Tag: "washington"

Posted December 7, 2018 by lgonzalez

At their November 27th meeting, Commissioners from the Grant County Public Utility District (Grant PUD) in Washington approved the funds to complete countywide fiber optic deployment. They’ve decided to dedicate an additional $12.6 million in new funding toward infrastructure to speed up the project. The total 2019 fiber budget is now set for $18.4 million to pay for expansion, maintenance and operation, and new customer connections.

According to Wholesale Fiber senior co-manager Russ Brethower, Grant PUD will have a more accurate and detailed timeline calculated in the spring. Approximately 30 percent of Grant County residents have yet to be connected to the network. While some communities have partial connectivity, there are still a few with no connections to the fiber and the new accelerated plan aims to change that.

Big Ambition for A Big County

With approximately 3,000 square miles, connecting the entire county is no small feat. Grant County, known for its large potato farms, contains expansive tracts of rural areas and several dense population centers. Add in the fact that soil varies from rock to easily plowed soil, and the Grant PUD has faced an extensive education in all manners of deploying fiber.

Christopher talked with Brethower for episode 279 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast about the network and the start of Grant PUD's efforts in 2000. Brethower discussed the fact that the county is an ideal place for data centers, as companies are encouraged by inexpensive real estate, the climate, low electric rates, and the fiber network.

Brethower also described how connecting the remaining residents and businesses in the county has become a priority for the Grant PUD and that their open access network, as required by state law, has attracted two dozen service providers.

With the additional funding for 2019, the Grant PUD will reduce the original deployment goal from 10 years to five.

Listen to the November 2017 interview with Russ Brethower here to learn more about the story behind Grant PUD’s fiber network:

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Posted July 31, 2018 by lgonzalez

When we spoke with Justin Holzgrove, Mason PUD 3 Telecommunications & Community Relations Manager, back in October 2017, we discussed how the public utility district in Washington was about to embark on expanding its services. This week, Justin is back and he’s joined by Isak Finer, who works as Chief Marketing Officer for COS Systems. The company is helping Mason PUD 3 develop strategic deployment plan with COS Service Zones, their demand aggregation tool.

In this interview, we learn about the decision to expand the use of the fiber infrastructure from electric utility support purposes to residential and business connectivity. As Justin describes, the county is filled with many small, rural communities. Traditional, large ISPs don’t typically find much motivation to serve these low density areas. Large numbers of electric customers let PUD officials know that they needed better Internet access and they wanted Mason County PUD 3 to supply the infrastructure. 

In order to determine the best way to implement their build out, the PUD engaged COS Systems, a firm with a decade of experience in deployment planning, especially in large, rural areas. Isak gives us background on the company and their software that helps communities, such as Mason County PUD 3, take a thoughtful approach toward deployment to maximize opportunities and move toward success.

Christopher, Isak, and Justin also consider the meaning of “open access” and how that meaning changes depending on location. As technology improves, innovators find new ways to use open access infrastructure that push the limits of what we’ve seen up to now.

Read the transcript of the show here.

Listen to episode 274 of the podcast for our earlier conversation with Justin.

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

This show is 34 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice ...

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Posted June 26, 2018 by Hannah Rank

When you’re an island, literally, and want better options for your Internet access, you have to get creative. In the case of Rock Island Communications on the San Juan Islands, the choice was clear: establish your own ISP. 

The San Juan Islands cluster in the most northwest tip of Washington state, off the coast of the cities of Bellingham and Anacortes, and just spitting distance from the Canadian border. Hitching a ride on a ferry boat is the only way to access this remote but beautiful chain. A little more than a third of the residents of the 20 islands are seasonal, and the islands’ median age is 55 years old, according to Rock Island Communications. Visitors and residents alike experience the rough weather, thick Douglas fir overgrowth, and rocky terrain one would expect from the Pacific Northwest coast. These environs make for beautiful vistas - the islands are considered a vacation destination - but less than ideal conditions for high speed Internet access.

