Tag: "new england"

Posted May 3, 2017 by lgonzalez

We’ve been covering the East-Central Vermont Community Fiber-Optic Network (ECFiber) since 2009; it has come a long way from inception. ECFiber is a group of rural Vermont towns that are working together to deploy a regional network to offer high-quality Internet access to communities typically stuck with slow, unreliable connections such as DSL and dial-up. In this episode, Christopher talks with Carole Monroe, CEO of ValleyNet, and Irv Thomae, District Chairmen of ECFiber’s Governing Board. The not-for-profit ValleyNet operates the ECFiber network.

The organization has faced ups and downs and always seemed to overcome challenges. It began with funding from individual local investors who recognized the need to bring Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) to the region. Now, the organization is characterized as a “communications union district,” which creates greater funding flexibility and stability.

In this interview, Carole and Irv talk about the new designation and the plans for bringing the network to the communities that are clamoring for better Internet access. They also get into recent developments surrounding overbuilding by DSL provider FairPoint, a project funded by CAF II subsidies. We hear how ECFiber is bringing better connectivity to local schools and helping save public dollars at the same time and we find out more about the ways Vermonters in the eastern rural communities are using their publicly owned network.

Read the transcript of the show here.

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

This show is 29 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed.

You can download this mp3 file... Read more

Posted March 21, 2017 by lgonzalez

Even though they don't have to chip in any local funds, the town of Shutesbury, Massachusetts, rejected Charter’s proposal to build a hybrid fiber coaxial network in their community. They don’t consider the proposal a “good long-term solution to bring broadband to our town" and prefer to build a publicly owned fiber-optic network for future-proof technology, provider accountability, and local control.

You Get What You Pay For

Unlike Charter’s proposal to serve only 96 percent of the homes in the community, the town made a commitment to include all members of the community some time ago. Charter would not extend its proposal to include about three dozen properties that are further out unless the town committed to providing funds above and beyond what the state offered to provide as part of the proposal. Board of Selectmen Chair Michael Vinskey went on to tell MassLive that Charter would not commit to a specific cost for extending a network to those additional homes.

In the words of Vinskey, committing to such an ambiguous arrangement, “would not be fiscally responsible.” No kidding.

Shutesbury authorized spending for a Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network once already. In 2015, folks at the annual Town Meeting voted to approve $1.7 million in bonding to pay for the infrastructure. They’ll take another vote this May for the debt exclusion authorization, as required by state law.

Community leaders estimate deployment to every property at approximately $2.57 million. Their share of the state grants that are to be distributed by MBI come to $870,000 for construction and professional services. Like the community of Leverett, Shutesbury intends to use a modest property tax increase to fund the infrastructure investment. 

A basic subscription for Internet access at speeds higher than those proposed by Charter would cost approximately $75 per month and would not include video services but would include Voice over IP (VoIP) services. A number of the local communities in the western Massachusetts region have dealt with sub-par telephone services due to aging infrastructure.

Shutesbury wants... Read more

Posted March 20, 2017 by lgonzalez

A new case study recently released by the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University describes how the community of Concord, Massachusetts deployed its extensive municipal fiber-optic network and smart grid. In Citizens Take Charge: Concord, Massachusetts, Builds a Fiber Network, the authors offer history, and describe the benefits to the community from better connectivity and enhanced electric efficiencies.

 

 

Key Findings from the report:

  • In 2009 Concord Municipal Light Plant (CMLP) started work on a 100-mile fiber optic and wireless network to provide backhaul for a smart grid. The fiber passes 95 percent of homes and businesses in town. 
  • The $3.9 million project was paid for by electric ratepayers through annual payments that started at $418,000 per year and will decline to $207,000 in the 15th and final year of payments. The fiber will last for at least 30 years. 
  • In a second step, CMLP established a telecommunications division, called Concord Light Broadband, and borrowed $600,000 to fund startup costs of an Internet access business and fiber connections to customers. 
  • CMLP offers residential data plans of up to 200 Mbps, upload and download, for $89 monthly with a two-year agreement. CMLP competes with Comcast. CMLP doesn’t offer phone or video, but does provide much faster data upload speeds than does Comcast. 
  • The project is still being built: at the end of 2016, Concord Light Broadband served about 750 customers (a “take rate” of about 12 percent of the 6,000 customers CMLP estimates could take service) and earned 2016 revenue of $560,000, slightly less than operating costs of $583,000. (In 2016 the division also paid debt service of $60,000, including a $50,000 payment on principal.)
  • CMLP’s fiber helped the town save $108,000 in annual police and school communications costs and generated $88,000 in leasing revenue from a private school and two telecom companies. 
  • CMLP is only in the early stages of realizing the benefits of its fiber. The utility is now engaged in studies on how to use the infrastructure to realize more cost savings, increase revenue, provide new services, and reduce emissions in the coming decades.
  • David Talbot, one of the report authors, also recently... Read more
Posted August 16, 2016 by christopher

Cape Cod's OpenCape is the latest of the stimulus-funded middle mile broadband projects to focus on expanding to connect businesses and residents. We talk to OpenCape Executive Director Steve Johnston about the new focus and challenge of expansion in episode 215 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast.

