Tag: "FTTH"

Posted July 7, 2009 by christopher

Windom, a small community of only 5,000 people in southwestern Minnesota, upgraded its city-owned cable network to a fiber-to-the-home system. They issued $9.4 million in revenue bonds (of which $800,000 were just for the first two years of interest, when no revenue is generated from the system being built) to pass 2,000 homes and 300 businesses.

But, as with so many other aspects of life, the story was more interesting than that.

Before Windom could formally dedicate resources to address its communications challenge, however, the city was required by state law to obtain a two-thirds majority vote of approval from its citizens. Largely due to the incumbent [Qwest] telecommunications operator's announcement that it would upgrade its infrastructure and roll out digital subscriber line (DSL) services in Windom's area, the initial vote in 1999 on a new city-owned network failed. But after the incumbent cancelled its plans for DSL [while building DSL in other nearby communities], a citizens group petitioned Windom's city council to put the telecommunications project back on the ballot. In spring 2000, Windom received approval by the voters to begin work on a next-generation broadband communications infrastructure project.

This is a two-page article covering some of the history of WindomNet.

Posted July 7, 2009 by christopher

This article details the philosophy, approach, and opposition to an effort to allow many communities in Iowa to build their own open access telecommunications infrastructure - full fiber networks. Many in Iowa feel particularly vulnerable to the new economy because their low density puts them low on the priority list for investments by absentee-owned companies:

There is much talk in Iowa today about the need to attract and retain young people. Each year thousands of college graduates leave the Hawkeye State. Today in Iowa, there are more people over the age of 74 than under the age of five. No state grew at a slower pace than Iowa during the last century. Reversing these trends is going to take bold leadership and fresh ideas. OpportunityIowa was created to educate citizens about the vital role 21st Century communications infrastructure could play in doing just that.

Daley argued that without local self-reliance, many towns in Iowa would not benefit in the digital economy because they would not have access to fast and affordable networks.

The current cable and telephone companies serving Iowa have no incentive to replace their copper lines. They have to and they don't want to. They don't have to because they know consumers have no choice but to use their copper wires and they don't want to [encourage open access] because it may bring competition where they currently have none. In fact, the incumbent phone and cable companies have expressed their opposition to upgrading existing infrastructure in order to make Iowa a leader in broadband capabilities.

The article ends with lists of both communities organizing referendums for Nov, 2005, as well as communities that already have telecommunications utilities. Ultimately, many communities authorized the telecommunications utilities but most of those have not followed up by building the envisioned networks.

Posted June 30, 2009 by christopher

Broadband Property's Muni FTTH Snapshot for Reedsburg, Wisconsin, offers some details on one of the earliest muni fiber deployers. They started in 2002 and began offering services in 2003. The network is run by the public utility, Reedsburg Utility Commission.

They offer a 10 Mbps symmetrical connection for $49.95/month and a very low churn rate.

The economic impact has been significant:

In April 2007 Reedsburg businesses participated in a groundbreaking research project conducted through Reedsburg Utility Commission and the Fiber-to-the-Home Council. The survey, which had a 23 percent response rate, found that the speed, bandwidth, reliability, pricing and customer service provided by Reedsburg’s fiber optic network helped them make operations easier, increase efficiency and save time.

Most of RUC’s business fiber customers were using their broadband connections for research, document transfer, and purchasing. Other uses included banking, advertising, customer service, employee training, online sales and telework.

Six in ten Reedsburg business customers reported cost savings from fiber averaging more than $20,000 per year. Half said they were able to adopt new and more efficient processes, and 46 percent cited marketing benefits. Forty one organizations, or 10 percent of all the businesses in Reedsburg, reported that their sales had increased as a result of their fiber connections, and an overall net increase in employment of 19.8 percent was attributed to fiber.

Extrapolating from the sample, the estimated benefit to the community as a whole amounts to $1.85 million per year in additional sales and a net cost savings of $4.4 million per year.

Posted June 30, 2009 by christopher

Pulaski, Tennessee, has used its public power utility, Pulaski Electric System, to build a fiber-to-the-home network. They started building the network in 2006 and offering services in 2007.

In this snapshot by Broadband Properties, the technical aspects of the network are explored.

Some economic development impact:

Local economic development leadership has begun marketing PES’ services to nearby Huntsville, Alabama, which is home to a large number of defense and space industries. Before PES built its network, the community had never attempted to approach the defense or aerospace companies because it had little to offer that met their special needs.

