Tag: "rural"

Posted May 23, 2012 by lgonzalez

Rural electric cooperatives were essential to expanding electricity throughout rural America after private sector business models overwhelmingly failed to electrify our farms over many decades. Electric coops embody the spirit of local community and local concerns. Cooperatives often have decades of experience with project planning and implementation. We have seen electric coops use their own existing resources as a starting point to expand broadband access to their community.

At the Calix Community Blog, there are two videos on electric co-ops, both in Missouri, that have taken on the challenge of providing broadband to their customers.

Co-Mo Electric Cooperative in Tipton, Missouri, applied twice for American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) stimulus funding and were twice turned down. Members of the coop expressed their need for improved broadband as a way to improve the economic situation in this central Missouri community. The cooperative pressed on without stimulus funding and have extended their community footprint. Learn more from this Calix video, Co-Mo Electric Cooperative Finds Success With Fiber:

In northwest Missouri, United Electric Cooperative (UEC) is using ARRA funds to bring broadband to the community. The co-op, located in Maryville, serves residents in ten surrounding counties. UEC brought electricity to the area 70 years ago and is doing the same for broadband through their fiber optic network. Calix highlights UEC in another customer video, United Electric Cooperative Expands Broadband in Missouri:

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Posted May 4, 2012 by lgonzalez

According to the 2010 Census, North Dakota is 48th in population in the country and the 17th most expansive. Such a geography is not appealing to any entity, commercial or otherwise, who might consider building fiber-to-the-home in North Dakota. There are more populated cities, as in all states, but human density in North Dakota is the 4th lowest.

With North Dakota geography and demographics in mind, it is reasonable to expect any North Dakota fiber optic project would to need to be big. North Dakota Cooperatives, Dickey Rural Networks and Dakota Central Telecommunications, can use the word "gigantic" to describe their recently completed ftth project. The network covers 10,000 square miles, about 1/7th of the state, and every business and home - about 18,000 households - are connected to the network.

Federal, state, and local officials got together recently to celebrate the new network with students and staff at Jamestown College. From Mark Potts, at NewsDakota.com:

"You talk about connectivity, we are attached to the entire world here," Gov. Jack Dalrymple said. "If we had talked that way even 10 years ago in North Dakota, a lot of people would have laughed and said you don't know what it's like to be in a rural area."

While internet access was available via DSL prior to the fiber launch, local businesses and residents could see the difference immediately. Bruce Ordahl, manager of a local printing company commented for Republic article by AP Reporter Dave Kolpack:

"We have some big graphic files and have always been looking for more speed," said Bruce Ordahl, who oversees 40 employees at Gwinner-based J&M Printing. "We have really saved a lot of time and money with the fiber."

Ordahl said it would take about five minutes to download a typical file when his company was using a DSL connection. That same file now takes about 10 seconds, he said.

In addition to working together to complete this long term project, both companies are providing Internet...

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Posted May 2, 2012 by lgonzalez

Not long ago, we told you about Leverett, Massachusetts, the small town of 1,851, that has been discussing the possibility of building a community network. Residents and businesses currently use a combination of satellite, dial-up, DSL, and wireless, and about 6% of the population has no Internet access at all. People are tired of lost opportunities in a town strategically situated near several colleges. The town just approved the proposal to invest in a municipal network.

Last Saturday, April 28th, the measure to build the network was approved at Leverett's Annual Town Meeting. The needed two-thirds vote came easily, with 306-33 in favor, at the packed meeting at the Leverett Elementary School auditorium. Enthusiasm and expectations are high. From a Fran Ryan article in the Gazettenet.com:

For many, the lack of adequate Internet access has created problems with work, school and even the ability to sell their homes.

"Right now we have hopeless telephone service, useless cellphone service, and no internet service," said resident Raymond Bradley. "This will completely change our lives,"

The current plan is to borrow $3.6 million to create a fiber-optic network that will connect every home and provide triple play services across town. As you may recall from our earlier article, Internet access is only part of the problem - Leverett has had longstanding difficulties with telephone service due to decaying infrastructure. The situation is so bad, the State Department of Communications ordered Verizon to make repairs in over 100 towns in western Massachusetts. With this vote, however, Leverett has decided to take control of its own fate.

Leverett received a $40,000.00 planning grant from the Massachussetts Broadband Institute and benefited from the expertise and efforts of the Wired West group. Leverett's last mile project will connect with MBI's middle mile project.

According to the Leverett Broadband Committee, the investment will pay off rather quickly. This from an April 18th Ben Storrow GazetteNet.com article:

Savings on monthly phone and Internet...

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Posted April 30, 2012 by lgonzalez

As we reported in March, the Chelan County, Washington PUD was seeking input from the customer-owners of their open access fiber optic network to decide what the future would hold. The PUD had considered three options and presented them to the public:

    •    sell the network
    •    maintain ownership of the network, but improve operations and curb expansion until it is self-sustaining over time
    •    continue expanding the network, paying for the expansion by increasing electric rates

After requesting public comment through outreach and community meetings to present information and hear public opinion, the Chelan PUD General Manager John Janney released the recommendation to the PUD Commissioners at an April 9th special meeting. From the press release:

After feedback from customer-owners and extensive analysis around potential alternatives, costs and benefits, General Manager John Janney recommended Monday night that Chelan County PUD continue operating its fiber-optic network and take steps to put it on more stable financial footing before considering any further expansion to unserved areas. The network now offers access to about 70 percent of the county.

