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Posted August 13, 2019 by lgonzalez

When we last shared news from Cleveland Heights, Ohio, community leaders were beginning to discuss the possibilities of a community network. Over the past 15 months, people in the city of around 46,000 have become committed to the idea of choosing the most effective path. Recently, Cleveland Heights released a Request for Proposals (RFP) for Broadband Needs Assessment and Feasibility Study. Responses are due September 13, 2019.

Read the full RFP here.

Looking at Options

As in other communities, Cleveland Heights wants to know what options they have and the advantages and disadvantages that accompany each. In order to obtain a complete picture of how best to approach the gigabit network they want for the community, city leadership wants the firm they hire to provide a range of information, including:

  • Needs Assessment
  • Infrastructure and Deployment Recommendations
  • Governance and Ownership Strategy
  • Funding Sources
  • Business and Financial Expectations

In addition to determining the current need for broadband in the community, Cleveland Heights wants to understand how they can prepare for future demands. Community leaders are interested in hearing multiple strategies for deployment and technology options and want to ensure that both businesses and residents benefit from the investment. Cleveland Heights also wants the firm they hire to provide information on funding sources that include local, state, and federal opportunities.

City decision makers want detailed analysis about potential models for a publicly owned community network and expect detailed evaluation for review. They’re also interested in learning about how a public-private partnership might work in the community. Cleveland Heights wants the consultants they hire to determine how best to engage the community in the process, educate them on potential pitfalls, and find ways to eliminate the local digital divide.

Cleveland Heights Residents Want a Muni

The city is an eastern, inner ring suburb of Cleveland and covers a little more than eight square miles. A current traffic signal update along one of the city’s...

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Posted July 3, 2019 by lgonzalez

Since 2011, PCMag has collected speed data and written about the country’s Fastest ISPs based on download and upload results. This year’s results reflect, once again, that locations with publicly owned broadband infrastructure contribute to communities’ ability to offer faster connectivity.

How They Did It

PCMag asked readers to use a special speed test developed specifically for this reporting that measured download and upload speeds. PCMag's Speed Index assigned to each ISP represented 80 percent download speed and 20 percent upload speed. Filtering out non-U.S. tests, they ended up with 256,016 tests that applied to the comparisons. If, however, a location (for state and regional comparisons) or ISP had fewer than 100 tests, the folks at PCMag did not consider it a contender.

While editors further broke down results so as to stack major ISPs against each other in a head-to-head comparison, they also looked at all the results in a general comparison. PCMag broke down the results further by region and city. For more details on the results, check out the full article.

Munis New and Not-So-New

FairlawnGig in Ohio made the list this year, adding a third municipal Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network to the list. The city’s retail service began serving residents with gigabit connectivity back in 2017, after firmly establishing their fiber services for local businesses.

When contemplating the investment, city leaders adopted the approach that their fiber optic network would be an essential piece of infrastructure on par with sewers or roads. Fairlawn used municipal bonds with no intention of turning a profit; they considered the network an investment that would keep the Akron suburb competitive. Residents, businesses, and institutions in Fairlawn, however, have enthusastically signed up for fast, reliable, connectivity where residents can get gigabit Internet access for $75 per month.

pcmag-2019-fastest.png Fairlawn’s municipal FTTH network will keep company with a veteran to the list — Longmont, Colorado’s...

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Posted February 22, 2019 by Katie Kienbaum

Hilliard, Ohio (pop. 36,000), is moving forward with plans to deploy a carrier neutral dark fiber network after city council approved funds for the project last month. The 25-mile fiber network will connect government buildings and businesses in the Columbus suburb and will be capable of speeds up to 100 Gigabits per second, reports Columbus Business First. Officials hope that improving Hilliard’s broadband infrastructure will help the community attract and retain businesses, encourage local economic development, and reduce municipal connectivity costs.

