Tag: "innovation"

Posted April 21, 2021 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

Separating the physical and service layers of our telecommunications infrastructure offers a host of benefits that communities should consider when investing in their future: from encouraging lower prices through competition, to offering schools and hospitals the ability to set up secure and instantaneous networks on the fly, to providing a seedbed for experimentation as we enter the second decade of the twenty-first century.

Tuesday, April 27th at 2pm ET will feature a free webinar with a panel of experts on the obstacles to and promise of open access networks

From the event description:

The goal of Open Access Networks extends beyond access to the Internet. OANs should be a sustainable network that provides the freedom of information exchange, fosters a competitive ecosystem, [and] enables digital innovation essential for its growth and long-term affordability. In this panel, we examine the obstacles that prevent this vision becoming reality. We talk with OAN practitioners to identify how they have progressed towards this vision.

The webinar is moderated by CEO of consulting firm HBG Strategies, Heather Burnett Gold.

Panelists include ILSR's Christopher Mitchell, Sean Colletti (Mayor, City of Ammon, Idaho), David Corrado (CEO, UTOPIA Fiber), and Kim McKinley (CMO, UTOPIA Fiber).

Register here

Posted March 26, 2021 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

At the beginning of July 2020, the city of West Des Moines, Iowa announced that they were going to build a citywide, open access conduit system connecting every home, business, government building, and community anchor institution, with Google Fiber to come in right after to pull fiber and light up a network to bring service to the community. 

Construction on the project has now begun "in [the] area bounded by the West Mixmaster, Ashworth Road and 22nd Street," the first of six phases.

Posted January 26, 2021 by Sean Gonsalves

Conway is right in the middle – in the middle of Arkansas with its utility company, Conway Corp, in the middle of beefing up its broadband network.

In this city of 66,000 – home to the information technology company Acxiom Corporation and three colleges – residents and businesses have long relied on Conway Corp for more than just electricity since the utility first launched its cable and Internet service in 1997.

Conway Corp, which has been Conway’s electric utility for the past 90 years, has a unique relationship with the city’s government. “We are different in the way we are set up as compared to many other municipal networks. We are set up as a non-profit. We lease the network and operate it on behalf of the city,” explained Conway Corp Chief Marketing Officer Crystal Kemp.

At the heart of the utility’s network management has been the on-going work to stay ahead of the curve.

Prepared for the Pandemic

“When we launched Internet services in 1997, upstream capacity wasn’t a concern and systems were built with the average homes (and) businesses per geographic area, or node, at 500. Today those numbers are less than 95 per node. That’s been achieved through physical changes in the network and changes in our engineering practices,” Conway Corp’s Chief Technology Officer Jason Hansen told us last week. 

Upgrades to the Hybrid-Fiber-Coax (HFC) network began to take shape in 2019 with the deployment of DOCSIS 3.1, allowing Conway Corp to double its downstream capacity. They also began upgrading equipment that paved the way for expanded use of the RF (Radio Frequency) spectrum to boost the network’s bandwidth. As of December 2020, about 50 percent of the upstream upgrade work had been completed with the remainder expected to be finished by the summer of 2021.

Currently, Conway Corp has 21,608 Internet service customers, which translates into a take-rate of 72% on the residential side and over 50% on the business side. AT&T operates its gigabit service in town, but there are no other traditional citywide cable systems in operation in the area.

The network upgrade, which began in earnest in 2019, turned out to be prescient planning as the emerging COVID-...

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Posted December 7, 2020 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

In a new case study, the Institute for Local Self-Reliance explores the wide-ranging community benefits of Greenlight, the city-owned Fiber-to-the-Home network in Wilson, North Carolina. The case study details how it has been able to quickly adapt and expand service during the pandemic.

Built in 2008 with an eye toward the future and operated with local priorities in mind, Greenlight has a long track record of putting people first. A few examples are:

Access for All

  • In 2016, Greenlight began a partnership with the Wilson Housing Authority (WHA) to connect hundreds of public housing residents to $10/month low-cost fast Internet access.
  • The network targets barriers to service adoption that go beyond cost, including a flexpay system which allows users to prepay for Internet access instead of requiring large deposits or a credit check. It also allows users to load funds into their account for individual days of network access.

Economic Development

  • Greenlight has been named as a key factor in Wilson’s economic revitalization.
  • Wilson’s fiber infrastructure has helped local businesses succeed and is a factor in the relocation of new companies to the area. In 2019, Wilson was ranked the 10th best small city in the country to start a business.
  • In 2016, Greenlight began co-sponsoring the GigEast Exchange Conference. The GigEast Exchange serves as a technology hub, incubator, and networking space for everyone in the community.