The FTTH network has allowed several existing industries to receive superior service at much lower prices. The system has become a focus of community pride and an example of the community’s willingness to invest in the future.

One key lesson learned has been that the long term needs of the community are not reflected in the current preferences of residents:

Although we built a state-of-the-art fiber network, we came to realize that most residential customers do not concern themselves with future applications. They are looking to replace or upgrade the services they have today. So even though we built a system capable of cutting-edge services, it often still comes down to which TV channels you offer and at what price. Customers are shoppers first.

They have also offered increasing educational opportunities:

PES established a partnership with the local college to operate our local access channel, 3PTV. This channel provides the students at Martin Methodist College with an opportunity to learn video production and technical editing, and it provides a valuable and exclusive channel offering for PES.

Also, we partnered with AT&T to provide a turnkey network that links all the schools in our county. PES provides the fiber connection, and AT&T manages the data and technical support. This allowed the local school district to use AT&T’s state contract pricing, yet be linked with PES’ fiber network.

Posted June 30, 2009 by christopher

This article highlights three publicly owned networks that are expanding or building in the midst of a difficult economy - the Dumont Telephone Company in Iowa (a cooperative); Auburn, Indiana; and Greenlight in Wilson, North Carolina.

Dumont is facing the most difficult path:

Deploying rural and small-town fiber is always tough. Doing it without much hope of funding from outside is even tougher. But visionaries in these communities took the long view, planning to stretch out their builds over as much as seven years – longer if they have to. One community – Dumont, Iowa – is profiting from a world-class GPON build with fewer than two households passed per mile and precisely zero businesses to help foot the bill.

Auburn began building a municipal fiber network to keep some local employers in town - called Auburn Essential Services. As happens all over the United States, small towns lose businesses because the private sector is not able to provide the necessary networks. Built at first just to connect some local sites, the city later began to expand it:

In mid-2006 the city adopted a phased rollout plan for FTTP, where each phase would generate revenues that could be used to fund the next phase. The first phase, which includes the neighborhoods where most businesses are located, rolled out between April and December of this year.

The city’s marketing plan includes mailers, door hangers, advertising and even site visits to businesses. Existing technology was leveraged for back-office operations, and customers were given the option of receiving consolidated utility bills or separate bills for electricity and telecommunications.

Wilson, North Carolina, was also dealing with poor local networks that hampered economic development. Time Warner not only refused to build the necessary networks, it then refused to use a network the city offered to let them ride, and finally tried to prevent them by passing what was often called the "Incumbent Protection Act" in the state legislature. Fortunately, Time Warner was not able to prevent local competition and Wilson's network is currently being built. They used a rather unique financing plan:

Rather than issue general obligation bonds, Wilson obtained $31 million in private funding...

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Posted June 30, 2009 by christopher

Kutztown, a small community in Pennsylvania, built a fiber-to-the-home network in 2002 run by the public power utility called Hometown Utilicom. The small town network was taken very seriously by major networks, like Verizon, that pushed to create laws in Pennsylvania that would make it difficult for other communities to build the networks they needed.

This snapshot from Broadband Properties offers some history and technical specifications of the network. This was the economic development impact:

Several businesses relocated to or expanded in the area because of the network. The amount of student housing has increased. The municipality itself has saved significantly on telecommunications costs. Residents have saved $1.5 million due to Hometown Utilicom’s lower rates and the competitive discounts offered by other local service providers.

Posted June 16, 2009 by christopher

In a quick followup, the Minnesota Supreme Court has affirmed the obvious by refusing to review the Appeals Court decision in the TDS (acting as "Bridgewater") v. Monticello case. This means the Appeals Court decision stands; Minnesota cities have the authority to bond for broadband networks. Read our previous coverage of this case here.

When TDS originally sued Monticello, the City had to place the investor money (raised via non-recourse revenue bonds) into escrow for the duration of the case. If the case were not resolved by June 19, 2009, Monticello would have had to return the funds to the investors, leaving it unable to finance the project. Bonding again would have almost definitely resulted in less favorable terms than those achieved before the economic meltdown.

