Tag: "economic development"

Posted January 17, 2017 by christopher

From our research, we believe the municipal fiber-optic network in Wilson, North Carolina, has the best low-income Internet access program in the nation. Called Greenlight, the fiber network has led to job growth and been a financial success. And now it also offers $10 per month 50 Mbps symmetrical Internet access to those living in housing units owned by the public housing authority.

Greenlight General Manager Will Aycock is back again to tell us about this program and is joined by two additional guests: CEO and President Kelly Vick from the Wilson Housing Authority and Wilson Communications and Marketing Director Rebecca Agner. 

We discuss how the program was created, how it is funded, and how it is impacting the community in addition to public reaction to it. Wilson continues to set a higher bar for what a community can expect when it builds its own network and seeks creative ways to improve opportunity for its businesses and residents.

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

This show is 23 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 Admiral Bob for the music. The song is Turbo Tornado (c) copyright 2016 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. Ft: Blue Wave Theory.

Posted January 16, 2017 by lgonzalez

The latest addition to our list of fact sheets focuses on Virginia: Municipal Networks Deliver Local Benefits. We noticed that municipal networks in the “Mother of States” have spurred economic development, saved taxpayer dollars, and improved local connectivity. 

A number of local governments in Virginia that have invested in Internet network infrastructure have attracted Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to use the publicly owned assets to offer services to residents and businesses. Local governments are using fiber-optic networks to improve public safety, take control of their own connectivity needs, and attract or retain employers.

Download the fact sheet here.

Learn more about the Roanoke Valley Broadband Authority (RVBA) open access network, located in southwest Virginia. Christopher spoke with Frank Smith, President and CEO of the RVBA for episode 221 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast.

Take a look at our other fact sheets; we will continue to add state-specific editions so check back for more. Subscribe to our weekly email for a run down of stories so you can stay up-to-date on what's happening in community broadband networks.

Posted January 6, 2017 by lgonzalez

On January 1, Wayne County, North Carolina, issued a Request for Information (RFI) for high-speed Internet service expansion or delivery.  The due date is February 28, 2017.

Survey First

Prior to releasing the RFI, the county conducted a survey that they made available online and in paper form; they sent home copies with students in the public school system. They received 628 responses of which 13.8 percent of respondents said they don't have Internet service at all. Of those that do not have the service, 58.1 percent say there is no company that will provide it to them and 23.7 percent say they can’t afford it. Fifty-nine percent of respondents were dissatisfied with their Internet access; the reason were speed, cost, and reliability, in that order.

Looking For Ideas Next

The county’s RFI expresses their desire to work with private sector providers to bring connectivity to all areas of the county, especially the areas that are currently unserved. Their goal is to get residents and businesses connected with speeds that reach the FCC’s defined broadband speeds of 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) download and 3 Mbps upload.

In order to facilitate the efforts of the private sector, Wayne County has asked potential respondents to address how issues such as pole attachments, conduit, and dark fiber would fit into their proposals. They also want respondents to let them know how federal, state, or local regulations may hamper ideas for improving connectivity in Wayne County:

Regulatory environment: Description of any rules or regulations at the federal, state or local level that could impact the feasibility or underlying economics associated with the proposed solutions. Responses should also include an explanation of any forms of proposed regulatory relief, including streamlined permitting, which could improve the economic case for the business models or network solutions proposed or for other network solutions that respondents considered but dismissed due to existing regulations and their effect on economic viability of such proposal. 

Just last year, the state of North Carolina was able to convince the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit to reinstate a... Read more

Posted January 5, 2017 by lgonzalez

In November 2015, the voters in Vinton, Iowa, gave the approval for a telecommunications utility. The city and the municipal electric utility are taking the next step with a feasibility study to determine potential deployment costs and in the spring will present their findings to the community.

Vinton is home to about 5,200 people in Benton County, Iowa; it’s the county seat. The town’s area is 4.74 square miles, and there are approximately 2,000 homes and 250 businesses in Vinton. It’s located about 32 miles northwest of Cedar Rapids.

Like many rural towns, Vinton struggles with slow, outdated DSL connections; cable is available in some areas of town. According to one local business owner, slow connectivity is negatively impacting economic development:

Kurt Karr, owner of Monkeytown an online business supplies store, is one of the community business leaders lobbying hard for an increase in high-speed broadband service.

Karr says slow Internet speeds available now can be frustrating. One part of his business is video design work for companies. He says a video file that takes workers an hour to upload now to clients from their computers might take only a couple of minutes in a larger urban area with much faster internet connections.

Mayor John Watson told local channel KCRG-TV9, that incumbents “simply aren’t interested” in making investment in Vinton to provide better connectivity for businesses or residents, so the city is exploring doing it for themselves.

When Vinton Municipal Electric Utility has completed the feasibility study and have estimates for deployment costs they can present to the community, they’ll determine the next step:

Tom Richtsmeier, manager at Vinton Municipal Electric Utility, says some estimates are it would cost $3,000 to $4,000 per home to install fiber optic cable.

“Once we get the pricing back we’ll see if they’re still interested in having that brought into their home,” Richtsmeier said.

