Tag: "rural"

Posted July 17, 2018 by lgonzalez

An increasing number of local communities in Colorado are finding ways to improve rural connectivity. The Delta Montrose Electric Association (DMEA), a cooperative bringing electricity to approximately 28,000 members in southwest Colorado, is in the midst of Elevate, their Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network that will connect all co-op members. We’ve brought co-op Board Members John Gavan and Brad Harding on the show this week to talk about the project and DMEA.

This conversation describes how and why the project got started and the plans for the future. Cooperatives are member organizations and this story is an example of a member-driven project that started when the community chose to improve their future. Significant employment losses in the region had the potential for widespread ripple effects and community members saw high-quality connectivity as a must for economic development.

John and Brad also discuss how the project is part of a larger effort to cope with the loss of electricity demand due to local job losses in the coal industry and a desire to stay on the cusp of innovation. With new infrastructure, the cooperative is investigating ways to offer such enhancements as electric vehicle charging and energy storage. They’ve also been taking a second look at local renewable energy generation facilities and wholesale contracts. DMEA and its members are taking new steps in self-reliance.

DMEA has produced a short video on the Elevate project:

Read more about how cooperatives are bringing broadband to rural America in our 2017 policy brief, Cooperatives Fiberize Rural America: A Trusted Model For The Internet Era.

This show is 31 minutes long...

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Posted July 13, 2018 by Hannah Bonestroo

In his recent article written for NBC News, journalist Phil McCausland examines the impacts broadband access can have on rural communities and the challenges that persist in bringing coverage to these isolated areas. Reliable high-speed internet access can spark economic development in some of the United State’s most cash-strapped areas, but a lack of dependable data makes acquiring funding difficult.

McCausland explores how high-speed Internet access is becoming increasingly essential for communities’ economic growth. He spoke with Roberto Gallardo, the assistant director of the Purdue Center for Regional Development, who explained how having broadband access today “is analogous to the installation of a railroad 100 years ago or a highway 50 years ago.”

Bringing Broadband to Rural Areas

McCausland investigates the specific case of Lake County, Minnesota, an area home to 10,000 people that spans 3,000 square miles in the far northeast part of the state. Our 2014 report, All Hands on Deck: Minnesota Local Government Models for Fiber Internet Access, describes how the Minnesota legislature set a goal in 2010 to achieve universal access to high speed broadband throughout the state by 2015, including in Lake County. Many of Minnesota’s local governments stepped up to try to accomplish the goal. Local leaders in Lake County decided that they needed high-speed internet in order to take part in the growing digital economy. McCausland found that after nearly eight years of planning and an investment of over $80 million dollars, the area is seeing the economic benefits of high-speed Internet access. Coverage has boosted tourism and allowed for lifestyles that involve working remotely, as well as becoming essential to the growth of local businesses. 

logo-lake-county-mn.png While conclusive data on the exact economic outcomes are yet to come, McCausland’s interviews in the area reveal that many local residents already feel a direct impact. Local sawmill owner, Greg Hull, has seen an increase in business since receiving broadband coverage. He now has an improved website that “made [his company’s] whole Internet presence a lot more viable, which has in turn opened...

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Posted July 9, 2018 by Hannah Bonestroo

In as little as 18 months, the newly formed Pacific Rural Gas Cooperative (PRGC) plans to deliver natural gas and broadband to Spring Creek, Nevada, and to neighboring Lamoille shortly after.

Broadband Needed in Rural Nevada

Nestled at the base of the Ruby Mountains in northeastern Nevada, Spring Creek is a small town of about 12,300 people that originally formed in the 1970s as three large housing sections. The municipality mainly serves as a bedroom community for businesses and industries in the nearby City of Elko. The economy is mostly based on gold mining, with limited ranching, tourism, and manufacturing also providing jobs. Former Nevada governor, Jim Gibbons, who now owns a 40-acre ranch in Lamoille and Tariq Ahmad of Satview Broadband Ltd. founded the co-op in order to serve the 57-square-mile-area in Elko County where those services still do not exist.

Nevada prohibits municipalities with populations greater than 25,000 and counties greater than 50,000 from offering telecommunications services, but small municipalities and co-ops have been stepping up to provide broadband to rural areas. Last year, Churchill County Communications (CC Communications) began partnering with the Valley Communications Association of Pahrump (VCA) and Switch technology to bring fiber to rural areas of southern Nevada along US Highway 95. 

Despite the recent progress in other areas of the state, Spring Creek and Lamoille still need the services PRGC can bring to their communities. Like many other rural communities, large national ISPs have resisted investing in infrastructure needed to offer high-quality connectivity.

