Tag: "economic development"

Posted May 21, 2013 by christopher

The city of San Leandro has formed a partnership with a local company now named Lit San Leandro to expand business access to the Internet. We talk with San Leandro's Chief Innovation Officer Deborah Acosta and Judi Clark, a consultant with Lit San Leandro, to learn more about their approach.

San Leandro already had conduit assets and Lit San Leandro is pulling fiber through it for the deployment. In return, the City is getting both attention for its 10Gbps service availability and many strands for its own use.

Rather than simply making dark fiber available, which is most helpful to technically savvy firms, Lit San Leandro is working with ISPs that can take advantage of the dark fiber to deliver services to other customers that don't have the capacity to take advantage of dark fiber directly.

We also discuss policies around conduit placement and how to build a healthy tech and innovation system.

Read the transcript from our conversation here.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show - please e-mail us or leave a comment below. Also, feel free to suggest other guests, topics, or questions you want us to address.

This show is 23 minutes long and can be played below on this page or subscribe via iTunes or via the tool of your choice using this feed. Search for us in iTunes and leave a positive comment!

Listen to previous episodes here. You can can download this Mp3 file directly from here.

Find more episodes in our podcast index.

Thanks to Eat at Joe's for the music, licensed using Creative Commons.

Posted May 16, 2013 by lgonzalez

Back in December, 2009, Vice President Biden travelled to Dawsonville, Georgia, to officially kick off the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) program. The first award, a grant of $33.5 million, went to the North Georgia Network Cooperative. The group combined that grant with local and state funding and in May, 2012, lit the North Georgia Network (NGN).

We spoke with Paul Belk, CEO of NGN, who shared the network's story and described how it is improving economic development while serving schools and government across the region. We also recently published a podcast interview with Paul Belk.

In 2007, Bruce Abraham was the Lumpkin County Development Authority President and could not recruit new business to the region. Atlanta is only 60 miles away but companies and entrepeneurs were not willing to branch out toward north Georgia. Business leaders repeatedly told Abraham they were not interested because of the lack of broadband. DSL was available from Windstream, but businesses kept telling Abraham, "That's not broadband." North Georgia was losing jobs and there was no strategy to replace them.

Abraham found economic development representatives from Forsyth, White, Union, and Dawson counties shared the same problem. With North Georgia College & State University in Dahlonega, the group decided to address the problem together.

In 2008, they received a OneGeorgia Authority BRIDGE grant. They used the $100,000 award to commission a feasibility study that suggested the area had potential as a new tech hub. The study also indicated that the region's traditional manufacturing and agricultural industries would continue to dwindle. The group, determined to pursue the establishment of a new tech economy, knew the first step would be next-generation infrastructure.

In 2009, two local electric cooperatives joined the group and it incorporated to become the nonprofit North Georgia Network Cooperative. With the addition of the Habersham and Blue Ridge Mountain...

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Posted May 14, 2013 by christopher

The North Georgia Network was the first recipient of a BTOP (Broadband Technology Opportunities Program) stimulus grant in the nation and has been an interesting success story. For the latest episode of our Community Broadband Bits podcast, President and CEO Paul Belk of the NGN joins us to discuss the history, present, and future of the project.

The North Georiga Network is comprised of two rural electric cooperatives and local economic development organizations affiliated with eight counties. NGN is focused on bringing high capacity connections to community anchor institutions and businesses.

Paul discusses how the project began, long before the stimulus programs were envisioned. As fits with our experience, the first motivation was attracting jobs. Stuck with slow DSL connections, the region was having trouble attracting any investment. Now they have a fresh start and can deliver ultra high speed connections to schools affordably as well as businesses.

Read the transcript from our conversation here.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show - please e-mail us or leave a comment below. Also, feel free to suggest other guests, topics, or questions you want us to address.

This show is 20 minutes long and can be played below on this page or subscribe via iTunes or via the tool of your choice using this feed. Search for us in iTunes and leave a positive comment!

Listen to previous episodes here. You can can download this Mp3 file directly from here.

