Tag: "FTTH"

Posted September 4, 2009 by christopher

Johnson City, Tennessee, is considering the pros and cons of expanding the fiber network its public electrical utility is installing to connect substations in order to improve grid reliability. They may follow the example of many other Tennessee public utilities that have offered broadband services to residents, creating competition in a sector sorely needing it.

They will need to speed the process along if they are going to get any stimulus money - many communities have been considering these options for longer and are ready with plans.

When Johnson City first considered connecting the substations, providers opposed it, afraid they would ultimately offer broadband services to residents. These providers said they already had fiber and would be happy to connect the substations at a "fraction of what JCPB [Johnson City Power Board] is about to spend."

Undoubtedly, they were comparing the costs of building a public network against the costs of leasing services for one year. Johnson City was smart to rebuff them and pursue owning the fiber - companies like Charter and Comcast don't make a profit by offering fair prices on connectivity (in fact, Charter is still bankrupt despite overcharging for its slow broadband speeds). Communities that own their fiber (regardless of whether they offer retail services to businesses and residents) find that they get better services at lower costs than when leasing connectivity.

These cable companies in Tennessee are brutal - they abuse the courts with frivolous lawsuits (that are frequently thrown out at the first opportunity) and invent data to suggest public ownership is a poor choice. Ultimately, Johnson City Power Board will have to choose what makes sense based on the numbers, not on fearmongering from companies that are just trying to protect high profits protected by a lack of competition.

Posted August 19, 2009 by christopher

Geoff Daily recently put up "Hey FCC: Stop Ignoring Municipal Broadband!" It is a sentiment I wholeheartedly echo and amplify. If the FCC is going to chart a course for where America is heading, it should start with some communities who are already there - Burlington, VT and Lafayette, LA. These communities have built (Burlington) or are building (Lafayette) that networks that everyone will need if America will retain is leadership position in the 21st century.

There are communities across the country that have found success building and operating their own broadband networks. Despite the caricature that municipal broadband invariably leads to boondoggles, that's just simply not the reality.

That's part of the reason why I think the FCC needed to include municipal representation on these panels. There's a lot of fear, uncertainty, and doubt that's built up around municipal broadband that the FCC needs to be addressing on a factual basis. By not including municipal broadband on these panels I couldn't help but wonder if either the FCC was buying into these falsehoods or if they just didn't think municipal broadband was a significant enough player to include.

The current FCC approach is akin to starting the Interstate Highway system with a series of workshops featuring horse breeders.

In the meantime, the Economist has recognized the need for US regulators to get with the times. Fiber is the future - if it weren't for profit-maximizing companies and their lobbyists, talk of DSL would be followed by laughs.

With broadband networks, the role of the state has less to do with limiting handouts than increasing choice. Fibre-optic networks can be run like any other public infrastructure: government, municipalities or utilities lay the cables and let private firms compete to offer services, just as public roadways are used by private logistics firms. In Stockholm, a pioneer of this system, it takes 30 minutes to change your broadband provider. Australia’s new $30 billion all-fibre network will use a similar model.

Posted August 6, 2009 by christopher

As promised a few weeks ago, Ellen Perlman has written a piece on the story behind the Lafayette, Louisiana publicly owned FTTH network. This might just be the best network available in the U.S. in terms of offering the fastest speeds at the more affordable prices and offering the most benefit to the community. The path was certainly not easy nor quick but they are now offering services. The video below is a good example of how communities can respond to incumbents that prefer to advertise and lie rather than invest in networks. Fortunately the folks down in Louisiana didn't take Slick Sam lying down - they confronted him and are building a modern network to ensure Lafayette can flourish in the future. They no longer have to beg absentee-run networks for upgrades.

Posted August 6, 2009 by christopher

Ellen Perlman of Governing has written a short history of the struggle in Lafayette, Louisiana (Cajun Country) to build a publicly owned (by the public power utility) FTTH network. She also highlights the role of citizen activists who worked quite hard to show community support for the network (see video below). An excerpt:

Huval, the Lafayette utility’s director, advises municipalities interested in similar projects to be sure to do their research and hire experts. “Municipalities are going to face pushback, and it’s going to take different forms,” he says. They need a good plan to share with elected officials and the public and to use in reaching out to business, the education community and residents. “Make sure that what you’re trying to do is what they want,” Huval says. “No matter how good the idea, it’s climbing a steep hill.”

