Tag: "consideration"

Posted March 30, 2017 by Staff

This is the transcript for episode 246 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast. Christopher Mitchell interviews Eric Lampland of Lookout Point Communications at the Iowa Association of Municipal Utilities. They discuss the importance of due diligence and feasibility studies. Listen to this episode here.

Eric Lampland: The first thing, however, I would suggest that you do is to know who you are as a city, to know exactly where you stand in your own personal knowledge about this kind of activity.

Lisa Gonzalez: This is Episode 246 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. I'm Lisa Gonzalez. We're bringing back Eric Lampland to the show this week. For those of you who are regular listeners, you'll recognize Eric's voice from Episodes 80 and 128. He's the founder of Lookout Point Communications and his firm has consulted for a number of communities and other entities across the country. Eric has also worked with us on research projects. In this episode, he and Christopher have a discussion about feasibility studies. When communities decide it's time to make changes to improve local connectivity, they typically need to engage a consulting firm to provide a feasibility study that's unique to their situation. As you'll hear in the interview, just knowing where to start can be confusing. Eric and Chris tackle some of the questions local communities should consider when they're ready to take this step. What should they look for in a quality consultant? What should they ask for in a feasibility study? And what are some common challenges they face? For any local community where investment and better connectivity is a possibility, this interview is worth a bookmark. Learn more about Eric's firm at LookoutPt.com. Now here are Eric Lampland, founder of Lookout Point Communications, and Christopher talking about feasibility studies for local communities.

Christopher Mitchell: Welcome to another edition of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast. We're back at the Iowa Association of Municipal Utilities Conference in Iowa where I've recorded some interview in the past and we're starting that off again this year. Our guest...

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Posted March 28, 2017 by christopher

After discussing this issue time and time again, with community after community, we finally recorded our thoughts on how communities should get started when considering a community network. Eric Lampland, the guy behind Lookout Point Communications, is our guest on Community Broadband Bits podcast episode 246. 

We talk about common mistakes and the importance of developing a comprehensive vision when evaluating an investment or partnership to improve Internet access. 

We also talk a little about the importance of some technical knowledge and having at least one person championing the effort. This is not something a consultant can do for you - someone in the community has to take ownership and responsibility. 

These are very important considerations for any community considering what it should be doing in the modern era.

Read the transcript of the show here.

Eric has also been a guest on Episode 128 "Open Access and Incumbent Challenges" and Episode 84 "Justifying a Network with Indirect Cost Savings."

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

This show is 33 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or via the tool of your choice using this feed.

You can download this mp3 file directly from here. Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Thanks to Break the Bans for the music. The song is Escape and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.

Posted March 24, 2017 by KateSvitavsky

The city of Wilsonville, Oregon, is collecting information from businesses and residents to explore community interest in a municipal fiber network. So far, efforts to analyze need include two surveys and the first of several public meetings with businesses. The City Council anticipates considering the results of the study this summer.

This Is Wilsonville

Wilsonville is a densely populated city located in the Portland metro. Its seven square miles is home to about 20,000 residents and a handful of tech companies. The city has some existing fiber, which connects to neighboring Clackamas County’s broadband network and provides high-quality, low-cost service to Wilsonville’s police department, library, and schools. Wilsonville doesn't have a municipal electric utility, but does supply water and wastewater.

It's in the northwest corner of the state, primarily in Clackamas County with a section of the community located in Washington County. There are a number of large distribution centers in the community, including Coca-Cola and Rite-Aid, that require access to high-capacity connectivity. Clackamas County's Broadband eXchange provides fiber connectivity to public facilities and businesses across the county.

Wilsonville first considered improving Internet access last January, when the City Council authorized staff to work with a consultant to explore their options.

“It really goes to the concept of how competitive we think our city should be across business interests and across industry, as well as the financial addition and even the residential participation in that,” said [Mayor] Tim Knapp.

All Options On The Table

In 2013, the city invested in some fiber that serves government institutions and could become the backbone for expansion projects. They're considering several possibilities, including maintaining a network only for governmental purposes, providing connectivity to the commercial district, and offering high-quality Internet access to residential neighborhoods. Though community leaders have not made a decision on the matter, they are considering whether to become a municipal Internet Service Provider (ISPs) or to find a partner to operate on the network...

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Posted March 17, 2017 by lgonzalez

At one time, it’s hilly geography earned it the label “undevelopable” in the 1960s, but now the planned community of Mission Viejo, California, is home to approximately 97,000 people in Orange County. The city with the suburban feel is looking at ways to develop even further.

A Blank Slate

The city has recently commissioned a feasibility study to examine how this suburban community can improve its connectivity to boost economic development and improve municipal efficiencies.

According to the city’s website, they want to:

      • Define the City’s strategic goals, objectives and roles of deployment for broadband network services;
      • Develop an understanding of community-wide need for fiber-based broadband;
      • Document fiber-based broadband demand in the City that leverages the City’s existing relationships with local businesses and stakeholder.
      • Assess the feasibility of using existing right of way, existing and new conduit pole lines and other assets to reduce the cost of FTTP deployments throughout the City;
      • Determine the benefits that a fiber network would provide in terms of economic development, education, healthcare, municipal government and the quality of life of its constituents, residents and visitors;
      • Determine how a fiber network could create added-value through economic efficiencies and cost reductions;
      • Determine the most feasible options to gain consensus on the path forward to achieve the City’s goals.

