Tag: "competition"

Posted June 13, 2019 by lgonzalez

Ammon, Idaho’s open access software defined network has earned accolades from industry experts and been hailed as a model approach for other communities. It has been praised for serving the community, providing reliability, and offering affordable options. Amid news of expansion, the positive effects of competition via the publicly owned network have recently flashed across news and social media. People who don’t live in the Idaho city are shocked to learn how affordable high-quality Internet access can be. 

Growing a Good Thing

In March, City of Ammon Fiber Optics began to deploy in the city’s Bridgewater neighborhood, where they expected to connect around 300 of the potential 500 subscriber households with this particular expansion. Three more neighborhoods are lined up for expansion this summer and into the fall.

The city provides several options for residents in Ammon, including the Local Improvement District (LID) approach, to finance expansions of the infrastructure. Their method allows the community to continue to build the network without borrowing or bonding. Community members within the boundaries of the project area can sign up at the beginning of the process to pay for connecting over a 20-year period. If they decide to pass initially and connect later, they must pay the connection fee out of pocket. In 2018, the city of Ammon developed this explainer video:

If people want to pay the full connection fee all at once, they have the option to do so, but many people choose to pay through the LID. Connecting to the networks usually costs between $3,000 - $3,500. Groups of neighbors come together to create the LIDs because deploying in an area where there are multiple homes interested in connecting to the network is less expensive than a single home connection. The more property owners who opt in to connect to City of Ammon Fiber Optics, the lower the cost is to every one who wants to connect.

Keeping it Clear

To most people, connecting to the Internet means a bill from an Internet access company such as Comcast or AT&T. Subscribers who obtain Internet access from large...

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Posted May 8, 2019 by htrostle

Grinnell, Iowa, home to about 9,000 people, has a need for speed. That’s why the city is looking to Mahaska Communication Group (MCG) to provide high-speed Internet service of up to 1 Gbps (1,000 Mbps) over a Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network. After MCG announced the possibility in mid-April 2019, Windstream Communications now also plans to bring FTTH to Grinnell according to The Scarlet and Black.

“Undeniable Correlation"

MCG has already distributed a two-question survey to residents in the Grinnell area to determine interest in the FTTH network. To give residents an estimate of the prices, MCG linked the price list for Oskaloosa. The prices are $50 for 25 Mbps (download) / 25 Mbps (upload) and $75 for 1 Gbps/1 Gbps. The company also offers triple play packages of Internet, TV, and phone.

The Grinnell Area Chamber of Commerce stated that MCG may start building the FTTH network in 2020. Similarly, Windstream has revealed a plan to start building its own FTTH network in Grinnell in the Fall of 2019. City Manager Russ Behrens told The Scarlett and Black:

"At the end of the day, our goal is not necessarily to support one [Internet service provider] over the other, it’s to provide the best broadband service to the community that we can, so that’s what we’re trying to do.”

He also mentioned that there was “an undeniable correlation" between the MCG interest and the Windstream announcement.

Two Years of Examination

About two and a half years ago, the city and the Grinnell Area Chamber of Commerce put together a series of focus groups to learn what residents and businesses wanted. Better Internet service made it into those...

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Posted April 4, 2019 by lgonzalez

Erie County, New York, and its county seat of Buffalo have had high-quality Internet access on their minds for several years. Now, County Executive Mark Poloncarz proposes a project to deploy middle mile infrastructure to attract local ISPs and generate competition. We're pleased to see county leadership taking another shot at better connectivity for the people in Erie County, but we hope community leaders will approach the project realistically; in order to bring high-quality Internet access to everyone, the county may need to play a more significant role in the future.

A Lingering Problem, A Possible Solution

Even though it's the county seat, a 2015 report from Erie County's Municipal Broadband Committee noted that the Buffalo Metropolitan Area's peak speeds ranked 294th in the state and that areas existed where there was no option for Internet access of ANY kind. The results horrified elected officials at the time; they issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) to study the feasibility of a county-wide publicly owned broadband network. 

After a survey of residents and businesses, and an assessment of the current situation in Erie County, the final feasibility study recommended several actions, including a middle mile open access network investment. You can review the entire 2017 feasibility study here.

Problems with lackluster and even nonexistent Internet access have lingered in Buffalo and Erie County throughout the past two years. Community leaders have considered the feasibility study and given providers Verizon, Spectrum, AT&T, CenturyLink, and others operating in the region the chance to improve services to the entire county.

Now, County Executive Mark Poloncarz has announced that enough is enough and the digital divide won't narrow unless the public takes control. Taking the recommendation of the 2017 feasibility study to heart, Poloncarz has announced that he'd like Erie County...

