Tag: "illinois"

Posted July 19, 2019 by lgonzalez

When utilities, including broadband providers, need to cross railroad rights-of-way to serve customers, some railroad operators have been known to press their advantage. Several states have addressed utility complaints by establishing standardized rates and setting up processes to create a more reasonable and predictable system. Eliminating this obstacle to deployment is another step in bringing broadband to the communities that need it the most.

Party Concerns

Often railroads obtained title to real property during 19th century acquisitions as the infrastructure was being built. They want to preserve as much of their authority and title rights as possible and to ensure that they can receive the maximum value for their interest in the land.

For utilities, cost of deployment is a primary concern. When railroads demand unreasonable fees at crossings or drag out negotiations as a delay tactic, they also impinge on a utility’s ability to meet operational deadlines. Safety and engineering integrity can be negatively impacted by difficult negotiations, unreasonable demands, or exorbitant costs.

Different States, Different Stories

Few states have addressed the problem with statutes establishing standard utility fees for railroad right-of-way crossings. David L. Thomas, Managing Member of the strategic utility planning firm Eagle 1 Resources (E1R) has worked with telecommunications companies and other utilities to negotiate railroad crossing arrangements. He's seen that standard crossing fees set down in statute benefit deployment by ending delay and reducing costs and would like to see the trend pass to every state.

seal-wisconsin.png In South Dakota and Iowa, the fee had been established at $750. Wisconsin allows railroads to charge $500 [PDF see page 12] and state law in Illinois, where railroads have a strong presence in metro areas,...

Read more
Posted April 30, 2019 by lgonzalez

 

As part of our series of interviews conducted during the 2019 Broadband Communities Summit in Austin, Texas, earlier in April, we’re sharing Christopher’s interview with Angela Imming. Angela is the Director of Technology and Innovation for the city of Highland, Illinois, home to Highland Communication Services (HCS).

HCS has been serving the community for almost 10 years now, and the city has had the opportunity to experience both victory and challenge. In this interview, Angela describes both. She talks about how, after losing some of the community thrill that often accompanies a relatively young project, HCS has reached out to their subscribers. In gathering community input, Angela and her team have been able to enhance the network’s success and reinvigorate local pride in the fiber optic network. 

Angela and Christopher also discuss how HCS is using new tools, such as targeted social media campaigns, to increase take rates and attract people to the town of Highland. By combining business acumen and the community-centered approach, HCS is achieving the goals they’ve redefined for themselves and living up to the city’s tradition of innovation.

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

This show is 25 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 ...

Read more
Posted December 28, 2018 by Hannah Bonestroo

After finishing its first phase of broadband build out covering businesses and industrial parks, Rock Falls, Illinois, will begin focusing on residential customers in early 2019. While residents living close to business areas will have early access to the gigabit fiber network, the city of 9,000 will use the fiberhood approach to reach its remaining residential areas.

Growing a Gigabit City

The plan to invest in citywide Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) began taking shape when Rock Falls residents became increasingly frustrated with the incumbent cable provider Comcast. Mayor Bill Wescott called for support for the project during his 2017 State of the City address, saying “The time is now to advance Internet in Rock Falls.” Later in April, the City Council approved the use of a $5.3 million general obligation bond issuance to fund the first phase of the build out, and an overall cap of $13 million for the duration of the project. The estimated cost of the project ended up being significantly reduced because the Rock Falls Electric Department (RFED) had already installed extra fiber-optic cable to connect substations as early as 2004.

By using GO bonds to finance their infrastructure deployment, Rock Falls departs from the typical funding approach. Most municipalities issue revenue bonds or employ interdepartmental loans and money they've saved from avoided costs when ending expensive leased lines to telecommunications companies. In recent years, other methods of funding fiber optic build outs have become increasingly popular as broadband infrastructure has obtained utility status in local communities.

logo-rock-falls-FiberNet.png Nine local businesses are already using FiberNet, which offers gigabit connectivity, a huge upgrade from the 10 - 20 Megabits per second (Mbps) download previously...

Read more
Posted April 11, 2018 by lgonzalez

Last fall, the City Council in Aurora, Illinois, approved a grant to OnLight Aurora to help fund the publicly owned network expansion to more commercial facilities along South River Street. This year, community leaders plan to move north and bring fiber optic infrastructure to RiverEdge Park along the Fox River as they turn the location into a “smart park.”

RiverEdge Park hosts festivals and other events, including summer concerts at it’s pavilion. Public officials want to take advantage of the community’s publicly owned broadband infrastructure for better security and to control parking. The city’s CIO Michael Pegues says that with better parking monitor and control, the city will be able to provide quicker emergency response and more efficient energy use. OnLight Aurora at RiverEdge Park may also generate revenue with kiosks for advertising.

Pegues and other city officials want to continue to grow Aurora’s increasing reputation as a tech-savvy community and to possibly expand the network to serve the nearby communities of Naperville and North Aurora.

