Tag: "colorado"

Posted August 22, 2013 by lgonzalez

Longmont's City Council and municipal power and communications utility are getting serious about bringing fiber to the people. We reported earlier this month about the decision to allow voters to decide how fast they want that next generation network. Longmont Power and Communications (LPC) already plan to expand the existing network to households and businesses but face a long, slow time table over many years if they expand incrementally without bonding. The City Council will ask voters if they will authorize a $44 million bond issue to pay for capital costs, interest and debt-service reserve.

Many in Longmont recall the ferocious opposition they faced during the two previous referendums. The cable industry (mostly Comcast) spent hundreds of thousands of dollars during each campaign, saturating citizens with a deceitful advertising campaign.

Once again, local citizens are forming their own group to support the measure. A Scott Rochat Longmont Times-Call article reports that the group, Friends of Fiber, recently met in Longmont's TinkerMill "hackserspace" to plan initial strategy. The main take-away for participants was "we need more people."

The group does not want to be taken by surprise by the same astroturf groups that spent $250,000 dollars to defeat the referendum question in 2009. While a second referendum passed in 2011 despite even more astroturf spending, Friends of Fiber are taking no chances and mobilizing now. Both of those referenda dealt with the authority to operate the network, not finance an expansion.

From the article:

[Organizer Scott] Converse said the group had to be ready for just as big a fight now. One tactic will be borrowed from the national political campaigns; creating software that will scan the Internet for negative references to the bond issue so that the group can respond quickly.

Vince Jordan, LPC Telecom Manager, note that the utility has updated the original service offering from $59.95 for 25 Mbps to $49.95 for residential 1 gig service. From the meeting:

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Posted July 26, 2013 by lgonzalez

The Longmont community will soon have the chance to decide how quickly they want ubiquitous FTTH. On July 23rd, the City Council unanimously approved a proposal to ask voters in a referendum if they want to bond for funds to speed up construction of the LPC fiber network. Absent bond financing, the network will expand much more slowly over many years.

Readers will remember the 2011 referendum to allow the electric utility to offer broadband services to the people and businesses of Longmont. At the time, Comcast spent over $300,000 via the Colorado Cable Telecommunications Association to fund an unsuccessful Vote No astroturf campaign. The community approved the measure with 60% of the vote. There was an earlier referendum in 2009 that ended in a victory for Comcast following a successful astroturf campaign. Records showed a similar infusion of cash to sway the vote. 

In the recent meeting, some Council Members expressed concern over the city bonding to invest in the telecom business. The Longmont Times Call reported on the meeting:

"We're again a government playing in the private world of capitalism," [Councilman Brian] Bagley said. "What if we don't know what we're doing?"

City Manager Harold Dominguez noted that even if voters approved a bond, the city could still take on a partner. If it passes, he said, the city would have a pretty good idea of how big a piece of the market it could get. And implementation wasn't a huge risk, he said, because the city already knew it could provide the service; it had been doing so for itself, the school district and a few other large users for years.

"Based on the information we've received, yes, we can do it," Dominguez said.

Finance Director Jim Golden outlined several options, including sales tax bonds, utility bonds, and certificates of participation, which use existing city assets as collateral. After discussion, Council agreed that the revenue bonds from the electric utility was the best option. If the voters approve the referendum, the City will bond a total of $44 million for capital costs ($35.4 million), interest, and...

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Posted June 28, 2013 by lgonzalez

In 2010, Silverton, Colorado, decided to build a fiber-optic loop for savings and better connectivity in rural San Juan County. At the time, Qwest (now CenturyLink) provided a microwave connection to the town of around 630 residents. After taking state money to connect all the county seats, Qwest decided to take fiber to everyone except Silverton, much to the frustration of local residents. We wanted to catch up with happenings in this former silver mining camp.

We spoke with Jason Wells, Silverton Town Administrator, who told us that Silverton's loop is part of a regional effort, the Southwest Colorado Access Network (SCAN). Silverton's loop broke ground in April and it will cost $164,000. Silverton and San Juan County contributed $41,000 and the remainder comes from a Southwest Colorado Access Grant. Wells says public institutions will be hooked up first, then downtown businesses. Connecting the schools will come later.

The community is limited by its remote geography. At 9,300 feet above sea level, the town is one of the highest towns in the U.S. and still served by microwave technology. Wells hopes future expansion will include wiring Silverton to Durango, the closest SCAN community. Durango connects municipal and La Plata County facilities with its municipal fiber and leases dark fiber to local businesses, private providers, and community anchor institutions.

Wells connected us to Dr. Rick K. Smith, Mayor of participating Bayfield and General Manager of the Southwest Colorado Council of Governments (SWCCOG). Dr. Smith shared some history on the SCAN project.

The Southwest Colorado Council of Governments officially formed in 2009 and the first items on the agenda was establishing better connectivity in the region. Fourteen town and county jurisdictions belong to the Council to capitalize on the benefits of cooperation and coordination. Each...

