Tag: "muni"

Posted April 25, 2018 by lgonzalez

Anacortes, Washington, has been working toward a publicly owned fiber optic network for several years. They’re now at a point in development when potential partners are visiting the community to present proposals for collaboration. There are still details to decide, but Anacortes is well on its way to fast, affordable, reliable connectivity to the entire community. 

Building On The Water

Anacortes wanted better connectivity between water treatment plants and pumping stations, which were previously communicating via radio. Nonprofit Northwest Open Access Network (NoaNet) began working with Anacortes in 2016 to help them design the network to meet the needs of the water utility. As part of preparation for the new infrastructure, Anacortes decided last year to take advantage of existing water pipes as conduit, adopting a new approach in the U.S. 

The fiber system for the utility communications will serve as the basis for the citywide network. Anacortes has already deployed a fiber optic backbone in the eastern half of the city by aerial and underground means and plans to continue to the western half this year.

Last fall, community leaders reached out to residents and businesses to find out their needs for better connectivity and to gauge interest in a publicly owned network. They asked the community to complete a survey. Respondents indicated that speed, reliability, and price are major concerns for them.

Frontier DSL, Comcast, and Wave Cable now offer Internet access in the community of 16,800, but the community wants to prepare for the future and know that they need fiber optic connectivity in Anacortes for economic development.

In January, the city released a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) to find an ISP to manage and operate its infrastructure and offer Internet access to the community. While they had considered an open access model in the past, they’ve now decided to choose one entity to partner with while considering opening up the network to more providers in the future....

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Posted April 19, 2018 by lgonzalez

On April 14th, folks in Alford, Massachusetts, gathered at their fire house to attend a presentation about the bright future of their connectivity. After a long journey to find better connectivity in the small western Massachusetts town, residents and businesses are now subscribing to Fiber-to-the-Premise (FTTP) Internet access from AlfordLink, their own municipal network.

Years Of Work

With only around 500 residents in Alford, it’s no surprise that big incumbents decided the lack of population density didn’t justify investment in 21st century connectivity. By 2012 and 2013, the community had had enough; they decided to pursue their own solution with a municipal network. Alford voted to form a Municipal Light Plant (MLP), the entity that that manages publicly owned networks in Massachusetts.

In addition to the $1.6 million the town decided to borrow to spend on fiber optic infrastructure, the town will also receive around $480,000 in state grant funds. The Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI) is handling distribution of funds to Alford and other towns that have decided to use the funding to invest in publicly owned Internet infrastructure.

Alford, Blandford, and Shutesbury, are a few of the hilltowns contracting with Westfield Gas+Electric (WG+E) in Westfield. WG+E’s WhipCity Fiber began by serving only Westfield, but now contracts with other small towns to either assist them as they establish their own telecommunications utilities or to provide Internet access and operate a publicly owned network. In very small communities like Alford, they may not feel they have the resources or expertise to manage a gigabit network, but don’t want to relinquish control of their connectivity to an untrustworthy corporate incumbent.

Last year, Charter offered to take MBI funds and build a network in Shutesbury that the company would own and control. The town rejected the offer for the hybrid fiber coaxial network,...

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Posted April 17, 2018 by lgonzalez

When Fort Collins voters chose to amend their charter last year, they were choosing a path to simplify their ability to improve local connectivity. When Comcast tried to derail the measure to protect their monopoly, community members established a vibrant grassroots effort to overcome the influx of cash and disinformation. Now, Fort Collins is moving ahead after establishing that they intend to issue revenue bonds to develop a municipal fiber optic network.

Big Spending Didn’t Stop The Need

After all the spending was totaled last December, Comcast and CenturyLink under the mask of Priorities First Fort Collins, spent $900,999 to try to defeat measure 2B. The proposal passed anyway and allowed the city to amend its charter. That change allows Fort Collins to issue bonds for telecommunications infrastructure and to take other steps necessary to offer Internet service without taking the issue to the voters a separate time.

Thanks to the efforts of Colin Garfield and Glen Akins and their citizen-led effort to educate and correct Comcast’s disinformation, voters in Fort Collins passed measure 2B. The city opted out of the state’s restrictive SB 152 back in 2015 and voices in the community have advocated for exploration of a publicly owned option for several years. Seems people and businesses in Fort Collins were not able to get the connectivity they needed and incumbents weren’t interested in providing better services.

When the FCC decided late in 2017 to abandon network neutrality policy, Fort Collins City Council decided the time was right to move forward. In January, they voted to establish a municipal telecommunications utility. Their first step was in approving $1.8 million for startup costs, including hiring personnel, equipment, and consulting; the measure passed unanimously. The city council approved the loan from the city’s general fund to the city’s electric...

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Posted April 3, 2018 by lgonzalez

An increasing interest in publicly owned network projects has also spurred an increase in creative collaborations as communities work together to facilitate deployment, especially in rural areas. This week, we talk with Sharon Kyser, Marketing and Public Relations Manager for Newport Utilities (NU) in Newport, Tennessee, and Jody Wigington, General Manager and CEO of Morristown Utility Systems (MUS), also in Tennessee, for episode 300 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast.