While JAB Wireless advertises broadband in the area, the company only provides terrestrial fixed wireless, a service often requires line of sight access between a ground station and subscriber. Beehive Telephone Companies, the only other provider of broadband in the area, brings Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) to less than one percent of census blocks in Spring Creek and Lamoille.

Frontier Communications Corporation, the designated Telephone Exchange Area provider, offers Internet access, but no broadband, defined by the FCC as services with a...

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Posted July 6, 2018 by htrostle

The Connect America Fund provides annual federal funding to some of the largest telecommunications providers, but it can be hard for local officials to know where these dollars go.

A recent report digs deep into the federal subsidies for Internet service in Minnesota. Researcher Bill Coleman of Community Technology Advisors led a Blandin Foundation project that explored how federal Connect America Fund dollars have been used in two Minnesota telephone exchanges. In the end, researchers found that these networks would likely not meet Minnesota’s state connectivity goals.

Boots on the Ground

While digging through a paper trail of right-of-way agreements and local permits, researchers also went out into the field to find the actual infrastructure in the communities. They identified DSLAMs where fiber-optic lines connect to the copper DSL lines that run to people’s homes.

Using the locations of the DSLAMs, researchers mapped where people can likely receive federal government defined broadband of 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload. The maps also show where people can likely get 10 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload which is the standard for the Connect America Fund subsidy. 

Result: Little Broadband Access

The 27-page report goes into detail on the connectivity available in the two telephone exchanges. The researchers conclude by explaining:

“In sum, CAF II investments in Minnesota are being spent to build networks that don’t meet today’s federal definition of broadband and won’t meet state goals for the future. Moreover, lack of transparency in proposed CAF II network plans and timelines is making it difficult for impacted communities to plan accordingly to ensure their broadband needs are being adequately met.“ (Page 22)

Read the full report from the Blandin Foundation.

Posted July 3, 2018 by lgonzalez

Another small rural community in Colorado has recently taken an important step toward better connectivity for the community. The Town of Mountain Village issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) late in June to find a firm to conduct a Broadband Assessment and Feasibility Study. Responses are due August 10, 2018.

Read the RFP here.

Assess and Propose

The Town of Mountain Village (TMV) has an existing municipal cable network that offers Internet access, voice, and video. Community leaders want to engage a firm to assess the current infrastructure, consider improvements over the next few years, and make recommendations for improvements.

In addition to searching for ways to improve service and pinpoint any potential adoption and service gaps, the consultants will also be expected to devise a broadband strategy. TMV community leaders understand that the future will require better infrastructure than they now possess. The city wants to learn about the possible outlook for Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH), potential partnerships, smart policies, and potential funding sources.

Town of Mountain Village

With only approximately 1,300 full-time residents and an additional non-resident property owner population, Mountain Village has similar qualities to some of the other rural communities we’ve covered. Penobscot, Maine, where seasonal visitors swell the population and the need for better connectivity, recently issued an RFI in their search for firms to help improve local Internet access. In addition to offering services to the general public, TMV's existing network connects municipal facilities, including water and wastewater, public transportation, public safety, parks and recreation, municipal offices, the housing authority properties.

As the name implies, TMV sits within the mountains. At the base of the Telluride Ski Resort in the southwest corner of the state, TMV adopted a free gondola and chondola (chair gondola) system as public transportation in 1996. Cars are still allowed in the town, but parking is limited to two garages and not permitted...

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Posted July 2, 2018 by htrostle

Recently, PCMag rated North Dakota and South Dakota as two states with some of the fastest connectivity in the U.S. Rural cooperatives have brought high-quality connectivity to this region of the country and, when sifting through our archives, we realized that we haven't given South Dakota cooperatives the coverage they deserve.

Venture Communications Cooperative connects more than 30 communities in central South Dakota with some of the fastest Internet service in the U.S. South Dakota cooperatives have taken advantage of government loans and grants in order to bring much-needed Internet access to their rural members. With federal stimulus money, Venture Communications began building an extensive Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network in 2011.

Fiber Fast

Only 25 percent of the U.S. population has access to FTTH, a leading technology that can provide Internet service faster than 1 Gigabit per second (1,000 Mbps). Venture Communications offers a Gigabit to some of the most rural residents in South Dakota. The co-op is only one of two companies in South Dakota to be Gigabit certified by the NTCA Rural Broadband Coalition.

Venture Communications Speed Tiers

...
Download/Upload Speed Price
50 Mbps $63.95
100 Mbps $70.95
250 Mbps $80.95
500 Mbps
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Posted June 26, 2018 by lgonzalez

The State of Colorado has made some changes in the past few years that are improving broadband deployment, especially in rural areas. In this episode of the podcast, Christopher talks about some of those changes with Tony Neal-Graves, Executive Director of the Colorado Broadband Office. While Christopher was in Vail at the Mountain Connect event, he and Tony sat down to have a conversation about broadband and deployment in Colorado.

