Tag: "middle mile"

Posted March 3, 2014 by christopher

A recent in-depth article from the Keene Sentinel updates us on the status of New Hampshire's HB 286, which would expand bonding authority for local governments. New Hampshire law currently restricts bonding authority for Internet infrastructure to towns with no access to the Internet, but nearly all communities have at least some slow broadband access in a few pockets of town. We have been tracking this bill, most recently four months ago just before it overwhelmingly passed the house. Unfortunately, the bill does not give many options to local governments. It settles to only allow bonding when the local government is not providing retail services, a business model that has only worked well when local governments have expanded very slowly. That said, New Hampshire already has a promising open access network called FastRoads that would allow nearby towns to connect and access the four service providers already using it. Connecting to an already-operating open access network is a much better prospect than having to start one from scratch, particularly in areas with low population density. Nonetheless, we continue to find it counter-productive for state legislatures to limit how local governments can invest in essential infrastructure. We know of no good policy reason for doing so - these limitations are a result of the lobbying power of a few cable and telephone companies that want to preserve scarcity to ensure high profit margins. Kaitlin Mulhere's article, "Broadband access could be improved in NH through new bill," demonstrates the need for better networks in the granite state and notes that Fast Roads is starting to meet those needs in the areas it operates.

People often hear, for example, that 95 percent of the state has access to broadband, she said. But that’s only by including all New Hampshire Internet speeds, some of which fall below the speed considered fast enough to be broadband, which is 4 megabits per second (Mbps). Most of the state, more than half, doesn’t...

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Posted February 24, 2014 by lgonzalez

The OpenCape Network launched about eight months ago to bring better middle mile connectivity to Cape Cod. Reporter Sean Gonsalves explored other possibilities for the 350-mile infrastructure in a recent Cape Cod Online article.

Gonsalves spoke with OpenCape CEO Dan Vorthems. The network was funded with $32 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) grants and approximately $8 million in funds from the state, county, and private-sector partner CapeNet. It brings connectivity to 91 community anchor institutions from Provincetown as far west as Providence and Brockton. The idea for the network began with Cape Cod Community College and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. Today, OpenCape is a non-profit with Board members from healthcare, higher education, public education, government, and the private sector.

Gonsalves and Vorthems touched on the high hopes for economic development that accompanied the network deployment. When the project began, the dream was to turn Cape Cod into a "Silicon Sandbar." The network is still in its infancy, but new jobs in the area are retail, service, and tourist related rather than high-tech. Residents of Cape Cod were hoping the network would bring better paying positions to meet the high cost of living in the area.

Gonsalves takes it one step further and proposes using the network for last mile connections:

Getting the Cape's big data users online opens up all sorts of possibilities. But [what] I wanted to know is when the Cape would get to the point where residential users could access this Internet autobahn capable of reaching speeds of a gigabit per second.

Once that happens, the Cape suddenly becomes a really attractive place for tech-savvy entrepreneurs, small business start-ups,...

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Posted January 24, 2014 by lgonzalez

A recent press release from the Merit educational and research network in Michigan announces a new connection to its Ohio sister, OARnet. Member entities and local communities now enjoy better redundancy, expanded reach, and better services. Local communities continue to benefit from the presence of the middle mile infrastructure.

The network helps local Hillsdale College to cut connectivity costs; the Merit announcement quotes Hillsdale College leadership:

"Hillsdale College has been a Merit member since 1992," stated David Zenz, executive director of information technology services for Hillsdale College, "and it was always a dream to figure out some way to eliminate expensive data circuit costs to free up funds to purchase more bandwidth. In 2008 The City of Hillsdale, the Hillsdale Intermediate School District, Hillsdale College, and Merit figured out how to do just that."

Through a long term collaborative effort, Merit, the City of Hillsdale, Hillsdale Board of Public Utilities (BPU), Hillsdale College, and Hillsdale County Intermediate School District (ISD) came together to establish the Hillsdale Community Network. Each entity now benefits from lowered connectivity costs, better infrastructure, and improved opportunities. 

A 2009 story from Merit, describes the situation at ISD:

In 2006, Hillsdale County Intermediate School District (ISD) found that it was in desperate need of increasing its network bandwidth to meet the growing demands of its users. The District had 62 miles of fiber optic cabling strung around...

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Posted August 21, 2013 by christopher

Having just read the New York Times story "Most of U.S. is Wired, but Millions Aren't Plugged In," I was reminded that even the top mainstream telecom journalists really have little understanding of what they write. This is a bit ranty but comes back together constructively at the end.

I just read that "nearly 98 percent of American homes now have access to some form of high-speed broadband." Really? Just what exactly does that mean? It is definitely not the current FCC minimum standard speed required to engage in basic Internet activities: 4 Mbps downstream and 1 Mbps upstream. Not even close.

To get 98%, I can only assume that the author has started with flawed stats from the FCC that are comprised on systematically overstated DSL availability in rural areas by carriers like Windstream, Frontier, CenturyLink, and others. He likely then included satellite Internet access availability, which is explicitly not broadband due to the inevitable lag of a 50,000 mile roundtrip to geosynchronous orbiting satellites.

