Tag: "cedar falls"

Posted November 28, 2019 by lgonzalez

As late November arrives, so does the the holiday season for many of our readers. People reading up on local efforts to improve Internet access will be counting their blessings today, which inspires us to do the same. There are many things we have to be thankful this year.

As access to affordable broadband becomes increasingly critical in today's world, however, and as rates from the large Internet access companies continue to rise, getting online is more challenging than ever for folks with limited incomes. We want to express our appreciation for local communities who adopt policies to make high-quality Internet access available to lower income households through their municipal networks.

A Growing Awareness

Wilson, North Carolina, decided that as part of the community network's mission, they would offer fast, reliable fiber Internet access available to those living in public housing residences. Since then, we've seen other communities take creative approaches to ensure that everyone can use the network, not only those who are already better off. Municipalities that see the value of publicly owned fiber optic infrastructure understand the value of eliminating cherry picking as a way to tap into their undiscovered human capital.

Unlike large corporate Internet access providers, publicly owned networks don't need to maximize profit from every subscriber in order to please shareholders. They consider themselves in place for the public good. Munis can dedicate themselves toward digital inclusion efforts, which are in line with their mission.

During Digital Inclusion Week in October, we detailed some of the innovative approaches that local decision makers are adopting to ensure the least fortunate in their communities have access to the community's new fiber tools. Here are just a few:

In Hillsboro, Oregon, one of the first neighborhoods to receive gigabit connectivity through HiLight will be one of the areas of town where many folks don't have access to, or can't afford broadband Internet access. People there who qualify for SNAP, free and reduced lunches, or other income-based assistance...

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Posted October 10, 2019 by Katie Kienbaum

Which would you choose — a broadband subscription with download speeds of 15 Megabits per second (Mbps) or a much faster gigabit plan for the same price?

The choice is clear, and it’s one that low-income households in Hillsboro, Oregon, may soon make, thanks to the city’s planned municipal fiber network. Earlier this year, Hillsboro announced that its new broadband utility, HiLight, will offer gigabit connectivity for only $10 per month to qualified low-income residents. In comparison, Comcast’s Internet Essentials program provides low-income families in the city speeds of just 15 Mbps for roughly the same monthly cost.

Hillsboro isn’t the first community to leverage its publicly owned fiber network for digital inclusion efforts. Municipal networks across the country are providing low-cost connectivity, affordable devices, and digital skills trainings to their communities, bringing the educational, economic, and healthcare benefits of broadband access to more people.

Defining Digital Inclusion

Digital inclusion is the practice of ensuring digital equity, which the National Digital Inclusion Alliance defines as “a condition in which all individuals and communities have the information technology capacity needed for full participation in our society, democracy and economy.”

Broadband availability is only one of many “digital divides” that explain who is and isn’t connected. For instance, income and affordability also play a role. According to the Pew Research Center, adults with annual incomes of $75,000 or more are almost twice as likely to have broadband access at home than adults with annual incomes of less than $30,000. Among those without home broadband access, the high cost of a subscription is most commonly cited as the top reason why, Pew reports.

logo-NDIA.jpg To succeed, digital...

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Posted June 5, 2019 by htrostle

Vinton, Iowa, is moving ahead with plans for a Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network. This small town is home to only 5,100, but soon it will have Internet service that rivals the largest cities. Broadband Bytes, the blog of the Community Broadband Action Network, posted that Cedar Falls, Iowa, and ImOn Communications will be key to Vinton’s efforts to build the community network.

Steady Progress Since 2015

Since fall 2015, Vinton voters have been awaiting the results of their broadband vote, and the town has been steadily moving forward on plans to improve Internet access. Slow DSL connections limit businesses and residents, and cable is only available in some areas of the community. In 2017, Vinton began to develop a feasibility study for the project, and by Spring 2018, the town had an estimate of $8.9 million for the cost to connect all 2,100 premises within the 4.74 square miles of the community. 

The project has drawn attention from the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA), a corporate sponsored group that works to spread misinformation about municipal networks. Their questionable methods to attempt to sway community leaders failed, however, and the project is still advancing. The need for broadband is strong in this town. 

Moving Forward: Working with Others and Answering Questions

Building a FTTH network is no small task, but Vinton can look to Cedar Falls for advice. Cedar Falls has been a trailblazer -- it was one of the first cities to develop a municipal network for Internet access. Vinton will be collaborating with Cedar Falls to use the centrally located headend, equipment needed to provide...

