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OpenCape: Local Ideas to Maximize Fiber Infrastructure
The OpenCape Network launched about eight months ago to bring better middle mile connectivity to Cape Cod. Reporter Sean Gonsalves explored other possibilities for the 350-mile infrastructure in a recent Cape Cod Online article.
Gonsalves spoke with OpenCape CEO Dan Vorthems. The network was funded with $32 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) grants and approximately $8 million in funds from the state, county, and private-sector partner CapeNet. It brings connectivity to 91 community anchor institutions from Provincetown as far west as Providence and Brockton. The idea for the network began with Cape Cod Community College and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. Today, OpenCape is a non-profit with Board members from healthcare, higher education, public education, government, and the private sector.
Gonsalves and Vorthems touched on the high hopes for economic development that accompanied the network deployment. When the project began, the dream was to turn Cape Cod into a "Silicon Sandbar." The network is still in its infancy, but new jobs in the area are retail, service, and tourist related rather than high-tech. Residents of Cape Cod were hoping the network would bring better paying positions to meet the high cost of living in the area.
Gonsalves takes it one step further and proposes using the network for last mile connections:
Getting the Cape's big data users online opens up all sorts of possibilities. But [what] I wanted to know is when the Cape would get to the point where residential users could access this Internet autobahn capable of reaching speeds of a gigabit per second.
Vidalia's Broadband Initiative Moves Forward as Free Wi-Fi Comes to Town
Vidalia's plans to offer free Wi-Fi are becoming reality. The Natchez Democrat recently reported that the City launched its free Wi-Fi in its new municipal complex.
Vidalia received a $30,000 grant from the Telecommunications Development Fund (TDF) Foundation to invest in a wireless network to cover the complex. Apparently, visitors to the complex were often surprised to learn that there was no Wi-Fi available. From the article:
[Mayor Hyram] Copeland said the project came about after multiple teams coming to participate in tournaments at the recreation complex asked about Wi-Fi access.
“I was embarrassed to say, ‘No,’ but now I can say we do,” Copeland said. “But the end result of all this is that we will have moved this community forward.”
The next step will be free Wi-Fi along the City's riverfront.
Even though federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds to Louisiana were pulled back, Vidalia decided to press on with its broadband plans. The City has since cultivated several grant sources and is piecing together the funds needed to proceed with its estimated $9 million fiber network. Vidalia wants to develop a smart-grid and potentially provide fiber to every premise.
The community, with some of the highest unemployment rates in the country, sees the presence of better broadband as critical to economic survival. From the article:
“Broadband is such a routine infrastructure for companies nowadays that they almost assume you have it, and us not having it could have hurt us in the long run,” [Concordia Parish Economic Development Director Heather] Malone said. “Now, we’ll be able to use this as a tool to recruit new businesses and offer it to our existing businesses.”
Merit Collaborates With OARnet and Local Community in Hillsdale, Michigan
A recent press release from the Merit educational and research network in Michigan announces a new connection to its Ohio sister, OARnet. Member entities and local communities now enjoy better redundancy, expanded reach, and better services. Local communities continue to benefit from the presence of the middle mile infrastructure.
The network helps local Hillsdale College to cut connectivity costs; the Merit announcement quotes Hillsdale College leadership:
"Hillsdale College has been a Merit member since 1992," stated David Zenz, executive director of information technology services for Hillsdale College, "and it was always a dream to figure out some way to eliminate expensive data circuit costs to free up funds to purchase more bandwidth. In 2008 The City of Hillsdale, the Hillsdale Intermediate School District, Hillsdale College, and Merit figured out how to do just that."
Through a long term collaborative effort, Merit, the City of Hillsdale, Hillsdale Board of Public Utilities (BPU), Hillsdale College, and Hillsdale County Intermediate School District (ISD) came together to establish the Hillsdale Community Network. Each entity now benefits from lowered connectivity costs, better infrastructure, and improved opportunities.
A 2009 story from Merit, describes the situation at ISD:
Local Efforts Will Bring Free Wi-Fi to Vidalia, Louisiana
Vidalia joins the growing list of communities with plans to offer free Wi-Fi. A recent Miami Herald article reports on recent plans. Community leaders hope to get the project ready for launch in spring 2014.
Vidalia, home to 4,300 residents, hoped to use funds from a 2010 Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) grant to build a fiber network. Unfortunately for the entire state, the grant was revoked due to Governor Jindal's shenanigans. Jindal's plans for the funds violated the terms of the grant. Vidalia, with its own electric utility, then sought funding from other sources.
According to the Herald article:
The Telecommunications Development Fund Foundation awarded the city a $30,000 grant, announced last week, to deploy a wireless network. The foundation was founded in 2008 with the mission of bringing communications technology and opportunities to areas underserved by Internet providers.
The Natchez Democrat reports that the service will cover 77 acres that include the Vidalia municipal complex, including City Hall and public safety facilities, and recreation fields used by Concordia Recreation District No. 3. Mayor Hyram Copeland told the Democrat that visitors to the complex repeatedly ask for Wi-Fi access.
The Democrat also reports Senator Mary Landrieu is leading the effort to improve connectivity in the area:
The senator said the Wi-Fi project perfectly complements Vidalia’s ongoing work to build a technology center and install high-speed fiber optic Internet access throughout the city.
“This project will add to Vidalia’s excellent quality of life for residents and promote additional entrepreneurial opportunities for local businesses,” Landrieu said.
