Tag: "economic development"

Posted August 12, 2022 by Karl Bode

Like countless U.S. communities, Duluth, Minnesota (pop. 86,000) got a crash course on the importance of affordable broadband during the Covid-19 crisis. Those struggles in telecommuting and home education helped fuel a dramatic new broadband expansion plan that, if approved by the city council, could revolutionize affordable access citywide.

Last April, the Duluth Economic Development Authority signed a $65,000 contract with Entrypoint LLC to examine the possibility of building a community-owned fiber network in Duluth. The result: a new Digital Access Master Plan that proposes the city spend $7-9 million to build a pilot open access fiber network in Lincoln Park next year. 

“Reliable high-speed internet is no longer a luxury,” Duluth Mayor Emily Larson proclaimed in a recent state of the city address. “It’s an essential utility no less important to our future success than our roads, water, and electricity.”

A Pilot Project, and Potentially More

Under the proposal, 75 percent of the new network would be buried fiber and 25 percent would be microtrenched along public roads. The $7 to $9 million estimated price tag is based on a 60% take rate, short-term interest at 5 percent, and a long-term interest rate of 3 percent for 20 years. The initial pilot project would bring fiber to an estimated 1,900 Duluth residents next year. 

“A 60% take-rate may seem aggressive given the strong market position of the incumbent cable operator,” the plan states. “However, the survey data suggests a strong desire among residents and businesses in Duluth to see competition, choice, better pricing, and the reliability of a fiber optic network.”

The Master Plan highlights how a majority of Duluth is served by either a duopoly or monopoly consisting of Charter Communications (Spectrum) and Centurylink. Centurylink sells $50 a month usage-capped DSL service that doesn’t qualify as broadband, according to the FCC. Charter requires users sign long-term contracts to lock in lower rates, while utilizing fees that can add 15-30 percent to the company’s...

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Posted June 30, 2022 by Ry Marcattilio

This week on the podcast, Christopher is joined by Seth Wainer, the former CIO of the city of Newark, New Jersey. During the conversation, Seth shares his time with the city from 2013-2018. He talks about the progress the city made in improving local connectivity across different arenas, from cataloging existing assets, to pursuing both wired and wireless self-funded projects (to more than 100 buildings today), to putting in vendor-agnostic fiber in downtown development, to coordinating utility projects to lower costs.

Christopher and Seth end the conversation by talking about the importance and power of reframing the question of broadband access, including what happens when we think of telecommunications infrastructure as a sustainable public service rather than a luxury good.

This show is 35 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed. You can listen to the interview on this page or visit the Community Broadband Bits page.

Transcript coming soon. 

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

Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Subscribe to the Building Local Power podcast, also from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, on iTunes or Stitcher to catch more great conversations about local communities, the concentration of corporate power, and how everyday people are taking control.

Thanks to Arne Huseby for the music. The song is Warm Duck Shuffle and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0)...

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Posted May 26, 2022 by Ry Marcattilio

This week on the podcast, Christopher is joined by John Lester, General Manager of Clarksville Connected.

The two discuss how Clarksville, a small rural community of about 10,000 in northwest Arkansas at the foothills of the Ozark Mountains, became the Natural State’s first 2 gig city.

Chris and John cover how Clarksville became the first city in Arkansas to issue bonds to build a municipal broadband network and how the city was able to navigate the state’s anti-municipal broadband preemption laws to provide its residents and businesses with reliable and affordable high-speed Internet connectivity.

They also discuss how the city was able to quickly build out the network before the onset of the pandemic and has reached a take-rate that surpassed initial projections. They go on to highlight the impact the network has had on powering economic development and boosting the local real estate market, while also exploring how the city worked with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to provide free connectivity to low-income residents living in affordable housing units.

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 listen to the interview on this page or visit the Community Broadband Bits page.

Transcript coming soon. 

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

Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Subscribe to the Building Local Power podcast, also from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, on ...

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Posted April 4, 2022 by Ry Marcattilio

This year's Mountain Connect conference begins Monday, May 23rd and runs through Wednesday, May 25 in Keystone, Colorado. The conference's self-stated goal is to "move our western US communities forward by providing relevant and targeted content to help them make the most effective decisions as they build new or expand existing telecommunications infrastructure that enable the long-term vision of a community."

It will feature panels on navigating state and federal funding, telehealth, disaster resilience, digital inclusion, tribal connectivity, construction challenges, and communications and technology standards. 

We'll also get to hear an array of conversations with local leaders, talking about everything from revitalizing downtowns with new municipal broadband infrastructure, to partnerships, to open access, to marketing, to managing subscriber expectations. See the full agenda here.

