Tag: "consideration"

Posted October 24, 2019 by lgonzalez

Quincy, Massachusetts, recently let the public know that they're serious about encouraging local Internet access competition through public investment. At an October 21st press conference, Mayor Thomas Koch and City Council Member Ian Cain announced that the largest city in Norfolk County will begin gathering data on local interest in a municipal Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network.

The Choice That Isn't a Choice

With Comcast as the only option for broadband Internet access, leaders such as Cain feel that it's time to encourage competition. DSL is available, but the average speed in the Quincy area is slower than 10 Megabits per second (Mbps) download. Upload speeds are likely around 1 Mbps -- hardly the kind of connectivity a community of 94,000 want to boast about.

Limited fiber for commercial subscribers has been deployed in the city, but without more options, Quincy faces a disadvantage as communities around them invest in better connectivity. The Mayor, Cain, and other local leaders have economic development on their minds when considering the initiative. Cain told press conference attendees, "This is a way to really have Quincy stand out in a way that other cities and towns aren't really looking at. This is a way to put us up front," as a way to attract more businesses.

Cain noted that comments from constituents regarding poor Internet access in Quincy have come to his office for the past five years. In 2018, the city council adopted Cain's resolution to investigate the possibility of publicly owned Internet network infrastructure. Residents have also taken their complaints to the Mayor. At the press conference, Koch said:

“I hear constantly from people about lack of competition – some related to cable, some related to slowness of access to get onto the network. This is something we’re very serious about looking at.”

seal-quincy-ma.png In order to...

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Posted October 23, 2019 by Sayidali Moalim

Williamstown, Massachusetts, may ask their constituents to vote on the creation of a publicly owned fiber optic system. For the town of 7,700, a vote on whether or not to invest in fast, affordable, reliable, Internet network infrastructure isn't imminent, however, as Williamstown still has significant research ahead. 

An Ongoing Discussion

This past summer, community leaders learned from Select Board Member Andrew Hogeland more about the possibilities in Williamstown. He gave his update regarding the research on the broadband initiative at a July meeting:

“The answer seems to be: It's promising," Hogeland said.

...

"We are in competition with other towns around the state and country who are doing this," Hogeland said. "There are lots of reasons to come to Williamstown, but if there's another town like us that also has broadband … "

Williamstown began consideration of a municipal network several years ago, when the town’s 2015 Economic Development Committee began to investigate the potential for developing fiber optic infrastructure. The committee released a 2016 report that indicated Williamstown would face certain disadvantages if they didn't improve local connectivity for businesses. The report stated:

"The Best Practices study found a positive correlation between broadband access and economic prosperity. Other studies of the broadband industry confirm this correlation, and indicate that towns with broadband access have a better business environment and higher real estate values compared to communities without broadband."

Williamstown now has access to DSL and cable Internet access; community leaders want to explore interest before diving too deep into the project. The research group for Williamstown plans to do outreach this fall to residents and businesses as well as the possibility of including a survey to assess the demand of municipal fiber optic Internet access in the annual census. Local officials discussed the challenges involved with developing a sustainable municipal broadband project at a recent select board meeting. “Success is: Are you going to have more or less half the households...

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Posted October 16, 2019 by lgonzalez

Even though there are more than 140 municipalities and counties that have voted to reclaim local telecommunications authority from the state, the City and County of Denver, Colorado, has put off such a referendum. 2020, however, may be the year that the metropolitan region votes to shed themselves of the harmful restrictions of SB 152.

Councilman Paul Kashmann announced earlier this month that he supports the city taking the question to the voters, like so many other local leaders have already done in Colorado. He suggests putting it on the 2020 ballot. At a policy committee on October 9th, Kashmann told his colleagues:

“Make no mistake that the Internet is much more than Netflix and Facebook and Twitter and Minecraft and the like,” Kashmann said. “The Internet is truly … the library of the 21st century. It’s the entry point into the world of information in the same way as our traditional brick-and-mortar libraries have been for centuries.”

logo-denver-public-library.png Comcast and Centurylink provide Internet access to the community of around 620,000 people. Even though the large corporate providers tend to concentrate their investments in urban areas like Denver, the issue of affordability still keeps many urban dwellers on the wrong side of the digital divide. 

The Denver Public Library lends out between 115 - 120 mobile hotspots and the wait list can extend as long as 200 names at a time. Libraries from which the hotspots are most often borrowed tend to be in areas where fewer people have home Internet access. The library estimates that approximately 20 percent of the city’s residents aren’t connecting at home.

Kashmann stated that he’s anticipating pushback from incumbent Internet access providers. He looks on the measure as in the same light as any other necessary utility:

“Try to imagine if you needed a drink of water and you had to go to the library to get that drink of water, or...

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Posted October 8, 2019 by lgonzalez

The Brattleboro Reformer reports that the town of Brattleboro (pop. 12,100), located in southwest Vermont, has decided to investigate the possibility of developing a regional or municipal project to improve Internet access for residents and businesses.

Examining New England

According to the Reformer:

For more than a year, [Assistant Town Manager Patrick] Moreland has been looking at different projects in New England. His work had been sparked at an earlier board meeting after a resident described benefits of a municipally owned internet service including higher speeds and lower costs while also keeping a net-neutral environment.

