Tag: "indiana"

Posted January 27, 2011 by christopher

For years, I have heard Graham Richards, former mayor of Fort Wayne Indiana, brag about this "beg, borrow, buy, build" [pdf] philosophy as Mayor.  I am not insulting him -- his brash style is quite likable, but it is bragging.  He was somewhat of a celebrity among the broadband folks because he both understood the importance of broadband and had convinced Verizon to roll out FiOS in Fort Wayne when they had no plans to.  His philosophy is to first beg, then borrow, then buy, and finally build the network if necessary -- a similar approach of many local governments.  This is also often the path of least resistance (which, Utah Phillips reminds us, is what makes the river crooked).  

Graham is a terrific guy and a great evangelist for broadband (though he never jumped into a frozen Lake Superior) -- but we have long argued that his priorities were wrong in the long term.  Not owning the network means the network is unlikely to care about what the community needs.  Unfortunately, our philosophy has proven prescient.

When we last discussed Frontier's radical price increases for the FiOS subscribers they bought from Verizon, we failed to note that Fort Wayne was one of the transferred communities.  They begged for the network and they have no voice in how it is run.  So when Frontier jacks up its FiOS prices and glibly encourages people to drop their high quality FiOS cable for lesser quality DirectTV (with a long contract), the folks in Fort Wayne have little choice but to shrug their shoulders.

Serfs may occasion upon a good Lord of the Manor, but mostly they didn't.  Ownership of essential infrastructure offers long term benefits.

Photo used under Creative Commons, courtesy of Jenn Raynes

Posted July 8, 2010 by christopher

The May/June issue of Broadband Properties Magazine continued the Muni FTTH snapshot series, this time focusing on a small network in Auburn, Indiana. The network currently has 500 subscribers as it continues its buildout, which is scheduled to finish in 2011. By 2013, the business plan calls for serving 3200 subscribers.

The public power utility, Auburn Electric, has been using fiber-optics for internal use since 1985, but only began offering services to some customers in the mid 2000's. In 2007, they began deploying the FTTH. In 2005, their services kept an employer in town with a $7 million payroll.

Posted June 30, 2009 by christopher

This article highlights three publicly owned networks that are expanding or building in the midst of a difficult economy - the Dumont Telephone Company in Iowa (a cooperative); Auburn, Indiana; and Greenlight in Wilson, North Carolina.

Dumont is facing the most difficult path:

Deploying rural and small-town fiber is always tough. Doing it without much hope of funding from outside is even tougher. But visionaries in these communities took the long view, planning to stretch out their builds over as much as seven years – longer if they have to. One community – Dumont, Iowa – is profiting from a world-class GPON build with fewer than two households passed per mile and precisely zero businesses to help foot the bill.

Auburn began building a municipal fiber network to keep some local employers in town - called Auburn Essential Services. As happens all over the United States, small towns lose businesses because the private sector is not able to provide the necessary networks. Built at first just to connect some local sites, the city later began to expand it:

In mid-2006 the city adopted a phased rollout plan for FTTP, where each phase would generate revenues that could be used to fund the next phase. The first phase, which includes the neighborhoods where most businesses are located, rolled out between April and December of this year.

The city’s marketing plan includes mailers, door hangers, advertising and even site visits to businesses. Existing technology was leveraged for back-office operations, and customers were given the option of receiving consolidated utility bills or separate bills for electricity and telecommunications.

Wilson, North Carolina, was also dealing with poor local networks that hampered economic development. Time Warner not only refused to build the necessary networks, it then refused to use a network the city offered to let them ride, and finally tried to prevent them by passing what was often called the "Incumbent Protection Act" in the state legislature. Fortunately, Time Warner was not able to prevent local competition and Wilson's network is currently being built. They used a rather unique financing plan:

Rather than issue general obligation bonds, Wilson obtained $31 million in private funding...

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Posted June 11, 2009 by christopher

Another real-world example of why communities cannot depend on the private sector to build the infrastructure needed by the community, Scottsburg Indiana suffered from telecommunications underinvestment and was about to lose jobs because the companies could not get the connections they needed.

This article reports that the cost of T1 lines was $1600/month but other sources suggested they were as low as a mere $1300/month. Nonetheless, the costs were prohibitive and benefits from building a publicly owned system were immense:

The total cost to build the city-wide network was only $385,000, a figure that includes all systems and software. The result is broadband everywhere at affordable prices, meaning that businesses that need broadband can get it, and sometimes even save money, too. For example, school officials estimate that they are saving approximately $16,000 per month.

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