Tag: "muni"

Posted November 12, 2019 by lgonzalez

Whenever Christopher attends a Broadband Communities event, he returns with great stories from cities and towns across the U.S. that have invested in publicly owned Internet infrastructure. This week, we share his interview with Mel Poole, Ocala Fiber Network Director.

You may automatically think of Kentucky when you consider horses, but Ocala, Florida, is considered the "Horse Capital of the World." Fast thoroughbreds may end up at The Derby, but they often start in Ocala. Whether it's gigabits or galloping horses, Ocala has found a way to capitalize on the concept of speed.

The city first began with publicly owned fiber optic infrastructure for SCADA operations and later expanded their use to reduce telecommunications costs. Since ending leased T1 lines, the city has saved millions and taken control of connectivity. That was before Mel worked for the city, but he's well-versed in the story of the Ocala Fiber Network, and describes how they expanded to offer services to more sectors of the community.

Mel and Christopher talk about the city's decision to begin working with the public and how, by educating local decision makers, Mel and his team were able to help them make an informed choice. As Ocala worked with more entities, they've also faced challenges related to deployment and marketing. There's a fine line they need to walk between spreading the word about great service and their ability to connect subscribers in a timely fashion. Christopher and Mel talk about demographics, economic development, and Mel's vision for Ocala that's tied into their fiber optic infrastructure.

Read more about Ocala and...

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Posted November 8, 2019 by Sayidali Moalim

Anacortes, Washington, is ready to serve fast, reliable, and affordable fiber Internet access to its residents. The city is rolling out fiber to three pilot areas by the third quarter of 2020 and hopes to have citywide fiber coverage by 2023. Anacortes Fiber Internet began taking subscription sign-ups in October. The move is a major milestone in a plan that started more than three years ago, as the community looked for ways to improve communications between utility facilities, later expanding to establish this large pilot project.

Rapid Progress Expected

Residents and businesses living in the first pilot area, Central Business District, can expect so obtain fiber Internet access before the end of the year. Old Town is scheduled to finish within the first quarter of 2020 and M Avenue is set for the third quarter of 2020. Emily Schuh, Anacortes Administrative Service Director, hopes to have fiber Internet access available citywide by 2023. 

For a one-time $100 installment fee, residents can expect to pay $39 per month for 100 Megabits per second (Mbps) or $69 per month for 1 Gigabit per second (Gbps) Internet access. Businesses can subscribe to $89 per month for 100 Mbps or $149 a month for 1 Gbps. All speeds are symmetrical.

The city used the unconventional method of putting fiber optics in conduit within existing water pipe infrastructure. Using this strategy, the city will not have to concern themselves with road closures or storm damage. Since the fiber optics aren’t in contact with water, it has no impact on the water quality and has been greenlit by Department of Health. "Why didn't we think of this? You're just putting a water pipe inside a water pipe and then putting fiber optics in there,” said Public Works Director Fred Buckenmeyer.

Read more about the project on the business plan fact sheet [PDF].

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Posted November 5, 2019 by lgonzalez

In late October 2019, Christopher travelled to the D.C. area to attend a Broadband Communities Economic Development event and while he was there, he sat down with Executive Director Adrianne Furniss and  Senior Fellow Jon Sallet from the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society. This week, we get to sit in on their conversations about the recent change at Benton from "foundation" to "institute" and about their recent report, Broadband for America's Future: A Vision for the 2020s.

First, Christopher speaks with Adrianne, who discusses the reasons why the organization has recently changed in order to stay current with their mission and with the times. She talks a little about the history of Benton and describes some of the reasons for developing the report.

Christopher spends most of the interview with Jon Sallet, who authored the report and who has a long career in antitrust and communications. After working in D.C. in telecommunications and Internet policy for several decades, he's seen the influence of the Internet grow. In this report, Jon analyzes stories and situations from around the U.S. and establishes a vision that will help us move forward to connect as many people as possible. He and Christopher discuss the four major factors that, if nurtured correctly, can help us integrate broadband into all sectors of society and maximize its usefulness. Christopher and Jon give special time to competition, an issue that arises repeatedly in the work at Benton and in our work at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.

The interview will spark your interest in the report that...

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Posted October 17, 2019 by lgonzalez

Residents and businesses in Carencro, in the northern region of Lafayette Parish of Louisiana, now have access to LUS Fiber. The expansion is the latest step in efforts to deploy the Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network to every community within the Parish.

Growing Footprint

In 2018, the publicly owned network began offering services in Youngsville and Broussard, an expansion that had been more than two years in the making. As the utility adds more expansions to their list of accomplishments, they'll also add knowledge on how to contend with challenges and demand will grow.

According to Teles Fremin, Interim Director of LUS Fiber:

“The residents of Carencro have expressed their interest in LUS Fiber for many years. We are extremely honored that so many residents throughout Lafayette Parish appreciate the value that LUS Fiber can bring to their communities.”

