Tag: "maryland"

Posted October 10, 2013 by christopher

Kevin Litten, of the Baltimore Business Journal has published a good discussion of why Baltimore is considering a public investment to expand the City's fiber network.

Councilman William H. Cole IV still bristles when he talks about the absence of FiOS in the city, a decision industry observers say has played out in other urban areas where the suburbs outrank the city in wealth. “When you look at a map of Maryland and what counties they chose to skip, Baltimore stands out, and it stands out for all the wrong reasons,” Cole said. “We need to explore every option we have to remain competitive. You can’t talk about being a great city for biotech and trying to attract startups and continue to expand the [University of Maryland] BioPark and not continue to invest.”

Litten also explored how Comcast is damaging area businesses by abusing its position as the sole citywide provider of fast Internet access (Verizon does poor DSL):

At No Inc., a 10-employee tech firm that develops software for commercial real estate, Chief Technology Officer Alex Markson said that Comcast wanted to charge $20,000 to build infrastructure to the company’s small office building on Water Street downtown.

The company had to settle for an affordable, but vastly inferior wireless connection from Clear using WiMAX. Keep this in mind the next time you hear that wireless is providing an alternative to the cable and telephone monopolies.

But that setup, which includes a barbecue grill-like satellite dish pointed out the window of the company’s offices, isn’t ideal. Productivity plummets when employees have to wait for long downloads. When using technology such as GoToMeeting to make sales pitches, “you’re not crushing it because you look like you’re slow,” Markson said.

And finally, Litten quotes some guy named Christopher Mitchell that seems to know what he is talking about:

“What Baltimore wants to do is alter the equation by making it less expensive for either a private competitor to compete or build enough assets to compete on its own,” Mitchell said. “What they need to do is figure out how they can get more fiber into more places to lease to potential companies.”

A Baltimore blogger has...

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Posted August 16, 2013 by lgonzalez

Back in 2010, we reported on the City of Baltimore and its frustration with Comcast and desire to have a real choice for Internet access. Nothing came of the idea at the time but the Baltimore Business Journal reports that Baltimore is once again considering the possibility of a publicly owned network.

The Board of Estimates recently decided to hire Magellan Advisors to provide a study that will offer several options for the community of 619,000 residents. The study will cost $157,000 and will identify key anchor tenants, cost analysis, and risk assessment related to a municipal broadband network.

Given Baltimore's situation, we doubt very much that they will proceed with a full-on universal FTTH network. Rather, we expect to see Baltimore considering an incremental approach that starts by serving community anchors (schools, libraries, public safety, etc.) and also may make conduit and fiber available for local businesses or other ISPs. 

Comcast has no real competition in Baltimore, not because of the franchise as intimated by numerous factually incorrect articles covering this news, but because private companies are too intimidated by Comcast and its bag of dirty tricks to invest in a competitive system. No local government can establish a cable or Internet monopoly under federal law dating back to 1992.

According to the article, Baltimore already has some fiber assets:

A major part of what Magellan is being hired to study is what’s known as the city’s “fiber ring,” a 30-mile fiber optic cable network that supports the city’s public safety radio system. As the city prepares to make improvements to the system, [CIO Chris] Tonjes said the city also wants to add capacity through a process called “overbuilding” that would allow the city to lease some of the extra bandwidth to the private sector.

“We have a lot of ideas; a lot of people could lease it — a local Internet provider, a local cultural institution,” Tonjes said. “It could...

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Posted June 30, 2013 by lgonzalez

Westminster, Maryland, began public consideration for community broadband investment last fall and has now decided to "stick our toe in the water and see how it works." The Carroll County Times recently reported that the community will move ahead with engineering for two community pilot projects.

Local leaders see this as an opportunity to flesh out any challenges for residential and business connectivity. Carroll Lutheran Village, a retirement community, was chosen for several reasons. From the article:

The residential pilot project, Carroll Lutheran Village, would cover approximately 90 acres, according to the feasibility study.

The area presents well-defined boundaries and enough population density to allow a relatively small fiber build to reach a relatively large group of currently unserved residents, the study states.

Carroll Lutheran Village will also provide insight into potential construction issues around single and multi-family housing, and the benefits and impacts of telehealth, according to the study.

Westminster's business pilot project, located in the Westminster Technology Park, is near the Carroll County Public Network (CCPN). The feasibility study notes the location as a good candidate for economic development and also a relatively dense area. We had a great conversation with Gary Davis from CCPN in episode #43 of the Broadband Bits podcast. Davis relayed how the CCPN is saving money and creating opportunities for Caroll County Public Schools.

Both Westminster projects include local cost sharing for construction; the city will use capital benefit assessment funds specially designated for such improvements. Estimate for both projects is $650,000.

