Tag: "middle mile"

Posted November 21, 2022 by Karl Bode

Nevada is looking at an historic influx of broadband funding thanks to the Broadband, Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) program and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). But state laws designed to shield monopolies from competition have added unnecessary complications to the state’s quest to maximize an historic round of public broadband funding. 

Nevada’s broadband expansion push (the “High Speed NV” initiative) will occur in two phases. First, $192 million in federal Covid relief funding will be used to drive broadband access to roughly 1,000 different anchor institutions. Another $200 million in BEAD funding will be used to expand last mile access to Nevada residences and businesses. 

In many states, cooperatives, city-owned utilities, and municipalities are playing a huge role in ensuring uniform and affordable access to next-generation telecom infrastructure. Such creative, local solutions are increasingly the only meaningful competitive challenge seen by the nation’s politically-powerful telecom monopolies. 

But Nevada is one of 17 states that have passed laws, usually ghost written by those same regional telecom monopolies, greatly restricting the construction and financing of municipal broadband efforts.

Two different Nevada laws (Nevada Statute § 268.086 and Nevada Statute § 710.147) currently state that only municipalities with less than 25,000 people and counties with less than 55,000 people can offer telecommunications services, undermining efforts to bring more competition and lower pricing to bear in more populous areas.

State Preemption Laws Remain

While the NTIA has encouraged all 17 states to relax or eliminate laws prohibiting...

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Posted October 21, 2022 by Karl Bode

Avon, Colorado will soon be joining Project THOR, an open access middle mile fiber alliance of 14 communities spearheaded by the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments (NWCCOG).

The network, which feeds into NWCCOG’s Point of Presence in Denver, has dramatically benefited state anchor institutions and boosted network reliability across large swaths of Northwest Colorado. 

We detailed Project Thor and talked with NWCCOG Executive Director Jon Stavney in episode 406 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. “The image of the hammer and breaking down roadblocks and breaking down barriers really worked,” NWCCOG officials told the Colorado Sun when asked about the project being named after the Norse god of thunder.

A recent broadband assessment (page 50) of Avon conducted by an outside consultant found that Avon locals were annoyed by limited broadband competition, high prices, and a lack of reliability from current private sector broadband offerings. The survey also found locals would be supportive of a city-run broadband initiative if it meant lower prices and faster service. 

“We believe the installation of a fiber optic network to enable improved broadband service is appropriate and beneficial in Avon and deployment should commence in the near term so that Avon does not fall too far behind peer communities,” the report found. 

In response, Avon – a town of about 6,000 residents nestled in the shadows of the Rocky Mountains along the Eagle River – considered three routes: tasking the local utility with building its own publicly-owned fiber network; joining Project Thor under a hybrid public-private partnership (PPP) where they sold access to governments, schools and hospitals and local ISPs; or joining Project Thor under a pure PPP where they only sold access to local ISPs.

...

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Posted September 12, 2022 by Karl Bode

Yavapai County, Arizona is pushing forward with a $20 million plan to shore up broadband access across the region. While dramatically scaled back from a $55 million proposal pushed last year, county leaders are hopeful that the effort still drives significant upgrades across the rugged and predominantly rural desert county.  

Last fall, Yavapai County officials announced they would be committing $20 million of the county’s $45.6 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds toward its Broadband Final Mile Initiative, a project spearheaded by the Yavapai County Education Service Agency (YCESA) and designed to bring affordable broadband to every student in Arizona.

The county issued an RFP last October looking for broadband providers willing to use ARPA funding to push symmetrical 100 Megabit per second (Mbps) connections further into rural regions. The expansion was to lean heavily on a 2018 Yavapai County decision to spend $3.7 million on a fiber-optic middle mile network connecting 74 schools and libraries.

“The proposals have been reviewed and contracts have been awarded,” Yavapai County School Superintendent Tim Carter told ILSR in an update. “Cox Communications has been awarded the contract for Black Canyon City and Congress, and Altice USA has been awarded the contract for Mayer, the Beaver Creek area, Cornville, and Paulden.”

Cox and Altice Win Grant Awards 

More specifically, Cox was awarded $3,757,763 to expand service to 2,923 locations in two towns, and Altice was awarded $12,614,582 to expand service to 15,348 locations in five municipalities. 

According to an Altice deployment schedule, homes should see service...

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Posted August 26, 2022 by Ann Treacy

Brownsville recently took a Texas-sized step toward the creation of better broadband options for its residents and businesses, as city commissioners voted in late July to enter into a public-private partnership to build a city wide fiber network known as BTX Fiber

As reported by The Brownsville Herald:

At a Wednesday morning ceremony in city commission chambers, Brownsville Mayor Trey Mendez and Brownsville Public Utilities Board CEO and General Manager John Bruciak signed an agreement with Brian Snider, CEO of Lit Communities, that will allow the fiber infrastructure to be completely built out.

