Tag: "competition"

Posted November 2, 2022 by Sean Gonsalves

The Hudson Clock Tower is the most recognizable landmark in the City of Hudson. The 44-foot tall Romanesque-style brick structure was gifted to the city over a hundred years ago by James Ellsworth, a millionaire who considered it a symbol that the time had come to modernize the city’s infrastructure having “watched the town he had grown up in, fall into disrepair.”

Now, this city in northeast Ohio, 15 miles north of Akron, is reviving the public-minded spirit of Ellsworth as it looks to modernize its telecommunications infrastructure through a public-private partnership that would expand the city-owned municipal fiber network, which now only serves part of the city, to reach all 22,000 residents who call Hudson home.

In mid-October the city issued a Request for Proposals in which “all models of network ownership will be considered (that) may either incorporate the (existing city-owned) Velocity Broadband network within the proposed network or may focus on the development of a network completely independent from Velocity Broadband.”

Proposals from prospective Internet service providers are due by Dec. 2.

Velocity Broadband and Then Some

Velocity Broadband was created in 2015 to primarily serve the city’s businesses. In the years since, the city-owned and operated network began offering residential service to a limited number of homes located along the network’s existing fiber path.

Today, Velocity Broadband enjoys a 50 percent take-rate as it serves over 450 business and residential subscribers. The network generates nearly $1 million in revenue each year that covers all operating expenses and debt service, leaving the city with an annual net profit of $150,000.

But, as noted in the RFP:

Although the city already owns and operates its own fiber service in the form of Velocity Broadband, there is still a significant need within the community for access to fiber within residential areas. Currently, over 72%, or 5...

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Posted November 2, 2022 by Ry Marcattilio

This week on the podcast, Christopher is joined by Aaron Meyerson, former Deputy CTO for the city of New York. Christopher and Aaron dig into New York City's Internet Master Plan, which launched in the spring of 2021 and gained steam before being put on hold by the Adam's administration in January of 2022. 

Aaron shares the lessons he learned in creating a single, streamlined process for intra-agency cooperation in the name of facilitating a smooth experience for vendors and the value that unlocking city-owned assets can add to efforts like this. He also tells Chris about navigating the razors' edge of pursuing a large-scale solution, as NYC's Master Plan was intended to be, as opposed to smaller, quicker projects that could be turned around in a single election cycle and avoid the sometimes inevitable slowdown that comes with the changing of the guard. 

Finally, Christopher and Aaron talk about NYC's new plan for connectivity in public housing developments, and their concerns about longevity and where the money's going. 

This show is 32 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed. You can listen to the interview on this page or visit the Community Broadband Bits page.

Transcript coming soon. 

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

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Posted October 26, 2022 by Karl Bode

Lehi City, Utah has broken ground on its new citywide fiber optic broadband network. The network, which city leaders say should take somewhere around three years to complete, will be built on the back of Lehi’s Utilities Department, part of a growing trend of U.S. utilities using an historic infusion of federal funding to expand affordable broadband connectivity.

The Lehi Fiber Network will operate as an open access network, meaning that multiple ISPs will be able to utilize the city’s new infrastructure, providing a much-needed dose of broadband competition to local residents and businesses alike. 

Five ISPs have already committed to providing service over the city-owned fiber, with the first customers expected to see service sometime in early 2023. Lehi’s partner ISPs have yet to specify tier pricing, but data consistently shows that such open access competition routinely drives down costs and improves service quality in regions where it’s adopted. 

After hiring Magellan to conduct a feasibility study, the city in 2020 approved financing the network with a bond it hopes will be fully paid off by broadband subscriber revenues. In 2021, the city announced it had chosen Strata Networks — the largest independent cooperative in Utah — to build and operate the network.

“We hope you’re as impressed with us as we are with you,” Bruce Todd, CEO of Strata Networks, said at the recent groundbreaking ceremony. “We’ve been involved in the broadband Internet industry for over 20 years. Covid changed how we looked at things, it became very important to get Internet to everyone and especially school children.”

With a population of 80,000 residents, city officials told ILSR that the total cost of the network is...

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Posted October 21, 2022 by Karl Bode

Avon, Colorado will soon be joining Project THOR, an open access middle mile fiber alliance of 14 communities spearheaded by the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments (NWCCOG).

The network, which feeds into NWCCOG’s Point of Presence in Denver, has dramatically benefited state anchor institutions and boosted network reliability across large swaths of Northwest Colorado. 

We detailed Project Thor and talked with NWCCOG Executive Director Jon Stavney in episode 406 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. “The image of the hammer and breaking down roadblocks and breaking down barriers really worked,” NWCCOG officials told the Colorado Sun when asked about the project being named after the Norse god of thunder.

