Tag: "virginia"

Posted August 6, 2013 by lgonzalez

The Roanoke Valley, nestled in Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains, grapples with the same connectivity problems facing many communities in rural Virginia. Private providers have few incentives to invest in next-generation Internet networks because the low density population promises too little profit. 

Like Danville, Bristol, and the Rockbridge area, communities in the Roanoke Valley are taking matters into their own hands. A February 2013 Roanoke Times news article reported that local businesses and regional governments collaborated to fund a $50,000 study. The study recommended creating a broadband authority to investigate the possibility of building an open access network. The Roanoke Times has more recently reported that public hearings are on the schedule for August:

Public hearings are coming up next month in the city and county of Roanoke, Salem and Botetourt County on a plan for local governments to band together to form a Roanoke Valley Broadband Authority. It could work with the private sector to create a regional open-access, fiber-optic Internet network that would allow large and small service providers to compete on a level playing field. [A PDF of the schedule includes the proposed resolution and Articles of Incorporation for the Authority.]

Roanoke Valley Map

According to a June report from WSLS channel 10, the Roanoke City Council has already set aside $2 million to direct toward broadband in the Valley. For years, the local economy relied on manufacturing and textiles but outsourcing eliminated jobs and sent young people elsewhere looking for work. Local leaders now look for other footholds for economic development. Fortunately, they recognize the importance of broadband as they transition. From the WLSL report...

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Posted July 8, 2013 by lgonzalez

The Rockbridge Area Network Authority (RANA) is almost ready to launch its open access network in north central Virginia, home to about 22,000 people. A recipient of the BTOP stimulus program, the main focus is connecting community anchor institutions and spurring economic development. However, it has been built to allow service providers to also offer DSL to some residents in the area.

Dan Grim, GIS Manager for Rockbridge County, and one of the driving forces behind the network was kind enough to walk us through the project. In early 2007, the cities of Buena Vista, Lexington, and the County joined forces to commission a study to determine the need for a county wide broadband network. The three jurisdictions matched funding from the state Department of Housing and Community Development to pay for the study, completed in 2008.

Grim had already consulted with local provider, Rockbridge Global Village, about using a regional network to improve public safety mapping. Rockbridge Global Village President, Dusan Janjic, suggested a bigger project and that the three entities apply together for American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funding. 

Richard Peterson, Chief Technology Officer from nearby W&L determined that the school needed a new and updated data center. In 2009, RANA was officially formed as a collaboration between the local governments and Washington & Lee. The University joined the group and contributed $2.5 million toward a $3 million grant fund match. With the grant fund match to improve their chances, RANA applied for a $10 million BTOP award and received $6.9 million in funding through round two in 2010.

Peterson passed away in 2011. Grim notes that without Peterson, the network would never have expanded so far and may not have become a reality. The data center was later named after him to honor his memory. Network construction started in February 2012.

RANA Map

Grim described...

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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 29, 2013 by christopher

The Wired Road is an ambitious fiber optic and wireless project offering Internet access to several underserved areas in rural Virginia. For the 31st episode of our Community Broadband Bits Bits podcast, Scarlett McGrady joins me to discuss its history and impact on the region.

McGrady is the Director of the Grant Community Computing Center [link to Facebook page], which providers a variety of services including computer literacy courses.

The Wired Road has long had gigabit capacity for those who are within range of the fiber optic connections. Anyone who can take a service from the network has to choose a service provider as the network is a pure open access approach: the community-owned network does not offer any services directly to subscribers. Instead, the Wired Road builds the infrastructure to enable independent service providers to offer services.

We discuss the Wired Road and the many ways that rural residents enjoy using the Internet to improve themselves and their businesses. You can find our previous stories about the Wired Road here.

Read the transcript from this show 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 20 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 download this Mp3 file directly here.

Find more episodes in our podcast index.

Thanks to mojo monkeys for the music, licensed using Creative Commons.

Posted November 29, 2012 by lgonzalez

We have already published a fact sheet on the critical role community broadband plays in job development. Now, ILSR presents a collection of how commnity owned broadband networks save money for local government, schools, and libraries while providing cutting edge services. The Public Savings Fact Sheet is now available.

