Tag: "washington"

Posted June 3, 2019 by lgonzalez

Washington's Douglas County Community Network (DCCN) began as a way to improve the local Public Utility District’s electric system; construction of the network started in the late 1990s. Two decades later, people living in some of the state's smallest communities have access to fast, affordable, reliable connectivity that equals their neighbors in the county's busy cities through the publicly owned fiber network.

Restrictions Didn't Stop Douglas County PUD

Due to Washington state restrictions, the Douglas County Public Utility District (DCPUD) and other PUDs cannot offer telecommunications services directly to the general public; they can only provide wholesale service. In Douglas County, private providers deliver Internet access, voice, and video to subscribers in both rural communities and more densely populated areas. Six different providers offer a range of services via the open access network. The DCPUD also offers other services, including dark fiber, that businesses find useful and has invested in a carrier grade colocation facility in East Wenatchee.

The concept for the DCCN came about when the utility was searching for a way to upgrade their existing microwave system that they used for power control. With microwave, they would only have the ability to connect point A to point B, but with fiber, the DCPUD could connect points between substations. Around this same time, leaders at the DCPUD were learning of the growing interest in excess capacity from municipal electric utility fiber optic networks for broadband. At the time, communities that knew they would not be served by the large corporate ISPs were those investing in fiber infrastructure. 

logo-dcpud.png “That was us,” says DCCN Coordinator Ben Carter. “They were telling us that they weren’t going to roll broadband out … Obviously, the business decision makes itself.” Rather than bringing a new service to a place where the largest population center was only around 12,000 in 2000, corporate Internet access companies were aiming for large cities such as Seattle and Portland.

Instead of installing the microwave upgrade, the...

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Posted April 10, 2019 by christopher

For several years now, Tacoma, Washington, has pondered the fate of its Click! municipal open access network. In the spring of 2018, the community issued an RFI/Q searching for interested private sector partners that would lease the network from the Tacoma Power Utility (TPU). After reviewing responses, consulting experts, and comparing potential arrangements, Tacoma has narrowed the field of possible partners. The goal is to put the network on a sustainable and competitive footing both financially and technologically. Tacoma is following a path that will retain public ownership of the Click! network as the network continues to expand.

Click! has offered considerable benefits during its lifetime, but the network retains considerable debt even as it will soon require more upgrades to continue competing with Comcast. The cable television system is rigged against small operators and while the open access Internet side creates many benefits, Click!’s ISPs just don’t have enough subscribers to make the network financially viable into the future.   The discussion around Click’s finances are complicated because the broadband network is used for both external customers and internal utility uses -- the rate modeling around how to allocate costs is a process that requires subjective analysis (e.g. should the costs be allocated based on bandwidth or evenly split among each service). Some have credibly accused past TPU officials with cooking the books to make Click!’s financial status worse than it actually was. Nevertheless, Click! still doesn’t appear to be financially sustainable when costs are allocated more reasonably. Given the upgrades needed by the cable system, we fear that preserving the status quo will do more harm than good to the community over the medium and long terms; Tacoma needs to make a change to avoid being stuck solely with the broadband monopolies that plague the rest of us.

logo-click.png Opponents have labeled the current proposal to lease the network as “privatization.” ILSR strongly disagrees. The options being considered by Tacoma will ensure public ownership - the lease to a partner is no more privatization than allowing independent service providers to...

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Posted March 19, 2019 by lgonzalez

Governor Jay Inslee started to promote his bill for better broadband earlier this year and, with any luck, Washington will have a solid foundation to expand broadband before the end of this year’s legislative session. SB 5511, a measure backed by the Governor, has sailed through the Senate, and has now appeared in the House. The bill establishes a State Broadband Office and earmarks funding for local broadband initiatives.

The bill is on the agenda for today's House Innovation, Technology & Economic Development Committee meeting at 10 a.m. PDT.

Difficult But Doable

In order to bring high-quality Internet access to all of Washington, millions and possibly billions of dollars of infrastructure investment are required. No one is certain how much completing the task will cost, and obtaining a better estimate will be one of the tasks of the State Broadband Office (SBO), which will be created by SB 5511. The bill allocates $1.2 million for the SBO.