A recent broadband assessment (page 50) of Avon conducted by an outside consultant found that Avon locals were annoyed by limited broadband competition, high prices, and a lack of reliability from current private sector broadband offerings. The survey also found locals would be supportive of a city-run broadband initiative if it meant lower prices and faster service. 

“We believe the installation of a fiber optic network to enable improved broadband service is appropriate and beneficial in Avon and deployment should commence in the near term so that Avon does not fall too far behind peer communities,” the report found. 

In response, Avon – a town of about 6,000 residents nestled in the shadows of the Rocky Mountains along the Eagle River – considered three routes: tasking the local utility with building its own publicly-owned fiber network; joining Project Thor under a hybrid public-private partnership (PPP) where they sold access to governments, schools and hospitals and local ISPs; or joining Project Thor under a pure PPP where they only sold access to local ISPs.

...

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Posted October 19, 2022 by Ry Marcattilio

Join us live on Thursday, October 20, at 11am ET for the latest episode of the Connect This! Show. Co-hosts Christopher Mitchell (ILSR) and Travis Carter (USI Fiber) will be joined by regular guests Kim McKinley (UTOPIA Fiber) and Doug Dawson (CCG Consulting). They'll dig into the chase for gigabit Tarana by Travis, a new LA County report which finds significant pricing disparities by Charter Spectrum in low-income neighborhoods, and Starry's recent decent to abandon all of its Rrural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) bids. Special guest Dustin Loup (Marconi Society, National Broadband Mapping Coalition) will join later in the show to talk about the recently announced FCC contract with Cost Quest for the new national broadband availability maps.

Email us at broadband@muninetworks.org with feedback and ideas for the show.

Subscribe to the show using this feed or find it on the Connect This! page, watch on YouTube Live, on Facebook live, or below.

Posted October 18, 2022 by Ry Marcattilio

This week on the podcast, Christopher is joined by Shayna Englin, Director of the Digital Equity Initiative at the California Community Foundation (CCF) to talk about a new report by CCF and its partners that reveals the systematic broadband cost inequities perpetuated in LA County by Charter Spectrum, the region's monopoly provider. "Sounding the Alarm," a pricing and policy impact study, shows not only that economically vulnerable households in Charter Spectrum territory pay more for slower service than those in wealthy neighborhoods, but that they are also saddled with worse contracts and regularly see fewer advertisements for the monopoly provider's lowest cost plans.

The result, Shayna shares, is that the higher poverty neighborhoods (often predominantly populated by households of color) often pay from $10 to $40/month more than low-poverty (often predominantly populated by white households) for the exact same service. Christopher and Shayne talk through the implications of these findings, and the report's call for policy changes to address Charter Spectrum's practices. They end the show by talking through some of the upcoming broadband infrastructure rules at the state level aimed at improving access and competition.

This show is 35 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed. You can listen to the interview on this page or visit the Community Broadband Bits page.

Transcript coming soon. 

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

Listen to ...

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Posted October 18, 2022 by Karl Bode

Lexington, Tennessee is the latest U.S. city that will soon see the expansion of more affordable fiber thanks to the city-owned utility, Lexington Electric System (LES). LES’ recent $27.49 million state grant award will be the backbone of a new initiative that will both improve the utility’s electrical services, and deliver a long overdue dose of broadband competition to the area. 

Cooperatives and utilities were huge winners in the latest round of awards from the Tennessee Emergency Broadband Fund, itself made possible by the American Rescue Plan. Of the $446.8 million in awards doled out by the state, utilities and cooperatives walked away with $204.4 million — or nearly half of all funds.

LES Lands Major Grant Funding

The second biggest grant recipient was LES, whose $27.49 million award will be used to deliver future-proof fiber to the 22,000 residents across Henderson, Decatur, Benton, Carroll and Hardin counties that already receive electricity service from the utility. 

The utility’s original business plan estimated that it will take five years and roughly $42 million to deploy 2,101 miles of new fiber to about 88 percent (18,183) of its current electric customer base. It then proposed taking another five years — and an additional $1.2 million — to reach the remainder of the utility’s harder to reach service users.

More recent estimates proposed by the utility peg the full cost of the fiber deployment at somewhere between $50 million and $55 million.  

“The $43 million dollars was an estimate on the front end of the project before we had a formal design done, updated material, labor, and all construction cost,” Lexington Electric System General Manager Jeff Graves told ILSR. “Part of this was based on the cost per customer of systems with a footprint similar to ours.”