Anchoring the panels will be communities like Boulder, Colorado, Loveland, Colorado, and Detroit, Michigan, with familiar faces and industry veterans helping to break things down in clear ways, including Peggy Schaffer (ConnectME), Joshua Edmonds (Director of Digital Inclusion, Detroit), Brian Snider (Lit Communities), Bruce Patterson (EntryPoint Networks), and Gary Bolton (Fiber Broadband Association).

ILSR's DeAnne Cuellar will be participating on a digital inclusion panel moderated by NDIA's Paolo Balboa with Colorado Department of Labor's Katherine Keegan. Likewise, Christopher Mitchell will moderate a panel with Peggy Schaffer, Eric Forsch (Idaho Commerce) and Veneeth Iyengar (ConnectLA) to talk about how states will use the BEAD money. See the full slate of speakers here.

Register for Mountain Connect 2022 here.

Posted February 10, 2022 by Ry Marcattilio

Dickson, Tennessee (pop. 15,500) was the third municipal electric system to take power from the Tennessee Valley Authority after its creation in 1933, but the utility actually predates the regional electric generation system by almost 30 years. Today, it’s entering a new phase of life, parlaying its 117-year history of bringing affordable electric service into an $80 million fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) build that will see every household in its footprint (37,000 meters) get future-proof Internet access within the next four years.

A Cooperative in Municipal Clothing

Established in 1905, the very first Dickson Electric System (DES) customers received their power from a single 150-horsepower external combustion steam engine. DES upgraded its capacity in 1923, switching to two 150-horsepower oil-burning engines. A little more than a decade later, the TVA was established and DES took service, joining the maturing regional electric system and bringing its 650 customers and 50 miles of line into what would eventually be a group of more than 150 local power utilities almost a century later.

Today, Dickson Electric territory covers almost 800 square miles across Dickson, Hickman, Cheatham, Williamson, Humphreys, Houston, and Montgomery Counties (with the bulk of its customers in the first three), across about 2,600 miles of distribution line to 37,000 locations.

Because of this and some other factors, in many ways Dickson, Tennessee’s municipal electric system looks more like an electric cooperative than typical city-centered infrastructure, General Manager Darrell Gillespie shared in an interview. Just the fourth general manager to serve in the position since DES’ founding, Gillespie said that only 22 percent of its meters are located in the city of Dickson. The rest are spread across the seven-county footprint - many in rural areas, and including in parts or all of four other cities. In fact, DES averages just 13 customers per mile across its service area.

With a long history of providing affordable, reliable, locally accountable electric service, leadership at the utility have been talking about expanding into the fiber business for years. The onset of the pandemic in the spring of 2020...

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Posted February 8, 2022 by

In this episode of the Connect This! Show, co-hosts Christopher and Travis Carter (USI Fiber) are joined by regular guests Kim McKinley (UTOPIA Fiber) and Doug Dawson (CCG Consulting) to talk about current events in broadband.

The panel will reflect on RDOF: one year later, how demands for remote work are fueling the broadband boom, and the latest news in broadband.

Subscribe to the show using this feed on YouTube Live or here on Facebook Live, or visit ConnectThisShow.com

Email us broadband@muninetworks.org with feedback and ideas for the show.

Watch here on YouTube Live, here on Facebook live, or below.

Posted December 20, 2021 by Sean Gonsalves

FairlawnGig has released a new, short, six-minute video that captures why broadband infrastructure is essential for improving quality of life and boosting economic development in communities across Ohio, highlighting a lesson more cities and towns across the nation are learning first-hand: if the goal is to build a bridge over the digital divide, local communities will likely have to build it themselves.

The video (which you can watch in its entirety by clicking on the video embedded below) also serves as a subtle but fitting admonition of an anonymous state Senator who submitted an amendment into the state budget earlier this year. If passed, it would have threatened to put the award-winning fiber network out of business and prevented other communities in the Buckeye State from following in Fairlawn’s footsteps.

Thankfully, the amendment – a gift to incumbent monopoly ISPs intent on crushing any competition – was rejected after state lawmakers were inundated with constituent complaints about the “in the dark of night” proposal.

Compelled to Take It on Themselves

Fairlawn, a small city of approximately 7,500 Ohioans about 10 miles northeast of Akron, created a telecommunications utility in 2015 to bring city-wide access to high-speed Internet service after years of dealing with subpar broadband offerings. Today, the network enjoys a take-rate of 60 percent while subscribers enjoy a choice of three residential services tiers: a 300 Megabits per second symmetrical connection for $55/month; symmetrical gig speed service for $75/month; or 2.5 Gigabits per second service for $149/month.