Local media coverage of the project:
NoaNet and Benton PUD Finish Expansion in Washington, Celebrate Completion of Fiber Network
South central Washington's Benton PUD and the Northwest Open Access Network (NoaNet) recently finished a 50-mile fiber-optic expansion [PDF of the press release]. The new construction brings high-speed Internet service to the Paterson School District. The District serves 110 kids in grades K-8.
A $1.8 million Broadband Technologies Opportunity Program (BTOP) award paid in part for the expansion of the 100% underground network. The network includes 230 miles of middle-mile connectivity across rural Benton County.
The recently completed NoaNet project totaled $140 million for 1,831 fiber miles over three years. The open access network hosts 61 last mile providers and ten Washington State Public Utility Districts (PUDs) belong to the nonprofit.
In a Yakima Herald article on the network completion, Governor Jay Inslee noted:
“It is underground, but its results are above ground,” he said. “In every place, it reaches about 500 communities from Asotin to Zillah and places between.”
Washington's Okanogan County PUD Expanding Fiber Network
Okanogan County, located along the extreme north central border of Washington State, is expanding its wholesale fiber optic network to more small local communities. The Okanogan Public Utility District (PUD) received a $5.5 million grant and a $3.7 million loan through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) and will extend service to about 80% of the PUD service area. The county is home to about 41,000 people.
According to a recent Methow Valley News article, the construction began in February and the project is schedule for completion by the end of 2013. The network will be about 200 miles long and will also include 143 wireless access points along the power line route. Construction will also include new poles, tall enough to host both power and fiber optic lines. According to the PUD's director of power:
Some people who will now have the option of faster Internet connections were previously served only by dial-up or satellite services, said [Ron] Gadeberg. Even with the expanded “last-mile” network, “there are still tons of unmet needs, because it’s such a big county and some people are so remote that it is cost-prohibitive to serve them,” he said.
A local ISP, MethowNet.com, offers service to customers on the PUD's existing fiber network and will expand northward to serve additional communities north of its current service area.
Governments Should Focus on Infrastructure Despite False Statistics Peddled by NY Times and Others
The Obama administration allocated $7 billion to broadband expansion as part of the 2009 economic stimulus package. Most of it went to build physical networks.
UC2B Saves Public Money With Better Broadband in Illinois
The City of Champaign is now celebrating the transition to the UC2B fiber network. With underground fiber lines, the City will no longer be plagued by weather related interruptions. Champaign is also counting on significant savings on a network that is more than 1000 times faster than the old connections. From the City of Champaign website:
UC2B fiber and Internet access also means real cost savings to the City. The City will now save $30,240 annually by dropping all of our T1 data lines, and $31,200 annually by using UC2B as our Internet provider. While a significant portion of this savings is offset by annual maintenance fees for the fiber rings the City uses, we still save over $13,000 net annually and have a much faster, much more reliable system that will allow our digital data transfers and Internet use to expand for years to come!
For more on the UC2B network, listen to episode #42 of the Broadband Bits podcast. We spoke with Carol Ammons and Brandon Bowersox-Johnson, both involved in Champaign's efforts to use the UC2B network to its full potential.
Rockbridge Area Network Authority Close to Launch in Virginia
The Rockbridge Area Network Authority (RANA) is almost ready to launch its open access network in north central Virginia, home to about 22,000 people. A recipient of the BTOP stimulus program, the main focus is connecting community anchor institutions and spurring economic development. However, it has been built to allow service providers to also offer DSL to some residents in the area.
Dan Grim, GIS Manager for Rockbridge County, and one of the driving forces behind the network was kind enough to walk us through the project. In early 2007, the cities of Buena Vista, Lexington, and the County joined forces to commission a study to determine the need for a county wide broadband network. The three jurisdictions matched funding from the state Department of Housing and Community Development to pay for the study, completed in 2008.
Grim had already consulted with local provider, Rockbridge Global Village, about using a regional network to improve public safety mapping. Rockbridge Global Village President, Dusan Janjic, suggested a bigger project and that the three entities apply together for American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funding.
Richard Peterson, Chief Technology Officer from nearby W&L determined that the school needed a new and updated data center. In 2009, RANA was officially formed as a collaboration between the local governments and Washington & Lee. The University joined the group and contributed $2.5 million toward a $3 million grant fund match. With the grant fund match to improve their chances, RANA applied for a $10 million BTOP award and received $6.9 million in funding through round two in 2010.
Peterson [no-glossary]passed[/no-glossary] away in 2011. Grim notes that without Peterson, the network would never have expanded so far and may not have become a reality. The data center was later named after him to honor his memory. Network construction started in February 2012.
Comcast Cuts Deal in Cape Cod as OpenCape Deployment Continues
CapeCodToday, recently ran two interviews relating to OpenCape, the publicly owned network nearing completion in Massachusetts. The interviews follow a belated March press release from Comcast, announcing its new service contract with Cape Cod Community College (CCCC). Like some others familiar with the project, we were surprised to see the college choosing Comcast for connectivity instead of OpenCape.
As we previously noted, CCCC and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute were two OpenCape founding members in 2006. The nonprofit OpenCape received $32 million in a Broadband Technology Opportunity Program (stimulus) award and gathered an additional $8 million in funds from the state, the county, and CapeNet, the company building and operating the network.
Regarding the delay in publicity, the College was not willing to comment on the connection, including statements to Comcast itself, until we had actively used it for a couple of months.
When the contract was negotiated, CCCC needed fiber service and OpenCape was not ready to serve them. Cox stated that the college needs to stay competitive and referred to a Bridgewater University satellite campus that will soon open in the community. Community colleges rely heavily on reliable connectivity as students look for distance learning opportunities.