Find more episodes in our podcast index.

Thanks to Mount Carmel for the music, licensed using Creative Commons.

Posted May 13, 2013 by lgonzalez

In January, Longmont Power and Communications (LPC) announced they would begin connecting businesses located within 500 feet of the existing network. As we reported, local businesses were chomping at the bit to get hooked up and enjoy the high-speed next generation network. Even without efforts at marketing or advertising, more businesses have added themselves to the queue. LPC will present the formal business plan for expanding the network to the City Council on May 14th. Tony Kindelspire recently reported on the race to get on LPC's network in the Longmont Times-Call:

"We are bringing to council a business plan to build out all of Longmont," [Vince] Jordan, [Broadband Services Manager], said. "It's the whole enchilada."

The fact that there has so far been only limited rollout is due to economics. Currently, the installations are being paid for from a reserve fund that Longmont Power has built up over the years leasing portions of its fiber-optic loop to entities such as Longmont United Hospital and a third-party provider that services the school district. Those leases bring in about $250,000 annually, Jordan said.

For 2013, the Longmont City Council authorized LPC to use $375,000 of that reserve fund to begin connecting businesses and residents to the loop.

This model works, but does not connect everyone fast enough for their liking:

To expedite the build-out, extra up-front dollars will have to be allocated, but where those dollars will come from is yet to be determined, Jordan said, adding that ultimately, the decision will lie with City Council.

Map of Longmont Fiber Rings

Right now, Longmont will cover the initial cost of connecting subscribers except in cases of extraordinarily high cost cases. If it would cost $10,000 to install but the payback to the utility in 2.5 years is only $6,000, a customer would have to cover the $4,000 difference presently. While there are over 1,300 businesses with in 500 feet of the network, connection...

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Posted May 6, 2013 by lgonzalez

We recently learned about Aztec, New Mexico's, free downtown Wi-Fi  so we decided to contact Wallace Begay, the IT Director, to find out more. This desert community of about 6,600 people not only offers the free service, but uses its fiber to serve government, schools, and even four-legged residents.

Begay tells us that in 1998 the city and school system coordinated to install the original fiber and the entities share ownership. The school wanted better, affordable connectivity for students while the city wanted economic development opportunities. Community leaders used E-rate funding and a Gates Foundation grant to construct the original fiber aerial route.

The town provides water, wastewater, and electric services through municipal utilities with its SCADA system. The public library and all ten Aztec Municipal School facilities connect to the fiber network. Municipal government facilities also use the network.

Even though the city is a co-owner, it took several years for municipal offices to get on the fiber network. Aztec City Council originally decided to install the fiber network as a way to bring in revenue by leasing dark fiber, not as a way to connect offices. When Begay started at the city in 2001, administrative offices still used dial-up connections. Twenty dial-up accounts (and the crawling speeds associated with them) added up to $500 each month.

At the time, Qwest (not CenturyLink) was the provider in Aztec and could only offer microwave or copper connections. Connecting 13 facilities at 1.4 Mbps would have cost the city $1,200 each month. Begay used $500 from the electrical enterprise fund to purchase equipment and pay for tech labor to move municipal offices on to the existing network. The city electrical enterprise fund pays for expansions and updates. The network is now about 12 miles.

Begay is especially pleased about the 2004 expansion to the Aztec Animal Control facility, serving all of San Juan County. Before the expansion, Animal Control also used dial-up and spent a significant amount of time fielding calls from worried pet...

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Posted May 1, 2013 by lgonzalez

Community leaders in Medina County, Ohio, recently celebrated the completion of the Medina County Fiber Network (MCFN). Loren Grenson of the Medina Gazette reported on the celebratory breakfast event where officials proclaimed, “The monopoly is dead. Long live the fiber loop."

Local businesses already rave about the county owned MCFN, which offers Internet access, data tranport, and dark fiber leasing. From the article:

Automation Tool and Die in Brunswick is one of 20 entities already tied into the fiber network. The network provides better service to the company’s four buildings in Brunswick’s Northern Industrial Park, said Jacob Mohoric, company IT manager.