Westminster's long-term goal is to connect every resident and business in the city. Like the situation all over the county, Westminster cannot convince large providers to bring the connectivity they need for economic development. 

Posted April 23, 2013 by christopher

Chief Information Officer for the Carroll County Public Schools Gary Davis joins me to explain why the Carroll County Government, Public Schools, Public Library, and Community College partnered to build their own fiber optic network. He is also the Chairman of the resulting Carroll County Public Network (CCPN) of Maryland.

The story starts the same as many others - the community anchors were paying too much and did not have access to the connectivity they needed. The telephone and cable companies (both massive international corporations) found higher returns on investment elsewhere and therefore could not justify improvements absent significant subsidy.

Gary explains the savings generated by the network and how it has benefited students attending the local schools. We recently covered the CCPN and its incredible savings for the community in a post here.

We also cover some basics of what some community anchor institutions need to ensure they can take advantage of modern technology.

Read the transcript from this podcast here.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show - please e-mail us or leave a comment below. Also, feel free to suggest other guests, topics, or questions you want us to address.

This show is 30 minutes long and can be played below on this page or subscribe via iTunes or via the tool of your choice using this feed. Search for us in iTunes and leave a positive comment!

Listen to previous episodes here. You can can download this Mp3 file directly from here.

Find more episodes in our podcast index.

Thanks to Mount Carmel for the music, licensed using...

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Posted April 15, 2013 by lgonzalez

Carroll County is a bedroom community, with a variety of economies all around it. Washington, D.C., Camp David, Baltimore, Harrisburg, Fort Detrick, and the Aberdeen Proving Ground are a few of the places surrounding Carroll County. There is very little major transportation infrastructure and no major waterways. Many of the county's 167,000 people commute daily to jobs outside of the bullseye.

Gary Davis, Chief Information Officer at the Carroll County Public Schools (CCPS) and Chairman of the Carroll County Public Network (CCPN) started at the school district in 2002 and immediately recognized that the telecommunications arrangement was insufficient.

Schools and other facilities were connected to the hub via 1.5 Mbps T1 connections and the whole wide-area-network was connected to the Internet via an expensive Frame Relay DS3 connection. The total cost ran as high as $600,000 per year.  

When CCPS approached Verizon about increasing bandwidth, Verizon’s proposal was extremely cost-prohibitive. Verizon wanted a long-term commitment that resulted in more than 10 times their current costs. Basically, Verizon would own the network but capital costs would be funded by CCPS and maintained with ridiculously high recurring fees. The return on investment for Verizon was just too low owing the community demographics.

At that time, Davis met Robert Wack of the Westminster City Council and the two compared notes. Davis' vision for Carroll County Public Schools and Wack's ideas for Westminster and Carroll County were very similar. Both involved a high-speed network and Westminster is currently involved in its own municipal network project (to be covered in an upcoming post).

A 2003 feasibility study on telecommunications upgrades for the school and a second broader feasibility study for the entire county in 2005 resulted in a loose confederation between CCPS, Carroll County Government, Carroll Community College, and the Carroll County Public Library system. Davis is proud of the fact that the CCPN has broken through past silos. The public sector has worked together in Carroll County, preventing the rampant duplication of efforts that used to be the norm. 

...

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Posted October 11, 2012 by lgonzalez

Not long ago, we brought you news about the status of the new network being constructed in Carroll County, Maryland. The County is partnering with local Maryland Broadband Cooperative to provide better service to local businesses.

Earlier this week, Brett Lake of the Carroll County Times reported that Westminster, a town of about 18,000 residents in the north central part of the state, will move forward with a broadband feasibility study. From the article:

The study will include an assessment of the city’s long-term broadband needs, a market and benefits study, analysis and business plan, a detailed installation plan and options for potential funding opportunities.

...

Among the scope of work performed for the study includes the likely long-term broadband needs of Westminster’s community including residents, businesses and industrial parks.

The study will also provide the city with the potential market for fiber-based voice, data and video services along with the opportunities and obstacles for economic development related to the fiber-based services.

The city will also receive a report on the benefits and risks of community broadband initiatives on various fields including education, public safety, healthcare, economic development and government services.

The study is scheduled to be completed within nine months. We look forward to following the developments in Westminster.

Posted September 12, 2012 by lgonzalez

Two years ago, we reported on the emerging partnership between Carroll County, Maryland, and the Maryland Broadband Cooperative (MBC) to build a fiber network to local business clients. The County financed the investment in part through cost savings obtained as a result of transitioning away from expensive T1 lines.

This summer, the Carroll County Office of Technology Services reported that the network is on track to be completed by January, 2013. In an interview with the Carroll County Times, Mark Ripper noted that the network is 60% complete. When deployed, the Carroll County Public Network (CCPN) will be 110 miles long and connect 132 sites, including the county public schools, the public library, and Carroll County Community College.