Though schools, libraries, and other community anchors need access to faster, more reliable networks, the big cable and telephone companies have priced those services so high that they are breaking the budget. But when communities create their own connections, affordable high capacity connections are only one of the benefits. A community owned network offers the promise of self-determination -- of upgrades on the community's time table and increased reliability for emergency responders.

The Public Savings Fact Sheet is a great piece to share to mobilize other members of your community. Share it with decision makers and use it to start meaningful conversations. Distribute it widely and often.

We are always developing new resources. If you have an idea for a new fact sheet, we want to hear it.

Posted November 20, 2012 by christopher

While I was in Danville, Virginia, for the Broadband Community Magazine Economic Development Conference, I had a chance to sit down with Jason Grey, nDanville Network Manager. This interview is our 22nd episode of the Community Broadband Bits podcast.

Jason and I met five years ago when I first visited Danville to learn about its municipal open access fiber-optic network. Danville is located in southern Virginia and was hit hard by the demise of tobacco and the loss of manufacturing jobs. But the municipal utility loaned itself enough capital to build a fiber network connecting the schools -- by provisioning its own service, they were able to pay back the loan, make contributions to the general fund, and still have enough money left over to expand the network to connect local businesses.

The network has been a tremendous success, attracting new employers and helping existing businesses to expand. And the network is just starting to connect residents in a few neighborhoods. Read our stories about nDanville.

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 15 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 download the Mp3 file directly from here.

Find more episodes in our podcast index.

Thanks to mojo monkeys for the music, licensed using Creative Commons.

Posted September 23, 2012 by lgonzalez

The Economic Development Conference Series' first event, Community Fiber Networks, is scheduled for November 8 - 9, 2012, in Danville, Virginia. Dates and locations for later events will follow. The series is being produced by Broadband Communities Magazine. Danville is near the border with North Carolina.

Christopher Mitchell and a long list of industry experts will be presenting on a wide range of topics at the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research in Danville.

Leaders in all areas of the Advanced Broadband Network industry will be sharing their findings and expertise. Danville was chosen because it is a true success story. By using their fiber network as a catalyst for economic development, Danville transformed itself. For years it was a struggling textile town but is now a highly desirable destination for businesses and individuals seeking advanced telecommunications services.

Christopher will be talking on Thursday, November 8th, on "Winning Community Initiatives." Friday, November 9th, he will present as part of the panel on "Innovative Financing Methods." The full agenda for the conference is available to help you plan your schedule.

Danville Location in Virginia

From the press release:

THIS IS THE FIRST conference of its kind in this country - an event devoted entirely to the relationship between a community's economic vitality and the presence of advanced broadband networks. Nations around the world have recognized this powerful linkage and responded to it - as have a growing number of communities in the United States.

Each event in this new conference series will be held in a city with an advanced broadband system.

Each event will have an impressive array of speakers whose mission will be to help attendees evaluate the options and opportunities and develop the optimal, affordable solution for their communities.

The first conference is in...

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Posted September 6, 2012 by lgonzalez

Not long ago, we shared information on MINET, the municipal network in Martinsville, Virginia, that serves schools, municipal facilities, and about 30 local businesses. We noted that businesses are attracted to the area and cite the capabilities of the fiber network as a driving force.

The Martinsville Bulletin now reports that city leaders have been approached by more local businesses interested in saving money by connecting through the network. The Bulletin spoke with City Manager Leon Towarnicki who said "we are essentially maxed out”  in staff and resources. Obviously, economic development through MINET is moving along well. The City Council is now considering the costs and benefits of expanding.

The city is working with CCG Consulting to develop a business plan. CCG will soon begin a business and residential survey and review of the city's current network. The survey and plan will explore the possibility of deploying a fiber-to-the-home network and communication system, but Martinsville will shy away from operating a cable television system. From the article:

Asked if the city would try to provide cable TV service again, City Attorney Eric Monday said, “We tried it. We litigated. We lost. We’re done.”

