Tag: "ohio"

Posted August 28, 2020 by Ry Marcattilio-...

While new municipal networks often (and rightly!) catch headlines for dramatically improving the lives of residents by giving them access to high-speed, reliable, low-cost Internet access, institutional networks also remain a tried-and-true model for cities and regions looking to begin investing in their information future. And, by connecting government buildings, schools, public libraries, and other community anchor institutions, they save communities money and can serve as an alternative when monopoly ISPs like Comcast try to negotiate huge fee increases to basic city services without any explanation (like in the case of Martin County, FL). 

The Miami Valley, Ohio, region accomplished the same goal a year ago, when GATEway Fiber lit up its intergovernmental, multi-jurisdictional fiber network connecting eight member cities and dozens of municipal buildings, schools, and other public anchor institutions. The result of six years of effort, the project provides the capacity and technical expertise for present and future undertakings to enhance educational initiatives, public safety programs, and utility work, and provides a model for other communities looking to work together to secure their information infrastructure moving forward.

A Joint Venture

GATEway Fiber came about as the result of the coordinated effort of two area organizations: The Miami Valley Communications Council (MVCC) and the Miami Valley Educational Computer Association (MVECA). 

MVCC was created in 1975 using cable franchise fees to manage cable television franchise agreements in the region, but also works to implement intergovernmental projects and programs to strengthen communication ties and infrastructure between its eight member cities: Centerville, Germantown, Kettering, Miamisburg, Moraine, Oakwood, Springboro and West...

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Posted August 26, 2020 by Ry Marcattilio-...

Local governments have been creative in finding ways to conduct work remotely during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, conducting city council meetings via Zoom or congregating in football stadiums to vote on referendums. Soon, Summit County, Ohio and the city of Akron will be better equipped to do similar work. Both have passed council measures approving an agreement with the neighboring city of Fairlawn to expand the latter’s municipal network southeast, and create a fiber ring connecting county- and city-level criminal justice and public safety buildings. The Summit County Criminal Justice Technology Project, which will be complete by the end of the year, is designed to facilitate court proceedings and public safety work remotely in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

A Burnin' Ring of Fiber

FairlawnGig, the municipal network run by the city of the same name, has issued a Request for Qualifications to design and build the network extension it will then manage. The ring will consist of 20 miles of mostly 864-strand fiber (with some places getting 24-strand additions or upgrades) and the $6.5 million cost will be paid for by Summit County (the money is coming from CARES Act funds).

Summit County Executive Ilene said of the investment

COVID-19 has forced us to rethink how government operates and delivers services. As we begin to adjust to life with the virus, we have to consider how to safely and efficiently meet the needs of our community. This project prioritizes both safety and efficiency.

The build combines both aerial and underground lines which start at the Ohio Building in downtown Akron and then wrap north around the University of Akron in a roughly mile-diameter loop, before linking back up and running five miles parallel to Market Street to FairlawnGig’s data center to the northwest. Along the way it will hit the county courthouse, the sheriff’s office, the Akron Police Department, the Ninth District Court of Appeals, the Akron Bar Association, the medical examiner’s office, the juvenile court, and the county jail and the Community Correctional Facility. The build will make use of existing city...

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Posted August 11, 2020 by Ry Marcattilio-...

HB 13, a law moving through the Ohio state legislature, creates the state’s first-ever residential broadband expansion program in order to address an access gap faced by hundreds of thousands of households across the state. Unfortunately, it bars municipally owned networks and electric cooperatives from participating in the $20 million pot of funds aimed at extending Internet access to areas with significant connectivity challenges. 

How It Would Work

The bill — titled “Establish Residential Broadband Expansion Program” — passed the Ohio House of Representatives on June 11 of this year, and takes aim at addressing last-mile connections and bringing more Ohioans online. If passed, it would create a $20 million fund and effect regulatory changes to provide subsidies for private entities in the state to extend their networks and connect more people. 

HB 13 establishes a number of conditions that have to be cleared for projects to be eligible. First, areas included can’t already include projects that have gotten money from the federal programs like Connect America Fund or the FCC's upcoming Rural Digital Opportunity Fund taking place this fall. 

Second, the bill establishes a score mechanism that privileges areas that are unserved and underserved. Projects addressing unserved areas top the list: it defines the latter as lacking access to download speeds of 10 Megabits per second (Mbps) and upload speeds of 1 Mbps. The bill then favors “Tier 2” projects (which provide a minimum of 25/3 Mbps service) to either unserved areas or to “Tier 1” areas (those where download speeds come in between 10 Mbps and 25 Mbps and upload speeds are between 1 Mbps and 3 Mbps). 

