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Yellow Springs, OH, Releases RFP: Proposals Due August 22

Earlier this year, the grassroots group, Springs-Net, presented its white paper on a potential municipal network in their town of 3,700 people. The village, located in central Ohio between Dayton and Columbus, is taking up the suggestion and recently released a Request for Proposals (RFP) for a broadband needs assessment and business plan.

The village already operates municipal electric, water, sewer, and storm water utilities, however does not own any municipal fiber. According to the RFP, Yellow Springs collaborates with several local schools and an educational computer association for connectivity to the village’s municipal office location. There is also fiber in the community owned by the Ohio Academic Research Network (OARNet) and a non-profit datacenter in the area.

Yellow Springs wants interested firms to answer their call and provide options for:

  • Mapping Needs Assessment
  • Business and Financial Model
  • Governance and Ownership Strategy
  • Funding and Financial Analysis
  • Public-Private Partnership Development
  • Infrastructure Recommendations

There will be an informal session for respondents on August 1 at 11 a.m. in the Yellow Springs Council Chambers and proposals are due on August 22, 2016. Check out the Yellow Springs website for more details on the RFP.

Stark County, Ohio, Hires Consultant For Feasibility Study

Longtime efforts by community leaders in Stark County, Ohio, to create a new countywide Internet network have recently taken important steps forward.

Local Support Is Strong

In the past few months, three local government agencies approved informal resolutions to explore building the proposed network, including the City Council in Canton, the Stark County commissioners, and the trustees in Jackson Township. County population is about 375,000 within the 575 square miles located in the northeast section of the state.

In May, an all-volunteer organization comprised of local leaders called the Stark County Broadband Task Team (SCBBTT) announced that they had raised $100,000 needed to fund a feasibility study to explore the construction of the network. The SCBBTT also recently announced they hired a consultant to conduct the study.

We Have a Need for “Transformational” Internet Speed

The SCBBTT is comprised of a large group of volunteers from the county including major figures from government, the business community, and the nonprofit sector. Several years ago the group began working on a plan to construct the network, labeling it a “fourth utility” and saying that Stark County was “falling behind its peers in Ohio and elsewhere in the United States in terms of educational attainment, household income, retention of high-school graduates and overall prosperity.”

Stagnant countywide population growth has been a problem for Stark County in recent years. This is partly explained by the dramatic decline in the county’s manufacturing economy as the county has lost approximately 34 percent of its goods-producing jobs since the new millennium began. Meanwhile, Stark County leaders know that emerging industries are demanding fast, reliable, affordable connectivity - not what’s currently available in Stark County.

County leaders believe that the new network can provide a “transformational” force toward attracting tech-driven businesses and young professionals. As Ohio's manufacturing industry declines, other communities in the Buckeye State are considering fiber connectivity a way to attract job creators. We have recently reported on Hudson and Fairlawn, where community leaders know better connectivity will improve services for residents and businesses. Upper Arlington is also planning on offering dark services to businesses interested in making use of its publicly owned fiber.

Publicly owned Internet infrastructure can become the foundation for a revitalized economy in Stark County. With support from local government leaders and a strong group of volunteers driving the effort, they are headed in the right direction.

Fairlawn Focuses on Citywide Gig Infrastructure - Community Broadband Bits Podcast 201

On the outskirts of Akron, just south of Cleveland, the community of Fairlawn is building a citywide wireless and fiber optic network using an interesting model. Most of the citywide municipal Internet networks in the U.S. have been built by communities with a municipal electric power company. Fairlawn has no such utility, not even a water utility. So they have partnered with another Ohio company, Extra Mile Fiber.

This week, Deputy Director of Public Service Ernie Staten joins us for episode 201 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast to discuss their approach and goals.

Fairlawn is building a carrier grade Wi-Fi and fiber-optic network, financed by municipal bonds. They will own the network and are focused first on generating benefits for the community and providing essential infrastructure rather than making sure every dollar of the network is repaid solely by revenues from network services. We also discuss how they structured the revenue-sharing arrangement with Extra Mile Fiber.

