News

Posted June 28, 2017 by lgonzalez

One Touch Make Ready (OTMR) policies are recognized as a way to cut down on the expense and the time it takes to deploy fiber optic networks. At least three sizable urban communities have adopted OTMR practices to streamline fiber optic construction and ensure consistent standards. For other communities looking at ways to encourage brisk fiber optic investment, it pays to study the language of OTMR resolutions and policies.

OTMR allows a pre-approved contractor to move cables belonging to more than one entity on one visit to the pole to make room for the new fiber optic cable. This is a departure from the old method, in which each entity takes turns visiting the pole in question to move only their wires. The old approach is time consuming because each entity must take turns in the order in which their wires are installed on the poles. If one entity causes a delay, every other entity that needs to work after them must also wait. What follows is a snowball effect and an entire project can fall far behind schedule.

San Antonio, Texas

San Antonio’s municipal utility, CPS Energy, adopted a broad set of pole attachment standards that include specific requirements for OTMR, including what needs to happen before, during, and after the process.

The standards lay out administrative procedures, technical provisions, and specific provisions for both wired and wireless attachments. It incorporates recommendations from the FCC on how best to expand broadband while also weaving in safety standards from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). In the introduction, CPS Energy writes:

From a holistic perspective, the Standards seek to balance the competing needs and interests of multiple communications providers to access and utilize CPS Energy Poles, while at the same time recognizing that the core purpose and function of these Poles is for CPS Energy’s safe and reliable distribution and delivery of electric services to CPS Energy customers. Hence, any use of CPS Energy’s Poles must at all times ensure the continued operational integrity, safety and reliability of CPS Energy’s Facilities, electric services, personnel and the general public.

You can view the...

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Posted June 27, 2017 by christopher

Just what does it take to have a market? It may be more complicated than you think -- and in large part because of the things most of us don't notice that governments do. We discuss this and the role of broadband planners with Alex Marshall on Community Broadband Bits podcast 260. 

Alex is the author of The Surprising Design of Market Economies, a columnist for Governing magazine, and Senior Fellow at the Regional Plan Association in New York City. In the course of our conversation, he notes the Portland Speech from President Franklin D. Roosevelt. 

One of the highlights of our conversation is comparing roads to broadband in terms of benefits, how they are funded, and the danger from over zealous tolling. We strongly recommend Alex's writing as it has been quite influential in our thinking about municipal infrastructure over the years. 

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

This show is 25 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed.

You can download this mp3 file directly from here. Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Thanks to Arne Huseby for the music. The song is Warm Duck Shuffle and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.

Posted June 27, 2017 by lgonzalez

People in Otis, Massachusetts, are now seeing utility crews make space for fiber optic cable on poles as they prepare for the community’s publicly owned Internet network. The schedule calls for cable installation in August; the network should start serving residents and businesses this fall.

Working With A Neighbor

Like several other hill towns in western Massachusetts, Otis is working with Westfield Gas + Electric’s WhipCity Fiber, which will handle construction of the network. WhipCity will construct the network in phases, connecting premises as neighborhoods are completed. The project will connect 1,687 premises and will cost approximately $5 million. 

Construction is finally able to commence because in May, the Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI) released funding for last mile broadband networks to several towns that advocated for their own solutions. Otis received $1.7 million. Communities like Otis that chose to invest in publicly owned infrastructure are required to contribute to the cost of their network.

MBI chose to release the funds after a drawn out situation in which unserved and underserved communities in the western part of the state first planned to unite as a broadband cooperative, WiredWest. MBI was the administrator of approximately $50 million in federal stimulus and state grant funding but withheld the funds. They felt there were problems with the WiredWest business model, but local towns and municipal network experts did not share those concerns. Instead, MBI planned to dole out the funding to large incumbent providers, which angered many of the local communities that have expressed dissatisfaction with treatment by those very companies over the years. Comcast will still obtain large amounts of the grant money to build out in several of the smaller communities. Those small towns will not be required to contribute, but 100 precent of their premises are not always served and they will not own the infrastructure.

At least a dozen local communities did not want to work with Comcast or any other big incumbent, however, and instead wanted to...

