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Content tagged with "bristol"
In Our View: Success Stories to Counter the Tide of Big Telecom Propaganda
Welcome to In Our View. From time to time, we use this space to explore new ideas and share our thoughts on recent events playing out across the digital landscape, as well as take the opportunity to draw attention to important but neglected broadband-related issues.
As federal funds to expand high-speed Internet access began to flow to states and local communities through the American Rescue Plan Act, and with billions more coming under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, Big Telecom is beginning to mount its expected opposition campaign designed to discourage federal (and state) decision-makers from prioritizing the building of publicly-owned networks.
Predictably, a centerpiece of this anti-municipal broadband campaign is the trotting out of well-worn - and thoroughly debunked - talking points, arguing that federal funding rules should not “encourage states to favor entities like non-profits and municipalities when choosing grant winners” because of their “well-documented propensity to fail at building and maintaining complex networks over time.” That’s what USTelecom, a trade organization representing big private Internet Service Providers (including the monopolies) wrote in a memo sent last week to President Biden, the FCC, cabinet secretaries, House and Senate members, Tribal leaders, as well as state broadband offices.
Maple Broadband Sets the Table for FTTH Network
Vermont’s nine Communication Union Districts (CUDs) were formed to build communication infrastructure to deliver reliable and affordable high-speed Internet access across one of the most rural states in the nation.
The East Central CUD, which owns and operates EC Fiber, has led the charge since its founding in 2011. But over the last few years other CUDs have launched their own plans to build fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) networks in their respective districts with each at various stages of planning or building.
Addison County is situated on the western border of the state about 35 miles west of the state capital (Montpelier), tucked between Lake Champlain and the Green Mountains. The region has long been served, or rather underserved, by Comcast, as the area’s primary Internet Service Provider does not cover the most rural parts of the county, leaving many of the county’s approximately 36,200 residents with outdated DSL service.
Poor connectivity at a time when high-speed Internet access is a must for most led to the establishment of the Addison County Communications Union District (ACCUD). Headquartered in the county seat in the town of Middlebury, over the past year, the fledgling CUD has grown to include 20 adjacent towns: Addison, Bridport, Bristol, Cornwall, Ferrisburgh, Leicester, Lincoln, Middlebury, Monkton, New Haven, Orwell Panton, Ripton, Salisbury, Shoreham, Starksboro, Vergennes, Waltham, Weybridge, and Whiting. The CUD has taken on the name Maple Broadband and is now setting the table to provide fiber-fed Internet service for broadband-hungry residents living in some of the hardest parts of the state to reach and serve.
Two Publicly Owned Networks Move To Privatize
If you’re a regular reader at MuniNetworks.org, listen to our podcasts, or if you simply follow publicly owned network news, you know an increasing number of communities have decided to invest in local connectivity solutions in recent years. We’ve watched the number of “pins” on our community network map multiply steadily, but every now and then, a network drops off through privatization.
FastRoads Sold To N.H. Optical Systems
New Hampshire FastRoads received America Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), which combined with state funding, created the open access fiber optic network in the southwest section of the state. Over the next several years, the network expanded with private donations and local matching funds. Many of the premises that connected to the network had relied on dial-up before FastRoads came to town. But in part because state law makes bonding for network expansion difficult, Fast Roads will no longer be locally controlled.
The Monadnock Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), a nonprofit organization whose purpose is working to see like projects are completed that will improve economic development prospects in the region managed the project. MEDC contracted with another entity to maintain the network, which cost approximately $15,000 per month. Since they had achieved their core goal - the construction and launch of the network - MEDC had been looking for another entity to take over the network or to partner with them. They recently finalized a deal to sell the network to New Hampshire Optical Systems.
BVU OptiNet Update: Deal Coming Together
A little over a year ago, we first shared the news about Bristol’s decision to privatize its FTTH network, OptiNet. Virginia based Sunset Digital Communications offered to purchase the network for $50 million. The network has saved Bristol millions of dollars, stimulated economic development, and cut telecommunications costs for local residents and businesses. Nevertheless, after several corrupt officials drove the network into a dark period of scandal, all those advancements paled and Bristol was ready to sell the network.
After months of negotiations with BVU’s partner in the Cumberland Plateau area service area, the details for the sale are coming together.
When There's A Partner
One of the last steps to completing the sale required approval from the Cumberland Plateau Company (CPC), which operates as a partner with BVU to bring connectivity to four additional counties in Virginia. As a partner with OptiNet in those areas, CPC owns approximately 50 percent of the assets.
When Sunset Digital offered $50 million for the BVU assets, CPC obtained the right of first refusal for the assets in the four counties where BVU and CPC work together as partners according to their contract.
Back in the fall of 2016, CPC was concerned about the legality and the details of the proposed transaction; they decided to wait for federal and state review before granting approval. Because the NTIA, the Economic Development Administration (EDA), and the Virginia Tobacco Commission provided grant funding to the CPC region for the deployment, the agencies needed to review and approve the proposal. The agencies approved the sale, but required that a large amount of BVU debt be paid. One of the claims that they required be paid was a claim for $8 million from CPC.
Approving The Offer
As part of the offer, Sunset promises to invest $6.5 million to connect more homes and businesses in the CPC region. They estimate CPC will gain about $21 million in revenue over 13 years while Sunset operates the network. CPC will retain ownership of its assets in the CPC service area and Sunset will transfer ownership of equipment in the CPC area to CPC.
