Palmdale, California is considering a proposal from SiFi Networks to become a FiberCity. The project would see $600 million from the private infrastructure builder to construct 800 miles of fiber and lease it on an open access basis, as well as provide the infrastructure necessary for smart city applications and 5g.
In the city of Fullerton, California (pop. 140,000), privately owned infrastructure builder and operator SiFi Networks has turned on the first section of what will be a city-wide, open access Fiber-to-the-Home network. The project makes Fullerton SiFi’s first FiberCity — a privately built, financed, and operated open access network it plans to duplicate in more cities across the country in the future. When complete next fall, the Fullerton FiberCity network will pass every home and business in the city, with the company's subsidiary, SiFi Networks Operations, selling wholesaling capacity to as many Internet Service Providers (ISPs) as want to enter the market.
A Different Approach
SiFi’s FiberCity model remains somewhat unique in the United States, and is much more common in Europe and Asia. CEO Ben Bawtree-Johnson attributes their success to cracking the economic code for private investment in open access information infrastructure, which has seen more attention in recent years as investors and fund managers have seen opportunities. “[O]ur vision really is to create as many last-mile fiber optic networks as we can across the USA in a long term sustainable fashion,” Bawtree-Jobson remarked on an episode of the podcast last fall. “[W]e're all about long term, dry, low yielding, risk mitigated investments, so everything we do is based around 30-year plus type investments.”
Fullerton, according to SiFi, was an ideal candidate for its first FiberCity because it applied to be one of the original candidates (though not chosen) for a Google’s fiber program, begun in 2010. The company sees it as sitting in the Goldilocks’ zone in terms of size and population. Construction started last November, and currently consists of around 600 miles of fiber all underground via microtrenching. Nokia serves as the main equipment partner on the project.
Turning on the Lights
The first residential customers...Read more
Sometimes best ideas are brewed up over a pint, and Michaelston-y-Fedw Internet proves that.
A citizen coalition in the 300-person town in Wales, fed up with its crawling 4 Mbps speeds, decided to stop waiting around for fiber to come to them and established their own Community Interest Company (CIC), a UK designation that describes an organization whose primary purpose is community benefit to place it themselves. Entrepreneurial community leaders of Michaelston-y-Fedw hatched the plan in a pub last year, and began it in earnest by establishing their not-for-profit in October 2017.
By the People, For the People
According to the ISPs website, it is the first rural community-built gigabit Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) service in Wales. An interactive map of fiber implementation efforts on Michaelston-y-Fedw Internet’s website shows that a long strip of fiber is already complete, with dozens of premises connected. Thousands of hours of volunteering from locals — school teachers, farmers, retirees, you name it — made the build out possible. They already have around 15 miles of trenches dug.
We’ve covered a previous effort in the UK. A community-oriented provider, Broadband for the Rural North (B4RN, pronounced “barn”), facilitated an effort to lay fiber in agricultural land, often by landowners themselves who, if they decided to volunteer for the dig effort on their property, received B4RN shares.
Besides being a well-executed plan with some top-notch volunteer efforts — including an expert knitter-come-fiber splicer nicknamed the “Splice Queen” for her nimble hand work — the dig represents some strong local self-reliance. It’s rural areas, such as Michaelston-y-Fedw, that often face the choice between either taking swift action or waiting for a provider that may never bring the infrastructure they need.
This is the transcript for episode 266 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. Benoit Felten of Diffraction Analysis offers a global perspective on telecommunications policy. Listen to this episode here.
Benoit Felten: Japan and Korea would be forward-thinking businesses, then Europe would be short-term businesses but forced to look at the long-term through policy, and then the US would be short-term businesses, laissez-faire, do what you want.
Lisa Gonzalez: This is episode 266 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. I'm Lisa Gonzalez. Benoit Felten is back on the show to talk more about connectivity from an international perspective. He last visited with Christopher way back in 2012 for episode 21. This time they discuss several models that his company, Diffraction Analysis have studied in areas other than the US. Learn more at the company website DiffractionAnalysis.com. Before we start the interview, we want to remind you that this commercial free conversation is not free to produce. Please take a moment to contribute at ILSR.org. If you've already contributed, thanks. Now here's Christopher and Benoit Felten from Diffraction Analysis.
Christopher Mitchell: Welcome to another addition of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. I'm Chris Mitchell with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and today I'm speaking with Benoit Felten, the CEO of Diffraction Analysis. Welcome back to the show, Benoit.
Benoit Felten: Thanks for having me.
Christopher Mitchell: We last talked about Stokab, I think in Stockholm. You are the CEO of Diffraction Analysis which does telecommunications research all around the world and I often think of you as my go-to person on how things work outside US and sometimes inside the US. Let me ask you, Benoit, when you hear people saying, "The United States sucks at broadband and Europe is so amazing." How do you react to those monolithic statements?
Benoit Felten: Yeah, well I think that's generally true. I mean, the problem is always that broadband is as good as where you measure...Read more
When policy and decision makers discuss how to improve connectivity in the U.S., they often compare Internet access in other parts of the world to connectivity in America. We can learn from efforts in other places.
Benoit Felten, CEO of Diffraction Analysis, has analyzed business models, approaches, and infrastructure development all across the globe. His company has studied infrastructure and Internet access from short-term and long-term perspectives through the multi-faceted lens of international economies. Benoit joins us for episode 266, his second appearance on the Community Broadband Bits podcast.
In addition to development of infrastructure, Christopher and Benoit get into competition, quality of services, and how it varies from place to place. Benoit has recommendations based on his years of analysis from different communities and cultures around the world. Be sure to also check out episode 21, in which Benoit and Christopher discuss Stokab.
We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.
Thanks to Arne Huseby for the music. The song is Warm Duck Shuffle and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.