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Posted June 26, 2017 by Nick

California

The time is now for San Francisco municipal fiber, says report by Ryan McCauley, GovTech

San Francisco considers municipal broadband by Bailey McCann, CivSource

 

Mississippi

Supes move to attract fiber Internet providers to county by Ryan Phillips, Starkville Daily News

"Big telecom companies should either lead, follow or get out of the way trying to provide these services," Presley said. "It's high time they plan to serve every customer in Mississippi and we will be introducing plans in the coming months to get that done."

 

North Dakota

Affordable broadband vital to development by Sean Cleary, Grand Forks Herald

 

Texas

Comcast accused of cutting competitor's wires to put it out of business by Jon Brodkin, ArsTechnica

Telecom Cable LLC had "229 satisfied customers" in Weston Lakes and Corrigan, Texas when Comcast and its contractors sabotaged its network, the lawsuit filed last week in Harris County District Court said.

Comcast had tried to buy Telecom Cable's Weston Lakes operations in 2013 "but refused to pay what they were worth," the complaint says. Starting in June 2015, Comcast and two contractors it hired "systematically destroyed Telecom’s business by cutting its lines and running off its customers," the lawsuit says. Comcast destroyed or damaged the lines serving all Telecom Cable customers in Weston Lakes and never repaired them, the lawsuit claims.

 

General

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Posted June 26, 2017 by lgonzalez

In August, voters in Lyndon Township, Michigan, will decide whether or not they want to approve a plan to invest in publicly owned fiber optic Internet infrastructure.

It’s All In The Mills

Voters are being asked to approve a millage increase of 2.9 over a 20-year period. In other words, property taxes will increase approximately $2.91 per $1,000 of taxable value of a property. Those funds will be used to fund a bond to finance the project; city leaders have already determined that the principal amount of the project will not exceed $7 million.

Once the infrastructure has been completed, the community plans to partner with one or more Internet Service Provider (ISP). Estimates for monthly millage bond costs and monthly cost for Internet access at 100 Megabits per second (Mbps) are approximately $57 for Lyndon Township’s average homeowner. Gigabit access will be available and will cost about $25 more each month.

If funding is approved, the community expects to finish the project and be using their new Internet infrastructure by the end of 2018.

Supported By Citizens

The issue of better connectivity in Lyndon Township isn’t a new one. At a meeting in March 2016, Township Board members voted 5-0 to fund a feasibility study. The Board had approached providers about improving connectivity in the area, but none considered an investment in Lyndon Township a good investment. 

At the meeting, members of a broadband initiative started by local residents shared their stories. As is often the case, local residents described driving to the library or Township Hall to access the Internet because their own homes were unserved or connectivity is so poor. According to a Chelsea Update article, when the Board approved the feasibility funding, “[t]here was a vigorous round of applause from the crowd.”

seal-michigan.png About 80 percent of the community does not have access to FCC defined broadband at 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload. In the summer of 2016 when property owners received a survey about Internet access with their property tax bills, 83 percent of those who replied and were registered voters described...

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Posted June 24, 2017 by lgonzalez

Tenants often don’t know what level of Internet access they can expect in a new office location or home until they are already committed to moving in. Boston aims to change the unpredictability and improve the city’s connectivity by working with WiredScore to establish a Broadband Ready Building Questionnaire as part of the city’s planning and development review process.

Thinking Ahead For Better Development

Boston Planning & Development Agency (BPDA) and the city’s Department of Innovation and Technology (DoIT) have entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the company. The questionnaire will apply to new projects, planned development areas, and institutional master plans and will be used to assess a project’s impact on matters such as transportation, access to public spaces, environment, and historic resources. The questions will also serve to obtain public feedback.

WiredScore has developed Wired Certification, an international rating system for commercial real estate that offers several levels of building certification based on quality of connectivity. A high level of certification is not based solely on one provider that offers high capacity connectivity to a building. There are a number of factors that determine which level of certification applies to a WiredScore ranked facility.

Specialized For Boston

Boston and WiredScore developed a unique questionnaire that addresses the issues they consider most relevant. In addition to rights-of-way and entry to the building, the partners ask specifics about telecom rooms, delivery of service within the building, and the accommodation of future innovative technologies. They also ask property owners about ISP providers at the address and whether or not tenants have choice.

With better information, commercial and residential tenants can choose a home that fits their needs. According to Christopher:

One of the many problems with Internet access is the lack of reliable information about services at a given location. This agreement between Boston and WiredScore is a step in the right direction - better ISPs thrive in sunlight while the biggest cable and telephone companies rely on ignorance and monopoly.