Discussing (Ranting) Consolidation - Community Broadband Bits Episode 209
In celebration of Independence Day, we are focused this week on consolidation and dependence. At the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, we are very focused on independence and believe that the consolidation in the telecommunications industry threatens the independence of communities. We doubt that Comcast or AT&T executives could locate most of the communities they serve on a blank map - and that impacts their investment decisions that threaten the future of communities. So Lisa Gonzalez and I talk about consolidation in the wake of Google buying Webpass and UC2B's partner iTV-3 selling out to Countrywide Broadband. And we talk about why Westminster's model of public-private partnership is preferable to that of UC2B. We also discuss where consolidation may not be harmful and how the FCC's order approving the Charter takeover of Time Warner Cable will actually result in much more consolidation rather than new competition.
This show is 18 minutes long and can be played on this page or via Apple Podcasts or the tool of your choice using this feed.
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. See other podcasts from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance here.
Thanks to Fifes and Drums of the Old Barracks for the music, licensed using Creative Commons. The song is "Cork Hornpipe."
Sale of OptiNet: BVU Caught Between Virginia's Rock And A Hard Place
For more than a decade, the people of Bristol, Virginia have enjoyed what most of us can only dream about - fast affordable, reliable, connectivity. In recent days, we learned that Bristol Virginia Utilities Authority (BVU) has entered into a deal to sell its OptiNet triple-play fiber network to a private provider. The deal is contingent on approval by several entities.
As we dig deeper into the situation, we understand that troubles in southwestern Virginia and Bristol have led to this decision. Nevertheless, we urge the Bristol community to weigh the long-term consequences before they sacrifice OptiNet. Once you give up control, you won’t get it back.
"...A Few Bad Apples..."
If the people of Bristol surrender this valuable public asset to the private market, they run the risk of undoing 15 years of great work. None of this is a commentary on the private provider, Sunset Digital Communications, which may be a wonderful company. The problem is that Sunset will be making the decisions in the future, not the community.
OptiNet has helped the community retain and create jobs, attracting and retaining more than 1,220 well-paying positions from Northrup Grumman, CGI, DirecTV, and Alpha Natural Resources. Businesses have cut Internet access and telecommunications costs. Officials estimate around $50 million in new private investment and $36 million in new annual payroll have come to the community since the development of OptiNet. The network allowed public schools to drastically reduce telecommunications expenses and introduce gigabit capacity long before such speeds were the goal among educators.
Schools and local government saved approximately $1 million from 2003 - 2008. Subscribers have saved considerably as well, which explains OptiNet's high take rate of over 70 percent. Incumbent telephone provider Sprint (now CenturyLink) charged phone rates 25 percent higher than OptiNet in 2003. The benefits are too numerous to mention in one short story.
Chattanooga Profiled in Al Jazeera America
“There are companies that do what we do, but we can do it in hours, and they can take weeks,” said Posey. “Anywhere else, it would take a lot more time and a lot more money ... Chattanooga is essential to our business model.”
Al Jazeera America's Peter Moskowitz recently spoke with Clay Posey, one of the entrepreneurs flocking to Chattanooga for the network. Posey works in one of the startup incubators there, Co.Lab, developing his idea for pre-operative models that allow surgeons to prepare before operating on patients.
While Chattanooga may not be the norm and may not be an easy venture for every municipality, it lifts the bar. From the article:
“Whenever a corporation like Comcast wants to do something like raise prices, we can point at Chattanooga and say, ‘Why can’t we have something like that?’” said Christopher Mitchell, head of the community broadband networks initiative at the nonprofit Institute for Local Self-Reliance. “It establishes a baseline or at least an aspirational standard.”
The article describes lobbying efforts by large corporate providers designed to stop the municipal networks model. Another Chattanooga entrepreneur told Moskowitz:
“Having public or quasi-public Internet service providers is a good solution to consolidation because they most likely won’t be sold,” said Daniel Ryan, a local Web developer who helped run the digital operation of Barack Obama’s 2012 presidential campaign. “Do I think if every city did this, Comcast would go out of business? No. But it means there will always be competition.”
Moskowitz included a brief historical summary of the network, its contribution to the electric utility, and the challenges created by state barriers. He included our Community Broadband Networks map.
Jim Baller Discusses Municipal Broadband History - Community Broadband Bits Episode #57
New Fact Sheet: Community Broadband and Public Savings
We have already published a fact sheet on the critical role community broadband plays in job development. Now, ILSR presents a collection of how community owned broadband networks save money for local government, schools, and libraries while providing cutting edge services. The Public Savings Fact Sheet is now available.
Though schools, libraries, and other community anchors need access to faster, more reliable networks, the big cable and telephone companies have priced those services so high that they are breaking the budget. But when communities create their own connections, affordable high capacity connections are only one of the benefits. A community owned network offers the promise of self-determination -- of upgrades on the community's time table and increased reliability for emergency responders.
The Public Savings Fact Sheet is a great piece to share to mobilize other members of your community. Share it with decision makers and use it to start meaningful conversations. Distribute it widely and often.
We are always developing new resources. If you have an idea for a new fact sheet, we want to hear it.