Tag: "services"

Posted November 9, 2012 by lgonzalez

We have covered developments in the town of Indianola, Iowa, where the community decided to build their own network in 1998. The original purpose for investment was to use the network to enhance public safety and increase efficiency with SCADA applications. In 2005, however, the network began offering telecommunications services to local businesses. As of October, Indianola Municipal Utilities (IMU) began offering fiber-to-the-home to residents as it gradually begins expanding the use of its fiber asset.

You can now hear firsthand about the network, its history, and how the municipal utility navigated the journey to its next-generation open access network. Craig Settles interviewed Todd Kielkopf, General Manager of IMU, in an August Gigabit Nation podcast. The two discuss IMU's evolution since 1998. They also talked about the unique advantages that exist when a community considering network infrastructure investment already has a municipal utility in place.

Kielkopf tells how the driving factor for the fiber installation was to allow easier management and communication between utilities. When a 1990 franchise agreement with MediaCom was about to expire, the city investigated options. Hopes were that that the city could build a fiber network and MediaCom would offer services over that network, but that vision was never embraced by MediaCom.

Iowa law allowed the city to hold a referendum asking residents for permission to provide telecommunications services through the municipal utility's network. The referendum passed and they created a five year financial plan. Financing was with taxable and tax exempt bonds. The electric utility would build and own the network and a new telecommunications utility would license to a private partner that would offer retail services. Now, IMU and Mahaska Communication Group (MCG) have an agreement whereby MCG provides retail services over the network. While the agreement is not exclusive, no other providers currently use the network.

Kielkopf discusses three distinct phases in the development of the network's current status. First the network connected schools, libraries, government entities, and other anchor...

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Posted November 8, 2012 by lgonzalez

MI-Connection, the North Carolina community-owned network serving Davidson, Cornelius, and Mooresville, is upgrading network speeds and unveiling a new marketing campaign. MI-Connection was formed when a few towns north of Charlotte purchased the old, dilapidated Adelphia cable network out of bankruptcy and began rehabbing it.

According to David Boraks of the DavidsonNews.net:

The company on Dec. 10 will begin selling a new top speed internet service tentatively called “Warp Speed Broadband,” though the name could change. It will offer 60 mbps downloads and 10 mbps uploads. Customers can get it for $80 to $100, depending on whether they bundle it with TV and telephone.

Existing customers also will get faster speeds Dec. 10, at no extra charge (Download speed x upload speed): 8×4 becomes 10×5, 12×4 becomes 15×5, 16×4 becomes 20×5 and 20×4 becomes 30×10.

Notice that this community network offers faster upstream speeds than most privately owned cable networks -- because they recognize the importance of empowering subscribers rather than hoping they will just consumer video and do little else.

The DavidsonNews.net article also covered MI-Connection's last quarter financial audit report. The network has faced chronic financial problems but things continue to improve. From the article:

The financial report for the quarter that ended Sept. 30 showed that the company grew revenues in all three of its businesses – cable TV, telephone and internet. Altogether, revenues were up 6.5 percent from the first quarter a year ago, to $4,114,992. Expenses fell 8.7 percent, in part because of savings on what the company pays its high-speed internet providers.

The company’s earnings from day-to-day operations continued to grow.

A new marketing plan, dubbed "Straight Talk," will appeal to local ownership and include slogans like "If you owned a grocery store, wouldn't you shop there?" "Can you create jobs just by watching TV?" and "When your boss is everyone in town, your customer service had better be good." It will be interesting to see...

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Posted November 5, 2012 by lgonzalez

We have covered happenings at Burlington Telecom, both positive and negative, extensively. We are glad to report some interesting new developments of this Vermont municipal network. BT is rolling out faster connections and using its competitive advantage in customer service to offer some computer repair services. Joel Banner Baird at the Burlington Free Press reported:

Without cash reserves and promotional enticements available to BT’s commercial competitors, the fiber-optic Internet/phone/cable provider will focus on its strength in customer service, said interim General Manager Stephen Barraclough.

As our readers know, BT is in the midst of a pending lawsuit with Citibank, wherein the financial giant says the city still owes it $33.5 million. The network's troubles, including misuse of public funds by the previous Mayor, have hurt its ability to generate income and Burlington's credit rating has suffered.

While fixing PCs certainly won't pay mounting legal fees, it will make life easier for customers. Details include a $25 diagnostic fee and a rate of $45 per hour plus materials. More about the service is available on the PDF of the official anouncement.

A more recent announcement puts Burlington among the few communities with citywide access to a gig. Burlington Telecom is in the midst of upgrades and will be offering 1 Gbps service and 40 Mbps service starting on December 1, 2012. Both options are symmetrical.

40 Mbps - $99.99 per month

1 Gbps - $149.99 per month when committing for one year; or $199.99 per month with a month-to-month arrangement

burlington-gig-sheet.PNG

View a PDF of the official announcement flyer.

A gig for $150 to residential connections is one of the best deals we have seen in the nation and is far superior to what FairPoint DSL or...

