Tag: "Vermont"

Posted July 1, 2017 by lgonzalez

In true publicly owned network fashion, ECFiber in Vermont has increased speeds without raising rates. This is the third such speed increase in four years that did not come with a price increase. Even better, ECFiber plans to do it again next year.

The break down of the changes are:

Basic: Increases from 10 Megabits per second (Mbps) to 17 Mbps

Standard: Increases from 25 Mbps to 40 Mbps

Ultra: Doubles from 100 Mbps to 200 Mbps

Wicked: Goes from 500 Mbps to 700 Mbps

All speeds from ECFiber are symmetrical, so upload and download speeds are the same. Later this year, the organization plans to increase speeds again and the organization will offer a gigabit plan.

Publicly Owned Networks Are Doing It

Municipal networks and regional networks make it a habit to increase speeds with modest or no price increases. We’ve noticed the behavior in several places, but gathered data for eight publicly owned networks in the state of Tennessee to highlight this characteristic.

Check out our Municipal Networks: Speed Increases & Affordable Prices fact sheet.

Expanding While Saving Public Dollars

As we reported in March, the town-owned Communications Union District is expanding and building out in remaining member towns. They are also serving community facilities, such as schools, libraries, and town halls with the fastest speeds available for only $74 per month. Incumbents charge $2,000 per month for the same level of service. In a school, that comes to about $23,000 each year to free up for educational programs, rather than telecommunications costs.

Listen our recent conversation with Carole Monroe and Irv Thomae about the network in episode 251 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast.

Posted June 1, 2017 by lgonzalez

For the second week in row, our staff has felt compelled to address a misleading report about municipal networks. In order to correct the errors and incorrect assumptions in yet another anti-muni publication, we’ve worked with Next Century Cities to publish Correcting Community Fiber Fallacies: Yoo Discredits U Penn, Not Municipal Networks.

Skewed Data = Skewed Results

Professor Christopher S. Yoo and Timothy Pfenninger from the Center for Technology, Innovation and Competition (CTIC) at the University of Pennsylvania Law School recently released "Municipal Fiber in the United States: An Empirical Assessment of Financial Performance." The report attempts to analyze the financial future of several citywide Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) municipal networks in the U.S. by applying a Net Present Value (NPV) calculation approach. They applied their method to some well-known networks, including Chattanooga's EPB Fiber Optics; Greenlight in Wilson, North Carolina; and Lafayette, Louisiana's LUS Fiber. Unfortunately, their initial data was flawed and incomplete, which yielded a report fraught with credibility issues.

So Many Problems 

In addition to compromising data validity, the authors of the study didn’t consider the wider context of municipal networks, which goes beyond the purpose of NPV, which is determining the promise of a financial investment.

Some of the more expansive problems with this report (from our Executive Summary):

  • They erred in claiming Wilson, Lafayette, and Chattanooga have balloon payments at the end of the term. They have corrected that error in a press release. Other errors, such as confusing the technologies used by at least two networks, are less important but decrease the study’s credibility.
  • Several of the cities dispute the accuracy of the numbers used in the calculations for their communities.
  • The Net Present Value calculation is inappropriate in this context for... Read more
Posted May 26, 2017 by Nick

S&P Global Market Intelligence - May 26, 2017

Hard Data on Municipal Broadband Networks

Written by Sarah Barry James

There is a dearth of good data around municipal broadband networks, and the data that is available raises some tough questions.

A new study from University of Pennsylvania Law School Professor Christopher Yoo and co-author Timothy Pfenninger, a law student, identified 88 municipal fiber projects across the country, 20 of which report the financial results of their broadband operations separately from the results of their electric power operations. Municipal broadband networks are owned and operated by localities, often in connection with the local utility.

...

Yet Christopher Mitchell, director of the Community Broadband Networks Initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, argued that Yoo's study did not present an entirely accurate or up-to-date picture of U.S. municipal networks.

"When I looked at the 20 communities that he studied — and his methodology for picking those is totally reasonable and he did not cherry pick them — I was not surprised at his results because many of those networks are either in very small communities … and the others were often in the early years of a buildout during a period of deep recession," Mitchell said.

As an example, Mitchell pointed to Electric Power Board's municipal broadband network in Chattanooga, Tenn. — one of the five networks Yoo identified as having positive cash flow but at such a low level that it would take more than 100 years to recover project costs.

...

In fact, without the revenue generated by the fiber-optics business, EPB estimated it would have had to raise electric rates by 7% this year.

According to Mitchell, Yoo's study captured the Chattanooga network when it was still "small and growing," but misses "what's going to happen for the rest of the life of the network, which I think is the more important part."

...

Read the... Read more

Posted May 25, 2017 by Nick

Telecompetitor - May 25, 2017

Municipal broadband networks do not have a strong financial track record, according to an analysis conducted by the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Technology, Innovation and Competition. The municipal broadband financial analysis, which looked at 20 municipal fiber projects, found that only nine were cash-flow positive and that of those, seven would need more than 60 years to break even.

...

An Opposing View

Municipal network advocate Christopher Mitchell, director of the Community Broadband Networks Initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, pointed to several flaws in the Penn Law municipal broadband financial analysis.