Graves told ILSR that while...

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Posted September 30, 2022 by Ann Treacy

Harnessing its American Rescue Plan funds, the city of Syracuse is seeking a partner to launch a pilot project as a precursor to creating a citywide municipal broadband network and to support the city’s broader digital inclusion efforts.

In his 2022 State of the City address, Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh laid out the vision, recognizing that now is a time of opportunity.

"At no time in the past half century have conditions aligned so favorably for the City of Syracuse," Walsh said. "Population is growing. Graduation rates are rising. Private investment and job creation are again on the upswing. Our city fund balance has grown. The American Rescue Plan provides an unprecedented injection of federal aid — $123 million – to address challenges created and made worse by the pandemic. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework will pour tens of millions into the infrastructure challenges that always seemed just out of reach – roads, water, and broadband."

Syracuse wants to seize the opportunity by investing in both improved telecommunication infrastructure and digital literacy programs.

It has led the mayor’s office to issue a Request-for-Proposals (RFP) for the design, implementation and maintenance of a municipal network that would target households in Syracuse not currently served by the city’s incumbent providers (AT&T, Spectrum, and T-Mobile Home Internet). 

The deadline for submitting proposals is 2:30 pm ET October 11.

Seeking Open Ended Innovative Proposals

Similar to a recent request for proposals from Onondaga County (where Syracuse is the county seat), the city is seeking open-ended and innovative proposals. City officials have adopted a technology neutral approach and are not specifically asking for proposals to build a fiber network as most new municipal broadband proposals involve. Still, the city does have some parameters in mind. 

The...

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Posted September 26, 2022 by Karl Bode

In 2012 the residents of Siloam Springs, Arkansas voted against building their own fiber network after some misleading electioneering by the regional cable monopoly Cox Communications. A decade later and local residents are still frustrated by high prices and a lack of competition, as city leaders are still contemplating what exactly they should try to do about it. 

In June, the city released a new report by Finley Engineering and CCG Consulting showing the width and depth of the city’s broadband issues. That report was formally presented at an August city meeting before the city’s recently-formed Broadband Advisory Committee.

Survey Said … 

The survey showed that 11 percent of Siloam Springs residents still lack access to broadband, 77 percent of city residents want greater broadband competition, and 88 percent say they’re paying way too much for broadband service. While residents also complained about sluggish upload speeds and outages, the biggest consistent complaint was high prices. 

“The number one issue that came through loud and clear in the surveys is broadband pricing – practically every resident we heard from thinks current broadband is too expensive,” the study authors noted. 

Siloam Springs is heavily dominated by a duopoly of just two providers: Centurylink and Cox Communications. But even calling it a duopoly is generous; the city’s survey found that Cox enjoys a 92 percent broadband market share within city limits. The lack of competitive threat reduces any real incentive for the cable giant to lower prices or expand service. 

“We’ve never seen a cable company have that percentage of a market before,” CCG Consulting’s Doug Dawson told city leaders during the recent meeting

Indicating a potentially high take rate should the city move...

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Posted September 20, 2022 by Emma Gautier

Plans for an open access fiber backbone in Erie County, New York (pop. 951,000) are being readjusted after having been stymied by the pandemic. The county will use Rescue Plan funding to cover the cost of building the backbone, which will be owned by the county and operated by ErieNet, a nonprofit local development corporation. The backbone will make connectivity directly available to anchor institutions and enterprise businesses, but the county hopes the project will draw private providers to build out last-mile infrastructure to residents. With the new fiber ring, Erie County seeks to increase both broadband availability and competition in the area. 

The project began in spring 2019, when the county announced its plan for a $20 million open access network, which at that time it was looking to have up and running before 2022. ErieNet’s original plan was a response to an acute need for connectivity among the county’s southern and eastern rural towns, as well as much of Buffalo – despite these areas’ proximity to relatively well-connected wealthier suburban communities nearby. The county is for the most part monopoly domain, served by Charter Spectrum, Lumen (formerly CenturyLink), and in some small patches, Verizon. Verizon has cherry picked wealthier areas like Kenmore, Williamsville, and Amherst, as well as a few blocks in Buffalo by the company’s hub there, but has not found the rural or high-density and low-income areas profitable enough to build to. Relatively smaller providers like Crown Castle and FirstLight have also made infrastructure investments in parts of the county, but do not appear to have expansion plans.

The pandemic stalled Erie County’s buildout plans – supply chain challenges and bureaucracy-related complications have pushed the expected project completion date to 2025, though some customers may be able to connect to the network in 2024. According to the plan, Erie County is poised to become “...

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