Read the transcript from this show here.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

This show is 21 minutes long and can be played below on this page or via iTunes or via the tool of your choice using this feed.

You can download this mp3 file directly from here. Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Thanks to Forget the Whale for the music, licensed using Creative Commons. The song is "I Know Where You've Been."

Grass Will Be Greener With FairlawnGig In Ohio

Fairlawn, Ohio, a quaint little city in Northern Ohio, it is about to get a big Gig – lightning fast Internet speeds of up to one Gigabit (1000 Megabits) per second (Gbps) – for $75 a month. The city has considered the prospect of such a network since last year, and now the community is moving forward.

On April 4th, Fairlawn City Council unanimously approved several ordinances to build a Fiber-to-the-Home network (FTTH) called “FairlawnGig.” For financing, the network will use revenue bonds in an agreement with the Development Finance Authority of Summit County.

A New FTTH Muni

In November 2015, Fairlawn hired a consultant and envisioned a public-private partnership for the FTTH plan of FairlawnGig. Now, however, these ordinances ensure that the $10 million network that will begin construction in May 2016 will in fact be a municipal network. The ordinances enable the city to enter into a contract with a firm to design and construct the network in the way that best meets the community’s needs.

Currently, the prices are established as:

  • Residential 1 Gbps – $75
  • Residential 100 Mbps - $55
  • Residential 30 Mbps - $30

All speeds will be symmetrical, so upload and download speeds are equally fast. The network will also offer phone service for an extra $25 a month. Businesses have similar speeds for prices between $90 and $500.

FairlawnGig will serve not only the 7,500 residents of Fairlawn, but it will also provide connectivity to the Akron-Fairlawn-Bath Joint Economic Development District. Ohio communities use these sort of districts to share infrastructure improvement projects.

From Vision to Reality

After thanking the City Council for passing the ordinances that have enabled the FTTH project, Fairlawn Mayor William J. Roth, Jr. further reiterated the purpose of the network:

“Our vision to make world-class, high-speed Internet services available to the residents and businesses of Fairlawn is now a reality. FairlawnGig will deliver a faster, better, and different Internet service from a trusted local provider, and will significantly aid in our efforts to promote economic development and commercial and residential growth in the City of Fairlawn.”

To learn more about the network and keep up to date on the project, check out FairLawnGig.net, the new network’s website.

It Takes a Village: Yellow Springs, Ohio Grassroots Group Wants Fiber

In the Village of Yellow Springs, Ohio, Springs-Net has created quite a stir among the 3,500 people. This grassroots group of villagers is advocating for a municipal network. Last year, they hosted a community Fiber Forum featuring our own Chris Mitchell. Now, they’re continuing the push for better home Internet access.

Springs-Net released a white paper on a possible municipal fiber network, bringing the results to the Village Council on February 16th. Although cautious of leaping into a large project, the Village Council recognized the benefits a network could have for the town and agreed to meet with the group in April to discuss next steps to improving connectivity.

Working From Home? Yellow Springs Says "Yes"

At the February 16th Village Council meeting, Scott Fife represented Springs-Net to provide an overview of the findings in the white paper. A retired Director of Information Technology at Centerville City Schools, Fife concentrated on information most relevant to the needs of the Yellow Springs community. 

According to Fife, over the last 15 years, the local business community has grown to include over 195 home-based businesses, an increase of 35%. In addition, the number of home-based engineering or scientific workers has increased 69% during the same period. Fiber connectivity could boost these existing businesses while attracting new ventures to the Village. 

As we've noted before on MuniNetworks, community networks can enable residents to work from home, avoid the commute, and increase family time. Much like Yellow Springs, Westminster, Maryland, wanted to improve Internet service for its citizens. The city decided to partner with a private company called Ting to build a community network. Now, some Westminster residents are able to telecommute rather than travel to their offices. With home-based productivity increasing in Yellow Springs, the village may indeed find a fiber network the best way to support this burgeoning aspect of the local economy.

Huge Benefit: Existing Assets

At the Village Council meeting, Fife also highlighted the community’s assets that will decrease costs and improve support if the village moves forward with a new network. The village already has the experience of a municipal electric utility, and a key component of the network - a data center - is available at the local nonprofit Miami Valley Educational Computer Association.