Developers are not required to pursue certification, and the questionnaire isn’t mandatory. This long-term approach is an inexpensive way for...

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Posted June 22, 2017 by lgonzalez

Last year, Islesboro released a Request for Proposals (RFP) in their search for a contractor to complete Scope A of their Fiber-to-the-Premise (FTTP) network. Now the community is ready to move on with Scope B and recently released a second RFP for Construction Services for Fiber Optic Broadband Infrastructure. Proposals are due July 26, 2017.

Trading In DSL For Fiber

The town’s 600 year-round island population grows to more than 2,000 during the summer. As we’ve reported in the past, Fairpoint DSL serves much of the island, but residents are tired of unreliable, slow Internet access. They’ve decided to invest in publicly owned infrastructure and work with a private provider who will offer services across the community.

The city website describes the project:

The Town of Islesboro is currently constructing a Fiber-to-the-Premise network.  The network will span approximately 50 miles of fiber backbone, 40 miles of fiber drops, and a microwave wireless component connecting outlying islands. The FTTP network will provide universal access to gigabit service for approximately 675 homes and businesses. Construction of the outside fiber plant was previously awarded via a "Scope A" RFP process.  Installation of equipment and services at the premise was previously awarded via a "Scope C" RFP process.  The Town is now conducting a "Scope B" RFP process for the installation and testing of the transport and access electronics housed in the Point of Presence building.  Please see the documents listed below for complete information regarding this Request-for-Proposals.

 

Important Dates

Notification of Intent to Respond: June 22, 2017

Mandatory Pre-bid Conference Call: June 29, 2017 11:00 A.M. (EDT)

RFP Questions and Answers Conference Call: July 6, 2017

Written questions due: July 13, 2017

Proposals due: July 26, 2017 1:00 P.M. (EDT)

 

For more details...

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Posted June 22, 2017 by lgonzalez

Rural areas in southeastern Ohio and north West Virginia are plagued by poor connectivity. In the Appalachian region, people are organizing to find ways to solve the problem themselves rather than face the risks facing communities with no access to high-quality Internet access. On July 18th, the National Rural Assembly will hold "The Appalachian Ohio-West Virginia Connectivity Summit" in Marietta, Ohio.

Connecting Experts With Community Members

The summit will bring experts together to share their knowledge with participants who are interested in learning more about ways to improve local connectivity. In addition to a keynote address by Christopher, breakout sessions will include topics such as broadband policy, technology, and organizing.

There will also be an afternoon panel discussion titled “Community Ownership Models” and FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn will be sharing remarks. The event is one stop on her #ConnectingCommunites listening tour around the U.S.

You can learn more about the summit and the speakers at the Rural Assembly website. They’ve also collected a list of resources and want you to share your broadband stories.

Register, Agenda

There will also be a Town Hall later in the evening on the 18th. Check out the complete itinerary online and Register for either event if you plan to attend. The Summit will take place at Washington State Community College and the Town Hall will be held at Marietta High School.

For more and to stay up to date, follow the Summit FB page.

Image courtesy of The Appalachian Ohio-West Virginia Connectivity Summit FB page...

Posted June 21, 2017 by lgonzalez

In order to save public dollars, improve municipal connectivity, and enhance the city’s ability to take advantage of various “Smart City” technologies, Louisville is planning to grow its existing fiber infrastructure. Their plan will take advantage of aspects of the KentuckyWired project to reduce costs. An increasing number of local governments have taken a similar common sense approach and deployed fiber optic Institutional Networks (I-Nets). In addition to cutting telecommunications costs, the infrastructure gives communities the freedom to predict future expenditures and find innovative ways to use publicly owned fiber.

Grow What You Have, Smartly

Louisville already owns a little more than 21 miles of fiber within the downtown business district. Under the Mayor’s proposed budget, $5.4 million would be allocated to add another 97 miles to the network. The estimated cost of the project deployment is low for an urban project because there are locations along the proposed route that overlap with the KentuckyWired project. In those areas, the company that is working with the state, Macquarie Capital, will install the fiber optic cables for Louisville alongside the KentuckyWired infrastructure. Macquarie will deploy both underground and on utility poles. This arrangement greatly reduces the cost for Louisville because they only pay for the materials.