Like a number of other communities, Mission Viejo has existing fiber within the city that was deployed some time ago for its Intelligent Transportation System (ITS). The community doesn’t own or operate municipal gas or electric utilities. Incumbent Internet access providers are Cox and AT&T.

Business A Priority

Local businesses have been complaining about poor connectivity for years. Back in 2015, one of the community’s two large retail shopping centers found that Cox Communications didn’t see investing in a connection worthwhile. Merchants at The Village shopping center had to depend on DSL and were understandably irked:

“How can you run a...

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Posted March 8, 2017 by lgonzalez

After consideration and debate, city leaders in Gainesville, Florida, have decided to move ahead with a feasibility study to explore possible municipal Internet network models. Residents are plagued by high incumbent Internet access rates and want the city’s telecommunications utility to dig into solutions.

At a recent meeting, the city commission heard from Gainesville Regional Utility’s (GRUCom) chief business service officer, Lewis Walton, about potential models, costs, and GRUCom’s current functions. Walton also offered some rough cost estimates. The commission unanimously approved the motion to design a study, but several commissioners remain skeptical.

GATORNET For Apartments And Businesses

Even though single-family dwellings don’t have access to Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) from the city, some apartments and businesses have been connected to publicly owned fiber for years. 

GATORNET offers Internet access to apartment complexes, many where University of Florida students live. The university is part of the Gig.U initiative, a collaboration between more than 30 research universities and the communities where they are from to develop high-quality connectivity in and around campuses.

Even before the collaboration with Gig.U, GRUCom had been offering services to government facilities and local businesses as early as 1996. The utility now has more than 500 miles of fiber throughout Alachua County, along with a data center; they also offer wireless services.

Residents Flexing Muscles

According to Connected Gainesville, a grassroots group advocating for city involvement in improving local connectivity, Gainesville households pay the highest Internet access rates in the state. They want GRUCom to offer competition to the incumbent. Bryan Eastman, one of the co-founders, recently told the Gainesville Sun:

"There is only one company in Gainesville that serves the whole city, and that's Cox," Eastman continued. "As the internet becomes more a part of our daily lives, more...

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Posted January 31, 2017 by lgonzalez

Laurinburg, North Carolina, is considering opening its fiber-optic network to private providers.

It’s been over a year since the community contracted with a consultant to inventory the community’s assets and provide options for expanding its use to the private sector. Since then, community leaders have discussed looking for potential partners and have met with private providers. According to the Laurinburg Exchange, the city will likely release a Request for Proposals (RFQ) as a way to let providers know they are interested in investigating ways to make excess capacity available.

Community leaders believe providers could make use of the publicly owned fiber for fixed wireless service, lease fiber for business Internet access and telephone services, web hosting, and other services. City Manager Charles Nichols said:

“The city has the capability to offer all those services now; we know this is an asset to this community and we’re trying our best to figure out a way to utilize it.”

Laurinburg already connects ten entities with its network, including County facilities, schools, healthcare clinics and hospitals, the airport, and several local businesses. Community leaders want to spur economic development by offering high-quality connectivity in Laurinburg to more businesses.

Tapping An Existing Resource

The city deployed its fiber-optic network in the mid-1990s to improve communications between city hall and its public works facilities. It later leased excess capacity to other public entities, including several facilities that obtained Internet access and data transmission through School Link. As the city has expanded network footprint, it now consists of a 100-mile ring that surrounds the county.

Laurinburg prevailed in a lawsuit commenced by BellSouth in the early 2000s when the provider argued the city had no authority to operate the system. When the trial and appellate courts examined the prevailing statute and the technology in place, however, both found for the city. Since then, state law has changed but Laurinburg’s right to operate its system is grandfathered in; they are still, however, subject to the state prohibition on expansion

The city is the seat of Scotland County, located near the South Carolina...

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Posted December 9, 2016 by htrostle

Forty-three percent of residents in Erie County, New York, do not have access to high-speed Internet access. That’s a drag on the local economy, but the situation could soon change. Erie County residents and businesses have the opportunity to comment on their needs by taking a survey on local Internet connectivity. Residents and businesses in Erie County, New York, can fill out the survey at eriecounty.crowdfiber.com.

An Ongoing Effort, State Support

The survey features a speed test and a few quick questions, which will be used to map where folks lack connectivity. Governor Andrew Cuomo’s half a billion dollar New NY Broadband Program funds the survey. In August 2016, the governor stopped at the University of Buffalo in Erie County to speak about the plan, saying, “Erie County is our first priority.” 

This survey is the next step in an ongoing effort to bring 21st century connectivity to the county. In late 2015, Erie County started looking for an organization to study the feasibility of a countywide high-speed network. With the survey results, officials will be able to choose the best path forward. On December 5, county officials hosted a public meeting to discuss the survey and how they will use the results.

