Tag: "dark fiber"

Posted July 2, 2013 by christopher

Waverly, a town of 10,000 in Iowa, decided to create a city owned telecommunications utility with a successful referendum vote in 2000 but has only recently decided to move forward with a major investment to offer services. Mike Litterer, Interim General Manager of Waverly Light and Power, joins us to discuss the project.

Following the vote, the cable and telephone company suddenly decided to upgrade their services, which led the town to hold off on a community owned network. But over time, those companies failed to upgrade the networks and Waverly again finds itself struggling with inadequate access.

He explains why Waverly believes it will struggle to bring new jobs to town unless it has a better network - the economic development director of the town hears that directly from businesses making siting decisions.

Waverly already had a ring and leased dark fiber but is now moving forward on a more ambitious project to allow it to thrive in the digital economy. We previously wrote about Waverly here.

Read the transcript from this episode 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 13 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 Eat at Joe's for the music, licensed using Creative Commons.

Posted May 21, 2013 by christopher

The city of San Leandro has formed a partnership with a local company now named Lit San Leandro to expand business access to the Internet. We talk with San Leandro's Chief Innovation Officer Deborah Acosta and Judi Clark, a consultant with Lit San Leandro, to learn more about their approach.

San Leandro already had conduit assets and Lit San Leandro is pulling fiber through it for the deployment. In return, the City is getting both attention for its 10Gbps service availability and many strands for its own use.

Rather than simply making dark fiber available, which is most helpful to technically savvy firms, Lit San Leandro is working with ISPs that can take advantage of the dark fiber to deliver services to other customers that don't have the capacity to take advantage of dark fiber directly.

We also discuss policies around conduit placement and how to build a healthy tech and innovation system.

Read the transcript from our conversation 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 23 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 Eat at Joe's for the music, licensed using Creative Commons.

Posted May 17, 2013 by lgonzalez

Joanne Hovis, President of CTC Technology and Energy, recently published a must-read article in Broadband Properties Magazine. Whether you are a community leader investigating the possibility of a publicly owned network or an engaged citizen looking for pros and cons, this piece explains practical benefits succinctly. In her article, The Business Case For Government Fiber Networks [PDF], Hovis looks at life beyond stimulus funding. She points out how we should evaluate municipal networks in an environment where shareholder profit is not the first consideration.

Hovis gives a brief history of how local communities reached this point of need. As many of our readers know, local communities used to be able to negotiate with cable providers for franchise opportunities and rights-of-way. Often cable providers would construct broadband infrastructure in exchange for a franchise to operate in a given community, creating I-Nets for local government, schools and libraries. Once states inserted themselves into the process with state-wide franchising, local negotiating power evaporated. Many of those franchise agreements are ending and local leaders are considering municipal fiber optic networks.

Hovis stresses that municipalities do not function in the same environment as the private sector. While they still have a fiscal responsibility to their shareholders (the taxpayers) the main function is providing public safety, encouraging economic development, offering education, and using tax dollars to better the quality of life. Hovis describes how redefining return on investment (ROI) needs to go beyond the balance sheet bottom line. 

These benefits have nothing to do 
with traditional financial measures. Rather, they represent the return 
to the community in terms of such largely intangible societal benefits 
as enhancing health care quality, narrowing the digital divide, providing enhanced educational opportunities to school children, delivering job search and placement opportunities at public computer centers and helping isolated senior citizens make virtual social connections.

joanne-hovis.jpg

Even without the intangible benefits, Hovis argues the financial...

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Posted May 6, 2013 by lgonzalez

We recently learned about Aztec, New Mexico's, free downtown Wi-Fi  so we decided to contact Wallace Begay, the IT Director, to find out more. This desert community of about 6,600 people not only offers the free service, but uses its fiber to serve government, schools, and even four-legged residents.

Begay tells us that in 1998 the city and school system coordinated to install the original fiber and the entities share ownership. The school wanted better, affordable connectivity for students while the city wanted economic development opportunities. Community leaders used E-rate funding and a Gates Foundation grant to construct the original fiber aerial route.

The town provides water, wastewater, and electric services through municipal utilities with its SCADA system. The public library and all ten Aztec Municipal School facilities connect to the fiber network. Municipal government facilities also use the network.

Even though the city is a co-owner, it took several years for municipal offices to get on the fiber network. Aztec City Council originally decided to install the fiber network as a way to bring in revenue by leasing dark fiber, not as a way to connect offices. When Begay started at the city in 2001, administrative offices still used dial-up connections. Twenty dial-up accounts (and the crawling speeds associated with them) added up to $500 each month.

At the time, Qwest (not CenturyLink) was the provider in Aztec and could only offer microwave or copper connections. Connecting 13 facilities at 1.4 Mbps would have cost the city $1,200 each month. Begay used $500 from the electrical enterprise fund to purchase equipment and pay for tech labor to move municipal offices on to the existing network. The city electrical enterprise fund pays for expansions and updates. The network is now about 12 miles.

Begay is especially pleased about the 2004 expansion to the Aztec Animal Control facility, serving all of San Juan County. Before the expansion, Animal Control also used dial-up and spent a significant amount of time fielding calls from worried pet...

