Tag: "economic development"

Posted March 29, 2012 by lgonzalez

MPR News recently ran two stories on the trials and tribulations of new and prospective broadband networks. Conrad Wilson's story about the continuing Monticello drama and Jennifer Vogel's account of factors affecting the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) projects give us a good idea of the many hurdles in the way of building new fiber-optic networks.

We have reported many times on the drama that has unfolded in Monticello. The municipally owned fiber-optic network has faced some withering challenges and yet perseveres.

Monticello asked for a modern communications network but the existing service providers, the cable and phone companies, insisted the city was "sufficiently wired." Conrad's reporting suggests otherwise:

Bill Tapper, who owns a cabinet company with clients around the world, recalls a time just a few years ago when the Internet was so slow it hurt business.

"The service we had in Monticello was horrible," he said. "My employees would sometimes take the data home where they had a better Internet connection than we did and do their uploads at night."

Tapper said he lost out on business, but at the time the established Internet service providers like phone and cable TV companies told Tapper and other frustrated business owners in town that the city was wired sufficiently.

Fibernet Monticello

After the community voted in favor of a publicly owned fiber-optic network, the incumbent provider, TDS, filed a lawsuit. The lawsuit strategically succeeded in stalling the development of the new network but did not destroy the project. Even though the incumbent provider describes pre-network status as "just fine before the city got involved," TDS took advantage of the delay they caused to began building their own fiber network.

Currently, subscribers in Monticello are benefitting from their high-speed fiber in ways beyond expanded and improved access. Because of the threat of competition, Charter is...

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Posted March 27, 2012 by christopher

Alcatel-Lucent, one of the key vendors behind the Chattanooga community fiber network, has produced a video highlighting life in a "smart" city.  

Posted March 5, 2012 by christopher

We are hearing that SB 313 in Georgia, AT&T's bill to overrule local authority, will be turned into a study bill. Despite the strong support of the Senate Majority Leader, the bill lost support after we and others exposed the frank admission of AT&T's CEO that they had no plans to expand broadband in rural areas.

Given the strength of AT&T's lobbying and the support of the Senate Majority Leader, this is a tremendous victory. Congratulations to the communities in Georgia that successfully organized and defended their authority to decide locally if a network is a wise choice for them.

We do not consider these issues resolved until the ink is dried, but it does look like AT&T lost this round -- which means thousands of local businesses and millions of people won. They can still hope for next-generation networks and a real choice in providers.

Note: the South Carolina bill remains in play and will be discussed on Wednesday by a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee.

We have been collecting some of the news coverage of this broadband debate in Georgia, but have neglected posting until now. Here is a run-down of some of the coverage.

In the beginning of February, the AP covered an SB 313 hearing featuring testimony from rural communities:

Leaders from cities including Elberton, Hogansville, Thomasville, Monroe and Toccoa lined up to tell senators that broadband is necessary infrastructure for the 21st century economic development they hope to attract — and that they are doing what they must to keep their communities competitive.

"We cannot wait for the private sector to ride to our rescue," said Tim Martin, executive director of the Toccoa-Stephens County Development Authority.

Thomasville Mayor Max Beverly said the city's broadband network supports major employers there.

"If we have to cut them off, there's no telling what that's going to do...

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Posted February 22, 2012 by christopher

The latest addition to our Community Broadband Network Map is Indianola, Iowa. The Indianola Municipal Utilities own a network that a private partner, MCG, presently uses to offer services to commercial companies. Come summer, the network will begin serving residents also.

Indianola is the county seat of Warren County and has a population pushing 15,000. Back in 1998, the city had a referendum before building a fiber ring. The utility first used its telecommunications capacity for SCADA applications and public safety communications but began using spare capacity to benefit local businesses after 2005.

Indianola describes its network as open access but the network only has one provider. Nonetheless, it serves 70 commercial customers and is presently expanding. It is not available on citywide basis yet and further rollout will be on an incremental basis over many years.