The city commission at its July 19 regular meeting approved the public-private partnership between the city, LIT Texas LLC and its subsidiary BTX Fiber, “for the construction, operations and maintenance of city-wide broadband infrastructure, including but not limited to incorporation and approval of a Right of Way and Encroachment Agreement; Engineering, Procurement and Construction Contract; and Middle Mile Connection Agreement and Grant of Indefeasible Rights of Use Agreement.

Wake up call for Brownsville

From the outside it may seem like an overnight success. But, like most stories, the planning started years ago.

Brownsville is located on the Gulf Coast of South Texas and has a population of more than 186,000 people. It also has the distinction of being on the National Digital Inclusion Alliance’s “Worst Connected Cities List” of 2014, 2015, 2018 and 2019, even though the city is served by  AT&T, Spectrum, and T-Mobile Home Internet.

When Trey Mendez was elected Mayor of Brownsville in 2019, he knew that...

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Posted August 17, 2022 by Karl Bode

One way or another, Grafton County, New Hampshire is lining up funding to build a massive new middle-mile network county officials hope will drive broadband competition—and more affordable fiber—into long underserved New Hampshire communities. 

Grafton was one of 230 U.S. communities that applied for a National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) Broadband Infrastructure Program grant. Grafton’s specific application asked for $26.2 million to help fund the creation of the 353 mile broadband middle mile network they’re calling Grafton County Broadband Now.

Costly Challenge from National Incumbent Providers

Charter Communications filed costly challenges with the NTIA challenging the application, falsely claiming that the county’s proposal was “duplicative” and Charter already provided broadband to the region. Most of the claims were based on older, unreliable data provided to the FCC by Charter dramatically overstating broadband availability.

Grafton County surveys actually indicate the majority of county residents still can’t get access to the FCC’s base definition for broadband, 25 Megabits (Mbps) per second downstream, 3 Megabits per second upstream. Availability data across the county will likely look even worse should the FCC pass a new proposal to boost the definition of broadband to 100 Mbps.

Between Comcast and Charter, incumbent cable giants challenged 3,000 of the 4,000 census blocks covered in the NTIA application, even in areas that didn’t make much sense. Regional leaders previously told us the challenges were an attempt to bog long-needed local broadband improvement efforts down in bureaucracy.

Devil in the Details

Grafton’s grant application was rejected by the NTIA, though officials told the...

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Posted July 13, 2022 by Emma Gautier

For the past two years, York County, Pennsylvania (est. pop. 459,000) has been working hard on a multi-part plan to connect both rural and urban areas.  

York began laying out plans for a county-owned middle-mile network in 2020. The idea was to make last-mile hookups viable for private providers in more areas of the county, and to close its major connectivity gaps.

Along with these plans, York launched a middle-mile pilot project along a 16-mile stretch of the York Heritage Rail Trail, which runs from the York metropolitan area in the center of the county down to Pennsylvania’s southern border. The project leveraged $1.5 million in CARES Act funding and a length of conduit that had been lying underneath the rail trail for two decades. The fiber that was deployed currently provides middle-mile capacity throughout the south central part of the county, as well as some wireless coverage from a tower at the stretch’s midpoint in Hanover Junction.

Building Beyond the Pilot

In early 2021, it was left to the YoCo Fiber Broadband Task Force, “led by the York County Economic Alliance and composed of representatives from business, government, health care, education, and other sectors,” to recommend to the county a way to “develop and implement a countywide broadband strategy.”

In July of that year, the Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to spend as much as $25 million of its American Rescue Plan money, under the guidance of the task force. The first $20 million was dedicated to building out the first half of an underground middle-mile network throughout southern York County, which was designed to “connect anchor institutions and build redundancy.”

The design lays out seven fiber rings and includes the stretch already laid along the rail trail. The last $5 million will support the construction of wireless infrastructure to bring connectivity to York and Hanover, as high-speed Internet access in these urban areas is far from ubiquitous.

York has since engaged...

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Posted June 9, 2022 by Sean Gonsalves

Breaking new ground in New York, state leaders are launching the first municipal fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) projects in the Empire State with funds from its new ConnectALL Initiative

Four small rural communities in four different counties will be the beneficiaries of New York’s initial foray into municipal broadband, targeting “areas where existing state-owned fiber can create a fiber bridge between large data centers (first mile) and individual homes (last mile), primarily in rural areas that are not serviced by private broadband providers.”

At the end of May, Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office announced the $10 million grant award, which will fund fiber deployments to the Village of Sherburne in Chenango County, the Town of Nichols in Tioga County, the Town of Diana in Lewis County, and the Town of Pitcairn in St. Lawrence County.

