Tag: "iowa"

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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Posted September 18, 2012 by christopher

Curtis Dean, the Telecommunications Services Coordinator for the Iowa Association of Municipal Utilities, joins us for our 13th Community Broadband Bits podcast. Curtis explains why Iowa has so many municipal utilities and why 28 of them offer some form of telecommunications service.

We talk about why making sure everyone in rural areas has access to affordable, reliable, and fast broadband is good for everyone in the entire country. And Curtis shares his experiences with the publicly owned FTTH network in Spencer.

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 30 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.

Read the transcript of this episode here.

Find more episodes in our podcast index.

Thanks to Fit and the Conniptions for the music, licensed using Creative Commons.

Posted September 17, 2012 by lgonzalez

We have watched Cedar Falls Utilities (CFU) for the past several years as they upgraded their cable to fiber and started expanding their municipal network outside town limits. The Iowa water, electricity, and telecom utility just commenced further expansion to bring broadband to more rural residents through wireless and fiber with a broadband stimulus award.

Tina Hinz, at the WCF Courier, covered the story. Three new towers and more fiber installation will bring broadband service that is comparable to the connections in town to rural locations. Construction and customer installation should be completed by mid-2013.

According to Hinz:

CFU received final approval last month on a federal grant to fund nearly 40 percent of the $2.3 million installation cost. This reduces the high per-customer cost of building a communications system in an area with lower housing density. Customers will pay a similar price as those in town.

A PDF map of the rural expansion is available on the CFU website. CFU also provides a recent PDF map of their fiber-to-the-premises project, which is 70% complete.

Hinz spoke with rural customer Chris Hansen, who is in line for service through the new expansion.

Hansen called the development "a godsend." Recently he moved a mile west of the city limits on University Avenue. Accessing the web from his phone is functional but slow, he said.

...

Hansen has the wireless option, which will assist with his business as a sales representative for Bertch Cabinets and in his work on the family farm. He said he may subscribe to Netflix, which streams movies and television programs, and the Internet will benefit his twin children, Christian and Carina, 13, who currently share one phone with Internet.

The expansion will also allow CFU to improve electric service in rural areas and reduce...

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Posted August 13, 2012 by lgonzalez

We told you earlier this year about Indianola, Iowa's network, filling the gap for businesses where private providers had failed. At that time, the network only served local businesses and community anchor institutions, but plans to provide fiber-to-the-home in their community of 15,000 are now unfolding. The town passed a referendum back in 1998 to build a fiber ring which was used first by the local Indianola Municipal Utilities (IMU) for SCADA and for public safety. The goal was to expand incrementally. It later partnered with Mahaska Communications Group (MCG), located in Oskaloosa, Iowa, about 50 miles west of Indianola. 

According to the IMU website, residential retail services will be available from MCG after October 1, 2012. 

Monthly rates will include triple play at $99.95, double play packages between $49.95 and $94.95, and 25 Mbps symmetrical Internet at $39.95. Residents can upgrade to 50 Mbps for $5 extra or 100 Mbps for an additional $10.00. Home Wi-fi is only and additional $5.95 per month. For complete details, check out their rate sheet PDF.

The network also leases fiber that connects community anchor institutions to the Iowa Communications Network, which provides video to K-12 schools, higher education, hospitals, state and federal government, National Guard armories, and libraries. The network also connects to BroadNet Connect, which is the network used by Iowa Health Systems for telemedicine in rural Iowa.

Posted May 1, 2012 by lgonzalez

The Institute for Local Self-Reliance has recently posted an examination of 1999 Iowa Act Chapter 63, which expressly allows municipal networks:

Section 1. LEGISLATIVE INTENT. It is the intent of the general assembly to specifically provide that cities of Iowa which create city utilities in the manner provided by law are authorized to provide on a competitively neutral basis with existing local exchange carriers separate or combined cable communications or television, telephone, telecommunications systems or services, including wireless systems or services, through the ownership of systems or offering of the services.

Sec. 2. Section 362.2, subsection 6, Code 1999, is amended to read as follows:
6. “City utility” means all or part of a waterworks, gasworks, sanitary sewage system, storm water drainage system, electric light and power plant and system, heating plant, cable communication or television system, telephone or telecommunications systems or services offered separately or combined with any system or service specified in this subsection or authorized by other law, any of which are owned by a city, including all land, easements, rights of way, fixtures, equipment, accessories, improvements, appurtenances, and other property necessary or useful for the operation of the utility.

The 1999 legislation opened the door for Iowa communities wanting to provide broadband access in areas that had been overlooked by the private sector. Since 1999, however, lobbyists for the telecommunications industry have found ways to increase regulation of community networks that does not apply to the private sector.

In addition to an analysis of how this rule changed Iowa's approach to networks, ILSR summarizes detailed changes in the original legislation. The analysis includes pros and cons and how the telecom lobby has influenced the Iowa law since its inception.

Read more here in the ILSR Rules Library.

Posted February 22, 2012 by christopher

The latest addition to our Community Broadband Network Map is Indianola, Iowa. The Indianola Municipal Utilities own a network that a private partner, MCG, presently uses to offer services to commercial companies. Come summer, the network will begin serving residents also.

Indianola is the county seat of Warren County and has a population pushing 15,000. Back in 1998, the city had a referendum before building a fiber ring. The utility first used its telecommunications capacity for SCADA applications and public safety communications but began using spare capacity to benefit local businesses after 2005.

Indianola describes its network as open access but the network only has one provider. Nonetheless, it serves 70 commercial customers and is presently expanding. It is not available on citywide basis yet and further rollout will be on an incremental basis over many years.

In the open access arragement, service providers have to come to an agreement with the utility on pricing and adequate levels of customer support.

The utility entered the broadband space because incumbent providers Qwest (now CenturyLink) and Mediacom were not meeting local business needs, a familiar story we hear from communities around the country.

Contrary to the common claims of big cable and DSL companies, the city was still willing to work with its telecom competitors -- but it was Mediacom that said it was uninterested in using utility ducts created when parts of town were transitioned from aerial utility service to buried.

In reaction to the competition, Mediacom dropped its business pricing for customers that agreed to long-term contract offerings. IMU (and partner MCG) once had a considerable advantage in pricing but Mediacom's new packages have eroded some of that difference. Fortunately, IMU has a better reputation for service and does not require long term contracts.

Indianola, Iowa

One of the biggest benefits to the community is the high-capacity connections at schools, libraries, and public buildings. Schools connect to each other at a gigabit, allowing them to centralize network operations and cut costs. The municipal and county governments gain the same benefits.

Todd Kielkopf, IMU General...

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