Tag: "washington"

Posted November 6, 2013 by christopher

Starting with the good news, voters in Colorado overwhelmingly supported municipal network intiatives. Longmont voted 2:1 in favor of bonding to fast track network expansion. We have covered this issue in great depth recently. Read all of our coverage of Longmont here.

The local paper covered the referendum results in this story:

2B's passage means approval for the city to issue $45.3 million in bonds to build out the city's 17-mile fiber optic loop within three years.

Longmont Power & Communications has estimated that the payback time on the bond will be 11 years. If revenues from commercial and residential customers fall short, LPC's electric service revenues will be used to make up the shortfall, LPC staffers have told the Longmont City Council.

South in Centennial, voters supported restoring local authority to build a network by a 3:1 margin. We most recently wrote about this referendum here.

In Seattle, the mayor that campaigned on a citywide fiber network and backed off it but created a partnership with Gigabit Squared to bring gigabit fiber to 12 neighborhoods lost in his bid for reelection to the candidate that that was strongly supported with Comcast donations. However, the election does not appear to have turned on broadband issues:

McGinn’s fate was forecast two years ago, when voters slapped back his efforts to obstruct the Highway 99 tunnel project, opting to move ahead with the long-debated project. McGinn’s anti-tunnel agitating was viewed as a reversal from his 2009 election-eve pledge not to stand in the project’s way.

We continue to be disappointed in the lack of serious discussion in many races about how local governments can make meaningful improvements in Internet access for residents and businesses. We most recently...

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Posted November 5, 2013 by christopher

Seattle will choose its new mayor today in a race that was thrust into an unexpected media spotlight following the Washington Post story on Comcast contributions to the challenger. We covered it early from the perspective of how Comcast wants to send a message to other mayors that may challenge its effective monopoly.

However, it bears noting that mayoral candidate Murray was mostly caught in the crossfire. He had been silent on broadband issues (which should raise some eyebrows given its importance to economic development, education, and quality of life) but after the WaPo story, he proclaimed that he supported the gigabit challenge to Comcast.

Just because Comcast wanted to buy the challenger doesn't necessarily mean that Murray was for sale or would do Comcast's bidding in office. But we are now learning that Comcast has bought 12 meals for Murray as part of their lobbying effort. If nothing else, these stories should be a good reminder of who calls the shots in American politics. As long as we encourage firms to spend big money on elections, the biggest corporations will continue to have far more influence over our government than we do.

Back to Seattle - lest one think this is a clear cut case of pro-competition Mayor McGinn vs. Comcast puppet Murray, a prominent tech blogger in Seattle sets us straight regarding the nuance and complications of such a simple analysis. Brier Dudley starts be reminding us that most people are voting on issues aside from Internet access and continues with:

McGinn simultaneously abandoned years of city planning to build a citywide broadband network and bring fast, affordable service to everyone.

Instead, McGinn opted to part out the city’s fiber-optic network assets, offering pieces here and there to telecom companies. That approach basically...

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Posted November 1, 2013 by christopher

In a reminder of the power embodied in massive corporations like Comcast, Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn is facing a challenger buoyed with sizeable contributions from the nation's largest cable and Internet company.

Why is Comcast so interested in defeating Seattle's mayor? Payback and a warning to others. Lest any other big city mayors think it would be wise to help create competition to Comcast's effective monopoly, know that Comcast will finance your opposition.

We have covered Seattle's various attempts at improving Internet access though we have admittedly not written much on its public-private partnership with Gigabit Squared. Gigabit Squared is a new firm that is starting to work with cities that have fiber assets to deliver services to residents and businesses.

The plan in Seattle is to create a large pilot project in at least 12 neighborhoods offering Internet service at speeds far faster than Comcast but at a lower price. Gigabit Squared is using city owned fiber to build its backbone network and working with the City to expand that network.

However, little has happened in the past 10 months since it was announced except some signs that Gigabit Squared was still trying to raise the necessary capital. We understand that some will start to get services early in 2014.

In the meantime, Comcast has donated heavily to Mayor McGinn's rival Ed Murray at a time when many expected the Mayor to already have a challenging race. From the Washington Post story:

Comcast's donations to political action committees (PACs) suggest Comcast has poured dramatically more resources into defeating McGinn. The Broadband Communications Association of Washington PAC, which received 94 percent of its 2013 contributions from Comcast, donated $5,000 to the group People for Ed Murray less than a month after Gigabit Squared's pricing announcement. That was the PAC's largest single donation. Unsurprisingly, People for Ed Murray has made significant expenditures supporting...

