Tag: "muni"

Posted April 14, 2017 by lgonzalez

When state legislators in Tennessee recently passed the Broadband Accessibility Act of 2017, tech writers quoted our Christopher Mitchell, who pointed out that the proposal has some serious pitfalls.

Christopher's statement appeared in several articles:

"Tennessee taxpayers may subsidize AT&T to build DSL service to Chattanooga's [rural] neighbors rather than letting the Gig City [Chattanooga] expand its fiber at no cost to taxpayers. Tennessee will literally be paying AT&T to provide a service 1,000 times slower than what Chattanooga could provide without subsidies."

Motherboard

Motherboard noted that the Tennessee legislature had the opportunity to pass a bill, sponsored by Senator Janice Bowling, to grant municipal electric utilities the ability to expand and serve nearby communities. Nope. Legislators in Tennessee would rather pander to the incumbent providers that come through year after year with generous campaign contributions:

logo-motherboard.jpgTo be clear: EPB wanted to build out its gigabit fiber network to many of these same communities using money it has on hand or private loans at no cost to taxpayers. It would then charge individual residents for Internet service. Instead, Tennessee taxpayers will give $45 million in tax breaks and grants to giant companies just to get basic infrastructure built. They will then get the opportunity to pay these companies more money for worse Internet than they would have gotten under EPB's proposal.

The Motherboard reporter quoted Bowling from a prior article (because, like the movie "Groundhog Day," she keeps finding herself in the same situation year after year):

"What we have right now is not the free market, it's regulations protecting giant corporations, which is the exact definition of crony capitalism," she said.

TechDirt Gets Personal

... Read more

Posted April 13, 2017 by lgonzalez

It’s been a while since we shared news on Hudson, Ohio, where the publicly owned fiber network, Velocity, is serving business customers with high-quality connectivity. The network is steadily gaining local business customers as it continues to expand.

Early Problems Overcome

The Hudson Hub Times recently reported that officials from the utility reported to the City Council in late March. There were some issues early on during deployment with obtaining materials in a timely manner and in setting up service with customers due to obtaining enough IP addresses. Officials have worked out problems and plans are back on track.

According to Will Ersing, chief broadband officer, 35 miles have been deployed underground; the utility is taking an incremental approach and still has an additional 30 miles to deploy. The largest commercial customers are already connected and the network is prepared to quickly connect new large scale customers, should they decide to switch to Velocity.

"We're getting all our businesses connected or available," Ersing said. "The city has 104 businesses on line with another six installs on schedule, and we're talking to 50 businesses interested in the service but not committed."

Going For Multi Tenant Commercial Buildings

The utility also will be marketing to building owners whose properties house multiple businesses:

"They can promote their building that it has an advantage with this technology," [Hudson’s chief economic development officer Jim] Stifler said. "We're paying more attention to the (Internet provider) competition. It's time to make Velocity the obvious choice."

While Velocity is offering customers symmetrical gigabit (1,000 Megabist per second) connectivity, other providers offering service to businesses in the area top out at 60 Mbps download and upload.

"Because we are service providers, we can control the network and provide a level of service and tailor it to our businesses," Elsing said.

More businesses in town, who didn't want Velocity initially, are changing their minds because of what the city can provide, [City Manager Jane] Howington said.

The... Read more

Posted April 12, 2017 by lgonzalez

If you’re going to talk about gigabit Internet access, Chattanooga is going to be part of the conversation. Chattanooga’s Electric Power Board (EPB) is the go-to example for citywide, symmetrical, high-quality, gigabit connectivity, and it has been since 2010.

But some one forgot to tell Comcast.

On March 20th, the ISP posted a new Xfinity video to “introduce” Chattanooga to gigabit speeds. Many, many snarky comments followed, from critique about the poor Internet access to complaints about slipshod customer service. The Times Free Press picked out some of the more memorable responses:

* Jason Schmurr: "Nope, Comcast is definitely not introducing gig-speed Internet to Chattanooga. In fact, the only thing they have introduced was a lawsuit attempting to ban gig-speed Internet from Chattanooga."

