Tag: "dark fiber"

Posted March 5, 2019 by lgonzalez

SanfordNet Fiber, considered the largest fiber optic community network in Maine to date, is under construction and expected to be completed late in 2019. The project recently attracted the attention of WGME, who profiled the community and the investment as part of their “Working Solutions” segment.

Check out the video at WGME's website.

Taking Control in Maine

Reporter David Singer visited Sanford and nearby Millinocket to talk with business owners and economic development experts in both communities. Sanford, centrally located in  the geographic center of southern Maine, was not connected to the Three Ring Binder, the state fiber optic network developed with funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) during the Obama administration. "11,000 miles of fiber were strung up and down Maine but not in Sanford -- 10 miles to our east, 10 miles to our south,” said Jim Nimon, Executive Director of the Sanford Regional Economic Growth Council.

Rather than be left behind, the community of approximately 21,000 people decided that they needed to act on their own and pursue what has become known in the area as the “fourth ring.” Sanford’s project will emulate other projects in the state, and use the “Maine model.” The city is deploying the infrastructure and will work with private ISP GWI to bring gigabit connectivity to local businesses. GWI is a tested partner and will operate the network, having established a similar arrangement with Rockport. You can learn more about the “Maine model” in this conversation with GWI’s Fletcher Kittredge from episode 176 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast in 2015.

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Posted February 28, 2019 by Katie Kienbaum

When Arlington County, Virginia, decided to deploy dark fiber and make it available to businesses in 2015, officials dreamed of economic development, tech innovation, and competition in the broadband market. Four years and approximately $4 million later, the fiber network has fallen short of those lofty goals and instead lies in the ground mostly unused.

A recent investigation by the local news outlet ARLnow explores the reasons why Arlington’s network has failed to live up to expectations; ARLnow’s article takes a nuanced look into the project’s specific shortcomings. In particular, the article points to certain choices that Arlington made when designing the network and lease contract, presenting an opportunity to learn from the county’s mistakes and offering hope for the network’s future.

What Went Wrong

Arlington conceived of the 10-mile dark fiber network as an extension of the county’s existing network, ConnectArlington, which already serves schools, traffic lights, and other government buildings. County officials believed the dark fiber expansion, which businesses and Internet service providers (ISPs) could lease access to, would promote economic growth. “At the time,” ARLnow explains, “county leaders championed the construction of the ‘dark fiber’ network as a transformative step for Arlington.” One former official even described the dark fiber as a “competitive advantage over other jurisdictions.”

Unfortunately, county leaders’ “build it and they will come” attitude has not bred success, and the network is drastically underutilized at present. This failure was not inevitable, the article says, but rather “Arlington officials made a series of decisions in designing the program that scared off any businesses interested in leasing the fiber.” ARLnow quotes a member of the Broadband Advisory Committee assembled by the Arlington County Manager:

“‘They have this huge amount of fiber in the ground, and not a single strand of it has been leased,’ said Chris Rozycki, a member of the Broadband Advisory Committee that studied ConnectArlington [and CEO of Potomac Fiber]. ‘It’s like they’ve built...

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Posted January 24, 2019 by lgonzalez

For more than two years, officials from the Port of Ridgefield in Washington have planned for better connectivity by deploying dark fiber. This month, they took a significant step by issuing a Request for Information (RFI) for Partnership as they search for entities interested in leasing dark fiber to bring services to the community. Responses are due March 15, 2019.

Read the RFI.

Rural or Not

In the spring of 2018, Washington’s elected officials eliminated a barrier that prevented the Port of Ridgefield from taking the final steps to completing their vision by passing HB 2664. The legislation removed a restriction that only allowed rural ports to use their fiber infrastructure for the types of partnership agreements that the Port of Ridgefield is now seeking. The “rural” limitation meant that Ridgefield and more populous ports could not use their fiber infrastructure to enter into partnerships for service to people or entities. With approximately 7,000 people in and around the city of Ridgefield, the Port of Ridgefield was not considered “rural.”