Carroll is one of a group of Maryland counties that comprise the Inter-County Broadband Network, a group of local government entities partnering to connect the smaller municipal networks across Maryland like the CCPN.

Back in 2007, when the CCPN was in its infancy, a Baltimore Sun article discussed significant cost savings estimated for the local library:

Currently, Ripper said the county pays $3,300 a month to connect all the local library branches to the Internet. Those costs will be eliminated once the network is built out.

Savings to the schools, the libraries, the college, and county government are expected to be significant. Short term annual savings for all four entities are estimated at $950,000 per year in leased line costs, according to a 2010 Carroll County Credit Rating Report. The report goes on to estimate potential revenue from the network at $300,000 to $600,000 in the short term and as high as $3,600,000 to $7,200,000 in the long term, depending on how the network is used in the future. The credit report PDF is available here.

The $9...

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Posted September 27, 2011 by ejames

Two hours northwest of the nation’s capital lies rural Allegany County, in western Maryland on the border with Pennsylvania.  In the mid-1990s, before cable internet was even widely available, the county launched a successful wireless carrier network that would expand into an envied public model.  In 1996, the State of Maryland offered financial assistance to wire public schools.  They used a wireless solution due to the high costs of fiber-optic cables then. To raise funds and pool grant dollars from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), the school partnered with fellow agencies Allegany County, Allegany County Library System, and the City of Cumberland.  The new Allegany County Network (AllCoNet) placed its first wireless antenna atop the courthouse, the county’s highest point, and launched the network at a cost of $4.3 million.  

The network that evolved into AllCoNet began with far more modest goals than restoring prosperity to the county. In 1996, the State of Maryland offered financial incentives to help wire public school buildings for fast Internet access. But connecting the public schools with fiber-optic cable would have been prohibitively expensive. As an alternative, Jeff Blank, the microcomputing and networking supervisor for Allegany County Public Schools, suggested a wireless network in which signals would be transmitted via microwave relays, traveling from one high point to another. Mounting the first antenna at the top of the Allegany County courthouse, one of Cumberland's high points, seemed only logical, and so began a common-sense venture in interagency cooperation. (ARC Magazine)

The early justification for such a network was rooted in the private sector avoidance of building in rural areas but also the pressing demand for economic growth and good broadband technology being just outside the nation’s major eastern cities.  To eliminate the Digital Divide, AllCoNet looked to provide carrier class, affordable service to public entities like government and schools while upholding an open access model to let private companies serve the public at reasonable costs -- avoiding massive infrastructure debt.  

With the information economy building into the 2000s and private sector interest increasing, the partnership...

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Posted September 13, 2011 by ejames

The Southern Maryland Independent reports the Charles County Technology Council brought together local innovators in technology and environmental sustainability on September 10.   The event featured the county's public service innovations in the field as well as showcasing electric vehicles and solar energy technologies.  In addition, the newspaper noted the Charles County Public Library's (CCPL) downtown wireless network, in partnership with the town of La Plata, has been expanded with 15 wireless access points and exceeds 1,000 users per month.  The Library has also upgraded its public workstations to lower wattage computers, reducing both energy usage and heat output.

For over a year, the La Plata downtown wireless zone is available free to the general public.  The wifi project began in 2008 when the CCPL applied for an Innovation Grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.  Though La Plata budgeted a matching $50,000, the grant was turned down but the partnership between the Town and Library continued.  In 2010, the Library agreed to assume administrative and technical maintenance while the Town used its budgeted funds to deploy equipment.  CCPL provides T1 backbone to wireless routers purchased from San Francisco-based Meraki.   Private owners agree to lend rooftop space for nodes at no cost.   In September 2010, the system went online and later expanded to include much of Downtown back to the Town Hall.  Last June, the system hit a milestone 1,000 unique users--La Plata's population is about 8,700.   The Town now looks to continue expanding the availability but also to move into utilities and municipal services.  [More information found in their powerpoint.]

The La Plata model was looked at this summer by nearby town of Berlin, also exploring public wi-fi. Via Ocean City Today:

The town of La Plata in Charles County successfully coordinated a free...

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Posted August 31, 2011 by christopher

Craig Settles sits down, across the country, to interview Maryland's Lori Sherwood, the Program Director for One Maryland. One Maryland is a stimulus-funded project bringing fiber-optic broadband to every county in the state. We have written about several counties using these connections to start building muni fiber networks (see our stories tagged with Maryland). One of the partners is the Maryland Broadband Cooperative, which focuses on middle mile connections also.

Listen to the interview:

Listen to internet radio with cjspeaks on Blog Talk Radio

This project is expected to start saving the state some $30 million a year while greeting increasing the capacity to essential community institutions. Many of these institutions will undoubtedly be moving away from incumbent T1 and similar connections that have been...

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