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Posted March 6, 2019 by lgonzalez

Idaho Falls residents in select areas are now able to tap into fast, affordable, reliable connectivity through their city’s fiber optic network. Idaho Falls Fiber (IFF) and Idaho Falls Power (IFP) recently announced that premises in three residential areas of the city can now sign-up to connect to the open access Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network. 

Check out the IFF Fiber Service Areas Map.

With A Little Help From UTOPIA

Idaho Falls has operated Circa, a municipally owned dark fiber network for around eight years. The infrastructure has been managed by IFP to offer connectivity to local businesses and municipal facilities, but a few years ago, community leaders began investigating ways to use the resource for residential purposes.

After working with two separate consulting firms and reviewing options and recommendations, city leaders decided to move forward. Located across the Snake River from Ammon, Idaho Falls may have been inspired by the accolades Ammon has collected in developing their open access software defined network. With significant infrastructure in place via the Circa Network, a residential pilot program is a logical step toward improving connectivity for the entire community.

Idaho Falls leadership began collaborating with folks from UTOPIA Fiber, who they hired to design and manage the pilot. As in places such as Owensboro, Kentucky and Anacortes, Washington, the city chose to pursue the pilot to examine how FTTH might be received by residents, what technical issues might arise, and to help spread the word that high-quality Internet access would be available from the municipal utility.

"We'll see how the economics work out in this, what the, you know, support is within the community, support is within the neighborhoods," [General Manager of IFF and IFP Bear...

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Posted February 13, 2019 by lgonzalez

At the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, we believe that competition for goods and services helps communities, consumers, and the economy. This belief carries over into the mobile Internet access market, which is one of the reasons we oppose a merger between Sprint and T-Mobile. We’re not alone and we’ve now joined with other organizations as part of the 4Competition Coalition.

As the prospect of 5G wireless connectivity becomes more probable, these two companies claim that they need to merge in order to remain competitive with the other two mobile Internet access providers. In reality, reducing mobile subscriber options from four to three, creates no benefit for anyone except the companies with less competition.

In a press release announcing ILSR’s decision to join the Coalition, Christopher stated:

“Market competition between Sprint and T-Mobile has made mobile Internet access available to millions of low-income households. We are deeply concerned that this merger will harm those households and leave them without any affordable Internet access.”

Along with ILSR, trade group INCOMPAS joined the 4Competition Coalition. INCOMPAS also strongly advocates ample choice in the broadband arena and recognized Sprint and T-Mobile’s past work to keep competition alive.

So Much to Lose

Losing a mobile Internet access provider as an option is bad, but it isn’t the only consequence that we face if the merger goes through. The Coalition recognizes that results will likely be job losses, higher rates, locking out new entrants to the market, broken promises regarding 5G, and harm especially to people in rural areas. At least 11 states are also not convinced that a Sprint/T-Mobile merger is in the interest of their citizens and are reviewing the proposal.

In order to help spread the word and share information, the 4Competition Coalition is making resources available online. In addition to Petitions to stop the merger that have already been filed, anyone can access and read relevant...

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Posted January 8, 2019 by lgonzalez

Many of us are accustomed to Internet access from companies that own the infrastructure, offer only a few options, and are one of a small number of providers. For the most part, we've learned to accept that model, but will it ever change? This week’s guest, President of EntryPoint Networks Jeff Christensen, explains why that model is broken and how we can fix it through software defined networks (SDNs). We can turn that model around to put control in the hands of users.

EntryPoint works primarily with municipalities to develop open access networks that separate infrastructure from services. As you’ll hear from Jeff, this approach takes the open nature of the Internet even further to encourage innovation, competition, access to goods, services, information, and ideas. EntryPoint’s approach turns the traditional closed system most American’s are used to on its head.

Jeff explains how the growing use of the cloud and changes in other technology have brought us to the moment when we can change how we interact with the Internet. Moving forward, users rather than ISPs, will drive technology innovations. Christopher and Jeff discuss how cloud edge computing will drive that shift, how SDNs enable innovation, and how municipalities fill a role they are already familiar with as keepers of infrastructure. They also get into some of the considerations to keep in mind if a community is looking at SDN technology.

Ammon, Idaho, has already adopted a dynamic open access approach with a SDN; Jeff and Christopher discuss the way the community has blazed a trail for other municipalities and the benefits it is bringing. They talk about Ammon’s innovative financial approach, Local Improvement...

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Posted December 11, 2018 by lgonzalez

As they look back over their accomplishments, the Roanoke Valley Broadband Authority (RVBA) has more than the holidays to celebrate at the close of 2018. In addition to stimulating competition in the region, the RVBA network is attracting more investment and helping local nonprofits operate more efficiently.

Dual Purpose

For Feeding America Southwest Virginia in Salem, connectivity from RVBA is critical. “Without that Internet connection reliability, it would be very difficult for us to achieve our mission,” says IT Director Eric Geist. The food bank is one of the enterprise customers that the RVBA serves in the region, providing affordable access to organizations and institutions such as nonprofits, businesses, and institutions.

