Tag: "community savings"

Posted June 23, 2020 by Ry Marcattilio-...

This week on the Community Broadband Bits Podcast Christopher talks with John Bowcut, Director of Information Systems and Network Director for Spanish Fork Community Network in Spanish Fork, Utah. As John approaches the end of his career he reflects on the network's founding, its success over the last two decades, and the missed opportunities which stemmed from a 2001 law limiting municipal networks. 

That Spanish Fork has achieved an impressive level of success is revealed by the numbers. In 2013, the utility had already paid off the majority of its debt and enjoyed a take-rate of 60% of the community of 35,000. In 2015, it began a fiber buildout to replace the hybrid fiber-coax neighborhood by neighborhood. By refusing to take on any new debt and focusing on neighborhoods with the most interest, the network was able to spend about a million dollars a year over the last five years, and is close to completion. Today SFCN enjoys a take-rate of 78% on its Internet service in the city of 40,000, with some neighborhoods subscribing at a rate of almost 100%. It continues to save Spanish Fork over $3 million a year, adding to the tens of millions it has already saved the community.

To what does John attribute their success? Community. Finding qualified, passionate people to build a network dedicated to the needs of people and businesses in the surrounding area. He highlights the utility's customer service and responsiveness to its users needs. Christopher and John consider the success of SFCN in the context of the the long-term consequences of HB 149, which in 2001 installed signficant new hurdles by preventing new municipal from providing services directly to residents and businesses like SFCN does. Finally, Christopher and John talk the importance of marketing, and using it as a way of forging community connections and creating messaging that fosters dialogue. 

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Posted June 10, 2020 by Ry Marcattilio-...

Chicopee, Massachusetts, Ward 1 City Councilor Joel McAuliffe wrote an editorial recently that is well worth reading. In it, he explains how his city of 55,000 people, situated a few miles north of Springfield, has seen in concrete terms the benefits of building a municipal fiber network a year ago. Crossroads Fiber — an initiative of Chicopee Electric Light (founded 1896) — began connecting customers in late summer of last year, with the utility building out in phases. There are plans to provide service to everyone connected to electric. Even so, he says, citizens are already benefitting from municipal fiber during the current pandemic: 

Fiber optic cables continue working during power outages and remain lightning-fast no matter how many users are plugged in. These past few months, internet usage has spiked worldwide, but municipal broadband is allowing hundreds of people in Chicopee to stay connected without interruption.

McAuliffe emphasizes the centrality of fiber to towns and cities in all realms who are looking to the future. And while it’s been nice to see large telecoms stepping in to donate or help communities get connected, McAuliffe rightly emphasizes the dangers of relying on corporate generosity instead of investing in local infrastructure that will benefit the community for generations to come:

Chicopee’s investment in municipal broadband is the first step, but we and cities across the country must commit to further investment to build a more prosperous and equitable society. It is becoming clear why a fast, reliable internet connection is absolutely essential for today and for our future.

We’ve covered Chicopee and Crossroads Fiber a couple of times before, and Christopher spoke with City Councilor McAuliffe on...

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Posted December 24, 2019 by lgonzalez

It was about five years ago that we brought consultant Eric Lampland from Lookout Point Communications into the office for episode 80 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast. We've completed more than 300 other episodes since then, but his insight still rings true on the many indirect cost savings of community broadband networks. As activity in our office slows down a little for the holiday season, we thought this would be a great time to revisit the conversation with Eric to remind listeners of some of the reasons why so many communities are interested in taking control of their connectivity options with public investment. Enjoy! 

Today, Lisa and I are joined by Eric Lampland for a discussion of how a community could justify building a community owned network from the indirect benefits that it would create, including the savings that each household realizes from competition driving down prices. Eric Lampland is the CEO and principal consultant of Lookout Point Communications, which helps local governments that are building a network or considering an investment.

Eric and I start by discussing how quickly the cost savings per household add up to equal more than the cost of building a network and we digress from there, covering other topics related to community owned networks. This includes how big cable companies would respond to this approach.

I have to note that most community networks have not been justified on this basis - the vast majority of community networks were designed to pay their full costs and they are doing so. Here, we discuss the general benefits of these networks that are often sidelined in the policy discussion and how they alone may justify a fiber network.

Toward the end, we begin discussing open access, something we will...

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Posted November 11, 2019 by lgonzalez

It’s been a journey of discovery for the folks in "Villageville," our fictional rural community where Internet access isn't meeting the needs of residents or businesses. In Episode 5 of "From Crops to Co-ops: Small Towns Want Better Internet!", we learn more about the work rural cooperatives are doing for communities across the country.

Grumpy Gary and Entrepreneur Emily have met up in "Sizeable City," a nearby community that decided to invest in a municipal network. It has paid off in the usual ways -- better Internet access, more jobs, lowered telecommunications costs. In addition to enjoying some java and some jokes (we use the term loosely), they meet up with a representative from the electric cooperative to discuss high-quality Internet access options.

