Tag: "maryland"

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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Posted July 23, 2011 by christopher

Harford County, in northeast Maryland, is planning to bond for an $8 million wireless network to service local government, public safety, education, health care, and both commercial and residential needs. It will be called the Harford County Metro Area Network - HMAN.

The current plan envisions a free tier as well as a low-cost tier intended for residential access.

The network builds on fiber connections built with stimulus dollars, likely the OneMaryland network that touches every county in the state. This project will make those connections available to far more people and businesses.

But the Baltimore Sun is asking some difficult questions - including whether it makes sense to use long-term bonds for wireless networks, where the technology may change significantly in a few short years.

The problem for Harford County is that while the wireless technology may change rapidly, the private sector is not meeting their needs and they need better access to communications now.

We are generally skeptical of solutions that envision wireless as the sole delivery mechanism for broadband to the home or business, given the much higher capacity and reliability of fiber-optic connections, but as long as the County is already building a network needed to ensure public safety departments and other local government mobile needs are met, it may certainly make sense to spend a little extra to offer residential and business access.

Posted November 15, 2010 by christopher

Maryland received a very large award to connect hundreds of community anchors. This is an excellent use of public money (it will lower the future need for public money to fund local agencies). The award came from NTIA's BTOP program.

The broadband funding will result in vastly improved Internet speeds for local government offices, schools, hospitals, and emergency communication networks across Maryland, officials said. More than 1,200 miles of new fiber-optic cable will be installed across Maryland — a 50 percent increase over the existing network capability, officials said.

The money will be used to link 458 schools, 44 libraries, 262 police and emergency centers, 15 community colleges, six universities and 221 other government and community centers in a statewide network designed to be available and secure in emergencies.

As the networks are built with funds from the broadband stimulus, the networks will not be silo'ed, as is too often the case with public networks built primarily to connect community institutions. These networks will be available for the private sector to lease as well, creating more opportunities for broadband expansion and future competition. However, the track record of these middle mile networks creating last-mile connections is extremely poor. So let's not get too carried away, but it is a good step in the direction of local self-reliance and less of a dependency on massive absentee companies.

Credit goes to Howard County's Ira Levy, who worked for more than a year to put the project together.

Much of the money — about $72 million dedicated to the 10 jurisdictions in Central Maryland — will be administered by Howard County. It was Howard's information systems director, Ira Levy, who spent 18 months leading the effort to get the money.

Baltimore County has announced an $18.5 million plan to better connect their community institutions as part of the larger project.

Baltimore County unveiled an $18.5 million plan Wednesday that officials said will vastly improve the local Internet system, provide quicker links among public safety agencies, schools,...

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Posted September 20, 2010 by christopher

Carroll County, Maryland, has announced a partnership with the Maryland Broadband Cooperative to bring fiber-optic broadband to area businesses that have been neglected by incumbent providers.

The county brought the broadband cooperative in to lease out unused fiber on the county’s 110-mile network, which it built over the past two years. The cooperative will connect business customers with its own members, which include various sizes of Internet service providers that can link the businesses to the network. Prices will vary depending on the service provider and location of the business.

The Carroll County Times offers greater coverage in a story by Marc Shapiro.

The County's $9 million network is financed in part with cost savings from transitioning away from $600/month T1 lines and is the result of many years of work. Remember that a T1 offers 1.5 Mbps of connectivity, the new fiber network likely offers 100Mbps to 1Gbps today and is capable of offering much greater capacity in the future. Building these networks is a far smarter move than leasing T1 lines.

Every county school, every major county facility and Carroll Community College is on broadband Internet, said Mark Ripper, chief information officer with the Carroll County Department of Technology Services. All county facilities and libraries and the board of education will have broadband Internet shortly, he said.

The Maryland Broadband Cooperative, a public/private partnership that promotes economic development through technological infrastructure, will lease the "dark fiber," unused fiber, to its member companies, who can in turn sell Internet service to local businesses. The MDBC has 59 members, about 30 of which are Internet providers, said Patrick Mitchell, president and CEO of the MDBC.

Posted June 8, 2010 by christopher

Another community has announced that with or without Google, it is going to build a proper broadband network. Baltimore is the latest to realize they cannot just wait for others to build the network they need.

"We can't sit here and wait for a gift from Google to fall on us from the sky," said Tom Loveland, whom Rawlings-Blake has appointed the city's volunteer Google czar. "This is our future we're talking about here. Those of us involved in the conversation have seen what other cities have already accomplished. These folks managed to get themselves wired without Google. If they can do it, we can do it, too."

Bingo.

Apparently, lots of Baltimore folks are interested in the idea. Some 200 people turned out for this discussion and the group has a lively online discussion group as well as a site detail the community support for the project.

The Mayor has created a panel to study the manner. They have already turned to ask Mayor Durel of Lafayette, always a good start. Another place panels like this can start is the still-relevant report by a Task Force in St. Paul.

According the article in the Sun, an FCC staffer also presented to the group of 200:

At the symposium, John Horrigan, consumer research director at the FCC, said studies have shown that the technological availability of basic broadband service is not the main problem because 95 percent of Americans have the technical means to access it. Rather, nearly a third of Americans are choosing not to use broadband, citing high costs or a lack of digital literacy or computer skills.

These are the sort of statements that infuriate me because they incorporate so many important caveats. 95% of Americans may have access to something faster than dial-up. But probably not given how much the telcos overestimate the reach of their DSL.

Though Horrigan notes the high costs, we know very little about what these costs are. If someone could buy a connection only slightly faster than dial-up at a cost of 3x dial-up, they are probably smart to stick with dial-up. It tells us nothing of what they would do with a real choice.

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