is created equal. A 2 inch pipe will be sufficient for perhaps 2 providers. If conduit does not have inter-duct, it is much harder for multiple providers to share it. Inter-duct creates channels within the conduit that allows a provider to pull its fiber cables through without disturbing other...

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Posted January 28, 2012 by christopher

Chattanooga's community owned EPB Fiber Network continues to get positive reviews from subscribers in the local paper. And Comcast's customers continue to complain. The Times Free Press Chattanoogan presents a tale of two providers.

The longer letter details the frustration in dealing with Comcast following the failure of their on-demand service. After Comcast didn't resolve the problem over the course of several phone calls, the subscriber was told she would have to pay $30 for a Comcast technician to come to their house, even if the problem was entirely caused by Comcast's network and/or equipment.

The second letter, from Leah, notes that she too suffered at the hands of Comcast's customer service but became EPB customers after a long absence from their home due to damage from the tornadoes of 2011. When they returned home, they went with the community network rather than Comcast.

This is how she reflects on her experience with EPB:

We have had one instance where we needed to contact customer service, and the problem was fixed quickly and easily by the most polite customer service rep I’ve ever dealt with.

Comcast came by recently to offer us a “substantial savings” if we’d make the switch back to them. My question was, why now? I was a customer for years and treated poorly as rates increased exponentially. Now the offer the discount? No thanks.

For the $5 extra per month that we pay for EPB, we receive better features, prompt and polite customer service, and an all around trouble free experience. Thanks EPB!

Posted January 13, 2012 by christopher

Prior to Chattanooga's gigabit announcement, Amazon had no considered that region as a location for the distribution center they would looking to put in the southeastern U.S. But they saw the announcement, talked to the City and Boom! Over 1,000 jobs.

I've long known of this economic development example but did not fully appreciate how important access to the Internet is for an Amazonian Distribution Center. But this article about its coming expansion (more on that in bit) offers some context.

The distribution center is the size of 17 football fields and hosts 700 Internet access points connected by 7 miles of fiber-optic cables within the facility. So access to the Internet is pretty important for a distribution center of an online retailer.

When Amazon announced its investment in Chattanooga, it predicted some 1400 jobs with additional seasonal employment opportunities. After cutting back seasonal employees with the end of the holiday season, it was still employing 2000 workers.

With its expansion, it will add hundreds of jobs -- hundreds of jobs that would not be in Chattanooga without the community fiber network. Massive national providers like Comcast regularly claim they can deliver any level of service to big customers but the reality is that they are not willing to charge reasonable prices for such services and they are much harder to work with (partially because the bureaucracy at any massive cable corporation is worse than that of any local government).

Posted January 5, 2012 by christopher

Provo built a city owned FTTH network after its public power utility started connecting its substations with fiber-optic cables in the early 2000's. iProvo ultimately developed along similar open access lines as UTOPIA, but unlike UTOPIA, Provo did not actually want to operate on a purely wholesale model.

iProvo was forced into the wholesale-only model, where the publicly owned network offered wholesale services to independent ISPs that then resold service to residents and businesses. Comcast and Qwest (now CenturyLink) recognized the threat posed by municipalities building next generation networks -- particularly in communities that did not even have full DSL and cable coverage from the giant providers that long delayed upgrades, knowing that subscribers had no other options.

Comcast and Qwest went to the state legislature and did what they do best -- bought influence and pushed through laws to essentially prohibit publicly owned networks from offering direct retail services, knowing that the wholesale-only approach had proved a very difficult model to work financially.

UTOPIA had long had a vision of making the open access, wholesale-only model work (that proceeded to largely fail, for a variety of reasons -- only to start turning around in recent years) but Provo, with its public power utility, was denied its preferred model of offering services directly.

iProvo was built at a cost of $40 million and has operated in the red since, though a number of postive externalities from the network was not included in those calculations. For instance, City Departments had access to much higher capacity connections than were available previously and were not charged for them (a poor practice in our estimation). For more details on iProvo, I recommend a video of a discussion in 2011.

At any rate, iProvo was then sortof sold off to a private provider (sort of because the city is still on the hook for the debt) in large part because private providers are not as crippled by state law. Unfortunately, the network has already developed a bad reputation for many (thanks to the state law preventing Provo from being able to ensure a good subscriber experience).

And now Provo is...

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