Tag: "open services"

Posted May 25, 2016 by christopher

In our experience, just about every community considering building a community network considers open access. They want to enable new choices for services and often would prefer the local government avoid directly competing with existing service providers, for a variety of reasons. However, we are only tracking 30 open access networks on our just-released Open Access resource page.

Many of the communities that start off enthusiastic about open access ultimately decide to have a single service provider (themselves or a contractor) to have more certainty over the revenues needed to pay operating expenses and debt. We believe this will change as the technology matures and more communities embrace software-defined networks (SDN) -- but before tackling that topic, we think it is important to discuss the meaning of open access.

On a regular basis, I get an email from one deep-thinking person or another that says, "That network isn't really open access." They almost always make good points. The problem is that different people embrace open access for different reasons - they often have different expectations of outcomes. Understanding that is key to evaluating open access.

How Many ISPs?

One of the key questions centers on how many providers a household is likely to be able to choose from. Various factors, including the network architecture and economics of becoming a service provider, will influence this outcome.

Some communities simply seek to avoid a monopoly network - they are focused on the idea of potential competition. For instance, we believe Huntsville's model and agreement with Google can be considered open access because any party could lease fiber from the utility to compete with Google. However, we believe the costs of doing so by using that network architecture make robust competition unlikely.

If Google is a strong competitor in Huntsville, they will likely not face significant competition from other ISPs on the utility fiber though AT&T and Comcast will still use their networks to compete. But in the event that Google is not a strong competitor, the door will be open to other ISPs to give people a better choice. It is extremely unlikely that this arrangement would give residents many choices for Internet access...

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Posted December 29, 2011 by christopher

We have been trying to keep close track of the recent group of communities building incremental, publicly owned, open access fiber networks -- which often starting with connections to businesses. A recent article from the Cortez Journal provides a window into the Cortez, Colorado network that we have previously covered here.

After the city finished building the first phase of the project, at least 150 companies, according to the city, purchased and are now connected to the city’s fiber optic backbone via private service providers, such as Brainstorm Internet and Farmers Telecommunications.

One of the service providers (Farmers Telecommunications) has a long experience in the area -- having offered telephone services for 91 years. It is now able to provide much faster services with a much lower investment because of the public investment.

“This will have a huge impact on the local economy, and it will keep citizens’ spending dollars in Cortez,” said City of Cortez Department of General Services Director Rick Smith. “And feed more money here, potentially, from around the world.”

The businesses previously had access to the slower, more expensive broadband connections but now have more choices between independent service providers can use the infrastructure built by the local government to benefit the local economy.

The city’s new, open-services network allows companies to offer advanced services, such as broadband Internet and voice and communication systems, said Farmers Telecommunications General Manager Doug Pace.

“What we’re seeing is that more and more businesses are requiring that upload speed to be increased,” Pace said as an example of the kind of cloud computing Farmer’s offers on the city’s Fiber to the Business network.

Posted May 19, 2011 by christopher

On the heals of our story announcing a new open access community fiber project in Idaho, we have learned of a similar project in Cortez, Colorado. Cortez is the county seat of Montezuma County in the extreme southwest of the state and has approximately 8,000 residents.

Much of Colorado has long suffered from Qwest's refusal to invest in modern networks -- though a more charitable take on it would be to say Qwest's inability because it simply does not have the capacity to invest in the kind of networks communities now need to take advantage of modern communications technologies.

In the late 90's, Qwest's services in Cortez were served by microwave links incapable of meeting local needs and Qwest refused to invest in a better connection due to an insufficient business case. In the words of Rick Smith, Director of General Services for Cortez (and in charge of the network), the city then decided "to take its destiny in its own hands." They began building their own network.

The initial phase was an I-Net, built with the City's capital funds, to connect schools and other public facilities. They were able to later expand that under Colorado's Beanpole Project, a program that sought to aggregate community traffic in an attempt to lure more private sector investment in networks.

Along the way, they began leasing some dark fiber to private companies that needed better telecommunications options. When Qwest pushed through a bill in 2005 to limit local authority to build networks (click on Colorado on the Community Broadband Preemption Map), Cortez was grandfathered, leaving it with more authority to invest in this essential infrastructure than most communities.

A press release details the financing for this latest phase:

Southwest Colorado Council of Governments secured the initial funding for this project which came from a state grant of one million dollars from oil, gas and coal leasing rights. The City of Cortez provided the 25% match for the grant funds. The funds are being funneled back into developing the economy and growth of Cortez and the surrounding area by offering potential large employers or data...

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Posted June 11, 2010 by christopher

Danville's open services fiber-optic network has brought a new employer with some 160 jobs to town. EcomNets is investing almost $2 million to build a green data center to the area.

More jobs may be on the horizon as the White Mill renovation continues and should be finished in coming month (original coverage here and here).

Though the public power utility owns this network, it does not offer services. The network, which currently services municipal locations, schools, and some 75 businesses with Internet access, leaves independent providers to provide the actual services. They welcome major carriers like Comcast and Verizon, who have thus far refused to use open access networks to expand their customer base.

Currently, the network has a single service provider, though the utility has spoken with others and expects more service providers to join the network when it begins making residential connections.

As for when it will begin offering residential access, the City Council will discuss that on July 6 in a work session. The Utility has recommended the City start the next phase, servicing some 2,000-3,000 homes.

Posted June 16, 2009 by christopher

Though Danville, Virginia, was hit hard by the simultaneously decline of tobacco and textile industries, the community has responded: Danville Utilities has been building a state of the art all fiber network. Like many communities, they built a backbone and connected the schools and government buildings first. They then started to connect businesses. This summer they will be rolling out a pilot project to connect a few thousand homes to their open services network. As they add more potential subscribers to the network, they will be more attractive to service providers. This should spur competition, increase innovation, reduce prices, and otherwise make the network more desirable to subscribers. Though the open access idea has been somewhat maligned following the troubles of UTOPIA (many of which had nothing to do with the wholesale model), the consulting firm Design Nine has helped both nDanville and The Wired Road move forward with a revised wholesale-only model. This approach may be gaining traction nationally depending on how the rules for the stimulus grants are written: Stimulating Broadband suggests broadband stimulus funding from USDA will favor "projects that will deliver end users a choice of more than one service provider." Back in Danville, the schools have much faster Internet access while shaving their telecom budgets. Other key features are listed on the network's site, including:

The nDanville Medical Network project has begun to connect a majority of doctor’s offices and medical clinics around the city. The network is already being used by the Danville Regional Medical Center to provide super high speed connectivity to satellite clinics and offices in Danville.

Last year, Last Mile featured an article on the network that includes some numbers, goals, and history of the project. Below is a video that discusses some of the benefits of the network.

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