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Posted June 26, 2013 by lgonzalez

Longmont, Colorado, kept its eye on the prize. City leaders' vision, to bring high-speed connectivity to residents, businesses, schools, libraries, and government facilities began many years ago and the community faced multiple challenges. Citizens knocked down legislative barriers through referendum, fought corporate misinformation campaigns, and contended with tough economic times. Throughout the ordeal, community leaders held fast and now the vision is becoming a reality.

Current Mayor Dennis Combs inherited the project but he understands what the vision will bring to the community. In a recent article in the Boulder County Business Report, Combs focuses on economic development, education, and lifestyle as primary driving factors and says:

These are just a few reasons why it’s important for Longmont to realize its vision of being a connected city. If the city moves forward and deploys this network, it will join a number of elite communities around the country where citizens can work, learn, and live using the latest technologies available.

After ample opportunity to invest in the network Longmont residents and businesses asked for, Comcast chose to spend significant resources repeatedly trying to block a municipal network.

Fortunately, Combs and previous leadership took action to fix the lack of connectivity rather wait forever for two providers that did not want to invest in the community. Longmont's vision would never be this close to reality without leaders and citizens who chose a path of local self-reliance.

Posted May 20, 2013 by lgonzalez

Longmont, Colorado, will move ahead with plans to offer fiber connectivity to the entire community. After presenting this business plan to the City Council, members voted unanimously on May 14th to support the measure. Scott Rochat from the Times-Call attended the meeting.

Residents stepped forward to express their opinions and all but one urged the council to "get it done."

From the Rochat article:

The plan projects a four-tier price structure. For residential rates, that's proposed to range from $39.95 a month for 10 megabit-per-second upload and download, to $99.95 for 100 mbps.

The study estimates that 35 percent of homes would choose to get their Internet service from the city, still leaving plenty of the field for the existing providers.

"Competition is good," Councilman Alex Sammoury said. "Just because we're a government entity doesn't mean the free market doesn't apply to us. If someone can do it better, more power to them."

The plan proposes to have the city provide Internet directly and work with a private partner for phone service.

Video service would not be provided, Roiniotis and the Uptown consultants said, because Internet video has eroded the market for traditional television.

Vince Jordan, LPC Manager, began the presentation and stressed economic development, education, and lifestyle.

Representatives from Uptown Services reviewed recommendations and the business plan. They answered about 3 hours of questions from council members, including skeptical members who want to avoid becoming the next Provo, Utah. Neil Shaw and Dave Stockton from Uptown Services provided some perspective between the two communities. They pointed out the large number of successful networks in states across the country.

Longmont had been prepared to incrementally expand the network using the cash on hand from the many years of dark fiber leasing. Such an expansion could be done without borrowing but would take a long time (more than ten years, likely) to get to everyone. This is the approach Danville, Virginia, has been using.

Instead, Longmont is now developing a plan to finance the...

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Posted May 13, 2013 by lgonzalez

In January, Longmont Power and Communications (LPC) announced they would begin connecting businesses located within 500 feet of the existing network. As we reported, local businesses were chomping at the bit to get hooked up and enjoy the high-speed next generation network. Even without efforts at marketing or advertising, more businesses have added themselves to the queue. LPC will present the formal business plan for expanding the network to the City Council on May 14th. Tony Kindelspire recently reported on the race to get on LPC's network in the Longmont Times-Call:

"We are bringing to council a business plan to build out all of Longmont," [Vince] Jordan, [Broadband Services Manager], said. "It's the whole enchilada."

The fact that there has so far been only limited rollout is due to economics. Currently, the installations are being paid for from a reserve fund that Longmont Power has built up over the years leasing portions of its fiber-optic loop to entities such as Longmont United Hospital and a third-party provider that services the school district. Those leases bring in about $250,000 annually, Jordan said.

For 2013, the Longmont City Council authorized LPC to use $375,000 of that reserve fund to begin connecting businesses and residents to the loop.

This model works, but does not connect everyone fast enough for their liking:

To expedite the build-out, extra up-front dollars will have to be allocated, but where those dollars will come from is yet to be determined, Jordan said, adding that ultimately, the decision will lie with City Council.

Map of Longmont Fiber Rings

Right now, Longmont will cover the initial cost of connecting subscribers except in cases of extraordinarily high cost cases. If it would cost $10,000 to install but the payback to the utility in 2.5 years is only $6,000, a customer would have to cover the $4,000 difference presently. While there are over 1,300 businesses with in 500 feet of the network, connection...

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Posted April 20, 2013 by lgonzalez

This southwest Colorado community of about 17,000 contends with state barriers, but still makes the most of its fiber assets. We contacted Eric Pierson, Information Services Manager for the City of Durango, and Julie Brown, the City Finance Manager. The two shared some information on Durango's fiber network.

Currently, fifteen miles of City owned fiber run through town, providing connectivity for municipal and La Plata County facilities. Installation began in 1994 and the build-out continues. A combination of City capital improvement funds, grants from the State of Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DoLA), and funds from the Joint City/County Sales Tax fund have contributed to the $1.7 million network over the past twenty-one years.

