Tag: "school"

Posted September 17, 2021 by Maren Machles

The San Marcos City Council held a working session in August to review a presentation on the state of broadband in the Texas city and decide whether it should pursue a municipal broadband option. While some members wanted to pursue a fiber-to-the-home municipal network after the presentation, others pushed back despite the fact that the city has its own fiber I-Net (Institutional Network). City council ultimately voted to look for partnerships and alternative options, as opposed to funding and operating its own network. 

Existing I-Net

Sitting just south of Austin, Texas’ state capitol, San Marcos (pop. 63,000) has been developing an I-Net since 2000, when it entered a franchise agreement with Grande Communication and got access to 12 strands of dark fiber to connect city facilities. In 2018, the city developed a “Master Fiber Plan” that would expand the I-Net, further connecting critical infrastructure. The project was funded by general, water and electric capital improvement project funds and construction began in 2020.

Currently, that fiber network has enabled all city facilities to provide public wireless access, and American Rescue Funds have been approved by council to expand public access at the library and city parks.

The presentation to council noted that there are currently eight Internet Service Providers in the San Marcos area, with average download speeds in the city of around 127 Megabits per second (Mbps). There are DSL, cable, wireless, satellite, and fiber options, with fiber covering 43 percent of households inside city limits.

Lack of Competition

While 100 percent of San Marcos has a 25/3 Mbps service option from three different providers, only two percent has three 100/10 Mbps options. The lack of competition is partially why the city council wanted this presentation: to weigh the costs and benefits of getting into the market and offering more affordable and reliable options to residents. 

“What I’m thinking is, just like we were able to do with our electric utility, is to be able to provide for people in their time of need, and the city is best positioned to [provide broadband], whereas private industries can take advantage of people or the situation,” Council member Maxifield Baker...

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Posted August 30, 2021 by Maren Machles

Decatur, Illinois (pop. 71,000) is moving forward with an Institutional Network (I-Net) expansion that will connect 11 school districts and 3 firehouses to its growing fiber-optic backbone, connecting potential commercial and industry customers along the way. 

The city of Decatur has been expanding its fiber network since 2014, when it decided to deploy a backbone network connecting several of its facilities. This most recent expansion will extend the access to Franklin and Parsons schools, Stephen Decatur Middle School, Eisenhower and MacArthur high schools, American Dreamer STEM Academy, Dennis Lab School, Hope Academy, Johns Hill Magnet School and William Harris Learning Academy.

The expansion is the result of a 5-0 city council vote in April approving a $915,000 contract with Bodine Electric to purchase and hang 144 strand fiber-optic cable. 

A portion of the funding for the contract will come from a $800,000 grant from the Connect Illinois grant program, an initiative aimed at expanding broadband access. The program launched in 2019 with $420-million investment in broadband infrastructure. The first round of grants totaled $50 million with a combined $9.25 million going to monopoly ISPs CenturyLink, MediaCom, Spectrum, and Comcast and the rest going to local ISPs and city and county governments. 

The remaining $115,000 allocated in the contract will come from the state’s portion of the American Rescue Plan fund. 

While the city will fund the expansion of the backbone to pass by the schools and connect the firehouses, Decatur Public Schools (DPS) will also contribute $600,000 to connect the schools to the street fiber. The contribution is also from the Connect Illinois Grant Program.  

When the state grants came through, the city and DPS saw an opportunity to collaborate. 

“We very quickly started talking to each other, and [we already have a] network out in the streets, and so we decided we would do this...

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Posted June 22, 2021 by Maren Machles

On this episode of the Community Broadband Bits podcast, Christopher Mitchell talks with John Windhausen, Executive Director of the Schools, Health, Libraries and Broadband Coalition (SHLB) and Alicja Johnson, SHLB Communication Manager. The nonprofit advocates for anchor institutions to be at the table when communities are considering building municipal fiber networks. This is because these institutions are not only the cornerstones of healthy communities, but also well positioned as gateways for bringing reliable broadband to every household.

Windhausen and Johnson cover the wide array of specific projects SHLB has going on, from work on the Emergency Connectivity Fund, to telehealth efforts, to larger picture efforts they participate in, specifically, the future of spectrum and its role in expanding wireless networks across the country.

This show is 41 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed. You can listen to the interview on this page or visit the Community Broadband Bits page.

Read the full transcript here.  