* Matthew Borden: "If I had the choice.... I'd still choose EPB. Unfortunately I am stuck with Comcast because they are the only provider in my area with broadband Internet access."

* Alixanderia Echbright: "I'd rather birth a cactus than deal with Comcast ever again. Gig speeds have been here for years, buck up."

* Scott Vandergriff: "The difference is EPB has no traffic throttling, no data cap and no "introductory" pricing. $69/month for straight unimpeded, symmetric gigabit fiber and it's been that way for years."

* Vince Cantrell: "Not sure why anybody would pay for Comcast over EPB. EPB has direct fiber to every house in Chattanooga, and has had gigabit for 7+ years already."

* Brent Tapio: "LOL, 'Introducing'? You guys have heard the term 'Gig City' used before right?"

* Patrick Alan Jaworski: "You guys realize that was already a thing ....right?"

* Steve Allen: "I'm glad I'm not the Comcast person that has to respond to all these comments."

Comcast told the Times Free Press that the strong negative response to the marketing campaign came from a "misunderstanding" in what the national provider meant to convey. Guess they should have said what they meant and meant what they said.

You judge:

... Read more

Posted April 11, 2017 by lgonzalez

A new Pew Research Center survey reveals that 70 percent of adults, regardless of political leanings, believe local governments should be able to invest in municipal Internet networks.

Local Authority Has No Party

The survey, conducted March 13 - 27 supports the finding that local authority for telecommunications decisions is a bipartisan notion. On closer examination of the survey results, we see that 67 percent of Republicans and Republican leaning respondents and 74 percent of Democrats and Democratic leaning respondents support local authority to invest in municipal networks.

In Colorado, two more local communities voted this month to opt out of the state’s restrictive SB 152. The law prevents local communities from investing in Internet infrastructure to offer telecommunications services or work with a partner to improve local connectivity. Colorado Springs and Central City became cities 97 and 98 to join the growing list of communities opting out, which includes places that have taken action to deploy and others who merely want the option. 

pew-survey-image.png Colorado Springs, known as one of the state’s more conservative communities, passed the measure with 61 percent of the vote, not far from the results of the Pew Research survey.

Of Growing Importance

The survey also asked U.S. adults about how important high-quality Internet access is at home. Forty-nine percent said home broadband is essential and 41 percent described it as important but not essential. That leaves just one out of ten survey respondents who describe home broadband as either not too important or not important at all.

Respondents also answered questions about assistance to low-income households to help them pay for Internet access. Unlike support for municipal networks, political affiliation, income level, and current access to the Internet appeared to play a part in respondent replies.

The survey included 4,151 respondents. You can learn more about the respondents, the questions,... Read more

Posted March 28, 2017 by christopher

After discussing this issue time and time again, with community after community, we finally recorded our thoughts on how communities should get started when considering a community network. Eric Lampland, the guy behind Lookout Point Communications, is our guest on Community Broadband Bits podcast episode 246. 

We talk about common mistakes and the importance of developing a comprehensive vision when evaluating an investment or partnership to improve Internet access. 

We also talk a little about the importance of some technical knowledge and having at least one person championing the effort. This is not something a consultant can do for you - someone in the community has to take ownership and responsibility. 

These are very important considerations for any community considering what it should be doing in the modern era.

Read the transcript of the show here.

Eric has also been a guest on Episode 128 "Open Access and Incumbent Challenges" and Episode 84 "Justifying a Network with Indirect Cost Savings."

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

This show is 33 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or via the tool of your choice using this feed.

You can download this mp3 file directly from here. Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Thanks to Break the Bans for the music. The song is Escape and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.

Posted March 28, 2017 by htrostle

Pennsylvania’s state barriers won’t stop this community from improving Internet service for its municipal facilities, residents, and businesses. The City of Lancaster is collaborating with private provider MAW Communications to ensure the community has next-generation technology. Their public-private partnership, LanCity Connect, will offer affordable 1 gigabit (1,000 Megabits per second) service over a new Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network.