In the open access arragement, service providers have to come to an agreement with the utility on pricing and adequate levels of customer support.

The utility entered the broadband space because incumbent providers Qwest (now CenturyLink) and Mediacom were not meeting local business needs, a familiar story we hear from communities around the country.

Contrary to the common claims of big cable and DSL companies, the city was still willing to work with its telecom competitors -- but it was Mediacom that said it was uninterested in using utility ducts created when parts of town were transitioned from aerial utility service to buried.

In reaction to the competition, Mediacom dropped its business pricing for customers that agreed to long-term contract offerings. IMU (and partner MCG) once had a considerable advantage in pricing but Mediacom's new packages have eroded some of that difference. Fortunately, IMU has a better reputation for service and does not require long term contracts.

Indianola, Iowa

One of the biggest benefits to the community is the high-capacity connections at schools, libraries, and public buildings. Schools connect to each other at a gigabit, allowing them to centralize network operations and cut costs. The municipal and county governments gain the same benefits.

Todd Kielkopf, IMU General...

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Posted February 9, 2012 by christopher

The 2012 Broadband Communities Summit will be at the InterContinental Hotel in Dallas April 24-26. I will be there and am excited for the Open Access Program as well as the Economic Development discussions. I'll be presenting on both topics. Early Bird rates appear to still be in play - hope to see some of you there!

Posted February 3, 2012 by christopher

With AT&T continuing to push H.3508, a bill to further erode local authority over broadband and ensure AT&T faces no competition in areas of the state, a number of corporations have signed a letter asking the South Carolina Legislature not to chase jobs out of the state. Though the bill has not yet had a hearing this year, we have seen hearings scheduled and know that the bill is being actively considered behind the scenes.

Dear Senator McConnell and Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee:

We, the private-sector companies and trade associations listed below, urge you to oppose H.3508 because these bills, on top of South Carolina’s existing barrier to public communications initiatives, codified in SC Code §§ 58-9-2600 et seq., will harm both the public and private sectors, stifle economic growth, prevent the creation or retention of thousands of jobs, hamper work force development and diminish the quality of life in South Carolina. In particular, these bills will hurt the private sector in several ways: by curtailing public-private partnerships, stifling private companies that sell equipment and services to public broadband providers, and impairing educational and occupational opportunities that contribute to a skilled workforce from which businesses across the state will benefit.

The United States continues to suffer through difficult economic times. The private sector alone cannot lift the United States out of this crisis. As a result, federal and state efforts are taking place across the Nation to deploy both private and public broadband infrastructure to stimulate and support economic development and jobs, especially in economically distressed areas. For example, in South Carolina, Orangeburg and Oconee Countieshave received broadband stimulus awards to bring much-needed broadband services and capabilities to communities that the private sector has chosen not to serve adequately. H.3508, together with SC Code §§ 58-9-2600 et seq., would impose burdensome financial and regulatory requirements that will prevent public broadband providers from building the sorely needed advanced broadband infrastructure that will stimulate local businesses development, foster work force retraining, and boost...

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Posted February 2, 2012 by christopher

The USA Today occasionally covered the Lafayette muni fiber network fight as Cox and Bellsouth used every dirty trick conceivable against the community to shut it down. Reporter Rick Jervis looks back in now that the network is available to everyone in town.

The battle over broadband in Lafayette is part of a growing number of clashes across the USA that pit municipalities against telecom firms for the right to deliver Web access to homes and businesses. More than 150 local governments across the country have built or are planning to build cyber networks, says Christopher Mitchell of the Washington-based Institute for Local Self-Reliance, a non-profit group that advocates community development and local access to technology. Mitchell says those efforts often draw opposition in the form of misinformation campaigns, lawsuits from private providers or unfavorable state laws resulting from telecom lobbying. Nineteen states either ban cities and counties from getting into the broadband business — or make it difficult.

Minor quibble: the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (and particularly my work) is not Washington-based.

