Palmdale, California is considering a proposal from SiFi Networks to become a FiberCity. The project would see $600 million from the private infrastructure builder to construct 800 miles of fiber and lease it on an open access basis, as well as provide the infrastructure necessary for smart city applications and 5g.
ETI Software Solutions sponsored an event to help untangle the set of considerations facing communities discussing what route they want to take to improve Internet access for families and businesses in the community.
Heather Gold (HBG Strategies) presided over the panel which included ILSR's Christopher Mitchell as well as Ben Fineman, President of the Michigan Broadband Cooperative, Steve Lang, IT Manager for the city of Wadsworth, Ohio and its CityLink Fiber, and Will Aycock, General Manager of the Greenlight Network in Wilson, North Carolina. They cover a lot of ground, from the different models worth considering, to the phases of planning, to financing, construction, and customer service.
Watch the video at ETI's YouTube channel, or below.
The city council of Redding, California approved a revised Broadband Master Plan in June that identified a four-phase process to build a 26-mile fiber ring to connect city infrastructure, initiative a pilot project, and eventually connect all homes and businesses to municipally owned broadband Fiber-to-the-Home infrastructure.
Along the banks of the Columbia River, Multnomah County (pop. 813,000), Oregon is considering a publicly owned Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network after being handed a study more than a year in the making. The report estimates that a countywide network reaching every home, business, and farm in a five-city area would cost just shy of $970 million, and bring with it a wealth of savings and other benefits to the community it serves.
The study has its origins in a 2017 push initiated by an advocacy group called Municipal Broadband PDX which has sought more affordable and equitable Internet access in the region. In 2018, the County Board of Commissioners agreed that it should be explored and approved the funding of a study, with the city of Portland and Multnomah County each contributing $100,000 and the remaining towns of Fairview, Gresham, Troutdale, and Wood Village joining the effort to collectively contribute an additional $50,000 for funding. Over the next year, CTC Technology and Energy conducted a comprehensive survey, analysis, and evaluation, and the results were delivered at the end of September.
The report offers good news: the majority of residents in Multnomah County want a publicly built and operated FTTH network, and it would be economically viable to provide symmetrical gigabit service to as many of the more than 320,000 households as want it for $80/month. At a projected 36% take rate on a 4% bond over a 20-year period, the network would cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $966 million, depending on a host of local and market factors, some of which are fixed and others subject to change. It would see net positive income by the end of its fourth year of operation, and see a total of more than $54 million in positive net income by the end of its 20-year depreciation period (a standard model for fiber infrastructure, though they often last longer). These numbers change when adjusting the take rate and interest rate, but in the vast majority of scenarios, building a community owned FTTH network in Multnomah County is feasible.
Broadband in Multnomah County
WGBH asks if municipal broadband is an answer to Worcester's Internet challenges. Looks at two other Massachusetts networks, Chicopee and Shrewsbury, that have different muni broadband approaches.
Iowa is home to many community networks, from co-ops to muni cable, fiber, and other technologies. Three communities in the state have just recently made important announcements about their plans, and several others are moving forward with networks. There is so much happening in Iowa right now that shows potential for other states that don't limit competition.
There is a long history of local broadband excellence in Iowa for new networks to draw on. Cedar Falls Utilities was just recognized as the fastest ISP in the nation by PCMag. It has well over 20 years of success, but recent years have seen it sharing its expertise and facilities to lower the cost for other communities to build networks without reinventing the wheel. Local private Internet service provider ImOn is also a partner for these networks, offering voice services.
Many of these networks being built will be able to share services and lower their costs by being on the same ring to get some scale benefits despite being smaller communities. I remember many years ago when Eric Lampland of Lookout Point started pushing for this ring, and I am dumbfounded why we don't see more of this cooperation among munis and small providers in other states. Thanks to Eric and Curtis Dean of SmartSource Consulting who helped me with background for this Iowa update.
We have a brief mention of West Des Moines's recently announced partnership with Google Fiber in here, but we're finishing a longer post that solely examines their approach. Between this, that, and our Coon Rapids podcast this week, it is officially Iowa week on MuniNetworks.org!
Vinton's new municipal fiber network has just started connecting subscribers, leading to a memorable testimonial in the local paper, Vinton Today:
As a gal that uses the Internet every day, and as someone who had the chance to briefly use...
Community leaders in Independence, Missouri, have recently brought up the topic of publicly owned networks and indicated that they'd like to learn more about how Independence might fare with a muni. The Examiner recently reported that the issue has arisen during a primary candidate forum, at a Public Utilities Advisory Board (PUAB) presentation, and at a Chamber of Commerce event. Various city officials have expressed interest in the topic.
The idea, Mayor Eileen Weir and Chamber President Tom Lesnak said, came in part from a short trip last fall to Fort Collins, Colorado, which had just established a municipally owned broadband network.
Part of the appeal, they said, is that Independence already owns much of the necessary infrastructure, with utility poles and a fiber optic cable network.