“It’s a blazing-fast Internet connection at all four of our buildings at an effective cost,” Mohoric said.

Company co-owner J. Randy Bennett said the network provided the first decent bandwidth for his company since it moved to Brunswick in 1983.

“We had no good bandwidth source and we paid through the nose for what we did have,” Bennett said.

Last July, the Highland School District was near the end of an expensive contract with Time Warner Cable. The network was not complete, but enough MCFN infrastructure was in place to connect the schools for Internet and phone service. Highland Schools now pay about $82,000 less per year for connectivity.

Community leaders began working on the project over ten years ago. After years of planning, the Medina County Port Authority (MCPA) secured $14.4 million in bonds and a $1.4 million stimulus award. The stimulus funding is part of a 2010 grant to nonprofit OneCommunity, charged with extending fiber to 22 Ohio counties. OneCommunity will manage the network.

The 151-mile asset belongs to the MCPA but the entire community considers itself an "owner." Bethany Dentler, executive director of the Medina County Economic Development Corp., also spoke at the celebration:

Dentler said the 151 miles...

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Posted April 29, 2013 by lgonzalez

The city owned dark fiber network in Palo Alto is bringing in a steady stream of revenue that may lead to better connectivity for the entire community. According to a Gennady Sheyner Palo Alto Online article, the Utilities Department recently reported to the City Finance Committee that the city Fiber Fund yields $2.1 million per year. The revenue comes from dark fiber leases to approximately 80 commercial customers. From the article: 

Viewed as a risky investment two decades ago, the fund has in recent years become a plump cash cow. According to a new report from the Utilities Department, its reserves stand at $14.6 million in the current fiscal year and are expected to nearly double by 2018. [emphasis ours]

Commissioners want to get back to the idea of a city-wide FTTP network to serve residents and spur economic development. The city is now working with the school district on a possible expansion to all local schools. 

In his February March State of the City address, Mayor Greg Scharff declared 2013 as the "year of the future," describing fiber as "the key to assuring Palo Alto's long-term position as the Leading Digital City of the Future."  This year the City Council made "technology and the connected city" a priority.  Also from the article:

Commissioner Jonathan Foster noted that the idea of a citywide fiber network has been floating around Palo Alto for many years and said his views on the project have changed since last year, partly because of the council's new attitude about fiber. Before, when economics were the main driver of the conversation, he was more or less neutral, Foster said.

"Now, my approach is -- let's find a way to make this happen," Foster said. "I'm not sure we'll get there but let's come back with the best proposal we can," Foster said.

Commission Chair James Cook voiced a similar sentiment.

"I think this is probably a good idea whose time has finally come," Cook said. "Maybe now it's just gotten the right kind of momentum."

We spoke with Josh Wallace from Palo Alto Utilities in...

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Posted April 25, 2013 by lgonzalez

Ottawa, located in east central Kansas, recently launched its own municipal fiber network. The community of 13,000 in Franklin County watched nearby Chanute build and establish its own broadband utility. Ottawa plans a similar incremental strategy. Both communities boast strong farming traditions and host industrial employers that could not get what they needed from the existing providers.

I spoke with Chuck Bigham, IT Director for the City of Ottawa, who gave me some nuts and bolts on the network. I also touched base with City Manager Richard U. Nienstedt, both are heavily involved in the establishment of the network.

Like in Chanute, local leaders have long nourished a vision for better connectivity. In recent years, they realized the vision was not only attainable, but necessary for the community to thrive.

Approximately seventeen miles of fiber, installed by USD 290 and Franklin County in the 1990s, was already in the ground when the project began. Students and staff connected to the Internet and linked the 8-10 school district facilities via its fiber network. These pre-existing resources became the backbone of Ottawa's new utility. Cooperation between the City Municipal Utility, USD 290, and Franklin County facilitated the configuration of the new network. Ottawa now provides business Internet access, expanded educational opportunities, and a higher level of service than was previously available.

