Tag: "muni"

Posted July 12, 2022 by Sean Gonsalves

In the 1980s, Rancho Cucamonga proclaimed itself “The City with a Plan.” Back then, the plan was to remake this once rural enclave known for its vineyards into more than just one of the many sunny suburbs of Los Angeles. The vision was to leverage its stretch of the famed Route 66 highway as a branding and economic development tool and transform the city into a premier destination within the Inland Empire metropolitan area along the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains.

That forward-looking spirit was revived again 30 years later as city leaders looked to cultivate a digital vineyard with the creation of a “Fiber Optic Master Plan” – a six-year $13 million investment plan that targets the city’s new development.

Today, Rancho Cucamonga (its name was derived from a Native American word meaning “sandy place”) owns and operates Rancho Cucamonga Municipal Broadband in partnership with Onward, a local private Internet service provider.

The city built, owns, and maintains the physical infrastructure, which is managed by the Rancho Cucamonga Municipal Utility (RCMU). Onward, which is based in the city, provides gigabit speed Internet access to the network’s 525 mostly residential subscribers as the network slowly expands to reach yet-to-be-built residential developments.

Targeting Greenfield Projects and Businesses

The move toward municipal broadband began in earnest in 2016 when the city hired Magellan Advisors to develop a plan that would leverage the city’s existing fiber assets and expand its municipal utility fiber network to “greenfield projects” and the city’s business parks (see the map below that shows blue areas where service exists and orange areas where service is coming).  

“We had a bit of a...

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Posted June 9, 2022 by Sean Gonsalves

Breaking new ground in New York, state leaders are launching the first municipal fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) projects in the Empire State with funds from its new ConnectALL Initiative

Four small rural communities in four different counties will be the beneficiaries of New York’s initial foray into municipal broadband, targeting “areas where existing state-owned fiber can create a fiber bridge between large data centers (first mile) and individual homes (last mile), primarily in rural areas that are not serviced by private broadband providers.”

At the end of May, Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office announced the $10 million grant award, which will fund fiber deployments to the Village of Sherburne in Chenango County, the Town of Nichols in Tioga County, the Town of Diana in Lewis County, and the Town of Pitcairn in St. Lawrence County.

A ‘Banner Day’ for Municipal Broadband

A collaborative project that includes the Empire State Development office, the Development Authority of the North Country (DANC) and the Southern Tier Network, the initial deployment will be managed by the New York Power Authority (NYPA) and begin in Sherburne.

In Sherburne (est. pop. 1,300), NYPA will be joining forces with the village’s municipal utility, Sherburne Electric, a NYPA municipal electricity customer, to extend NYPA’s existing middle mile fiber network and bring last-mile FTTH connectivity to the village’s 1,800 homes and businesses. The work is expected to be completed by the end of the year with residential and business service to be offered by yet-to-be-named private Internet Service Providers (ISPs).

When the grant was announced, Sherburne Mayor William Acee lauded the effort as “a banner day for Sherburne Electric customers.”

The prospect of having broadband Internet access available to all of Sherburne’s residents and businesses is the modern-day equivalent of the arrival of the railroad. New...

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Posted April 29, 2022 by Karl Bode

Back in January, Colorado Springs Utilities (CSU) announced it was going to begin building a city-wide, open access fiber network owned, and that Ting would be its first anchor tenant. Construction of the network is expected to begin in the third quarter of this year, with a target completion date of 2028 (originally planned for fifteen years). The network will provide multi-gigabit service to roughly 200,000 homes as well as city businesses and anchor institutions. It’s still early in the process, but projections at the moment have the utility spending $45 million to $100 million a year for the next six years to complete the project. The first phase will see 225 new fiber route miles laid.

CSU Has Long Used Fiber

For thirty years CSU has built fiber across Colorado’s second-largest city. CSU’s dramatic  expansion of this existing network directly benefits the utility by reducing overall costs, improving infrastructure monitoring, and boosting overall utility network resiliency. And it all will come with no rate increases to CSU electric customers.

