Sandy, a growing community of about 10,000 outside Portland in Oregon, is now building a FTTH network to expand on their successes offering city-run wireless broadband in 2003. They've done the whole wireless thing for 8 years but understand the future is high capacity, high reliability connections.
They are starting with a pilot program that seized on energy created by Google's gigabit initiative -- they held a "Why Wait for Google?" contest that asked neighborhoods to show their potential interest in a fiber-optic network.
When the Cascadia Village and Bornstedt Village won the contest, they were asked how they wanted to be involved:
What happens now? This is a pilot program, so we’re taking it step-by-step. We want the residents and property owners in Cascadia/Bornstedt Villages to be partners with us in making decisions on how this service will work. And we want it to be democratic: whatever we do, it will only be with the support of the majority of the residents and property owners who get involved.
The first thing we need to know is: how would you like to be involved? We have a lot of options, depending on your level of interest, and how busy your life is. On one end of the spectrum is simply asking us to keep you informed through e-mail or letters, and at the other end is your active participation (over a course of several meetings) in the detailed planning for the implementation of this pilot project. (Note: in the case of rental properties, we encourage both the landlord and the tenant to stay involved, and we have tried to mail this letter to both, based on available records).
This is a far cry from the massive cable and telco approach of "you will get what we give you when we offer it on the terms we decide."
SandyNet is going to continue providing access to the Internet, but according to the FAQ, they will operate the network on an open access basis, encouraging independent service providers to offer dial tone and television services on it as well.
The Oregonian covered the SandyNet story -- nearby Portland has long considered a publicly owned network that the Oregonian has skeptically covered.
The plan is an underground deployment that could take 10 years. When we have previously seen communities consider such a long deployment horizon, it is because they plan to build the network opportunistically without issuing debt. But Sandy is considering financing the network with muni bonds. Regardless of when it is available, the goal is to offer 100Mbps at $40/month -- which would make it one of the most attractive broadband deals in the nation, indeed on the continent.
Sandy has also passed an ordinance requiring new developments to install underground fiber along with other utilities -- a rule we will take a greater look at in the near future.