An article by Ammon's own Bruce Peterson explains how this model in Idaho works. From the May/June 2018 Broadband Communities Magazine. It explores how the model works for residents, providers, and the municipality.
For communities looking to improve Internet access for their citizens but that might be wary of becoming full-fledged Internet Service Providers (ISPs) themselves, open access networks offer a practical model for the future. Like roads, open access networks serve as publicly owned byways that telecommunications providers can then lease bandwidth on and offer a wide array of information services. They ensure competition, provide local control of underlying infrastructure, and lead to economic growth.
This week on the podcast Christopher speaks with Jeff Christensen, President of EntryPoint Networks, a consulting and software company working with communities around the country (including Ammon, Idaho) on open access networks. Jeff shares with Christopher what’s been happening recently, including some of the software upgrades EntryPoint has developed over the last year and the impact they’ll have both for administrators and users moving forward.
Christopher and Jeff then dig into the future of state telecommunications policy, and the vision that communities need to have to confront the realities of existing cable and telecom monopolies around the country. They talk about the potential of government policies that promote competition rather than restrain it, and the possibilities for network innovation if we were to reframe how we think about Internet access in terms of having separate infrastructure and service components. Finally, they spend some time discussing practical steps communities can take, including defining the problem and then making low-interest loans to build open access fiber networks in their regions.
If you’re interested in learning more about open access networks, we break down basic models, concepts, and advantages. Or, listen to Jeff’s TedX talks, The Internet Disruption Every City Needs and Modern Networks, Innovation, and Cities or read his...Read more
Open access networks offer opportunities for competition and innovation that networks owned and operated by one entity can’t provide. We've written about open access networks owned, operated, and funded by public entities; now private investors are increasingly attracted to these competitive, fiber optic environments.
Over time, American Internet access subscribers have become accustomed to the idea that options are limited because large, corporate Internet access providers have positioned themselves so as not to compete with one other. In areas where local communities have deployed open access models, such as in Ammon, Idaho, or in places with regional open access networks, like UTOPIA Fiber in Utah and the many Public Utility District networks (PUDs) in the state of Washington, those connecting to the network have benefitted from ISP choice and access to high-quality connectivity.
In Europe and Asia, open access models appear more regularly, but in the U.S., the open access arrangement has primarily been adopted by local governments offering wholesale service to ISPs. Often they do so as a way to comport with state law. In the past few years, however, private companies and investment firms have seen the potential of open access fiber optic infrastructure in the U.S. For example, SiFi Networks announced a project in Fullerton, California, earlier this year with plans to establish similar infrastructure projects in other communities.
We recently touched base with Kelly Ryan, CEO of iFiber Communications, an Internet service provider that operates via open access networks owned and operated by PUDs in Washington. We also talked with James Wagar, Managing Director of Thomas Capital Group, who has eyes on open access fiber optic network projects.
The Finance Piece
James notes that in recent years, privately funded open access networks...Read more
Ammon, Idaho, got our attention years ago but as benefits from the city’s publicly owned fiber optic infrastructure continue to grow, others are taking notice. Most recently, contributing editor at Fast Company, Jay Woodruff wrote about the community’s investment in Fast Company's “The New Capitalism” series.
Woodruff notes that Ammon, with only about 16,500 people, has surpassed large cities in quality of connectivity and choice of Internet access providers. Woodruff quotes Bruce Patterson, Technology Director in Ammon: “If you were to ask me what the key component of Ammon is, I would say it’s a broadband infrastructure as a utility. We’ve just found a way to make it a true public infrastructure, like a road.”
Woodruff describes how the infrastructure is being integrated into the community’s larger development:
Residents of Ammon can choose to opt in to the network, which the city began building in 2011. Patterson expects that by the end of 2019, 900 of the town’s 4,500 residences will have joined the network. The city is growing, adding new residential addresses at a rate of about one per day, and Patterson says that every single developer is choosing to include the fiber infrastructure in new construction.
When asked what makes Ammon’s network better than other options available in communities such as New York and San Francisco, Patterson offered four factors:
PUBLIC UTILITY: The city of Ammon manages the network the same way it handles water services or road maintenance. “If we could simply come to a point as a nation where we would say internet infrastructure is essential and we’re going to make sure that everybody has access to it,” Patterson says, “that would be a huge step forward.”
CHOICE: … There are eight local ISPs, and users can switch among them instantly without requiring a “truck roll” (a visit from the ISP to adapt hardware at the customer’s location), because Ammon uses software to “virtualize...
This week, Communications Specialist Jess Del Fiacco interviews Christopher about some of the many events that we’ve been following lately.
Jess and Christopher start off the show with a healthy dose of outrage as they comment on an advert from Verizon that takes the 5G hype just a little too far. Next they discuss a recent report from several authors, including Sascha Meinrath at Pennsylvania State University. We helped develop the report, which used data from Measurement Lab (M-Lab) based on real world Internet access speeds as compared to self-reported data from ISPs.
During the conversation, Jess and Christopher also talk about the recent media reports on super-affordable Internet access in Ammon, Idaho, where the city’s software defined network is creating choices for residents and businesses. They talk about Ammon’s infrastructure and other possibilities for open access, along with pros and cons. Lastly, the interview turns toward a hotly debated policy proposal that would cap the amount of funding allocated to the Universal Service Fund. Christopher explains what the funds are used for and what concerns need to be addressed with the proposal.