“Smart” Attraction

Community leaders, including Pegues and Mayor Richard Irvin, want to cultivate Aurora’s growing reputation as a “smart city.” They’ve already leveraged OnLight Aurora to attract high-tech jobs, such as luring wireless communications company Scientel Solutions from Lombard. Scientel leadership described OnLight Aurora as “a big attraction.” The company will build its new headquarters near CyrusOne, a data center that connects to the fiber network.

The addition of a “smart park” is another creative way to use the publicly owned infrastructure in ways that serve lifestyles of people in the community. Aurora hopes to soon be named a “smart city” by the D.C. Smart Cities Coalition. The Coalition's video describes what characteristics "smart cities" share:

 

Evolution Of A Necessity...

Read more
Posted January 31, 2018 by lgonzalez

I3 Broadband, the private sector partner working with Champaign-Urbana to deliver high-quality connectivity, continues to expand throughout the region and announced that it will aim to offer services to 3,000 more premises during 2018.

One Step At A Time

The company has mapped out the community into neighborhoods and decides order of deployment on several factors, including proximity to areas already being served and level of interest. Residents can indicate their interest online at the company’s website or request the company send them a form to fill out and mail back. I3 will consider bringing the network to a neighborhood when 30 - 45 percent of households express interest in signing up for the Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) service.

I3 serves premises in 24 neighborhoods in Champaign-Urbana, which includes neighborhoods that UC2B built out with fiber and areas where iTV-3 deployed fiber.

When the communities of Champaign and Urbana began looking for a partner to offer services via the publicly owned UC2B network, they first chose iTV-3 because the ISP was a local company with a community minded approach. In 2014, they began working with iTV-3, but within two years, iTV-3 decided to sell its assets to Countrywide Broadband. 

The UC2B leadership chose iTV-3 in part because the company had expressed a commitment to keep expanding the network to other neighborhoods. The sale raised concerns because Countrywide was a larger entity taking over a local interested provider, but the community hoped that Countrywide would be better able to expand the infrastructure because it held considerable assets. Champaign-Urbana chose not to exercise the right of first refusal to purchase fiber assets that had been deployed by iTV-3, but they retained ownership of original UC2B assets. Countrywide began serving customers under its subsidiary i3.

As part of their five-year plan to build out the network, i3 announced in the spring of 2017 that they aimed...

Read more
Posted November 14, 2017 by ChristopherBarich

On October 24, the Aurora, Illinois, City Council Finance Committee approved a $40,000 grant to OnLight Aurora to extend the city’s fiber optic network to River Street Plaza area commercial properties.

The City of Light And Dark Fiber

OnLight Aurora is the nonprofit ISP that leases publicly owned fiber optic infrastructure to serve the city’s municipal government, community anchor institutions (CAIs), two data centers (Bytegrid and CyrusOne) and local businesses.

Prior to OnLight Aurora’s network, the city’s previous network was a patchwork of varying speeds and capabilities. The network was old, unreliable for government employees, and expensive. In 2005-2006, city leaders estimated that Aurora was paying nearly $500,000 a year for leased line expenses to telecommunications providers. Now, the city of Aurora saves approximately $485,000 each year by utilizing their municipal fiber optic infrastructure.

The community spent approximately $7 million to construct the network between 2008 and 2011. Aurora initially financed the project with general obligation bonds and estimated payback at 10 years. In 2011, Aurora received a Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) grant from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) administered through the Illinois Department of Transportation. The approximately $12 million FHWA grant financed the upgrades to 60 traffic signals, the...

Read more
Posted October 4, 2017 by lgonzalez

OnLight Aurora, the nonprofit ISP serving Aurora, Illinois via publicly owned infrastructure, is bringing more companies to the second largest city in the state.

"One Of The Reasons We're Here"

Scientel Solutions, a wireless communications company with headquarters in Lombard, Illinois, is making a move to Aurora. The company plans to build its own 12,000 square foot office building and an accompanying warehouse in the community where they will be near a local data center.

The data Cyrus One data center was only one reason Scientel chose Aurora, according to the company’s attorney Richard Williams:

“In addition to being near Cyrus One, Williams told aldermen the company also was lured by OnLight Aurora, the city's fiber optic network.” 

"Fiber was a big attraction to us," Williams said. "That's one of the reasons we're here."

Rather than continue to lease its Lombard location, the company has decided to invest in its own property. In addition to constructing the facilities, Scientel will erect a communications tower on its new site. Lombard is approximately 25 miles east of Aurora, closer to downtown Chicago.

Scientel will bring 30 Lombard employees to Aurora and hire 20 more employees to work at the new headquarters.

Unexpected Benefits

Back in 1995, city leadership decided to invest in publicly owned infrastructure to reduce telecommunications costs, upgrade to a faster network, and obtain the reliability they couldn’t get from incumbents. At the time, the city used patchwork of different connections and while some facilities obtained adequate connectivity, others in the more far-reaching areas of the community depended on old leased lines that weren’t up to task. Employees in some offices traveled to offices where connectivity was better in order to complete specific tasks that required better connections.

Rather than continue to pay $500,000 per year to telecommunications providers to pay for multiple leased lines, community leaders saw the wisdom in fiber optic investment. Construction on the 60-mile network started in 2008, lasted for three years, and allowed Aurora to save $485,000 per year...

