Tag: "iowa"

Posted May 29, 2013 by lgonzalez

Cedar Falls Utilities (CFU) just announced that it is ready to serve customers with 1 gig service. Earlier this year, CFU increased speeds for existing customers at no expense and we watched their expansion and upgrade from cable to FTTH. 

Jon Ericson reported in the Courier that the city hopes to boost economic development in Cedar Falls with the new 1 gig offering:

Bob Seymour, economic development manager for the city of Cedar Falls, said the "gigabit city" label will help with business recruitment.

"This is a great tool for promoting Cedar Falls as a place to locate or expand a business," Seymour said. "It's an important part of the complete infrastructure package we bring to the table, and it means we can compete with the best broadband communities anywhere in the country."

Business customers already at the most expensive tier will be upgraded automatically. Residential 1 gig service will be $275 per month and businesses will pay $950. CFU anticipates the growing demand for online video and gaming will drive residential requests.

Betty Zeman, marketing manager, said CFU wanted to lead, not follow, the technology curve.

"We want to be on the front end of that, not the tail end of that. We've just seen year after year customers use more bandwidth faster than you ever thought they would. By the time you think you need additional bandwidth, it's already too late," Zeman said.

Congrats to CFU as they join the 1 gig club!

You can find out more about the community and the network in episode #13 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. Find out more about CFU's new service in this video.

Posted April 10, 2013 by lgonzalez

Flash back to May 5, 1998 and the community of Emmetsburg, Iowa. This town of just under 4,000 people voted to establish a municipal cable communications or television system. It has taken fifteen years, but Emmetsburg is on the verge of joining the many other Iowa communities with municipal networks. Jane Whitmore of the Emmetsburg News reported on April 2 that the City Council adopted Ordinance #577, establishing the Board of Trustees of the Emmetsburg Municipal Communications Utility.

Emmetsburg will be joining four other local communities as part of The Community Agency (TCA), a coalition of cities in northwest Iowa that collectively own a hybrid fiber coaxial cable network. TCA began as a cable television system in 2000 and now offers Internet, telephone, and limited wireless Internet in O'Brien County. Emmetsburg will build a FTTH network as part of TCA.

Talks to join TCA began last summer; City Administrator John Bird commented for the article:

"It's important for our readers to know that when the Board (of Trustees) started talking about this late last summer, their reasons for wanting to get into this (communications utility) are noble. Their goals, their objectives are noble from an industrial and economic development standpoint," Bird noted.

He continued, "They believe that we're at a gross disadvantage, considering today's global economy. In the global market, people can work from their home in Emmetsburg, Iowa, for a corporation located anywhere in the world, or higher tech industries who really need quality, high speed broadband. We're at a disadvantage."

DJ Weber, General Manager of TCA, noted the lack of interest from the incumbents to invest in the area. He also commented on how the existence of municipal networks often lower rates and improve service for all customers due to increased competition.

Emmetsburg currently provides sewer, water, and gas to residents. The network will be financed with municipal revenue bonds, but the other utilities will also contribute some revenue toward it as each will benefit from benefits such as remote meter reading.

A 1998 study on a potential communications...

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Posted April 3, 2013 by lgonzalez

Spencer Municipal Utilities (SMU) of Spencer, Iowa, will be replacing old copper cable with fiber this summer. According to the Daily Reporter, customers can expect the upgrade with no increase in rates. From the article:

"Just like internet service has evolved from dial up to DSL and cable modem, fiber will give customers the next level of service to continue to improve the way they live, work and play here in Spencer," Amanda Gloyd, SMU marketing and community relations manager," said.

"We want to keep our customers on the cutting edge," she said.

Plans are to upgrade around 700 customers in one section of town during this first phase at a cost of around $2 million.

"This project is all paid for with cash in the bank," [General Manager Steve] Pick said. "This is an investment in the system."

SMU has offered telecommunications services to customers since 2000 and supplies water, electric, cable tv, Internet, telephone, and wireless service in the town of about 11,000. Rates for Internet range from $20 to $225 per month with cable tv analog Basic service as low as $14 and Basic Plus at $46. As options are added, monthly fees increase.

We see regular upgrades in service with little or no increase in price from many municipal networks. Comparatively, increases in price with little or no increase in service is a typical business decision from the private sector. Unlike AT&T, CenturyLink, or Time Warner Cable, municipal networks like SMU consider customers to be shareholders, and do what is best for the community at large.

We spoke with Curtis Dean of the Iowa Association of Municipal Utilities for episode 13 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. He told us about the tradition in Iowa for self-reliance and its manifestation in the telecommunications industry.

Curtis also told us about Hansen's Clothing, a century-old men's clothier in Spencer. This community staple was on the edge of closing its doors until broadband came to town. Hansen's was able to begin selling high quality clothing online, offering pieces...