Martinsville made an attempt to acquire a retail cable television service in 2006, but found itself in a long and expensive court battle. Adelphia had previously provided cable in the area but filed for bankruptcy in 2002 and as a result, failed to honor its franchise agreement. At the time, the city landfill had just closed and the city was looking for other ways to generate revenue. They wanted to purchase the network and tried to block Time Warner Cable and Comcast from doing so. Time Warner Cable wanted to purchase the network and then engage in a like-kind exchange. This technique is a common tool large cable corporations have used to ensure geographic monopolies.

Martinsville argued that they were grandfathered in, as in the case of Bristol, and thought it could take advantage of another exception by...

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Posted June 28, 2012 by lgonzalez

Arlington County, Virginia is taking advantage of a series of planned projects to create their own fiber optic network, ConnectArlington. The County is moving into phase II of its three part plan to improve connectivity with a publicly owned fiber network.

Some creative thinking and inter-agency collaboration seem to be the keys to success in Arlington. Both the County and the Arlington Public Schools will own the new asset. Additionally, the network will improve the County Public Safety network. Back in March, Tanya Roscola reported on the planing and benefits of the ConnectArlington in Government Technology.

Arlington County's cable franchise agreement with Comcast is up for renewal in 2013. As part of that agreement, the schools and county facilities have been connected to each other at no cost to the County. Even though there are still active negotiations, the ConnectArlington website notes that the outcome is uncertain. The County does not know if the new agreement will include the same arrangement. Local leaders are not waiting to find out, citing need in the community and recent opportunities that reduce installation costs. 

Other communities, from Palo Alto in California to Martin County in Florida, have found Comcast pushing unreasonable prices for services in franchise negotiations. Smart communities have invested in their own networks rather than continue depending on Comcast.

Like schools all around the country, Arlington increasingly relies on high-capacity networks for day-to-day functions both in and out of the classroom. Digital textbooks, tablets, and online testing enhance the educational adventure, but require more and more bandwidth and connectivity. From the article:

Through ConnectArlington, Arlington Public Schools will be able to take advantage of Internet2 for distance learning. At no cost, students will be able to communicate with teachers and access electronic textbooks and online courses from wireless hot spots.

The...

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Posted June 14, 2012 by lgonzalez

Martinsville, located in south central Virginia within Henry County, is home to about 14,000 people, 10% fewer than in 2000. The town built a city-owned fiber optic network to connect local businesses and spur economic development in cooperation with the Mid-Atlantic Broadband Cooperative.

The backbone of the Martinsville Information Network (MINET), consists of 48 strands of fiber and it connects schools, municipal sites, and local businesses. Back in 2009, the City estimated it was saving between $130,000 to $150,000 each year by not having to lease telephone services.

“It’s one of the best investments the city has made,” [Mike] Scaffidi said in a February WorkItScoVA.com article by Tara Bozick.

Scaffidi, the City Telecommunications Director, has good reason for his praise. The 20 mile fiber optic network has been quietly growing for about 10 years and has been recognized as a key to economic development.

Recently, the network has attracted businesses like Faneuil, which relies heavily on data, voice, and video streaming, for their call center in Martinsville. Other companies that connect to MiNet include Mehler Technologies, American Distribution and Warehousing, and SPARTA Inc., a defense contractor. SPARTA, which was recently acquired by Parsons, credited the network for attracting them to the town.

MiNet connects with the Mid-Atlantic Broadband Cooperative network (MBC), which connects to communties all over the county. The combined efforts of MiNet and MBC preceded the announcement that more jobs were coming to a local industrial park. From the article:

…[W]orking with MBC to get fiber to the area’s industrial parks is paying off to bring jobs, especially with the announcement last year that ICF International, a Fairfax-based professional and technology services firm, would create 539 jobs in Patriot Centre…

Currently, 30 Martinsville businesses subscribe to MiNet, which provides telephone and Internet service and generates about $130,000 per year for the general fund. While offering business services has been productive, the City is also exploring the possibility of...

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