Two years ago, the City and its Chamber of Commerce reached out to major businesses to determine the need for broadband. They found businesses in Ottawa were connected through existing providers, but were unhappy with price and level of service. The community's industrial park seemed especially disadvantaged. Businesses needed better upload speeds than the existing T1s, which ran up to $600 per month. While DS3 connections were available, they were unaffordable and there was no level of service between the two options. Businesses could not convince AT&T to offer something they could afford and, as Bigham noted, the telecom giant appeared to be "milking the cow."

Map of Ottawa, Kansas

This is a common complaint among communities - the big national...

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Posted April 14, 2013 by lgonzalez

Ashland, Oregon, home to Ashland Fiber Net (AFN), may soon be taking aggressive steps to bring more online business to the community. According to an Ashland Daily Tidings article, the City Council is seeking public input into proposed goals for the community. A targeted effort to bring more Internet-based businesses to town is one of the draft goals. The goal seems logical for a community with a network already in place.

AFN serves about 6,000 business and residential customers in this community of 20,000 people. In addition to AFN's retail services, four other local ISPs operate on the infrastructure.

The network is HFC, a cable network, but with far fewer homes on each local loop than the big cable companies typically have. This means that subscribers are far more likely to consistently achieve advertised speeds. Residential services range from $35 per month for 6 Mbps / 1 Mbps service to $75 monthly for 20 Mbps / 5 Mbps. AFN is one of the rare community-owned networks to enforce monthly data caps.

Fiber to the business is an option, but popular business packages are $65 per month for 15 Mbps / 4 Mbps and $85 per month for 25 Mbps / 5 Mbps. AFN also offers rural wireless service to a limited area. 

Ashland also sees some common sense advantages to increasing the number of small home based businesses that use its fiber resource. To that end, AFN provides a "Home Office" business Internet package. From the article:

Councilor Greg Lemhouse has championed the goal to increase the number of Internet-based businesses.

"It's an aggressive goal that says the city is committed to growing this industry," he said.

Lemhouse said many such businesses can be operated out of people's homes.

People who want to run Internet-based businesses often are well educated and are committed to their communities, he said.

Home Internet businesses can also be family-friendly, allowing parents to work from home and stay connected to their children, Lemhouse said.

With the discussion also comes some analysis of what sort of Internet businesses are already keeping shop in town. Also from the article:

It's not clear how many Internet-based businesses exist in Ashland...

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Posted April 4, 2013 by lgonzalez

Adams County, situated in eastern Washington, is now connected to the regional Northwest Open Access Network (NoaNet) infrastructure. Ritzville, the county seat and home to about 1,600 people, connected last fall, funded through a combination of American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) stimulus grants, funds from public utility districts, and surrounding communities. As with other NoaNet projects, connectivity will include community anchor institutions in Ritzville such as the library, schools, and local healthcare clinics.

NoaNet, a nonprofit corporation, is bringing wholesale fiber backbone infrastructure across the state of Washington, connecting community anchor institutions (CAIs). Schools, hospitals, libraries, and government facilities connect via the open access network and retail providers bring service over the network. NoaNet's membership includes municipal utilities, tribes, cities, and counties. The collaboration began in 2000 and received $140 million in federal stimulus dollars to connect rural Washington state

The community celebrated in November with a Ritzville Public Library Open House to show off the new technology. From the NoaNet Press Release:

“We’re just very excited about having consistently fast, high-speed Internet for our patrons.  The benefits will be huge for everyone from online students watching class lectures to tech junkies trying to stream Pandora while downloading YouTube videos, to library staff offering reference help to the public” said Kylie Fullmer, Director of the Ritzville Public Library. “And once it becomes more widely available throughout the community, I think people are going to be just as excited as we are.”

Local community members recognize the importance of what the new connection an do for this agricultural community. Like many other small communities across the country, rural towens like Ritzville see their youth leave for larger markets for career reasons. From an editorial in the Columbia Basin Herald:

We are pleased Ritzville has this service and hope more educational, job and business...

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