Many communities begin the process of building a fiber network through their municipal electric utilities: Pulaski, Tennessee; Hudson, Ohio; and Owensboro, Kentucky; are only a few. An existing electric utility facilitates a fiber network project because a community can draw on institutional knowledge. In the case of Yellow Springs, the utility already has access to the Right-of-Way and utility poles, both of which are vital for quick aerial deployment. Springs-Net has also been in communication with people at Sandy, Oregon, who built a network without the benefit of an electric utility.

What’s Next?

Currently, the group estimates the city would have to take out a $3 - 4 million revenue bond to pay for construction and there are other questions that need to be addressed. Council President Karen Wintrow summarized the situation:

“What you’re asking of Council and our staff is an incredible amount of work and financial support,”

Council member Judith Hempfling, however, reflected the optimism of the proposal, noting that the network could be a real asset to the village:

“If we could make this happen, it would be fantastic.”

In April, the Village Council will host a working meeting with the group to delve deeper into the possibility.

Solon Set to Save in Ohio: Big Plans for I-Net

Solon, located in Ohio's northeast corner, is looking to save approximately $65,280 per year with a publicly owned fiber institutional network (I-Net). At the January 19 city council, an ordinance authorizing the Director of Finance to request bids for the project passed unanimously

Cleveland.com recently reported that the city council is considering ditching its contract with Time Warner Cable as the city moves forward with a traffic signal project. The project would require streets to be excavated all over the community, a perfect time to install fiber connecting 8 municipal facilities. The publicly-owned network will connect buildings such as the Solon Senior Center, the Solon Community Center, and three city fire stations. The traffic signal project will cost $5 million and is funded in a large part by a combination of state and federal grants with the city contributing approximately twenty percent of the total cost.

The city will also pay for the I-Net project, an additional $160,000 but will recoup its investment in less than 3 years through savings on telecommunications costs. The city has paid Time Warner Cable to connect the municipal facilities via fiber and provide Internet access since 1990. Solon currently pays $5,440 per month. 

The city's water reclamation plant will not be connected to the new I-Net and will still use the incumbent because, due to its location, extending to the plant would cost another $100,000. The city will continue to pay Time Warner Cable $500 per month to connect the plant.

Work on the project could begin this spring.

Hudson Adds Velocity to Help Local Businesses - Community Broadband Bits Episode 181

When Hudson, Ohio, businesses couldn't get the connectivity they needed from the incumbent cable and telephone companies, the local government stepped up to provide what it calls a "service" rather than a "utility." Hudson City Manager Jane Howington joins me this week to explain their approach in Episode 181 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast.

Hudson has a municipal electric utility already and is now investing in a fiber optic network to connect local businesses. Branded "Velocity," and launched earlier this year, the network is exceeding expectations thus far in terms of local business interest.

City Manager Howington and I discuss how they decided to build a network, their incremental approach, and how they will know if they are successful in coming years.

The transcript from this episode is available here. Read our full coverage of Hudson here.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show - please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

This show is 22 minutes long and can be played below on this page or via iTunes or via the tool of your choice using this feed.

You can can download this Mp3 file directly from here. Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Thanks to Arne Huseby for the music, licensed using Creative Commons. The song is "Warm Duck Shuffle."

Fairlawn, Ohio Pursuing Design Plan for Muni Broadband Utility

Fairlawn, Ohio this fall took a “huge step forward” toward launching its own high-speed municipal broadband utility.

The City Council recently approved hiring a consultant to design and establish the business model for building “FairlawnGig,” a municipal broadband network. At completion, the city envisions the new utility will provide the community with comprehensive Wi-Fi connectivity and Fiber-To-The-Home (FTTH) service for businesses and residents.  

Faster Internet speeds  

“It will be a fiber network that will give one gig (i.e. gigabit per second or Gbps) of service, which is 1,000 times what people have right now,” City Deputy Service Director Ernie Staten said in an Akron.com news report. He added:

That’s a huge step forward for the City of Fairlawn. The future of TV, phone and Internet is to stream them all through the Internet. To do that with the current systems that we have is very difficult, but one gig of service would allow residents to stream as many videos as they want and to work from home as well as they possibly can.