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Posted May 1, 2013 by lgonzalez

Community leaders in Medina County, Ohio, recently celebrated the completion of the Medina County Fiber Network (MCFN). Loren Grenson of the Medina Gazette reported on the celebratory breakfast event where officials proclaimed, “The monopoly is dead. Long live the fiber loop."

Local businesses already rave about the county owned MCFN, which offers Internet access, data tranport, and dark fiber leasing. From the article:

Automation Tool and Die in Brunswick is one of 20 entities already tied into the fiber network. The network provides better service to the company’s four buildings in Brunswick’s Northern Industrial Park, said Jacob Mohoric, company IT manager.

“It’s a blazing-fast Internet connection at all four of our buildings at an effective cost,” Mohoric said.

Company co-owner J. Randy Bennett said the network provided the first decent bandwidth for his company since it moved to Brunswick in 1983.

“We had no good bandwidth source and we paid through the nose for what we did have,” Bennett said.

Last July, the Highland School District was near the end of an expensive contract with Time Warner Cable. The network was not complete, but enough MCFN infrastructure was in place to connect the schools for Internet and phone service. Highland Schools now pay about $82,000 less per year for connectivity.

Community leaders began working on the project over ten years ago. After years of planning, the Medina County Port Authority (MCPA) secured $14.4 million in bonds and a $1.4 million stimulus award. The stimulus funding is part of a 2010 grant to nonprofit OneCommunity, charged with extending fiber to 22 Ohio counties. OneCommunity will manage the network.

The 151-mile asset belongs to the MCPA but the entire community considers itself an "owner." Bethany Dentler, executive director of the Medina County Economic Development Corp., also spoke at the celebration:

Dentler said the 151 miles...

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Posted April 29, 2013 by lgonzalez

The city owned dark fiber network in Palo Alto is bringing in a steady stream of revenue that may lead to better connectivity for the entire community. According to a Gennady Sheyner Palo Alto Online article, the Utilities Department recently reported to the City Finance Committee that the city Fiber Fund yields $2.1 million per year. The revenue comes from dark fiber leases to approximately 80 commercial customers. From the article: 

Viewed as a risky investment two decades ago, the fund has in recent years become a plump cash cow. According to a new report from the Utilities Department, its reserves stand at $14.6 million in the current fiscal year and are expected to nearly double by 2018. [emphasis ours]

Commissioners want to get back to the idea of a city-wide FTTP network to serve residents and spur economic development. The city is now working with the school district on a possible expansion to all local schools. 

In his February March State of the City address, Mayor Greg Scharff declared 2013 as the "year of the future," describing fiber as "the key to assuring Palo Alto's long-term position as the Leading Digital City of the Future."  This year the City Council made "technology and the connected city" a priority.  Also from the article:

Commissioner Jonathan Foster noted that the idea of a citywide fiber network has been floating around Palo Alto for many years and said his views on the project have changed since last year, partly because of the council's new attitude about fiber. Before, when economics were the main driver of the conversation, he was more or less neutral, Foster said.

"Now, my approach is -- let's find a way to make this happen," Foster said. "I'm not sure we'll get there but let's come back with the best proposal we can," Foster said.

Commission Chair James Cook voiced a similar sentiment.

"I think this is probably a good idea whose time has finally come," Cook said. "Maybe now it's just gotten the right kind of momentum."

We spoke with Josh Wallace from Palo Alto Utilities in...

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Posted April 20, 2013 by lgonzalez

This southwest Colorado community of about 17,000 contends with state barriers, but still makes the most of its fiber assets. We contacted Eric Pierson, Information Services Manager for the City of Durango, and Julie Brown, the City Finance Manager. The two shared some information on Durango's fiber network.

Currently, fifteen miles of City owned fiber run through town, providing connectivity for municipal and La Plata County facilities. Installation began in 1994 and the build-out continues. A combination of City capital improvement funds, grants from the State of Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DoLA), and funds from the Joint City/County Sales Tax fund have contributed to the $1.7 million network over the past twenty-one years.

Durango leases dark fiber to businesses and nonprofits to boost economic development and fund maintenance for the network. While dark fiber leasing could be far more lucrative, Durango's goal is to break even each year. According to Brown and Pierson, 2013 will yield about $10,000 to be shared with La Plata County and the Southwest Colorado Council of Governments.

Mercy Regional Medical Center partnered with Durango to install fiber as its primary bandwidth connection. Mercy is now an important anchor institution for a large medical office complex in what used to be an undeveloped area. In addition to the clinic, new businesses and residents continue to expand in the area.

According to Brown and Pierson, local ISPs that lease the fiber to serve residents and businesses have increased bandwidth for customers. A significant number of professionals that live in Durango work from home.

Even though Durango is not able to freely expand the network due to state restrictions that limit how it can use the fiber absent a costly referendum, community leaders found a way to optimize their network for residents and businesses. And should the state be wise enough to repeal this anti-competitive barrier, Durango will be well positioned to benefit local businesses.

Posted March 22, 2013 by lgonzalez

“Fiber is the key to assuring Palo Alto's long-term position as the Leading Digital City of the Future"

That was Palo Alto Mayor Greg Scharff who was giving his State of the City Address at Tesla Motors in February.

