Tag: "services"

Posted April 15, 2013 by lgonzalez

Carroll County is a bedroom community, with a variety of economies all around it. Washington, D.C., Camp David, Baltimore, Harrisburg, Fort Detrick, and the Aberdeen Proving Ground are a few of the places surrounding Carroll County. There is very little major transportation infrastructure and no major waterways. Many of the county's 167,000 people commute daily to jobs outside of the bullseye.

Gary Davis, Chief Information Officer at the Carroll County Public Schools (CCPS) and Chairman of the Carroll County Public Network (CCPN) started at the school district in 2002 and immediately recognized that the telecommunications arrangement was insufficient.

Schools and other facilities were connected to the hub via 1.5 Mbps T1 connections and the whole wide-area-network was connected to the Internet via an expensive Frame Relay DS3 connection. The total cost ran as high as $600,000 per year.  

When CCPS approached Verizon about increasing bandwidth, Verizon’s proposal was extremely cost-prohibitive. Verizon wanted a long-term commitment that resulted in more than 10 times their current costs. Basically, Verizon would own the network but capital costs would be funded by CCPS and maintained with ridiculously high recurring fees. The return on investment for Verizon was just too low owing the community demographics.

At that time, Davis met Robert Wack of the Westminster City Council and the two compared notes. Davis' vision for Carroll County Public Schools and Wack's ideas for Westminster and Carroll County were very similar. Both involved a high-speed network and Westminster is currently involved in its own municipal network project (to be covered in an upcoming post).

A 2003 feasibility study on telecommunications upgrades for the school and a second broader feasibility study for the entire county in 2005 resulted in a loose confederation between CCPS, Carroll County Government, Carroll Community College, and the Carroll County Public Library system. Davis is proud of the fact that the CCPN has broken through past silos. The public sector has worked together in Carroll County, preventing the rampant duplication of efforts that used to be the norm. 

...

Read more
Posted April 14, 2013 by lgonzalez

Ashland, Oregon, home to Ashland Fiber Net (AFN), may soon be taking aggressive steps to bring more online business to the community. According to an Ashland Daily Tidings article, the City Council is seeking public input into proposed goals for the community. A targeted effort to bring more Internet-based businesses to town is one of the draft goals. The goal seems logical for a community with a network already in place.

AFN serves about 6,000 business and residential customers in this community of 20,000 people. In addition to AFN's retail services, four other local ISPs operate on the infrastructure.

The network is HFC, a cable network, but with far fewer homes on each local loop than the big cable companies typically have. This means that subscribers are far more likely to consistently achieve advertised speeds. Residential services range from $35 per month for 6 Mbps / 1 Mbps service to $75 monthly for 20 Mbps / 5 Mbps. AFN is one of the rare community-owned networks to enforce monthly data caps.

Fiber to the business is an option, but popular business packages are $65 per month for 15 Mbps / 4 Mbps and $85 per month for 25 Mbps / 5 Mbps. AFN also offers rural wireless service to a limited area. 

Ashland also sees some common sense advantages to increasing the number of small home based businesses that use its fiber resource. To that end, AFN provides a "Home Office" business Internet package. From the article:

Councilor Greg Lemhouse has championed the goal to increase the number of Internet-based businesses.

"It's an aggressive goal that says the city is committed to growing this industry," he said.

Lemhouse said many such businesses can be operated out of people's homes.

People who want to run Internet-based businesses often are well educated and are committed to their communities, he said.

Home Internet businesses can also be family-friendly, allowing parents to work from home and stay connected to their children, Lemhouse said.

With the discussion also comes some analysis of what sort of Internet businesses are already keeping shop in town. Also from the article:

It's not clear how many Internet-based businesses exist in Ashland...

Read more
Posted April 3, 2013 by lgonzalez

Spencer Municipal Utilities (SMU) of Spencer, Iowa, will be replacing old copper cable with fiber this summer. According to the Daily Reporter, customers can expect the upgrade with no increase in rates. From the article:

"Just like internet service has evolved from dial up to DSL and cable modem, fiber will give customers the next level of service to continue to improve the way they live, work and play here in Spencer," Amanda Gloyd, SMU marketing and community relations manager," said.

