Tag: "open access"

Posted April 27, 2018 by lgonzalez

Nestled along the south eastern border of Maine are Baileyville and Calais. As rural communities situated next to Canada in the state's "Downeast" region, neither town is on a list of infrastructure upgrades from incumbents. With an aging population, a need to consider their economic future, and no hope of help from big national ISPs, Baileyville and Calais are joining forces and developing their own publicly owned broadband utility.

Baileyville and Calais

There are about 3,000 residents in Calais (pronounced "Kal-iss") and 1,500 in Baileyville, but according to Julie Jordan, Director of Downeast Economic Development Corporation (DEDC), many of those residents are aging and younger people find little reason to stay or relocate in Washington County. The community recognizes that they need to draw in new industries and jobs that will attract young families to keep the towns from fading off the map.

Most of the residents in the region must rely on slow DSL from Consolidated Communications (formerly Frontier), while a few have access to cable from Spectrum (formerly Time Warner Cable); expensive and unreliable satellite is also an option and there's some limited fixed wireless coverage in the area. A few larger businesses that require fiber optic connectivity can find a way to have it installed, but Julie tells us that it's incredibly expensive in the area and most can't afford the high rates for fiber.

Economic Development Driven

logo-baileyville-me.png Organized in 2015, the nonprofit DEDC came together with the focus on recruiting new businesses to the area and to support existing businesses. As DEDC quickly discovered, unless the region could offer high-speed, reliable Internet infrastructure, attracting new businesses and helping existing businesses expand would be extremely difficult. They also determined that new families would not be interested in Baileyville or Calais without high-quality connectivity. "It was a no-brainer," says Julie, "you have to go fiber."

One of the largest regional employers, Woodland Pulp, need fiber in order to operate and as Julie describes, "they pay up the nose" for connectivity. All their equipment is computerized and they...

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Posted April 18, 2018 by lgonzalez

When the announcement came out in 2015 that Sanford, Maine, would invest in the state’s largest municipal fiber optic network, media outlets were abuzz with the news. The situation has quieted down as the community has been working to plan for the project. Earlier this month, Sanford released its second Request for Proposals (RFP) for Fiber Optic Construction for the network; responses are due May 2nd.

Read the RFP here.

Second Shot

Back when the city began the process of investing in publicly owned Internet infrastructure, they conducted an original RFP process and selected a construction firm. Before the project began, however, Sanford won a significant award from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) and, according to the EDA, the city’s RFP process did not conform to EDA bid process requirements. In order to accept the award, the city needs to re-run to RFP process.

The project will cost approximately $1.5 million and, with the federal grant slated to pay for around half at $769,000, Sanford officials see the benefit of taking the time to release a second RFP. The city will use proceeds from the sale of a former school property to fund the remaining. They anticipate construction to begin in July and estimate the project will be completed and the network will be ready to operate by November.

As the RFP states, the project will connect approximately 85 community anchor institutions (CAIs) to a network of about 40 miles of fiber and to the state’s middle mile Three Ring Binder. In addition to City Hall, they intend to connect schools, healthcare facilities, libraries, and public works buildings. There are also a significant number of business locations on the list of addresses that Sanford officials want connected to the network. The community has already chosen Maine’s GWI to operate the open access network. 

You can listen to our conversation with CEO Fletcher Kittredge in episode 176 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. He and Christopher discuss Sanford...

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Posted March 29, 2018 by lgonzalez

Cortez is ready to use its publicly owned infrastructure to begin a Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) pilot project. At the March 27th City Council meeting, members unanimously approved fees and rates for the Cortez Community Network Pilot, which marks a shift as the city moves to offer retail Internet access to residents and businesses.

Time To Serve Residents

Earlier this month, General Services Director Rick Smith presented information to the City Council about the pilot at a workshop so they could ask in-depth questions. At the workshop, City Manager Shane Hale described the challenges of finding ISPs willing to offer residential Internet access via Cortez’s fiber infrastructure. “We found that there were very few providers that actually wanted to go Fiber-to-the-Home,” he said. “Homeowners are a lot of work.”

The city’s network has provided open access fiber connectivity to municipal and county facilities, schools, community anchor institutions (CAIs), and downtown businesses for years. They officially launched the network in 2011 after serving public facilities and a few businesses on an as-needed basis. A 2015 expansion brought the network allowed Cortez to offer fiber connectivity to more premises. There are at least seven private sector ISPs using the infrastructure to offer services to local businesses.

The open access model will remain for commercial connections in Cortez, but for now the city plans to operate as a retail ISP for residents who sign up on the pilot program. At the March 27th meeting, the City Council established rates for subscribers, who will pay $150 for installation and $60 per month for 100 Megabits per second (Mbps) for upload and download speeds. Subscribers will also need to rent a GigaCenter Wi-Fi router for $10 per month.

