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Voters Say "Yes!" In Lyndon Township, Michigan
In a record high turnout for a non-general election, voters in Lyndon Township, Michigan, decided to approve a bond proposal to fund a publicly owned Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network. The measure passed with 66 percent of voters (622 votes) choosing yes and 34 percent (321 votes) voting no.
Geographically Close, Technologically Distant
The community is located only 20 minutes away from Ann Arbor, home to the University of Michigan and the sixth largest city in the state, but many of the Township’s residents must rely on satellite for Internet access. Residents and business owners complain about slow service, data caps, and the fact that they must pay high rates for inadequate Internet service. Residents avoid software updates from home and typically travel to the library in nearby Chelsea to work in the evening or to complete school homework assignments.
Lyndon Township Supervisor Marc Keezer has reached out to ISPs and asked them to invest in the community, but none consider it a worthwhile investment. Approximately 80 percent of the community has no access to FCC-defined broadband speeds of 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) download and 3 Mbps upload.
“We don’t particularly want to build a network in our township. We would rather it be privatized and be like everybody else,” Keezer said. “But that’s not a reality for us here.”
When local officials unanimously approved feasibility study funding about a year ago, citizens attending the meeting responded to their vote with applause.
A Little From Locals Goes A Long Way
North Carolina's WestNGN Releases Request For Negotiations: Responses Due September 21st
For the past year, six municipalities along with local colleges and universities have collaborated to lay the groundwork for fiber optic infrastructure in the greater Asheville area. The group, West Next Generation Network (WestNGN), is now ready to find a partner to begin hammering out details in order to realize the concept. They’ve released the WestNGN Broadband Request for Negation (RFN) and responses are due September 21st.
The plan closely resembles the North Carolina Next Generation Network (NCNGN) in the Research Triangle area of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill. WestNGN will include the communities of Asheville, Biltmore Forest, Fletcher, Hendersonville, Laurel Park, and Waynesville - all of which belong to the Land of Sky Regional Council. The Council has helped with administration and in drafting the RFN aimed at improving local connectivity and boosting regional economic development.
Strategic Alliance Partnership
WestNGN’s RFN states that they want to establish a Strategic Alliance Partnership with a single ISP or a group of ISPs that possess an interest in both providing service and in deployment. WestNGN puts negotiation of ownership of assets and use of those assets at the top of the list for discussion points, signaling that rhey aren't set on a fixed approach. Similarly, they hope to negotiate matters such as management, operation, and maintenance of local networks; ways to speed up deployment and reduce costs; and ways to better serve low-income residents.
Goals For The Network
WestNGN plans to bring gigabit connectivity to residents, businesses, and community anchor institutions in the region. They specifically state their priority for this level of capacity, but note that their future partner will have time to gradually implement it, if necessary. They also stress the need for symmetrical service speeds. Several employers in the region have determined that upload speeds - from their offices and for their employees at home - are increasingly desirable. The consortium has recognized that home-based businesses in the region are also multiplying every year.
Transcript: Community Broadband Bits Episode 264
This is the transcript for episode 264 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. Mason Carroll and Preston Rhea join Christopher Mitchell on the show to talk about their work at Monkeybrains, an urban wireless Internet Service Provider. Listen to the audio here.
Mason Carroll: Every single person needs to have their own Internet connection. This is not just like, "Oh, I can sort of get the building-wide Wi-Fi as I stand near my front door." No. You should have your own Internet connection that you can plug in, and watch TV, or set up a computer, or to do your work. That's really what digital quality is.
Lisa Gonzalez: This is episode 264 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. I'm Lisa Gonzalez. Episode 264 takes us to San Francisco, home to the Golden Gate Bridge, cable cars, and Monkeybrains. Preston Rhea and Mason Carroll from the Internet service provider are here to tell us about the local company, the services they provide in the Bay Area, and the work they're doing to chip away at the digital divide. Learn more about the company at Monkeybrains.net. As a reminder, this conversation with Preston and Mason is commercial free, but our work at ILSR requires funding. Please take a moment to contribute at ILSR.org. If you have already contributed, thank you. Now, here's Christopher with Preston Rhea and Mason Carroll, from Monkeybrains.
Christopher Mitchell: Welcome to another edition of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. I'm Chris Mitchell with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. Joining me today is Preston Rhea, Senior Field Engineer for Monkeybrains, an ISP in California. Welcome to the show.
Preston Rhea: Thanks Chris, a pleasure to be here.
Christopher Mitchell: And we also have Mason Carroll, Lead Engineer for Monkeybrains. Welcome to the show as well.
Mason Carroll: Yeah, thanks a lot.
Christopher Mitchell: So, I think the first question is, monkey brains, I remember running into those in a Harrison Ford movie a long time ago. What is Monkeybrains in San Francisco?
