Tag: "economic development"

Posted May 18, 2010 by christopher

The nation's newest open access network opened for business this week - Palm Coast FiberNET in Florida. This network is intended to serve businesses and is not currently a FTTH build. The network uses the City of Palm Coast's fiber assets:

The City of Palm Coast is making its high performance fiber network available for business and commercial use in Palm Coast. The goal of this effort is to create business opportunities for private sector service providers, lower the cost of telecom and broadband for local businesses, and to help attract new businesses and job opportunities to the City. Broadband connections to businesses will provide Internet access, a wider variety of telephone, videoconferencing, and other business class services.

The opening ceremonies (a cutting of the fiber) were covered on Office Divvy, who noted that the network currently has two providers and a plan to connect most businesses in town over the next two years. Services to their facility will be up in early June.

This is a similar approach as used in several networks in Virginia, including the Wired Road, and nDanville. Rather than trying to build citywide all at once, these networks expand as opportunities arise and funding is available.

Clarification: The City has already expanded its fiber assets to create this network; the post should not be read as the City merely leasing fiber it already had.

Posted May 11, 2010 by christopher

KMOX, a station from St. Louis, recently asked what Ohio's OneCommunity did correctly in building a regional broadband network. The article is interesting for some background on OneCommunity, but the discussion of what St. Louis attempted is somewhat lacking (and the reporters appear to have little expertise in broadband).

OneCommunity is a successful nonprofit approach to expanding broadband access by working with various entities - sharing the resources of public entities as well as private carriers to the benefit of everyone. However, its results are somewhat less predictable than the admittedly more top-down approach of a local government-run initiative that can ensure everyone in a community gets a certain kind of connection. On the other hand, OneCommunity is more insulated from the fluctuations of everyday politics that can hurt or slow projects operated by a local government, depending on the structure (remember, structure is defined by rules ... and rules matter).

My impression is also that OneCommunity has been tremendously successful in securing broadband for middle mile and large institutional needs, but its approach at solving the last-mile problem has been hit-or-miss depending on the community. By lowering the cost of backhaul, the private sector may be more interested in building those last-mile connections, but residents do not get the full benefits of service from a provider that puts community needs above profits.

OneCommunity started in Cleveland with the idea of collecting spare or unused broadband capacity (often using assets after the dotcom bust) and putting it to use.

Along with a variety of other key community anchors, the network connects some 65 hospitals in all.

"We're allowing point of care treatment through remote specialists that actually allow, not only a triage of patients in the emergency room, but actually direct treatment and diagnosis on site in real time from a third-party specialist located in another institution."

OneCommunity's network is sufficiently large that these hospitals can connect directly to each other rather than each connecting to the larger Internet to send information amongst themselves. Just as in Lafayette, where all in-network connections occur at 100Mbps, OneCommunity can offer...

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Posted May 5, 2010 by christopher

One of the focuses of the recent FiberFete conference is what do communities do once they have built a next-generation network. Lafayette had lots of ideas.

Let's start with counting new jobs. Lafayette Pro Fiber recently discussed one of the employers adding jobs. The post acknowledges that the fiber network is not the sole reason for these particular jobs, but it does play an important role:

You have to know if you've been down to "the egg" at the LITE building that they're not going to put 100 cubicle workers in that facility. No way they'd fit. However they do have to do the tedious work in Louisiana to get those credits. So some large percentage of those 100 workers will have to be off-site. But they'll have to be able to do their work as if they were in the same building with, at a minimum, the 100 megs of connectivity that standard ethernet LANs provide. That, of course, is exactly what LUS provides on its justly acclaimed 100 meg intranet. A person setting behind a nice workstation setup on Moss Avenue with a nice VLAN setup could work within the Pixel Magic network as if they were just down the hall from the boss's glossy corner office (something both would probably prefer). The ultimate in working from home. I'll not be surprised if Pixel Magic opts for an offsite work center like NuConn did—but there too LUS' fiber-to-every-nook-and-cranny make it possible to shop for the cheapest appropriate location rather than the cheapest location that has something close to real connectivity. In that sort of situation it would be easy and damned inexpensive to leverage LUS Fiber to provide a gig or several of commercial grade connection between the two points.