Durango leases dark fiber to businesses and nonprofits to boost economic development and fund maintenance for the network. While dark fiber leasing could be far more lucrative, Durango's goal is to break even each year. According to Brown and Pierson, 2013 will yield about $10,000 to be shared with La Plata County and the Southwest Colorado Council of Governments.

Mercy Regional Medical Center partnered with Durango to install fiber as its primary bandwidth connection. Mercy is now an important anchor institution for a large medical office complex in what used to be an undeveloped area. In addition to the clinic, new businesses and residents continue to expand in the area.

According to Brown and Pierson, local ISPs that lease the fiber to serve residents and businesses have increased bandwidth for customers. A significant number of professionals that live in Durango work from home.

Even though Durango is not able to freely expand the network due to state restrictions that limit how it can use the fiber absent a costly referendum, community leaders found a way to optimize their network for residents and businesses. And should the state be wise enough to repeal this anti-competitive barrier, Durango will be well positioned to benefit local businesses.

Posted March 13, 2013 by lgonzalez

The town of Erie, Colorado, is conducting a residential survey as it considers a community owned network. Erie has about 18,000 residents and straddles Boulder and Weld Counties. 

The concerns facing Erie's community leaders were recently summed up in a John Aguilar article in the Boulder Daily Camera. According to the article, four companies were to be screened to complete a $50,000 feasibility study. The community owned broadband approach has both strong supporters and some doubters in town.

From the article:

Trustee Jonathan Hager, who has spent the last dozen years managing fiber-optic networks for a Westminster-based wholesale electric power supplier, championed the idea for Erie from both a local control perspective and an economic development one.

"If I'm a company and I'm going to relocate here with 100 employees and I need 100 megabits per second of speed and the town can provide that, I think that would be something I would look at," Hager said. "If we can make Erie stand out as a good place to live because we offer broadband, that puts us in a good position."

Internet access, he said, has become so ubiquitous and necessary that it could be seen as just another municipally provided utility, like water and electrical service.

"We can provide it ourselves and cut out the middle man," Hager said.

Those who are not sold on the idea of funding a study, express resignation at entering a challenging industry:

"I'm very sensitive to the speed of technology's progression," Mayor Joe Wilson said. "By the time we cut the ribbon on this technology, it's old news."

Wilson also voiced concerns about whether it is government's proper role to be providing broadband Internet service or whether that is better left up to the private sector. He said there hasn't been an outcry from residents to pursue such a service.

Clipboard for survey

The completion of a residential survey can clarify how the community feels about local broadband connectivity and help leaders decide how to move forward. Surveys are a common tool as part of feasibility studies, but in our experience the...

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Posted January 30, 2013 by lgonzalez

Readers know we have offered extensive coverage of the publicly owned network in Longmont, Colorado. The utility will soon offer telecommunications services to businesses and residents that are physically located within 500 feet or less of its existing network. At this stage, policies and procedures for the service are being finalized by Longmont Power and Communications (LPC).

We talked with Vince Jordan, LPC's Telecom Manager, who told us the expansion is part of their original business plan. Local establishments are ready to sign up with LPC. Twenty businesses put themselves in the queue within the past month. In addition to industrial and manufacturing companies, healthcare clinics, service industries, and entrepreneurs are waiting to get hooked up. Vince tells us several companies are looking to build data centers now that they will be able to get the bandwidth they need from LPC.

Vince credits LPC's ability to offer great local customer service as another driving factor for the early sign-ups. LPC is developing a fiber hood campaign to determine the locations for the first set of FTTH connections. The campaign, similar to that used by other communities and more recently by Google, will look at residential areas that are located near existing fiber and conduit. Surveys and early sign ups will identify seven fiber hoods.

Longmont's ordinance [PDF] requires customers to cover the cost of running fiber to their homes or businesses. Even though connecting can be pricey, Vince tells us potential customers call him regularly asking when they will be able to get fiber to their homes or establishments.

Many residential inquiries involve home based businesses, but not all. He relays the story of one retired gentleman who is so fed up with sorry service from the incumbents, he is willing to pay anything up to $10,000 to get LPC fiber to his home. We have encountered many instances of crappy customer service from the big boys, leaving us to suspect others share that sentiment. 

The Longmont...

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Posted November 19, 2012 by christopher

Free Press is hosting the next National Conference for Media Reform (NCMR) in Denver, April 5-7. Though the panels are not finalized, it is safe to assume that we will have a few on broadband and telecommunications policy. That's why I just registered for it and will undoubtedly be speaking on one or more sessions.

For a few more days, you can register for this conference at a remarkable rate - just $95 for the whole thing! Register here.

I always meet really inspiring people at NCMR and I expect this year to be one of the best. Denver is a great town and I expect people from Longmont to be there, talking about how they beat Comcast in a referendum where Comcast dropped $400,000 to protect its monopoly.

I can't overstate how much stronger our movement is when we come together to inspire each other and strategize face to face. I hope to see you there.

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