Tag: "economic development"

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

Posted December 7, 2016 by htrostle

Since late 2015, the small city of Fairlawn, Ohio, has been planning and preparing for a network with next-generation connectivity. The city is building the network, FairlawnGig, which will offer speeds of a Gigabit (1,000 Megabits) per second to subscribers. All speed tiers will be symmetrical, so upload and download will be equally fast.

Lightwave reports that FairlawnGig has officially connected its first two business customers: RDA Hotel Management and the architectural firm David A.Levy & Associates.

Necessary Connectivity For Businesses

RDA Hotel Management officially signed up for the service and immediately experienced a 733 percent increase in Internet access speeds in its local hotel. The management company owns and operates the Hilton and Doubletree hotels throughout the nation. Two of the company's hotels have been connected to the network since early August as “beta customers” of the network. These “beta customers” (including hotels that hosted some Republican National Delegates) helped determine how well the network functioned, providing feedback on how to improve the experience for future subscribers. 

The local architectural firm David A. Levy & Associates is also pleased with the new connectivity. Neal Levy, business development director at David A. Levy & Associates described how the municipal fiber network has already improved productivity in the Lightwave article:

 "Prior to FairlawnGig, reliability was a serious issue and it took several minutes to save, transmit, and open a 50-MB file. Plus, our team couldn't work simultaneously in an AutoCAD [a design application used by many architect firms] file while it was auto saving or the file would freeze. Now it takes less than 10 seconds to open or save a file."

The FairlawnGig Story

Using both Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) and wireless technologies, FairlawnGig will connect residents and... Read more

Posted December 6, 2016 by lgonzalez

Cities across America are implementing policies that create friendly environments for Internet Service Providers in order to encourage competition. In San Francisco, the Board of Supervisors is now considering legislation that will create choice for residents or businesses in multi-welling units, or MDUs. In episode 231, Mark Farrell, a member of the Board of Supervisors, joins us to discuss the proposal.

City leaders have worked in various ways to chip away at the digital divide and have discovered that a number of MDU building owners do not allow more than one ISP access to their buildings. As a result, residents have no option but to subscribe to the ISP of the owner’s choice, or have no service at all. The proposed ordinance will put an end to that practice by ensuring that building owners do not deny tenants choice and do not deny ISPs access to their buildings.

In this interview, Mark discusses the need for the ordinance and what city leaders hope to achieve with this new policy. When they investigated the issue, they realized that it impacted a significant number of stakeholders. Mark acknowledges the care of the city’s approach in encouraging competition, supporting responsible entrants, and doing so in a community with a range of old and new structures. The city is eager to improve their connectivity and this policy is one step in a larger plan.

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 18 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... Read more

Posted December 2, 2016 by lgonzalez

Earlier this spring, Pikeville, Kentucky, released an RFI for partner interest to bring Fiber-to-the-Premises (FTTP) to businesses, community anchor institutions, municipal facilities, and residential properties. The Appalachian community is ready to move forward and recently released its Request for Proposals (RFP) for Partnership for FTTP Network Deployment. Responses are due January 4, 2017.

A Measured Approach

The community wants any potential partners to focus on a project to be executed in phases. This RFP is for Phase One, described as:

Phase One of the City’s multi-stage project will include constructing a fiber backbone in the selected service area—approximately 57 miles of distribution fiber that will pass 2,850 homes, businesses, and other community organizations that represent potential customers. Phase One will also include constructing a network “core” site that will aggregate traffic from the FTTP sites and house the network’s routers that will allow for interconnection with other networks including the network’s “upstream” connection to the Internet. Planning for upstream connectivity is a critical element of the partnership, and will require meaningful coordination between the City, the Partner, and the Commonwealth. 

Eventually, the goal is to deploy a network that will serve the city of Pikeville (pop. 7,000), nearby Coal Run Village, and other areas in Pike County. Pikeville expects to receive grants, but also anticipates contributing to the cost of the project with funds from bonds, loans, or other mechanism. They also state in the RFP that, depending on the type of partnership, they anticipate some sharing of risk and financial contribution from the partner they choose.

