Tag: "savings"

Posted February 4, 2012 by Christopher Mitchell

A local government in southeast North Carolina is the first entity to deploy a "Super Wi-Fi" white-spaces broadband network. New Hanover County, North Carolina, owns the network that was developed by Spectrum Bridge.

New Hanover County and The City of Wilmington do not plan to charge people to use the WiFi capability made possible by the new network. As long as the service is free neither they nor other municipalities deploying the technology are likely to run afoul of anti-municipal network legislation that has been adopted in some areas.

Recall that North Carolina passed a law last year to limit local authority to build networks that could threaten Time Warner Cable or CenturyLink's divine right to be the only service providers in the state (even as they refuse to invest in modern networks).

These white spaces are sometimes called "Super Wi-Fi" because the public knows that Wi-Fi is wireless and therefore anyone can quickly grasp that "Super Wi-Fi" is newer, better, and perhaps even wireless(er).

GovTech also covered the announcement:

According to the FCC, these vacant airwaves between channels are ideal for supporting wireless mobile devices. The FCC named the network “super Wi-Fi” because white spaces are lower frequency than regular Wi-Fi and, therefore, can travel longer distances.

New Hanover County is deploying the super Wi-Fi in three public parks, starting with a playground area at Hugh MacRae Park on Jan. 26, followed by Veterans Park and Airlie Gardens. Other locations in Wilmington, N.C. — located in the county — will also have access to the new network.

Apparently the newsiness of this story derives from its official launch - MuniWireless covered many of the details about this...

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Posted January 28, 2012 by Christopher Mitchell

Chattanooga's community owned EPB Fiber Network continues to get positive reviews from subscribers in the local paper. And Comcast's customers continue to complain. The Times Free Press Chattanoogan presents a tale of two providers.

The longer letter details the frustration in dealing with Comcast following the failure of their on-demand service. After Comcast didn't resolve the problem over the course of several phone calls, the subscriber was told she would have to pay $30 for a Comcast technician to come to their house, even if the problem was entirely caused by Comcast's network and/or equipment.

The second letter, from Leah, notes that she too suffered at the hands of Comcast's customer service but became EPB customers after a long absence from their home due to damage from the tornadoes of 2011. When they returned home, they went with the community network rather than Comcast.

This is how she reflects on her experience with EPB:

We have had one instance where we needed to contact customer service, and the problem was fixed quickly and easily by the most polite customer service rep I’ve ever dealt with.

Comcast came by recently to offer us a “substantial savings” if we’d make the switch back to them. My question was, why now? I was a customer for years and treated poorly as rates increased exponentially. Now the offer the discount? No thanks.

For the $5 extra per month that we pay for EPB, we receive better features, prompt and polite customer service, and an all around trouble free experience. Thanks EPB!

Posted October 20, 2011 by Christopher Mitchell

Albert Lea, a town of 18,000 in southern Minnesota, transitioned from getting its Internet access from a private ISP to its County, Freeborn.  This is part of a larger IT collaboration between the local governments.

Previously, the community was paying $95/month for a 3Mbps DSL connection from a local private company (the options from the telephone and cable incumbents were even more expensive, offering less value).  Now Freeborn County is providing a connection of at least 25Mbps for $150/month -- however the connection regularly offers connections over 50Mbps.  

There is an upfront cost of $9,000 to make this switch, which pays off in less than 2 years (local governments often fail to make smart investments that have longer break-even windows because of how they budget for capital vs. ongoing costs).  After it breaks even, Albert Lea says it will save $6,000 a year.

Local governments will need broadband connections as long as they exist, meaning that leasing connections from a private party is often fiscally irresponsible.  Better to own it or work with another community provider that prices its service closer to the cost of actual provisioning rather than marking it up to reflect a scarce market.  

Posted October 8, 2011 by Christopher Mitchell

Another video from the Building Community Capacity through Broadband project (hosted by the University of Wisconsin Extension service) takes a look at how local governments use broadband and the importance of high capacity, reliable connections that they can actually afford. 