Finally, HB 13 provides extra consideration for projects aimed at “distressed areas,” projects that can demonstrate in-kind or other financial contributions that have already been approved, those that utilized public Rights-of-Way, and those that demonstrate advantages in terms of the speed of the buildout or future scalability.

Problem Provisions and Vague Definitions

Bill co-sponsor Rick Carfagna, who worked as Government Relations Manager for Time Warner Cable for 14 years,...

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Posted June 8, 2020 by Katie Kienbaum

While large Internet service providers routinely face some of the lowest customer satisfaction rates in the country, municipal broadband networks, like FairlawnGig in Fairlawn, Ohio, have set themselves apart by offering superior customer service to residents and businesses.

Case in point: recent subscriber surveys from FairlawnGig revealed that 94% of residential respondents were satisfied with their service from the community-owned network. Businesses in Fairlawn also appreciate the municipal fiber provider. A similar survey given to businesses showed that about 700 jobs — at least — can be directly ascribed to the FairlawnGig network.

“Our customer service revolves around our building a strong and diverse network to our residents and businesses,” Fairlawn Deputy Director of Public Service Ernie Staten said in a press release. “We have the extremely high customer satisfaction scores to prove it.”

Numbers Don’t Lie

FairlawnGig conducted its survey of residential subscribers at the end of April and found an astonishingly high rate of satisfaction among those surveyed. Overall, 94% of respondents said they were satisfied with the service and 77% reported that they were “very satisfied,” which is impressive even with an accuracy range of plus or minus four percentage points. Another three quarters of survey takers said that FairlawnGig’s customer service is “excellent.”

In addition, about half of respondents said that FairlawnGig was “extremely important” in their choice to live or stay in the community. And the survey found that activities like working from home and streaming movies and other entertainment increased after residents started subscribing to FairlawnGig’s Internet access.

A survey given to businesses in March revealed similar satisfaction with FairlawnGig. About half of...

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Posted February 11, 2020 by lgonzalez

In 2012, the Medina County Fiber Network (MCFN) first began offering fiber optic connectivity to businesses and community anchor institutions in the county. Jump forward eight years later and the network is now proving the case that Ohioans also want fast, affordable, reliable connections in the small communities where national providers aren't willing to upgrade.

Meeting a Goal

When we spoke with CEO David Corrado from MCFN in December 2019 for episode 386 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast, we learned about the new partnership between MCFN, Lit Communities, and Peak Communications. CEO Brian Snider and Chief Marketing Officer Ben Lewis-Ramirez from Lit Communities also participated in the conversation and the three explained how the partners were employing a community based model to expand the open access fiber optic infrastructure with private capital. 

The entity they created for the project is Medina Fiber and focuses on expanding the benefits of the network to residents in Medina County.

In a February 11th press release from MCFN, Corrado announced that the project has reached a key milestone. Monthly revenue from the network now equals the MCFN $100,000 monthly bond payment.

From the press release:

“This is a key metric that we’re pleased to reach as Medina County Fiber Network begins expanding our trusted network to homes throughout Medina County. It’s proof that the county’s investment in fiber infrastructure works well now, and positions our community for even more economic success and better quality-of-life.”

In December, the initial construction began to approximately 6,100 households in the Villages of Seville, Westfield Center, and Guilford Township at a cost of around $8 million. According to Corrado, demand in these areas "remains strong." Now that the community based open access model is proving to be effective to bring better connectivity to residents and that locals are showing they want to sign up for services, plans are in...

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Posted December 12, 2019 by lgonzalez

In 2014, industry analyst and consultant Craig Settles experienced a stroke which lead him down a period of recovery which he discussed last year when we interviewed him about telehealth for our podcast. The experience inspired Craig to consider how broadband could help others avoid the same situation with preventative telehealth applications. Now, Craig is attacking hypertension in several of Cleveland, Ohio's local barbershops and hair salons.

You can also help save lives with broadband when you contribute to the GoFundMe campaign to finance the pilot program

Hypertension is A Silent Killer

logo-gigabit-nation-mic.png As the American Heart Association reports, more than 40 percent of African Americans have high blood pressure. Often it develops earlier in life for this group, increasing the chance of heart disease and stroke. Urban Kutz, whose clientele includes many African Americans, has provided periodic blood pressure screening for some time, but Craig and owner Waverly Willis want to take it to the next level.

"I find at least 90% of my customers have high blood pressure, and many don’t know about the dangers of hypertension," says Willis.

These are the new community anchor institutions to drive both telehealth and broadband adoption. Willis explains, "Barbers and hairdressers are part-time marriage counselors, psychiatrists, spiritual advisers, and expert listeners. So many customers listen to our medical advice.”