This is only one of several employers who have added many jobs in Lafayette because of the publicly owned fiber network.

Another avenue Lafayette is exploring is high-bandwidth classrooms. They have created a specific FiberKids program (which was discussed at FiberFete).

The project is intended to test live streaming, high-definition capabilities for school conferences, lectures and field trips.

Students are encouraged to explore the uses of fiber-optic technology in the classroom....

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Posted April 9, 2010 by christopher

The folks in Salisbury, North Carolina, have picked a name for their new FTTH network, Fibrant. An article in the Salisbury Post notes that even though the network is not yet offering services, they are seeing some economic development opportunities.

"We've already had a couple of people who have moved to town because they knew it was coming," said Clark, who noted that a medical concierge company (virtual check-ups) has shown a lot of interest in Salisbury's fiber.

The article also goes into the many advantages of fiber-optics over last generation technologies.

Posted March 19, 2010 by christopher

The city of Wilson created a video to woo businesses to town - in it, they briefly discuss the publicly owned FTTH network they built, noting it offers the fastest speeds in the state.

A Snapshot of Wilson, NC from City of Wilson, NC on Vimeo.

Posted December 17, 2009 by christopher

In this short article, Joanne and Ken discuss why Colorado Municipalities need to think about broadband within their community and why Colorado law makes it more difficult for communities in Colorado to ensure they have modern broadband networks.

Even as there is growing consensus nationally that broadband is a key driver of economic competitiveness, the communications industry is not meeting our growing demand for bandwidth and speed in an affordable manner. The U.S. has slipped to 16th in the world in per capita penetration as of May 2007, compared to a ranking of fourth just six years ago. We face a broadband monopoly or duopoly of incumbent cable and telephone companies, with the possibility of no broadband in many rural areas. DSL and cable modem service are not universally available, and even where they are frequently fail to meet business and educational needs. Small and medium businesses cannot compete without affordable, high-speed access. Many businesses will not locate in areas without very high speed access. Homebased businesses fail to grow because of slow Internet speeds. Lack of fast, affordable broadband also precludes development of the collaborative, distributed work that is a hallmark of the emerging global economy.

However, short-sited politicians in the capitol have created roadblocks to community broadband networks:

With support of large communications providers, Colorado passed Senate Bill 152 in 2005, which placed a significant roadblock in front of any local government efforts to invest in broadband deployment. Essentially, local governments are prohibited from investing in these networks, even in the case of public-private partnerships where the customer interaction is through a private sector partner, unless the project is approved by local voters. While problematic, a well-planned project should arguably not have a problem receiving voter approval. However, one of the unintended consequences of the legislation was its failure to anticipate the federal stimulus dollars, and the intent of the federal government to send those dollars to communities with “shovel ready” projects.

Colorado communities are disadvantaged compared to other local governments if we can only represent that our ability to spend these dollars is contingent upon a public vote.

Posted December 8, 2009 by christopher

After reading an impressive article in the South Washington County Bulletin, I am convinced that most Americans now understand that broadband is essential infrastructure for communities. Don Davis' "Speedy Internet could boost rural Minnesota" is a lengthy and thorough discussion of why every community needs broadband connections.

He starts by noting the MN Broadband Task Force, which found that the state should make sure broadband access is ubiquitous in the coming years at minimum speeds considerably above what is available currently in most of Minnesota. What it lacked was a suggestion of how to get there.

Don delves into the Lake County solution:

A northeastern Minnesota county is doing just that and may have the answer, at least for those in the "second Minnesota."

Lake County hopes to blaze a trail to a faster Internet with private businesses paying most of the cost.

County officials want to lay fiber optic cable, capable of carrying high-speed signals, to every home and business with electricity. If it happens, Lake County could become a model not only for Minnesota but the country by offering its rural citizens the same service as their big-city cousins receive.

As detailed in the article, Lake County has lost economic development opportunities precisely because they cannot guarantee fast and affordable connectivity to those who otherwise want to locate there.