We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.
This show is 35 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 Community Broadband Bits page.
Read the transcript for this episode.Read more
Ammon, Idaho’s open access software defined network has earned accolades from industry experts and been hailed as a model approach for other communities. It has been praised for serving the community, providing reliability, and offering affordable options. Amid news of expansion, the positive effects of competition via the publicly owned network have recently flashed across news and social media. People who don’t live in the Idaho city are shocked to learn how affordable high-quality Internet access can be.
Growing a Good Thing
In March, City of Ammon Fiber Optics began to deploy in the city’s Bridgewater neighborhood, where they expected to connect around 300 of the potential 500 subscriber households with this particular expansion. Three more neighborhoods are lined up for expansion this summer and into the fall.
The city provides several options for residents in Ammon, including the Local Improvement District (LID) approach, to finance expansions of the infrastructure. Their method allows the community to continue to build the network without borrowing or bonding. Community members within the boundaries of the project area can sign up at the beginning of the process to pay for connecting over a 20-year period. If they decide to pass initially and connect later, they must pay the connection fee out of pocket. In 2018, the city of Ammon developed this explainer video:
If people want to pay the full connection fee all at once, they have the option to do so, but many people choose to pay through the LID. Connecting to the networks usually costs between $3,000 - $3,500. Groups of neighbors come together to create the LIDs because deploying in an area where there are multiple homes interested in connecting to the network is less expensive than a single home connection. The more property owners who opt in to connect to City of Ammon Fiber Optics, the lower the cost is to every one who wants to connect.
Keeping it Clear
To most people, connecting to the Internet means a bill from an Internet access company such as Comcast or AT&T. Subscribers who obtain Internet access from large...Read more
There are recognizable and obvious benefits that occur when a fiber is deployed in a community. New access to high-quality connectivity, educational opportunities for students in schools, better reliability, jobs from new employers, and possible ISP competition. Spillover effects also occur, but they may not be as obvious. This week’s guest, entrepreneur Isfandiyar Shaheen, has made it his mission to discover and document the benefits that come to a community when fiber connectivity is available.
Asfi is Founder and CEO of NetEquity Networks and he’s driven by the idea of connecting the entire globe. In addition to listening to our podcasts, Asfi has tapped into multitude of other methods for fiber infrastructure sharing as a way to make Internet access affordable.
He and Christopher discuss some of the places that have inspired Asfi, including Ammon and Emmet in Idaho, where the communities have used their fiber networks to find unexpected uses for their infrastructure. He describes how he finds a way to transform a spillover benefit into the direct benefit of affordable connectivity by working with infrastructure owners. It’s a process of creativity and vision.
We want to thank Asfi for using his birthday to start a Facebook fundraising campaign for ILSR ~ Thanks, Asfi!
Christopher interviewed Asfi at the Broadband Communities Summit in Austin, Texas; you can learn more from his 2017 TEDx talk:
Many of us are accustomed to Internet access from companies that own the infrastructure, offer only a few options, and are one of a small number of providers. For the most part, we've learned to accept that model, but will it ever change? This week’s guest, President of EntryPoint Networks Jeff Christensen, explains why that model is broken and how we can fix it through software defined networks (SDNs). We can turn that model around to put control in the hands of users.
EntryPoint works primarily with municipalities to develop open access networks that separate infrastructure from services. As you’ll hear from Jeff, this approach takes the open nature of the Internet even further to encourage innovation, competition, access to goods, services, information, and ideas. EntryPoint’s approach turns the traditional closed system most American’s are used to on its head.
Jeff explains how the growing use of the cloud and changes in other technology have brought us to the moment when we can change how we interact with the Internet. Moving forward, users rather than ISPs, will drive technology innovations. Christopher and Jeff discuss how cloud edge computing will drive that shift, how SDNs enable innovation, and how municipalities fill a role they are already familiar with as keepers of infrastructure. They also get into some of the considerations to keep in mind if a community is looking at SDN technology.
Ammon, Idaho, has already adopted a dynamic open access approach with a SDN; Jeff and Christopher discuss the way the community has blazed a trail for other municipalities and the benefits it is bringing. They talk about Ammon’s innovative financial approach, Local Improvement...Read more
As interest in publicly owned broadband network infrastructure increases, local communities seek out new ways to fund municipal networks. Revenue bonds, interdepartmental loans, and avoided costs have been the three most common methods for funding Internet network infrastructure, but local leaders are finding creative approaches to get the job done. The Creative Funding Sources For Fiber Infrastructure fact sheet presents new approaches, pros and cons, and provides examples for further study.
New Approach to an Ongoing Challenge
Communities that need better connectivity must consider numerous factors when fiber optic network infrastructure is on the table. In addition to the type of model that’s most appropriate, decisions include vendor selection, and the extent of the network footprint. A critical element to every community network are the choice of funding mechanisms local leaders choose to see the project from idea to implementation.
Communities such as Ammon, Idaho, and Kitsap County in Washington are using fresh ideas to fund their infrastructure development. In this fact sheet we describe the way these new mechanisms work and lay out some benefits along with some potentially negative implications. It’s important that communities take a frank look at all the possible repercussions as they move forward.
This fact sheet will help your own creative funding ideas flow as you look for ways to finance your community’s high-quality Internet access project.