Tag: "muni"

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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Posted August 29, 2019 by lgonzalez

Hillsboro, Oregon, has decided that fast, reliable, and affordable Internet access is a top priority. As they continue to fine-tune their fiber optic network plans, community leaders recently announced pricing and speed tiers for HiLight, expected to launch in 2020.

$55 Gig!

This summer, the Hillsboro City Council confirmed proposed pricing to reflect the community's commitment to bringing high-quality Internet access to each premise; HiLight will offer symmetrical gigabit Internet access for $55 per month to residents. According to the Oregonian, the rate is about half what Comcast charges. HiLight will also provide a 4 gigabit option for $300 per month, which is comparable to Comcast’s price for 2 gigabit service.

Subscribers will also have the option to sign-up for VoIP services for $20 per month, but the utility will not offer video.

Low-income households will be able to subscribe to gigabit service for $10 per month, but the community is still working out details for eligibility. Comcast’s plan for similarly situated folks allows Internet access at 15 Megabits per second (Mbps) download while providing slower upload speeds.

Like many other publicly owned networks, Hillsboro plans to offer symmetrical service to allow subscribers to take full advantage of fiber optic connections. With the ability to send as well as receive data-intensive files, subscribers are more likely to work from home, complete distance learning educational programs, engage in telehealth apps, and partake in innovative technologies.

The Timeline

The city plans to take an incremental approach and dedicate about 10 years toward completion of citywide deployment while avoiding debt. Hillsboro has decided to allocate around $4 million each year for the next 7 years toward the build. City financial experts estimate the network will begin generating revenue in 11 years and will pay for itself in 17 years.

Construction is already in progress in the Sourh Hillsboro neighborhood, a new area of town where approximately 8,000 new homes are being built, allowing crews to install conduit and fiber simlutaneously. Next they plan to...

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Posted August 21, 2019 by lgonzalez

When a company processes 180,000 medical claims each year and prides itself on embracing high tech in medical care, access to fiber connectivity is a no-brainer. When a city like Tullahoma offers reliable, fast, and affordable services via their municipal fiber network minus the expense of a big city, it makes sense to bring the company to the town. EnableComp is joining need and solution while creating new jobs in Tullahoma, home of LightTUBe.

Attracted by the Light

EnableComp, headquartered in Franklin, Tennessee, now employs about 240 people who work for the company processing medical claims. Over the next five years, EnableComp will add 200 more positions, all in Tullahoma. They will invest an additional $1 million to develop an office facility.

According to Tullahoma Area Economic Development Corp executive director Thom Robinson, LightTUBe was “a key reason” for the company’s decision to expand in the city of about 19,000 people.

Tullahoma Mayor Lane Curlee said:

“This announcement continues the exciting growth that we are seeing in Tullahoma, and I want to thank EnableComp for their investment in our City. This project brings a diversity of economic growth to our area, and I know the strong development of our infrastructure, including our state-of-the-art Fiber Optic system has prepared us to welcome this company, as well as others that may follow."

The Oasis

EnableComp’s investment in Tullahoma is the latest in a string of economic development results that relate to LightTUBe. Before the city invested in the network, job growth in Tullahoma lagged behind the rest of the state, but within two years after the city began offering broadband, that statistic changed. Job growth in the city doubled Tennessee’s statewide rate.

Since Tullahoma developed the municipal network, they’ve continued to be one of the areas in Tennessee with solid economic development. As...

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Posted August 7, 2019 by lgonzalez

In the Internet access industry, large corporations typically fight to maintain their positions as monopolies. Even if they have no intention of serving certain communities, big cable and telecom companies work to prevent others from gaining a foothold, fearful that they may someday lose subscribers. On the other hand, municipalities that operate publicly owned networks often encourage, mentor, and collaborate with neighboring communities to get people connected. Now, EPB Fiber Optics in Chattanooga is partnering with municipalities and cooperatives interested in offering Internet access.

Working Past Restrictions

Tennessee still prevents municipal power utilities from offering telecommunications services beyond their electric service areas, but state law won’t deter EPB Fiber Optics from doing what they can. Recently, EPB Vice President of Marketing J. Ed Marsten spoke with Telecompetitor. “We’re partnering with some other municipal and cooperative providers to help them get into the business,” Marston said. “We’ve seen a ton of interest.”

EPB Fiber Optics is offering a range of services to potential utility partners as a way to bring better connectivity to more Tennesseans. In addition to consulting services, the utility may be able to provide transport to an Internet point of presence (POP) and offers tech support. When municipalities or cooperatives work with EPB and use Chattanooga’s staff, they can cut operating costs and reduce the time it takes to begin offering services.