Steve has spent much of his first year as executive director in meetings with people all across the Cape. We talk about how important those meetings are and why Steve made them a priority in the effort to expand OpenCape.

We also talk about the how OpenCape is using Crowd Fiber to allow residents to show their interest in an OpenCape connection. They hope that expanding the network will encourage people to spend more time on the Cape, whether living or vacationing.

The Cape is not just a vacation spot, it has a large number of full time residents that are looking for more economic opportunities and the higher quality of life that comes with full access to modern technology.

Read the transcript of this episode here.

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

This show is 26 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 Roller Genoa for the music, licensed using Creative Commons. The song is "Safe and Warm in Hunter's Arms."

Posted July 27, 2016 by christopher

Overlooked by the incumbent telephone company, Mount Washington in the southwest corner of Massachusetts is becoming one of the smallest FTTH communities in the country by investing in a municipal fiber network. A strong majority of the town committed to three years of service and the state contributed $230,000 to build the network after a lot of local groundwork and organizing.

Select Board member Gail Garrett joins us for episode 212 of the Community Broadband Bits to discuss their process and the challenges of crafting an economical plan on such a small scale.

It turns out that the rural town had some advantages - low make-ready costs from the lack of wires on poles and no competition to have to worry about. So they are moving forward and with some cooperation from the telephone company and electric utility, they could build it pretty quickly. We also discuss what happens to those homes that choose not to take service when it is rolled out - they will have to pay more later to be connected.

Read the rest of our coverage of Mt Washington here.

Read the transcript of this episode 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 Roller Genoa for the music, licensed using Creative Commons. The song is "Safe and Warm in Hunter's Arms."

Posted June 22, 2016 by lgonzalez

Rockport was the first community in Maine to build a fiber-optic network to serve businesses, but their pioneering initiative will not extend to Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH). At their annual town meeting on June 15th, the local Opera House was packed as citizens showed up to speak on funding an FTTH engineering and network design study. After an extended debate, attendees voted on the measure and defeated the town warrant to spend $300,000 on the project.

According to the Penobscot Bay Pilot, passions flared as a number of people stood up to explain their vote. Several people in support of the project had previous experience with life after fiber:

Deborah Hall, on the other hand, said she led an effort in another state to take fiber optics to 500 homes. That effort resulted in the fact that the “average resident is now saving 100 dollars every month in getting rid of Comcast.”

She recounted how the fiber optic system already in place in Rockport was a draw for her family to return to live in the town. They improved their Internet on Russell Avenue by personally spending the money to extend the fiber to their home, and consequently “reduced our collective Internet and television bills by $155 a month. That’s over 50 percent.”

Rockport’s youth described their dilemma, living in a place where connectivity was less than adequate:

Thomas R. Murphy said he also grew up in town but said: “I am leaving this town to seek a technology career, and am moving to Austin. I have to do this because we do not have technology in this town.”

He warned that sticking with the status quo, residents were paying a company “to make profits and take profits to shareholders in other places.”

“We can keep our resources here and improve lives of everyone. This is an investment we need to make for our future. Costs can be spread thoughtfully by the town, and we can pay forward to the future of the town.”

People at the meeting who did not support the project did not like the idea of paying an estimated $150 more per year in property taxes, even though it would significantly lower monthly Internet... Read more

Posted April 26, 2016 by ternste

The East Central Vermont Community Fiber-Optic Network (ECFiber), a 235-mile Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network that currently connects over 1,200 customers across 24 small towns in east central Vermont, is doing well. It’s doing so well, in fact, that a capital investment group will commit $9 million in long-term financing to the network, a loan that will allow ECFiber to expand and spend down some of its existing debt. 

ECFiber announced last month, that it will use about half of the funds to activate 110 miles of existing fiber this year and add 250 more miles of fiber in 2017 bringing the network to approximately 600 miles. Network officials will use the remaining funds to pay down $7 million in debt; the move will allow ECFiber to save money through reduced interest rates and spread out loan payments over a longer period of time.

Stability Begets New Financing, New Possibilities

The news of this new injection of debt financing comes several years after the original plan to build a larger 1,900-mile, $90 million FTTH network ultimately didn’t materialize in the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2008. When ECFiber failed to secure debt financing for that larger plan, the network scaled back its ambitions, turning to direct investments and raising $7 million from 479 local investors to construct the current network.

This self-financing strategy (for more, listen to our Chris interview Carole Monroe, former General Manager in Community Broadband Bits podcast #177) made ECFiber a reality. This new financing will allow the network to expand at a faster pace and allows ECFiber to significantly stretch its footprint. In the past, the crowd funding approach allowed for targeted, smaller expansions.