Deployment Details

During the first phase of the project, Hilliard will run fiber to municipal buildings and local businesses. The carrier neutral network will connect to the Metro Data Center in nearby Dublin, Ohio (home to DubLINK), giving the city government and businesses access to a wide selection of providers, who will have the ability to lease fiber from the city. In the future, the network could expand to serve other entities, such as local schools. The city does not plan to connect residents.

The total cost of the network’s initial phase is $3.17 million; to fund the fiber rollout, Hilliard City Council set aside $2.9 million in January as part of the city’s capital improvements budget. This included a $1.25 million loan from the Franklin County Infrastructure Bank, which has also invested in two similar projects, including Grove City. Hilliard Economic Development Director David Meadows said that the remainder of the funding comes from a conduit and traffic signal project that was approved in the city’s 2018 budget.

Economic Benefits for the City

Like many communities, the city of Hilliard is investing in a municipal fiber network to strengthen and grow the local economy. Currently, the community’s limited options for Internet access pose a concern to prospective companies. “We’ve had some businesses...

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Posted December 14, 2018 by Hannah Bonestroo

After building out the community of 7,500 residents at the end of 2017, Fairlawn, Ohio, began expanding its municipal broadband service beyond city limits through a collaboration with the Medina County Fiber Network (MCFN). In June 2018, FairlawnGig became the only municipal Internet access provider on the fiber network, which offers connectivity in the region, including in the Akron metropolitan area.

Ernie Staten, Fairlawn’s Deputy Director of Public service, stated that FairlawnGig is “thrilled to take [its] services beyond city limits to help regional organizations achieve business goals only obtainable with robust broadband service.” The newly formed Bounce Innovation Hub, located in the former B.F. Goodrich Plant in downtown Akron, is one such organization that will soon take advantage of the expansion. In early December, Bounce announced a partnership with FairlawnGig that will bring gigabit speed Internet access to its building that houses entrepreneurial and creative organizations.

Growing a Globally Competitive Region

In the little over a year since the creation of FairlawnGig, home values in Fairlawn have increased eight and a half percent. FairlawnGig now serves over 2,000 subscribers and 500 businesses in Fairlawn and more enterprises are choosing to locate in the...

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Posted September 12, 2018 by lgonzalez

You still have about two weeks to plan your trip to Fairlawn, Ohio, to attend Great Lakes Connect and now the agenda has fully developed to help you plan the specifics of your visit. “Creating Intelligent Network Infrastructure to Compete in the Global Economy” runs from September 24th - 26th at the Hilton and DoubleTree Hotels. You can still register online to attend.

Arrive on Monday for a tour of the city’s municipal network facility. Spend the afternoon hours touring FairlawnGig then rub elbows with experts and policy advocates at the Welcome Reception in the evening.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, you can attend a series of conversations and panel discussions focused on smart city issues, funding, and infrastructure. Organizers have speakers lined up from all sectors to discuss national, state, and local matters. 

A few of the topics:

  • Stories of local projects from Holland and Sebewaing in Michigan and Ohio’s Fairlawn and Dublin
  • Open access networks financing and success stories
  • Conversations about fiber, including outside plant architectures, the benefits, and its interaction with fixed wireless
  • Digital equity, customer satisfaction, and community anchor institutions

Check out the rest of the packed agenda here.

Gee, it’s Gigi!

Gigi Sohn, our favorite FCC Maven will join Christopher for the Tuesday Keynote, titled “The FCC: Can’t Live With It, Don’t Want to Live Without It.” Need we say more?

Register now for Great Lakes Connect.

Posted September 3, 2018 by lgonzalez

The city of Solon, Ohio, has their eyes on Hudson, their neighbor about 10 miles to the south. Both communities have a population of around 23,000 but Hudson businesses have access to the publicly owned fiber network and community leaders are considering expanding the service to residents. In order to explore the idea further, Solon city leaders have decided to fund a feasibility study.

