Vernon Communications Cooperative, a Wisconsin-based outfit, has applied for a $173,000 grant to expand Fiber-to-the-Home network in an unserved and underserved portion of Ferryville. If won, it would contribute matching funds and bring service to up to 130 locations.
Privately-owned broadband infrastructure builder and operator SiFi Networks is sprouting roots in cities from California to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
The Fullerton FiberCity network was SiFi’s first FiberCity — a privately built, financed, and operated open access network. Network construction in Fullerton started in November 2019 and involved over 600 miles of micro-trenching underground fiber, a technique designed to minimize traffic and neighborhood disruption sometimes associated with ripping up roads to install fiber conduit. The first residential customers were hooked up in June, with an anticipated completion date in the fall of 2021.
And while construction of the fiber network in Fullerton isn’t quite finished yet, eight other communities across the country are in the process of becoming the next SiFi fiber cities.
In Salem, Ma., SiFi Networks announced at the end of November it had completed a “construction trial” which is a “practice run” ahead of the actual construction of the citywide network, slated to start this spring.
Once completed, the Salem project, in which SiFi Networks is partnering with GigabitNow, will offer the city’s 43,180 residents an alternative to the monopoly services of Comcast. GigabitNow, which will be the Internet Service Provider (ISP) for Salem FiberCity, estimates they will be able to begin providing services as early as summer 2021.
It should be noted that open access networks are intended to entice multiple ISPs to enter the market and create more robust competition by separating the infrastructure and service components of broadband access. However, it is currently a challenge in some areas to find a multitude of ISPs to compete on these networks, in contrast to ...Read more
As Mayors must concern themselves with everything from public safety and health to the development of the local economy and the provision of essential municipal services, they tend to have a particular focus on the infrastructure necessary to support it all, amid a cacophony of competing interests.
Over the summer, having reached consensus on the fundamental importance of “the digital infrastructure of tomorrow,” a particular focus of the United States Conference of Mayors 88th National Annual Meeting was to issue a resolution declaring the necessity of “Preserving Local Public Rights-of-Way and Regulatory Authority to Most Effectively Deploy 5G Broadband Access and Bridge the Digital Divide during the COVID-19 Pandemic.”
The Mayors’ resolution comes in response to the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC's) 2018 preemption of local governments’ authority to regulate 5G infrastructure in their cities.
At the heart of the regulatory debate: local governments’ ability to determine the amount of fees to charge mobile carriers that want to place 5G equipment in Rights-of-Way. In addition to putting limits on those fees, the FCC Order also sets strict timelines by which cities and towns must respond to carrier applications. The FCC decision, issued over the objections of industry observers and policy experts, essentially eliminates local communities’ ability to negotiate in order to protect their own Rights-of-Way and the poles, traffic lights, and other potential structures within those Rights-of-Way.
Preempting Local Authority
When the FCC handed down the order in the fall of 2018 we noted that it represented a significant giveaway to wireless carrier corporations while placing additional restrictions and undue financial burdens on local regulators, most of which are county boards and city departments.
To justify the order, the...Read more
All across the country, municipal networks, cooperatives, and cities have been putting in extra effort to make sure that Americans have the fast, affordable, reliable Internet access they need to conduct their lives in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
AT&T has decided to take another route. A USA Today report last week revealed that the company has stopped making connections to users subscribing to its ADSL Internet as of October 1st. Anyone calling the company to set up new service is being told that no new accounts are being accepted.
The decision comes right as the National Digital Inclusion Alliance has released a report detailing that only 28% of AT&T’s territory can get fiber from the company. AT&T has deliberately focused investment in more urban areas of higher income. From the report:
The analysis of AT&T’s network reveals that the company is prioritizing network upgrades to wealthier areas, and leaving lower income communities with outdated technologies. Across the country, the median income for households with fiber available is 34 percent higher than in areas with DSL only — $60,969 compared to $45,500.
The Deep South Hit Hardest
As of today, it looks like the most conservative number of those affected by the decision will be about 80,000 households that have no other option. Our analysis using the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) Form 477 data shows that the Deep South will be hit the hardest (see table at the bottom of the page).
Collectively it means more than 207,000 Americans who, if disconnected, will have no option for Internet aside from their mobile devices or satellite service. The number of Americans affected by the decision but which have additional wireline options is higher: roughly 2.2 million American households nationwide subscribe to the service (see map, below).
At this point the decision seems only to affect those subscribing to the company’s ADSL service. Those subscribing to ADSL2 and asymmetric VDSL won’...Read more
Janesville, Wisconsin (pop. 64,000) Information Technology Director Gordon LaChance has been investing in fiber infrastructure for city needs for the last 12 years, but he’s been hoping it would lead to something more. That day may have come, with the recent award of a $114,000 grant from Wisconsin Public Utility Commission.
The grant allows the city to participate in a public-private partnership that will bring fiber to a handful of unserved or underserved commercial locations in town. The move is the first of its kind for the city, and involves an exchange of capacity that will allow WIN Technologies — a private Internet Service Provider (ISP) — to bring service to two SHINE Medical Technology locations (a small headquarters downtown as well as a large, new development being built south of town), the Janesville Centennial Business Park, the Beloit Avenue Corridor Business Park, and the Janesville Innovation Center.
The grant application was spearheaded by the city’s Economic Development Office, which gathered the players and helped iron out the details. LaChance described how the deal would work in a phone interview. The city will give WIN access to some of its dark fiber, which WIN will make use of along with the grant funds and additional private investment to build south and connect those areas of town. In return, WIN will lay extra fiber as it goes and hand it over the LaChance’s office, allowing the city plant to expand in that direction when it otherwise would not be able to justify the cost. It remains early, but the city estimates that around a dozen businesses will be connected with the expansion. Better connectivity will also spur the revitalization of the Janesville Assembly Plant, a General Motors factory decommissioned in 2008 that is being turned around by a commercial developer to bring manufcaturing production and jobs back to the area.