By providing affordable connectivity and services focused on the needs of businesses, the RVBA network has helped drive competition in the region. According to CEO Frank Smith’s research, prices have dropped 25 - 30 percent. The change squares with the RVBA mission to enhance and promote economic development by improving connectivity services and prices in Salem, Roanoke, and the counties of Roanoke and Botetourt. They've seen results in the past three years with greater expectations ahead.

The History

Before the network, the valley was caught in a connectivity “donut hole.” The populations in Salem and Roanoke had access to some cable Internet access and were large enough to prevent the region from obtaining grants to entice providers to upgrade. In 2013, local governments decided to work together to improve connectivity and funded a feasibility study, which recommended an open access network.

roanoke-valley-va_1.jpg Botetourt and Roanoke Counties were indecisive about their commitment to the project, but the cities of Salem and Roanoke pushed ahead. Salem, with its own electric utility, already had some fiber infrastructure in place, which lowered the cost of the...

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Posted November 5, 2018 by lgonzalez

We knew that Longmonters loved their publicly owned network, but recent numbers show how many of them have shunned incumbents to switch. More than half of the market in Longmont has now signed up with NextLight. While NextLight subscribers enjoy fast, affordable, reliable connectivity from their network, benefits from competition are also creating a better environment for Longmonters who have stayed with the incumbents.

When Longmont Power and Communications (LPC) set out to serve the community in 2014, their goal was to reach approximately 37 percent of the market within five years. According to LPC’s Scott Rochat, they’ve blown away that goal and have already reached 54 percent.

No Tricks, Just Gigabits

While large national providers focus their efforts to capture customers with gimmicks such as reduced introductory rates that later increase, LPC has appealed to subscribers with a series of intelligent moves that show their commitment to the community.

At the start of 2018, LPC dropped the cost of their symmetrical gigabit Internet access from $99.95 per month to $69.95 per month. If subscribers have been connected for 12 continuous months, they’re eligible for a loyalty discount which brings the price down another $10 per month. During deployment, LPC created a special program in which folks who signed up for service within three months that service was available in their areas were able to cut yet another $10 per month off their gigabit rate for as long as they stayed connected. These Charter Members are able to take that $49.95 per month rate with them when they move to a different Longmont address where NextLight is available and the rate stays at the premise that they sell.

Approximately 93 percent of NextLight residential subscribers are Charter Members, Rochat told the Times Call. The network currently serves 17,400 premises.

Subscribers who referred friends were also able to get a free month of service for each referral and they had extended the promotion to digital voice service.

Competition=Better Rates, Better Services

The...

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Posted September 7, 2018 by lgonzalez

Foresite Group has created a video that explains how open access networks can offer better connectivity, including the element of competition, for rural communities. In the video, they profile a strawberry farmer who now relies on expensive and unreliable satellite Internet access, but who needs broadband in order to improve his farming operation.

The short video explains the positives for the network owner, the potential subscribers, and ISPs that are interested in providing services to rural folks.

Check it out: 

Posted August 22, 2018 by lgonzalez

In this policy brief, we highlight the gulf between FCC broadband data for Rochester and what’s actually available to residents by examining local competition. Download the policy brief Broadband Competition in the Rochester Region: Reality vs Federal Statistics here.

Rochester Competition: Not All it Appears to Be

The city, home to the world-famous Mayo Clinic, had previously considered building a municipal network, but the idea was dropped, in part because of the incorrect perception that enough competition already exists between Internet service providers. Our analysis and the corresponding maps reveal that broadband competition in the region is more limited than many realize.

The policy brief concludes:

“Overall, Charter and CenturyLink compete for the urban center of Rochester, while the rural areas rely almost exclusively on fixed wireless for broadband service. Even where residents have a choice in broadband, anyone looking for speeds in excess of 40 Mbps will almost certainly have to subscribe to Charter Spectrum. This is why more cities, especially those with municipal electric services, are considering how smart local investments can ensure more consumer choices and a working market for these essential services.”

Shortcomings of FCC Data

As we’ve covered before, the FCC collects data by census block, which incorrectly inflates broadband access and competition data. Internet service providers self-report and describe an entire block as “served” even if they can only connect one address in that census block.

We describe the problems with self-reporting in the policy brief:

“Large, de facto monopoly providers have incentives to overstate their coverage and territory to hide the unreliable and slow nature of their service in many communities. Small providers often have trouble completing the FCC Form 477. . . Larger providers have plenty of staff to handle the form and seem to benefit the most from its flaws, as this data is often used to determine whether government programs should invest additional funds into an area, often by a competitive grant program....

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