Waiting On The Wings Of The Pilot Program

According to Smith, potential subscribers are already interested in signing up to participate in the pilot program. He told the Cortez Journal that 11 residents were in the process of being connected and 58 residents and...

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Posted March 9, 2018 by lgonzalez

Last week we reported about the uncertain position that faced Washington ports might find themselves in, should they decide to bring better connectivity to the areas within and around their service areas. We are pleased to learn that the state legislature saw the light and chose to pass the bill without the proposed harmful Senate amendments. It's good news, but the final bill isn't ideal. 

The Problem; The Proposed Solution

Current law allows ports to develop and use fiber optic infrastructure for its own uses both within and beyond their geographic borders; they can only offer wholesale services to other entities within their borders. HB 2664, as introduced, removed the geographic restriction for wholesale services. Communities like Bellingham want to attract ISPs to their cities to compete with incumbents and encourage better prices and services. With the ability to use fiber from the port and possibly integrate it into an expanded network, a city like Bellingham could save time and considerable expense if they wish to invest in Internet infrastructure throughout the community.

Local advocate Jon Humphrey, who has been following this bill and others in his area, noted that the bill had much to do with population density. There had been a change to the original language of bill — the “rural” port requirement, which effectively protected national ISPs from any competition. Humphrey wrote, “This is where the modification of the bill should have ended.”

To The Senate

The bill had no problem passing the House, but when the Senate took it up, they added several amendments that distressed Humphrey and others watching the bill and rooting for it to pass.

We were also concerned about the amendments, including a change that required projects to prioritize unserved and underserved areas. Serving such areas is certainly critical, but this type of language in legislation serves to protect incumbent ISPs from competition rather than to bring high-quality Internet access to areas ignored by those same incumbents. Allowing some level of competition in more densely populated areas helps support projects that reach into less populated unserved and underserved areas.

Humphrey expressed concern...

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Posted February 23, 2018 by lgonzalez

Ammon, Idaho, has received a lot of attention in the past couple of years for their innovative approach to improving local connectivity with a publicly owned fiber optic network. Back in 2015, the city received an award from the National Institute of Justice Ultra-High Speed Apps: Using Current Technology to Improve Criminal Justice Operations Challenge for their “School Emergency Screencast Application”. We covered the award and the application in detail but wanted to share the story once again.

Improving the ability to monitor what’s happening in our kids’ schools is only one factor that can contribute toward making them safer, but every step helps. Ammon’s application uses gunshot detection hardware and a school’s existing camera system. It reports gunshot fire and provides live video and geospatial information to dispatch and first responders.

Hopefully, Ammon first responders will never have to use the application in anything other than a test, but the technology can be shared with other communities and can potentially save lives and reduce injuries by quickly ending any incident. Without their top-notch fiber optic network, Ammon would not have this incredible public safety tool.

Check out this video on Ammon’s School Emergency Screencast Application:

Learn more about Ammon's fiber optic network and their strategy to improve connectivity throughout the community:

Posted February 20, 2018 by christopher

When the Eastern Shore of Virginia needed better Internet access, in part to ensure NASA could achieve its mission, Accomack and Northampton counties created the Eastern Shore of Virginia Broadband Authority. Its Executive Director, Robert Bridgham joins us for episode 294 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast.

We talk about why they used an Authority and how it was initially funded with grants that were later repayed because the network was so successful. They also used some community development block grants though the network has since expanded with its own revenues. 

The network both leases lines to independent ISPs and provides services directly. And it is expanding its Fiber-to-the-Home network to more neighborhoods each year in an incremental fashion. Read more about Eastern Shore of Virginia Broadband Authority here.

This show is 22 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed.

Read the transcript for this show here.

You can download this mp3 file directly from here. Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Thanks to Arne Huseby for the music. The song is Warm Duck Shuffle and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.

Posted January 24, 2018 by christopher

Early last year, Connect Your Community and the National Digital Inclusion Alliance released a well-researched and compelling case that AT&T had engaged in digital redlining of Cleveland, refusing to upgrade Internet access to neighborhoods with high poverty rates. In episode 290 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast, we check in to learn more and discuss key lessons.

Angela Siefer, executive director of NDIA, and Bill Callahan, President and Director of Connect Your Community in Cleveland, explore what is happening both in Cleveland and other metro centers where low-income residents are often over-paying for services far slower than are available in higher-income neighborhoods.

This discussion covers important ground, not just describing the problem but discussing how the easiest solution (forcing AT&T to upgrade areas it has neglected) is not sufficient. Also, there is sports talk at the beginning but then the host gets himself under control and focuses on what is important in this conversation. 

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.

Read the transcript for this show here.

You can download this mp3 file directly from here. Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Thanks to Arne Huseby for the music. The song is Warm Duck Shuffle and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.