In the video, the narrator begins with an observation that is fast becoming obvious to just about everyone:

Many communities in the U.S. are being left behind due to a lack of adequate Internet service and access to state of the art technology.

...
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Posted November 12, 2021 by Maren Machles

Over the next few years, we will see an upward trend of fiber infrastructure being built (RDOF, privately announced investment from monopoly providers, NTIA $10 billion broadband infrastructure program, and now, the passing of the infrastructure bill).  We will need, as a country, more fiber technicians to do this work, but there is a lack of fiber training programs.

To meet this need and in response to dual dilemma of an ever present need for affordable, reliable, high-speed broadband, and the number of citizens that have been dislocated or laid off due to the pandemic, the Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology has partnered with Cherokee Nation Career Services (CNCS) and Muscogee (Creek) Nation Reintegration Program to create a fiber technician training program. 

As part of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation Reintegration Program, the first nine participants graduated from the Muscogee (Creek) Nation Fiber Optic Technician program on Sept. 10.

The fiber optic technician training program takes place in person over the course of eight weeks followed by a four-week internship. According to the RIP website the course covers pole climbing and fiber splicing. OSHA 10 and CPR certification are also included.

“This is a significant program for OSUIT to be involved with,” Na-komas Blackford, Workforce Training Coordinator at OSUIT, said in a press release on OSUIT’s website. “The broadband industry is growing and expected to continue growing in Oklahoma. OSUIT specializes in high-demand training, and this is one area we did not want to miss out on.”

Training for Success

The Muscogee program came after leaders heard about the success CNCS had when it started in the fall of 2020 and already has several participants working in the field. 

“[CNCS’ training program] currently has an employment placement rate of 100%,” Blackford said in OSUIT’s June press release. “The average Fiber Technician salary in the United States typically falls between $46,400 and $59,380, although it does change with each employer. We have seen several of our students that complete the program on track and make a significantly higher first-year salary than what is reflected in the top of...

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Posted November 2, 2021 by Maren Machles

On this week’s episode of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast, host Christopher Mitchell is joined by Danny Peralta, the Executive Managing Director of The Point in the Bronx, New York which has. The Point has been at the forefront of revitalizing the South Bronx’s Hunts Point neighborhood working to address  environmental issues, increase access to the arts, and even expand Internet connectivity.

The two discuss The Point’s journey to tackle broadband infrastructure resiliency issues in the face of Hurricane Maria back in 2015. While the project was initially focused on small businesses, The Point has built a network that is beginning to connect residents and making efforts  to address the digital divide in the community. 

Peralta explains how The Point is part of a larger movement in the community to take back ownership of its resources and improve conditions for residents, making it better for generations to come. 

This show is 32 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed. You can listen to the interview on this page or visit the Community Broadband Bits page.

Read the transcript.

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

Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Subscribe to the Building Local Power podcast, also from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, on iTunes or Stitcher ...

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Posted November 1, 2021 by Sean Gonsalves

UTOPIA Fiber continues to grow and is now exporting its expertise into Bozeman, Montana – one of the fastest-growing cities of its size and often listed among the best places to live in the country.

Referred to by some as “Boz Angeles” because of the influx of Californians to the area, this Rocky Mountain city of 53,000, nestled in Gallatin Valley, is about to become even more attractive as a rising tech hub for millennials. At the Broadband Communities 2021 Summit last month, it was announced that Bozeman Fiber, a non-profit organization created by the city to expand high-speed Internet connectivity across the region, has partnered with Utah-based UTOPIA Fiber to build an open access fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) network.

Bozeman Fiber has already built an open access fiber ring, serving city, county, and school facilities. It has also connected 200 commercial customers. The partnership with UTOPIA will allow Bozeman Fiber to extend the network across the city, passing 22,000 homes and businesses, with plans to extend further out into the more rural parts of Gallatin County down the road.

Network construction, which is estimated to cost $65 million, is slated to begin in the spring of 2022 and is expected to take three years to be completed.

“This is the first phase of a project that will cover the city and some areas of the county, and the intention is we’ll have future phases that reach further out into the county to hit more rural areas,” UTOPIA Fiber executive director Roger Timmerman said during the press conference announcing the partnership.

Bozeman Fiber CEO Greg Metzger added: “with this project, we’ll be able to attract and retain more businesses, and create jobs.”

County Provides Access to Bond Market

To finance the network construction, Bozeman Fiber has partnered with the Gallatin...

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