On April 16th, the Commission endorsed the recommendation. From the press release:

"It's a way forward," said Commissioner Dennis Bolz in speaking in support of the resolution that outlines steps to be taken to move the fiber system toward being self-sustaining and ending its reliance on dollars from the PUD's overall electrical system. He likened it to commencement that many seniors regard as the end to their high school days but which is really the beginning of their adult lives.

While most customer-owners who expressed themselves showed concern about raising electric rates, they also appreciate the value of the network and want to continue local control. According to Janney, for several years now customers have expressed their desire to protect low electric rates and see self-sufficiency in PUD services that are non-electric. Developing five-year business plans for...

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Posted April 19, 2012 by christopher

Christopher Mitchell spoke with Gavin Dahl about community broadband on KYRS, a community radio station in Spokane, Washington, on April 11. The discussion touched on legislation in Washington that could have encouraged rural broadband deployment by area public utility districts and why the private sector is not getting the job done.

We also discussed the role of federal policy and what some communities have done elsewhere to build next generation networks.

Posted April 18, 2012 by lgonzalez

VisitMendocino.com sums up this northern California community as a peaceful and serene:

"Mendocino County, where rugged coastline, breathtaking beaches, picturesque villages, majestic redwood forests and America's Greenest Wine Region beckon you to escape to a slower pace."

While the people of Mendocino County love life in the slow lane, they would love a fast lane for the Internet. Mendocino County, known for its wineries, its redwoods, and its greenery is now becoming known for its efforts to develop their own community-owned broadband.

The Mendocino County Broadband Alliance (MCBA) was borne out of a need to fill gigantic gaps in broadband coverage created by the private sector. The geological and rural nature of the area presents an insurmountable challenge to the private cable and telco business models in this spacious county of just under 88,000 residents. While there is still archaic dial-up service, spotty and unreliable satellite access, and a few communities with DSL, the MCBA reports that over half of the population has NO access to broadband.

Community leaders in Mendocino County have contemplated the need for access in their area for some time. What really drove home the urgency of the situation was the 2011 death of Esplanade, Mendocino County's small, local, independent ISP. Carol Brodsky, of the Anderson Valley Advertiser, spoke with MCBA for the story:

When Esplanade, a small, privately owned south-coast Internet service provider closed its doors in 2011, around 400 customers were left in digital darkness, according to Greg Jirak, strategic planning chair for the Mendocino County Broadband Alliance. The resultant issues cascaded and greatly affected the lives of individuals, organizations and businesses.

Jirak goes on to describe other ways Mendocino County has suffered due to the loss of a large part of the scanty Internet coverage they had:

“When Esplanade folded, the Coast Community Library was no longer able to provide public Internet access,” Jirak explains.

Seniors were severely impacted because of Esplanade’s shutdown. “The South Coast Senior Center staff helped seniors use their Internet connection to deal with Social Security, Medicaid, insurance issues and medical...

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Posted April 13, 2012 by lgonzalez

Washington's Olympic Peninsula is one step closer to being laced in a new fiber-optic network. The first link in the new Peninsula-wide broadband project is between Blyn and Sequim and will serve the Jamestown S'Klallam tribe from its new Blyn library to a local medical clinic located in Jamestown. Also benefiting from the new expansion will be the Sequim Library.  Thirty people, including state and federal elected officials, a representative from the Jamestown S'Klallam tribe, NoaNet, and local public safety professionals, recently gathered together at the Sequim Library to celebrate the new expansion, as reported by Jeff Chew in the Peninsula Daily News.

Clallum County PUD's network is part of NoaNet, an open access wholesale only network, and now has 24 miles of fiber-optic cables between Port Angeles and Sequim. From Chew's artcle:

“High-speed broadband is the most exciting thing that has happened in law enforcement in my career,” Port Angeles Police Chief Terry Gallagher told about 30 at the Sequim Library.

Gallagher said broadband Internet will allow officers to work faster and more efficiently, enabling them to multitask in their patrol cars, such as checking a motorist's identification while checking on a city webcam and communicating all at once.

The construction of the project is overseen by NoaNet. The network is planned to run from Brinnon to Port Ludlow and  Port Townsend and then across the Olympic Peninsula to Neah Bay to Forks. This portion of the project, from Blyn to Sequim, was chosen first  because it was part of the first round of funding and because it is less complex than other legs of the network.

Thirty-six counties, 170 communities, and over 2,000 anchor institutions (schools, libraries, public safety facilities, etc.) will benefit with better connectivity, funded with approximately $140 million ARRA (...