Pikeville

The community realizes how critical high-quality connectivity is to the future of the city and the region. Pikeville, the county seat, is in an area that was once famous for coal production. As eastern Kentucky looks for ways to diversify their economy, high-quality Internet access will be a key component. Community leaders expect RFP respondents to include plans that will integrate the state’s... Read more

Posted December 1, 2016 by lgonzalez

Manchester, Connecticut, was the first city in the state to build its own fiber-optic Institutional Network (I-Net). Now, the community has issued a Request for Information (RFI) for Fiber-to-the-Premises (FTTP) of Homes and Businesses. Responses are due by December 6, 2016.

Much To "Gain"

The community took advantage of the “Municipal Gain” Law, which guarantees space on utility poles and conduit to house its I-Net. A private provider took the town to court over the law, which came to a successful resolution in the early 2000s.

As we reported last summer, the Office of Consumer Counsel (OCC) and the State Broadband Office (SBO) sought clarification on the state statute. The question is whether or not the space reserved on utility poles in municipal Rights-of-Way (ROW) can be used for municipal fiber-optic network deployment. While the question seems simple on its face, implementing it has raised a number of questions from pole owners and municipalities. The OCC and SBO filed a petition last summer with the Public Utility Regulatory Agency (PURA) asking for clarification.

Manchester is located in the center of the state just ten miles east of Hartford. The town’s population is approximately 58,000 residents and there are 22,000 parcels in Manchester on its 250 miles of city streets. While it has roots in textiles and the silk industry, it is now home to a number of large shopping outlets and plazas. The community also has a co-working space in the downtown area, Axis901, for entrepreneurs and small businesses.  

Having experienced the benefits of its I-Net, Manchester wants to expand those benefits to businesses and residents, so is exploring the possibilities. According to the RFI:

The Town is interested in a vendor’s perspective of the positive economic development value of their proposal.  Toward this end, information on a Responder's offering will likely result in a dialog with the Town's Board of Director's Broadband Economic Development Subcommittee.

... Read more
Posted December 1, 2016 by Scott

The federal government has awarded a $2.74 million grant to Hayward, California, to help fund the design and installation of conduit and fiber-optic network in the city’s industrial zone.

The grant, from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration, will enable Hayward (pop. 150,000) to install at least 11 miles of new conduit and fiber optic cable, the city said in a recent news release. Construction will begin in September 2017, and should be finished by the fall of 2019.

Paul Nguyen, city economic development specialist, told us, “The $2.7 million grant award is 50 percent of the total estimated project cost, roughly $5.4 million.” The city’s matching share of the project includes a $2.1 million in-kind contribution of the city's publicly-owned right-of-way property, $480,000 in general funds, and an additional $156,000 that has already been committed to the construction and installation of fiber-optic conduit in the Whitesell Street segment of the fiber loop.

Leveraging Existing Infrastructure

In its news release, Hayward officials said:

“The fiber optic network will leverage existing city-owned underground conduit and fiber optic cables used primarily for traffic communications and include new construction to complete a loop in the Industrial Technology and Innovation Corridor. This crescent-shaped corridor, located along Hayward’s western and southwestern city limit, is home to a wide range of businesses including manufacturers of food, pharmaceuticals, auto parts and electronics. The area is also becoming home to an increasing number of biotechnology and medical device makers.” 

Nguyen noted:

“Today, access to broadband Internet service is as vital to industry as electricity was a hundred years ago. This federal funding will help expand Hayward’s broadband infrastructure and enhance our community’s ability to attract new advanced industries. It will also provide our existing businesses with the tools they need be competitive in today’s high-speed, data-driven global economy.”

Expectations, Planning

... Read more

Posted November 21, 2016 by htrostle

Rural folks without fast, affordable, reliable Internet access face challenges with common tasks such as doing homework, completing college courses, or running a small business. Although Tennessee has an entrepreneurial spirit, a large swath of the state's rural residents and businesses don't have the connectivity they need to participate in the digital economy. A September article in the Tennessean looks deeper at the state's digital divide between urban and rural areas.

National Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have failed to make good on promises made over recent decades to bring high-quality Internet access to the entire country, both urban and rural. Several telephone cooperatives and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) are already actively investing in better Internet access to improve rural Tennessee’s economy.