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Posted October 1, 2013 by christopher

With a population of over 9,000 just across Puget Sound from Seattle, Poulsbo is a town with a lot of commuters and a vision for improved access to the Internet to allow more to reduce the physical need to travel. City Councilmember Ed Stern joins us for the 66th episode of Community Broadband Bits to discuss their plan.

We talk about the history of Noanet and Kitsap Public Utility District investing in fiber networks, only to have the state legislature restrict the business models of such entities in a bid to protect private providers (that have repaid that kindness by refusing to invest in much of the state).

Unable to achieve its vision for a fiber network, Poulsbo has since created an ordinance to increase the amount of conduit in the community for future projects and embarked on an open access mesh wireless project. See our full coverage of Poulsbo.

Read the transcript from our discussion 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 via iTunes or via the tool of your choice using this feed.

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

Find more episodes in our podcast index.

Thanks to Break the Bans for the music, licensed using Creative Commons.

Posted September 11, 2013 by lgonzalez

Okanogan County, located along the extreme north central border of Washington State, is expanding its wholesale fiber optic network to more small local communities. The Okanogan Public Utility District (PUD) received a $5.5 million grant and a $3.7 million loan through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) and will extend service to about 80% of the PUD service area. The county is home to about 41,000 people.

According to a recent Methow Valley News article, the construction began in February and the project is schedule for completion by the end of 2013. The network will be about 200 miles long and will also include 143 wireless access points along the power line route. Construction will also include new poles, tall enough to host both power and fiber optic lines. According to the PUD's director of power:

Some people who will now have the option of faster Internet connections were previously served only by dial-up or satellite services, said [Ron] Gadeberg. Even with the expanded “last-mile” network, “there are still tons of unmet needs, because it’s such a big county and some people are so remote that it is cost-prohibitive to serve them,” he said.

A local ISP, MethowNet.com, offers service to customers on the PUD's existing fiber network and will expand northward to serve additional communities north of its current service area.

Posted September 4, 2013 by lgonzalez

The story has been updated to fix errors. The original story described the project as a partnership but we have since learned it is a project of the Kitsap Public Utility District that is encouraged by the City.

We reported on Poulsbo, Washington, last fall after the community began a wireless pilot project providing a free high-capacity wireless mesh network throughout downtown. Kitsap Public Utility District is running the project, with encouragement from the City. An interview with Poulsbo City Council member Ed Stern filled in more details on this local project.

A wireless mesh pilot project was not the original plan. The public utility district had been investing in a fiber optic network to reduce costs for local government and provide better broadband for schools and hospitals. Stern and other city leaders also recognized that encouraging telecommuting would keep local dollars in the community. Poulsbo is very close to Seattle and city leadership hoped to draw employees from Seattle offices and encourage economic development. They offered a high quality of life and knew better broadband would draw more employers to Poulsbo.

The partners installed a fiber backbone throughout the city and had planned to expand last mile connections in the near future. Poulsbo also codified changes in conduit policy with new ordinances to better manage public rights-of-way. The code requires private providers to first use existing city conduit and the city reserves the right to lease it to them. This policy prevents unnecessary wear and tear and traffic disruption on local streets.

However, the state legislature erected barriers that derailed the full project by revoking PUD authority to offer direct retail services. To this day, public utility districts are required to wholesale access, which rarely creates enough revenue to justify the initial cost of building networks. Community leaders knew that wholesale-only models carry more risk because they split an already tight revenue stream. With the change in state law, the community re-evaluated the fiber network plan. 

Rather than abandon the plan, Poulsbo and the PUD adjusted it to use the existing fiber assets. They created the wireless mesh pilot project that went live in Poulsbo in November 2012....

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Posted August 8, 2013 by lgonzalez

A Wenatchee World article recently announced that Douglas County Public Utilities District is reducing the rate it charges to connect to the community fiber network. According to the July 18th article, connecting to the Douglas County Community Network (DCCN) previously cost a one time fee of $250. The PUD Commissioners decided to shave $100 off the price because revenue from the network is "more than covering" installation costs. Now $150 will connect a customer in the service area.

This reduction is one of several:

From 2010 to mid 2011, Douglas PUD required customers to pay the full cost of a hookup. At this rate, which could total more than $1,000 each, only about 30 customers signed up, Vibbert said.

In mid 2011, the PUD reduced the rate to $500 and enticed 139 more hookups. It reduced the rate again in mid 2012 to $250.

The open access network currently hosts six different providers, some offering telephone and television services in addition to Internet. The Wenatchee World notes that the DCCN is available to approximately 46 per cent of the Douglas PUD's 15,000 electric customers.

Posted June 14, 2013 by lgonzalez

More communities now embrace "dig once" policies to facilitate installation of future and current networks. The idea is to be mindful of trenching for transportation and utility projects and encourage collaboration between agencies. However, this is implemented in a variety of ways, some more effectively than others. By establishing requirements for conduit installation in development codes, communities can save big dollars if they build or expand a network in the future.