Local coverage from KCRG-TV9:

... Read more
Posted January 3, 2017 by lgonzalez

Ellensburg’s fiber-optic Institutional Network (I-Net) already saves public dollars. Soon the town will also create opportunities for local businesses to obtain better connectivity via the publicly owned infrastructure through a new pilot program.

Time To Go Public

Three years ago, Ellensburg, Washington, chose to sever ties with Charter Communications when the national Internet Service Provider (ISP) decided it would charge $10,300 per month for municipal connectivity it had previously supplied in exchange for access to the public rights-of-way.

The community already owned and operated municipal electric and natural gas utilities, so a foray into managing an I-Net was a sensible task. After considering the math, they quickly realized deployment would pay for itself in about eight years when compared to the exorbitant rates from Charter. They also didn't know if Charter would raise rates again in the future or if there may be other issues with control of a network they depended on for municipal communications.

Onward And Upward

Ellensburg has been independent of Charter since 2014 and now they are taking the next logical step - offering services to local businesses. There is excess capacity on the existing fiber network that Energy Services would like to lease out in order to generate revenue and learn more about providing services to the public.

At a recent City Council meeting, Energy Services Director Larry Dunbar discussed the proposed pilot project. “A pilot project is the right thing to do if council wants to proceed because we really just don’t know,” Dunbar said. “We haven’t done this before.”

The city will receive a 2017 Distressed County Sales and Use Tax Infrastructure Improvement Program grant. The funds, focused on rural areas, are to be used for improving infrastructure projects; Ellensburg will receive approximately $169,000. Thirty-four connections to local businesses will cost $37,800 and will produce an estimated $16,300 in annual revenue.

In addition to using the grant funds to expand the fiber-optic network, Ellensburg plans to establish a fixed wireless network.

Posted December 22, 2016 by htrostle

About 15 years ago, two small cities in western Oregon faced an all too common predicament for rural areas. The Internet Service Provider (ISP) told they would not see high-speed Internet access until 2020. Taking matters into their own hands, the cities of Independence and Monmouth decided to collaborate on a project to bring the latest technology to their communities. 

Together they built a jointly owned Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network, known as MINET (Monmouth Independence Network). Today, the network supports economic development and agricultural innovations. This piece focuses on only one of the cities, Independence, in order to provide an in-depth look at the community impact of the network.

Affordable & Reliable Internet Service

At the time, FTTH was almost unheard of. Even today, the technology is available to only a quarter of the entire U.S. population. MINET offers affordable, reliable connectivity for the 18,000 residents of both communities. The network has a low-cost option available to everyone of 2 Megabits per second (Mbps) for $10 per month. Other Internet access speeds available are:

Download speed / upload speed
50 Mbps / 25 Mbps for $50
75 Mbps / 40 Mbps for $65
100 Mbps/ 50 Mbps for $80

Residents can also subscribe to triple-play bundles of Internet, voice, and video services.

Took Time to Develop

MINET has faced a difficult financial situation even though the network has brought many benefits and opportunities to the community. 

The League of Oregon cities provided a quick case study of the network in 2011. In the late 1990’s, the two cities developed a feasibility study only looking to connect the governmental buildings and the businesses. After studying the potential for offering services to residents, the cities decided to divide the project into two phases. Phase I: build fiber loops. Phase II: build the last-mile to homes and business and offer retail services. 

By 2004, they had officially formed MINET as an ORS 190 entity (an official Oregon intergovernmental agreement). They also completed Phase I at... Read more

Posted December 21, 2016 by lgonzalez

Plans for a fiber-optic middle mile network to serve the Brazos Valley in Texas are firming up and the project should be up and running within two years, reports KBTX from Bryan and College Station. The network will also have a fixed wireless complement.

Healthcare First

The $22 million network backbone, funded through the FCC’s Healthcare Connect Fund and the Brazos Valley Council of Governments (BVCOG), will first connect healthcare providers such as hospitals, schools nurses, and jail clinics.

According to the April 2015 Network Plan from the Brazos Valley Council of Governments, 62 percent of the population in the proposed service area live in rural areas with poor access to quality healthcare. Twenty percent of residents in the region are 60 years of age or older. Texas A&M School of Public Health, one of the partners in the project, completed a study that indicated high percentages of chronic conditions in residents in the region. In 8 of 12 of those measures, the results were worse than the national average. In some cases, the rates were twice as high as national averages.

Local leaders plan to next add libraries, workforce centers, schools, and a number of other local government facilities. "If our schools are spending a disproportionate amount of their funds on just providing the minimum of internet, that's not right. We can fix that," said Michael Parks, Executive Director of the Brazos Valley Council of Governments.

Jobs Ahead

The BVCOG wants to take advantage of the economic development possibilities by connecting local businesses in the future. They estimate the network will help create approximately 600 new positions in small business and 1,100 new jobs in total. Local business owners are already looking forward to better connectivity, especially the anticipated 1 Gigabit (1,000 Megabits per second) upload critical for sending data heavy files. "It helps to send big pay loads of data upstream. That has always been a challenge, so to go 'gig' is going to be much more efficient," said Bronius Morekaitius, who owns a local... Read more

Posted December 19, 2016 by lgonzalez

About a year ago, we reported that Rock Falls, Illinois, had decided to develop a fiber network to offer connectivity to local businesses. Now, the town of less than 10,000 is closer to expanding that network to offer Gigabit Internet access and voice to residents.