“After the Cable Broke” 

Rock Island Communications is a wholly owned subsidiary of the San Juan County-based electric co-op Orcas Power and Light Cooperative (OPALCO). Rock Island Communications started as Rock Island, a local ISP with around 12 percent of the market share. OPALCO bought the small ISP in 2015, and the private venture has just entered its third year of expanding construction and operating both Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) and Fixed LTE Wireless services. The wireless service, for more remote subscribers, is run in a partnership with T-Mobile and involves sharing infrastructure and splitting costs. By the company’s own estimates, Rock Island now retains nearly 40 percent of the market share, with a 2:1 ratio of wireless to FTTH subscribers. The ISP expects to have a positive cash-flow by the end of this year.

But how does a locally-owned and run telecommunications contender...

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Posted May 31, 2018 by lgonzalez

Public entities in Skagit County, Washington, are joining forces to improve connectivity in rural areas while developing infrastructure to connect the entire county. Earlier this month the Port of Skagit and the Skagit Public Utility District (PUD) entered into an agreement to form an entity to develop an open access network in keeping with the county’s strategic fiber plan.

Strategic Plan

In March 2017, the county, Port of Skagit, and the Economic Development Alliance of Skagit County developed the Skagit County Community Fiber Optic Network Strategic Plan. Within the county, the cities of Mount Vernon and Burlington own fiber networks; Anacortes is in the process of developing a municipal network. Private companies also have infrastructure within the county. These local communities in Skagit County are independently moving forward by improving their connectivity, but rural areas and smaller towns don’t have the connectivity needed for economic development or the resources to develop their own publicly owned networks.

From the Fiber Optic Plan: 

The primary goal is to guide development of a countywide, carrier grade, open access fiber optic network that will deliver affordable high speed Internet access to the citizens of Skagit County for the purposes of economic development, education, public health and safety, and transportation. It is our goal to deliver carrier grade fiber optic infrastructure from Anacortes to Concrete.

To carry out the mission of the Plan, the Port and the PUD will work together to oversee the development of additional fiber running from Anacortes, on the far west of the county, to Concrete located near the middle of the county. Along the route, the network will integrate connections in the communities of Mount...

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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 24, 2018 by lgonzalez

We’re a little off kilter these days when it comes to state legislation. Typically, we spend our efforts helping local communities stave off bills to steal, limit, or hamstring local telecommunications authority. This year it’s different so Christopher and Lisa sat down to have a brief chat about some of the notable state actions that have been taken up at state Capitols.

We decided to cover a few proposals that we feel degrade the progress some states have made, bills that include positive and negative provisions, and legislation that we think will do nothing but good. Our analysis covers the map from the states in New England to states in the Northwest. 

In addition to small changes that we think will have big impact - like the definition of “broadband” - we discuss the way tones are shifting. In a few places, like Colorado, state leaders are fed up with inaction or obstruction from the big ISPs that use the law to solidify their monopoly power rather than bring high-quality connectivity to citizens. Other states, like New Hampshire and Washington, recognize that local communities have the ability to improve their situation and are taking measured steps to reduce barriers to broadband deployment.

While they still maintain significant power in many places, national corporate ISPs may slowly be losing their grip over state legislators. We talk about that, too.

For more on these and other bills, check out our recent stories on state and federal legislation.

This show is 24 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed.

Read the transcript for this show here.

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

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Posted April 5, 2018 by lgonzalez

In March, Washington state legislators passed HB 2664 and sent it on to Governor Jay Inslee, who signed the bill on March 22nd. In the Port of Ridgefield, where the community has been developing plans for a dark fiber network, the community had advocated for the change. Now that the law will be changing for the better, they’re ready to pursue the partnerships they need to spur economic development and improve connectivity for residents and businesses.

Not A New Idea In The Port Of Ridgefield

Back in 2016, we reported how town officials from the Port of Ridgefield had already started setting aside funds to invest in a 42-mile dark fiber loop. The quality of residential and business Internet access options in the community depended on where a premise was located. The community’s Vice President of Innovation Nelson Holmberg described connectivity in the Port of Ridgefield as a “mixed bag”.