Craig plans on launching pilot programs in barbershops and hair salons in five communities. He'll work with participants on:

[H]ow to use telehealth and community owned broadband in a pilot project to attack hypertension (high blood pressure), the leading cause...

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Posted December 11, 2019 by lgonzalez

The city of Fairlawn, Ohio, has less than 8,000 residents, but daytime population swells to around 40,000 because the Akron suburb is a hotspot for commerce. When city leaders decided to develop the FairlawnGig broadband utility in 2015, they knew that it was necessary to retain businesses and they were right - the fiber optic infrastructure is spurring economic benefits. People who live in and around Fairlawn, however, are also reaping the rewards. In a video released by Corning about the city's investment, we learn more about both business and residential subscribers who make the most of the city's broadband utility.

Success in the Numbers

In addition to increased home resale values of 8.7 percent the first year and 8.2 percent in year two, 257 new jobs have come to the community within the FairlawnGig footprint. There are 15 new businesses in the community, in part because commercial subscribers can sign up for 10 gigabit per second connectivity. For Enterprise subscribers, 100 gigabit service is available. There are factors that contribute to the boon, of course, but before the municipal network utility, potential businesses cited Fairlawn's poor Internet access as a reason for locating elsewhere.

Subscribers in the community pay around 7.5 cents per Megabit per second (Mbps); in the past they paid around $4.23 per Mbps from the incumbent. Residential subscribers can sign up for service that they describe as "half the cost and twice the speed" and can get Internet access of up to a gig.

Testament

In this video, you'll see resident and City Council person Barb Potts describe how her children and grandchildren have tested the limits of the gigabit service, which comes through with flying colors. 

Several residents that also run businesses in Fairlawn, praise the city's foresight in making the investment. They appreciate local leadership's efforts to improve economic opportunities and develop a utility that provides an affordable and reliable critical service such as Internet access. By implementing a project that brings a much-needed improvement to the region, city leaders have boosted their credibility along with local connectivity.

The owner of the Akron/Fairlawn...

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Posted December 10, 2019 by lgonzalez

The Medina County Fiber Network (MCFN) has already made important strides in north central Ohio. The network, which offers dark fiber and lit services, provides important connectivity for carriers, institutions, and businesses. In this interview, we hear from CEO David Corrado, who explains how it's time to move to residential services; he introduces us to MCFN's partner, Lit Communities. CEO Brian Snider and Chief Marketing Officer Ben Lewis-Ramirez join in the conversation.

Our three guests explain the new entity that they're creating through this venture, Medina Fiber, and talk about how the partnership came about. We learn more about Lit Communities and their commitment to the community based model that combines private capital with open access infrastructure to serve the needs of a local community. Ben and Brian discuss their hopes and ideas for the model and why they feel it's especially suitable for a place like Medina County.

We learn more about some of the benefits that are growing out of the MCFN and how Medina Fiber will use the infrastructure to deliver special services for residents. Brian, Ben, and David discuss their ideas of success for the project.

You can hear more about the MCFN from our last conversation with David during episode 220 from 2016.

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

This show is 37 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes ...

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Posted November 25, 2019 by lgonzalez

Shelby, a community of about 9,300 people located in north central Ohio, has recently released a Request for Proposals (RFP) for a Broadband Needs Assessment and Feasibility Study. The municipality is exploring new ways to improve local connectivity. Proposals are due December 20th.

Read the full RFP here.

Looking Ahead

Incumbents Spectrum Cable and CenturyLink offer services in the community, but as we've seen in other places, lack of affordability, slow speeds, and poor customer service encourage interest in publicly owned options. According to the RFP, Internet service provider Everstream owns fiber optic assets in Shelby and operates a fiber hub within a facility owned by the city. Everstream provides Internet access to the city and community leaders have approached Everstream about expanding the network to businesses and residents. Shelby wants to explore all possibilities, however, so decided to commission a feasibility study. From the RFP:

The City considers a modern digital infrastructure to be a critical component of a competitive city of the future and wishes to ensure that it is well positioned to meet the current and future needs of its residents, businesses and anchor institutions.

This project will result in the production of a Feasibility Study containing a residential needs assessment, business needs assessment, and deployment cost estimates. The desired outcome of this planning effort is to provide a tool for the City to establish if Shelby residents and businesses want this service, determine a successful deployment strategy and the associated cost to implement fiber to the premises (“FTTP”) within the City, and assess whether such project will be sufficiently supported by customer rates to justify the investment in this infrastructure.

Shelby is looking for a firm that will provide a feasibility study that includes:

Needs assessment: In addition to examining the current needs for residents and businesses, the consultants will develop projections of potential broadband services with Everstream or other service providers. The firm selected should examine regional efforts in addition to local options.

Infrastructure and deployment recommendations: In addition to examining...

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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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