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Posted September 18, 2012 by lgonzalez

Chattanooga's EPB Fiber just announced that current customers will receive a bump up in speed at no extra cost for its FI-Speed Internet service.

Residential customers on three separate tiers will automatically receive an increase in speed with no increase in price. The upgrade has already happened and customers can immediately take advantage of the new speeds.

According to an Ellis Smith article in the Chattanooga Times Press:

EPB, which offers gigabit fiber-optic Internet speeds across its Chattanooga service area, is upgrading customers to celebrate its third anniversary in the fiber-to-the-home market, said Harold DePriest, president and CEO.

“Enhancing our FI-Speed Internet was something we could do to celebrate, so we did it,” DePriest said.

This is the second time EPB has upgraded service to customers for free. In 2010, EPB upgraded 15 Mbps service to 30 Mbps service. Oh, and the prices haven't increased over the three years. Look back at your cable bills from Comcast, Time Warner Cable, or others, and you'll likely find that rate increases outnumber speed boosts.

New speed (and old rates) look like this:

$57.99 - 30 Mbps symmetrical increases to 50 Mbps symmetrical

$69.99 - 50 Mbps symmetrical increases to 100 Mbps symmetrical

$139.99 - 100 Mbps symmetrical increases to 250 Mbps symmetrical

As an added bonus to cutomers on the 1 Gbps symmetrical tier, their rates will drop from $349.99 to $299.99.

Fierce Telecom's Sean Buckly shared some perspective on the change:

While major cable MSOs, including local operator Comcast, have been responding to the higher speed FTTH offerings made by the likes of Verizon and their 300 Mbps tier, it's clear cable's best offerings don't come close to what EPB can offer.

Comcast's 105/20 tier is priced at $115 per month plus the price of the modem rental, while Chattanooga EPB customers can get 250 Mbps symmetric service for $139.

EPB CEO Harold DePriest...

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Posted August 13, 2012 by lgonzalez

We told you earlier this year about Indianola, Iowa's network, filling the gap for businesses where private providers had failed. At that time, the network only served local businesses and community anchor institutions, but plans to provide fiber-to-the-home in their community of 15,000 are now unfolding. The town passed a referendum back in 1998 to build a fiber ring which was used first by the local Indianola Municipal Utilities (IMU) for SCADA and for public safety. The goal was to expand incrementally. It later partnered with Mahaska Communications Group (MCG), located in Oskaloosa, Iowa, about 50 miles west of Indianola. 

According to the IMU website, residential retail services will be available from MCG after October 1, 2012. 

Monthly rates will include triple play at $99.95, double play packages between $49.95 and $94.95, and 25 Mbps symmetrical Internet at $39.95. Residents can upgrade to 50 Mbps for $5 extra or 100 Mbps for an additional $10.00. Home Wi-fi is only and additional $5.95 per month. For complete details, check out their rate sheet PDF.

The network also leases fiber that connects community anchor institutions to the Iowa Communications Network, which provides video to K-12 schools, higher education, hospitals, state and federal government, National Guard armories, and libraries. The network also connects to BroadNet Connect, which is the network used by Iowa Health Systems for telemedicine in rural Iowa.

Posted June 8, 2012 by christopher

Monticello has been all over the muni broadband news lately, in the wake of a letter it sent to bondholders [pdf] alerting them that the City would no longer make up the difference between the revenues produced by the system and the debt payments. This came shortly after the company managing the network decided to step down.

Over the next year, the reserve fund will make up the difference while the City and bondholders come to some sort of an agreement.

The Star Tribune today published a good synopsis of the situation:

City administrator Jeff O'Neill said that the city has no intention of abandoning FiberNet's 1,700 customers, including about 130 businesses.

"This system isn't going anywhere," he said. "We're not going out of business."

Despite the problems, he said the city has one of the fastest Internet systems in the country that has driven down prices and improved services by providing competition.

The article also notes that prior to the City-owned network, the telephone company (TDS) provided very poor DSL service that was harming area businesses with slow and very unreliabile phone and broadband services. Without FiberNet Monticello, we don't know how many businesses would have been forced to relocate to be competitive in the digital economy.

We decided to dig a little deeper to get a sense of what Monticello has received for its investment and difficulty. We previously examined the prices charged by Charter cable in town and found that households taking that deal were saving $1000/year.

monticello-goodbadugly_0.jpg

We also noted that Charter was almost certainly engaging in predatory pricing. After talking with other networks, we would guess that Charter is losing between $30 and $50 (conservatively) per subscriber per...

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Posted January 28, 2012 by christopher

Chattanooga's community owned EPB Fiber Network continues to get positive reviews from subscribers in the local paper. And Comcast's customers continue to complain. The Times Free Press Chattanoogan presents a tale of two providers.

The longer letter details the frustration in dealing with Comcast following the failure of their on-demand service. After Comcast didn't resolve the problem over the course of several phone calls, the subscriber was told she would have to pay $30 for a Comcast technician to come to their house, even if the problem was entirely caused by Comcast's network and/or equipment.

