Tag: "texas"

Posted December 3, 2018 by lgonzalez

People in Lampasas are fed up with outages that have repeatedly plagued the community due to lack of redundant infrastructure connecting the central Texas municipality. Now, the city and the Lampasas Economic Development Corporation (LEDC) are asking the community to complete an Internet survey to help determine how best to move forward an achieve better connectivity.

Cuts to the Line

In the spring, summer, and early fall of 2017, Lampasas experienced four outages totaling 45 hours when local construction projects accidentally cut AT&T fiber, the only Internet connection into town. Without a redundant line, the community’s residents, businesses, emergency services, and hospitals were cut off for days as AT&T repaired the breaks. To add insult to injury, AT&T didn’t respond well to the town’s requests to resolve the situation:

“We felt like we weren't a priority on AT&T's list, so when we had outages, and we had businesses that were losing thousands of dollars, and we were calling and we were trying to get reimbursements, and we were trying to get answers, and we were trying to see if there were future projects for infrastructure for Lampasas, we just weren't getting a good response from AT&T,” Lampasas Economic Development Director Mandy Walsh said. 

Within a few months, local leaders had started searching for a firm to help them assess their options. After considering proposals from six different companies, Lampasas chose Foresite Group for a project that includes a market analysis and a technology assessment. As part of the project, Foresite Group has helped the city and the LEDC prepare the current survey.

The survey has divided the community into Service Zones in order to obtain a detailed analysis of which areas of town residents and businesses are most interested in better Internet access. The Service Zones approach will also help the city, the EDC and Foresite discover Internet access speeds in each area of town.

Mandy Walsh, Economic Director from the LEDC, suggests that the city is...

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Posted October 17, 2018 by lgonzalez

Located only 30 miles east of Houston, it’s hard to believe that Mont Belvieu, Texas, ever had poor Internet access. Faced with complaints from residents and businesses, city officials decided to deploy fiber and bring fast, affordable, reliable gigabit connectivity directly to the community via MB Link.

How to Fix the Problem

While it’s not far from the center of a large metro area, Mont Belvieu still maintains a rural character. The town’s history is based in the oil and natural gas industry, which began in the early 1900s. As City Manager Nathan Watkins told Christopher Mitchell in episode 326 of our podcast, approximately 85 percent of natural gas liquids in the U.S. travel to Mont Belvieu for processing. With more than 10,000 miles of pipeline within their salt domes, the town of 8,000 has become a centerpiece of oil and natural gas processing.

Before MB Link, the community dealt with a patchwork of services offered by several different providers. Even though more than one provider operated in town, they didn’t compete with each other. Without competition, ISPs had no impetus to improve services. Residents complained about DSL download speeds of 1.5 Megabits per second (Mbps) and cable Internet access download speeds topping out at 5 Mbps. There were even premises that could not obtain Internet access because ISPs reported saturated networks and were not willing to make investments to serve more subscribers.

In 2016, a feasibility study in Mont Belvieu revealed that 60 percent of residents and 79 percent of businesses felt that local Internet access wasn’t adequate for their needs. In the same survey, 90 percent of residents and 100 percent of business respondents opined that high-speed Internet access is an essential service in the same manner as electricity and water.

logo-mont-belvieu.png In addition to the problems that Mont Belvieu was already having with poor Internet access, the community was growing — something city leaders wanted to encourage. New subdivisions were planned but incumbent ISPs didn’t want to deploy infrastructure to the new areas, leaving...

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Posted October 9, 2018 by lgonzalez

We don’t often get the opportunity to interview people from Texas, so when we heard about Mont Belvieu’s gigabit fiber optic network we knew we had to have them on the show. When we learned that four officials from the east Texas town would join us we said, “Even better!” City Manager Nathan Watkins, Director of Broadband and IT Dwight Thomas, Assistant City Manager Scott Swigert, and Communications and Marketing Director Brian Ligon are on the show this week to talk about their publicly owned network, MB Link.