What he does not make clear is that Lake County will own this network. It will be operated by National Public Broadband - a nonprofit. The private sector is not interested in bringing true broadband to the North Shore and local citizens should be glad of it - they will get a far superior network than Qwest could have built.

Once the public builds this fiber network (using private sector contractors), other private sector companies will provide services over it. This is a good model - the public builds the infrastructure and allows private companies to deliver services. The public can ensure everyone has equal access by physically connecting every residence and business.

Unfortunately, one of the MN Task Force members - who should know better - is quoted as saying it isn't "financially feasible" to build fiber to every home. What is or is not financially feasible is...

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Posted September 28, 2009 by christopher

On Tuesday, September 15, EPB, the public power utility serving Chattanooga and nearby communities in Tennessee, rolled out fully fiber-powered triple-play services to 17,000, a number expected to grow by July 2010, when services will be available to some 100,000 people and businesses. It will take three years before all 160,000 potential subscribers are passed.

Chattanooga has had a relatively rough time creating the network due to the litigious nature of its incumbents, who have filed 4 lawsuits to stop the project only to have each of them dismissed by the courts. (This is a predictable outcome, many of these companies file frivolous lawsuits to intimidate communities with lost time and legal fees - leading to a no-lose situation for companies that invest more in lawyers than in the networks communities need in the modern economy.)

Prices and Options

All broadband speeds are symmetrical; prices by month

Option Price
15 Mbps $57.99
20 Mbps $69.99
50 Mbps $174.99
15 Mbps and basic phone $68.83
15 Mbps / basic phone / basic cable $92.97
15 Mbps/ phone & 120 min long distance / 77 Channels $117.24

Caveats: an extra $5.99 a month for HD Capability on the TV, but even the basic phone package comes with caller ID and 3-way calling

The Tennessee Cable and Telecommunications Association kicked off the lawsuits in 2007 and Comcast chimed in a year later. As has been done in other communities, the private companies alleged the power utility was cross-subsidizing its triple-play telecom offering with revenues from the electric side. Aside from this just being a poor business practice, the companies say such cross-subsidization would be unfair to them even as major carriers routinely cross-subsidize from community to community - overcharging in non-competitive markets to make up for keeping prices low in competitive markets.

Nonetheless, public power companies and other public agencies have learned to keep meticulous books to show they are not cross-subsidizing, something courts recognize each time their time is wasted by lawsuit-happy incumbent providers.

EPB has long offered some telecom...

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Posted June 16, 2009 by christopher

Though Danville, Virginia, was hit hard by the simultaneously decline of tobacco and textile industries, the community has responded: Danville Utilities has been building a state of the art all fiber network. Like many communities, they built a backbone and connected the schools and government buildings first. They then started to connect businesses. This summer they will be rolling out a pilot project to connect a few thousand homes to their open services network. As they add more potential subscribers to the network, they will be more attractive to service providers. This should spur competition, increase innovation, reduce prices, and otherwise make the network more desirable to subscribers. Though the open access idea has been somewhat maligned following the troubles of UTOPIA (many of which had nothing to do with the wholesale model), the consulting firm Design Nine has helped both nDanville and The Wired Road move forward with a revised wholesale-only model. This approach may be gaining traction nationally depending on how the rules for the stimulus grants are written: Stimulating Broadband suggests broadband stimulus funding from USDA will favor "projects that will deliver end users a choice of more than one service provider." Back in Danville, the schools have much faster Internet access while shaving their telecom budgets. Other key features are listed on the network's site, including:

The nDanville Medical Network project has begun to connect a majority of doctor’s offices and medical clinics around the city. The network is already being used by the Danville Regional Medical Center to provide super high speed connectivity to satellite clinics and offices in Danville.

Last year, Last Mile featured an article on the network that includes some numbers, goals, and history of the project. Below is a video that discusses some of the benefits of the network.

Posted April 22, 2009 by christopher

We looked at moving, but because of the cost savings, as has been recently mentioned, because of the cost savings of UTOPIA, consolidated T-1 lines, stuff like that, we’re not moving. We’re here to stay.

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