This video is no longer available.

Posted September 28, 2011 by Christopher Mitchell

Eau Claire and Chippewa Falls worked together to build a high-capacity broadband network connecting community anchor institutions, including schools, clinics, traffic lights, and more. Called the CINC for Chippewa Valley Inter-Networking Consortium, they now have higher capacity connections, more control over their future telecom needs and budgets, and can run applications that make their operations more efficient (lessening the pressure on the tax base).

The Building Community Capacity through Broadband, a stimulus funded project, has put together a video describing what they did and how they did it. Learn more about these BCCB projects here.

As you watch the video, remember that AT&T and its industry allies want to make projects like this illegal. They want to force the schools, libraries, etc. to pay much more for slower, less reliable networks. While the WiscNet attack in June failed, telcos are still trying to create a monopoly for themselves providing these services.

The lawsuit against the project has a hearing on November 11th where the Judge may decide to dismiss the case. If the case proceeds, the bench trial will be in early January. We frequently see lawsuits like these from big carriers that do not expect to win the case but rather are just harassing any potential competition to raise the cost of challenging the incumbent. So even though BCCB will almost certainly win the case, the telco goal is mostly to threaten any community that follows the good example of these communities.

Posted August 25, 2011 by Christopher Mitchell

Santa Monica's approach to building community owned broadband that puts the community first has been wildly successful. They have not focused on providing residential connections, and likely will not in the future, focusing instead on meeting their municipal needs and businesses to spur economic development.

They can deliver up to 10Gbps to businesses that need it and they have connectivity throughout the City for whatever projects they choose to pursue. This includes free Wi-Fi in parks, controlling traffic signaling (prioritizing mass transit, for instance), and smart parking applications. On top of all that, their investments have saved more than a million dollars that would have been wasted on slower, less reliable connections provided by leased lines.

In the matter of controlling traffic signals, Santa Monica wants all intersections with fiber-optics.

Arizona Avenue, the Mid-City area and the city's office district will all be getting makeovers if the City Council approves two contracts that will connect 40 signalized intersections to City Hall's centralized traffic control system.

The work represents the fourth phase in a five-phase effort to connect all of Santa Monica's intersections using fiber optic cables. Some signals will need to be fully replaced, while others can get by on smaller upgrades, according to the staff report.

Don't miss this hour long interview between Craig Settles and Jory Wolf, the brains behind Santa Monica's success.

... Read more
Posted June 29, 2011 by Christopher Mitchell

We noted Palm Coast FiberNET when it opened for business but haven't had a chance to revisit it until now. Broadband Communities has featured it with a Muni Fiber Snapshop in the 2011 May/June issue.

The network, available for business use in some areas, has 22 customers, including the city's largest employer. Without this muni investment, that employer would have had to leave town due to the non-competitive alternatives from incumbent providers. Two service providers operate on the muni network, offering data and voice services as well as computer backup.

Schools and medical facilities are also benefiting from much lower prices for the telecom services they need.

Posted May 11, 2010 by Christopher Mitchell

KMOX, a station from St. Louis, recently asked what Ohio's OneCommunity did correctly in building a regional broadband network. The article is interesting for some background on OneCommunity, but the discussion of what St. Louis attempted is somewhat lacking (and the reporters appear to have little expertise in broadband).

OneCommunity is a successful nonprofit approach to expanding broadband access by working with various entities - sharing the resources of public entities as well as private carriers to the benefit of everyone. However, its results are somewhat less predictable than the admittedly more top-down approach of a local government-run initiative that can ensure everyone in a community gets a certain kind of connection. On the other hand, OneCommunity is more insulated from the fluctuations of everyday politics that can hurt or slow projects operated by a local government, depending on the structure (remember, structure is defined by rules ... and rules matter).

My impression is also that OneCommunity has been tremendously successful in securing broadband for middle mile and large institutional needs, but its approach at solving the last-mile problem has been hit-or-miss depending on the community. By lowering the cost of backhaul, the private sector may be more interested in building those last-mile connections, but residents do not get the full benefits of service from a provider that puts community needs above profits.