He noted, for example that a substantial portion of the 20 networks studied were “early in the process and very small.” He also argued that the 2010-2014 study period may have biased the results, as that period included a recession and subscribership for some of the networks has increased substantially since 2014. He noted, for example, that EPB’s broadband network in Chattanooga had about 50,000 to 55,000 subscribers in 2014 but has now hit the 90,000 mark.

The Penn Law authors’ approach was “not the proper way to measure these networks,” said Mitchell in a phone call with Telecompetitor. The analysis “doesn’t take into account jobs created or the impact on the municipal budget,” he said.

He argued, for example, that a municipality that previously paid $1 million annually for connectivity might instead pay itself $500,000 for connectivity on the municipal network.

...

Read the full story here.

Posted May 9, 2017 by htrostle

This is the transcript for Episode 251 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. Carole Monroe and Irv Thomae discuss connectivity in East Central Vermont and the future of the ECFiber Network. Listen to this episode here.

 

Carole Monroe: What we see, in this area, is that most of the customers coming to ECFiber are customers that are coming from FairPoint.

Lisa Gonzalez: This is episode 251 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast, from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. I'm Lisa Gonzalez. ECFiber is a consortium of 24 member towns in East Central Vermont that banded together in 2008, on a mission to bring high quality connectivity to their small, rural towns. The project began with funds from many local investors. Since then, the network has expanded, and a new structure will allow ECFiber to continue to grow. In this interview, we learn about ECFiber's past, present, and future plans. Christopher's guests, Carole Monroe and Irv Thomae, describe what it was like getting the community network going. Now, here's Christopher with Carole Monroe and Irv Thomae, talking about ECFiber in Vermont.

Christopher Mitchell: Welcome to another edition of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast. I'm Chris Mitchell, and I'm enthusiastic today, to be talking with Carole Monroe, once more. Carole is now the CEO of ValleyNet. Welcome back to the show.

Carole Monroe: Thank you. Glad to be here.

Christopher Mitchell: And we also have Irv Thomae on, who is the district chairman of the governing board for the East Central Vermont Fiber Network-

Irv Thomae: Telecommunications district.

Christopher Mitchell: Right. We're going to explain for a second, how that used to be ECFiber, and now has a different name because it has a new, exciting approach. So welcome to the show, Irv.

Irv Thomae: Thank you.

Christopher Mitchell: Maybe that's actually just a really good place to start, quickly. Irv, can you just remind me how ECFiber is now structured?

Irv Thomae: We were and still are a collection of 24 municipalities in East Central Vermont, but we formed, originally, under... Read more

Posted May 3, 2017 by lgonzalez

We’ve been covering the East-Central Vermont Community Fiber-Optic Network (ECFiber) since 2009; it has come a long way from inception. ECFiber is a group of rural Vermont towns that are working together to deploy a regional network to offer high-quality Internet access to communities typically stuck with slow, unreliable connections such as DSL and dial-up. In this episode, Christopher talks with Carole Monroe, CEO of ValleyNet, and Irv Thomae, District Chairmen of ECFiber’s Governing Board. The not-for-profit ValleyNet operates the ECFiber network.

The organization has faced ups and downs and always seemed to overcome challenges. It began with funding from individual local investors who recognized the need to bring Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) to the region. Now, the organization is characterized as a “communications union district,” which creates greater funding flexibility and stability.

In this interview, Carole and Irv talk about the new designation and the plans for bringing the network to the communities that are clamoring for better Internet access. They also get into recent developments surrounding overbuilding by DSL provider FairPoint, a project funded by CAF II subsidies. We hear how ECFiber is bringing better connectivity to local schools and helping save public dollars at the same time and we find out more about the ways Vermonters in the eastern rural communities are using their publicly owned network.

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 29 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed.

You can download this mp3 file... Read more

Posted March 31, 2017 by lgonzalez

We haven’t reported on East Central Fiber (ECFiber) in almost a year and, boy, are things hopping in Vermont. The community network has obtained funding to expand in east-central Vermont and have a plan to bring high-quality connectivity to more towns during the next two years. In the mean time, FairPoint Communications is using federal funding to overbuild inferior DSL in many of the areas already served by ECFiber. No, this is not an April Fool's Joke.

First, The Good News: ECFiber Is Growing

We recently touched base with Carole Monroe, Stan Williams, and Irv Thomae from ECFiber in Vermont to get caught up on what's happening with the publicly owned network comprised of 24 member towns. 

The last time we shared an update, they had just announced plans to expand the Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network. The organization of 24 member towns received an infusion of $9 million in revenue bonds, which allowed ECFiber to pay down existing debt and add more fiber miles to the network.

Prior to obtaining the new funding source, ECFiber had always used the crowd funding approach, which limited growth to small and steady deployments. In 2015, the state legislature enacted a state law that created “communications union districts.” A Union District can consist of municipalities that join forces to invest in Internet infrastructure; the new model made it easier for ECFiber to obtain funding for larger deployments.