Connecting San Francisco Low-Income Housing with Monkey Brains - Community Broadband Bits Podcast 264
After we saw April Glaser's article on a local San Francisco ISP connecting low-income housing to high-quality Internet access, we knew we wanted to learn more. Preston Rhea is the Senior Field Engineer for Monkey Brains and someone we knew from his work with the Open Technology Institute at New America. He joins us with Mason Carroll, Lead Engineer for Monkey Brains, to explain what they are doing in Hunters Point and more broadly across San Francisco.
Monkey Brains delivers Internet access primarily via high-capacity fixed-wireless links to buildings with multiple tenants. Working with the San Francisco Housing Development Corporation, they are delivering gigabit access to low-income housing units at Hunters Point.
Preston and Mason discuss the process, the challenges, the long-term plan, and more. In particular, they discuss why good wiring in each building is important for ensuring high-quality access to each household rather than just relying on common Wi-Fi access points around the buildings.
Silicon Beat also covered this story.
This show is 28 minutes long and can be played on this page or via Apple Podcasts or the tool of your choice using this feed.
We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.
Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index. See other podcasts from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance here.
Thanks to Arne Huseby for the music. The song is Warm Duck Shuffle and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.
Vernon Communications Cooperative Connecting Rural Southwest Wisconsin
Vernon Communications Cooperative (VC Co-op), serving much of rural Vernon County, Wisconsin, was recently named a Certified Gig-Capable Provider by NTCA-The Rural Broadband Association. VC Co-op joins a growing list of rural cooperatives that are offering gigabit connectivity to members in places where national Internet service providers don’t want to invest in infrastructure. The certification requires that "gigabit technology is currently commercially available within 95 percent of one or more exchanges within [the provider's] serving territory and that such service can be provided without new trenching or stringing new aerial facilities."
Why Do Co-ops Always Start? To Fill A Need
VC Co-op started as a telephone cooperative in 1951 when local farmers collaborated, obtained funding from the Rural Electrification Act, and formed the Vernon Telephone Cooperative. After partnering with other telephone companies in the region to establish Internet service in the early 1990s, VC Co-op also began offering long distance voice and television services in 2001.
VC Co-op has also made a name for themselves by offering twelve community television channels that broadcast various local events, including school sports and concerts, local weather, and even radio shows.
By 2008, VC Co-op had finished upgrading their network in the county seat of Viroqua (pop. 4,400), replacing copper lines with fiber. Viroqua has taken advantage of the fiber in ways that touch almost all aspects of daily life. In addition to public safety, healthcare, and education, local businesses using fiber connectivity have been able to grow beyond the limits of Viroqua. All the while, the VC Co-op has served the community with the same spirit we see from other cooperatives.
Organic Valley, a farmers cooperative with headquarters in Vernon County, suffered a catastrophic fire in 2013. Without missing a beat, VC Co-op connected 21 temporary locations to house Organic Valley employees and established a connection for the farmers cooperative in another building.
RS Fiber Upgrades: Gigabit Speeds With No Price Increase
As if bringing high-quality connectivity to rural central Minnesota wasn’t enough, RS Fiber Cooperative has recently established the “Cornerstone Member” program. Now that gigabit connectivity is available, existing residential customers can upgrade from 100 Megabits per second (Mbps) with no price increase. As long as they continue service uninterrupted through 2017, they offer stands.
General Manager Toby Brummer:
“We wanted to do something for those customers who made that early commitment to RS Fiber. We thought they should be recognized in some special way for their loyalty and support of the cooperative. Future Internet applications will likely require higher speeds and this will set our customers up for broadband success for the foreseeable future.”
It's What They Do
The upgrade to gigabit connectivity for existing subscribers with no increase in price follows the same pattern we’ve seen from other publicly owned networks. Recently, we presented detailed data from municipal networks in Tennessee that showed how rates have changed very little over decades, even though speeds have consistently increased.
Vermont’s ECFiber also recently announced a speed increase at no extra charged for subscribers. They also plan another increase in 2018.
RS Fiber Cooperative has been connecting towns and rural areas in Sibley and Renville County. For more about the cooperative, check out our 2016 case study, RS Fiber: Fertile Fields for New Rural Internet Cooperative. The last four communities to receive services will be connected later in 2017.
Resource Page on Cooperatives and Building Community Networks
Throughout the country, telephone and electric cooperatives have found ways to bring affordable, high-speed Internet service to rural residents. This resource page is a one-stop shop for facts and figures on cooperatives and thier role in offering high-speed Internet service.
From Alabama to Oregon, cooperatives have taken on the challenge of bringing fast, affordable, reliable, connectivity to rural America. This page highlights model projects and discusses what state governments can do to support cooperatives' efforts to connect rural America.