In Massachusetts, Westfield Gas+Electric (WG+E) offers similar services to the nearby rural towns that lack high-quality Internet access. Westfield’s Whip City Fiber, however, is not precluded from offering Internet access via local public infrastructure. Like EPB, WG+E also offers consulting services, if municipalities choose to operate their own networks.

Publicly Minded Moves…So Many

Earlier this year, EPB tripled the speed of their most popular service from 100 Megabits per second (Mbps) symmetrical to 300 Mbps with no price increase. They also decided to drop the price of gigabit...

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Posted July 30, 2019 by lgonzalez

John Lester, General Manager of Clarksville Connected Utilities in Arkansas, was on our show several years ago to talk about his work in Chanute, Kansas. Since then, he’s moved on to Clarksville to bring the community's infrastructure up-to-date with fiber. In this interview, John brings along Brian Eisele, President and CEO of the Clarksville - Johnson County Chamber of Commerce, to offer additional perspective.

Clarksville began by introducing a supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system to their utilities. In only a few years, they’ve expanded to use the fiber optic infrastructure for improved connectivity for public facilities and businesses. They’re now focusing on a Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) project to offer fast, affordable, reliable connectivity to all premises in the city. John discusses the city’s investigation into the risks, rewards, and possible models as they worked with consultants to develop a plan. John also shares some of the possible plans for the future of Clarksville Connected Utilities and the surrounding area.

As a local entrepreneur and member of the community interested in driving economic development, Brian Eisele describes the ways the network impacts businesses and residents. He shares some of his own experiences along with other stories of growth related to the presence of the fiber network.

Read more about Clarksville’s network and the community.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please ...

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Posted June 24, 2019 by htrostle

Ponca City, Oklahoma, is a small community of about 24,000 just 30 miles off of I-35. Although known for its history museums, Ponca City also has a rich history in its publicly owned network. The city was one of the pioneers of citywide Wi-Fi in the 2000s, and now they are embarking on a Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) project. Construction on the first phase of the network will be complete with customers online by mid-July. We spoke with David Williams, the Director of Technology Services, to learn more about Ponca City’s project. 

The First Phase

The first phase of the new FTTH network is a small section of the city, a 1 mile by 1.5 mile rectangle bounded by Bradley Avenue, Highland Avenue, 14th Street, and Union Street where the city is primarily deploying aerially on poles. The entire city is only about 20 square miles and the entire network for the city will eventually be a mix of underground and overhead deployment, matching the municipal electric network infrastructure.

The engineering estimate for the first phase puts the cost at approximately $3.5 million. The city estimated how many people will sign up for service (the take rate) very conservatively and is on track to meet its target number.

PoncaCity-small.jpeg Williams said they chose to focus exclusively on Internet service and will have no data caps or subscriber contracts. There will be an activation fee with two payment options: a one-time payment of $200 or $10 per month for 24 months.

Residents can choose from three speed tiers all are symmetrical:

  • 50 Mbps for $60 per month
  • 100 Mbps for $100 per month
  • 1 Gbps for $250 per month

Service for businesses will also be available; rates are available on a case-by-case basis.

There were about 395 pre-sign ups for the city’s fiber Internet access service according to Williams. Pre-sign ups are non-binding expressions of interest in the project. When...

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Posted June 14, 2019 by Katie Kienbaum

While Loveland’s proximity to Rocky Mountain National Park might be the lifeblood of this “Gateway to the Rockies,” the Colorado city is finding a new heartbeat with its planned broadband network, Pulse.

Loveland (pop. 76,700) announced the name and branding of its new Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network at a launch event on May 30, the Denver Post reports. As part of the Loveland Water and Power department, Pulse will connect the city’s residents and businesses with fast, reliable, affordable Internet access. At the event, City Councilmember John Fogle said, “Bringing broadband to our community is one of the biggest decisions City Council and city staff have made in the history of Loveland.”

Loveland Looks at Broadband

The name Pulse may be new, but Loveland’s planned fiber network has been six years in the making.

Loveland took its first major step towards municipal connectivity in 2015 when 82 percent of voters chose to opt out of Colorado Senate Bill 152, which prevents local governments from investing in broadband infrastructure. Then in the fall of 2018, after working with a consultant on a feasibility study, Loveland City Council decided to move forward with a municipal broadband network. Councilors had originally planned to pose the question to city residents in a special ballot, but with the community’s overwhelming support of the 2015 referendum in mind, they chose to proceed without the public vote.

While planning the fiber network, Loveland officials consulted other communities with successful municipal broadband networks, including Longmont, Colorado; Wilson, North Carolina; and Chattanooga, Tennessee. “[We] picked their brains...

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