Education

  • All schools in the county were connected to the network by 2012.
  • In 2019, Greenlight partnered with Wilson Community College to develop a curriculum to train the next generation of network technicians and managers.
  • Throughout the pandemic, Greenlight has gone even further to support its community. When schools quickly converted to remote learning in the spring of 2020, the network installed more than 3,000 feet of fiber to make sure a local history teacher, Michelle Galloway, could teach from home. The network has also made its Lifeline program permanent, offering basic video conference-capable connections for $10/month for residents to activate as needed.

Read the...

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Posted July 17, 2020 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

On July 6th, the City of West Des Moines, Iowa, announced an innovative public-private partnership with Google Fiber to bring gigabit Internet to all 67,000 of its citizens over the next two and a half years. The city will build conduit connecting every home and business and available for use by different providers. Google Fiber will be the first, coming in and laying and maintaining its own fiber once the city’s construction is complete. It’s the result of years of effort by the city council and serves as an example of other communities looking for solutions to improve options for all citizens. 

Origins

The origin of the decision dates to 2016 and the city’s 2036 Vision [pdf]. In it, West Des Moines committed to “doubling down on technology,” creating five- and ten-year milestones that reached for specific markers of success by 2026, including: 80% of the population having access to gigabit Internet service, $2.5 million per year in new revenue generated by the city’s information infrastructure, and all citizens using the West Des Moines Integrated Network app for greater dissemination of information and citizen engagement.

In the city’s announcement, Mayor Steve Gaer said,

A key element of the City’s 20-year strategic plan calls for all residents, regardless of their means, to benefit from high-quality and high-speed connectivity.

Community leaders, stakeholders, and citizens all played a role during the planning phase, and project officials considered three criteria for guidance. The first was the expectation by its citizens had that the Internet was a utility; whether or not the city wanted to become an ISP, its efforts would have to work toward universal, affordable, reliable access. The second was a determination to regain and then maintain control of the municipality’s rights-of-way so as to preserve the infrastructure future of West Des Moines. And the third was that any future public network facilitated by the city should serve as a platform for serving residential and commercial users according to their diverse needs, from business to education to telemedicine. 

Deputy City Manager Jamie Letzring...

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Posted February 11, 2020 by Lisa Gonzalez

Auburn Essential Service (AES) is one of those networks that has been serving the community for years with a steady presence and a strong commitment to the community. This week, Christopher talks with AES General Manager Chris Schweitzer about their fiber optic network, how they're innovating, and their recipe for consistent growth.

AES began with fiber infrastructure for their electric utility. They entered the broadband business first for municipal facilities, and later for businesses when the incumbent providers couldn't deliver necessary connectivity to one of the city's prominent employers. The company was ready to relocate until AES stepped in. Rather than face the economic impact of substantial job losses, AES connected the company and never looked back.

That was in the early 2000s and now AES offers Internet access to large segments of residents and businesses. Christopher and his guest talk about the way AES has taken a deliberate approach to expanding the network citywide and how they're implementing new technologies as they refresh the infrastructure. They discuss the network’s financial health (hint: it’s doing great) and how AES seeks grant funding to aid in further expansion.

Chris describes the new partnership that AES and nearby Garrett, Indiana, have developed to bring fiber broadband to the residents in the small community of about 6,300 people. The utility has a philosophy that other munis also embrace — straightforward pricing and customer-centered services — that have helped drive their success in the residential market.

Check out our first interview with...

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Posted December 20, 2019 by Lisa Gonzalez

One of the great things about innovation in the technology space is that entrepreneurs and their new ideas typically don’t require a large number of people to get a new venture off the ground. Small teams can make big impacts. What they DO require, however, often includes opportunity and support — enter RIoT. Now, the network of technologists, engineers, business leaders, academics, policy makers, and entrepreneurs, who have an interest in the Internet of Things industry will be coming to Wilson, North Carolina.

That's A RAP in Wilson

The Regional Internet of Things Accelerator Program (RAP) started working with North Carolina innovation startups in 2018. The first cohort of IoT companies included entities focused on a variety of innovations that integrate the IoT space. 

RIoT worked with startups in the Triangle region, but now they're bringing the RAP east to Wilson, where it will take up residence in the Gig East Exchange, Wilson's incubator and startup resource facility. The 2020 RAP program will be in Wilson through the spring.

According to RIoT Executive Director Ton Snyder, "Experience has shown that many smart entrepreneurs are not able to relocate to Raleigh or Charlotte, so RIoT is making an effort to get closer to them.”