The Fruits of Forethought
Part of the reason the project will work is because LaChance has over the last decade increasingly invested in higher fiber counts when embarking on builds of his own, allowing him to give WIN unlit capacity without compromising city services....Read more
Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, is currently experiencing firsthand the consequences of the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC's) 2018 preemption of local governments’ authority to regulate 5G infrastructure in their cities. With its initial handful of applications for new small cell transmitters just submitted to the county board by Verizon under the new rules, local officials are grappling with a host of limitations — including fee caps, shorter timing windows, and right of way exemptions — which outline clearly a problem more and more communities will face in the coming months and years.
Less Say, Less Money
We pointed out when the FCC handed down the order in the fall of 2018 that it represented a significant giveaway to wireless carriers while placing additional restrictions and financial burdens on local regulators, most of which are county boards and city departments. Among the most troublesome of the order’s provisions are new 60- and 90-day approval windows for the installation of infrastructure on existing and new wireless facilities, a limitation to annual fee scales for small cell sites set between $100-250, a right now enjoyed by wireless providers to place infrastructure on municipally owned poles and traffic lights, and a rule that says if regulating authorities don’t get to an application within 60 days it automatically becomes approved. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the fee cap in a ruling last Wednesday.
In sum, it puts additional strain on local governments (many of whom are already stretched thin) while limiting their ability to set their own fees for access to publicly owned infrastructure as well as the expedited work they are being forced to do. At the time, opponents called it a public tax on private 5G deployment, a giveaway, and...Read more
Last week, Frontier Communications told the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that there are 17,000 census blocks in which it is now offering 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) download and 3 Mbps upload. This means well over 400,000 Americans now live in areas no longer eligible for the FCC's Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, a $20.4 billion program to expand rural broadband. The first phase will auction off up to $16 billion in subsidies later this year.
In the filing, the company also identified census blocks where it believes other providers will deploy broadband access through state-funded programs, making those locations ineligible for the federal funds as well.
Frontier is Flailing
Frontier recently declared bankruptcy, following a history of increasingly unsustainable acquisitions. It also just missed its milestone for the Connect America Fund, which required the company to deploy obsolete 10/1 Mbps service to 80 percent of the funded locations by the end of 2019 in return for more than $1.5 billion in subsidies. Some 774,000 locations should have at least 10/1 Mbps service by the end of 2020 from a company Consumer Reports repeatedly finds to be one of the worst Internet Service Providers in the nation.Read more
On February 17, Christopher Mitchell spoke on WPR's "Central Time" about the need for broadband access in unserved areas and how communities have taken a different approach to increase reliable and affordable Internet access.
The discussion also touches on funding programs, which is an important factor for local providers to expand broadband infrastructure in rural areas.
Here is an excerpt from Christopher's interview with WPR:
The issue with the city is a little bit deceiving because you may have real competition between three to four providers in some parts of a city, and in other parts, you might just have a cable monopoly where no one else is investing. I think we are going to see major issues in cities in the coming decade still. It's not something that will be resolved by 2030, I don't think. We may actually solve rural broadband problem faster than we bring real choice to everyone in the city.
Listen to the interview on WPR.
There’s still time to register for the Great Lakes Connect Broadband Development Conference from September 30th to October 2nd! Join broadband leaders from around the region in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, to discuss, “The Future of Digital Communities”. This will be a great opportunity to network with others, hear from engaging speakers, and share resources. Check out the full agenda for details, and complete your registration here.
Something for Everyone
Attendees can choose from three different conference tracks:
- Community Development - Planning and financing connectivity solutions.
- Emerging Technologies - Strategies and best practices for smart cities.
- Midwest Community Use Case Studies - Telling the unique stories of Midwest communities.
See You There!
We’re excited to be participating in this event ourselves! The Institute for Local Self-Reliance’s Christopher Mitchell and Katie Kienbaum will be presenting on a panel on Oct. 1st about how municipal and cooperative networks can provide unique benefits to communities. Don’t miss out on the conversation: register today.
When utilities, including broadband providers, need to cross railroad rights-of-way to serve customers, some railroad operators have been known to press their advantage. Several states have addressed utility complaints by establishing standardized rates and setting up processes to create a more reasonable and predictable system. Eliminating this obstacle to deployment is another step in bringing broadband to the communities that need it the most.
Often railroads obtained title to real property during 19th century acquisitions as the infrastructure was being built. They want to preserve as much of their authority and title rights as possible and to ensure that they can receive the maximum value for their interest in the land.
For utilities, cost of deployment is a primary concern. When railroads demand unreasonable fees at crossings or drag out negotiations as a delay tactic, they also impinge on a utility’s ability to meet operational deadlines. Safety and engineering integrity can be negatively impacted by difficult negotiations, unreasonable demands, or exorbitant costs.
Different States, Different Stories
Few states have addressed the problem with statutes establishing standard utility fees for railroad right-of-way crossings. David L. Thomas, Managing Member of the strategic utility planning firm Eagle 1 Resources (E1R) has worked with telecommunications companies and other utilities to negotiate railroad crossing arrangements. He's seen that standard crossing fees set down in statute benefit deployment by ending delay and reducing costs and would like to see the trend pass to every state.
In South Dakota and Iowa, the fee had been established at $750. Wisconsin allows railroads to charge $500 [PDF see page 12] and state law in Illinois, where railroads have a strong presence in metro areas,...Read more