Posted January 4, 2018 by lgonzalez

Thing’s have been looking up for the Utah Telecommunications Open Infrastructure Agency’s fiber optic network (UTOPIA) in recent years and in December network officials reported they’ve reached a significant financial milestone. For the first time since the open access network began operations in 2003, revenue will cover bond payments and will provide a 2 percent dividend to most of the member communities.

Despite The Limitations

In keeping with state restrictions, UTOPIA can only provide wholesale services via their fiber infrastructure. Ten ISPs offer residential services on the network, which establishes ample competition and all its benefits for subscribers, including lower prices, better customer service, and the ability to switch providers. Businesses can choose from 25 ISPs.

The wholesale-only model, however, significantly reduces the revenue communities can expect from their investment, which was the case with UTOPIA. The eleven member cities bonded approximately $185 million, but revenue limits due to the restriction, some early management decisions, and general apprehension from member communities, created political controversy. At one point, member communities considered selling out to Australian investment firm Macquarie.

Fortitude Paying Off

In 2011, eight of the member communities created the Utopia Infrastructure Agency (UIA) in order to spur more network expansion. UIA collaborates with UTOPIA as a separate entity; its purpose is to deploy the network in more locations and connect more premises and has issued the dividend to its member communities.

Communities in the region chose to stick with their investment, however, and gradually, as Jesse Harris from FreeUTOPIA noted in 2016, negative public opinion turned around. Things for the eleven member communities were on an upward trajectory and soon neighboring...

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Posted December 4, 2017 by Staff

This is episode 279 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast. Russ Brethrower, a project specialist at Grant County Public Utility District, discusses how Grant County, Washington, pioneered open access infrastructure in the United States. Listen to this episode here.

Russ Brethrower: Our commission, management, everybody's made it really clear. Our capital is an investment in the future of the county up and down the food chain. It's -- it's a given that it's an investment and the capital is not expected to be returned.

Lisa Gonzalez: You're listening to episode 279 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast from the Institute for local self-reliance. I'm Lisa Gonzalez. Christopher recently attended the broadband community's economic development conference. He attends every fall and if he's lucky he's able to record interviews with people from some of the communities we're curious about. He also makes the trip to each Broadband Community Summit the spring time event. While he was at the November event in Atlanta, he connected with several people including this week's guest Russ Brethrower from the Grant County Public Utility District in Washington Grant County PUD has one of the most established and geographically largest open access community networks in the US. The rural communities population is sparse and widely distributed but community leaders had an eye toward the future when they decided to invest in fiber infrastructure. In this interview, Russ shares the story of their network and describe some of their challenges. Here's Christopher with Russ Brethrower from the Grant County Public Utility District in Washington.

Christopher Mitchell: Welcome to another edition of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. I'm Chris Mitchell with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. Today I'm in Atlanta sitting on the runway of the Atlanta airport at the Broadband Communities Summit which is focused on economic development here. And today I'm talking to Russ Brethrower Project Specialist for Grant County Public Utility District in Washington. Welcome to the show. Thank you very much Chris. So Russ I've been trying to get you on for a long time. You are one you're coming from one of the communities that has the oldest municipal...

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Posted November 27, 2017 by Matthew Marcus

The Eastern Shore of Virginia Broadband Authority (ESVBA) board of directors has decided to expand Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) service to 14 more areas in the region.

Speedy Expansion On The Shore

In the next six months, residents of Accomack and Northampton counties should have access to high-speed Internet. The ESVBA regional open access middle mile network already provides FTTH to three areas, but decided to expand, concluding the current budget would support additional deployment.

Areas specifically identified for expansion include Sanford, Accomac, Greenbackville, Atlantic, Wattsville/Horntown, Hallwood/Nelsonia, Oak Hall/New Church and Quinby. In a meeting planned for Dec 13th, the board will discuss which areas to prioritize, with the idea of moving into two new areas each month.

A Continuing Success

ESVBA was created in 2008 through the efforts of Accomack and Northampton counties. NASA helped fund the build-out of the regional network’s backbone. They have a flight facility on Wallops Island that employs over a thousand Virginians. Government agencies, local schools, and healthcare institutions on the shore needed reliable connectivity for daily operations. Apart from NASA, the Navy and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration connect to the network, along with schools and medical facilities, making it an indispensable community resource.

Several different telecommunications companies on the Eastern shore utilize the open access network in a variety of ways, including the ISPs Windstream Communications and the local Eastern Shore Communications LLC.

Residential FTTH service is currently underway in Harborton, the Bobtown/Pungoteague/Painter area, and Church Neck where customer sign-on is gradually increasing.

Next Steps

The Eastern Shore region is currently assessing whether surveys should be conducted before deciding which areas to begin deploying FTTH service. The board is also discussing marketing tactics for advertising the new service. In regards to their advertising efforts...

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