There are about 1 million people living in the far western county; approximately 260,000 of them live in the county seat of Buffalo. The community has considered the potential benefits of a municipal fiber network for some time and has been doing their research. Back in early 2015, they released a report that indicated a potential 1.1 percent increase in the county's GDP (approximately $450 million annually) with better connectivity.

"I Can Barely Do Anything" 

For some folks in Erie County, high-speed connectivity can't come fast enough. In WBFO, Buffalo’s NPR news, local resident Charles Weber explained just how terrible the Internet service is:...

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Posted December 2, 2016 by htrostle

While New York's Governor Andrew Cuomo focuses on improving Internet access in rural areas upstate, Westchester County is finding its own path to next-generation connectivity.

The county's largest cities are partnering with the county association to bring high-speed Internet access to every household, businesses, healthcare facilities, and educational organizations in the next three to five years. 

Four Cities Together

In early October, the Westchester County Association and the cities of Mount Vernon, New Rochelle, White Plains, and Yonkers announced the formation of the Smart Growth Gigabit initiative. The cities entered into the “Smart City ComPACT” to collectively apply for funding, collaborate on innovation districts, and develop joint legislative agendas. 

The cities are considering a Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) project to provide Gigabit (1,000 Megabits per second) connectivity necessary for telemedicine, digital learning, and economic development. Officials estimate the project will cost about $750 million, based on the costs of similar projects in communities with like populations (405,000 people total). The cities could own and build the network themselves or partner with a private provider; they have not yet decided on which model to pursue.

Smart Growth

The Gigabit Initiative is part of Westchester County Association’s Blueprint for Smart Growth plan. The association is assembling a steering committee of members from Westchester’s cities, healthcare, biotech, education, business, and nonprofit sectors. The collaboration has been described as a public private partnership because Westchester County Association is a private entity.

Westchester County has six cities and 19 towns, and is home to several large companies including the biotech company Regeneron and the technology company IBM. Several of the towns are also...

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Posted October 18, 2016 by lgonzalez

The results of a study are in and its authors recommend Stark County invest in a regional middle mile fiber-optic network, establish a broadband authority, and take other significant steps to keep the county from falling behind in today’s economy.

The Fourth Utility

The county has relied heavily on manufacturing and retail in the past but as those opportunities dry up, young people are moving away and the future is in jeopardy. Healthcare is another strong industry in the region, but access to high-quality connections is now a must-have for hospitals and clinics. Elected officials also recognize that diversifying the local economy to lure companies that offer higher paying positions will bring new blood to Stark County.

In order to attract new commerce to Stark County, Ohio, they formed a Broadband Task Team (SCBBTT) in the fall of 2014. They have adhered to the philosophy that connectivity is a “fourth utility” and should be treated like electricity, water, gas, or sewer systems. In May, the SCBBTT hired a consultant to perform a feasibility study; the firm presented its findings and recommendations on October 12th.

Consultants Offer Results, Recommendations

Consultants analyzed the amount of fiber in the county and reviewed the state of connectivity for businesses and residents and found both lacking.

Incumbents include local provider MCTV, which offers cable TV, Internet access, and phone services over its coaxial fiber network. Charter Communications, which recently acquired Time Warner Cable assets in the area, and AT&T offer cable and DSL but the feasibility revealed that there is very little fiber connectivity for residents or businesses.

They recommend that the county employ a six-pronged approach:

  • Formalized Broadband-Friendly Policies and Standards
  • Develop a Carrier-Neutral Middle-Mile Fiber-Optic Backbone
  • Expand Connections to Regional Data Centers
  • Equip Economic Development Areas with Fiber Connectivity
  • Target Businesses in Close Proximity to Fiber Backbone...
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Posted September 13, 2016 by lgonzalez

When the Rochester Post-Bulletin published Christopher Mitchell’s opinion piece in August, it wasn’t only because he is an expert on municipal networks. Christopher’s interest in all things geeky started in Rochester - he went to Rochester Mayo High School.

A Budding Idea

For the past few years, various elected officials, and member of the community-at-large have expressed dissatisfaction for services offered by incumbent Charter Communications. In addition to poor services, City Council members have faced complaints from constituents about awful customer service. Over the past year, the community began showing that they will not abandon the idea of publicly owned Internet infrastructure.

The city, home to the world-class Mayo Clinic, is a hub of healthcare discovery. As medical technology becomes more intertwined with fast, affordable, reliable connectivity, Rochester’s expensive and lackluster incumbent Internet providers are showing that they just aren’t cutting it.

Local Support And Early Analysis

In June, the Post Bulletin Editorial Board published their support for a review of the options:

We'd encourage the council and Rochester Utilities Board (RPU) board to make every effort to explore the costs and benefits of installing municipal broadband Internet services as a way of ensuring our community stays effectively connected to the world around it.

Considering Rochester's economic dependence on science and technology, having access to the highest speeds possible is crucial to the city's future. Unfortunately, existing services lag behind those being offered in other cities, putting Rochester's businesses and residents at a competitive disadvantage.

Many questions and concerns remain, but finding answers is the best way for the city to make sure it is serving the needs of its constituents to the fullest.

RPU staff consulted experts as it investigated options and...

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