Steady Stream of Complaints

At a recent meeting of the Solon City Council Finance Committee, the city’s Director of Information Technology Jim Gibbs presented his memo outlining why he believes now is the time to issue a Request for Proposals (RFP) for a feasibility study.

People and businesses in Solon are not happy about their current choices, and they let Gibbs know about it:

I receive a steady stream of complaints and requests for help from Residents and Businesses to get access to better Internet Service Providers, and what I believe is the most telling of the need for this project is, most people are not complaining about cost. Most are complaining about the very poor level of service they are being forced to endure by the largest players in this space, AT&T and Spectrum. 

While many subscribers focus their complaints on rates, hidden fees, and baffling billing, it's no surprise that Soloners don't like the options they have to choose from or find issues with reliability. Residents and businesses located in places where a publicly owned network is an option, often cite better customer service as the catalyst for switching from incumbent ISPs. Municipal network subscribers have the luxury of obtaining service from a provider centered in their community, rather than from a company with headquarters located several states away. Paying the bill or addessing concerns can be done in an effective, face-to-face manner.

Looking for Options and Possibilities

As part of the study, the city wants a needs assessments for both commercial and residential sectors along with cost estimates for a citywide Fiber-to-the-Premise (FTTP) deployment. Solon has existing fiber, which they ...

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Posted August 21, 2018 by lgonzalez

One of the many states where legislators introduced broadband bills in 2018 was Ohio, where HB 378 appeared to offer a promising answer to funding rural broadband deployment. The bill obtained bipartisan support as it passed through several committees, but prior to the legislature's summer break, enthusiasm cooled.

Looking at Minnesota

HB 378 draws from the Minnesota Border-to-Border Broadband Program by allocating specific funding for deployment. The bill also creates an entity to manage the funding awards. In Ohio, lawmakers anticipated funding would draw from the state’s Ohio Third Frontier Program, which was originally established to assist tech start-ups. In April, HB 378 passed the House with support from both Democrats and Republicans and seemed on a positive track. Two Senate committees also heard SB 225, a companion bill to HB 378.

A second broadband bill, HB 281, addresses only rural last mile connectivity and came before one committee. HB 281 also appeared to have support, but leadership never fast tracked the legislation. HB 281 allocated only $2 million, a fraction of the $100 million required over two years for HB 378. With one generous broadband bill and one much smaller to choose from, experts were left scratching their heads as to why both bills seemed to stop dead in their tracks.

What’s the Hold-up?

Speculation as to why neither of the bills have been advanced further by House and Senate leadership swirls around Governor Kasich’s administration. Democrat Jack Cera believes that the plans for the Third Frontier Fund has held up the process. Cera and other suggest that Governor Kasich wants to focus Third Frontier Funds in other directions, such as smart highways and autonomous vehicles. As far as Cera and others are concerned, broadband for rural Ohio is the priority:

“I think there’s been some push back on it. I would suggest that if the administration and others don’t want to use that funding that we should move forward to use general fund monies on it. To me, it means that type of...

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Posted August 8, 2018 by lgonzalez

If you’ve never visited the Great Lakes Region in the autumn, you’ve missed out. Now is your chance to redeem yourself and to increase your knowledge for your community. The fall colors and the nip in the air will enhance your visit to Fairlawn, Ohio, and the Great Lakes Connect Broadband Development Conference. The event is scheduled for September 24th - 26th at the Hilton Hotel; the theme is "Creating Intelligent Network Infrastructure to Compete in the Global Economy.”

You can register online and review the agenda as it develops.

A Wholistic Approach

When we spoke with organizer and broadband expert Jeffrey Gavlinski about the event, he told us that in planning for the event, organizers wanted to focus on how networks and innovation will work together to help communities shape their long-term visions. As attendance at broadband conferences continue to rise and interest in action for better local connectivity increases, finding ways to bring new technologies together is quickly becoming an important focus. In the past, local leaders would ask “why?” — now they ask “what’s next?”