"We want to keep our customers on the cutting edge," she said.

Plans are to upgrade around 700 customers in one section of town during this first phase at a cost of around $2 million.

"This project is all paid for with cash in the bank," [General Manager Steve] Pick said. "This is an investment in the system."

SMU has offered telecommunications services to customers since 2000 and supplies water, electric, cable tv, Internet, telephone, and wireless service in the town of about 11,000. Rates for Internet range from $20 to $225 per month with cable tv analog Basic service as low as $14 and Basic Plus at $46. As options are added, monthly fees increase.

We see regular upgrades in service with little or no increase in price from many municipal networks. Comparatively, increases in price with little or no increase in service is a typical business decision from the private sector. Unlike AT&T, CenturyLink, or Time Warner Cable, municipal networks like SMU consider customers to be shareholders, and do what is best for the community at large.

We spoke with Curtis Dean of the Iowa Association of Municipal Utilities for episode 13 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. He told us about the tradition in Iowa for self-reliance and its manifestation in the telecommunications industry.

Curtis also told us about Hansen's Clothing, a century-old men's clothier in Spencer. This community staple was on the edge of closing its doors until broadband came to town. Hansen's was able to begin selling high quality clothing online, offering pieces...

Read more
Posted March 15, 2013 by lgonzalez

As we monitored Georgia's HB 282, a bill to limit the capacity of local governments to invest in Internet networks that spur economic development, we learned of many existing networks that have helped communities to thrive.

Brian Thompson, Director of Electric and Telecommunications in Monroe took some time to tell us a little about their city network.  Located in the north central section of Georgia, with a population of 13,000, the network now offers triple play services to residents and businesses. Its network started in the 1970s with a municipal cable tv network. Today, the network is a hybrid with fiber having been added as an expansion to its cable network.

Monroe's investment in its fiber began as a way to improve connections for education. The Walton County School District could not find a private provider willing to collaborate on an affordable network between school facilities. The city took on the challenge and built a point-to-point network which the School District paid for in 10 years. In the mean time, the city expanded its network in other areas. Now, the Walton County Schools have gig service between facilities and to the Internet. The District pays only $500 per month for a service that would cost five times more from a private provider.

Thompson also confirmed what we hear from other communities with publicly owned networks - prices for business and residential services are very competitive and service is superior. He notes that customers often express appreciation for local representatives, rather than dealing with a huge bureaucracy like those at Verizon or AT&T. New connections can be created in a matter of hours or days instead of weeks.

Residential service for Internet access from MonroeAccess.Net includes affordable basic service (1 Mbps / 256 Kbps) for $21.95 per month. Two faster tiers include $34.95 (6 Mbps / 512 Kbps) and $44.95 (15 Mbps / 1 Mbps). Cable tv rates vary from $15.50 to $62.95 per month and residential phone service starts at $29.95 per month. Thompson notes that, when Monroe...

Read more
Posted February 12, 2013 by christopher

Glasgow was a true pioneer in community owned broadband networks, starting with its own cable plant in the 1980s. Billy Ray, CEO of Glasgow Electric Plant Board, has been an inspiration for municipal broadband networks -- one can't dig into the early history of LUS Fiber in Louisiana without running into something from Billy Ray, for instance. Glasgow's network has been a tremendous success, resulting in tens of millions of dollars of benefits to the community.

In our interview, we discuss the bitter legal fights of the early years as Glasgow built its own cable network and eventually began offering Internet access. Additionally, we discuss the important role of these information networks in creating more efficient (and less costly) electrical systems -- an incredibly important implication that does not get enough coverage.

Given the extraordinary history of Billy Ray and Glasgow EPB, we hope this will be the first of several conversations exploring that community. You can read more from Billy Ray on his blog.