The second letter, from Leah, notes that she too suffered at the hands of Comcast's customer service but became EPB customers after a long absence from their home due to damage from the tornadoes of 2011. When they returned home, they went with the community network rather than Comcast.

This is how she reflects on her experience with EPB:

We have had one instance where we needed to contact customer service, and the problem was fixed quickly and easily by the most polite customer service rep I’ve ever dealt with.

Comcast came by recently to offer us a “substantial savings” if we’d make the switch back to them. My question was, why now? I was a customer for years and treated poorly as rates increased exponentially. Now the offer the discount? No thanks.

For the $5 extra per month that we pay for EPB, we receive better features, prompt and polite customer service, and an all around trouble free experience. Thanks EPB!

Posted January 4, 2012 by christopher

The following news report suggests that some in Knoxville, Tennessee, are starting to get a little jealous of the incredible FTTH network built by Chattanooga's publicly owned electric company. A number of Knoxville businesses are finding it more convenient to expand and add jobs in Chattanooga, where access to the Internet is faster and more affordable due to public investments.

The text version of the above video is available here.

Knoxville is located 100 miles northeast of Chattanooga. And 100 miles to the northeast of Knoxville is Bristol, Virginia, which has also been seeing significant job gains as a result of its publicly owned fiber-optic network that stretches into most of southwestern Virginia. In short, Knoxville should start worrying about its future and broadband competitiveness.

Map of Chattanooga and Knoxville

The Chattanooga ...

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Posted December 21, 2011 by christopher

Vermont's East Central Fiber-Optic Network (ECFiber) has finished its second round of financing. We noted that the network had exceeded its financing goals at the beginning of this year by raising over $1 million and subsequently began connecting rural homes with its next-generation network. (See all of our ECFiber coverage here.)

The network is now connecting 120 households, a bit below its goal of 164 for the end of the calendar year... but it also had to deal with an unexpected hurricane (Irene) that seriously disrupted the entire state and kept fiber-splicers running ragged.

ECFiber has just completed its second round of financing. While the first round was dominated by a few major investors, the second round had a broader base -- a sign that many in the community have embraced the approach. From the ECFiber press release:

ECFiber is using an innovative funding method to extend its network, supported by local citizens who lend funds that enable build-out to local neighborhoods within and across member towns. Citizens who invest as little as $2500 allow ECFiber to reach all households along designated routes. ECFiber determines where it will build by choosing routes that reach the greatest number of unserved businesses and households, which are then connected to ECFiber’s state-of-the-art fiber-optic service.

These people are literally investing in themselves. ECFiber is an InterLocal Contract with a Governing Board composed of a representiative from each member town (of which there are 23). Investors are purchasing tax exempt 15 year promissory notes that effectively earn 6% interest (due to the one year holiday from interest and principal).

They have raised $340,000 in this round of financing, which will allow the network to pass 60-65% of Barnard's 950 residents. Spokesman Bob Merrill said the network again surpassed its expectations of investor interest and noted that several neighborhoods came on board after one or two interested residents rallied neighbors to invest so they could finally have high-speed connections to the Internet.

The network remains committed to connecting every person in the 23-town area but absent outside...

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Posted May 21, 2011 by christopher

With so many community broadband stories breaking this week, I did not dig into an update to Boston seeking authority to regulate some cable rates in response to the many rate hikes they have endured from Comcast. Boston's mayor has previously complained about basic cable rate increases.

The Ars Technica story offers some good regulatory background that limits the power of Boston to do much about rates.

According to the City, Comcast's 2011 Basic Service Rate change went from $13.30 to $15.80 a month. This came in the wake of previous rate hikes—to $9.05 in 2008, to $10.30 in 2009, and to $13.30 in 2010.

That all adds up to "more than 60%, on a service that is supposed to be affordable and is identified in the industry as ‘lifeline service'," Boston says.

"In addition, when comparing Boston to neighboring communities that have rate regulation, Comcast has over-collected approximately $24 million from Boston's Basic Subscribers during the four year period from 2008 through 2011," the City's statement claims. Its own research indicates that neighboring cities that are still regulated, such as Cambridge, have cheaper rates.

This has led the Boston Globe to editorialize "If cable firms act as monopolies, cities should be able to regulate.

When the Federal Communications Commission took away Boston’s power to regulate basic cable rates almost a decade ago, the assumption was that competition for pay-TV services would hold prices down for consumers. That assumption has not panned out. Comcast Corp., the successor to Boston’s original cable franchisee, still dominates — not least because its former monopoly status conveys lingering advantages that hamper competition even now. Those advantages help explain why Comcast’s charges for basic cable — now $15.80 a month for a package of 35 channels, according to a city report — have risen by 75 percent since 2008.

We are strong proponents of public ownership (via local government, coops, or nonprofits) in part because the regulatory environment leaves communities practically no...

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