Tag: "nonprofit"

Posted November 29, 2010 by christopher

Vermonters are asking some hard questions about the federal broadband stimulus decision to throw money at a wireless network for Vermont rather than loaning money to an organization dedicated to delivering real broadband.

Senator Bernie Sanders convened a meeting to discuss the awards toward the end of October.

Senator Bernie Sanders led off his “broadband town meeting” Saturday morning at Vermont Technical College with a ringing affirmation of the need for better broadband coverage in Vermont and the nation.

However, nobody in the crowd of nearly 300 people needed to be convinced of that. What they wanted to know was whether a huge new federal grant to a private company was the right way to do it.

VTel, a small private telephone company, received a $116 million grant to build a FTTH network to serve their existing 18,000 footprint as well as a wireless network that is intended to serve the entire state.

In contrast, the East Central Vermont Fiber Network (which we have covered previously), applied for a loan to build a FTTH network to everyone in the 24 communities that have joined together to form the network. The ECFiber network would be run by a nonprofit and would repay the loan from revenue generated by selling triple-play services on the network.

Vermonters have a strong fiscal conservatism streak, which has shown up strongly in the discussions around this situation, something noted in a story leading up to the Sanders meeting:

He will get plenty of both from representatives of ECFiber, the consortium of 23 towns that has been planning a network of fiber-optic broadband to virtually every home in the White River Valley and beyond.

The organization was stung recently when its own request for a loan was not funded by RUS, which instead awarded a much larger outright grant to VTel, which is located in Springfield.

Our position at MuniNetworks, is quite similar to that of the these Vermonters: loans would be better policy than grants for broadband infrastructure.

Supporters of the wireless network, including VTel's CEO, Michel Guite, have suggested the $116 million...

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Posted November 13, 2010 by christopher

A non-profit brainchild of the Ontario County local government in New York, Axcess Ontario, has built a fiber-optic ring in what used to be a broadband desert. A local business recently wrote about their experience with the network:

We recently determined that our bandwidth was insufficient due to our growth and we went about the process of bringing in additional bandwidth. We contacted a local company, Finger Lakes Technologies Group and were pleasantly surprised to discover that the ring was now totally accessible to our location and after a few simple conversations, we committed to the installation of a local link to the new fiber optic network that was now approaching maturity.

In short, this is yet another non-profit putting community needs first and building the infrastructure we need.

Posted July 26, 2010 by christopher

The East Central Vermont Fiber Network is launching a pilot project to start connecting rural customers with a FTTH network. EC Fiber has long labored to find funding -- it was one of many projects to see funding avenues disappear with the economic collapse following the fall of Lehman Brothers. The Feds also failed to fund them (instead opting to fund middle mile after middle mile of projects that were less offensive to powerful incumbent companies.

But they have returned to the private markets and feel sufficiently confident about financing options to build this pilot project.

The pilot project will provide a solid foundation for the capital lease used to build out the rest of the network, providing 100% coverage in 23 towns in East Central Vermont. While the intent of the project is to prove that the larger project is viable, according to Nulty, “it will be able to stand on its own if we don’t raise another dime of capital.”

The project is expected to cost some $80 million in total to cover the 23 participating towns. ECFiber has already obtained the necessary permissions from the State to offer video and telecommunications services. The Pilot Project targets the town of Bethel, where the central hub for the entire network is located.

ECFiber is one of many groups that are using a nonprofit ownership model to build the network. The towns work together to create a nonprofit that will finance, own, and operate the network to ensure community needs are put before profits -- now and in the future.

Update: The pilot project will only offer broadband and phone services due to the high fixed cost of trying to offer video services for such a small population.

Posted July 9, 2010 by christopher

The end of June brought an end to an initial phase of the Wired West campaign for real broadband in rural Massachusetts. When we previously looked in on the Wired West efforts, they had 39 towns supporting the idea.

By June 26th, that number had grown to 47.

The local paper outlined the overwhelming support and next steps.

Once the non-profit has been formed, financing options would have to be identified, and preliminary design and cost estimate work would start.

None of the cost of the project would be borne by the towns, Webb said.

Ongoing maintenance cost and debt service payments would come from money paid to the agency by the service providers, added Andrew Michael Cohill, president of Design Nine, a consultancy hired to help WiredWest through the next phase of development.

A previous article discussed a cost estimate of the network and how much money residents send outside their community for service.

Monica Webb, a spokesperson for WiredWest, said that a consultant who met last year with representatives from Mount Washington and 10 other towns in southern Berkshire County estimated the cost of building a fiber-optic network for that region at $27 million.

But, Webb said, the consultant calculated that the roughly 12,000 households in the region were already paying an average of $125 a month for Internet and other telecommunication services – an amount that adds up to $18 million a year that people “are putting in an envelope and sending outside of your region.”

The most recent announcement relating to the project discusses how a recent federal broadband stimulus grant to the Massachusetts Broadband Institute will aid the Wired West network.

This will enable a robustmiddle-mile network to be built by the Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI) in Western and North-Central Massachusetts that will serve 123 communities. This wholesale network will bring MBI’s...

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Posted June 21, 2010 by christopher

A Recipe for Starting a Local Broadband Wireless Network via Federal Stimulus Funding

Wally Bowen has created a "cookbook" with step-by-step instructions for creating a community wireless network. This is a solid introduction to wireless networks.

Federal broadband stimulus funding is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for local nonprofit organizations -- especially community media centers -- to become Internet service providers (ISP) and begin developing new revenue streams. It's also an historic opportunity for advocates of Internet Freedom. Creating community-based broadband networks would be a huge step toward creating the critical "third pipe" alternative to the cable/telco duopoly. The proliferation of these community-based networks would generate market pressure to force the major carriers to restore “net neutrality” protections for broadband users.