Read the transcript from our call here. Also, we created a video on Glasgow called The Birth of Community Broadband.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show - please e-mail us or leave a comment below. Also, feel free to suggest other guests, topics, or questions you want us to address.

This show is 27 minutes long and can be played below on this page or subscribe via iTunes or via the tool of your choice using this feed. Search for us in iTunes and leave a positive comment!

Listen to previous episodes here. You can can download this Mp3 file directly from here.

Find more episodes in our podcast index.

Thanks to mojo monkeys for the music, licensed using Creative Commons.

Posted February 11, 2013 by lgonzalez

Customers of Cedar Falls Utilities (CFU), in Iowa, have recently been treated to an increase in fiber Internet service speeds with no increase in price.

We have reported on CFU for several years with news on its upgrades and expansions to unserved areas. The most popular CFU home service, 12/1 Mbps, is now at 16/8 Mbps. That service is available for a reasonable $43.50 in the city and $48.50 in rural areas. Residential plans range from $29.95/$34.95 (city/rural) for 2/1 Mbps for FiberHome Basic to $137.50/$142.50 (city/rural) for the 120/60 Mbps FiberHome Extreme.

According to the CFU blog:

We’re able to make this upgrade now because we are in the final neighborhoods connecting customers to our new all-fiber cable and internet system. The all-fiber system allows us to deliver faster connection speeds and better reliability. Upgrading speeds now is also good timing because we just activated a new high speed upstream internet link. This high speed link gives us the capacity needed at a very affordable cost, and also provides geographic and provider redundancy. With this in place no single fiber cut, hardware failure or weather event will impact our ability to deliver our normal peak internet usage.

Note that while Cedar Falls has decided not to offer fully symmetric services (same upload as download speed), the ratio is 2:1 rather than the 6:1, 10:1, or even bigger gap that we often see from the national providers. CFU recognizes the benefits of faster upstream connections that allow subscribers to be more productive by being better able to share their creations with the world.

Posted January 5, 2013 by christopher

Idaho's capital has begun leasing dark fiber from Zayo Group that will allow it to consolidate a number of data centers it has located in municipal facilities across the city. This will allow Boise to better meet the internal needs of City Departments; the City is not providing access to private businesses or residents.

We tend to focus on how communities have built their own networks to achieve similar ends -- ensuring fast and reliable access to city facilities, including schools and libraries (in fact, we produced a fact sheet about it).

However, long term dark fiber leases achieve some of the same goals and are frequently a far wiser decision that purchasing lit services from existing providers, particularly the national cable or telephone companies.

According to an article covering the story in GovTech,

Rather than subscribing to a service from a local telecommunications company, dark fiber allows the City of Boise access to strands of fiber optic cable between city buildings. In-house network engineers can choose the gear that is used to light the network, while maintaining complete control of protocol, platform and bandwidth, for improved flexibility.

Fran Cantwell, an IT project manager for Boise’s Parks and Recreation Department, said that she noticed an immediate improvement using the City’s online mapping system.

“Before, staff would wait for the system to slowly paint the screen,” Cantwell said. “After the dark fiber implementation, the maps load almost instantly. This greatly increased the efficiency of teams like Community Forestry, who refer to the maps and aerial photos daily.”

The project, launched in June, took about four months to complete. Some city departments have reported a 3,000 percent increase in speed, according to Adam Reno, a Boise IT infrastructure services manager. Transmitting a 30-minute video once took two hours, but can now occur in as little as two minutes.

The article provides some details on the cost, saying the City is paying Zayo $500,000 but it does not specify the term of the lease. The City claims that it would have cost $6 million to build its own fiber network, but...

Read more
Posted December 18, 2012 by christopher

This week, Josh Wallace from the City of Palo Alto Utilities joins us to talk about the City's dark fiber network for episode 26 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast. Josh describes how the dark fiber network connects businesses, offering incredibly high capacity connections at affordable flat rate pricing.

The utility charges an upfront fee to make a dark fiber connection, which means that nearly all the ongoing revenues are net income. It is a very good business to be in, both for the utility and local businesses that would have to pay much more for their connections if the City did not offer the dark fiber option.