Officials from the Port of Ridgefield, the city of Ridgefield and other ports in Washington lobbied to have the law changed so they could provide wholesale services to interested Internet access companies. Governor Jay Inslee signed the bill in March 2018. While the primary goals of the RFI focus on improving connectivity within the port district, the Port also prominently includes, "The Port hopes this initiative will support and accelerate private providers’ efforts to improve broadband service options in the County."

The Port and the Plan

As part of the Discovery Corridor, Ridgefield has experienced rapid growth since 2000 and community leaders anticipate that trend to continue. Within the Discovery Corridor, the communities of La Center, Salmon Creek, Battle Ground, and local utilities have been involved in developing the plan. The Port of Ridgefield, like other ports in the state, are municipal economic development organizations; their function is to encourage the growth and economic vitality of the communities they serve. One of the areas that the Port of Ridgefield has found lacking and foresee as a potential...

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Posted December 11, 2018 by lgonzalez

As they look back over their accomplishments, the Roanoke Valley Broadband Authority (RVBA) has more than the holidays to celebrate at the close of 2018. In addition to stimulating competition in the region, the RVBA network is attracting more investment and helping local nonprofits operate more efficiently.

Dual Purpose

For Feeding America Southwest Virginia in Salem, connectivity from RVBA is critical. “Without that Internet connection reliability, it would be very difficult for us to achieve our mission,” says IT Director Eric Geist. The food bank is one of the enterprise customers that the RVBA serves in the region, providing affordable access to organizations and institutions such as nonprofits, businesses, and institutions.

By providing affordable connectivity and services focused on the needs of businesses, the RVBA network has helped drive competition in the region. According to CEO Frank Smith’s research, prices have dropped 25 - 30 percent. The change squares with the RVBA mission to enhance and promote economic development by improving connectivity services and prices in Salem, Roanoke, and the counties of Roanoke and Botetourt. They've seen results in the past three years with greater expectations ahead.

The History

Before the network, the valley was caught in a connectivity “donut hole.” The populations in Salem and Roanoke had access to some cable Internet access and were large enough to prevent the region from obtaining grants to entice providers to upgrade. In 2013, local governments decided to work together to improve connectivity and funded a feasibility study, which recommended an open access network.

roanoke-valley-va_1.jpg Botetourt and Roanoke Counties were indecisive about their commitment to the project, but the cities of Salem and Roanoke pushed ahead. Salem, with its own electric utility, already had some fiber infrastructure in place, which lowered the cost of the...

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Posted November 12, 2018 by lgonzalez

There’s more than skiing stirring up Breckenridge, Colorado, this winter. Recently, the city released their Request for Interest (RFI) as they search for ISPs interested in delivering services via their future publicly owned fiber network. Responses are due November 26th, 2018.

Read the full RFI here.

Seeking ISPs

The town is working with Foresite Group to develop an open access network in order to bring the connectivity businesses and residents need. In their RFI, they state that the town wants to fill the role of “fiber infrastructure provider” by developing a dark fiber network that will extend to all premises citywide. Breckenridge’s model does not include direct retail services from the city to the public at this time. Community leaders want to create long-term relationships with ISPs, stimulate competition, and discover new uses for the infrastructure along the way.

The city has determined that they will deploy the network in two phases with phase 1 scheduled for completion in 2021; they hope to finish the entire project some time in 2022. The first phase will begin mid-2019 and will focus on the fiber backbone along with connecting approximately 1,000 to 2,000 end users by the first year. While Breckenridge doesn’t have cost estimates for phase 2, they have determined that phase 1 should run around $8 million. The Town Council recently approved funding for phase 1.

The second phase will connect remaining Breckenridge premises, but depends in part on the results of the RFI issue. The city won’t connect premises until they find ISPs to work with and have a more concrete plan of what areas those companies plan to serve and the terms of agreements between the city and ISPs. 

Flexibility Required

Breckenridge’s year-round population is only around 5,000, but visitors can make that number swell as high as 36,000 people. In addition to putting significant stress on wired Internet access in the mountain town, mobile service is overtaxed. The city hopes to use fiber to improve cell service for visitors in addition to smart city applications and niche services, such as home security,...