Hear the Experts

The list continues to grow, but some of the sessions and free tracks include panel discussions or speakers addressing:

  • Broadband as a Community Investment, Not A Profit Center - Ernie Staten, Deputy Director of Public Service in Fairlawn
  • The Future of Public Financing - Jase Wilson, Founder and CEO of Neighborly
  • Service Provider Benefits of True Open Access Networks - Bjorn Wannman, COS Systems

There will also be speakers from the communities of Dublin, Ohio; Sebewaing, Michigan; and Holland, Michigan — all are communities that have invested in publicly owned fiber infrastructure. Our Christopher Mitchell will also be at...

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Posted July 18, 2018 by lgonzalez

In June, the city of Fairlawn and the Medina County Fiber Network in Ohio recently announced that they would soon begin working together, which will expand FairlawnGig, the city's municipal network. The collaboration will boost connectivity in the region for residents and provide more options for businesses in Akron and surrounding communities.

Fairlawn Full of Fiber

Deputy Director of Public Service Ernie Staten told us that when city leaders commenced the FairlawnGig project, they promised the community that they would first build out the the entire community of 7,500 residents. They achieved their goal in May and now have a 47 percent take rate in the city. The strong numbers indicate Fairlawn’s intense need for better services than incumbents were providing. 

Staten told us that, in completing the deployment in Fairlawn, the city’s infrastructure now has a solid north-south presence. By leasing capacity on the Medina County Fiber Network (MCFN), FairlawnGig can expand in an east-west direction.

Potential commercial subscribers in Akron, east of Fairlawn, have already reached out to FairlawnGig offices, seeking more information. Staten notes that, while businesses in Akron have had access to connectivity from incumbents Spectrum and AT&T, prices are high and services are limited. FairlawnGig via the MCFN will be able to offer more options. Businesses will have access to services such as dark fiber connections, cloud services, data transport, and connections of up to 100 gigabits per second. Staten also believes that local businesses want the personal service and accountability that comes with a local provider.

Staten says that residents who live in the more rural areas west of town have also contacted FairlawnGig to find out more. FairlawnGig Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) gigabit service costs $75 per month or residents can opt for a 300 Megabits per second (Mbps) connection at $55 per month. Ten gigabit service for residential premises is also available and all connections are symmetrical. Voice services are also available; residents can sign up for $25 per month and receive two lines. FairlawnGig doesn’t offer video service, but makes resources available to help subscribers learn how to cut the cord to access video content.

...

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Posted June 20, 2018 by Hannah Rank

Consolidated Cooperative (CC) of Delaware, Ohio, plans to bring Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) services to rural central Ohio residents as soon as this summer.

Multi-Service, Multi-Community

In March, CC announced it had changed its name from Consolidated Electric Cooperative to better reflect the organization's expansion of services. In addition to electric service, CC also provides natural gas, propane, community solar, and soon they will offer residential fiber optic connectivity. CC’s board came to the decision to offer fiber after a host of members said they needed a solution for their current underwhelming Internet access and incentives to keep businesses buzzing in their area.

CC has served rural and farming communities north of Columbus since the 1930s. It currently provides electric in Delaware and Morrow counties, as well as slices of six other surrounding counties. It also provides some fiber access to area school districts and businesses through its brand Enlite, partially by harnessing CC’s electric infrastructure

Last October in a Facebook post, CC cited a member survey wherein “many members in our serving area report insufficient access to reliable Internet service.” The co-op says it's broken ground on constructing its new fiber network earlier this spring, and will begin offering services sometime in June for select high-need clients in western Delaware County. Consolidated Fiber offers an interactive map of the anticipated coverage zone, with color coding that indicates the status of each area. 

Gauging the Scope of Interest

CC decided to roll out Consolidated Fiber as a pilot project starting this summer. From there, it says its construction priorities for access to the fiber service is demand-based, and so the cooperative is...

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