But the company’s decision to lease access to this fiber expansion also directly aids the local community by lowering consumer utility costs, and delivering universal, affordable, high-speed Internet access. It’s a significant boon to Colorado’s second largest city that’s now an attractive, high-tech growth market

As part of the expansion, CSU has given Ting a 25-year lease as its first anchor tenant. It’s the agreement with Ting that allows CSU to dramatically speed up construction, injecting revenue right from the start....

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Posted April 19, 2022 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

Last week, the Golden State Connectivity Authority (GSCA) announced it has entered into formal partnership with the municipally owned open access network UTOPIA Fiber, for the Utah-based owner and provider to design, build, and operate a new open access fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) network across the 38 rural counties in the state of California. It's a move that not only offers the chance to bring future-proof connections to millions of rural California households in the near future, but have wide policy and industry implications for open access fiber networks down the road. 

Local Governments Band Together

The Golden State Connectivity Authority is a joint powers authority (JPA) created by the Rural County Representatives of California (RCRC), which represents more than three dozen rural counties across the state. RCRC seeks to tackle the variety of shared problems that the state's rural communities face by advancing concrete policy solutions across transportation, energy, natural resources, governance, healthcare, and a collection of other arenas. 

The Golden State Connectivity Authority (see image right) is one of its most recent projects, and explicitly aims to improve Internet access via municipal solutions. Its mission is to "assist rural counties in identifying pathways for development of internet infrastructure within their communities, including the construction of municipal-owned and/or operated internet systems, among other options." GSCA leverages the collective power of the RCRC membership for financing efforts, to go after state and federal funds, and to combine the efforts of bringing together leadership to bridge the digital divide for Californians living outside of urban areas. RCRC member counties constitute about 14 percent of the state's population, or about 2.1 million households. 

...

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Posted April 14, 2022 by Sean Gonsalves

Although we were initially concerned that certain language in New York’s proposed state budget would lock out municipal broadband projects from being able to capitalize on the federal funding bonanza contained in the American Rescue Plan Act and forthcoming money in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the bill that was ultimately signed into law by Gov. Kathy Hochul was amended and has some golden nuggets for municipal broadband.

The recently enacted $220 billion budget bill includes $1 billion for the state’s ConnectALL initiative, which Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office calls “the largest ever investment in New York's 21st century infrastructure (that) will leverage public and private investments to connect New Yorkers in rural and urban areas statewide to broadband and establish the first municipal broadband program of its kind in the nation.”

Cultivating a Municipal Broadband Ecosystem

In part MMM of the budget bill, it establishes a “municipal assistance program … to provide grant funding to municipalities, state and local authorities ... to plan and construct infrastructure necessary to provide broadband services.”

Municipal grant recipients, the bill says, will be required to build broadband infrastructure to “facilitate projects that, at a minimum, provide reliable Internet service with consistent speeds of at least 100 Megabits per second (Mbps) for download and at least 20 (Mbps) for upload.” That shouldn’t be a problem as most municipal broadband projects use fiber optics that can deliver far more than that. 

How much of the ConnectALL money will be allocated for the municipal grant fund has not yet been determined. But, community broadband advocates should not lose sight of the significance of the broadband ecosystem that is being cultivated in conjunction with other parts of the budget bill.

The budget bill also includes two provisions that will reduce the cost of building last mile networks. One repeals the fees associated with laying high-speed fiber cables along state highways, which...

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Posted March 21, 2022 by Sean Gonsalves

Consultants working with the City of Mansfield – the seat of DeSoto Parish – are nearing completion of a comprehensive community assessment as the small northwest Louisiana community of about 4,500 is setting the table to build a municipal fiber network.