Communities such as Sandy, Oregon, and Mount Vernon, Washington, have instituted such policies. Both communities require private developers to install conduit when disturbing existing roads or building roads for new subdivision construction. Conduit itself is inexpensive and the digging is already done, so the added burden is light.

Both of these communities have plans, including maps, that allow them to be strategic in where they require conduit to be placed. They are not simply adding conduit blindly, though that policy may be better than doing nothing at all (experts are divided on the matter).

In Sandy, the code change (see Sec. 17.84.60) was a simple expansion of existing policy. The city added "broadband (fiber)" to the list of public facilities, such as public water, sanitary sewer, and storm drainage. Underground communication lines join a list of other required improvements that are to be installed in new developments at no expense to the city. Other items on that list include drainage facilities, mailbox delivery units, street lights and a underground power lines. (see Sec. 17.100.310).

Anticipated connectivity raises the value of new homes and makes them more attractive to today's buyers. Scott Lazenby, City Manager in Sandy, spoke to us for a recent podcast and told us how a developer in the area is excited about the potential. SandyNet plans to offer 100 Mbps Gbps residential service via the new conduit at an incredibly low $40 per month; the developer...

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Posted April 4, 2013 by lgonzalez

Adams County, situated in eastern Washington, is now connected to the regional Northwest Open Access Network (NoaNet) infrastructure. Ritzville, the county seat and home to about 1,600 people, connected last fall, funded through a combination of American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) stimulus grants, funds from public utility districts, and surrounding communities. As with other NoaNet projects, connectivity will include community anchor institutions in Ritzville such as the library, schools, and local healthcare clinics.

NoaNet, a nonprofit corporation, is bringing wholesale fiber backbone infrastructure across the state of Washington, connecting community anchor institutions (CAIs). Schools, hospitals, libraries, and government facilities connect via the open access network and retail providers bring service over the network. NoaNet's membership includes municipal utilities, tribes, cities, and counties. The collaboration began in 2000 and received $140 million in federal stimulus dollars to connect rural Washington state

The community celebrated in November with a Ritzville Public Library Open House to show off the new technology. From the NoaNet Press Release:

“We’re just very excited about having consistently fast, high-speed Internet for our patrons.  The benefits will be huge for everyone from online students watching class lectures to tech junkies trying to stream Pandora while downloading YouTube videos, to library staff offering reference help to the public” said Kylie Fullmer, Director of the Ritzville Public Library. “And once it becomes more widely available throughout the community, I think people are going to be just as excited as we are.”

Local community members recognize the importance of what the new connection an do for this agricultural community. Like many other small communities across the country, rural towens like Ritzville see their youth leave for larger markets for career reasons. From an editorial in the Columbia Basin Herald:

We are pleased Ritzville has this service and hope more educational, job and business...

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Posted March 29, 2013 by lgonzalez

Benton PUD, located in south central Washington, recently expanded its fiber foot print through Richland and Rattlesnake Mountain. The move involved a collaborative effort between the City of Richland, the Benton PUD, and the Department of Energy.

According to Annette Cary of the Tri-City Herald, the expansion will bring better communications to the Hanford Nuclear Site. Schools, libraries, and businesses in Richland will take advantage of the additional fiber from downtown to north Richland.

Benton PUD offers fiber to businesses in Kennewick, Prosser, Benton City, and now Richland via an open access model. Residential wireless is also available in Prosser, Pesco and Kennewick with five retail providers on the network.

According to the article, Benton PUD will also use the fiber for its advanced metering system. From the article:

"This agreement allows Benton PUD to increase its capacity and redundancy, while also helping the Hanford project," Rick Dunn, PUD director of engineering, said in a statement.

The fiber also provides additional capacity for the Hanford Federal Cloud, a system that allows Hanford information to be stored at centralized and consolidated data centers rather than on individual worker's computers. The fiber serves several DOE facilities connected to Hanford.

"Having a fast, reliable communications infrastructure is critical in supporting Hanford's cleanup mission," Ben Ellison, DOE's Hanford chief information officer, said in a statement. "This project gives DOE the capacity it needs to further the mission and allows for future growth of both the community and Hanford cleanup activities."

While the DOE sees the fiber as an asset in the ongoing clean up of the decommissioned nuclear production complex, local leaders see it as an opportunity to bring more business to the area. Richalnd and southern Washington are also known for low power rates, another feature attractive to potential businesses. As clean-up winds down at Hanford, Richland is looking to the future and wisely using fiber as a way to reach out for commercial opportunities.

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