During the conversation, we hear more about the ways cooperatives are serving people in rural areas and why it makes sense that they're delivering fiber optic connectivity. Watch for more pop-up facts about municipal networks, cooperatives, and how both are serving rural communities. Listen to the cooperative's pilot project strategy and be sure to watch through to the end to hear about the final outcome in Villageville.

As with other episodes of "From Crops to Co-ops: Small Towns Want Better Internet!", you'll hear past and present voices from the Very Amateur Acting Troupe of the Community Broadband Networks Initiative along with other Institute for Local Self-Reliance talent (again we use the term loosely). We encourage you to share these videos to help spread the word about municipal networks, cooperatives, and the fact that rural communities don't have to be "stuck" with poor Internet access.

If you haven't seen episodes 1 - 4, check them out below, read the backstories, or view them all on our Videos page.

Share the series playlist, where you can see all the episodes from Villageville, U.S.A.

You can get caught up on the saga here with ...

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Posted June 20, 2017 by Staff

This is the transcript for episode 259 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast. Christopher Mitchell discusses Ammon, Idaho, with Ammon Technology Director Bruce Patterson and Strategic Networks Group's Michael Curri. Listen to this episode here. 

 

Christopher Mitchell: As they understand the model, and that's the key. As they understand the model, they start to understand how to leverage the infrastructure in a way that works for them and their business model.

Lisa Gonzalez: This is episode 259 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, I'm Lisa Gonzales. We've been following Ammon, Idaho for some time now, having written numerous stories and producing a video about the Ammon Model. The community is continuing to grow their open access network and also reap the benefits of the public investment. This week, Christopher talks with Bruce Patterson from Ammon and Michael Curri from Strategic Networks Group to offer more details about Ammon's network. In addition to sharing details about community savings and benefits to both residents and businesses, we learn more about the Ammon Model and how it works for subscribers. Before we get started, we want to remind you that this commercial free podcast isn't free to produce. Take a minute to contribute at ilsr.org. If you're already a contributor, thanks. Now, here's Christopher, Bruce, and Michael with more information on the Ammon Model.

Christopher Mitchell: Welcome to another addition of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast. I'm Chris Mitchell, and I'm back with two well known guests to long time listeners of our show. We're going to start with Bruce Patterson, the technology director for the city of Ammon in Idaho. Welcome back.

Bruce Patterson: Thank you, Chris. Happy to be here.

Christopher Mitchell: And we also have Michael Curri, the president of the Strategic Networks Group with just a lot of analysis of various broadband networks. Welcome back.

Michael Curri: Hi, Chris. Thanks. Great to be here.

Christopher Mitchell: So, I think we're going to start with a brief background to remind people what both of these folks are up to, and then we're going to...

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Posted June 19, 2017 by christopher

For episode 259 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast, we are going back to the well in Ammon, Idaho - one of the most creative and forward-thinking fiber network deployments in the country. Strategic Networks Group has completed a study examining the impact of Ammon's open muni fiber network on local businesses and residents.

To discuss the results, we welcome back Ammon Technology Director Bruce Patterson and SNG President Michael Curri. After a quick reminder of how Ammon's network works and what SNG does, we dive into how Ammon's network has materially benefited the community.

The city is expected to realize savings approaching $2 million over 25 years. Subscribers will be saving tens of millions of dollars and businesses seeing benefits over $75 million over that time frame. Listen to our conversation to get the full picture.

Bruce has visited us for the podcasts, including episode 207 on Software-Defined-Networks, episode 173 in which he described public safety uses for Ammon's network, and episode 86 from back in 2014 when local momentum was starting to grow for better connectivity. 

Michael has also joined been on the show in the past. He participated in episode 93, talking about the benefits of broadband utilization.

Read the transcript of the show.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

This show is 31 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed.

You can...

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Posted December 8, 2016 by lgonzalez

On November 27th, the Chattanooga area was pelted with rough storms. According to the city's Electric Power Board (EPB) spokesman John Pless, the utility smart-grid kept the lights on for 90 percent of the city’s electricity users who would have otherwise experienced an outage. A smart-grid detects where damage occurs and allows the network to self-heal when possible, often in seconds and undetected by electricity users.

"Smart grid automation either prevented or automatically restored more than 23,000 customer outages, with almost 2,100 customers experiencing outages of greater than five minutes," Pless said.

In addition to the security of maintaining electric service during severe weather, businesses lose productivity when the power goes out. By 2014, EPB officials estimated the technology had saved local businesses approximately $50 million in two years; it had reduced outages by 60 percent. Since then, they have worked with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory to get maximum efficiency from the EPB smart-grid.

