Tag: "consideration"

Posted July 11, 2018 by lgonzalez

Officials in Keene, New Hampshire, have been discussing ways to improve local connectivity for several years. In early July, they received more food for thought when the consultant they hired presented the results of a broadband study.

Check out the full study.

Assistant city manager and technical director for the city Rebecca Landry noted at a June meeting of the City Council’s planning, licenses, and development committee that companies and residents in surrounding states typically pay less for high-quality connectivity. She stressed that their ability to boost economic development relies in part on fast, affordable, reliable broadband access. She also reminded members that the study was not a proposal or a plan, but a review of options for consideration.

Survey Confirms Better Options Needed

Both business and residential surveys revealed that the community of Keene needs and wants better Internet access. A whopping 90 percent of residential respondents and 77 percent of business respondents chose the “I need better Internet/data service” option as part of the general questions on the survey. Additionally, 98 percent of residents and 100 percent of business owners who responded to the survey stated that they believe Internet access and technology are important to their household and/or the future success of their business.

Comments included a desire for more competition. Within Keene, property owners have access to Spectrum cable Internet access while just beyond town limits, Consolidated Communications (formerly Fairpoint) offers slow DSL or people can subscribe to expensive and unreliable satellite Internet access. Respondents replied with stories about visitors who express shock at the poor state of Internet access in Keene. Folks who work from home complain that, if they want better speeds, their only option is expensive business class connections from Spectrum. 

Business respondents’...

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Posted May 29, 2018 by lgonzalez

Like other local communities around the country, Cleveland Heights in Ohio is beginning a conversation about the possibility of publicly owned Internet infrastructure. The impending loss of federal network neutrality protections, the desire to compete with other communities, and ensuring digital equality, are several issues local leaders consider most important.

Citizens Leading the Way

Councilman Mike Ungar is one of the members of the City Council that have expressed interest in learning more about the possibility of a muni. He reported at a recent meeting that he's been in contact with a group of citizens who have been researching publicly owned networks. They hope to convince the city to commission a feasibility study to be completed by mid-2019.

In addition to providing better economic development opportunities by improving local connectivity, the group feels that a municipal network would better address the city’s digital divide. They’re also concerned about data privacy and how the lack of network neutrality protections will affect businesses and residents in the community that is served by incumbents Spectrum and AT&T. Having been caught digital redlining in nearby Cleveland, locals have reason to refuse to trust AT&T.

Draft Legislation

The grassroots group interested in exploring a municipal broadband network for the city has prepared draft legislation they hope city leaders will consider adopting to put the issue on the November 2019 ballot; the measure would ask voters to approve a municipal broadband utility. The city does not operate an electric utility and Cleveland Heights residents obtain water service from Cleveland Water, which is operated by the City of Cleveland.

Cleveland Heights, located about 10 miles due west of downtown Cleveland, has about 20,000 households with a population of approximately 46,000 people. They describe themselves as diverse, progressive, and note that many artists and patrons of the arts choose the town as their home.

...

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Posted March 21, 2018 by lgonzalez

Stillwater, Oklahoma, recently released a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) in its search for a firm to complete a feasibility study. The city’s Utilities Authority is considering establishing a community owned and operated broadband utility to add to its electric, water, wastewater, and trash and recycling collection utilities. Responses are due April 30, 2018.

Open To Suggestions

Stillwater wants the firm they hire for the study to consider a range of possible models, including dark fiber, open access, and a retail model in which the utility offers services directly to subscribers. They also want partnerships considered that might include Oklahoma State University and Central Rural Electric Cooperative.

OSU’s Stillwater Campus serves about 23,500 students and is considered the flagship of the OSU system. More than 6,000 people work at the school. Central Rural Electric Cooperative doesn’t currently offer broadband to members, but cooperatives and local governments are exploring these types of partnerships more often. In Mecklenburg, Virginia, a project involving a rural cooperative and Mecklenburg County will bring Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) to much of the county premises.