Local leaders in Carencro look forward to the economic development potential that comes with bringing fast, affordable, reliable connectivity to the community of about 9,000. The suburb of Lafayette has shown slow but steady population growth since 2000, and high-quality Internet access will keep that trend alive.

Currently, much of the residential community relies on Cox Cable and AT&T DSL for Internet access. Businesses have very little access to fiber connectivity; LUS Fiber will be able to fill that gap.

Carencro Mayor Glenn Brasseaux:

“The tremendous growth in residential and commercial development in Carencro makes this a great time for LUS Fiber to offer services here. We welcome LUS Fiber and are pleased that our citizens and businesses will have a range of advanced options to choose from for their telecommunications needs.”

Learn More About LUS Fiber

In 2018, Christopher has a great interview with Terry Huval, one of the men who spearheaded the development of the network and has since retired from the utility. Check out the interview to learn more about the development of LUS Fiber:

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Posted October 9, 2019 by Sayidali Moalim

After five years of planning, meetings, and overcoming obstacles, the town of Estes Park has officially launched its Trailblazer Broadband Internet service to pilot neighborhoods.

Necessity is the Mother of Invention

The Broadband journey started back 2015 when the residents of Estes Park experienced catastrophic outages due to ice and flooding which led to long telecommunications outages. It bacame obvious to community leaders that the town needed a different solution that entailed reliability and redundancy, not available from the incumbent provider. The city held a referendum and with the support of 92 percent of those voting, the town of Estes Park opted out of SB 152.

Fast, Affordable, Reliable Connectivity for Residents and Tourists

Estes Park, considered the gateway to the Rock Mountain National Park, depends on its tourism industry and current Internet speeds may deter vacation goers who need to remain connected to work during time away from work. With the introduction of high-quality Internet access at their resorts and lodging, Estes Park will have an edge over their competition as well as ensuring future economic development opportunities for the entire region. 

For town officials, staff, and the majority of residents, the implementation of high-quality Internet access is a welcomed project. 

“This is truly a tremendous milestone for the community,” said Town Administrator Travis Machalek, at the town's official opening ceremony celebration on September 25th.

The expected project construction cost is around $26 million. Based on an anticipated take rate of 30 - 40 percent, the community expects to pay off the investment in 10 - 12 years.

Trailblazer Broadband is being rolled out to pilot neighborhoods and is expected to serve the entire town in three to five years. The schedule is based primarily on construction feasibility, population density, and potential revenue.

Check out this marketing video on Trailblazer Broadband:

Posted October 2, 2019 by lgonzalez

Fourteen years ago, voters in Waterloo, Iowa, overcame a campaign aimed to prevent them from developing publicly owned Internet infrastructure. They voted to allow the city to create a municipal telecommunications utility in the fall of 2005, but the idea languished. Recently, however, leaders in Waterloo have taken up the initiative and are moving ahead.

Time to Advance

At their September 25th meeting, trustees on the Waterloo Telecommunications Utility board unanimously voted to hire a consultant in order to move forward on the plan that voters approved back in 2005. Two local organizations have conducted studies on connectivity in the Waterloo area within the past year.

“I think it’s time,” said board member Rich Kurtenbach, “We’ve got communities all around us that have their own utilities when it comes to broadband.”

Since 2005, the community has never approved funding to develop a publicly owned broadband network. The Telecommunications Utility board has met to discuss the possibility of asking the community for funding on several occasions and at one time requested enough to hire a consultant once, but the measure failed. The issue has been on the shelf since 2014 and, according to Chris Wedland of the city attorney’s office, “This board has had a unique history and it has had large gaps in its operating history.” Now that the board is active again, their first step has been to select a consultant to help them with next steps.

Waterloo doesn’t have a municipal electric utility like many of the other Iowa cities that have already deployed Internet network infrastructure. As Mayor Quentin Hart commented, “At some point we’re going to have to get some experts in here to start helping us move the process forward.”

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Posted September 12, 2019 by lgonzalez

Community members in Shutesbury, Massachusetts, are now receiving fast affordable, reliable connectivity in their homes and businesses delivered via their publicly owned broadband infrastructure.

It's Happening and People Are Loving It

In late August, officials from Shutesbury announced that they expected testing and verification to be completed in early September. The company hired for installation had scheduled more than 200 premises for September and was making plans to hire additional installers to speed up the process. Shutesbury expects to have most of the town connected to the network by the end of 2019.

In May, 87 percent of the town had already signed up and subscribers have continued to trickle in. Folks in Shutesbury are now beginning to obtain the Internet access they’ve been chasing for more than five years. 

No, Charter, Not You

In 2017, the town rejected a proposal from Charter Spectrum that would have connected 96 percent of the community of around 1,700 people. The offer from the cable comany had come about when the state agency tasked with distributed state funding suddenly had a change of heart. The Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI) decided that the big corporate ISPs, which had refused to upgrade services in the area in the past, should have another opportunity to use state funding to build high-quality Internet access infrastructure. Read more about decisions from MBI that delayed connectivity to many rural towns and strengthened monopoly power for companies that had refused to connect the region.

logo-shutesbury-250.jpg Even though they would have not had to bond, citizens didn’t consider it a good deal. People from Shutesbury wanted every premise connected to fiber. They also didn't want to enter into an agreement with the big ISP because it refused to commit to a specific dollar amount for connecting remaining properties. Voters had already approved bonding to invest in a publicly owned fiber optic network to every premise in town and Charter’s proposal wasn’t up to the standards that...

