Listen to this 1 hour podcast from Free UTOPIA that discusses recent progress in Brigham City, notes that Orem City is saving some $50,000/month from telecom expenses thanks to UTOPIA, and recaps some of the early history of the UTOPIA project. Most of the discussion is an interview with triple-play UTOPIA provider Prime Time Communications.
After campaigning on building a publicly owned fiber-to-the-home network in Seattle, Mayor McGinn has decided to maintain leadership at the Department of Information Technology. Department head Bill Schrier will stay on, continuing his work that lays the groundwork for a community-owned network.
He said he expects the city to apply for federal stimulus money in the first part of the year to move toward that goal. In addition to improving broadband access in homes, the initiative could help Seattle City Light implement smart-grid infrastructure, and improve public safety communications.
Highland, Illinois, having overwhelmingly approved a referendum in April, 2009 to own and operate a fiber-to-the-premises system, has continued to examine the potential for a publicly owned fiber-to-the-home network. Most of the local government is supportive but one councilmember is vehemently opposed, leading to a ""boom or bust?" article in the local paper.
Interestingly, the city had a significant outage in 2008 due to a fiber cut outside of town.
The new redundancy brought by fiber that would mean a decrease in the chances for a repeat of the winter 2008 when a third-party contractor working to put up a communications tower for AmerenIP cut a fiber optic cable near Maryville, knocking out phone service, most cellular services and Internet service in Highland for nearly seven hours, Latham [city manager] said.
The Jackson Energy Authority (JEA) network now has over 16,000 subscribers and offers speeds up to 100 Mbps for local businesses and 25 Mbps for standard residential users.
Jackson is considered one of the most technologically advanced cities in the U.S. We have four competitors in the market with AT&T, Bell South, Charter and JEA. We computed that over $8 million to $9 million has been saved by residents in this city when compared to other cities of its size because of the competition.
These are the kind of hard-to-quantify savings that too often go unnoticed in discussions about the value of publicly owned broadband projects. What is the value of competition? How much economic development has occurred directly from the JEA network and indirectly from the lower prices and greater investments that result from competition?
I stumbled across an interesting article about a small community in Illinois - Rochelle - that has used smart public investments to ensure a healthy future. Their utility has long offered broadband, both fast connections to businesses and Wi-Fi to ensure everyone had some method of access.
Just as they now have a city-owned utility offering broadband, they also have a public power company... and a city-owned railroad track connecting to other lines... and a publicly owned airport. All of this public ownership doesn't seem to have the town in an uproar over some "public v. private" ideological dispute -- because it has generated so many jobs and community benefits.
As someone who has long researched and followed developments in Burlington Telecom (BT), the city-owned triple-play full fiber-to-the-home network in Vermont, recent developments between BT and the Mayor's office have been deeply disappointing. For those who haven't heard, BT is in the middle of a major controversy -- and it is hard to tell just what is going on (for background prior to current problems, read my Burlington Telecom Case Study and Fact Sheet).
TMCNET interviews Jory Wolf - the CIO of Santa Monica's Information Systems Department - about their application for broadband stimulus funds. Santa Monica has long used its publicly owned network to expand broadband access in the community.
Following up on my previous post "Institutional Networks and Cherry Picking," I want to briefly note that the U.S. should reform how it funds Internet connections at schools and libraries.
Let me start with an assumption: we do not want to use federal taxes to support these local institutions except where most necessary. It strikes me that wherever possible, communities should take responsibility for their own community institutions.
With that in mind, the eRate program concerns me. Basically, eRate is a means for the federal government to aid local schools and libraries in affording broadband. I'm afraid that it indirectly encourages monopolistic service providers (mainly telephone incumbents) to overcharge for T-1 lines while removing any incentive for the school or library to invest in a better connection.
After reading an impressive article in the South Washington County Bulletin, I am convinced that most Americans now understand that broadband is essential infrastructure for communities. Don Davis' "Speedy Internet could boost rural Minnesota" is a lengthy and thorough discussion of why every community needs broadband connections.
He starts by noting the MN Broadband Task Force, which found that the state should make sure broadband access is ubiquitous in the coming years at minimum speeds considerably above what is available currently in most of Minnesota. What it lacked was a suggestion of how to get there.
Don delves into the Lake County solution:
A northeastern Minnesota county is doing just that and may have the answer, at least for those in the "second Minnesota."
Salisbury, a community in North Carolina building a city-owned full fiber-to-the-home network, has run into an unexpected difficulty: naming the new network.
To put it simply, all the good names are taken.
Mike Crowell, director of broadband services — he jokes that he is the director of BS — says the city can't find a name that it can both trademark and get a domain name for.
The story has some entertaining suggestions - but the reason I wanted to note the article is because it ends with this:
In coming weeks, the city will be purchasing and outfitting a marketing trailer, which it can send into neighborhoods and to community events to explain the new cable utility and get people excited about what's around the bend. The trailer will be plastered, of course, with the system's chosen name.
My friend, Geoff Daily at App-Rising.com, has questioned the wisdom of running fiber to all anchor institutions.
There's been a lot of buzz around the benefits and relative viability of wiring all community anchor institutions (schools, libraries, hospitals, etc.) with fiber as the way to get the best bang for the broadband buck. But recent conversations with my fiber-deploying friends have led me to worry that doing this could be a big mistake.
It looks like Palo Alto should move quickly on expanding its publicly owned fiber-based I-NET - as the city renegotiates the cable franchise with Comcast, the private cable company is trying to rip-off taxpayers with exorbitant prices for community anchor tenants.
California is one of several states to recently take negotiating power on cable television franchises away from communities and grant it to the state. Historically, communities negotiated a free or reduced rate for connectivity to schools, public safety buildings and other key community anchors in return for access to community Right-of-Way - an essential permission necessary to build a cable network.
I have just submitted comments from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance to both the the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) regarding suggestions for rules in round two (the last round) of the broadband stimulus programs -- the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP - administered by NTIA) and Broadband Initiatives Program (BIP - administered by RUS).
The two agencies previously posted a joint request for information [pdf] on lessons learned from the first round:
We are seeing increasing evidence that competition alone is not sufficient to keep prices low. Though some communities (Monticello, MN; Powell, WY) have seen major prices drops as a result of competition from a publicly owned network, other communities have seen only price freezes or more modest increases when compared to non-competitive areas.
In Lafayette, Cox has just raised prices despite the new competition in the community.
Despite the recession, we have seen Comcast, Qwest, and others continue to profit handily as people scrimp to continue connecting to the Internet. The best method of ensuring Internet access becomes or remains affordable is with a network that is directly accountable to the community - one that puts community needs ahead of profits.
The project adds redundancy in a rural area where telecommunications infrastructure tends to be ignored by the private sector.
“The broadband expansion fortifies the existing fiber route between BVU and Citizens as well as giving our area a redundant fiber-optic line to Northern Virginia, where bandwidth needs are increasing all the time. It is necessary to our region’s future and the survivability of our existing telecom network,” he [Virginia Delegate Terry Kilgore] noted.
BVU was the first municipal network in the U.S. providing the triple-play over a full fiber-to-the-home network.