Mayor Scharff described 2013 as "the year of the future" for Palo Alto, with technology and infrastructure as two of the city's most pressing priorities. Scharff called for developing a plan to expand and optimize the city's current 33 miles of fiber with the aim to bring that fiber to homes and businesses. Scharff echoed the recent Gigabit City Challenge, offered by FCC Chairman Genachowski, noting that Palo Alto users should be have access to 1 gig, minimum.

Jason Green of the Mercury News reported on Scharff's speech in which he referenced the city's long desire to provide high speed access to residents:

"Ultra-high-speed Internet has been a Palo Alto vision for a long time. Now is the time to fulfill that vision," Scharff said. "Google has recently deployed ultra-high-speed Internet in Kansas City. Palo Alto can do better and has all of the elements that will make this a success."

Scharff also referred to how the city is currently using its fiber and some of the benefits:

“In 1996, our city built a 33-mile optical fiber ring routed within Palo Alto to enable better Internet connections.  Since then, we have been licensing use of this fiber to businesses. For the past decade, this activity has shown substantial positive cash flow and is currently making in excess of $2 million a year for the city. We now have that money in the bank earmarked for more fiber investments."

We spoke with Josh Wallace, from Palo Alto's Fiber Optic Development, in episode 26 of the Broadband Bits podcast about how the city uses dark fiber to connect businesses. As we noted in the past, a thorn in the side of Palo Alto's plan to offer lit services is Comcast, which has been willing to engage in dirty tricks in other communities to stop community owned networks....

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Posted March 20, 2013 by lgonzalez

Last summer, the city of Staunton, Virginia, sent out a press release about its new citywide free wi-fi service. Four hours later, a destructive storm ripped through Gypsy Hill Park knocking down trees and damaging buildings. Nevertheless, the equipment held on. Five days later, celebrants at the city's July 4th party used the free service in droves.

A William Jackson GCN article from December, 2012, highlights the popularity of the network:

Wi-Fi use in the park had begun well before the formal launch. Almost as soon as installation of the access points began in May, park workers noticed people congregating with their laptops in areas near the points, Plowman said, demonstrating the demand for Wi-Fi access.

Public Wi-Fi has become a popular feature at the park. “People are finding creative uses for it,” [chief technology officer for Staunton, Kurt] Plowman said, such as the woman who used a laptop Web camera to send a ball game in the park to a player’s grandmother.

As we have seen in other communities, a wireless network enhances local connectivity as a complement to a fiber network. Staunton is the County seat of Augusta and home to nearly 25,000 people.

The City owns two separate networks. In addition to the fiber used by city facilities, there is a separate dark fiber network. The city installed the dark fiber with the intention of leasing it to the Staunton Economic Development Authority. The Authority then leases it to local phone, Internet, and wireless provider, MGW. MGW serves residential and commercial customers in south and west Virginia.

In 2012, the city built a new fiber institutional network to avoid having to lease from the private sector.

We touched base with Kurt Plowman who told us that the fiber connects twelve major city facilities, including libraries, fires stations, and public works facilities. There are also over fifty traffic signal cabinets and ten facilities in Gypsy Hill Park on the fiber.

When compared with the city's past lease payments for fiber and data circuits, payback will be complete in 10 years. Additionally, there are more facilities connected and bandwidth is increased.

Plowman also told us that the $1.25 million cost of the project was well below estimates. The...

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Posted January 5, 2013 by christopher

Idaho's capital has begun leasing dark fiber from Zayo Group that will allow it to consolidate a number of data centers it has located in municipal facilities across the city. This will allow Boise to better meet the internal needs of City Departments; the City is not providing access to private businesses or residents.

We tend to focus on how communities have built their own networks to achieve similar ends -- ensuring fast and reliable access to city facilities, including schools and libraries (in fact, we produced a fact sheet about it).

However, long term dark fiber leases achieve some of the same goals and are frequently a far wiser decision that purchasing lit services from existing providers, particularly the national cable or telephone companies.

According to an article covering the story in GovTech,

Rather than subscribing to a service from a local telecommunications company, dark fiber allows the City of Boise access to strands of fiber optic cable between city buildings. In-house network engineers can choose the gear that is used to light the network, while maintaining complete control of protocol, platform and bandwidth, for improved flexibility.

Fran Cantwell, an IT project manager for Boise’s Parks and Recreation Department, said that she noticed an immediate improvement using the City’s online mapping system.

“Before, staff would wait for the system to slowly paint the screen,” Cantwell said. “After the dark fiber implementation, the maps load almost instantly. This greatly increased the efficiency of teams like Community Forestry, who refer to the maps and aerial photos daily.”

The project, launched in June, took about four months to complete. Some city departments have reported a 3,000 percent increase in speed, according to Adam Reno, a Boise IT infrastructure services manager. Transmitting a 30-minute video once took two hours, but can now occur in as little as two minutes.

The article provides some details on the cost, saying the City is paying Zayo $500,000 but it does not specify the term of the lease. The City claims that it would have cost $6 million to build its own fiber network, but...

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