In announcing plans for the project, earlier this year, the city said its goal is to:

...[O]ffer competitive fixed residential and business broadband services with speeds of 30 Mbps up and 30 Mbps down, and unique mobile Wi-Fi services with high-speed secure connections of 20 Mbps to smartphones and tablets throughout Fairlawn.

Besides the city of Fairlawn, a community of about 7,500 residents, the new municipal broadband utility would also include the Akron-Fairlawn-Bath Joint Economic Development District. The geographic area includes the communities of Akron and Bath in the new broadband utility service area. In Ohio, joint economic development districts are a vehicle to encourage communities to partner on infrastructure improvements, such as water and sewer service, without annexation. 

When the Fairlawn fiber network is completed, services up to 1 Gbps will be possible.

Public-private partnership planned  

Although many details of the project are still a few months off, the City anticipates forging a public-private partnership whereby it would own the fiber network but have it built and operated by someone else, Staten told us. The broadband utility would be funded through private financing and revenues from operations.

“Financing the construction of the network with private money will allow us to build the network much more quickly than we could on our own,” Fairlawn’s Mayor William Roth, a key project supporter, said in a news release earlier this year.

Staten told us, “The EDC (engineer design contract) should be complete by the end of the year with construction following close behind with the City Council’s blessing.” 

While building the high-speed, fiber-optic broadband network could take up to five years, the utility would also include carrier grade Wi-Fi service which could come online as early as 2016, city officials said in a news release earlier this year. The FTTH network will be open to multiple service providers in an open access arrangement.

Assuming no unforeseen wrinkles in the design and engineering phase, Fairlawn officials expect construction of the fiber-optic broadband network to begin next year. Roth said in the Jan. 12 news release:

Working with private partners who are experts in telecommunications will assure that FairlawnGig is a state­ of­ the ­art network that is built on time and on budget. The city of Fairlawn plans to provide right­-of-way access and other real estate assets to expedite the construction process. 

Improve the community with a “utility of the future”

City officials have said that building the broadband utility will be a boon to the community and the local business community. From the Jan. 12 press release:

Enhanced broadband services and fiber optic availability will strengthen and improve the delivery of police, fire and other vital municipal services and provide the city with access to cutting edge informational technology.

...

To be competitive in a global economy and attract new businesses and young professionals to our city, Internet access at a gigabit per second is imperative.

Upper Arlington, Ohio Forges Ahead with Public Partners on City-wide Fiber-Optic Network

The City Council of Upper Arlington, Ohio on Oct. 26 approved several contracts that will enable the community to build a municipal fiber-optic network to key anchor institutions for an estimated $2.5 million.

Upper Arlington’s project will provide high-speed Internet service for the city’s buildings, the Public Library, Upper Arlington city schools, and most city parks according to a news report from the Upper Arlington News. The 30-mile fiber network will serve about 40 locations around the boundaries of the city (population 34,000).

Besides establishing better connectivity between the three public partners’ buildings, the network is expected to provide opportunities for commercial companies to lease telecommunications services. The network would allow the city to lease some of the 288 fiber strands to commercial companies, such as other Internet Service Providers (ISPs).

Financing and Break Even

Under the cooperative arrangement, the library will contribute $17,616 annually, the city $68,484 per year and the school district $177,900 each year until the project is paid off. “These costs are derived from the amounts that each entity is currently paying for leased broadband connectivity between their facilities,” Upper Arlington Assistant City Manager Dan Ralley told us. 

The period anticipated to pay off the network construction is nine years with the school district and library able to extend the parties’ shared-services agreement for an additional 15 years after. The extensions would occur in three five-year segments.

Cost savings, broader bandwith

Ralley says the primary benefits of the new city fiber-optic network will be significantly lower long-term bandwidth and broadband access costs.  For example, the city of Upper Arlington expects to save about $1,280 a month for Internet service by building its own fiber network. Over 10 years, the city’s savings would total about $150,000.