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Posted April 9, 2019 by lgonzalez

Vinton, Iowa, is on the road to Internet access self-reliance as the community of about 5,100 people continue to move forward with their Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) project. They’ve come under attack, however, from the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA). The group is part of a web of organizations aimed at increasing corporate dominance and corporate concentration of power. TPA sent a letter filled with the usual twisted anti-muni spin, but this time went a step farther. A TPA senior fellow mischaracterized a quote from one of the industry’s most respected experts in order to push their harmful agenda.

Former State Representative Chip Baltimore did not run for re-election last year and now fills his days trying to prevent competition for the large incumbent ISPs. His methods include interfering in local communities’ decisions to improve connectivity. In an attempt to undermine the project and frighten community leaders out of supporting it, Baltimore sent a letter to Vinton Municipal Electric Utility Board Members in February.

The letter included several overused fallacies that permeate TPA literature and in other letters we’ve seen directed to decision makers in other communities. Baltimore also included a quote from Joanne Hovis from CTC Technology & Energy. The quote applied to take rates in another part of the country far away from Vinton. 

Farr Technologies, the consultants that performed the feasibility study for Vinton, estimated that iVinton could achieve take rates of 40 percent in the first year and grow to 62 percent within five years. Baltimore tried to use Hovis’s statement, which applied to a different community, to discredit Farr’s estimate. It’s true that these rates appear high, but folks in Vinton have shown that they believe the electric utility can provide better service than incumbents Mediacom or CenturyLink. Farr’s consultants considered the community’s survey results, expressions of dissatisfaction with current incumbents, and the electric utility’s stellar reputation with customers when estimating future take rates. 

logo-vinton-electric.png In 2015, when the town started to dig...

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Posted May 24, 2017 by lgonzalez

Usually, we ignore the misinformation released by the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) but their latest efforts are so shady, we felt it was our responsibility to shine a light on its lack of validity and the organization's credibility. Our report, Correcting Community Fiber Fallacies: Taxpayers Protection Alliance Edition, takes a deeper look at the TAP's most recent attempt, which is filled with errors and a blatant disregard for the truth.

What Is A "Boondoggle" Anyway? This Map!

When we looked deeper, we discovered that TPA’s "Broadband Boondoggles: A Map of Failed Taxpayer-Funded Networks" is more misinformation than map. 

All of the basic errors in the map display a lack of attention to detail; our short report examines the deceitful characteristics of this resource. Our purpose in publishing this report is to caution community leaders and citizens who are investigating publicly owned infrastructure; the TPA is not a credible source.

TPA-sandyUtah.png

One of the more obvious errors: Sandy, Oregon, appears in Utah.

The map is also visually deceiving because it includes 213 communities, but only provides information for 87. Of the 213 on the map, the TPA only label 14 as "failures," which means less than 10 percent of the networks they document fit their own definition of "failure."

Clearly, TPA has proven that it seeks to spread any and all information it can find to discredit municipal networks, regardless of accuracy. Communities, public officials, or staff that research the option of publicly owned networks should review our report if they have ever considered the data in the Boondoggles Map.

Consider the Source

If your community is seeking better connectivity, thorough research will be the foundation of how you proceed. As part of your research, be sure to review the organizations that offer information.

From our report:

This brief report does not claim all municipal networks are successes. Municipal networks are challenging in the best of circumstances and local governments must perform due diligence...

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Posted March 8, 2017 by htrostle

Last April, the small town of Waverly in central Iowa connected its first customers to test the new, citywide, Fiber-to-the Home (FTTH) network. After years of sub-par service from incumbent providers, the residents wanted something better. After securing funding, the municipal Waverly Utilities set to work on the Connect Waverly network. Services officially became available for everyone in July 2016.

Today, Connect Waverly stretches to all 10,000 homes and businesses in the town and provides high-speed Internet service of up to 1 Gigabit per second (1,000 Mbps) symmetrical to more than 1,200 residential and commercial customers. The Courier's Cedar Valley Business Monthly reports that Waverly's high take rate is double their six-month goal.

Jennifer Bloker, Waverly Utilities’ Director of Marketing and Public Information, told the Courier’s Cedar Valley Business Monthly, “We’re investing back into our community. We care about Waverly as a whole.”

Collaboration with Cedar Falls

Waverly Utilities had support from another utility, the long-running municipal network in Cedar Falls, Iowa. The two towns are collaborating and will share ownership of new equipment, such as an IPTV head-end system, to serve the customers on both networks. 

Waverly Utilities’ Director of Telecom Service, Jeff Magsamen, appreciates the support. Magsamen told the Courier:

“We have a good partnership with them. They’re always there to answer questions, they’ve helped us out a lot. Drawing on CFU’s [Cedar Falls Utilities] decades of experience has benefited us greatly.” 