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

Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Subscribe to the Building Local Power podcast, also from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, on iTunes or Stitcher to catch more great...

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Posted June 21, 2021 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

Last July, the Hamilton County School District, the county, the city of Chattanooga, and local nonprofit The Enterprise Center announced an historic commitment to low-income households with students: free 100 Mbps symmetrical connections to those households using the city's municipal fiber network, EPB Fiber.

The Chattanooga Times Free Press reported last week that the initiative has connected more than 14,000 households totalling 25,000 people, or about a third of the total number who qualify.

From the story:

'We are showing the rest of the country what it looks like to close the digital divide in education,' Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly said in a news release. 'HCS EdConnect is a comprehensive solution, and since the partners have made a 10-year commitment to the program, this will be a lasting solution.'

We originally wrote about the initiative last summer. Read our original story here.

Posted June 7, 2021 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

Part of the Michelson 20MM Foundation's digital equity focus area has been its Connecting California learning series, which seeks to "strengthen [our] collective understanding of the history and root causes of the 'digital divides' - the economic and educational gaps created by inequitable access to high-speed internet, computing devices, and digital literacy resources" in the Golden State.

The panel features introductory remarks from Dr. Gary Michelson (Founder, Michelson 20MM Foundation) and Congressman Jerry McNerney (U.S. Representative for California’s 9th Congressional District) before ILSR's Christopher Mitchell takes over as moderator and runs a lively conversation about what the below panelists have done (and learned along the way) in closing the digital divide before and during the ongoing pandemic.

The webinar includes discussion from Seth Hoedl (President & Chief Science Officer, Post Road Foundation), Joanne Hovis (CEO, Coalition for Local Internet Choice; President, CTC Technology and Energy), Bruce Patterson, (Director of Technology, Entry Point Networks) and Preston Rhea (Director of Engineering, Policy Program, Monkeybrains).

Watch here, or below.

Posted June 2, 2021 by Maren Machles

Patience and persistence can be used to describe what made northern Virginia’s Orange County Broadband Authority successful in turning their middle-mile network into a Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network. While the journey started more than five years ago, today the authority is connecting 20 customers a day with the goal of connecting 4,000 customers by the end of the calendar year. 

Crews will be connecting users to the county-owned FTTH network, FiberLync, in three phases, each requiring between 10-12 months to complete. Phase 1 will pass approximately 4,000 households, phase 2 about 2,500 households, and phase 3 about 1,000.

The funding for these phases will primarily come from bonds set aside as part of the county’s capital improvement plan and will cover up to $15.5 million of the projects’ costs. The bonds will be paid back through FiberLync revenue. 

Years in the Making

Bringing FTTH connectivity to the residents of Orange County (pop. 36,000) has been a goal since the Orange County Broadband Authority was created in 2016. The major driver for the authority was addressing the lack of broadband in the rural parts of the county. Residents in certain parts of the county have long been left with speeds under the FCC’s broadband definition of 25/3 Mbps (Megabits per second), and others have been entirely unconnected.

In 2017, the county worked with Orange County Public Schools to build the middle-mile network connecting district facilities as well as critical county facilities using E-rate federal funds. More than $1.1 million in E-rate funds were used to help connect the schools, accounting for 80 percent of the total project cost. The county and Orange County Public Schools shared the remaining costs of deploying extra capacity for future use.  

The buried fiber ran 38 miles along Routes 15 and 20. 

The project was finished just before the 2018 school year, and the difference in...

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Posted May 27, 2021 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

Less than six months after its creation and a year after the city of Waukegan, Illinois (pop. 89,000) began exploring options to improve connectivity in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, a Request for Proposals (RFP) has been issued by the Waukegan Broadband Task Force in search of qualified applicants to assist in the creation of a broadband master plan. Applications are due June 30th, 2021.

Waukegan is situated about halfway between Chicago and Milwaukee, along the west coast of Lake Michigan. A 2020 initial broadband assessment showed challenges related to price, devices, digital skills for remote learning, and a lack of coordination to get income-qualified residents onto incumbent ISP's low-income plans. The city is served by a patchwork of ISPs, including cable from Comcast, DSL from AT&T and TDS, and fixed wireless from Rise Broadband with starting prices on plans ranging from $30/month to $60/month.