And the municipal network will be a boon for the Upper Arlington public schools. In an Oct. 19, 2015 staff report, Ralley said:

Upper Arlington Schools’ available bandwith capacity is a growing concern given the current and future 21st century learning initiatives that are premised upon the use of technology. With increased bandwith between buildings, the potential for ubiquitous computing is possible along with more collaborative learning tools delivered through online learning management systems.

Network will enable access to two major data centers

Another benefit: the new network will enable Upper Arlington to “gain direct access to two different data centers located on the periphery of our community,” Ralley told us. Those are “the Ohio Supercomputing Center and a private facility owned by Expedient that will allow us to locate our servers in a carrier neutral facility that has redundant power feeds and lower broadband access costs,” he noted. 

“Expedient can provide the City an internet connection of 30 Mbps which is burstable to 100 Mbps at a much lower cost than our current provider,” Ralley said in his Oct. 19 staff report. 

New network incentive for economic development

Not to be overlooked, Upper Arlington’s new fiber-optic network is also expected to boost the community’s desirability for economic development.

“The number of businesses that are looking for access to affordable, high bandwith is increasing,” Ralley said in his staff report. He added:

While Upper Arlington does not have a large number of businesses that would typically utilize fiber optic data connections, we have attractive commercial development areas where access to available fiber can be used to attract businesses that require large bandwith. The City could leverage the community fiber optic network for economic development incentives or use it to help lower the cost of operating a business in UA, thereby providing a competitive advantage.

In one case, the city will be providing dark fiber to a new Ohio State University Medical facility that is currently under construction, Ralley told us. That arrangement is a condition of a $500,000 grant that the state of Ohio has given Upper Arlington to build its fiber-optic network. Dark fiber, fiber-optic cable currently not in use, is particularly important for medical centers because it offers more control over network quality and allows for very fast networks at affordable budgets. 

Also the city will be entering into an IRU (Indefeasible Right of Use) with the fiber construction contractor Thayer, that will enable them to market and sublease fiber strands by other third parties, he said.

Given the direction of the Upper Arlington broadband network, the community will be getting a system that will have many potential benefits but little risk with the city serving as its anchor tenant.

Hudson Brings Velocity to Businesses in Ohio

In mid-September, Hudson, Ohio launched its Velocity Broadband service, bringing 1 gig connectivity to a large business complex. The commercial site is the first in series of industrial areas where the city officials plan to bring the network in the coming years. The community, located near Akron, hopes to eventually bring Velocity Broadband to residential areas.

The network is already exceeding expectations. Less than a month after the initial network launch, City Manager Jane Howington said local officials expect to surpass their goal of 50 customers by the end of 2015:

"It's moving faster than we thought," said City Manager Jane Howington. "Demand has been much greater than we thought."

Merchants are embracing Hudson’s new status as a “Gig City,” offering “Giga Specials” during the month of October and the city’s mayor declared October “Gigabit City Month.”

According to the city’s Broadband Needs Assessment, Hudson is building the network in response to significant problems with the city’s existing broadband options. Small and medium sized companies complained to the city’s consultants on the network that they have “learned to live with” problems of poor reliability, performance, and affordability of the city’s broadband services. They said even the best available broadband service options over DSL and cable are inadequate and negatively affect their ability to do business.

City officials plan to continue rolling out access to the city’s downtown area next year and to other business areas soon after. Although the city of 22,500 has no timeline on residential service, city officials have expressed the intent to eventually bring the fiber optic network to every home.

We first reported on Hudson's plans in July 2014 when the community began exploring the idea of using fiber from its existing I-Net to serve local businesses. Hudson will deploy incrementally with its own public power utility crews and will provide only voice and data services to keep expenses manageable.

At a City Council meeting on September 16th when community leaders announced the network launch, Howington explained the importance of the project for the city’s business community:

“When no one else would provide it, we decided to do it ourselves; it’s that important to our business base,” she said. “The City’s investment in Velocity Broadband will continue to change Hudson for the better, ensuring continuous success for the future of our community. We are taking speed, reliability and affordability to a whole new level…. It’s clear that fast, efficient Internet drives business growth which is key to economic vitality of our City.”