According to the city’s chief of civic innovation, without the contribution of KentuckyWired, the project would have cost more than $15 million.

The network is only meant to serve community anchor institutions, along with municipal and Jefferson County facilities; there are no plans to connect homes or businesses. Louisville could lease excess capacity to Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in the future, which would generate revenue for the community.

In areas where KentuckyWired doesn’t run, such as West Louisville, the city will have to pay the entire cost of deployment. As an example of the savings generated by taking advantage of this larger opportunity, the connection to West Louisville is approximately 7 miles...

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Posted June 21, 2017 by lgonzalez

Sharing information about the fabulous work by communities investing in publicly owned Internet infrastructure is a full-time job. So is correcting the misinformation spread by national providers trying to undermine that important work. Fortunately, there are people with firsthand knowledge of those inaccuracies who can set the record straight.

It Started As A Simple Question

A recent post on Reddit shows an email exchange between the Senior Director of Government and Regulatory Affairs at Comcast and the General Manager at NextLight in Longmont, Colorado. The email started when a resident from Fort Collins sent a message to the city council. Fort Collins is looking at better connectivity and researching their options. 

The Fort Collins City Council forwarded those questions to Comcast and asked some one at the company to explain the difference between their gigabit connectivity and the gigabit service offered by NextLight, the municipal network in Longmont. As can be expected, Comcast’s representative replied with a long list of inaccuracies and outright falsities. In addition to claiming that Longmont’s service adds charges where it does not, Comcast’s rep tries to convince the Fort Collins City Council that NextLight’s service is inferior, but the fact show otherwise. 

Fortunately, the email found its way to General Manager at NextLight Tom Roiniotis, who made the time to correct the misinterpretations. As is often the case in the “webiverse,” the email with accurate information found its way to Reddit.

The post, cleverly titled “GM drops the mic on the Comcast rep” is here, but we’ve also republished it. For some testimonies on Longmont’s NextLight service, check out the comments on the Reddit thread.

ON REDDIT:

logo-reddit.png Per CORA (Colorado Open Records Act), this email is available to the public. Below is a recent email exchange between the NextLight (Longmont) General Manager and the Comcast Senior Gov't & Regulatory Affairs rep. He refuted most of the information the Comcast rep was trying to peddle to City Council...

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Posted June 20, 2017 by lgonzalez

Hey, Minnesota communities, are you looking for funding sources for your broadband project? If yes, and you plan on applying for a Minnesota Border-to-Border Development Grant Program, you should be getting your ducks in a row. The application period is fast approaching - July 3 through September 11.

For the 2017 grant period, the state legislature allocated $20 million to the program to expand broadband service in unserved or underserved areas of Minnesota. As a way to help you sort through the application process, the Minnesota Office of Broadband Development will be hosting several webinars early in the application period.

Dates and times for the webinars are:

Monday, June 26, 
11 a.m. to 1 p.m. (Central Time)

Friday, July 7, 
11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Monday, July 10, 
11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Wednesday, July 12, 
11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Sign up for the webinars and get the details on eligibility, the process, and resources at the Office of Broadband Development website.

Posted June 20, 2017 by lgonzalez

The City and Parish of Baton Rouge recently released a Request for Information (RFI) as a way to seek out partners interested in helping them improve local connectivity. Responses are due August 4.

Vulnerable Residents A Priority

According to the RFI, reliable connectivity is not consistent or affordable in many areas of the community where populations need it most. Unemployment is higher than the national average and the community has approximately 26 percent of city residents and 18 percent of parish residents living in poverty. Community leaders want to use the network infrastructure to bring more opportunity to people living in the most poverty-stricken areas of the City-Parish. Economic development, better educational opportunities, and better connectivity at home are only a few of the goals Baton Rouge intends to meet.

As part of the vision described in the RFI, City-Parish officials point out that they want a tool that will enable citizens to be participants in an updated economy, not just consumers of a new data product. Some of the factors they prioritize for their network is that it be community-wide, open access, financially sustainable, and offer an affordable base-level service.  The network must offer gigabit capacity.