This February, ECFiber announced that the network would now bring service to parts of Royalton, Strafford, Pittsfield, and Randolph, with more growth on the way:

“These expansions have been funded privately and through Connectivity Initiative grants from the state’s Dept. of Public Service,” said Irv Thomae, Chairman of ECFiber and Governing Board delegate from Norwich. “We’re pleased that more residents in these areas are now able to enjoy the benefits of locally grown, full time, state-of-the-art real broadband, Later this year we will bring our service to six entire towns, including Pittsfield, Pomfret, West Windsor, Barnard, Strafford, and Thetford. We plan to fully... Read more

Posted March 2, 2017 by lgonzalez

Not everyone’s American dream involves owning a single-family home but most of us DO want high-quality Internet access in our household. In major metropolitan areas, apartment renters are more likely to have cable and some are lucky enough to have Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH). It’s only been recently, however, that owners of multiple dwelling unit buildings (MDUs) have really started to appreciate how fiber-optic connectivity, especially the gigabit kind, can add value to their investment. Now, a pair of MDU developers in Vermont will be the first to offer gigabit connectivity in the state to their renters and they’re choosing Burlington Telecom (BT) to provide the service.

The Gold Standard

“Fiber optic networks are fast becoming the gold standard both at work and at home, so it was important for us to have Burlington Telecom for this project.” says Jacqueline Dagesse [one of the developers], “Including Gig internet as an amenity offers our tenants instant access to the fastest, most reliable connectivity available without the hassles of signing up for service, waiting for an installer or committing to long-term contracts.”

The 27-apartment building is located in downtown Winooski, a town that borders the city of Burlington. The exercise facility in the building will also be a Wi-Fi hotspot. In addition to offering gigabit connectivity, the developers wanted to include various energy efficient amenities that would promote sustainability. The building will open this summer.

It Adds Up

MDUs with FTTH bring higher rents and a higher purchase prices for condos or units that are owned by residents. According to research by RVA, LLC, and reproduced in a neat graphic by the FTTH Council, almost 30 percent of people in the U.S. live in MDUs and FTTH connectivity can increase renters net income by 11 percent. This may be the first gigabit access apartment building in Vermont, but it won't be the last.

Posted February 15, 2017 by lgonzalez

Last spring, the BT Advisory Board (BTAB) released a report that recommended the city of Burlington, Vermont, try to find a buyer with local ties to purchase its network with the troubled past. As the deadline draws near and the city seeks out the right entity to take the reigns, the community holds on to that goal. Keep BT Local!, the local organization that has been working since 2012 to turn the network into a cooperative, has announced that it will make an offer on the network.

According to Seven Days:

Alan Matson, vice chair of Keep BT Local, said the local co-op will put forward an offer for the utility. The member-funded effort likely won’t put forward as substantial an offer as a private tech company would, Matson acknowledged. Still, he said, “We hope to be one of the finalists in July.”

Matt Cropp, a member of Keep BT Local, said the co-op model would “build broad-based community wealth” and urged Burlingtonians to pitch in. He said he was willing to commit a portion of his retirement savings to the cause. 

Matson and Cropp were among a group of citizens who attended a public meeting with Advisory Board members to discuss options and offer advice on choosing a buyer. As expected, many of the attendees described the network as a valuable public asset and expressed concern that it not fall into the hands of a large, absentee telecommunications conglomerate such as Comcast. 

Choosing Finalists

As part of the process, the Board voted to send its proposed sale process to the city council for approval. Last year’s report established a set of criteria which the city will use to evaluate interested parties. Once the city council approves the process they propose, the BTAB will create a list of interested buyers and officially launch the sales process. They intend to create a list of finalists who would then present publicly before the city council and, by the end of July, the council would choose a... Read more

Posted December 3, 2016 by lgonzalez

Burlington Telecom has popped up on our radar before as one of those munis that goes the extra mile for the community. They’re at it again this holiday season as they pledge to help support local charities.

According to VTDigger:

From now until the end of the year, Burlington Telecom will donate $100 to a Burlington based non-profit for each new customer subscribing to BT Internet, television, or phone services.

Customers will have the choice to direct BT’s donation to one of five organizations: Committee on Temporary Shelter, Community Health Centers of Burlington, Howard Center, Spectrum Youth & Family Services, and Steps to End Domestic Violence.

As a bonus, an additional $25 will be donated for any current Burlington Telecom customer who uses BT’s Refer-a-Friend Program.

Record Of Care

We’ve covered their past decision to launch a computer repair service so customers had somewhere local to get hardware advice. In 2011, BT announced a partnership with a local nonprofit to provide affordable computers to local families. Recently, BT began offering free Wi-Fi in the city’s transit center so travelers could stay connected.

Locals Want Local Interest

Keep BT Local! is a cooperative started by Burlington residents and businesses that are raising capital to purchase the network from Blue Water LLC, the company that currently owns the assets. When CitiBank sued the city for $33 million, the settlement agreement required that a third party (eventually Blue Water) take temporary ownership and the city lease the network until they could agree on a permanent buyer. 

The BT Advisory Board recommended a local owner this past spring. Keep BT Local! has been... Read more

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