We’ve written about MUS Fibernet and had Jody on the show several times to talk about how they built their own network and the ways it has improved the electric utility and helped the community. Now, they’ve entered into a partnership with their neighbors in Newport, who also want to reap the benefits of public ownership. Sharon tells us how the people in Newport need better services, economic development, and how her organization is working with MUS to make that vision a reality.

The two communities are working together to develop a Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network for residents and businesses in the NU service area. MUS is offering the expertise they’ve developed over the past 12+ years along with other technical and wholesale services that will greatly reduce costs and deployment time for NU. This is an example of rural communities sticking together and is an example we hope to see more often in the future.

In the interview, Jody also mentions a partnership in the works with Appalachian Electric Cooperative; we spoke to him and General Manager Greg Williams about the proposed collaboration for episode 203 of the podcast. Listen to that conversation here.

This show is 30 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed.

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Posted March 30, 2018 by lgonzalez

A new report from the American Civil Liberties Union (ALU) examines municipal networks as a way to protect network neutrality and privacy, and to improve local access to broadband. The report, titled The Public Internet Option, offers information on publicly owned networks and some of the most common models. The authors also address how community networks are better positioned to preserve privacy, bring equitable Internet access across the community, and honor free speech. There are also suggestions on ways to begin a local community network initiative.

Read the full report.

Preserving Online Expectations

The ACLU report dives into the changes the current FCC have made that have created an online environment hostile toward preserving privacy and innovation. When FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and the Republican Commissioners chose to repeal federal network neutrality protections, they handed a obscene amount of power to already overly-powerful corporate ISPs. Ever since that decision, local communities have been looking for alternatives.

Authors of the report describe the ways local communities are using their existing assets and investing in more infrastructure in order to either offer connectivity themselves or work with private sector partners. In addition to having the ability to require network neutrality from partners, communities with their own infrastructure are able to take measures to protect subscribers’ data and implement other privacy protections. The current administration removed privacy protections for subscribers in 2017.

The ACLU offers best practices that rely on three main principles:

1. High-speed broadband must be accessible and affordable for all.

2. Community broadband services must protect free speech. 

3. Community broadband services must protect privacy.

Within each principle, the report offers specific information and considerations. As we would expect from the ACLU, they cover the...

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Posted March 29, 2018 by lgonzalez

Cortez is ready to use its publicly owned infrastructure to begin a Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) pilot project. At the March 27th City Council meeting, members unanimously approved fees and rates for the Cortez Community Network Pilot, which marks a shift as the city moves to offer retail Internet access to residents and businesses.

Time To Serve Residents

Earlier this month, General Services Director Rick Smith presented information to the City Council about the pilot at a workshop so they could ask in-depth questions. At the workshop, City Manager Shane Hale described the challenges of finding ISPs willing to offer residential Internet access via Cortez’s fiber infrastructure. “We found that there were very few providers that actually wanted to go Fiber-to-the-Home,” he said. “Homeowners are a lot of work.”

The city’s network has provided open access fiber connectivity to municipal and county facilities, schools, community anchor institutions (CAIs), and downtown businesses for years. They officially launched the network in 2011 after serving public facilities and a few businesses on an as-needed basis. A 2015 expansion brought the network allowed Cortez to offer fiber connectivity to more premises. There are at least seven private sector ISPs using the infrastructure to offer services to local businesses.

The open access model will remain for commercial connections in Cortez, but for now the city plans to operate as a retail ISP for residents who sign up on the pilot program. At the March 27th meeting, the City Council established rates for subscribers, who will pay $150 for installation and $60 per month for 100 Megabits per second (Mbps) for upload and download speeds. Subscribers will also need to rent a GigaCenter Wi-Fi router for $10 per month.

Waiting On The Wings Of The Pilot Program

According to Smith, potential subscribers are already interested in signing up to participate in the pilot program. He told the Cortez Journal that 11 residents were in the process of being connected and 58 residents and...

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Posted March 28, 2018 by lgonzalez

In recent years, leadership in Tacoma, Washington, has debated the future of the Click! Network. They recently released a Request for Information and Qualifications (RFI/Q) to gather ideas and proposals from potential partners. Responses to the RFI/Q are due by April 27.

A Dozen Goals

The Tacoma Public Utility Board and the City Council have established a list of 12 policy goals that they plan to adhere to while moving forward. At the top of the list is, “Continuing public ownership of the telecommunications assets, especially those assets necessary for Tacoma Power operations.” Back in 2015, the Tacoma community began discussing the possibility of leasing out operations of the network. In our four part series, "The Tacoma Click! Saga of 2015", we examined the history, challenges, and potential future of the municipal network.