Considering Expanding Services

In September, community leaders began considering the expansion after consultants suggested investing in Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) as the best way to make use of the city’s resources. They offered a “fiberhood” option so Rock Falls Electric Department could connect new subscribers incrementally; they suggest starting with business corridors where many commerical entities are already taking service. The fiberhood approach requires people in specific areas of the city to sign up first, then after a certain percentage of the households committ, construction begins.

Rock Falls began planting fiber and conduit in the 1990s and have connected the municipal electric utility substations, schools, and other municipal facilities. They have also leased out excess capacity to private providers who want to offer connectivity to commercial customers in prior years.

Funding - It's Complicated

The fiber backbone is already in place but a complete citywide FTTH system will cost approximately $13 million, estimate consultants. After consulting bonding professionals, city leaders discovered that they needed to consider a few issues before deciding how to proceed. SaukValley.com reported on the financing discussion:

“We need either a feasibility study or our most recent audit that includes revenues from the broadband business to show we can make our bond payments,” [City Administrator Robin] Blackert said. “But a new feasibility study would cost us between $60,000 and $80,000, and we have no past revenue history with the new utility.”

Blackert said it was previously thought that the new fiber utility could be the primary alternate revenue source, and the electric department, which has been handling the broadband operations to this point, could be... Read more

Posted December 15, 2016 by htrostle

The small city of Lake Worth, Florida, may undertake a free Wi-Fi project in order to boost economic development and ensure Internet access for all residents. The local newspaper and the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) support the project. They recognize the potential to connect low-income households throughout the city and the economic development opportunities that can benefit the entire community.

A recent editorial in the Palm Beach Post underscores how connectivity is a social justice issue: lack of access excludes folks from society. The editorial also makes the argument for adding fiber optic cable throughout the city, ensuring high-speed Internet access for all.

Social Justice

Many Palm Beach County residents are considered affluent, but Lake Worth has a poverty rate of 32 percent and poorly-ranked public schools. The editorial breaks down the statistics and points to the Pew Research Center’s figures on the digital divide, which acknowledge a class divide and an educational divide. Ninety-six percent of college graduates use the Internet compared to 61 percent of adults with a high school education or less. Likewise, 99 percent of adults with household incomes over $150,000 use the Internet vs. 78 percent of adult of households with less than $30,00.

“Modern society is so deeply networked that to live outside it is a very steep obstacle to ever getting ahead. It is, as [CRA Executive Director Joan Oliva] told the Post Editorial Board, a question of social justice.”

The Proposed Project 

Lake Worth’s CRA wants free public Wi-Fi citywide, especially in the lowest income areas. To blanket the entire 6.5 square mile city in Wi-Fi would cost approximately $860,000. The city government would pay $640,000 with the CRA providing the remaining $220,000.

The project is a potential boost for economic development. “A free Wi-Fi network in the city automatically creates the perception that the city is connected and technologically advanced,” said Kelly Smallridge, head of the Palm Beach County Business Development Board. The Palm... Read more

Posted December 9, 2016 by htrostle

This is the transcript for episode 231 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast. Mark Farrell of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors explains a proposed ordinance to improve Internet access for residents of apartment buildings. Listen to this episode here.

Mark Farrell: The MDU access policy is truly part of a broader scope here in San Francisco of work around Internet connectivity and Internet access.

Lisa Gonzalez: Welcome to episode 231 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast from the Institute For Local Self-Reliance. I'm Lisa Gonzalez. Residents of apartment building or other types of multi-dwelling units don't always have their choice of Internet service provider, even if they're two or three companies competing in their neighborhood. Owners of the buildings they live in have been known to restrict access to the buildings to one provider. As a result, tenants who want Internet access have no practical choice at all. In episode 231, Mark Farrell joins Christopher. Mark is from the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and has introduced legislation that would create an ordinance to allow competing ISPs access to multi-dwelling units. Mark explains the ordinance and why the city needs to implement it. He also describes how this policy is only one part of the city's greater effort to improve connectivity for all its residents. Now here's Chris talking with Mark Farrell, supervisor from the San Francisco Board of Supervisors about a new proposal to remove restrictions of subscriber choice for people who live in multi-dwelling units.

Christopher Mitchell: Welcome to another edition of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast. I'm Chris Mitchell. Today I'm speaking with Supervisor Mark Farrell of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Welcome to the show.

Mark Farrell: Thanks for having me.

Christopher Mitchell: I think I'd like to jump right in and just ask, you're proposing a law that deals with condo and apartment buildings. What would your law fix?

Mark Farrell: Right now in San Francisco we have a huge number of multi-dwelling unit buildings, or MDUs as they are called, where tenants have not been able to get access to the Internet service providers... Read more

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