The Tennessean Perspective

The newspaper the Tennessean laid out much of the connectivity problem in the "Volunteer State." Tennessee may have excellent Internet access statewide, but the urban and rural divide remains. According to a Tennessee Department of Economic & Community Development's report, only 2 percent of all urban residents do not have access to broadband. The FCC defines it as 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) download speed and 3 Mbps upload speed. That number climbs in rural areas, where one out of three residents does not have broadband access. 

Speed Is Not The Only Problem

Some folks simply have no Internet connection. For example, Deborah Bahr drove 30 minutes for Wi-Fi at Bojangles (Chicken and Biscuit) or visited a friend’s house a few miles away. Bahr used to run a coffee shop, leaving the Wi-Fi on continuously so local community college students could work on homework overnight in the parking lot. Bahr’s town borders Cocke County, an economically distressed area where almost 30 percent of residents are below the poverty level. 

A state law that prevents cities from expanding telecommunications services to neighboring rural areas hampers local communities’ efforts to bridge the rural-urban divide. The Tennessean article noted that the city of Clarksville has... Read more

Posted November 16, 2016 by lgonzalez

Downtown Bozeman businesses can expect fast, affordable, reliable connectivity via the Bozeman Fiber network within the coming weeks, reports the Bozeman Daily Chronicle. Phase one is now complete.

Businesses Up Next

Bozeman City offices, Gallatin County offices, and local public schools are already connected to the open access network, which is owned and operated by the nonprofit entity Bozeman Fiber. There are already three Internet Service Providers (ISPs) operating on the community network but local officials do not expect residents to have Fiber-To-The-Home (FTTH) Internet access just yet:

“Within a few hundred feet of where the fiber currently is will be available day one of commercial operations,” said Anthony Cochenour, president of the board of Bozeman Fiber. “As far as expanding the network and running under our own steam, (we want to) get business first, fill the coffers, then in years two and three make a bigger push into residential areas.”

Connecting to businesses first allows a community to test the waters, locate potential problems, and create interest in a community-based initiative. With the revenue generated by commercial customers and infrastructure deployed strategically throughout the community, it’s easier to expand to residential areas.

Standing On Its Own

In Bozeman, the $3.85 million in funding for the project came from local banks, so local officials feel especially compelled to create a self-sustaining and stable project. “While setting up Bozeman Fiber was important for economic development, we wanted it to be an agency that stands on its own. Bozeman Fiber is running its own show,” said [Bozeman economic development specialist David] Fine.

The Bozeman Fiber nonprofit plans to connect a local hospital in the near future and add another line west of town. They also hope to eventually host up to ten ISPs by the end of the year, increasing choice for consumers in the future.

Listen to Christopher visit with Brit Fontenot, Andy... Read more

Posted November 15, 2016 by htrostle

Acadiana, the southern region of Louisiana, is seeing a resurgence of industry thanks in large part to it publicly owned fast, affordable, reliable network. Years ago, the city of Lafayette, Louisiana, built the LUS Fiber network to connect homes and business.

Now, LUS Fiber is helping to diversify Acadiana’s economy, which once almost exclusively relied on the oil industry. Fiber networks offer much potential for economic development. 

“The State of Business” in the Silicon Bayou

The October-November issue of the Acadiana Profile at MyNewOrleans.com ran an article on the changing landscape of Acadiana’s businesses. Author Kimberly Singletary provides an overview of three growing industries: technology, manufacturing, and healthcare. All three need access to reliable, high-speed connections.

Singletary spoke with One Acadiana, an economic development organization in Lafayette:

“We’ve had a long history of innovation in IT and software,” says Jason El Koubi, CEO of One Acadiana. “But it's still very much an emerging field.”

Due to what El Koubi describes as “almost a grassroots movement in cultivating IT over the years,” the Acadiana region enjoys a robust offering of internet services resulting in a competitive, cheap and extremely fast LUS Fiber network.

LUS Fiber offers affordable, high-speed connectivity to several software developers that have made Acadiana their new home. The network offers speeds of up to 2 Gigabits (2,000 Megabits per second). In 2014, LUS Fiber attracted three companies, bringing almost 1,000 jobs to the “Silicon Bayou.” Another company, Waitr, an Uber-like food delivery service, is planning to add an operations center to Lafayette, which will bring another 100 jobs to the community.

More Than Tech: Industries Need Connectivity

Better connectivity through municipal networks has also diversified other communities. For instance, the community network in Dublin, Ohio, helped attract ... Read more

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