Read more
Posted May 1, 2017 by lgonzalez

Private sector i3 Broadband recently announced that it will begin expanding infrastructure in the Champaign and Urbana, Illinois, communities. Construction will begin no later than August 1st.

Trading Partners

Nonprofit UC2B obtained $26 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funding to deploy its urban Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) project. The project offered residents high-quality Internet access for as little as $19.99 per month.

UC2B found private sector partner iTV-3 to take over operations and invest further in the network in 2014. One of the reasons UC2B chose iTV-3 was the company’s commitment to invest its own resources into expanding so others in the Urbana-Champaign community would have access. iTV-3 expanded, but slowly.

When iTV-3 decided to sell its assets to Countrywide Broadband in 2016, UC2B had the right of first refusal for fiber deployed by iTV-3, but decided not to exercise that right. Countrywide created i3, based in Peoria, to serve current and future subscribers in the region. While those watching the transaction were concerned about losing a local partner, folks the area were also optimistic because i3 has the capital for a more aggressive expansion schedule.

Aggressive Five-Year Plan

Mike Whitaker, VP of sales and business development of i3 told the News-Gazette that the upcoming expansion will serve an additional 2,500 homes. The company plans to add the same amount each year for the next five years with half in Champaign and half in Urbana.

Deciding where to expand is based on several factors, including whether or not a neighboring area already has service and the percentage of interested households. When early partner iTV-3 used pre-registration to determine where to build, they required a 50 percent sign up rate in a neighborhood prior to deployment; i3 will use a lower 35 percent threshold.

Whitaker and i3 are optimistic, "You'll start to see more significant coverage...

Read more
Posted February 28, 2017 by lgonzalez

About a year ago, Internet service provider Countrywide Broadband (CWB) and equity firm Seaport Capital announced that they would collectively acquire the assets of Illinois based ISP, iTV-3. The partners would form the subsidiary Internet service provider i3 to take over operations that belonged to iTV-3. Not an unusual course of events when one hears about large companies gobbling up smaller ventures on a regular basis. This situation was different because iTV-3 had been working with the communities of Champaign and Urbana to bring high-quality connectivity to residents and businesses via its publicly owned fiber. Just yesterday, CWB announced that the deal has been completed.

Partners 1 and 2

When the UC2B nonprofit organization chose iTV-3, the partnership was lauded as one that held local concerns a top priority. iTV-3 is an Illinois based company and their interest in participating as a community member, rather than just a distant ISP, made them a desirable choice.

An important component of the partnership was iTV-3’s commitment to invest by expanding the existing network and they did build out in some areas. Expansion did not happen quickly, however, and elected officials hope that i3 can accelerate private investment so more neighborhoods can access the Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network. From the Countrywide press release:

Urbana Mayor Laurel Prussing further commented, "With new management and a more aggressive build-out schedule, more residents will have access to high-speed internet.  This is essential for local entrepreneurs in our modern economy and for all other users as well."

The UC2B nonprofit began the project with a $26 million award from American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funding. It was an urban FTTH project that allowed residents to sign up for Internet access for as low as $19.99 per month. In 2014, chose iTV-3 to...

Read more
Posted February 27, 2017 by lgonzalez

The community of Rock Falls, Illinois, is well on its way to developing a gigabit municipal network to offer better connectivity to residents, businesses, and public facilities. Last week, the City Council adopted an ordinance that allows the city to issue general obligation bonds to fund citywide fiber-optic Internet infrastructure.

Following Demand

The city’s plan will expand first in business corridors and then use the fiberhood approach in residential areas, building only after a certain percentage of households preregister. The plan divides the city into 14 fiberhoods with each area’s build out cost estimated to be approximately $250,000. Residential fiberhoods will require 45 percent participation prior to construction. Consultants estimate citywide buildout costs will be $13 million; the City Council authorized bonding for that amount. The first bond issue will be $4.1 million likely to happen in early May if approval proceeds as planned.

The City Council authorized the first phase of the project to begin - network design and project administration - which will cost approximately $207,000. The process to issue GO bonds will start in March and city leaders hope to have the backbone completed by the end of June.

Most publicly owned Internet infrastructure is funded by revenue bonds, avoided costs, or interdepartmental loans rather than GO bonds. When funded by general obligation bonds, a project is backed by the credit and taxing power of the issuing jurisdiction and the resource is always publicly owned. Clearly, the community of Rock Falls recognizes how critical the investment is to the community's future.

From The Mayor

In his recent State of the City address, Mayor Bill Wescott focused on three factors that drove the initiative: growth, the city’s strong finances, and local control.

While it’s common knowledge that economic development needs better connectivity than what is now available in Rock Falls, Wescott noted that residents stuck with 10 - 20 Megabits per second (Mbps) download Internet access need and deserve higher capacity connectivity to participate in the modern economy. He defined “growth” broadly, encompassing jobs, education, innovation, public safety, and government.

...

Read more

Pages

Subscribe to illinois