Moreland and community leaders have researched publicly owned networks in Leverett, Massachusetts; Concord, Massachusetts; and the regional network EC Fiber in Vermont.

During a Select Board meeting in early October, Moreland presented research and potential options to his fellow board members. Board member David Schoales expressed keen interest in pursuing the issue further, describing fiber optic connectivity as “a basic utility.”

"Fiber optics has created a technology revolution and we are not being allowed to participate," he said. "We're locked into copper cables, which are like a 2-inch pipe compared to the 15-mile-wide river that fiber represents. It's a miraculous technology that means unlimited, real-time communications, no interruptions, at a much lower cost. It enables new applications, new ways of making a living, innovation, economic development, equity of opportunity, new ways of accessing health services and educational opportunities and much more that we can't yet imagine."

He encouraged the board to move forward on a feasibility study. After further discussion, members of the board decided to carry the discussion further.

Read more about the meeting and the discussion...

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Posted September 26, 2019 by lgonzalez

This November, voters in Easthampton, Massachusetts, will have the chance to grant the city the authority to establish a municipal light plant (MLP). If they pass the ballot measure, the community will legally be able to develop a publicly owned network. Passage doesn't gurantee Easthampton will take the next step and deploy a network, but the community has been researching options to better understand which direction is right for them if they decide to move forward.

Creating the MLP

In keeping with state law, communities in Massachusetts must form an MLP to manage municipal utilities and municipal broadband service. The Easthampton City Council voted twice over the past two fiscal years to approve an MLP, which then allowed the issue to be put on the ballot for voters.

Establishing the MLP doesn’t mean that the city will launch a network, but gives the community the necessary entity to manage it in the future, should they decide to do so. The MLP can also eventually offer other municipal utilities, such as electricity or gas.

Sharing Findings

At a September 11th public hearing, members of the Telecommunications Advisory Committee presented results of a local survey and shared their research. The committee formed in 2018, and began investigating the connectivity situation in Easthampton, possible community network models, and examples from other communities to be prepared if the issue moves forward.

Charter/Spectrum serves most of the community with cable Internet access and Verizon provides DSL in additional areas. According to Council Member Thomas Peake, who is also on the committee, there is little service area overlap between the two companies. The lack of competition from the private sector and resulting dissatisfaction from subscribers — rated an average of 2.94 out of 5 on the survey — prompted Easthampton to look into a publicly owned option.

logo-easthampton-ma.png Price, reliability, and speed were top priorities for survey respondents. Less than 30 percent had never experienced outages and more than 25 percent indicated that they experience outages multiple times per week. Almost 75 percent have or would...

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Posted August 14, 2019 by Jess Del Fiacco

For years, Palo Alto residents have patiently waited for the city to move forward on building a citywide municipal Fiber-to-the-Premises (FTTP) network. In recent months, local supporters have started pushing harder for progress, noting recent successes in other communities, and by launching Muni Fiber Palo Alto.   

In early July, they invited Christopher to give a presentation on municipal broadband and answer questions from community members. Christopher discussed the importance of high quality connectivity, different network models available, and success stories from communities around the country. He shared the many potential benefits of municipal broadband in Palo Alto and addressed some of the challenges cities can face when pursuing broadband projects, including competing with incumbent providers: 

“When I hear people in Palo Alto sometimes being concerned about AT&T and Comcast, it’s a good concern to have. You have to have a good business plan, you have to take marketing very seriously, but you should not be intimidated from going into business against them, because frankly, sometimes I hear people say… there’s nothing better than competing against Comcast. Because people really don’t like having Comcast as their provider.”  

He also gave an overview of how the Institute for Local Self-Reliance Community Broadband Networks Initiative works to champion community broadband projects, and pointed attendees toward the many resources available on MuniNetworks.org. 

Watch Christopher’s presentation in full here: 

Learn more about the movement in Palo Alto at MuniFiberPaloAlto.org, and show your support by signing the online petition in favor of a municipal fiber optic network.

Posted July 15, 2019 by lgonzalez

Late in June, consultants hired by Lakeland, Florida, reported to city commissioners that the community is well situated to launch a broadband utility. Lakeland has drifted between options in recent years while making investments that ultimately have contributed to their current footing.

We last reported on the city’s activities in October 2016 when community leaders chose to seek out a private partner, issuing a Request for Proposals (RFP). Decision makers were intimidated at the thought of facing off against Charter Spectrum, citing the task of establishing a municipal network utility as too risky with aggressive incumbents willing to undercut prices.

Even though they were concerned with how a large monopoly cable company might react, commissioners agreed that Lakeland required high-quality Internet access in order to stay competitive. To set the stage for future improvement commissioners adopted several actions, including implementing a dig once policy, seeking allies among other local governments, and actively marketing their dark fiber network.