The port already had some fiber in place, as many do for communications between facilities and other uses, and port officials wanted to integrate those assets into the design of the new infrastructure. At the time, state law would only allow "rural" ports to use their fiber in any partnership agreements designed to offer connectivity to people or entities outside of the port districts. The Port of Ridgefield did not qualify as "rural". After advocacy from officials from the Port of Ridgefield and other ports around the state, legislators passed HB 2664, which amends the law to remove the restriction. All ports will soon be able to enter into wholesale arrangements with ISPs interested in leasing dark fiber to offer telecommunications services to the public.

Big Plans In Ridgefield

logo-port-ridgefield.png Last fall, the community in Clark County received a $50,000 grant from Washington’s Economic Revitalization Board, which they used to complete a feasibility study. There are approximately 7,...

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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 9, 2018 by lgonzalez

Last week we reported about the uncertain position that faced Washington ports might find themselves in, should they decide to bring better connectivity to the areas within and around their service areas. We are pleased to learn that the state legislature saw the light and chose to pass the bill without the proposed harmful Senate amendments. It's good news, but the final bill isn't ideal. 

The Problem; The Proposed Solution

Current law allows ports to develop and use fiber optic infrastructure for its own uses both within and beyond their geographic borders; they can only offer wholesale services to other entities within their borders. HB 2664, as introduced, removed the geographic restriction for wholesale services. Communities like Bellingham want to attract ISPs to their cities to compete with incumbents and encourage better prices and services. With the ability to use fiber from the port and possibly integrate it into an expanded network, a city like Bellingham could save time and considerable expense if they wish to invest in Internet infrastructure throughout the community.

Local advocate Jon Humphrey, who has been following this bill and others in his area, noted that the bill had much to do with population density. There had been a change to the original language of bill — the “rural” port requirement, which effectively protected national ISPs from any competition. Humphrey wrote, “This is where the modification of the bill should have ended.”

To The Senate

The bill had no problem passing the House, but when the Senate took it up, they added several amendments that distressed Humphrey and others watching the bill and rooting for it to pass.

We were also concerned about the amendments, including a change that required projects to prioritize unserved and underserved areas. Serving such areas is certainly critical, but this type of language in legislation serves to protect incumbent ISPs from competition rather than to bring high-quality Internet access to areas ignored by those same incumbents. Allowing some level of competition in more densely populated areas helps support projects that reach into less populated unserved and underserved areas.

Humphrey expressed concern...

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Posted March 2, 2018 by lgonzalez

When the folks in Kitsap County, Washington’s Lookout Lane neighborhood banded together and used a Local Utility District (LUD) to get better connectivity, they were thinking about their own homes, not about setting a precedent. A little over a year later, other groups of neighbors are following their lead.

Sick Of Slow Connections

The Lookout Lane community formed their LUD and worked with the Kitsap Public Utility District (KPUD) to expand its open access network to their neighborhood because they were stuck with slow CenturyLink DSL. Residents didn’t feel that they were getting what they were paying for at $60 per month and 1 Megabit per second (Mbps) on average download speed. Now they have options up to 1 gigabit symmetrical via the publicly owned open access network.

Forest Ridge Estates, which is adjacent to Lookout Lane, has formed an LUD and is already connected to fiber installed by KPUD, according to Angela Bennick from the Northwest Open Access Network (NoaNet). Bennick says that there are two other neighborhoods that are considering a similar approach. KPUD is a member of NoaNet, whose open access fiber infrastructure connects that of other public utility districts across the state so people, businesses, and institutions in Washington can have high-quality connectivity.

Property owners pay for the connections themselves, but can pay off the cost upfront, over a 20-year period, or a combination of the two. Connections were from $10,000 - $14,000 in Lookout Lane, but depend on a variety of factors; property owners usually consider the investment an added value to their home. In order to establish an LUD, a neighborhood needs a majority of homeowners to sign a petition to establish the LUD.

We spoke with General Manager Bob Hunter and Superintendent of Telecom Paul Avis last year about the network and the Lookout Lane LUD during episode 237 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. They explained how the LUD process works and how folks in the KPUD service area are...

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