Tag: "new england"

Posted August 10, 2018 by lgonzalez

Lobbyists from the cable and telecom industry succeeded in using the legislature to firm up their rural Massachusetts monopolies this session. Communities that rely on state funds for local publicly owned broadband infrastructure projects now face restrictions on the reach of their high-speed networks.

A Long Trip Through the Legislature

Governor Charlie Baker’s economic development bill includes a provision designating funding for the Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI) and the Executive Office of Housing & Economic Development for broadband deployment. The agencies distribute the funds to various communities where residents and businesses plan to improve their local connectivity. Approximately 20 towns have decided to invest in publicly owned Internet infrastructure, including Alford, Otis, and Mount Washington, to name a few. Others are taking offers from Comcast and Charter, which will build out networks to more premises with state funding. 

Many of the rural communities who are going with the publicly owned option want to connect households and establishments within the town proper, but also what they describe as “edge” properties — those beyond town limits but have no other choice for broadband. Edge properties in western Massachusetts typically don’t have access to anything better than expensive and unreliable satellite or dial-up. Often, there are only a few “edge” properties in each community, but neighbors don’t want to leave anyone behind. 

Baker’s bill began its trip through the state legislature in March and, as is the case with typical large bills, went through numerous hearings along the way. Over the course of the legislative process, a question arose as to whether or not those rural towns wanting to serve edge properties would be able to use state funding to reach edge properties. In the original version of the bill, language specifically allowed municipalities the right to cross municipal borders to serve edge properties, but when the telecom industry opposed the language, it was removed in the House. The action left an ambiguous gap that Gail...

Read more
Posted May 25, 2018 by lgonzalez

Over the past year, towns in rural areas of Maine have mobilized and are taking steps to improve local connectivity. The latest is the community of Penobscot, where the local Broadband Committee recently released a Request for Information (RFI) to seek out firms interested in helping them bring broadband to the coastal community. Responses are due by July 11, 2018.

Read the RFI.

Design and (Perhaps) Implementation

Primarily, the Committee seeks to find a firm interested in providing engineering design. Penobscot clearly states that their goal is to bring symmetrical service to every premise, that speeds are consistent and reliable, and that they expect to see proposals suggesting speeds higher than the FCC’s 25/3 broadband standard.

Like many of the smaller towns in rural Maine and elsewhere, Penobscot isn’t jumping at the chance to operate their own fiber optic network. They're hoping that respondents will be ISPs interested in also operating the network and offering services via the infrastructure.

Goals for Penobscot

According to the RFI, many of the 1,200 year-round residents support themselves with home-based businesses, one of the many sectors that require faster upload speeds for day-to-day operations. In addition to craft and artisans, seasonal businesses cater to tourists that visit each year. People in Penobscot feel that it’s time to take steps to attract younger families to keep the community alive and thriving and Penobscot understands that broadband is a priority for their target demographic. They also want to convince seasonal visitors to stay longer or relocate and free public Wi-Fi is a priority.

logo-penobscot-me.png Other Maine towns, such as Rockport and Sandford, are investing in broadband; communities that continue to rely on slow DSL and cable networks will have a harder time competing for...

Read more
Posted April 27, 2018 by lgonzalez

Nestled along the south eastern border of Maine are Baileyville and Calais. As rural communities situated next to Canada in the state's "Downeast" region, neither town is on a list of infrastructure upgrades from incumbents. With an aging population, a need to consider their economic future, and no hope of help from big national ISPs, Baileyville and Calais are joining forces and developing their own publicly owned broadband utility.

Baileyville and Calais

There are about 3,000 residents in Calais (pronounced "Kal-iss") and 1,500 in Baileyville, but according to Julie Jordan, Director of Downeast Economic Development Corporation (DEDC), many of those residents are aging and younger people find little reason to stay or relocate in Washington County. The community recognizes that they need to draw in new industries and jobs that will attract young families to keep the towns from fading off the map.

Most of the residents in the region must rely on slow DSL from Consolidated Communications (formerly FairPoint), while a few have access to cable from Spectrum (formerly Time Warner Cable); expensive and unreliable satellite is also an option and there's some limited fixed wireless coverage in the area. A few larger businesses that require fiber optic connectivity can find a way to have it installed, but Julie tells us that it's incredibly expensive in the area and most can't afford the high rates for fiber.

Economic Development Driven

logo-baileyville-me.png Organized in 2015, the nonprofit DEDC came together with the focus on recruiting new businesses to the area and to support existing businesses. As DEDC quickly discovered, unless the region could offer high-speed, reliable Internet infrastructure, attracting new businesses and helping existing businesses expand would be extremely difficult. They also determined that new families would not be interested in Baileyville or Calais without high-quality connectivity. "It was a no-brainer," says Julie, "you have to go fiber."

One of the largest regional employers, Woodland Pulp, need fiber in order to operate and as Julie describes, "they pay up the nose" for connectivity. All their equipment is computerized and they...

Read more
Posted July 21, 2017 by lgonzalez

The small seaside community of Lewes, Delaware, is considering investing in a Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) Internet network for connectivity to its 3,000 inhabitants.

Consideration

According to the Lewes Board of Public Works (BPW) General Manager Darrin Gordon, the city electric utility has a plan to connect to Fibertech Networks infrastructure, which reaches Lewes. Fibertech obtained a $1 million state grant in 2015 to expand its infrastructure in rural areas of Delaware.

BPW has been investigating the possibility of bringing high-quality Internet access to households and businesses for a while now. The BPW plan envisions a publicly owned network that connects to the Fibertech network and extends throughout Lewes that will be deployed in four phases. "The rolling deployment will help recover costs and help with funding the next phases," Gordon said. 

"We want to take it slow to ensure that whoever does take the service that it's the very best and everything we promised it was going to be," Gordon said. "We know that word of mouth around here can be the saving grace or the death knell."

BPW anticipates that the first phase could be finished as soon as four to five months from commencement and the second phase two months later. The first two phases will be aerial deployment with later phases consisting of underground plant.

The city is working with a consultant to estimate a final cost to make the investment and to determine what residents and businesses would pay for the service. BPW will survey customers to obtain a better idea of the amount of interest before moving forward.

Lewes, Delaware

Lewes describes itself as “the first town in the first state,” having started as a trading post by Dutch settlers in 1631. The community changed names and hands several times between the English and the Dutch; William Penn and gave it the name “Lewes” in 1682 and it’s kept the name ever since.

The town is a popular vacation and resort town for Washington D.C. residents. In addition to its location along the Atlantic, the town’s historic character draws tourists. It has a Fisherman’s...

Read more
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

Pages

Subscribe to new england