In addition to discussing his shift from the private to public sector, Tony gets into changes in state law, including last session’s adjustments to Colorado’s right of first refusal. Tony describes what kinds of conversations he's had with local communities and acknowledges that Colorado communities are especially good at working together to solve connectivity issues. Chris and Tony also talk about the growing role of cooperatives and state versus FCC data collection. In addition to the Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA), which helps fund local broadband deployment, Colorado seems to be making some smart moves that keep raising the bar on how to fast-track smart broadband deployment.

This show is 28 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed.

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

Read the transcript for this show here....

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Posted June 22, 2018 by lgonzalez

Minnesota’s RS Fiber Cooperative has brought gigabit connectivity to households and businesses in small, rural towns in Renville and Sibley Counties. Within the next few years, they plan to transition households beyond towns from their wireless access as they expand their Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) footprint. A recent MinnPost article features how the network has attracted a different kind of venture to one of the small member towns — a 3D printing business.

Gibbon, Minnesota (pop. 750), is known for quiet streets, rather than the shiny futuristic landscapes one associates with high-tech entrepreneurs. The community, however, was exactly what Adam Stegeman was looking for when searching for a place to set up shop. He had been selling 3D printers for years and was ready to strike out on his own. The Stegeman Family wanted a small-town environment and, since much of Adam’s work requires transfer of data intensive 3D design files, a community that also had access to fast, affordable, reliable connectivity was a must. As one of the RS Fiber Co-op member towns, Gibbon met both requirements.

When MinnPost asked Stegeman about the presence of the network in Gibbon and its influence on his decision to settle there: “That was absolutely huge,” Stegeman said.

The Fabric of the Community

As we covered in our report, RS Fiber: Fertile Fields for New Rural Internet Cooperative, more than 20 communities joined together to establish the broadband cooperative. Community leaders faced challenges along the way, but they pursued their vision. Through a strong sense of regional collaboration and a creative approach, the cooperative now offers better connectivity than is available in many urban areas. They’ve completed phase one, which connects each of the towns with FTTH and provides high-speed fixed wireless Internet access to premises in the extremely rural areas, such as the many local farms. Phase two should begin within the next two years.

Since publishing the report, the cooperative has attracted attention...

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Posted June 21, 2018 by lgonzalez

In 2016, El Paso County, Colorado, voters chose to opt out of the state’s restrictive SB 152. They are now allowed to use publicly owned infrastructure to offer connectivity to the public or to work with a partner who wants to do so. Now, the community is working on a Broadband Strategic Plan and asking residents and businesses to help. In order to get an idea of what connectivity is like across the county, they’ve created online surveys and are seeking input.

“We’d like as many residents and businesses as possible to complete the surveys so we have a clearer picture of where the needs are greatest,” said Jeff Eckhart, Executive Director of El Paso County’s Information Technology Division. Eckhart added, “we’ll also be interviewing business leaders, public safety agencies and other government agencies at the same time.”

As the county develops its Strategic Plan, they are also working with neighbor Teller County to improve connectivity in several areas that span both counties — Ute Pass and Cripple Creek.

The survey will be open until June 30th.

To take the residential survey go online to: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/EPCResidential

Business owners and managers should go to: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/EPCBusiness

Posted June 19, 2018 by lgonzalez

Late last year, Larimer County, Colorado, commissioned a broadband feasibility study to examine the possible solutions toward better connectivity across its more than 2,600 square miles. This week, three guests from Larimer County are here to discuss the community’s plan as it’s taking shape, Broadband Program Manager Drew Davis, Director of Economic and Workforce Development Jacob Castillo, and CIO Mark Pfaffinger. The interview was one of several Christopher conducted while at the Mountain Connect conference in Vail.

Drew, Jacob, and Mark discuss the results they’ve recently received from phase one of the feasibility study, the residential survey. They didn’t enter into the study with any preconceived notions, but the people of Larimer County still found a way to surprised county officials. In addition to confirming their belief that locals are an entrepreneurial sort, Drew, Jacob, and Mark were surprised at the wide range of people who expressed a desire for high-quality connectivity and the different ways they want to use broadband. Approximately 32 percent of residents responded to the survey, which was more than twice the expected rate; clearly, this is an important issue to locals.

Christopher, Drew, Jacob, and Mark also ponder the role of the county in bringing better Internet access to both residents and businesses. They intend to explore the many options available to them and continue the spirit of interdepartmental collaboration that has served them well so far. Larimer County leaders have included a broadband component in their strategic plan because they see how better local connectivity has become a necessity for the kind of life people expect there.

This show is 33 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 episode here.

You can download this mp3 file directly...

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