Despite its success in dark fiber, Palo Alto is not poised to offer any lit services -- which would dramatically increase the potential number of customers. The main reason appears to be the difficulty of competing with the nation's largest cable company, Comcast. Its massive footprint allows Comcast to engage in predatory pricing and other anti-competitive tactics to ensure competitors have a miserable life. Though some cities, Chattanooga especially, have done very well competing against Comcast (one of the nation's most hated corporations year after year), other communities are simply unwilling to engage in what can be a brutal fight.

Read the transcript from this episode here.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show - please e-mail us or leave a comment below. Also, feel free to suggest other guests, topics, or questions you want us to address.

This show is 19 minutes long and can be played below on this page or subscribe via iTunes or via the tool of your choice using this feed. Search for us in iTunes and leave a positive comment!

Listen to previous episodes here. You can download the Mp3 file of this episode directly from here.

Find more episodes in our podcast index.

Thanks to...

Read more
Posted December 14, 2012 by lgonzalez

Back in 2010, we reported on the municipal network in Spanish Fork, Utah. Back then, the utility innaugurated its telephone service, which completed its triple play offering. With recent discussion around Utah's UTOPIA, Spanish Fork is getting a second look.

A Cimaron Neugebauer, Salt Lake Tribune article, highlights the success of the Spanish Fork Communications Network (SFCN). When we last reported on SFCN, 60% of residents subscribed to its cable television and high-speed Internet service. Two years later, the numbers are even higher:

Spanish Fork runs its own municipal network to deliver telephone, cable TV and Internet services. The network has deep ties with the community and is popular with residents, nearly 80 percent of whom are customers.

"It’s exciting to live in community that invests in this kind of thing," resident Bret Bills said.

A combination of bonding and borrowing paid for the $7.5 million network including a municipal electric utility substation. Construction began in 2001. The investment continues to pay off:

Today, the city currently makes about $1 million a year profit from the service and its bonds of $600,000 annually will be paid off in 2015.

The network is a combination of fiber and coax cable. As is often the case, the community acted to fill the gap left by the failure of the private sector, involving the community along the way. From the SFCN website:

SFCN offers services that no other company will provide and can only be implemented by the public sector. The Spanish Fork Community Network has been established to serve the residents of Spanish Fork, not the interests of some large corporation.  We have involved the citizens of Spanish Fork since the systems inception through a local Citizen's Ad Hoc Committee and it has ensured the system is design to meet the needs of Spanish Fork.

Unlike UTOPIA, SFCN is able to offer retail services, having been grandfathered in at the time of the crippling Municipal Cable TV and Public Telecommunications Services Act.

Prices are incredibly...

Read more
Posted November 29, 2012 by lgonzalez

Bristol Tennessee Essential Services (BTES) announced November 19th that it now has the capability to offer 1 Gbps service. While the BTES rates do not reflect a standard cost for the service yet, 1 Gbps is offered as an option to businesses and households.

From the BTES press release:

"Bristol now has one of the fastest, totally built out networks in the United States. To give an example of how fast, you can download about two hours of video or upwards of 200 songs in just six seconds," said Dr. Michael Browder, CEO of BTES. "For our residential customers, that means one person in the household can download a movie, while another is playing an online game, while another is watching an HDTV program – all without slowing down any of the activities. For our business customers, it opens the way for transporting and accessing 'big data', which is critical for economic development of the area."

The product is already being used by local students. A nearby elementary school is combining the 1 Gbps service with SMART Board Technology and participating in virtual field trips around the globe. Twenty eight-year-olds recently "visited" Egypt for a class on the pyramids with the help of an on-site pyramid tour guide. Gee, second grade was not all that memorable when I was a kid, but it sure would be these days!

We are always pleased to learn of significant strides made by municipal networks and want to thank Bernie Arnason from Telecompetitor for covering this story. We also want to congratulate BTES for their entry into the Gigabit Club!

Pages

Subscribe to services