“It provides service to all citizens and residents,” Lesnak said. “In Fort Collins, they had to bury everything, and it took a lot of time. We own the poles, and we have a lot of fiber in the ground already.”
Weir cautioned that right now, the broadband idea remains in the “exploratory” stage.
“We’ve seen some places and gathered some information about cities who have implemented broadband,” Weir said, adding that she also saw a presentation about municipal broadband during a National League of Cities conference two months ago in San Antonio. “It’s just something to look at to see if we can do.”
[Assistant City Manager Adam] Norris told PUAB, “If this would gain momentum then we would need to start planning for it in our budget, but it is very early to tell what the timeline is.”
For now, city leaders are still doing their research:
Municipal broadband would involve some capital investment by the city, but it also presents a possible long-term revenue source, Weir said.
“We would have to have more information to put it as a budget item,” Weir said. If the next city budget included a line for broadband, the mayor said, it would simply be for research purposes.
“There’s a lot to learn,” she said.
In November of 2019, the Gila County, Arizona, council board of supervisors approved a $12,000 funding proposal for consultanting expertise to explore the community's broadband options. EntryPoint Networks, the company awarded the bid, has worked with both Quincy, Massachusetts, and Idaho’s Ammon, along with other communities around the country where publicly owned broadband infrastructure has helped improved local connectivity.
EntryPoint Networks will work with the county develop a Broadband Master Plan.
From Payson Roundup:
Vela [assistant county manager] said EntryPoint will study all the options available in Gila County, including APS’s proposal to bring broadband to the area by stringing fiber lines along its towers from the Valley as well as Sparklight’s proposal to bring broadband from the White Mountains area.
EntryPoint, in its proposal, said it would look at the conceptual design for a fiber to home/business network supported by a reliable middle mile fiber network. It will provide a projected cost breakdown for network materials and installation. It will provide information on current network models throughout the country, including municipal networks, like Ammon.
Gila County is located in central Arizona and boasts a population of 53,597 residents over 4,758 square miles. Payson, a town in northern Gila County, is located very close to the geographic center of Arizona thus being called “The Heart of Arizona”. Ninety-seven percent of the land around Payson is under jurisdiction of the United States Forest Service or is tribal land. The town is also known for the oldest continuous rodeo in the world.
In October, the East Oregonian reported that the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR) are planning to develop a broadband network.
From the East Oregonian:
Ryan DeGrofft, an economic planner for the CTUIR, said the tribes are planning the project in three phases.
The first would create a fiber loop between the CTUIR’s government facilities and tribal enterprises like Wildhorse Resort and Casino. The second phase would connect the reservation to Pendleton’s fiber infrastructure.
The final phase would see the tribes becoming its own Internet service provider for residential customers living on the reservation.
DeGrofft cautioned that the plan was still in its early stages, and even if all phases came to pass, there still might be some remote parts of the reservation that might not get the service.
At this point, DeGrofft said the CTUIR is conducting a survey to get a sense of where Internet speeds are across the reservation. Anecdotally, even some locations in Mission are experiencing slow and spotty internet service.
DeGrofft said the project is dependent on obtaining funding through grants and other sources, so there isn’t a definitive timeline for it yet.
CTUIR is asking community members to run a speed test and submit their results. They also want to know where there is no service and encourage people to contact Tribal Services.
The tribes live in the Umatilla Indian Reservation in Umatilla County in northeast Oregon. Three tribes - Cayuse, Umatilla, and Walla Walla - make up the CTUIR. There are about 2,900 people as registered members with approximately half living on or near the reservation, which is about 290 square miles. People from other tribes and non-Native Americans also live on reservation land.
Doug Dawson from CCG Consulting and author of the POTs and PANs: Pretty Advanced New Stuff by CCG blog met up with Christopher back in October in Alexandria, Virginia, and the two recorded this week's podcast episode. They were attending most recent Broadband Communities event, a place where experts and community leaders gather to talk about latest developments and opportunities in broadband and economic development. Christopher, who's had Doug on the show several times in the past, asked him to provide some general advice to communities interested in improving broadband. Doug shared both advice and observations.
Doug notes that counties, rather than municipalities, are seeking out his expertise more frequently these days. He also goes on to point out that in the past, local communities asked him to determine if they could take steps to improve Internet access but now they simply ask how they can do it. The shift exemplifies the growing understanding that local leaders see how high-quality Internet access and fast, affordable, reliable connectivity drive economic development and help preserve their communities.
Doug and Christopher talk about the growing desire to address digital inclusion and how Doug is increasingly helping local communities find ways to shrink the digital divide. Christopher and Doug also look at reasons why local communities should think twice about investing in publicly owned networks. These types of projects aren't the best course of action for every community and Doug, as a straight talker, helps his clients determine when they should shelve plans to deploy publicly owned networks and look for other answers.
For more from Doug Dawson, check...Read more