Baton Rouge intends to ensure lower income residents participate in the benefits that will flow from the investment; they are not interested in working with partner who doesn’t share that vision. From the RFI:

The City-Parish intends to offset service costs for its most vulnerable residents through a subsidy program that will allow certain portions of the population to purchase service at a discounted rate. We expect respondents to this RFI to be prepared to build to and support those customers—many of who may never previously have had a broadband connection. This initiative may also entail the Partner(s) sharing cost and risk associated with providing low-cost or no-charge service to some customers.

Baton Rouge

Some of the area’s large employers include the Exxon Mobil Refinery, Nan Ya Plastics, and Dow Chemical. There is also an emerging tech industry that community officials want to nurture with better connectivity. Louisiana State University (LSU) and Tulane University have medical campuses and there are nursing...

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Posted June 19, 2017 by Nick

California

Closing the digital divide in the Inland Empire by Paul Granillo San Bernardino County Sun

 

Colorado

Louisville to weigh municipal broadband question for November ballot by Anthony Hahn, Louisville News

Regional partnership opportuinities propel Craig, Moffat broadband efforts by Lauren Blair, Craig Daily Press

 

Florida

Living without Internet accessibility in the digital age by Danielle Ellis, WJHG-TV

 

Maine

Rural broadband bill cruises through Maine legislature by Colin Wood, StateScoop

Municipal broadband advocacy groups like the Institute for Local Self-Reliance label bills like this one as tools for the telecommunications industry to limit competition, while taxpayers associations typically argue the measures are necessary to ensure that large scale projects are entered carefully. Controversial research published byUniversity of Pennsylvania Law School professor Christopher Yoo in May found that, according to certain projections, municipal networks are frequently financially unviable.

 

Minnesota

cow-face.jpg

Blandin Foundation awards multi-...

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Posted June 19, 2017 by christopher

For episode 259 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast, we are going back to the well in Ammon, Idaho - one of the most creative and forward-thinking fiber network deployments in the country. Strategic Networks Group has completed a study examining the impact of Ammon's open muni fiber network on local businesses and residents.

To discuss the results, we welcome back Ammon Technology Director Bruce Patterson and SNG President Michael Curri. After a quick reminder of how Ammon's network works and what SNG does, we dive into how Ammon's network has materially benefited the community.

The city is expected to realize savings approaching $2 million over 25 years. Subscribers will be saving tens of millions of dollars and businesses seeing benefits over $75 million over that time frame. Listen to our conversation to get the full picture.

Bruce has visited us for the podcasts, including episode 207 on Software-Defined-Networks, episode 173 in which he described public safety uses for Ammon's network, and episode 86 from back in 2014 when local momentum was starting to grow for better connectivity. 

Michael has also joined been on the show in the past. He participated in episode 93, talking about the benefits of broadband utilization.

Read the transcript of the show.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

This show is 31 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed.

You can...

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Posted June 19, 2017 by lgonzalez

The community of Holland, Michigan, has moved carefully and deliberately as it has advanced toward providing better connectivity through publicly owned infrastructure. On June 7th, the City Council held a first reading on an ordinance that will allow the Holland Board of Public Works (BPW) to act as an Internet Service Provider (ISP) as it expands its Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) pilot project.

Taking Another Step Forward

Holland's pilot project brings high-quality connectivity to several downtown businesses and recently adopted a Master Plan in March to solidify their commitment to more businesses and residents. The ordinance will receive a public hearing, final reading, and likely be adopted on July 19th. It allows Holland to adopt fees and charges related to the new service and will permit the city to comply with a state law relating to rights-of-way and telecommunications providers.

In addition to offering Internet access themselves, BPW will open up the fiber so competing providers can serve Holland residents and businesses. BPW officials are still hashing out rate details, but estimate residential customers who take Internet service from the utility will pay approximately $85 per month for symmetrical gigabit (1,000 Megabit per second) connectivity. Customers who wish to obtain Internet access from a provider other than BPW will pay $40 - $60 per month for transit services from BPW, but will still need to pay an ISP for Internet access. 

One Step At A Time

BPW General Manager Dave Koster explained to City Council members that BPW described the pilot participants’ service so far as “outstanding.” The utility intends to monitor the success of the expanded pilot services for a year and then decide their next step.

Construction will begin in August; BPW expects to start serving new customers in October. BPW officials estimate the expanded pilot will cost $602,000 based on a 35 percent take rate.

Read the ordinance here.

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