Before they were able to provide the fast, affordable, reliable service to residents all over town, Mont Belvieu had to assert themselves in a legal proceeding against the State of Texas. In this conversation, the guys discuss their elegant argument that won over the court. You’ll also hear why community leaders decided that, even though Mont Belvieu had a thriving oil and gas industry, they felt that investing in high-quality Internet access for residents was a goal they aimed to achieve for the public good. The residents in Mont Belvieu drove this project.

People in Mont Belvieu have clambered to sign up for the network. Our guests discuss how they’ve used their town’s strengths to market the services they offer and how they continue to use communications to help subscribers get the most from MB Link. The guys also talk about how the city plans to add businesses to the network and the reactions from incumbents.

Read more about the network and the court action in our coverage about Mont Belvieu.

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

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Posted September 4, 2018 by lgonzalez

In a state as large as Texas, it makes sense to divide the eastern half into defined regions. Likewise, when counties, towns, and other entities in one of those areas realize they need better connectivity, it makes sense to work together on a regional project. The Deep East Texas Council of Governments (DETCOG) and Economic Development District recently issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) for a Fiber Optic Broadband Market Analysis and Cost Study. Proposals are due September 25th, 2018.

Read the RFP.

Deep East Texas

The region is also known as the Texas Forest County, with four national forests, lakes, and primarily a rural landscape. Twelve counties constitute the Deep East region that borders Oklahoma on the north and the Gulf of Mexico on the south. About 385,000 people live in the region, which covers more than 10,380 square miles.

DETCOG is an organization that has been around since the mid-1960s and includes counties, cities, school districts, and other entities in the region interested in participating in local economic development efforts. According to the RFP, the DETCOG Board of Directors has decided to re-allocate some of the remaining relief funds from Hurricane Ike to boost the region’s options for high-quality Internet access. Estimated funds remain at  around $513,000.

Within the region, 50 public school districts serve residents in 43 communities. There are two colleges, eleven hospitals, and more than 30 additional healthcare facilities. Ten cooperatives, including telephone, gas, and electric, operate in the region.

Much of the region obtains Internet access via DSL, with cable connections available in a few of the more densely populated areas, such as the county seats. There are also a few fixed wireless providers and at least one area where fiber is available on a limited basis. Some of the most rural areas depend on satellite. There’s very little consistency in the Deep East Texas Region and rates appear to run high for the level of service.

What They Want

To commence their journey toward better regional connectivity, the DETCOG seeks a consultant to study what is now available, what businesses and residents want and need, offer recommendations on what would work well for the region, and provide cost estimates. The...

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Posted July 25, 2018 by lgonzalez

More than two years ago, community leaders in New Braunfels, Texas, decided to move forward with funding for a feasibility study to examine options for publicly owned Internet infrastructure. In mid-July, the city released a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) in search for a partner to assist them on their New Braunfels Broadband Project. Responses are due August 24th, 2018.

Prior Study

Back in 2016, businesses completed a survey as part of a feasibility study and 81 percent expressed dissatisfaction with their Internet access. Speed, reliability, and affordability were all important factors. Community leaders, with an eye toward economic development, have been pondering ways to overcome the problem and have decided to aim for a public-private partnership. Specifically, they want to focus their efforts on fiber optic connectivity in their commercial and industrial business corridors. 

New Braunfels has about 55 miles of existing fiber that the city and New Braunfels Utilities (NBU) will make available for the project. They also have conduit that they will open up for the future network design. NBU offers municipal electric, water, and wastewater services, which indicates that they would likely have the knowledge base and the personnel to operate a fiber optice network, but the RFQ states that they're looking for a turnkey arrangement.

The state of Texas also limits what local governments are able to offer to the general public. Municipalities are not allowed to offer voice services, but are able to provide Internet access.

Looking for A Partner

logo-new-braunfels.gif In their RFQ, New Braunfels states that they want to find either a private or public sector partner that will offer a revenue sharing arrangement. They expect a minimum of 1 gigabit connectivity now with an expansion to at least 10 gigabit capability in the future. New Braunfels also prefers a partner willing to grow the network over time and have unequivocally stated in the RFQ that fixed wireless on its own will not be suitable to meet...