In short, this broadband stimulus opportunity opens the door to the possibility of a new “Jeffersonian Internet” comprised of a “network-of-grassroots-networks” where civil liberties and quality journalism are valued over Wall Street business models.

"Local Network Cookbook: A Recipe for Launching a Local Broadband Wireless Network" is aimed at helping nonprofit organizations -- especially those already using digital technologies -- move quickly to plan and submit a broadband stimulus funding proposal for one of the three application windows.

Posted June 14, 2010 by christopher

Stop the Cap! has the authored the most recent of several articles examining a unique middle mile broadband approach in the Finger Lakes region of New York. Their title summarizes the motivation: Ontario County, NY: We Need Fiber So Badly, We Just Did It Ourselves. That story includes a video clip of a recent CNBC Power Lunch 2 minute piece about the Axcess Ontario initiative (complete with the factual error that "no provider offers 100Mbps;" in fact, several community broadband networks offer 100Mbps and Chattanooga has moved beyond with a 150Mbps offering).

Ontario County has a population of some 100,000. To stay relevant in the modern era, they determined the County had to do something to improve broadband availability, so they created a nonprofit called Axcess Ontario, an initiative sufficiently impressive for the County's CIO to receive an award - State Public Sector CIO of the Year.

In creating Axcess Ontario (originally named Finger Lakes Regional Telecommunications Development Corp), the County wanted to be locally self-reliant and did not seek funding from the federal government:

Unlike numerous similar attempts in other parts of the country, Ontario County funded its network without dollars from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Those who created Axcess Ontario were insistent the project shouldn't rely on the availability of outside funding, according to Edward Hemminger, CIO of Ontario County.

The network's startup costs were $7.5 million, which the municipality generated through the Ontario County Office of Economic Development/Industrial Development Agency. The organization is a quasi-government agency created by the state to generate economic activity. Businesses pay the agency for various services, the revenue from which pays for initiatives like Axcess Ontario.

In order to mollify the private sector, the county...

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Posted May 11, 2010 by christopher

KMOX, a station from St. Louis, recently asked what Ohio's OneCommunity did correctly in building a regional broadband network. The article is interesting for some background on OneCommunity, but the discussion of what St. Louis attempted is somewhat lacking (and the reporters appear to have little expertise in broadband).

OneCommunity is a successful nonprofit approach to expanding broadband access by working with various entities - sharing the resources of public entities as well as private carriers to the benefit of everyone. However, its results are somewhat less predictable than the admittedly more top-down approach of a local government-run initiative that can ensure everyone in a community gets a certain kind of connection. On the other hand, OneCommunity is more insulated from the fluctuations of everyday politics that can hurt or slow projects operated by a local government, depending on the structure (remember, structure is defined by rules ... and rules matter).

My impression is also that OneCommunity has been tremendously successful in securing broadband for middle mile and large institutional needs, but its approach at solving the last-mile problem has been hit-or-miss depending on the community. By lowering the cost of backhaul, the private sector may be more interested in building those last-mile connections, but residents do not get the full benefits of service from a provider that puts community needs above profits.

OneCommunity started in Cleveland with the idea of collecting spare or unused broadband capacity (often using assets after the dotcom bust) and putting it to use.

Along with a variety of other key community anchors, the network connects some 65 hospitals in all.

"We're allowing point of care treatment through remote specialists that actually allow, not only a triage of patients in the emergency room, but actually direct treatment and diagnosis on site in real time from a third-party specialist located in another institution."

OneCommunity's network is sufficiently large that these hospitals can connect directly to each other rather than each connecting to the larger Internet to send information amongst themselves. Just as in Lafayette, where all in-network connections occur at 100Mbps, OneCommunity can offer...

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Posted April 15, 2010 by christopher

The Baller Herbst Law Group filed an extensive report with the FCC detailing important information about OneCommunity - a fascinating nonprofit organization connecting many communities with fiber and wireless connectivity in Ohio. OneCommunity works with a variety of public and private sector partners to expand access to last mile and middle mile connectivity. Because they fall within our broad definition of putting public needs first, I wanted to highlight this report.

OneCommunity’s roots go back to 2001. At the time, Case Western Reserve University (Case) had a robust fiber-optic communications system and considerable networking expertise, but the rest of Cleveland lacked advanced communications capability. Case’s president, Edward Hundert, and its chief information officer, Lev Gonick, believed that broadband connections to the Internet promised to be a major factor in the local economy’s long-term health; that broadband could transform Northern Ohio from a manufacturing-based to an information-based economy; and that Case could play a profoundly beneficial role in enhancing Cleveland’s broadband future. As a result, Hundert and Gonick reached out to several of Cleveland’s leading government, educational, cultural, philanthropic, and other non-profit organizations and persuaded them to join Case in founding a new entity called “OneCleveland” that would provide gigabit connectivity to participating organizations and pave the way for widespread and free wireless service.

OneCleveland expanded far outside the City and changed its name to OneCommunity. It has already tallied an impressive list of achievements:

In the Northern Ohio region, OneCommunity facilitated public and private arrangements for the deployment of a gigabit-capacity fiber-optic community network, soon spanning 22 counties and now serving over 200 subscriber entities and 1,500 schools, hospitals, clinics, government, and public safety locations. Over one million citizens are affected by the organizations that OneCommunity serves through the network.

The network is open and carrier neutral, but so much more. Read the paper -- and appendixes -- for more information. PS : I should note that I disagree with the conclusion:

OneCommunity is not attached to any particular ownership model for broadband infrastructure, believing...

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Posted June 19, 2009 by christopher

Some shorter news items from this weeks' news:

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