A ‘Banner Day’ for Municipal Broadband

A collaborative project that includes the Empire State Development office, the Development Authority of the North Country (DANC) and the Southern Tier Network, the initial deployment will be managed by the New York Power Authority (NYPA) and begin in Sherburne.

In Sherburne (est. pop. 1,300), NYPA will be joining forces with the village’s municipal utility, Sherburne Electric, a NYPA municipal electricity customer, to extend NYPA’s existing middle mile fiber network and bring last-mile FTTH connectivity to the village’s 1,800 homes and businesses. The work is expected to be completed by the end of the year with residential and business service to be offered by yet-to-be-named private Internet Service Providers (ISPs).

When the grant was announced, Sherburne Mayor William Acee lauded the effort as “a banner day for Sherburne Electric customers.”

The prospect of having broadband Internet access available to all of Sherburne’s residents and businesses is the modern-day equivalent of the arrival of the railroad. New...

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Posted June 2, 2022 by Ry Marcattilio

Join us today, June 2, at 5pm ET in the chat for the latest episode of the Connect This! Show. Co-hosts Christopher Mitchell (ILSR) and Travis Carter (USI Fiber) are joined by regular guests Kim McKinley (UTOPIA Fiber) and Doug Dawson (CCG Consulting). 

The panel will dig into recent news on the BEAD program (including Alan Davidson's remarks at the Mountain Connect conference last week) and what we're likely to see with states that continue to maintain restrictions on municipal solutions. They'll also talk about the New York City Master Broadband Plan, and end with thoughts on Arkansas and Indiana creating middle mile consortia with co-ops.

Subscribe to the show using this feed on YouTube Live or here on Facebook Live, on find it on the Connect This! page.

Email us broadband@muninetworks.org with feedback and ideas for the show.

Watch here on YouTube Live, here on Facebook live, or below.

Posted April 19, 2022 by Ry Marcattilio

Last week, the Golden State Connectivity Authority (GSCA) announced it has entered into formal partnership with the municipally owned open access network UTOPIA Fiber, for the Utah-based owner and provider to design, build, and operate a new open access fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) network across the 38 rural counties in the state of California. It's a move that not only offers the chance to bring future-proof connections to millions of rural California households in the near future, but have wide policy and industry implications for open access fiber networks down the road. 

Local Governments Band Together

The Golden State Connectivity Authority is a joint powers authority (JPA) created by the Rural County Representatives of California (RCRC), which represents more than three dozen rural counties across the state. RCRC seeks to tackle the variety of shared problems that the state's rural communities face by advancing concrete policy solutions across transportation, energy, natural resources, governance, healthcare, and a collection of other arenas. 

The Golden State Connectivity Authority (see image right) is one of its most recent projects, and explicitly aims to improve Internet access via municipal solutions. Its mission is to "assist rural counties in identifying pathways for development of internet infrastructure within their communities, including the construction of municipal-owned and/or operated internet systems, among other options." GSCA leverages the collective power of the RCRC membership for financing efforts, to go after state and federal funds, and to combine the efforts of bringing together leadership to bridge the digital divide for Californians living outside of urban areas. RCRC member counties constitute about 14 percent of the state's population, or about 2.1 million households. 

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Posted April 14, 2022 by Sean Gonsalves

Although we were initially concerned that certain language in New York’s proposed state budget would lock out municipal broadband projects from being able to capitalize on the federal funding bonanza contained in the American Rescue Plan Act and forthcoming money in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the bill that was ultimately signed into law by Gov. Kathy Hochul was amended and has some golden nuggets for municipal broadband.

The recently enacted $220 billion budget bill includes $1 billion for the state’s ConnectALL initiative, which Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office calls “the largest ever investment in New York's 21st century infrastructure (that) will leverage public and private investments to connect New Yorkers in rural and urban areas statewide to broadband and establish the first municipal broadband program of its kind in the nation.”

Cultivating a Municipal Broadband Ecosystem

In part MMM of the budget bill, it establishes a “municipal assistance program … to provide grant funding to municipalities, state and local authorities ... to plan and construct infrastructure necessary to provide broadband services.”

Municipal grant recipients, the bill says, will be required to build broadband infrastructure to “facilitate projects that, at a minimum, provide reliable Internet service with consistent speeds of at least 100 Megabits per second (Mbps) for download and at least 20 (Mbps) for upload.” That shouldn’t be a problem as most municipal broadband projects use fiber optics that can deliver far more than that. 

How much of the ConnectALL money will be allocated for the municipal grant fund has not yet been determined. But, community broadband advocates should not lose sight of the significance of the broadband ecosystem that is being cultivated in conjunction with other parts of the budget bill.

The budget bill also includes two provisions that will reduce the cost of building last mile networks. One repeals the fees associated with laying high-speed fiber cables along state highways, which...

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