In addition to Wilson's fiber optic network, Greenlight Community Broadband, the town's Gig East Exchange impressed the RIoT leadership. Snyder described the community's leaders as "visionary and forward acting" and clearly invested in economic development. RIoT has been working with North Carolina companies since 2014; their efforts have helped create more than 400 jobs in the state. 

They work with teams in person for a three-month program period and describe the program as "a mix of on-site workshop programming and mentorship [with] dedicated time to work on your company." You can learn more about the program here, including FAQs, that discuss what types of projects and teams are most suited to the program.

Check out this video on Wilson's Gig East Exchange:

...

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Posted October 15, 2019 by Lisa Gonzalez

South Bend, Indiana, is a mid-sized city of around 100,000 people where they are making practical use of their dark fiber network and technology. In episode 378 of the podcast, Christopher talks with Denise Linn Riedl, Chief Innovation Officer. Denise describes many of the "non-sexy" ways the community and her department are using technology to encourage interdepartmental cooperation, efficiency, and the idea that technology is a standard tool, rather than a "shiny new thing."

Denise introduces us to the publicly owned dark fiber infrastructure, Choice Light, and shares a little about its history. She describes how Internet access companies use the infrastructure to provide service to various sectors of the community. Digital inclusion is on the minds of South Bend leadership and Denise describes partnerships that have helped shrink the lack of access for people who struggle to get online. Christopher and Denise delve into the subtle digital inclusion efforts that happen every day in South Bend.

The interview also covers the city's work to use technology and data to measure success and find areas for increased efficiencies in city services. Christopher and Denise examine ways to reduce bureaucracy through technology and take a practical approach by considering what resources are currently available. Denise's department works with other governmental departments on adopting new approaches and working through change management. She discusses the city's data governance project and reviews some of the surprising moments that have led to innovative use of data to enhance city operations in South Bend and cut costs.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e...

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Posted September 10, 2019 by Lisa Gonzalez

This week, we have a returning guest from Tennessee to tell us about the many positive changes occurring in Clarksville, home of CDE Lightband. Christy Batts, Broadband Division Director at the network joins Christopher; her last appearance on the podcast was in 2013.

This time, Christy describes how the community network has been innovating for better services and finding undiscovered benefits for local businesses. Voice service from CDE Lightband, is helping small- and mid-sized establishments cut costs and increase revenue. The city is also implementing a new video platform and continues to increase speeds in order to allow subscribers to make the most of their Internet access.

Christopher and Christy talk about how this town has started using innovations in technology to maximize home Wi-Fi with indoor ONTs. The network has had better then expected financial success, even in a place where people tend to relocate frequently, and how other utilities have reaped benefits from the fiber. Christy gives a run down of the future ideas for Clarksville, including plans for free Wi-Fi in public spaces, such as parks. This may not be the first city you think of when you consider municipal broadband in Tennessee, but maybe it should be.

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

This show is 24 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed. You can listen to the interview on this page or visit the...

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Posted April 5, 2019 by Katie Kienbaum

Innovation today requires a high-speed Internet connection, and in rural areas, that often means a fiber optic network owned by a local government, a cooperative, or a local business. It’s no surprise then that when the Rural Innovation Initiative was looking for rural communities with good connectivity and an interest in innovation-based economic development, it turned to cities served by locally owned broadband networks. Out of the nine communities initially selected to participate in the Rural Innovation Initiative, more than half have a local Internet access provider instead of a national ISP.

Initiative Bridges Rural Opportunity Gap

The Rural Innovation Initiative is a new program created by the Center on Rural Innovation (CORI) and Rural Innovation Strategies, Inc. (RISI), with funding and support from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA). Launched at the end of last year, the initiative works to “bridge the opportunity gap in rural America by helping communities build the capacity to create resilient, innovation-based jobs.”

For the first part of 2019, CORI and RISI selected nine cities and community partners to take part in what they describe as a “fast-paced technical assistance sprint,” which will help participants develop innovation hubs as an economic development strategy. The initiative will also prepare communities to apply for federal funding opportunities, such as EDA’s Regional Innovation Strategies program. More than 100 rural communities from 40 states applied for the program, which is free for participants. Selection criteria included location in a census-designated rural county, access to New Market Tax Credits and Opportunity Zones, partnerships with higher education and local nonprofits, and existing high-speed broadband networks — Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) in particular.

CORI and RISI, in partnership with EDA, will offer further technical assistance to communities through the Rural Innovation Initiative after this initial project complete. To learn more, watch a webinar about the program from December 2018.

Connectivity Sets Communities Apart...

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