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Posted August 27, 2018 by Hannah Rank

A newly operational dark fiber network, built by the city of Valparaiso, Indiana, is already proving to be a hot commodity for area businesses and institutions. Since going live in May of this year, ValpoNet has received dozens of inquiries from companies and organizations looking to build upon its unlit backbone.

From Idea to Implementation

The municipality had always intended to build the fiber system in order to support local businesses. City officials also came to recognize that a strong fiber backbone was well worth the investment, will continue to support new technologies, and will support emerging technologies from local entrepreneurs and tech companies. 

Valparaiso first considered building its own strong, redundant fiber network after a large data company said it was wary to expand in the region after weather related outages impacted the incumbent provider network. To ensure data flowed securely and to reduce or eliminate outages, ValpoNet installed a dark fiber loop with “carrier diversity and redundancy.” 

ValpoNet has no plans to become a municipal ISP but hopes to entice private sector ISPs as part of a competitive open access model. Currently, the 25-mile network houses 288 strands of fiber. It runs mainly north-south along IN-49, and also circles around the denser circumference of the city.

You can listen here to our discussion of the origins of ValpoNet with Valparaiso’s Development Director, Patrick Lyp, who is the city’s point person for the network.

The Advantage of Going Dark

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Posted August 2, 2018 by Hannah Bonestroo

Eight years after completing its citywide dark fiber network, Idaho Falls, Idaho, is now taking steps to offer municipal fiber optic Internet services to its residents. While the city engaged two consulting firms in 2015 to evaluate internet service options, the municipal power board of Trustees has now approved a pilot program to test the potential of creating a Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network throughout the city this year. Once a pilot neighborhood is selected, the city expects to begin testing fiber optics in a thousand homes by early winter 2019. 

Idaho Falls, with a population of about 60,000, is the largest city in eastern Idaho. Located on the Snake River, the city is the county seat of Bonneville County and a center of activity in the region. While seven ISPs currently use the city’s publicly owned Circa dark fiber network, with its recent decision, the city hopes to finally use this infrastructure to its full potential and provide services of its own. 

Crucial Infrastructure

Many Idaho Falls city council members feel that the decision to provide fiber to residents and businesses is critical to the economic future of the city. In a conversation with East Idaho News Councilman John Radford noted that fiber connectivity is essential infrastructure - as crucial as gutters, sewers, and roads were in the 1900s. City spokesman Bud Cranor said,

“There is a huge need for increased capacity and connectivity not just for residents, but for business development. [The decision to offer fiber to residents] is going to be monumental in [the city’s] efforts to diversify [its] economy and bring new business.”

Jace Yancey, the Operations Technology Manager for Idaho Falls Power, asserted that the expanding network will provide a robust communication system and give customers access to unmatched broadband speeds. When describing the plan, he said, “This is light and fiber. The amount of data it can carry is just amazing.” While the new service will bring Internet speeds of over one Gbps to residents and spur...

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Posted July 30, 2018 by lgonzalez

Ocala, Florida, is one of those communities that doesn’t think twice about offering high-quality Internet access to businesses and residents. They’ve been doing it for decades and, when media coverage around gigabit connectivity began to expand, they were a little surprised because they had been offering similar services since the early 2000s. The benefits were nothing new to Ocala.

A Familiar Story Taken to Its Logical Conclusion

We touched based with Arnie Hersch, Senior Broadband Engineer for the City of Ocala, who shared the story of the network. Arnie has spent more time working on the network than anyone else in Ocala.

As in many other communities, Ocala started deploying fiber between its municipal utility facilities, including electric substations and water and wastewater locations, to improve inter-facility communications. In 1995, copper connected the city’s substations for SCADA operations. The copper was aged and had been struck by lightning, which negatively impacted its ability to perform; decision makers at the utility decided to replace the copper with fiber optic lines. As they finished deploying that year, Arnie joined the city's telecommunications utility; one of his primary objective was making the most out of the new fiber network.