A recent large-scale cross-national study from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) offers strong evidence that municipal broadband networks provide numerous benefits for communities around the world. Among the study’s major findings include evidence that municipal networks contribute to efforts aimed at improving local economic development, stimulating business productivity and innovation, and enhancing people’s quality of life.
The study's analysis of European nations is of special interest to us as European municipal networks are the only international municipal networks in the study that closely resemble U.S. municipal networks. In particular, the findings from the study’s central econometric analysis of Swedish municipal networks have direct implications for our understanding of the impact of municipal networks in the United States.
Findings from Econometric Analysis of Sweden
As the researchers note, extensive municipal broadband development across Sweden has contributed to a remarkably high level of nationwide fiber penetration, putting the country far ahead of the US in global rankings. The researchers report a series of features and benefits of Sweden’s widespread fiber penetration and aggressive municipal broadband efforts, including:
Increased rates of employment (with even greater employment increases in highly urbanized municipalities), increased business creation, and reduced car usage (also greater in the most urban cities) as fiber networks make it easier to telecommute to work and to shop for goods and services online.
Overall Economic Development Benefits: The authors cite a previous socio-economic analysis of the municipally-owned broadband network in Stockholm, Sweden showing that this network has generated about $2.5 billion (U.S. dollars) in economic returns for the city, or three times the initial investment. This includes $1.2 billion...Read more
Video of "Maximizing Fibre Infrastructure Investment in Europe" is now archived and ready to view. Our own Christopher Mitchell presented as part of this afternoon seminar on telecommunications policy.
The event, sponsored by the Swedish Association of Local Authorities (SALAR) and Stokab (The City of Stokholm IT infrastructure company) was held in Brussels on Wednesday, November 19th. Chris presented an update on private and public fiber network investment in the U.S.
The video is now archived and ready to view:
We also recommend Benoit Felton's presentation on the Stokab model:
You can watch video of the entire event at the Bambuser website or below.
I was recently invited to speak in Brussels on the experience of U.S. cities and fiber optic investment. Videos from the seminar are available here. I took some extra time around the seminar to visit Amsterdam and then Bruges in Belgium. On this week's Community Broadband Bits podcast, Lisa and I discuss broadband in the European context.
We talk about how much people pay in Amsterdam for better services than we commonly get and note that most European cities have much better access to the Internet than do U.S. cities, with the possible exception of Brussels, which has poor access.
We also talk about how the incumbents in Europe are not so different from the incumbent providers in the U.S. and are trying to invest as little as possible while preventing meaningful competition. Some things are just universal...
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.
Thanks to Dickey F for the music, licensed using Creative Commons. The song is "Florida Mama."
Christopher is visiting Brussels, Belgium this week to present at a conference organized by the Swedish Association of Local Authorities (SALAR) and Stokab (The City of Stockholm IT infrastructure company). The seminar, "Maximizing Fibre Infrastructure Investment in Europe," is scheduled for Wednesday from 2 - 6 p.m. local time - that's 8 a.m. - noon EST in the U.S.
The event will be livestreamed on the Bambuser channel and we will also make a link available to the archive after the event.
According to the seminar announcement, main discussion will focus on:
How should the telecom market be structured in order to encourage service-based competition and innovation?
How can municipalities and regions engage in fibre deployment without risking to harm competition and making private companies less willing to invest?
Does the interest for investments in broadband and OTT services increase if it is possible to get access to fibre by municipalities and regions, not providing services themselves?
Chris will lecture on fiber rollouts in the U.S. He will be joined by a list of industry and research leaders, including:
- Benoit Felton: Chief Research Officer, Diffraction Analysis
- Jonas Malmlund: Partner, Consulting, Deloitte AB
- Crister Mattsson: Senior Advisor, Acreo Swedish ACT
- Anthony Whelan: Director, Electronic Communications, Networks and Services, DG Connect, European Commission
- Gunnar Hokmark: Vice President EPP, European Parliament
The event will be at the Radisson Blu EU Hotel in Brussels.
For more about the event and details on each presentation, take a moment to view the announcement below.
For the second time this year, one of the major defenders of the cable and telephone companies has admitted that DSL cannot provide the Internet access we need as a nation. This admission validates our research as well as that of Susan Crawford and others that show most Americans are effectively stuck with a cable monopoly.
On April 7, 2014, the Diane Rehm show hosted another discussion on telecommunications policy with guests that included Jeffrey Eisenach, the Director of the Center for Internet, Communications, and Technology Policy at the American Enterprise Institute.
During that show, Eisenach stated, "The vast majority of Europeans still only have DSL service available, which we in the United States consider really almost an obsolete technology now."
Interestingly, Eisenach and others have repeatedly claimed that there is no market failure in the US - that we have plenty of choices. But most Americans have to choose between what most now admit is an obsolete DSL product and cable. Eisenach would add 4G LTE as another competitor, but as we have noted many times, the average household would have to pay hundreds of dollars per month to use their LTE connection as a replacement for DSL or cable.
The average household uses something like 40-55 GB of data per month. Given the bandwidth caps from LTE providers, the overage charges quickly result in a bill of approximately $500 or more depending on the plan. This is why the overwhelming majority of the market uses mobile wireless as a complement, not substitute to wired networks.
We are left with one conclusion: there is no meaningful competition or choice for most of us in the residential telecommunications market. And no real prospect of a choice either as the cable companies only grow stronger.
This is not the first time Eisenach admitted that DSL is insufficient for our needs. Back in January, on Diane's show, he again used Europe's dependence on DSL as evidence that it was falling behind: "They are reliant on these 20th century copper networks which have real limits on the amount of speed that they can deliver."
Even those who only want the private sector to deliver services are starting to admit that the existing providers are...Read more