Shared Risk, Public Financing

The Lancaster Online has closely followed the development of the partnership from a 2015 Wi-Fi project between the partners to the current citywide fiber plan. Here's a quick summary of the basic framework of the partnership: 

MAW Communications originally built a $1.7 million fiber backbone starting in 2015 with financing from the city's water fund bond. The city had refinanced its water utility debt, saving some $7.8 million and they worked out an agreement with MAW where the private partner would deploy and own a backbone fiber network. Over the 20 year term of the deal, the city has the right to half the network for city services, including automatic meter reading (AMR) and a traffic control system, with the city being able to renew the deal for four additional terms. Officials have said this arrangement will not impact water rates.

MAW Communications will extend the network to premises, aided by a $1.5 million loan with a 7 percent interest rate from the city's general fund reserves. The provider will repay the loan over a 13 year period. As long as MAW Communications has an outstanding loan to the city, the provider cannot sell the network without the city's written approval. Though the loan will help MAW to begin building the network, the costs of connecting homes and businesses would still be prohibitive at $1,000 each if not for another element of the plan.

The city developed a creative way to spread that $1,000... Read more

Posted March 25, 2017 by htrostle

Update: Traverse City, Michigan, took home the prize as 2017 #StrongestTown. Congrats to Traverse City!

Keeping with the spirit of March Madness, the nonprofit StrongTowns ran the second annual #StrongestTown contest based on the nonprofit’s Strength Test and Principles. Of the 16 communities that participated, almost a third have been featured on MuniNetworks.org for their Internet infrastructure plans: Ellsworth, Maine; Lafayette, Louisiana; Traverse City, Michigan; and Valparaiso, Indiana.

These five communities have battled their way forward against steep competition. Through articles and podcasts on Strong Towns, they tried to showcase how their residents are active in their communities and committed to change at the local level. All five overcame the initial rounds, and Traverse, City, Michigan made it to the final round against the Canadian city of Guelph. The winner will be announced Monday, March 27th on the contest page.

Community Networks Support Vibrant Towns

It comes as no surprise to us that these communities would be in the running for #StrongestTown. Building a community network takes public support and a realistic look at financials. Publicly owned networks encourage job creation, improve healthcare, and connect low-income residents. The towns that made the cut took different approaches to better connectivity. 

Lafayette, Louisiana’s fiber network follows a classic model: it’s a city-run utility serving both homes and businesses... Read more

Posted March 21, 2017 by lgonzalez

Even though they don't have to chip in any local funds, the town of Shutesbury, Massachusetts, rejected Charter’s proposal to build a hybrid fiber coaxial network in their community. They don’t consider the proposal a “good long-term solution to bring broadband to our town" and prefer to build a publicly owned fiber-optic network for future-proof technology, provider accountability, and local control.

You Get What You Pay For

Unlike Charter’s proposal to serve only 96 percent of the homes in the community, the town made a commitment to include all members of the community some time ago. Charter would not extend its proposal to include about three dozen properties that are further out unless the town committed to providing funds above and beyond what the state offered to provide as part of the proposal. Board of Selectmen Chair Michael Vinskey went on to tell MassLive that Charter would not commit to a specific cost for extending a network to those additional homes.

In the words of Vinskey, committing to such an ambiguous arrangement, “would not be fiscally responsible.” No kidding.

Shutesbury authorized spending for a Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network once already. In 2015, folks at the annual Town Meeting voted to approve $1.7 million in bonding to pay for the infrastructure. They’ll take another vote this May for the debt exclusion authorization, as required by state law.

Community leaders estimate deployment to every property at approximately $2.57 million. Their share of the state grants that are to be distributed by MBI come to $870,000 for construction and professional services. Like the community of Leverett, Shutesbury intends to use a modest property tax increase to fund the infrastructure investment. 