But we don't know. We just know that Edward Wyatt knows that by some definition, nearly everyone in America has "high speed" broadband. This is news to the vast majority of rural communities I hear from, who see maps paid for by their tax dollars claiming they can get broadband in their homes. But when they call the company to get it, they find it is not actually available, even though that company had just told the government that it is available there.

These are the statistics that are now apparently official, without any need to even note where they come from. Note that this comes after the New York Times repeatedly erred in claiming few Europeans have access to high speed networks.

Wyatt goes on to laud the Obama Administration's stimulus effort to expand broadband networks:

The Obama administration allocated $7 billion to broadband expansion as part of the 2009 economic stimulus package. Most of it went to build physical networks. About half of those infrastructure programs have been completed, with Internet availability growing to 98 percent of homes from fewer than 90 percent.

...

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Posted May 22, 2013 by lgonzalez

CapeCodToday, recently ran two interviews relating to OpenCape, the publicly owned network nearing completion in Massachusetts. The interviews follow a belated March press release from Comcast, announcing its new service contract with Cape Cod Community College (CCCC). Like some others familiar with the project, we were surprised to see the college choosing Comcast for connectivity instead of OpenCape.

As we previously noted, CCCC and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute were two OpenCape founding members in 2006. The nonprofit OpenCape received $32 million in a Broadband Technology Opportunity Program (stimulus) award and gathered an additional $8 million in funds from the state, the county, and CapeNet, the company building and operating the network.

Reporter Walter Brooks asked CCCC President John Cox about the arrangement via email. Comcast began serving CCCC last fall and when asked why parties delayed the announcement, Cox said:

Regarding the delay in publicity, the College was not willing to comment on the connection, including statements to Comcast itself, until we had actively used it for a couple of months.

When the contract was negotiated, CCCC needed fiber service and OpenCape was not ready to serve them. Cox stated that the college needs to stay competitive and referred to a Bridgewater University satellite campus that will soon open in the community. Community colleges rely heavily on reliable connectivity as students look for distance learning opportunities.

Cox said Comcast was the only provider with resources in place and offered a three-year contract at five-year pricing. The rate is $95 less per month than OpenCape's pre-completion estimate. Cox emphasized the fact that the college did not have many choices and said...

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Posted May 17, 2013 by lgonzalez

Joanne Hovis, President of CTC Technology and Energy, recently published a must-read article in Broadband Properties Magazine. Whether you are a community leader investigating the possibility of a publicly owned network or an engaged citizen looking for pros and cons, this piece explains practical benefits succinctly. In her article, The Business Case For Government Fiber Networks [PDF], Hovis looks at life beyond stimulus funding. She points out how we should evaluate municipal networks in an environment where shareholder profit is not the first consideration.

Hovis gives a brief history of how local communities reached this point of need. As many of our readers know, local communities used to be able to negotiate with cable providers for franchise opportunities and rights-of-way. Often cable providers would construct broadband infrastructure in exchange for a franchise to operate in a given community, creating I-Nets for local government, schools and libraries. Once states inserted themselves into the process with state-wide franchising, local negotiating power evaporated. Many of those franchise agreements are ending and local leaders are considering municipal fiber optic networks.

Hovis stresses that municipalities do not function in the same environment as the private sector. While they still have a fiscal responsibility to their shareholders (the taxpayers) the main function is providing public safety, encouraging economic development, offering education, and using tax dollars to better the quality of life. Hovis describes how redefining return on investment (ROI) needs to go beyond the balance sheet bottom line. 

These benefits have nothing to do 
with traditional financial measures. Rather, they represent the return 
to the community in terms of such largely intangible societal benefits 
as enhancing health care quality, narrowing the digital divide, providing enhanced educational opportunities to school children, delivering job search and placement opportunities at public computer centers and helping isolated senior citizens make virtual social connections.

joanne-hovis.jpg

Even without the intangible benefits, Hovis argues the financial...

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Posted May 16, 2013 by lgonzalez

Back in December, 2009, Vice President Biden travelled to Dawsonville, Georgia, to officially kick off the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) program. The first award, a grant of $33.5 million, went to the North Georgia Network Cooperative. The group combined that grant with local and state funding and in May, 2012, lit the North Georgia Network (NGN).

We spoke with Paul Belk, CEO of NGN, who shared the network's story and described how it is improving economic development while serving schools and government across the region. We also recently published a podcast interview with Paul Belk.

In 2007, Bruce Abraham was the Lumpkin County Development Authority President and could not recruit new business to the region. Atlanta is only 60 miles away but companies and entrepeneurs were not willing to branch out toward north Georgia. Business leaders repeatedly told Abraham they were not interested because of the lack of broadband. DSL was available from Windstream, but businesses kept telling Abraham, "That's not broadband." North Georgia was losing jobs and there was no strategy to replace them.

Abraham found economic development representatives from Forsyth, White, Union, and Dawson counties shared the same problem. With North Georgia College & State University in Dahlonega, the group decided to address the problem together.