Following the Appeals Court decision, on June 2, 2009, TDS could have had up to 30 days to request review from the Supreme Court. John Baker, an attorney from Greene Espel who represented the City throughout the process, asked the Supreme Court to expedite the review in order to prevent TDS from merely using its thirty days to run out the clock (thus winning the war while having lost every single battle).

Today, the Supreme Court sided with the Appeals Court and an obvious reading of Minnesota law: Minnesota cities are well within their authority to bond for and build broadband networks.

Monticello will immediately start work on the city's publicly owned fiber-to-the-home network. TDS has argued that such a network would now be redundant as they built a fiber network while abusing the courts to stall for time. However, it remains to be seen if TDS is truly connecting all homes with fiber, or is still using copper for that final connection (much like AT&T does in its U-Verse). The top TDS advertised speeds are 25 down and 10 up, which can be achieved with VDSL.

If TDS has truly built a fiber-to-the-home network, Monticello will be the first place in the U.S. with competing full fiber networks. However, I'm not sure that TDS will be able to compete with FiberNet Monticello on some fronts as TDS offers it television via a partnership with a satellite company. Monticello will undoubtedly have more local content and probably better customer service.

Lest you think the court battle is over, Monticello is entitled to recover some of its costs due...

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Posted June 11, 2009 by christopher

Tim Nulty offers a great vision and hope for the future of rural broadband networks. He discusses the long history of large telcos viciously attacking publicly owned networks and notes that FTTH is possible in nearly all rural areas in the U.S.

Among the advantages of public ownership, he notes the high quality of service, universal coverage, and the potential for common carriage or open access networks.

Our economy and society have evolved over the last 20 years to the point where universal availability of the most modern broadband communications is essential to fully participate in every aspect of our nation’s life. Without it, the promise of an equal chance to succeed is hollow. Our nation came to that conclusion two centuries ago when it created the national postal system, and in subsequent years with respect to roads, water, power and voice telephone. Now, it is coming to the same conclusion about the next level of communications: broadband connectivity. ...

[T]he main entrenched incumbents (both telephone and cable) are strongly reluctant to bring the latest technology to rural areas....focusing, instead, on cheaper but inferior “retrofits” to their legacy copper plant. The claimed reason is that it is not economically feasible to extend the latest technology to less “juicy” areas. In fact, this is not true. Based on the experience of a number of “non-incumbent” FTTH projects, it is clear that it is economic to bring universal FTTH to virtually any rural area that has a density of 12/13 homes per linear mile and all or most of whose plant is aerial. These characteristics cover the overwhelming majority of rural Americans.

Note: Nulty's piece appears on page 23 of the article linked to below. Preceding his piece is a poorly written piece riddled with the very sort of inaccuracies we started this site to correct. The article cites few examples and relies on worst-case, very low probability scenarios to scare the reader. Their discussion of the Utah networks suggests they are unaware of the most basic history of the project, and finally, their comparison of Burlington Telecom to Verizon is laughably simplistic and worthless.

Posted June 11, 2009 by christopher

Chattanooga, Tennessee is predicting it will offer FTTH in its entire service area by next year. The public power company has used fiber-optics in the past to manage its electrical operations and has been planning to offer a full FTTH network for awhile.

"There are two primary components to building this system. One component is taking longer than we thought and the other is happening much faster than we anticipated", said Harold DePriest, President and CEO. "The end result is that services will be available to the entire cities of Chattanooga, East Ridge and Red Bank by summer of 2010."

DePriest says once in place, EPB's fiber optic network will be the largest of its kind in the country.

However, Chattanooga has suffered the same problem that has plagued other publicly owned broadband projects around the country: incumbent telco and cableco lawyers. Comcast has sued Chattanooga in multiple courts in an attempt to limit competition (see here, here, here, and here for a few examples). As with these cases across the country (from Monticello, MN to Bristol, VA, to Lafayette, LA), the incumbents have lost the cases but successfully slowed the build-out, which hurts the community while padding company profits for an extra couple of years.

The network will offer symmetrical speeds of 10-50Mbps while keeping costs lower than the standard prices in the market.

Posted June 9, 2009 by christopher

The Broadband Properties Muni Snapshot of Jackson Energy Authority, serving Jackson Tennessee, offers a fiber-to-the-home network. As is common to the snapshots, it is heavy on technical data.

After 4 years, they had an overall take rate of 39% as well as some businesses locating in the area due to the network. Residents have saved some $8 million in aggregate since the network began offering services.

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