Rural communities, economic development organizations, and tribes have all supported a measure to establish state investment in broadband infrastructure deployment across Washington. In January, Inslee met with leaders from communities across the state, including Colville Business Council member Susie Allen representing the Colville Tribes, to discuss the need for state funding:

“I have been working on broadband initiatives on our reservation for many years, but unfortunately, substantially, we still remain under-served and unserved, without broadband services,” said Allen. “The Colville Tribes have invested several millions of dollars to begin to meet this need, but we require assistance from the state and federal agencies to complete this work… The lack of broadband service creates not just an inconvenience, but poses real safety concerns throughout the reservation.”

The Colville Tribe has invested $6 million in order to connect the tribal government and under the terms of SB 5511, they would qualify to receive more funding in grants and low-interest loans.

The Tribe...

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Posted January 24, 2019 by lgonzalez

For more than two years, officials from the Port of Ridgefield in Washington have planned for better connectivity by deploying dark fiber. This month, they took a significant step by issuing a Request for Information (RFI) for Partnership as they search for entities interested in leasing dark fiber to bring services to the community. Responses are due March 15, 2019.

Read the RFI.

Rural or Not

In the spring of 2018, Washington’s elected officials eliminated a barrier that prevented the Port of Ridgefield from taking the final steps to completing their vision by passing HB 2664. The legislation removed a restriction that only allowed rural ports to use their fiber infrastructure for the types of partnership agreements that the Port of Ridgefield is now seeking. The “rural” limitation meant that Ridgefield and more populous ports could not use their fiber infrastructure to enter into partnerships for service to people or entities. With approximately 7,000 people in and around the city of Ridgefield, the Port of Ridgefield was not considered “rural.”

Officials from the Port of Ridgefield, the city of Ridgefield and other ports in Washington lobbied to have the law changed so they could provide wholesale services to interested Internet access companies. Governor Jay Inslee signed the bill in March 2018. While the primary goals of the RFI focus on improving connectivity within the port district, the Port also prominently includes, "The Port hopes this initiative will support and accelerate private providers’ efforts to improve broadband service options in the County."

The Port and the Plan

As part of the Discovery Corridor, Ridgefield has experienced rapid growth since 2000 and community leaders anticipate that trend to continue. Within the Discovery Corridor, the communities of La Center, Salmon Creek, Battle Ground, and local utilities have been involved in developing the plan. The Port of Ridgefield, like other ports in the state, are municipal economic development organizations; their function is to encourage the growth and economic vitality of the communities they serve. One of the areas that the Port of Ridgefield has found lacking and foresee as a potential...

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Posted January 17, 2019 by lgonzalez

Last spring, we reported on Anacortes, Washington’s efforts to evaluate private sector partners to deliver high-quality connectivity via their publicly owned fiber optic infrastructure. After examining their financial position, the desires of the community, and considering the pros and cons, the community has decided to offer services directly to the public. The island community will start deployment in 2019 and plans to have the network completed within four years.

Moving Along

Director of Anacortes Administrative Services Emily Schuh reached out to us to let us know that the city will be expanding from their fiber back bone to serve businesses and households in the community and to update us on the project. She also wanted to let us know that Anacortes is actively recruiting for a Municipal Broadband Business Manager.

Anacortes (pop. approx. 17,000) lies off the coast of Washington on Fidalgo Island, connected to the mainland via two bridges and ferry. Regular readers of MuniNetworks.org will recognize Mount Vernon on the map, located east and operating a municipal open access network for decades. Comcast offers Internet access throughout Anacortes and DSL service is available from Frontier, but businesses and residents want access to more reliable connections and faster upload speeds, which are not forthcoming with the incumbent ISPs.

In 2016, community leaders chose to work with the Northwest Open Access Network (NoaNet) to replace an existing radio-based system they used to monitor water and wastewater utility systems. There were dead zones that could not receive signals, Schuh told us. Anacortes became the first municipality to use active water infrastructure to house fiber optic conduit in the U.S. The city’s municipal utilities use the network to monitor the water treatment plant, wastewater treatment plant, sewer pump stations...

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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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