We feature electric cooperative fiber optic projects, cooperatives offering gigabit (1,000 Mbps) service, and the first Internet cooperative - RS Fiber in Minnesota. As of July 2017, almost 90 cooperatives offer gigabit service to their members, and more than 50 electric cooperatives have programs or projects to improve connectivity.
Check out all the information, including several of our podcasts and videos, on our cooperatives resource page.
Suggestions, comments, or questions? Drop H. Trostle an email at email@example.com.
Image of the barn courtesy of backituptech on pixaby.
Freedom FIBER, Tombigbee Electric Cooperative in Alabama
Huntsville, Alabama, already has high-speed Internet service through Google Fiber, but the surrounding rural areas must look to their local cooperative for better connectivity. Tombigbee Electric Cooperative has started an ambitious Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) project to eventually cover its entire service area over four counties in northwestern Alabama.
In a press release, Tombigbee Electric announced that their Freedom FIBER network will start providing Internet service in the towns of Hamilton and Winfield in September 2017. It’ll take about a year to get the new network to everyone in the designated build out area.
Much Needed Connectivity
Hamilton is the seat of Marion county with about 7,000 residents; 20 miles to the south, Winfield has a population of 5,000. As of June 2016, about 75 percent of the population in Marion County does not currently have access to FCC-defined 25 Megabits-per-second (Mbps) download speeds.
With Freedom FIBER, residents will have a choice between two tiers of Internet service: 100 Mbps for $49.95 per month or 1 gigabit (1,000 Mbps) for $79.95 per month. The co-op will also offer phone service for an additional $29.95 each month. The fiber network will be much more reliable than CenturyLink’s DSL network, which is currently the only choice in the towns.
An Incremental Plan
RFI For FTTP In Baton Rouge: Response Due Aug. 4
The City and Parish of Baton Rouge recently released a Request for Information (RFI) as a way to seek out partners interested in helping them improve local connectivity. Responses are due August 4.
Vulnerable Residents A Priority
According to the RFI, reliable connectivity is not consistent or affordable in many areas of the community where populations need it most. Unemployment is higher than the national average and the community has approximately 26 percent of city residents and 18 percent of parish residents living in poverty. Community leaders want to use the network infrastructure to bring more opportunity to people living in the most poverty-stricken areas of the City-Parish. Economic development, better educational opportunities, and better connectivity at home are only a few of the goals Baton Rouge intends to meet.
As part of the vision described in the RFI, City-Parish officials point out that they want a tool that will enable citizens to be participants in an updated economy, not just consumers of a new data product. Some of the factors they prioritize for their network is that it be community-wide, open access, financially sustainable, and offer an affordable base-level service. The network must offer gigabit capacity.
Baton Rouge intends to ensure lower income residents participate in the benefits that will flow from the investment; they are not interested in working with partner who doesn’t share that vision. From the RFI:
The City-Parish intends to offset service costs for its most vulnerable residents through a subsidy program that will allow certain portions of the population to purchase service at a discounted rate. We expect respondents to this RFI to be prepared to build to and support those customers—many of who may never previously have had a broadband connection. This initiative may also entail the Partner(s) sharing cost and risk associated with providing low-cost or no-charge service to some customers.
Holland BPW To Act As Pilot ISP In Michigan
The community of Holland, Michigan, has moved carefully and deliberately as it has advanced toward providing better connectivity through publicly owned infrastructure. On June 7th, the City Council held a first reading on an ordinance that will allow the Holland Board of Public Works (BPW) to act as an Internet Service Provider (ISP) as it expands its Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) pilot project.
Taking Another Step Forward
Holland's pilot project brings high-quality connectivity to several downtown businesses and recently adopted a Master Plan in March to solidify their commitment to more businesses and residents. The ordinance will receive a public hearing, final reading, and likely be adopted on July 19th. It allows Holland to adopt fees and charges related to the new service and will permit the city to comply with a state law relating to rights-of-way and telecommunications providers.
In addition to offering Internet access themselves, BPW will open up the fiber so competing providers can serve Holland residents and businesses. BPW officials are still hashing out rate details, but estimate residential customers who take Internet service from the utility will pay approximately $85 per month for symmetrical gigabit (1,000 Megabit per second) connectivity. Customers who wish to obtain Internet access from a provider other than BPW will pay $40 - $60 per month for transit services from BPW, but will still need to pay an ISP for Internet access.
One Step At A Time
BPW General Manager Dave Koster explained to City Council members that BPW described the pilot participants’ service so far as “outstanding.” The utility intends to monitor the success of the expanded pilot services for a year and then decide their next step.
Construction will begin in August; BPW expects to start serving new customers in October. BPW officials estimate the expanded pilot will cost $602,000 based on a 35 percent take rate.