As part of the analysis, Stillwater Utilities Authority expect whomever they hire to also provide needs assessments, options for financing, capital costs estimates, and market analysis, in addition to other considerations that will help them move forward.

The Authority wants a self-sustainable gigabit network that offers fast, affordable, reliable symmetrical services to residents, businesses, and its industrial sector.

Stillwater, Oklahoma

The community’s located in the north central part of the state with around 50,000 people in the city. In addition to OSU, a medical center and the headquarters of convenience store franchise OnCue are some of the top employers.

As in other university communities,...

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Posted March 13, 2018 by lgonzalez

We’ve reported on many communities where citizen grassroots groups mobilized to implement change for better connectivity which often resulted in publicly owned Internet networks. Each community is different and some places require a more active group of advocates to bring change. A group of citizens in Cambridge, Massachusetts, have been working to bring attention to their community’s need for better options for several years. Recently, they formed Upgrade Cambridge, as a way to share information and spread the word about their initiative for a publicly owned fiber optic network.

Organic Organizing

Local Saul Tannebaum has consistently led efforts to bring municipal fiber infrastructure to Cambridge. Tannenbaum is one of eight individuals that are on the Upgrade Cambridge steering committee. He recently told the Cambridge Day:

“This grew completely organically. Folks starting contacting me in January asking what was going on with broadband and how they could help. People pulled in others in their own networks and the effort just took off…The city already knows how the Broadband Task force feels about this. It’s time for them to hear from others.”

In 2014, the City Manager appointed the Cambridge Broadband Task Force, which developed recommendations that they presented in 2016; Tannenbaum was a member of the task force. According to the founders of Upgrade Cambridge, the lack of response from the City Manager is driving the formation of the group. They feel that if community leaders hear from everyday Cambridge citizens and realize the magnitude of the problem, city leaders will feel more compelled to act.

The city also hired a consultant who recommended that Cambridge develop a dark fiber network, but find a private sector ISPs to provide last mile connectivity to businesses and residents via the city owned fiber. Another recommendation from the consultant in 2016 was that the city provide last mile fiber only to the Cambridge Housing Authority (CHA) locations. The task force disagreed with these recommendations.

The Cambrige Broadband Task Force also felt that the consultant recommendation was inadequate and too general. They did...

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Posted December 12, 2017 by Matthew Marcus

In southern California, the city of Manhattan Beach is considering creating a municipal broadband network to extend quality, affordable broadband to its residents and businesses.

Advocating for Quality Internet 

Talk of the network surfaced from Information Technology director Sanford Taylor’s "Fiber Master Plan." Beyond providing better broadband, the network would support “Smart City” projects: synchronized street lights, community cameras, and parking meters that allow drivers to find parking spots through an internet app.

Taylor previously worked for the city of Long Beach where he helped spearhead their fiber network. Municipalities typically pay exorbitant prices for large-scale high-speed Internet. Long Beach had been paying around $14,000 per month before Taylor transitioned from traditional ISPs to a wholesale option costing only $1,100 per month.

Nearby Santa Monica has had success with their publicly owned network, which connects businesses, community centers, and has helped improve the functionality of municipal systems like traffic signals and cameras. The Long Beach I-Net facilitates city operations by providing connectivity to municipal facilities but doesn't connect businesses or residents. A private firm, Inyo Networks, developed a citywide fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) network in the nearby town of Ontario; Taylor and Public works director Stephanie Katsouleas have been studying the arrangement closely. They are also visiting other communities that are investing in publicly owned Internet infrastructure, including Beverly Hills.

Taylor issued a Request for Proposals recently and just that small signaling of network independence had ISPs scrambling, resulting in the city obtaining service through a different incumbent provider with more bandwidth at nearly half the cost. 

Manhattan Beach is conducting a...

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Posted October 13, 2017 by Matthew Marcus

When your community needs better connectivity, the best place to start is with a feasibility study, but each community's needs vary and what should you expect from such a study? What kinds of question should you ask? What should a consultant offer your community?