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Posted January 23, 2018 by lgonzalez

Taylor Electric Cooperative, serving members in the Abilene, Texas region, is starting to offer Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) Internet access to members through its Access Fiber pilot project.

Four Phases Of The Pilot

Lance Maeda, Director of Information Technology at Taylor EC shared some details about the project that’s now serving a limited number of premises with plans to expand. The cooperative connected its first customer in early December 2017, about six months after the Board decided to pursue the project.

The cooperative is currently working on the first of four phases. This phase brings service to an apartment complex and two residential subdivisions, one of which is located adjacent to a Taylor EC satellite office where they will house electronics for the network. Engineers considered their plan a way to deploy this part of the network more cost effectively and more quickly. With this approach, they can concentrate on perfecting the service to members before moving on to the other phases.

They’ve recently finished the first subdivision where twelve members have signed up for FTTH services and are now focusing on the aerial connection to the apartment complex and the second neighborhood in the planned first phase. Homes in the second neighborhood are more sparsely located and, according to Maeda, Taylor EC will contend with a wide range of densities as they expand the project. Engineers have decided to house the fiber for the second half of the first phase in underground conduit where it will be protected from ice storms and tornados.

No Grants Or Loans

The cooperative received no grants or loans to fund the pilot, funding it entirely through operations; the cooperative is not ready to share the cost of the pilot project. At this point, the electric cooperative is not restricted to offering Internet access in specific areas, says Maeda, but telephone cooperatives that offer services in Texas can only offer Internet access in their own territories. Taylor EC is weighing the pros and cons of applying for FCC funds because accepting any funds might require also accepting limitations.

Customer Service, Natural Fit

Suddenlink offers services in Abilene, but the ISP has earned a poor customer service reputation. Taylor EC will concentrate on the...

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Posted June 28, 2017 by lgonzalez

One Touch Make Ready (OTMR) policies are recognized as a way to cut down on the expense and the time it takes to deploy fiber optic networks. At least three sizable urban communities have adopted OTMR practices to streamline fiber optic construction and ensure consistent standards. For other communities looking at ways to encourage brisk fiber optic investment, it pays to study the language of OTMR resolutions and policies.

OTMR allows a pre-approved contractor to move cables belonging to more than one entity on one visit to the pole to make room for the new fiber optic cable. This is a departure from the old method, in which each entity takes turns visiting the pole in question to move only their wires. The old approach is time consuming because each entity must take turns in the order in which their wires are installed on the poles. If one entity causes a delay, every other entity that needs to work after them must also wait. What follows is a snowball effect and an entire project can fall far behind schedule.

San Antonio, Texas

San Antonio’s municipal utility, CPS Energy, adopted a broad set of pole attachment standards that include specific requirements for OTMR, including what needs to happen before, during, and after the process.

The standards lay out administrative procedures, technical provisions, and specific provisions for both wired and wireless attachments. It incorporates recommendations from the FCC on how best to expand broadband while also weaving in safety standards from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). In the introduction, CPS Energy writes:

From a holistic perspective, the Standards seek to balance the competing needs and interests of multiple communications providers to access and utilize CPS Energy Poles, while at the same time recognizing that the core purpose and function of these Poles is for CPS Energy’s safe and reliable distribution and delivery of electric services to CPS Energy customers. Hence, any use of CPS Energy’s Poles must at all times ensure the continued operational integrity, safety and reliability of CPS Energy’s Facilities, electric services, personnel and the general public.

You can view the...

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Posted June 5, 2017 by lgonzalez

Celina, Texas, recently started its journey toward publicly owned Internet infrastructure by adopting a smart, forward-thinking conduit ordinance. The decision to adopt the new Easement Ordinance is part of the city’s long-term vision to bring gigabit connectivity to businesses and residents.