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Posted April 12, 2012 by lgonzalez

Leverett, Massachusetts, is one step closer to a community owned FTTH network. The town of 2,000 will have weekly public information meetings until the Annual Town Meeting scheduled for April 28, 2012. If the required $3.6 million funding is approved at the meeting, the city will issue a Request For Proposals to build the network.

The 1 gig network is slated to be an aerial build, except where existing utilities are underground, in which instances, fiber cable will also be placed underground. Leverett plans to use a $40,0000 planning grant, obtained from the Massachusetts Broadband Institute, to hire G4S Technology to design the last mile fiber-optic network to connect to MBI's stimulus-funded middle mile. The middle mile project is scheduled to be completed in June, 2013, and Leverett plans to be ready to connect soon after. The goal is to have every home connected with fiber by 2014.

Whereas most communities explicitly choose not to use tax revenue to pay for a community network, Leverett's present plan is for a slight increase in local taxes to assist in the financing. The town will borrow the amount necessary to build the network and pay it back over 20 years using a combination of tax revenue and revenues from the new broadband service. Peter d'Errico, Chair of the MBI Grant Broadband Committee observes that homeowners' net spending figures will decline once the system is in place. From the article:

A town survey concluded a municipal network could offer better Internet and phone service at far cheaper rates than private providers, he said.

"It will be a little more on their tax bill and a lot less on their Internet bill, so overall they will be pay less," d'Errico said.

Leverett Map

According to the Broadband Committee, approximately 37% of households in Leverett use slow, sketchy satellite, 23% use dial-up, 20% are on DSL, 14% use wireless, and 6% of households have no internet access. Some households, although theoretically accessible via satellite, never get a connection because of trees and the picturesque,...

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Posted April 11, 2012 by lgonzalez

Good news for folks in Jackson, Wilder, and Bingham Lake in Southwest Minnesota! Your local broadband options are about to get much better. Southwest Minnesota Broadband Services (SMBS) just announced that construction is advancing on the new network. The 125-mile fiber ring is expected to be completed by September, 2012. If you live in their service area, give them a call.

Here are contact details from the announcement:

Wilder - A sales event has been held. Please call our Lakefield office at 507-662-7000 if you still need to sign up for services.
 
Bingham Lake - A sales event will be held on April 10th from 12 PM to 8 PM at the town hall/community center. If you are unable to attend, please contact our Lakefield office at 507-662-7000.
 
Jackson - Our first three construction phases have been identified. We intend to have phases 1-3 completed by June, 2012. Our web-site, mysmbs.com will be updated as construction dates are set for phases 4-9. The entire City of Jackson will be completed by fall, 2012.  Southwest Minnesota Broadband informational material will be delivered to homes according to construction phasing in the coming months. 

SMBS is a consortium of 8 communities: Bingham Lake, Brewster, Heron Lake, Jackson, Lakefield, Okabena, Round Lake and Wilder.  Stimulus funding of $12.8 million dollars is allowing the communities to offer ftth service in this rural area, building on the network first established in Windom by the local public power utility.

SMBS recognizes the need for a community owned network in a place where the private sector does not want to invest. On their FAQ page:

What is SMBS? Southwest Minnesota Broadband Services is consortium of cities that realize today’s incumbent service providers will not be able to provide the next-generation of broadband services that will keep this area competitive with the global marketplace. SMBS will own and operate the network, employees will be your friends and neighbors and dollars will stay in your communities.

Rates and more user information are also available on their website. Congrats to SMBS and all their prospective subscribers! We look forward to reporting more about how this community's investment i...

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Posted March 21, 2012 by lgonzalez

In past reporting, we have briefly discussed Pend Orielle PUD’s efforts at filling the broadband service gap in rural areas. People living in rural areas, while possibly needing connectivity more than urbanites, are often left to fend for themselves. In this case, the community was largely passed over by the private sector but took up the challenge to do it themselves. In addition to implementing a pilot program in 2011, they attempted to restore their right to make their own decisions about broadband.

In a commentary posted on the Pend Orielle PUD website, Commissioner Dan Peterson describes the agency’s commitment to their first priority, providing reliable electricity, and how expansion of their fiber network will improve the process of delivery. Yes, there are risks of building a community fiber-optic network, notes Peterson, but is has been done, done well, and will enhance the ability to fulfill that first priority. Additionally, the Commissioner notes that broadband access is something the people of Pend Orielle County need to stay competitive and gain any possible edge:

It increases educational opportunities, economic vitality, property values, and jobs. Our rural county will leap forward in this information age with state-of-the-art infrastructure. Without this gift, such progress is otherwise impossible.

The Pend Orielle PUD received stimulus funds, which it used to expand the network, but are considering the fiscal future of the network and current and future customers. Peterson and the PUD sought legislative changes, SB 6675, that would give the PUD the authority to offer retail services on its network, currently a no-no. In his commentary, Peterson attempted to allay the fears of those he correctly anticipated would be opposed to such authority – the potential competition.

Having the authority does not necessarily mean using that authority. We want local providers to be successful. We do not want to put anyone out of business. We will not compete unfairly. But we must ensure that this new PUD system pays its own way and does not raise electric rates...

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