Learn More About Waverly And Beyond

Back in 2013, Waverly turned to the voters to approve a measure for a municipal telecommunications utility. The community had already passed a similar...

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Posted January 11, 2017 by lgonzalez

It’s no small feat to plan, deploy, and operate a municipal citywide Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network, but communities are doing it. We’ve put together a Citywide Municipal FTTH Networks list and a map, with quick facts at your fingertips. If your community is considering such an investment, this list can offer a starting point on discovering similarly situated locations to study.

The list is divided by state and each state heading offers a description of any barriers that exist and a link to the statute in question. Under each community, we also included relevant links such as to the provider’s website, coverage on MuniNetworks.org, and reports or resources about the network.

We used four basic criteria to put a community on our list and map:

  • The network must cover at least 80% of a city.
  • A local government (city, town, or county) owns the infrastructure.
  • It is a Fiber-to-the-Home network.
  • It is in the United States. 

Share the list far and wide and if you know of a community network that meets our criteria that we missed, please let us know. Contact H. Trostle at htrostle@ilsr.org to suggest additions.

Posted December 22, 2015 by htrostle

Iowa, known across the country for its agriculture, is known in other circles for its exciting community broadband projects. Earlier this year President Obama visited Cedar Falls to praise its municipal network and to support other efforts to improve rural high-speed Internet access. One of those efforts is Wiatel. This small telecommunications coop is beginning a $25 million project to upgrade its network from copper to fiber throughout its entire service area.

Fiber Connectivity

The cooper network that Wiatel uses now is sufficient for basic phone service, but upgrading to fiber will future-proof the network and provide better Internet speeds. The coop is based out of Lawton, a small town of about 1,000 people, but the coop serves an area of 700 miles. Wiatel hopes to start burying the fiber cables in the summer of 2016. Once the project gets started, officials from the cooperative estimate they will connect all residential and business customers to fiber within 24-30 months.

Wiatel is part of a long-growing movement as rural coops build fiber networks or upgrade to fiber to improve services for members. Just check out the Triangle Communications coop in Montana, the Paul Bunyan Communications coop in Minnesota, or Farmers Telecommunications Cooperative in Alabama. They’re providing next-generation connectivity at reasonable prices to rural communities often ignored by the large incumbent telephone and cable companies.

Coops: An Alternative

Without an immediate return on investment, large corporate providers have little incentive to build in sparsely populated areas. Traditional corporate providers must answer to shareholders seeking short term profits. Cooperatives are owned by the people they serve, giving their shareholders a practical, real, tangible interest in the success of the endeavor and the community it serves....

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Posted January 15, 2015 by lgonzalez

On January 14th, President Obama visited Cedar Falls, Iowa, to share his strategy to expand high-speed connectivity to more Americans, encourage competition, and galvanize economic development. Obama's plan centers around community networks and he announced that the next step will be eliminating barriers in 19 states that usurp local authority to invest in publicly owned infrastructure.

From his remarks [C-SPAN Video below]:

Today, I'm making my administration's position clear on community broadband. I'm saying I'm on the side of competition. And I'm on the side of small business owners... I'm on the side of students and schools. I believe that a community has the right to make its own choice and to provide its own broadband if it wants to. Nobody is going to force you to do it, but if you want to do it, if the community decides this is something that we want to do to give ourselves a competitive edge and to help our young people and our businesses, they should be able to do it.

The Obama Administration, through the Department of Commerce, recently sent a letter [PDF] to Chairman Wheeler to request the FCC use its authority to end state barriers that block local public investment. The Hill noted the letter and the President's speech together put gentle pressure on the FCC to take steps to restore local authority. The Hill also gave space to the cable industry, naturally opposed to restoring local authority after millions of lobbying dollars invested in passing anti-competitive legislation.

InfoWorld also pointed out cable industry opposition to the Obama proposal, noting that they were ready to mount a strong offense and will likely join Congressional Republicans to fight any roll-back of state barriers. A decision from the FCC on whether or not to change state laws in North Carolina and Tennessee is expected in February.

As for the incumbents, there was no love...

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Posted January 14, 2015 by lgonzalez

In January 2015, President Barak Obama appeared in Cedar Falls, Iowa, to present his administration's plan to encourage local choice and competition through community networks. The President's strategy includes eliminating barriers to local telecom authority that now exist in 19 states. 

The Broadband That Works: Promoting Competition & Local Choice In Next-Generation Connectivity fact sheet, released by the White House Office of the Press Secretary on the eve of the appearance, provides info on several communities served by munis and the benefits they have enjoyed. The fact sheet also outlines five steps the administrations proposes to improves access, adoption, and investment.

For more detailed information, download the accompanying report by the National Economic Council and Council of Economic Advisors.

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