Other goals are designed so that low-income residents will not be left behind, network neutrality principles are respected, user privacy remains protected, and open access is preserved to encourage competition. The City Council and the Public Utility Board also want to be sure that the infrastructure continues to be used for the city’s power utility and that the telecommunications business operations are financially stable. You can review all the goals on the city’s press release.

Click!

Tacoma invested in its network back in the 1990s. The coaxial cable network passes about 115,000 premises in the Tacoma Power Utility (TPU) service area. In addition to wholesale Internet connectivity in keeping with state law, the network offers cable television service. TPU used the network for smart metering in the past, but is switching to a wireless system, which will only require the fiber backbone. They feel that now is the time to find a partner to take over broadband operations to reduce their operational costs.

The city wants to find a partner that will pick up marketing and increase take rates, upgrade the network when needed, and offer more services to residents and businesses. In their RFI/Q, the city...

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Posted March 21, 2018 by lgonzalez

Stillwater, Oklahoma, recently released a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) in its search for a firm to complete a feasibility study. The city’s Utilities Authority is considering establishing a community owned and operated broadband utility to add to its electric, water, wastewater, and trash and recycling collection utilities. Responses are due April 30, 2018.

Open To Suggestions

Stillwater wants the firm they hire for the study to consider a range of possible models, including dark fiber, open access, and a retail model in which the utility offers services directly to subscribers. They also want partnerships considered that might include Oklahoma State University and Central Rural Electric Cooperative.

OSU’s Stillwater Campus serves about 23,500 students and is considered the flagship of the OSU system. More than 6,000 people work at the school. Central Rural Electric Cooperative doesn’t currently offer broadband to members, but cooperatives and local governments are exploring these types of partnerships more often. In Mecklenburg, Virginia, a project involving a rural cooperative and Mecklenburg County will bring Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) to much of the county premises.

As part of the analysis, Stillwater Utilities Authority expect whomever they hire to also provide needs assessments, options for financing, capital costs estimates, and market analysis, in addition to other considerations that will help them move forward.

The Authority wants a self-sustainable gigabit network that offers fast, affordable, reliable symmetrical services to residents, businesses, and its industrial sector.

Stillwater, Oklahoma

The community’s located in the north central part of the state with around 50,000 people in the city. In addition to OSU, a medical center and the headquarters of convenience store franchise OnCue are some of the top employers.

As in other university communities,...

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Posted March 15, 2018 by lgonzalez

Holland, Michigan’s Board of Public Works (BPW) is in the process of incrementally deploying a Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network and will offer Internet access to local subscribers. Holland BPW will also deploy fiber to the nearby town of Hudsonville to a new downtown development.

Upgrading Downtown Hudsonville

Located about 15 miles northeast of Holland, the community of approximately 7,300 received a $1 million state grant to help pay for redevelopment in Hudsonville’s downtown. They’ve been working on the plan to make the area more walkable for more than 10 years in order to appeal to older residents and millennials. 

Because the project involves significant excavation of streets and sidewalks, planners have taken the opportunity to install conduit for fiber. Because about 90 percent of the cost of underground fiber deployment is attributed to the price of digging up rights-of-way, Hudsonville’s smart conduit decisions will make it easier for Holland BPW to bring high speed Internet access to the project area.

BPW’s fiber runs along the main road to Hudsonville and through the center of town; the presence of this fiber will make deployment easier and expedite BPW’s ability to connect premises. 

Following Demand

As part of the expansion, BPW will have the opportunity to offer gigabit connectivity to Hudsonville’s new coworking space, Terra Square. As soon as a minimum of 12 subscribers commit to service from Holland BPW, construction will begin. BPW is using the same demand aggregation approach as they decide where to deploy in Holland neighborhoods, although the number of required commitments varies depending on factors such as density and geography of each neighborhood.

Daniel Morrison, a local resident who writes for the HollandFiber grassroots group website, wrote:

I was initially tempted to complain, “why Hudsonville before my home?” but we should see this a good thing. It further solidifies that Holland BPW is an ISP. It shows their intent to go into new areas. We expect to hear a plan for going into Holland neighborhoods soon. We’ll be working to push that forward as soon as we can.

Check out this map of Holland BPW Fiber:

...

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Posted March 6, 2018 by lgonzalez

Emmett, Idaho’s Systems Administrator Mike Knittel joins Christopher for episode 296 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast this week. Mike explains how the city of about 7,000 has taken a similar approach as other municipalities by first investing in Internet infrastructure to unite the city’s needs. We get to hear their story.

Emmett, however, has taken advantage of its self-reliant can-do attitude to collaborate among departments and build its own network. Mike explains how working between departments reduced the cost of their deployment, has helped them speed up their construction, and has created groundwork for future expansion. Mike also shares some of the ways that Emmett is discovering new and unexpected ways to use their infrastructure and how the community has supported the project.

Mike has some plans for Emmett's new infrastructure and we can't wait to check in with him in the future to find out all the new ways they're using their fiber.

Read the transcript for this show here.

This show is 29 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or 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 Arne Huseby for the music. The song is Warm Duck Shuffle and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.

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