In October 2021, Mansfield’s five-member city council voted unanimously to hire Louisiana Connected to lead the study in partnership with Lit Communities. After the council vote, Mansfield Mayor John H. Mayweather, Sr. described the decision as the first step in establishing a public-private partnership to bring reliable and affordable high-speed Internet access to every household and business in the city.

In a press statement released after the October vote, Mayor Mayweather said:

Representatives of Louisiana Connected were allowed to make a presentation to the City Council at one of our meetings earlier this year regarding a consideration to build our own broadband system. After hearing the advantages of bringing such a network to Mansfield, we were on board then. And now after listening further, we are even more excited about this opportunity. This will be good for all the citizens of Mansfield.

Pandemic Push to Action

As with many communities around the county now considering building their own municipal broadband network, a major motivator for Mansfield was the number of students in this majority African-American city who struggled to participate in distance learning triggered by the pandemic.

In a press release after the vote to move forward with the community assessment, Mansfield parent LaKimberly Edwards spoke to the need for universal access to high-speed Internet connectivity.

“As a parent who struggled to help my kids with remote learning this past year and a half I am so pleased the city of Mansfield is taking the initiative to provide us with an important and necessary utility for our economic future,” Edwards said. “The pandemic revealed that broadband is as crucial to our survival as water and electricity.”

The effort has the backing of leaders across the community, provided it has a sound business plan.

Alderman Joseph Hall said “a municipal owned fiber...

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Posted February 11, 2022 by Emma Gautier

Located in the most northeastern part of Tennessee, BrightRidge has served as Johnson City’s public power utility for nearly 80 years. About a decade ago, BrightRidge stepped into the broadband space, and has since been taking serious strides to connect Johnson City residents and surrounding communities. 

When we left off with BrightRidge in 2019, the utility was about to start into the first three phases of a fiber buildout to provide 3,847 homes and 373 businesses with broadband access. Since then, state and local funding as well as utility investments have allowed BrightRidge to reach thousands of residents in the area.  

Back in 2009 is when Johnson City, Tennessee began thinking about a possible fiber buildout. Since then, the city of 67,000 has considered a number of approaches, eventually landing on building out a hybrid (fiber and fixed wireless) network and serving as a publicly owned broadband utility to bring Internet access to residents. Known today as BrightRidge Broadband, the utility offers symmetric speeds of up to 10 Gigabits per second (for $149/month) in Johnson City and nearby communities.  

Originally slated to be complete in 2026, demand and success in rolling out the infrastructure has led the utility to speed up its deployment plans. According to a June press release, BrightRidge anticipated “collapsing its 8-year build-out plan down to seven years, with 5,449 customers with service available compared to the original FY 22 plan of 2,940.” The release also cited a plan for Phase 5 of deployment, “beginning in July 2023 [and adding] 8,248 customers – 5,300 more than originally planned for the phase.” BrightRidge is currently halfway through Phase 4 of buildout, and has a current coverage area of over 15,000 homes and businesses in Johnson City, Jonesborough and Washington County. Importantly, the network construction so far has been funded internally with the help of local, state and federal funding: electric customers will see...

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Posted January 24, 2022 by Karl Bode

Hoping to leverage both a major new California broadband expansion initiative and American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds, Chico, California is moving forward with its plan to deliver affordable fiber broadband to historically-underserved city residents. 

The Chico city council last year began exploring using $4.8 million of the city’s $22 million in American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds to build a citywide fiber network. After spending $250,000 to research its options, the city council voted last week to move forward with the plan.

Dual Purposes

City leaders hope the network will provide more reliable connectivity for the first responders battling historic wildfires in the region. But like many communities, Chico was also spurred to action by telecom market failure, a lack of competition among regional monopolies, and the slow speeds, spotty coverage, and high prices that routinely result. 

“All of us have had experience with the existing incumbents and what we pay for versus what we get,” said Chico's Information Systems Manager Josh Marquis. “There's a lot of areas of our region that do not have access either through affordability gaps or through service gaps.”