Harold DePriest, retired President and CEO of EPB, spoke with Christopher recently in episode #230 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. During the conversation, Harold talked about how the smart-grid has positively impacted the community:

"[T]hat one thing is saving our community's businesses somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 to 60 million dollars a year. That's pretty substantial. [F]rankly, the revenues are now staying here in Chattanooga. We'll be, this year, about $150 million in revenues. That means there are additional monies for taxes. Our in lieu of tax payments are actually up about $8 million because of our smart-grid, on an annual basis. Roughly half of that goes to the school system, so that's a pretty neat thing in my opinion. The other is it's supplied the money for EPB to invest in other things that are of value to our customers, a new control center, GPS in all of our trucks, the ability to respond quicker and more efficiently on a daily basis, and in large outages. All...

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Posted February 1, 2016 by lgonzalez

For seniors, low-income residents, and the disabled in Saint Paul, Minnesota, a Comcast discount within the city's franchise agreement is not all it was cracked up to be. The Pioneer Press recently reported that, as eligible subscribers seek the ten percent discount guaranteed by the agreement, they are finding the devil is in the details - or lack of them.

This is a warning to those who attempt to negotiate with Comcast for better service. Comcast may make deals that it knows are unenforceable. 

"No Discount For You!"

For years, Comcast held the only franchise agreement with the city of St. Paul. In 2015, the city entered into a new agreement with the cable provider and, as in the past, the provider agreed to offer discounts for low-income and senior subscribers. Such concessions are common because a franchise agreement gives a provider easy access to a pool of subscribers.

It seems like a fair deal, but where there is a way to squirm out of a commitment, Comcast will wriggle its way out. 

Comcast is refusing to provide the discount when subscribers bundle services, which are typically offered at reduced prices. Because the contract is silent on the issue of combining discounts, the city of approximately 298,000 has decided it will not challenge Comcast's interpretation:

The company notes that the ten percent senior discount applies only to the cable portion of a customer's bill. Comcast has maintained that it is under no legal obligation to combine discounts or promotions, and that bundled services provide a steeper discount anyway.

Subscribers who want to take advantage of the discounts will have to prove their senior status and/or their low-income status. In order to do so, Comcast representatives have been requesting a copy of a driver's license or state issued i.d. 

CenturyLink Picks Up the Baton

In November, the city approved an additional franchise agreement with competitor CenturyLink. That agreement also provides that seniors, low-income households, and disabled residents are eligible to receive a ten percent discount. CenturyLink can, in the alternative, offer a discount of $5 off a subscriber's cable bill if a subscriber applies for the low-income discount. In order to receive this discount, the...

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Posted September 29, 2015 by christopher

The Spanish Fork Community Network has long been among the most successful community broadband projects. And now that the community has finished paying off the debt of the network, they are using the net income to upgrade to a fiber network that will be capable of delivering a symmetrical gigabit to anyone in town.

John Bowcut, Director of Information Systems and SFCN Director, speaks with us again this week to explain how the project is doing and how they plan to upgrade to fiber. They are pursuing a unique upgrade to our knowledge -- they are building fiber over the coax and will operate both. Telephone and Internet access will run over the fiber and television over the cable.

The network has paid back its debt and continues to generate impressive community savings. With a take rate of 80 percent of the community, the network saves a cumulative $3 million each year. That is a lot of money circulating in the city of 35,000 people.

We previously spoke with John in episode 60. You can read all of our coverage of Spanish Fork 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.

This show is 25 minutes long and can be played below on this page or via iTunes or via the tool of your choice using this feed.

Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index. You can can download this Mp3 file directly from here.

Thanks to bkfm-b-side for the music, licensed using Creative Commons. The song is "Raise Your Hands."

Posted April 24, 2015 by lgonzalez

The City of Ammon's municipal fiber network recently stepped in to provide primary broadband access for School District 93 as the state's educational network went dark reports Local News 8. Watch the video of local coverage below.

When a judge ruled last year that the Idaho Education Network (IEN) contract between the state Department of Administration was void, an education broadband crisis loomed across the state. As the drama played out, however, local networks such as Ammon's muni, have come to the rescue to keep students connected.

Ammon Mayor Dana Kirkham described an attitude characteristic of municipal networks:

"I think it's just something we do in the spirit of collaboration, and I think that's always important because when we talk about the school district and the city it's all the same people, and so anytime we can keep costs down it benefits everyone involved," Kirkham said.

CenturyLink and Education Networks of America (ENA) were providers under the contract voided last year. As CenturyLink and ENA cut off service to schools, forcing them to negotiate their own contracts, they have discovered better, more affordable broadband from local providers like Ammon.  A recent Idaho State Journal reported on several school districts:

The state, under the now-void IEN contract, had been paying Education Networks of America more than $6,000 a month for a 20 Mbps Internet service to Rockland School District. The school district will pay less than a third of that cost for a new 100 Mbps service next year.

The State Journal also discovered that numerous school districts had used fiber optic service from local providers but were forced to switch to slower service in order to obtain the IEN reimbursement. In order to get the reimbursement, West Side School District had to switch from fiber from Direct Communications, a local company, to a slow copper T1 connection from CenturyLink:

Once the IEN contract was in place, the...

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