Like the toy in Crackerjack boxes, we cannot have a story about community networks without at least one blatant lie from some cable company employee. No disappointments here:

"Our initial objection was, and remains, that it is an unfair advantage for your competitor to also be your regulator," says Todd Smith, a Cox spokesman. "Many states prohibit government from competing with the private sector."

I challenge Todd Smith to name one way in which LUS Fiber regulates Cox. When the local government makes rules that impact either Cox or LUS Fiber, such rules have to be non-disciminatory or they violate state and federal laws. If incumbents think the community is violating any laws, we know that they know how to hire lawyers and file lawsuits. They've done it often enough.

The story details some of the benefits to the community since LUS Fiber opened shop -- including businesses moving to Lafayette to create new jobs:

LUS Logo

Scott Eric Olivier moved his tech startup firm, Skyscraper Holding...

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Posted January 13, 2012 by christopher

Prior to Chattanooga's gigabit announcement, Amazon had no considered that region as a location for the distribution center they would looking to put in the southeastern U.S. But they saw the announcement, talked to the City and Boom! Over 1,000 jobs.

I've long known of this economic development example but did not fully appreciate how important access to the Internet is for an Amazonian Distribution Center. But this article about its coming expansion (more on that in bit) offers some context.

The distribution center is the size of 17 football fields and hosts 700 Internet access points connected by 7 miles of fiber-optic cables within the facility. So access to the Internet is pretty important for a distribution center of an online retailer.

When Amazon announced its investment in Chattanooga, it predicted some 1400 jobs with additional seasonal employment opportunities. After cutting back seasonal employees with the end of the holiday season, it was still employing 2000 workers.

With its expansion, it will add hundreds of jobs -- hundreds of jobs that would not be in Chattanooga without the community fiber network. Massive national providers like Comcast regularly claim they can deliver any level of service to big customers but the reality is that they are not willing to charge reasonable prices for such services and they are much harder to work with (partially because the bureaucracy at any massive cable corporation is worse than that of any local government).

Posted January 4, 2012 by christopher

The following news report suggests that some in Knoxville, Tennessee, are starting to get a little jealous of the incredible FTTH network built by Chattanooga's publicly owned electric company. A number of Knoxville businesses are finding it more convenient to expand and add jobs in Chattanooga, where access to the Internet is faster and more affordable due to public investments.

The text version of the above video is available here.

Knoxville is located 100 miles northeast of Chattanooga. And 100 miles to the northeast of Knoxville is Bristol, Virginia, which has also been seeing significant job gains as a result of its publicly owned fiber-optic network that stretches into most of southwestern Virginia. In short, Knoxville should start worrying about its future and broadband competitiveness.

Map of Chattanooga and Knoxville

The Chattanooga ...

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Posted December 29, 2011 by christopher

We have been trying to keep close track of the recent group of communities building incremental, publicly owned, open access fiber networks -- which often starting with connections to businesses. A recent article from the Cortez Journal provides a window into the Cortez, Colorado network that we have previously covered here.

After the city finished building the first phase of the project, at least 150 companies, according to the city, purchased and are now connected to the city’s fiber optic backbone via private service providers, such as Brainstorm Internet and Farmers Telecommunications.

One of the service providers (Farmers Telecommunications) has a long experience in the area -- having offered telephone services for 91 years. It is now able to provide much faster services with a much lower investment because of the public investment.

“This will have a huge impact on the local economy, and it will keep citizens’ spending dollars in Cortez,” said City of Cortez Department of General Services Director Rick Smith. “And feed more money here, potentially, from around the world.”

The businesses previously had access to the slower, more expensive broadband connections but now have more choices between independent service providers can use the infrastructure built by the local government to benefit the local economy.

The city’s new, open-services network allows companies to offer advanced services, such as broadband Internet and voice and communication systems, said Farmers Telecommunications General Manager Doug Pace.

“What we’re seeing is that more and more businesses are requiring that upload speed to be increased,” Pace said as an example of the kind of cloud computing Farmer’s offers on the city’s Fiber to the Business network.

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