But for Lafayette, at least, the climb seems to have been worth it. Recently, a Canadian company moved a call center to Lafayette, creating hundreds of jobs. Company representatives told city leaders that Lafayette had proved itself to be forward-thinking with its plan for high-speed fiber. Durel, when testifying before Congress, had facetiously told lawmakers that other companies would do well to come to Lafayette and plug in to its prized fiber. “Please send your technology companies to Lafayette, Louisiana,” he said. “We will welcome them with open arms and a gumbo.”

Posted July 29, 2009 by christopher

Many people in rural areas get their phone services from a cooperative telephone company. When it comes to fiber in rural areas, some of these cooperatives are on the cutting edge. The July Issue of FTTH Prism [pdf] from Chaffee Fiber Optics has a feature on Paul Bunyan Telephone in Minnesota. They are an aggressive broadband network deployer in rural areas, often saving residents from Qwest or another company unable (sometimes just unwilling) to build these necessary networks.

Cooperative telephone companies fall into our understanding of publicly owned because they focus on their communities first and do not seek to maximize profits at the expense of social benefits.

Paul Bunyan Telephone is nearly 60 years old and now covers over 4,500 square miles. They have used RUS loans to finance significant portions of the network.

Currently, over 4,000 locations are served with our fiber-to-the-home network, which represents about 30 percent of our entire network. For these customers, thanks to the benefits of fiber optics, we can deliver high-speed Internet services up to 40 Mb (both upload and download) and a host of advanced television services including multiple streams of high-definition television, digital video recording, and on-demand services.

For those who claim that people in rural areas just don't understand broadband or don't want it, this company has an answer:

One specific example the fiber optic network capacity can have on a business is Northwood DNA, Inc. This is a business operating in a very rural area, Becida, MN, that provides DNA sequencing and genotyping services globally. The services they provide require receiving and sending large data files electronically. Prior to the deployment of the fiber optic network, their business was only able to report two to three test results per day. Today, with the benefits of the all fiber optic network, they report over 50 test results per day.

The full story starts on page 9 of the 2009 July FTTH Prism.

Posted July 24, 2009 by christopher

Fiona's Morgan's 2008 article on Greenlight in Wilson, North Carolina. The article comprehensively covers why Wilson chose to do it and the issues involved with a community choosing to build its own network.

The Buchans have better Internet access than you do, wherever you live in the Triangle, thanks to the $28 million fiber-to-the-home network the city of Wilson is installing to every address in its city limits. That network powers Greenlight, Wilson's fiber-optic-based Internet, television and phone service. Like its water, sewer and electricity, the city now provides high-speed Internet as another public utility.

...

Yet there's one major difference: speed. Greenlight's Internet starts at 10 Megabits per second and goes up to 100, a speed common in nations such as Japan and South Korea, yet rare in the United States. Time Warner's residential Road Runner service offers no higher than 10 Mbps in much of the state. In Wilson, however, the company recently upped its top-tier speed to 15 Mbps "because of the competitive environment," a Time Warner spokesperson said.

Posted July 10, 2009 by christopher

Another in the series of Municipal FTTH snapshots from Broadband Properties Magazine, Gainesville Regional Utilities network is a utility owned fiber network that is slowly working its way to citywide coverage. They serve the city and surrounding unincorporated areas.

The article covers their biggest challenges - including the importance of educating the population as to why the utility upgraded to fiber-optic connections.

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 July 7, 2009 by christopher

In 2004, the Loma Linda city council passed a short, one paragraph ordinance that modified the building code. From then on, new buildings, or buildings that were significantly renovated had to meet specifications to be added to the Loma Linda community fiber network - the Connected Community Program. This is an interview with James Hettrick, who was largely responsible for it.

I'd like t hose communities to have an opportunity to say what kind of infrastructure is put in, so that they have some say over what kind of services they can provide later. It's pretty tough for cities to re-negotiate with the telcos after they put in their infrastructure and system. The telcos then see them as a revenue source rather than as a partner. After that, it becomes very difficult for cities to do the kinds of things that they may want to do.

Loma Linda is an interesting network because they have put it in the building code - meaning developers pay much of the cost of building it - a strategy that works better in towns with more greenfields than existing developments.

It's built by the developers to our specifications just like the streets, water, sewer and storm drains system. After completion, they deed the infrastructure over to us; we then must maintain it forever. Once it's available to us, we put in our active gear and serve their buyers. They, of course, market their homes in this region as unique. On a side note, studies have shown that homes wired with fiber usually sell for $4000-$14,000 over those without fiber [the additional cost of building the network is estimated at $3,500 per unit to the developer].

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