A basic subscription for Internet access at speeds higher than those proposed by Charter would cost approximately $75 per month and would not include video services but would include Voice over IP (VoIP) services. A number of the local communities in the western Massachusetts region have dealt with sub-par telephone services due to aging infrastructure.

Shutesbury wants... Read more

Posted March 20, 2017 by lgonzalez

A new case study recently released by the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University describes how the community of Concord, Massachusetts deployed its extensive municipal fiber-optic network and smart grid. In Citizens Take Charge: Concord, Massachusetts, Builds a Fiber Network, the authors offer history, and describe the benefits to the community from better connectivity and enhanced electric efficiencies.

 

 

Key Findings from the report:

  • In 2009 Concord Municipal Light Plant (CMLP) started work on a 100-mile fiber optic and wireless network to provide backhaul for a smart grid. The fiber passes 95 percent of homes and businesses in town. 
  • The $3.9 million project was paid for by electric ratepayers through annual payments that started at $418,000 per year and will decline to $207,000 in the 15th and final year of payments. The fiber will last for at least 30 years. 
  • In a second step, CMLP established a telecommunications division, called Concord Light Broadband, and borrowed $600,000 to fund startup costs of an Internet access business and fiber connections to customers. 
  • CMLP offers residential data plans of up to 200 Mbps, upload and download, for $89 monthly with a two-year agreement. CMLP competes with Comcast. CMLP doesn’t offer phone or video, but does provide much faster data upload speeds than does Comcast. 
  • The project is still being built: at the end of 2016, Concord Light Broadband served about 750 customers (a “take rate” of about 12 percent of the 6,000 customers CMLP estimates could take service) and earned 2016 revenue of $560,000, slightly less than operating costs of $583,000. (In 2016 the division also paid debt service of $60,000, including a $50,000 payment on principal.)
  • CMLP’s fiber helped the town save $108,000 in annual police and school communications costs and generated $88,000 in leasing revenue from a private school and two telecom companies. 
  • CMLP is only in the early stages of realizing the benefits of its fiber. The utility is now engaged in studies on how to use the infrastructure to realize more cost savings, increase revenue, provide new services, and reduce emissions in the coming decades.
  • David Talbot, one of the report authors, also recently... Read more
Posted March 20, 2017 by htrostle

This is the transcript for Episode 244 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. Christopher Mitchell speaks with Tom Stehn of West Plains, Missouri, on how the community is encouraging economic development. Listen to this episode here.

 

Tom Stehn: Businesses look to expand, move to other locations. There's usually five questions they ask, and one of them is always what kind of broadband do you have?

Lisa Gonzalez: This is episode 244 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. I'm Lisa Gonzalez. West Plains, Missouri, located in the south central part of the state, is situated in the Ozarks, and known for its beautiful terrain, forests, and vistas. Despite attracting outdoor enthusiasts, the community has suffered some economic losses in recent years and is taking steps to boost economic development. Recently the city began offering high quality connectivity to local businesses. Tom Stehn, City Administrator, talks to Christopher this week about the city's foray into municipal Internet infrastructure. Tom describes how the city's plan to update municipal services led them to discover that local businesses also wanted better connectivity. He describes the city's project, their plan, and how they're starting out slowly to address any challenges they encounter along the way.

Christopher Mitchell: Hey everyone. I just wanted to thank you for listening and helping out to create a stronger Internet ecosystem, making sure everyone has high quality access. Please tell your friends, tell others who might be interested, about this show. If you have a chance to rate us on iTunes, please do. Several people already have. We really appreciate all of the comments, and we really appreciate you taking the time to listen to us.

Lisa Gonzalez: Now here's Tom Stehn, City Administrator, of West Plains, Missouri, talking with Christopher about the community's municipal fiber project.

Christopher Mitchell: Welcome to another edition of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast. I'm Chris Mitchell. Today I'm talking with Tom Stehn, the City Administrator of West Plains in Missouri. Welcome to the show.

Tom Stehn: Thank you, glad to be here... Read more

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