First, Ocala connected all of its 52 municipal facilities in order to improve connectivity and cut costs. At the time, city offices still used dial-up connections for Internet access. Within two years, Arnie had switched the city to an Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM), which allowed them to use the new infrastructure for computing and voice applications. The change opened new doors for the city.

logo-ocala-fiber.jpeg Ocala leadership decided that the Telecommunications Utility should charge the municipality the same rates that the local Regional Bell Operating Company (RBOC) had charged for a T1 line, which offers capacity of approximately 1.5 Megabits per second (Mbps). Even though utility poles belong to the city, the Ocala Fiber Network (OFN) also pays pole attachment...

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Posted July 26, 2018 by Hannah Rank

Buried under Jackson, Mississippi’s streets are miles of untapped dark fiber. The city council and new mayor’s office hope to change that, and have made moves to relight the fiber optic cables and put Jackson on the path to become the next regional tech hub.

The dark fiber city officials plan to relight have been around since at least 1997, and were installed by Capitol Cablevision, a subsidiary of Time Warner (now Spectrum Cable). They city already manages a little more than 100 miles of fiber cable, and 12 municipal facilities use it for high speed network access.

The Clarion Ledger of Jackson recently published a comprehensive summary of the municipality’s plans to capitalize on existing fiber assets. By tapping into the fiber incrementally, it hopes to slowly but surely get the city beyond 1 gigabit broadband speeds. So far, fiber access would be available for schools, hospitals, and other city institutions, as well as businesses in the area. Fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) is still years off.

Mississippi’s Off the Map

Mississippi is one of the lowest-ranked states in terms of access to broadband. In a 2017 opinion piece for the Jackson Free Press, Mississippi State University professor Pete Smith wrote about just how far reaching the digital divide is in the state:

“A September 2017 joint congressional report shows that one-third of Mississippians lack access to residential high-speed-Internet technology...as a 2016 Mississippi State University Extension Service report notes, broadband speeds for a majority of those who have access still fail to meet the suggested FCC download and upload speeds [of 25 Megabits per second download/3 Mbps upload]," Smite wrote. "In other words, we're almost dead last among all states in our efforts to close the broadband ‘digital divide.’"

The only provider currently offering...

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Posted July 18, 2018 by lgonzalez

In June, the city of Fairlawn and the Medina County Fiber Network in Ohio recently announced that they would soon begin working together, which will expand FairlawnGig, the city's municipal network. The collaboration will boost connectivity in the region for residents and provide more options for businesses in Akron and surrounding communities.

Fairlawn Full of Fiber

Deputy Director of Public Service Ernie Staten told us that when city leaders commenced the FairlawnGig project, they promised the community that they would first build out the the entire community of 7,500 residents. They achieved their goal in May and now have a 47 percent take rate in the city. The strong numbers indicate Fairlawn’s intense need for better services than incumbents were providing. 

Staten told us that, in completing the deployment in Fairlawn, the city’s infrastructure now has a solid north-south presence. By leasing capacity on the Medina County Fiber Network (MCFN), FairlawnGig can expand in an east-west direction.

Potential commercial subscribers in Akron, east of Fairlawn, have already reached out to FairlawnGig offices, seeking more information. Staten notes that, while businesses in Akron have had access to connectivity from incumbents Spectrum and AT&T, prices are high and services are limited. FairlawnGig via the MCFN will be able to offer more options. Businesses will have access to services such as dark fiber connections, cloud services, data transport, and connections of up to 100 gigabits per second. Staten also believes that local businesses want the personal service and accountability that comes with a local provider.

Staten says that residents who live in the more rural areas west of town have also contacted FairlawnGig to find out more. FairlawnGig Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) gigabit service costs $75 per month or residents can opt for a 300 Megabits per second (Mbps) connection at $55 per month. Ten gigabit service for residential premises is also available and all connections are symmetrical. Voice services are also available; residents can sign up for $25 per month and receive two lines. FairlawnGig doesn’t offer video service, but makes resources available to help subscribers learn how to cut the cord to access video content.

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