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Posted September 5, 2019 by lgonzalez

Less than a year ago, we reported on Dalton, Georgia’s transition to becoming the first gigabit city in the state. In August, the community took it up a notch when they began offering 10 gigabit residential Internet access from Dalton Utilities’ OptiLink.

As Foretold by Hank

When we interviewed Chief Technical Services Officer Hank Blackwood last November about the new gigabit tier, he told us that 10 gig plans were in the works. The boost in capacity is part of the city’s long-term vision to lure more tech innovators to Dalton. In addition to attracting firms able to offer more jobs, community leaders want to provide an environment ripe for entrepreneurs who may find working from home the secret sauce.

From the press release announcing the new 10 gig service for $349.95 per month:

“We are proud to offer our residents the very best in ultra-high-speed Internet and next-generation video, delivering services wanted and needed by so many communities,” says Dalton Utilities’ Hank Blackwood, Chief Technical Services Officer. “Very few areas have this level of fiber optic capability.”

Subscribers can still sign up for OptiLink at gigabit, 100 Megabit per second (Mbps), 75 Mbps, and 50 Mbps services. When bundled with phone or OptiLink’s new VidLink service, subscribers can cut stand-alone rates by around $5 per month. All tiers provide symmetrical service.

Check out residential OptiLink rates here.

Sweet Sixteen

Since 2003, residents and businesses have enjoyed access to fiber optic connectivity from Dalton Utilities. Like other public utilities, in the late 1990s utility management originally decided on fiber optic infrastructure investment as a way to better manage and control other utilities such as electric, water, gas, and water. As Dalton developed their supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system, larger businesses in the community approached them and asked for connectivity via the fiber network.

Community leaders realized...

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Posted September 4, 2019 by Katie Kienbaum

Applicants in the first round of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) ReConnect Loan and Grant Program requested over $1.4 billion to finance rural broadband expansion, exceeding available funds by more than $800 million. Despite tough competition, much of the funding may go to community broadband networks, since more than half of the applicants are publicly or collectively owned, including electric and telephone cooperatives, local governments, and federally recognized tribes.

As was the case in previous federal programs, most community broadband providers applying for ReConnect funds plan to deploy modern, high-speed fiber networks. Unlike the large telecom monopolies, which are letting their rural networks rot even while raking in government subsidies, community owned networks frequently leverage federal funds to deploy future-proof fiber optics in their rural service areas.

ReConnect Review

In 2018, Congress authorized $600 million for the ReConnect program to expand high-quality connectivity in rural America by providing grants and loans to Internet access providers. The first round of ReConnect applications closed earlier this summer with $200 million available in each of the three funding categories:

  • 100 percent grant
  • 50 percent grant - 50 percent loan
  • 100 percent loan

Earlier this year, Congress approved an additional $550 million for the program, which the USDA will distribute after awarding round one funds.

logo-reconnect-eligible.png Most entities were eligible to apply for ReConnect funds, including for-profit companies, rural cooperatives, local governments, and tribes. The guidelines for which communities qualified, however, were much more restrictive. Proposed service areas had to be rural, as defined by the USDA, and had to have between 90 and 100 percent of the...

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Posted August 30, 2019 by lgonzalez

On August 29th, people in Fort Collins, Colorado, gathered together at the city’s Lincoln Center to celebrate the launch of Connexion, their municipal fiber optic network. 

Establishing Rates

Prior to the get together, the utility announced pricing and services for residential subscribers. Symmetrical gigabit Internet access will be available for $59.95 per month; residents will also have the option to sign-up for 10 gigabit speeds for $299.95 per month.

Business rates are still in the works.

Connexion is also offering bundles that include voice and video. While they’re still developing details on video service, subscribers can choose a voice and Internet access package at this early stage. The utility will not impose data caps and, as expected, there are no contracts.

Connexion has expressed their commitment to network neutrality, a policy that helped drive the local comunity to develop the municipal network.

Sweet Launch 

The event was especially glorious to folks involved in the 2017 vote to change the city’s charter. At the time, big corporate ISPs dedicated close to a million dollars toward influencing the vote to prevent the amendment. Measure 2B was on the ballot to update the city’s authority to invest in a publicly owned network. With a de facto duopoly on Internet access in Fort Collins, incumbents wanted to halt any change, but the measure succeeded and the initiative moved forward.

Learn more about how a group of grassroots organizers was able to defeat Comcast and friends in episode 282 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. We spoke with Glen Akins and Colin Garfield, two residents that worked tirelessly to lead the initiative. 

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