There is no single answer, but the best way to prepare is to seek out information on feasibility studies and determine what is right for your region or town. For communities in the planning phase of developing a municipal broadband network, Vantage Point Solutions is hosting the webinar: “Feasibility Studies for Municipal Broadband: The Good, the Bad, and the Best Practices.”

From the invitation:

When it comes to developing and expanding municipal broadband networks, there is no one-size-fits-all model. Proper planning will ensure the right solution is identified before significant time and money is invested.

In this webinar, Vantage Point Solutions will provide you with best practices and guidance on what you should do during the planning phase of a broadband project - and what you can save for later. This session will help you avoid pitfalls that create delays and problems and maximize the success of your planning process.

The webinar discussion will be led by Dusty Johnson and Lori Sherwood on Wed Oct. 18th at 3:00 pm. Register here.

Learn more about the art of the feasibility study from some of our Community Broadband Bits podcast episodes: 

Posted October 3, 2017 by christopher

To be fair, "not feasible" could also mean that you are asking the wrong questions. Nothing rules out that the problem lies with both the consultant AND the questions. It's hard to tell from the outside which of these factors dominates.

An Incomplete Path

For years, Iowa's Decorah has been considering a municipal fiber network and local folks have been educating people on the possibilities. With so many other communities in Iowa moving forward successfully with projects, one would have thought Decorah might snag one of the consultants involved in those. It went instead with Uptown Services.

We generally don't name consultants unless we feel compelled to on this site but Uptown Services was also the consultant the last time I saw such a poor feasibility that I couldn't avoid writing about it - in Hillsboro, Oregon. They were also the consultant for Provo, Utah; Alameda, California; Salisbury, North Carolina; and other networks that have encountered significant challenges in their business plans. We don't know what role, if any, the consultants played in their struggles and, to be fair, Uptown Services has contracted with networks that have avoided any serious pitfalls.

I have no way of evaluating the many services they provide, but I can say that cities looking for feasibility analysis and early guidance in how to improve Internet access in a community should carefully consider their track record.

What upsets me is not that Uptown told Hillsboro and Decorah that a bond-financed rapid-deployment of citywide FTTH was too risky in their analysis. That may or may not be correct - and I deeply respect consultants that are willing to tell clients what they do not want to hear. The problem is that a consultant's job should not be to say "yeah" or "nay" for one particular approach but rather to guide a community along a feasible path of improving Internet access.

logo-decorah-iowa.png We have seen examples of communities where they found building a citywide fiber network at once to be too risky for their appetite. Rather than giving up and foregoing the essential benefits of high-quality Internet access in the modern era, they set about building an incremental or phased approach. See our interviews...

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Posted August 29, 2017 by lgonzalez

Several communities in Kentucky have been managing publicly owned Internet networks for decades, including Barbourville and Frankfort. Residents and businesses depend on their great customer service and quality Internet access. Like everything else, however, telecommunications infrastructure ages and now both communities are considering how to upgrade.

Barbourville Going With Fiber

Barbourville, Kentucky, began offering cable Internet access to residents in the 1990s and were one of the first to offer cable TV service back in the 1950s. Currently, residential customers can opt for 6 or 12 Megabits per second (Mbps) with 384 Kbps and 1 Mbps respectively. Now, the public utility is upgrading to Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH), which will significantly boost both download and upload speeds. Barbourville Utilities advertise identical commercial options for customers with an additional option of 25 Mbps / 2 Mbps. They also advertise symmetrical fiber optic business services that range from 6 Mbps to 10 Gigabits per second.

In their announcement, Barbourville Utilities estimates more than 4,000 residential and business customers will have access to the new FTTH service. They’re christening the new high-quality fiber Internet access “Blink” and construction will start on September 5th.

“We are extremely pleased to bring revolutionary Internet technology to our community,” Barbourville Utilities General Manager Josh Callihan said. “Increasing broadband access is a top priority in southeastern Kentucky and we are proud that our community will be a pioneer for this growth.” 

