Joe Abraham, from the University of Louisiana, recently addressed the LUS Fiber network in Lafayette. This is possibly the fastest and most affordable network in the entire country. Apparently, Joe has been asked by friends if they should switch to the new municipally owned network. His answer is an unequivocal yes - backed up by several points like it is a faster, cheaper service that strengthens the whole community. But really, I like this point:
Minnesota is one of the eighteen states that have enacted specific barriers to prevent the public sector from building networks (protecting incumbents from any competition). It presently has the uniquely high - 65% - referendum requirement on communities that want to build a network that will offer telephone services (which thereby includes all fiber-to-the-home triple play networks).
The Longmont Times-Call continues its coverage of the community network struggles of a Colorado community. This story has a lot of the history behind how Longmont developed a fiber ring and how they have used it even as they are prohibited from expanding it.
Longmont is not alone in working for upwards of a decade to bring better broadband to the community that actually meets local needs rather than maximizing profits. Other communities have also spent ten, fifteen, or even long with on-gain, off-again plans to build a publicly owned network. This reality provides a handy refutation of state preemptions based on the logic that communities will act too quickly in not considering their plan for a network. Communities take years in researching, planning, and developing networks.
Though it may not be a major selling point for communities considering building a network, they can offer tremendous research potential. Local communities are more approachable for researchers and more likely to form mutually beneficial partnerships. Consider an interesting story about the Oklahoma City Wi-Fi network and weather researchers.
This is a massive network -- at 555 square miles, the largest in the world. Local universities have teamed up with the city to closely monitor the weather constantly throughout the network. This data is useful in tracking how air currents move around a city - which is really helpful for those trying to understand and mitigate terrorist chemical or biological weapon attacks... for instance.
This is just one of some 200 applications the City uses its network for:
Folks in New Hampshire are fed up with the private carriers ignoring them and have started an initiative to build their own fiber-optic open access network. Looks like the site is pretty new, so check back for details.
Last summer, I predicted the NTIA's rules for the broadband stimulus would disadvantage the public sector and tilt the playing field toward the private sector. I was right.
With time and resources scarce and applications to review from nearly 2,200 entities, favoring vendors was less complicated because they wrote savvier proposals and required less follow-up, in Winogradoff's view.
Readers undoubtedly know that Google has proposed a limited fiber-to-the-home open access network rollout that will offer gigabit speeds. Communities are applying to be considered -- all we know at this point is that Google envisions ultimately serving some 50,000 - 500,000 subscribers.
Parts of this announcement are very exciting for those of us working to create better networks that serve community interests. I think the long term impact of it being open access may well dwarf the impact of having gigabit speeds available to some at "competitive" rates (though one wonders how rates can be competitive when the service is unlike any other?).
In a recent issue, the Economist profiled BVU - the first municipally-owned triple-play fiber-to-the-home network in the U.S. Evidently, the Economist thinks Bristol an unlikely spot to find a full fiber-to-the-home network, but some of the best networks in the U.S. are in these unlikely spots because they are built by communities who have realized the private sector will not build the needed infrastructure.
And this infrastructure has brought many jobs to the region:
Good news out of Louisiana - the LUS Fiber deployment in Lafayette is running considerably ahead of schedule. This is especially important because Louisiana law makes requirements on publicly owned networks to break even within a relatively short time period, explicitly favoring private companies in law.
The city should be fully passed this summer, allowing anyone to take one or more of the triple play services. Fortunately, many are taking the full triple-play:
Although LUS is not releasing the exact number of customers who have signed up for fiber services, Huval said it is "many thousands" and that a higher-than-expected number are signing up for all three services at once.
Finally, a broadband stimulus project that we can get excited about. RUS has announced a grant to expand the publicly owned WindomNet in southwestern Minnesota. Windom was originally built to bring broadband to a small community that Qwest didn't think ready for DSL. They built their own fiber-to-the-home network.
The Salisbury, North Carolina, municipal fiber-to-the-home network is set to start offering services this summer. This article in the Salisbury Post provides an update on the situation:
City officials have targeted May 31 as the completion date for fiber-optic cable installation, with the network going citywide by Aug. 1.
As with several other publicly owned networks, they will be promoting the network with a mobile trailer that will demonstrate the technology to people at block parties and other gatherings around the community.
The mobile trailer will feature computer stations and a living room setting featuring everything the city's fiber-optic cable service offers.
"We can roll it into neighborhoods, have small block parties and have people see what a difference it provides," said Mike Crowell, the city's broadband services director.
Carol Wilson speaks with Jackson's Michael Johnston about JEA's triple-play network in Tennessee. As far as I can tell, this interview took place in September, 2009. Johnston reports that the publicly owned network passes 30,000 residences and about 5,000 businesses. Of those taking cable services locally, 60% subscribe to JEA and half of them are taking multiple services. Jackson started as a purely open access network but has transitioned to offering retail services. At that point, they were starting to use the network to create a smart-grid for the electrical side of the utility.
The Wired Road, a community-owned open access network in rural Virginia, has added an additional wired service provider and announced expansion plans. This is a network in Grayson and Carroll counties as well as the city of Galax. Services on the Wired Road are provided exclusively by independent service providers, not the network owners. The network currently offers services in limited areas but plans to serve most of the region by 2012 with both fiber-optic and wireless options.
NationsLine now offers a variety of services, including VOIP and broadband to those on the network. The network will expand this spring:
The Design Nine blog alerted me to a bill in New Hampshire that would modify state law to allow communities to build publicly owned networks. It appears they may currently invest in a network in unserved areas -- though few places are entirely unserved. Most places have pitifully slow and overpriced DSL available to at least some residents. This bill would expand their authority to build networks.
Unfortunately, I have no sense of how likely this is to pass. The story in the Concord Monitor suggests it is seeing intense opposition from the usual sources - the private companies that want to decide alone who gets access to the Internet at what speed and at what price.
I've often wondered what it would look like if a reporter wrote about a Wi-Fi network without any ideological baggage to slam it. Now you can see - Mollee Francisco wrote a lengthy and fair article for a local paper in Chaska, a suburb of Minneapolis. Like so many publicly owned citywide Wi-Fi networks, Chaska.Net accomplished many goals but was a disappointment for others. In particular, it was more expensive and the technology was more difficult than expected, but it introduced faster broadband than was available at the time. It continues to service 2100 customers, one of which is a household with close friends of mine. They love having the option of taking service from the City - they've been happy with the customer support and lower prices. That the speeds are slower than what cable networks offer doesn't bother them, they prefer to save the money.