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Posted March 19, 2013 by christopher

We have long been impressed with Cedar Falls Utilities (CFU) in Iowa. They built an incredibly successful municipal cable network that has now been upgraded to a FTTH network. CFU transfers $1.6 million into the town's general fund every year, reminding us that community owned networks often pay far more in taxes than the national cable and telephone companies.

Last week, Moody's Investor Service gave an investor-grade A-3 rating to revenue debt from CFU, another sign of its strong success.

Moody's rating report noted the utility's large market share, competitive pricing and product offerings, expansive fiber optic network, long-term financial planning and conservative budgeting practices as reasons for the continued strong rating of the utility's revenue debt.

CFU also compiles the community savings resulting from each of its services by comparing its rates to nearby communities (see most recent comparison [pdf]). The benefits total $7.7 million each year, almost $500 per family. This includes a $200 difference in cable TV bills and a $130 difference in Internet service.

Posted March 9, 2013 by lgonzalez

Rep. Tom Latham (R-IA), recently recognized the city of Indianola on the US House Floor to recognize the community's municipal network. On February 15th, he spoke to the body about Indianola's recent certification as Connected by Connected Nation and Connected Iowa.

From his recognition speech, as reported on CapitolWords from the Sunlight Foundation:

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize the City of Indianola, Iowa, for earning the Connected program's Connected certification. Indianola is the first community in the state of Iowa and the third in the country to garner this technology designation.

The Connected certification is a title applied to communities that display top-tier proficiency in the access and utilization of broadband-supported technologies. This coveted certification is awarded by Connected Nation and its subsidiary Connect Iowa, who advocate for broadband access on the state and national levels.

The City of Indianola is one of more than 30 communities across Iowa actively participating in the Connected program, and the first to become formally certified. Indianola has a team in place that has developed a comprehensive plan to increase broadband access by assessing the broadband landscape, identifying gaps, and establishing manageable goals. Attaining the Connected certification adds to the long list of desirable attributes that make Indianola such a great place to raise a family or grow a business.

Mr. Speaker, I commend the City of Indianola for its commitment to embracing and efficiently utilizing technology for the benefit of its residents and businesses. It is a great honor to represent the citizens of Indianola, and all of Warren County, in the United States Congress. I know that my colleagues in the House will join me in congratulating the City of Indianola in being selected to receive this certification, and I wish the city and its people continued success in the future.

Indianola Municipal Utilities (IMU) has built a wonderful network that an independent ISP uses to deliver services to the local businesses and residents of the...

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Posted February 11, 2013 by lgonzalez

Customers of Cedar Falls Utilities (CFU), in Iowa, have recently been treated to an increase in fiber Internet service speeds with no increase in price.

We have reported on CFU for several years with news on its upgrades and expansions to unserved areas. The most popular CFU home service, 12/1 Mbps, is now at 16/8 Mbps. That service is available for a reasonable $43.50 in the city and $48.50 in rural areas. Residential plans range from $29.95/$34.95 (city/rural) for 2/1 Mbps for FiberHome Basic to $137.50/$142.50 (city/rural) for the 120/60 Mbps FiberHome Extreme.

According to the CFU blog:

We’re able to make this upgrade now because we are in the final neighborhoods connecting customers to our new all-fiber cable and internet system. The all-fiber system allows us to deliver faster connection speeds and better reliability. Upgrading speeds now is also good timing because we just activated a new high speed upstream internet link. This high speed link gives us the capacity needed at a very affordable cost, and also provides geographic and provider redundancy. With this in place no single fiber cut, hardware failure or weather event will impact our ability to deliver our normal peak internet usage.

Note that while Cedar Falls has decided not to offer fully symmetric services (same upload as download speed), the ratio is 2:1 rather than the 6:1, 10:1, or even bigger gap that we often see from the national providers. CFU recognizes the benefits of faster upstream connections that allow subscribers to be more productive by being better able to share their creations with the world.

Posted January 23, 2013 by lgonzalez

“We want to grow our own new businesses in Indianola, and Simpson College is home to an entire group of potential entrepreneurs who we hope will find support for their efforts here and some day choose to locate their businesses here,” [Jerry Kelly, former Indianola mayor and executive director of the city's development association] said. ‘What we are doing is called ‘economic gardening.’ What grows here will stay here.”

Thanks to the Indianola Municipal Utilities (IMU) next-generation broadband network, the city and the college have fertile soil to nurture that garden. We previously wrote about this FTTH partnership here, explaining that the community owns the infrastructure and a local business provides services over the network.

The partnership between Simpson College, the Indianola Development Association, and IMU is called the Indianola + Simpson College Entrepeneurial Devopment Initiative. The student-business incubator will bring together students, mentors, and existing businesses with the hope that resulting entrepeneurships will sprout and grow in Indianola.

Through the partnership, the incubator will have access to IMU's server platforms, wholesale bandwidth, local marketing and outreach efforts, and customer service activities. 25 students will develop senior Capstone Projects through the initiative. College and city leaders anticipate that number will continue to grow.