Developers' Contribution

The new policy requires developers to install conduit and fiber-optic cable in underground excavation within the city limits. Developers pay for the installation and then convey the assets to the city. In order to reduce the need for excavations and cut costs, Mount Vernon, Washington, passed a similar ordinance years ago as they developed their network. Up to 90 percent of costs associated with underground deployment are often due to the excavation rather than materials; smart dig once policies like Celina's saves public dollars.

Internet service providers who wish to offer connectivity in the areas where city fiber and conduit exist will be required to use available dark fiber from the city, rather than deploying their own infrastructure. The ordinance does allow the city provide exceptions in order to promote competition and reduce any barriers to entry for new ISPs.

Before the city council unanimously voted to support the new ordinance in May, they took feedback from the community. According to the Celina Record, several local developers expressed excitement over the Gigabit City Initiative, but weren’t as enthusiastic about the ordinance. Their main concern was how the new rule would be implemented.

They have reason to be excited about the potential to add Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) connectivity to their new properties. In 2015, the Fiber To The Home Council’s study determined that FTTH access can add up to $5,437 to the value of a $175,000 home.

Residents Require Something Better

Scott Stawski of the Celina Economic...

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Posted May 31, 2017 by lgonzalez

Hudson Oaks, Texas, will be deploying infrastructure this summer in order to bring high-quality connectivity to businesses and residents. At a recent city council meeting, community leaders authorized the project to allow the town of about 1,700 people to be the first to offer gigabit connectivity in Parker County.

Working With A Local Provider

The city will own the infrastructure and recently entered into a partnership with local Internet Service Provider (ISP) NextLink to offer service via the fiber-optic network. NextLink is headquartered in Weatherford, about five miles from Hudson Oaks. Fort Worth is about 25 miles due east of Hudson Oaks.

According to the Weatherford Democrat, properties within city limits will be served by the new fiber service that will be funded with public investment. On the city’s Facebook page, residents asked questions and city administrator Patrick Lawler addressed them:

“The city of Hudson Oaks cannot by state law spend funds outside the city limits unless expressly given the authority such as we have with water. Fiber does not qualify for this exclusion. NextLink, however, may expand the service at their discretion. In order to prepare for that possibility we have placed additional fiber strands for future expansion.”

Earlier this month, the city authorized the issuance and sale of $1.54 million combination tax and revenue certificate of obligation to help fund the project.

Prices for Internet access should run around $50 - 60 per month for 50 Mbps and $150 per month for gigabit connectivity. Construction on the network should start this July.

Posted May 3, 2017 by KateSvitavsky

The Grapevine-Colleyville Independent School District (GCSID) will lower their telecommunications costs and improve Internet service through an agreement with the City of Colleyville to build Internet infrastructure to K-12 schools. The City of Grapevine will serve as the construction contractor for the project.

High Cost Of Incumbent Services

GCISD leased lines from AT&T for $200,000 per year in order to obtain 1 gigabit connectivity. When they needed upgrades for the school district's Wide Area Network (WAN) at the two high schools and the main Network Operations Center (NOC), prices increased. After the upgrades, GCISD’s annual costs went up to $300,000 and school officials expected prices to continue to rise. When GCSID needed to increase the capacity of their WAN and NOC circuits, estimates for the upgrade came in at $1.85 million per year.

Rather than continue to pay such high costs, GCSID has entered into an interlocal agreement with Grapevine and Colleyville to jointly construct the network. The new solution will offer them a minimum 10 gigabit capacity for lower long term costs.

GCISD Executive Director of Technology Lane Hunnicutt said:

“By partnering with the City, the district is able to save more than 50 percent on installation of the new fiber optic cables. Additionally, since the City is enabling the district to own our own fiber, we will no longer be reliant on a third-party provider for monthly service and maintenance."

Network Logistics

The $5 million network will stretch over 57 miles and is financially supported by the City of Grapevine, the City of Colleyville, and GCISD. The project will be completed within five years and the school district expects a return on its $3 million investment in three to five years. Grapevine and GCISD has dedicated Tax Incremental Financing (TIF) dollars to the project, and each party is responsible for financing infrastructure on their property. Grapevine's role as contractor reduces the cost of the project significantly.

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