Much like Fort Pierce, Florida, Chico will begin by running a pilot project first targeting lower income parts of the city like the Chapman Mulberry neighborhood. There, residents will be provided inexpensive access to symmetrical fiber either through the city or a partner, made cheaper still once the FCC’s Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) discounts are applied. 

Marquis says the city hopes to make the Chico EBB application process much smoother than incumbent offerings, which have been widely criticized for being intentionally cumbersome - and attempting to upsell struggling Americans to more expensive...

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Posted January 11, 2022 by Sean Gonsalves

While a national debate rages over immigration and the border wall, just 30 miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border, Harlingen city officials are coming together to plan the building of a bridge – across the digital divide deep in the heart of the Rio Grande Valley.

When Harlingen (pop. 75,000) was founded at the turn of the 20th century, it established itself as a prominent commerce and transportation hub – the “Capital of the Rio Grande Valley” at “the crossroads of South Texas.” Over the years, thanks to its fertile delta soil, the cultivation of citrus fruit, grain, and cotton became a major part of the local economy. Today, however, the biggest industry in the second most populous city in Cameron County is healthcare.

As attractive as Harlingen has become to residents and visitors – with its extensive park system and tropical bird-watcher’s paradise (the city happens to be located where two primary avian flyways converge) – one thing the city lacks is adequate access to broadband, which is particularly acute among households with school-aged children.

Pandemic Spurs City into Action

That realization was the impetus behind a recent city commission vote to move forward with a feasibility study to determine how the city might build a broadband network and whether it should rely on fiber, fixed wireless, or a mix of deployment technologies to modernize Harlingen’s telecommunications infrastructure.

“What brought this to our attention was of course the pandemic,” City Manager Gabriel Gonzalez told Valley Central News. “When the school district had to go to virtual learning, we found out that there were students and some families that did not have access to (the) Internet.”

Harlingen city commissioners opted to hire the Houston-based civil engineering firm ConnFendley to conduct a $100,000 feasibility study, the cost of which is being split by the...

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Posted November 4, 2021 by Sean Gonsalves

Because its downtown buildings were made to resemble Windy City architecture, Fort Dodge was once nicknamed “Little Chicago.” But now, this north-central Iowa city with a population of just under 25,000 is building something the real Chicago, 360 miles east of Fort Dodge, does not have: a municipal fiber-to-the-home (ftth) network.

Having secured up to $36.8 million in loans from a consortium of local banks, the Cedar Rapids-based engineering firm HR Green has been hired by the city to put together a final engineering and design plan for a city-wide fiber network.

The RFP to do the construction work will go out to bid in late spring 2022, with actual network construction slated to begin in the summer of 2022. City officials say the new utility will likely begin offering high-speed Internet service to Fort Dodgers as soon as the summer of 2023, though the network won’t be fully built-out city-wide until 2024.

Unserved, Underserved and Poorly Served

In many rural communities, local governments, cooperatives, public entities, or nonprofit organizations will sometimes build the infrastructure necessary to deliver high-speed Internet service to the unserved and underserved because incumbent providers don’t see enough short-term ROI to justify the expense. But in more densely populated locales, municipal broadband is often pursued because the existing service from private providers simply isn’t up to par. The market has failed rural, suburban, and urban communities - just in different ways.

And that’s why in cities like Fort Dodge, the feasibility study commissioned by the city hits on a familiar refrain found in feasibility studies across the nation:

“Despite being the largest city in the region and key commercial hub, Fort Dodge telecommunications infrastructure is less advanced than in surrounding rural areas and small towns like Lehigh, Dayton, and Badger.”

Fort Dodge is currently served by Frontier and MediaCom – two of the lowest-ranked national ISPs, according to Consumer Reports. But, after years of citizen complaints about poor incumbent service, Fort Dodge City Councilors in 2018 decided to create a strategic...

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