Simpson College

The Simpson College News Center also writes that the project will be led by Chris Draper. Draper is associated with Des Moines' Startup City, a technology-based business incubator. Draper is CEO of the first graduate of Startup City, Meidh Tech, which offers property management technology solutions.

“By engaging students in real-world problems, allowing them to own their successes and...

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Posted January 16, 2013 by lgonzalez

In 2010, the Iowa Communications Network received a $16.2 million Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP). The project will connect all 99 counties in the state by upgrading an existing 3,000 mile network (PDF of the project summary). The state plans to bring 10 Gbps capacity points of presence to each county and to provide 1 Gbps service to about 1,000 anchor institutions. The project will be managed by the state's Department of Transportation, which will be using fiber primarily for traffic management.

A recent Ames Tribune article reports that the local community will be partnering with the state to capitalize on the existence of the fiber for connectivity. Story County, located in the very center of the state, will soon be using several strands in the Ames area to create a loop between city and county offices. The 20-year arrangement will cost the county $15,000 and provides ample capacity to support the county's work and support future uses. From the article:

“For us this is a huge windfall,” [Story County Information Technology Director Barbara Steinback] said. “If we were to go on to a project like this on our own, it would cost between $250,000 and $300,000.”

The opportunity comes at a good time for Story County. The sheriff’s office recently began using new mobile laptops that Steinback said have been putting a strain on the network and, along with some other projects, has been resulting in some slowness issues.

“So we do need to take advantage of this opportunity,” she said.

Posted November 9, 2012 by lgonzalez

We have covered developments in the town of Indianola, Iowa, where the community decided to build their own network in 1998. The original purpose for investment was to use the network to enhance public safety and increase efficiency with SCADA applications. In 2005, however, the network began offering telecommunications services to local businesses. As of October, Indianola Municipal Utilities (IMU) began offering fiber-to-the-home to residents as it gradually begins expanding the use of its fiber asset.

You can now hear firsthand about the network, its history, and how the municipal utility navigated the journey to its next-generation open access network. Craig Settles interviewed Todd Kielkopf, General Manager of IMU, in an August Gigabit Nation podcast. The two discuss IMU's evolution since 1998. They also talked about the unique advantages that exist when a community considering network infrastructure investment already has a municipal utility in place.

Kielkopf tells how the driving factor for the fiber installation was to allow easier management and communication between utilities. When a 1990 franchise agreement with MediaCom was about to expire, the city investigated options. Hopes were that that the city could build a fiber network and MediaCom would offer services over that network, but that vision was never embraced by MediaCom.

Iowa law allowed the city to hold a referendum asking residents for permission to provide telecommunications services through the municipal utility's network. The referendum passed and they created a five year financial plan. Financing was with taxable and tax exempt bonds. The electric utility would build and own the network and a new telecommunications utility would license to a private partner that would offer retail services. Now, IMU and Mahaska Communication Group (MCG) have an agreement whereby MCG provides retail services over the network. While the agreement is not exclusive, no other providers currently use the network.

Kielkopf discusses three distinct phases in the development of the network's current status. First the network connected schools, libraries, government entities, and other anchor...

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Posted October 20, 2012 by lgonzalez

We are engaged in a rare event - we are moving offices. The Institute for Local Self-Reliance pre-dates our initiative and has been in this location for over 20 years. During the packing and sorting, we have encountered a curious collection of treasures. 

In keeping with this air of nostalgia, we want to present a report from 2001 by John Kelly, who was Director of Economics and Research at the American Public Power Association at the time he wrote the piece. The title caught our attention but the content kept our interest. We want to pass it on as recommended reading.

"Old Snake Oil in New Bottles: Ideological Attacks on Local Public Enterprises in the Telecommunications Industry" (PDF format) is a critique of a Progress and Freedom Foundation (PFF) report titled "Does Government belong in the Telecommunications Business?" (PDF) Kelly confirms that the arguments and fallacies advanced by the private telecommunications industry and its lobbyists have not changed in 11 years. The past 11 years have also seen the same slanted arguments and the same shaded research that, even after repeatedly being discredited, arise again and again.

The arguments truly are "snake oil." From the report:

One dictionary definition of "snake oil" describes it as "a liquid substance with no real medicinal value sold as a cure-all or nostrum...." This definition aptly describes the content of the PFF report. Its claims are not solid ones and can be easily refuted. Essentially, it views the elimination of government enterprises from the telecommunications industry as a cure-all, or nearly one, for the competitive problems that exist in the industry. This solution has no real value, and is counterproductive; it would exacerbate the problem of a lack of effective competition in the industry. The problem is a lack of effective competition, not public enterprises.

As a refresher, PFF was a non-profit founded by Newt Gingrich with backing from some of the telecommunications industry's biggest guns along with a long list of gigantic corporate sponsors. Before closing in 2010, the organization was viewed as a diversionary tool to avoid campaign finance limits. The organization described itself as a "...

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