OneCommunity started in Cleveland with the idea of collecting spare or unused broadband capacity (often using assets after the dotcom bust) and putting it to use.

Along with a variety of other key community anchors, the network connects some 65 hospitals in all.

"We're allowing point of care treatment through remote specialists that actually allow, not only a triage of patients in the emergency room, but actually direct treatment and diagnosis on site in real time from a third-party specialist located in another institution."

OneCommunity's network is sufficiently large that these hospitals can connect directly to each other rather than each connecting to the larger Internet to send information amongst themselves. Just as in Lafayette, where all in-network connections occur at 100Mbps, OneCommunity can offer...

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Posted March 1, 2010 by Christopher Mitchell

The Longmont Times-Call continues its coverage of the community network struggles of a Colorado community. This story has a lot of the history behind how Longmont developed a fiber ring and how they have used it even as they are prohibited from expanding it.

Longmont is not alone in working for upwards of a decade to bring better broadband to the community that actually meets local needs rather than maximizing profits. Other communities have also spent ten, fifteen, or even long with on-gain, off-again plans to build a publicly owned network. This reality provides a handy refutation of state preemptions based on the logic that communities will act too quickly in not considering their plan for a network. Communities take years in researching, planning, and developing networks.

In Longmont, the first public fiber investment came in 1996 and was expanded shortly thereafter by the Platte River Power Authority. The city moved more than 40 facilities to a gigabit network, leaving T1s to communities that prefer to vastly overpay for their telecommunications needs.

They worked with a private company, Adesta, to expand the network to residents and businesses but the company filed for bankruptcy in the following year. The arrangement certainly had its upside though - Qwest and Comcast mysteriously decided to start offering broadband in Longmont shortly after the Adesta agreement. This happens almost every time a community invests in infrastructure -- it leads to increased investment from incumbents.

They quote a techie from the Longmont Hospital who explains the one of the benefits of the publicly owned fiber already in the ground:

“It’s at least a three times reduction in cost,” Niemann said of leasing fiber from the city, versus contracting with a commercial provider. “And oftentimes, if you go with a commercial provider, you have construction costs.”

The city would like to expand the network, both to bring competition to the DSL/cable duopoly, and to invest in smart grid applications for its public power utility. Unfortunately, they have to win a referendum per Colorado's incumbent-protection law. The incumbents are more than willing to spend hundreds of thousands against any such measure, knowing they would lose far more in profits if they had to deal with competition in the community.

Posted January 19, 2010 by Christopher Mitchell

Seattle's new mayor continues to impress me as he makes good on his pledge to build a publicly owned fiber-optic network in the City. He has just met with the mayor of Tacoma to discuss lessons learned from the Tacoma Click! network.

We have previously discussed Click!, an HFC network run by Tacoma's public utility. Here are some additional benefits from the article:

Since its approval in 1997, Tacoma’s hybrid fiber coaxial network has, among other things, ushered in a cable television service, offered customers three high-speed retail Internet service providers, enhanced Tacoma Power’s electrical system and created a communications network among government institutions. In turn, the network and its programs have drastically reduced market rates for cable TV and Internet subscribers; saved local governments about $700,000 in annual expenses; and created several promising projects, such as “smart meters” that can gauge utility consumption electronically and “pay as you go” account options for electricity customers, she said.

I was glad to see the article noting the many differences between when Tacoma built their network and the present situation in which Seattle finds itself. Seattle certainly has bigger difficulties than Tacoma did, but they should continue examining their options to determine if the community should build its own network.

A local blogger was more pessimistic after reading the article, but one of the comments on the post bears repeating:

I have Comcast in Tacoma and all I know is since there is competition down here Comcast is about half the cost as it is in Seattle. They give you a rate good for a year. When your year is up you call up and just say Click! and bam back down you go. A friend in Seattle once called Comcast with both of our bills with similar service and mentioned my price and they said I must live in Tacoma and they wouldn't match the price.

Photo used under creative commons license from flickr.

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