Barbourville is located in Knox County in southeastern Kentucky, within the Appalachians. Like other communities in the region, Barbourville faces unique problems that affect rural economies. Fortunately, Barbourville Utilities have already established infrastructure and the personnel in place with expertise to manage a network. Their past decision to invest in a community network will help keep them stay competitive today as new businesses look for affordable locations with high-quality connectivity.

Frankfort Considering FTTH

Earlier this month, Frankfort’s Plant Board...

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Posted July 21, 2017 by lgonzalez

The small seaside community of Lewes, Delaware, is considering investing in a Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) Internet network for connectivity to its 3,000 inhabitants.

Consideration

According to the Lewes Board of Public Works (BPW) General Manager Darrin Gordon, the city electric utility has a plan to connect to Fibertech Networks infrastructure, which reaches Lewes. Fibertech obtained a $1 million state grant in 2015 to expand its infrastructure in rural areas of Delaware.

BPW has been investigating the possibility of bringing high-quality Internet access to households and businesses for a while now. The BPW plan envisions a publicly owned network that connects to the Fibertech network and extends throughout Lewes that will be deployed in four phases. "The rolling deployment will help recover costs and help with funding the next phases," Gordon said. 

"We want to take it slow to ensure that whoever does take the service that it's the very best and everything we promised it was going to be," Gordon said. "We know that word of mouth around here can be the saving grace or the death knell."

BPW anticipates that the first phase could be finished as soon as four to five months from commencement and the second phase two months later. The first two phases will be aerial deployment with later phases consisting of underground plant.

The city is working with a consultant to estimate a final cost to make the investment and to determine what residents and businesses would pay for the service. BPW will survey customers to obtain a better idea of the amount of interest before moving forward.

Lewes, Delaware

Lewes describes itself as “the first town in the first state,” having started as a trading post by Dutch settlers in 1631. The community changed names and hands several times between the English and the Dutch; William Penn and gave it the name “Lewes” in 1682 and it’s kept the name ever since.

The town is a popular vacation and resort town for Washington D.C. residents. In addition to its location along the Atlantic, the town’s historic character draws tourists. It has a Fisherman’s...

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Posted July 3, 2017 by lgonzalez

Tupelo, Mississippi, received a special visit from President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1935 to celebrate the community as the “First TVA City.” The title described the community’s new electrification by the Tennessee Valley Authority, an event that incorporated federal assistance, local workers, and the start of rural electrification. Now, Tupelo is aiming for publicly owned fiber.

Yesterday Electricity...Today Fiber

Community leaders haven’t decided on a model yet, but they recently expressed an interest in expanding the Tupelo Water & Light fiber optic loop that runs around the city. The exiting network provides communications and management between utilities substations. Their goal is to put the infrastructure in place and collaborate with a private sector provider to bring better connectivity to local residents and businesses.

The Daily Journal reported that the project is a priority for the current administration:

The mayor believes that an expansive fiber optic network in the city will boost Tupelo’s desirability, particularly for the young professionals he wants to call the city home.

“We want to provide the incentive for people that need that high speed Internet to live here,” Shelton said.

Once a robust fiber optic network is in place, Shelton’s administration has discussed the possibility of a partnership with a private provider who would actually offer the residential access and manage the customer base.

Tupelo, Lee County, Mississippi

The city used to be well known as a transportation hub in the days when railroad intersections created busy urban centers. In recent years, Tupelo has capitalized on its bragging rights as the birthplace of Elvis Presley and as the location of the Trace State Park. Hikers start or end their long journey on the Natchez Trace Parkway, a 444-mile trail that was used by Native Americans and Explorers. The trail is a historic trek attracting nature enthusiasts.

In addition to tourism, Tupelo has attracted manufacturers such as Toyota, Cooper Tire & Rubber, and a large furniture manufacturing facility. Two large banking institutions make their headquarters in...

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