The network became eligible for the new debt financing after ECFiber officials took proactive steps in recent years to demonstrate the... Read more

Posted April 12, 2016 by lgonzalez

As Burlington, Vermont, searches for a buyer for Burlington Telecom, the local residents and business owners continue to remain engaged in the future of their beloved Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network. Most recently, they made it clear that their first priority is finding a local company to own and operate the fiber network.

VT Digger reported that, according to a survey conducted by the BT Board of Advisors:

Several residents have said they would like to see Burlington Telecom sold to a locally owned co-operative and that their greatest concern is the utility being sold to one of its larger competitors such as Comcast, AT&T or FairPoint.

From the report:

Though the City is precluded by the terms of its settlement Agreement with Citibank from continuing to own the Asset, a carried equity interest is permitted. It is important that all ownership options be explored and considered in light of the legal requirements and the City’s goals for BT. However, the BTAB [Burlington Telecom Advisory Board] agrees with the vast majority of interested participants in this process that the sale of BT to one of its existing, national competitors would likely not be in the overall best interests of the City. 

At a recent meeting, David Provost, chair of the advisory board said, “The best option from our perspective is finding a buyer with ties to the local community that will allow the city to have a minority stake in Burlington Telecom."

A Troubled Past, An Uncertain Future

After years of cover-ups by the city's past leadership, CitiBank eventually sued Burlington for $33 million. The parties settled and, as part of the settlement, Burlington transferred ownership to Blue Water LLC, a company formed by Burlington businessman Trey Pecor. In exchange, Blue Water provided $6 million in bridge financing to allow the city to settle the lawsuit with Citibank. The city is still leasing the network temporarily but the ultimate goal is to find a partner to purchase the network. 

According to the terms of the settlement, Burlington can... Read more

Posted March 24, 2016 by Scott

A major institutional customer on the OpenCape fiber optic network in the Cape Cod region of Massachusetts is now enjoying Internet access at double the speed. 

CapeCod.com reports that local CapeNet, the supplier of service over the OpenCape network, has doubled the Internet speed for the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) from 1 Gigabits per second (Gbps) to 2 Gbps. By switching to CapeNet as its primary provider, WHOI now also has the ability to expand up to 10 Gbps.

Previously, CapeNet provided 100 megabits to WHOI as a secondary provider, but the research and educational organization was interested in dramatically increasing its Internet capacity. In order to increase capacity, WHOI needed to make the switch to CapeNet.

CapeNet, the private provider that operates via the CapeNet fiber infrastructure, offers services across southeastern Massachusetts and to every town on the Cape. In addition to 150 institutional customers, the network connects businesses that handle large data, libraries, colleges, high schools, research facilities, municipal buildings, healthcare clinics, and public safety agencies. It is middle mile infrastructure, which means it links the Internet backbone to organizations and businesses that serve end users.

To become the primary broadband provider for WHOI, CapeNet installed additional equipment in Boston, Providence, and throughout the research campus. “It was actually quite a substantial undertaking in order to expand their capabilities,” said Alan Davis, chief executive officer of CapeNet.  

CapeNet On The Move...To Businesses and Residents?

CapeCod.com also reports that CapeNet is: 

...[C]ontinuing to expand services to educational institutions on the Cape. 

“We hope and expect that by the end of this year, certainly... Read more

Posted February 26, 2016 by htrostle

Vernon, Vermont, is a little town in search of a boost to the local economy. The Commons reports that residents formed a Fiber Optic Committee in June and now are exploring the possibility of a municipal network.

First an Idea, Now a Plan

In December of 2014, the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Plant in the town began to shutdown. Over the next few years, as the plant ends operations, it will eliminate a total of 400 jobs in a town of 2,200. Vernon is looking for other keys to economic development.

A local resident came up with an idea -- fiber optics. Vernon's Munson Hicks, is now a member of the 5-person Fiber Optic Committee seeking to find a way to make the idea a reality:

“I couldn’t think of anything that would boost the town more quickly and more securely after the loss of VY [Vermont Yankee Nuclear Plant] than creating our own high-speed Internet” 

The committee has spoken with contractors, and consultants in order to develop a realistic idea of the cost. They estimate a price tag of $2 - 3 million for a Fiber-to-the-Home project. They are considering a consortium model - crossing state lines, with neighboring towns Hinsdale, New Hampshire, and Bernardston, Massachusetts.  

What’s Next for Vernon

The Vernon Planning Commission has not endorsed the plan yet; the Fiber Optics Committee still has a long road ahead of it. They have to confirm community support for the plan and find funding through grants or loans.

At the January 19th community forum, Committee members shared their findings with residents and explained the need for grassroots mementum:

“Really, I think we need to look at this as an economic development initiative for Vernon,” [Committee Member Martin] Langeveld said. “Businesses already need this kind of speed or very soon will need this kind of speed, so having that in town will really be a big plus in trying to get more businesses to locate here.”

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