In 2008, they received a OneGeorgia Authority BRIDGE grant. They used the $100,000 award to commission a feasibility study that suggested the area had potential as a new tech hub. The study also indicated that the region's traditional manufacturing and agricultural industries would continue to dwindle. The group, determined to pursue the establishment of a new tech economy, knew the first step would be next-generation infrastructure.

In 2009, two local electric cooperatives joined the group and it incorporated to become the nonprofit North Georgia Network Cooperative. With the addition of the Habersham and Blue Ridge Mountain...

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Posted April 12, 2013 by lgonzalez

The Massachusetts Broadband Initiative's (MBI) MassBroadband 123 network is becoming a reality. On March 28th, MBI lit up the first 35-mile stretch, linking Sandisfield, traveling through Otis, and connecting at the Springfield Technical Community College Technology Park hub. The inaugural connection was the first in a series of build outs that are scheduled to be completed by July 2013 [PDF of map and schedule].

MassBroadband 123 is the middle mile open access network snaking its way across central and western Massachusetts. The project, funded with $40 million in state bond proceeds and $45.4 million in stimulus funding, is scheduled to bring the 1,200 mile network to the anchor institutions in approximately 120 communities. While MassBroadband 123 will not offer last-mile connectivity to residents, it will bring the possibility to many rural areas that have little or no options today. Communities with their own networks, like Leverett, will be able to connect with MassBroadband 123. Hopes are that the open access nature of the network will inspire private providers to offer more last-mile connections.

MassLive.com reported on the first use of the network by school children in rural Otis. Kids at Farmington River Elementary School connected in Spanish with kids from Columbia and learned about physics from the NASA Goddard Space Fight Center in Maryland:

“It was really excellent,” said Mary G. Turo, principal of Farmington River Elementary, in a phone interview. 

...

“We are a little isolated,” Turo said. “Having the capability to bring the outside world to us, you cannot put a price on it. We want our kids to be ready for the future. In order to be ready to for the future they have to know what is going on outside their hometown .”

Judith Dumont, director of MBI, compares the expansion of the network to government efforts to expand electricity in the 1930s. From the article:

Back then...

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Posted April 8, 2013 by lgonzalez

Another county in Washington will soon be connected via a community owned fiber network. Peter Quinn, of the Economic Development Committee Team Jefferson, tells us that the Public Utility District of Jefferson County will be investing in the new infrastructure. The Northwest Open Access Network (NoaNet), will operate the Jefferson County network for at least the next five years.

Nonprofit NoaNet has been expanding wholesale fiber infrastructure across Washington since 2000. NoaNet works with local communities to bring the fiber backbone to community anchor institutions (CAIs) such as schools, libraries, hospitals, and government facilities.

The Jefferson County project is funded with a $3.2 million American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) stimulus grant and a county contribution of $500,000. The network should measure approximately 70-100 miles, and connections to CAIs are expected to be 100 Mbps, however the planning is still in process.

The network will connect community anchor institutions including county schools, public safety facilities, city and county government facilities, several local libraries, healthcare clinics and hospitals, and state parks. Towns that will receive anchor connections include the City of Port Townsend, Port Ludlow, the Port of Port Townsend, Quilcene, Brinnon, and Chimacum. Approximately 90 community anchor institutions will be connected through fiber or the planned wireless network. Wireless will be offered where geography and expense preclude fiber installation.

Construction will start April 8th with a planned completion date of August 5th, 2013. Jefferson PUD will own the network and independent ISPs will provide service to the anchor institutions and have the option of expanding the network to serve local businesses and residents.

The plan is divided into three "tiers" and described on the Jefferson PUD Broadband Project website:

Tier 1 are anchor institutions that must have service to be compliant with the grant. 

Tier 2 are sites of anchor institutions that weren't initially submitted with the grant.

Tier 3 are locations that will be provided service if resources are available.

Tier 2 will include...

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Posted December 23, 2012 by lgonzalez

After six years in the making, the OpenCape network is soon to be delivering services. According to a Sandwich Wicked Local article, town selectmen were informed on December 6th that the Brockton-to-Plymouth stretch of the network will be activated before the end of 2012 for testing. We brought you detailed news of the $40 million project earlier this year.

Funded with a $32 million Broadband Technology Opportunity Program (BTOP) grant and $8 million from the state, county, and private venture firm CapeNet. According to the article, 200 miles of fiber are installed and 50 are in construction or are being leased. Construction was set back when Hurrican Sandy hit the east coast. Verizon NStar crews, working on the install, were all pulled and sent to New York and New Jersey.

The news from OpenCape Chief Executive Officer Dan Vortherms was welcome. The community has been waiting patiently to tap into the improved access, economic development, and cost savings. From the article:

Selectman Frank Pannorfi said broadband might service several initiatives the town has planned for some time; alluding perhaps to South Sandwich Village and its business potential.

“We’ve been waiting for this a long time,” Pannorfi said.

A much needed data center is just beginning construction. The data center and the network will belong to the non-profit OpenCape. The purpose of the middle-mile network is to "support the economic, educational, public safety and governmental needs of the region.

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