Darkness Reigns Supreme

The city's 330-mile fiber infrastructure currently serves the Polk County School District, local libraries, and public safety facilities. Like other communities that have existing fiber infrastructure, Lakeland began deploying their network in the mid-1990s to connect electric facilities. Seventy-five city facilities are on the network along with 220 traffic intersections, reducing pile-ups and pollution. Lakeland’s network also offers dark fiber connectivity to large companies and institutions, such as the Lakeland Regional Medical Center. In 2016, the network generated $4 million annually from leases.

Consultants envision the publicly owned dark fiber network as the basis for a Lakeland broadband utility. John Honker from Magellan Broadband told commissioners in June:

"A major part of this process, and what makes utilities and cities successful in deploying broadband, is the availability of existing resources. Lakeland has a lot of fiber. You have more fiber in the...

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Posted May 22, 2019 by lgonzalez

During the 20-year on-again-off-again relationship between Palo Alto and a possible fiber optic municipal network, the people of the community have waited while plans have changed, leadership has shifted, and city staff has researched potential infrastructure plans. For the people of the city, it’s a long time to be patient. In a recent opinion piece, resident Jeff Hoel described his long wait and expressed why his city needs to finally move forward and create a citywide municipal Fiber-to-the-Premises (FTTP) network.

Knows of What He Speaks

As a retired electrical engineer who has intimate knowledge of technology and networking, Jeff writes in his piece that one of the reasons he moved to Palo Alto in 1998 was because the city was considering deploying a community network. At the time, Palo Alto had already invested in dark fiber, which they have used to generate approximately $2.1 million per year through leases. The revenue has been held in a fiber optic fund, which has grown to around $26 million.

Over the years, the city has commissioned studies and community leaders have publicly advocated for an expansion of the network to a citywide utility for residents and businesses. Palo Alto’s residents have supported the idea, but stumbles in securing funding, difficulties locating private sector partners for a P3, and a failed bid to bring Google to town, have all left the city with no fiber optic network.

Now, Jeff Hoel feels that his city is ready to look at the facts and recognize that there are many municipal networks that are providing fast, affordable, reliable Internet access across the U.S. Jeff notes the success of Longmont, Colorado, where folks can sign up for symmetrical gigabit connectivity for around $50 per month. If so many other communities can manage to deploy networks and operate them efficiently, Palo Alto also has a...

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Posted April 19, 2019 by Katie Kienbaum

Earlier this month, Redding City Council decided to take the next step toward building a fiber network in a portion of the Northern California city’s downtown. Council members voted unanimously to move forward with exploration of the proposed pilot project after considering the design and cost assessment presented at the April 2nd council meeting.

City staff have been methodically researching the fiber project since May 2017. The exact model of the network is still up in the air; options include retail services from the city to the general public over the fiber infrastructure, opening up the network to multiple Internet service providers (ISPs) in an open access framework, or partnering with a single private provider. Following the approval from council, the city will now conduct further stakeholder engagement and a thorough risk assessment of the proposed fiber project.

Reading up on Redding

Redding (pop. 91,000) is the county seat of Shasta County in Northern California. Local industries include lumber, retail, and tourism, and the city is home to Mercy Medical Center. The community may already be familiar to some as Redding was impacted last summer’s devastating Carr Fire. Residents in outer neighborhoods and nearby towns had to evacuate to escape the wildfire, which killed eight people and consumed more than 220,000 acres and 1,000 homes.

For Internet access, residents can generally choose between DSL from AT&T and cable Internet access from Charter Spectrum, while businesses have a few more options, including fiber in certain areas. However, costs for fiber optic connectivity are high, according to Vice Mayor Adam McElvain, and some small sections of the city still don’t have any wireline connectivity. The...

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Posted March 14, 2019 by lgonzalez

The Tallahassee City Commission was divided, but they passed a vote 3 - 2 earlier this month to move forward with a feasibility study focusing on a citywide fiber optic broadband utility. City staff will now begin to prepare a Request for Proposals (RFP) to find a consulting firm to prepare the study.

People Want to Know

Newly elected Commissioner Jeremy Matlow brought the issue to his colleagues, stating that people brought up the subject to him while he was campaigning:

“A lot of people see what other cities are doing, such as Gainesville and Chattanooga, and asked why can’t we do that here...That’s the question we’re trying to answer: Can we do that here?”

Along with Matlow, Elaine Bryant and Dianne Williams-Cox voted in favor of the proposal to fund a feasibility study, the latter favoring the possibility of competition for incumbents Comcast and CenturyLink. “If you don’t want competition, provide better service,” said Williams-Cox. "Let’s look at it and research it,” she said, "and look for funding sources for this."

"We can not stay in the space we are now. We have to move forward. I think it’s worth putting it on the table for discussion,” Bryant said. “We need more information.”

Divided Opinion

While three Commissioners want to learn more about the possibilities, Mayor John Daily and Commissioner Curtis Richardson seemed to firmly oppose any possibility. Primarily, they expressed concern over the estimated cost of more than $283 million dollars to bring fiber to the community of about 191,000 people. City staff developed the figure based on a reported estimate developed by a private sector Internet access company. The ISP wanted to enter the market in Tallahassee and determined that it would cost $150 million to deploy in a limited area.

Tallahassee has a municipal electric utility, which would likely favorably impact an estimate to deploy broadband...

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