The Task Force website outlines the group's goals and stakes for the community:

There are few cities with the opportunities that exist within Waukegan. However, to truly become a ‘City of Progress’ , Waukegan must take the critical steps necessary to achieve its great potential. While 2020 brought challenges to communities around the globe, it also presented opportunities for innovation, collaboration, change and growth. The Waukegan Community Broadband Taskforce is an open, collective impact inititative of committed community stakeholders for all residents, businesses, institutions interested in working together to create a path to the future.

The RFP calls for solutions addressing access, adoption and utilization, sustainable funding, and communication and community engagement with a particular focus on remote learning, telehealth, and economic development.

The steering committee for the task force is made up of a collection of local nonprofits, the public library, the community center, city officials, and the school district. Funding for the master plan will come from private contributions.

Applicants can direct questions to wbctaskforce@gmail.com by 5pm on June 6th, with full RFPs due by June 30th.

Posted March 30, 2021 by Maren Machles

With vaccines rolling out tier by tier, state by state, and restaurants, bars and public spaces starting to reopen one by one, there seems to be a desire to say, “Wow, things are going back to normal!” Unfortunately, the public health crisis exacerbated healthcare, education, and economic inequities that have long existed in low-income and communities of color across the country and have no chance of going away any time soon. But some community leaders have stepped up and come to the table with one piece of the puzzle in bridging these inequities — better Internet access to these communities. 

Over the summer, we covered several communities that jumped to action and came up with quick ways to implement long-term solutions. 

The city of San Rafael, which sits on the coast of northern California in Marin County, continues to strengthen, expand, and research the use of the network it built over the summer and fall for one unserved area hit hard by the economic, education, and health impact of Covid-19. And on the other side of the country, Meta Mesh in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania continues construction on a pilot project that is hoping to connect unserved families by the end of this summer.

Focusing on the Future

In San Rafael, California, the city, Marin County and a nonprofit organization — the Canal Alliance — all joined forces to bring free Wi-Fi to the Canal neighborhood

Marin County’s Chief Assistant Director of Information Services and Technology Javier Trujillo said that the network is continuing to grow, but it has been largely deployed. The network — called Canal Wi-Fi  — encircles the neighborhood (see map, right), making it possible for residents to connect wherever they are when outdoors. In its current state, the network does not reach into every home because the access points mounted on street poles in the neighborhood cannot penetrate the walls of the apartment buildings. The coalition continues to seek ways to improve penetration as the project continues.

While a long-term solution would be to deploy fiber to each premises or bring wireline infrastructure to an access point inside...

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Posted March 17, 2021 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

We've covered an array of communities that have met the connectivity challenges brought about by the pandemic by setting up gap networks to help bring neighborhoods, students, seniors, and frontline workers online in places like Arizona, California, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, and Illinois. A recent NBC story highlights efforts in Dallas, Texas and Utah to do the same, suggesting that we'll see more of these networks stood up in the near future.

Posted March 10, 2021 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

HiLight — Hillsboro, Oregon’s (pop. 105,000) citywide Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network — has officially launched and begun connecting its first subscribers. After five years of consideration and planning, it’s an exciting moment, with hundreds of homes and businesses brought online over the last few months. Over the next seven years, at least $28 million will be put towards the rollout, bringing the municipal network to tens of thousands of locations across the city.

Hillsboro sits just outside of Portland, and has been looking for better connectivity options for years. A large proportion of its population is comprised of tech workers and residents with advanced degrees; the city, in fact, anchors the state’s Silicon Forest, so named for the group of technology firms employing tens of thousands of workers across three Intel campuses as well as operations by Oracle, Salesforce, Epson, and Synopsis. A citywide fiber network serves to provide competition and capacity to keep them in the area:

Hillsboro is the tallest tree in the Silicon Forest and the center of Oregon’s high-tech cluster. With an affordable high-speed network, Hillsboro’s homegrown talent — our students and entrepreneurs — will be better positioned to lead the world in innovating for the future. Hillsboro will continue to attract and retain talent and be a hub for innovation.

But Hillsboro also faces a stark digital divide fueled by economic inequality, and bridging it has been one of the city council’s (and now the network’s) main agenda items. This has driven the project’s second focus: bringing affordable, high-quality access to economically vulnerable residents stuck with no quality options today. It’s why the city has introduced one of the fastest low-cost access program we’ve seen established by any broadband network in the United States, with qualifying families getting access to symmetrical gigabit service for $10/month.

Putting Glass in the Ground

We’ve been following Hillsboro’s journey over the past few years. In 2014, the city council began studying...

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