The project, which will result in an open access conduit network with Google Fiber as the first ISP operating, has seen some equipment delays (handholds and vaults) recently but remains on schedule. "The first conduit section in the city that'll be complete includes Valley High and the surrounding neighborhood," We Are Iowa writes. The first users are scheduled to be brought online later this year.
After three years in a row with similar results, PCMag’s “Fastest ISPs in America” for 2021 analysis shows a clear trend: community owned and/or operated broadband infrastructure supports networks which, today, handily beat the huge monopoly Internet Service Providers (ISPs) - cable and telephone alike – for sheer speed.
The latest list proves it. Of the ten-fastest ISPs in the country, all of them feature operators that either are cities themselves or use city-owned fiber or conduit to deliver service across whole or parts of their footprint.
City-run networks making the list again this year include Longmont, Colorado (third); Chattanooga, Tennessee (sixth); and Cedar Falls, Iowa (seventh). Cedar Falls topped the list last year, but all three networks are regulars over the last three analyses done by the outlet. Broken down regionally, they are also joined by other municipal networks around the country, including FairlawnGig in Ohio and LUS Fiber in Louisiana.
But equally telling is that the private ISPs which make up the remainder of the list lean heavily on publicly built and/or operated broadband infrastructure in parts of their service territory. Overall winner Empire Access has used fiber routes from an open access middle mile network via Empire Axcess in New York state. Likewise, second-place Google Fiber and fourth-place Ting lease city-owned fiber to operate in places like Huntsville, Alabama and Westminster, Maryland, respectively. Fifth-place Hotwire uses public fiber in Salisbury, North Carolina. Eighth-place ALLO Communications is a public-private partnership veteran. Ninth-place Monkeybrains uses city-owned dark fiber in San Francisco, California. Finally, tenth-place Sonic...Read more
At the beginning of July 2020, the city of West Des Moines, Iowa announced that they were going to build a citywide, open access conduit system connecting every home, business, government building, and community anchor institution, with Google Fiber to come in right after to pull fiber and light up a network to bring service to the community.
Construction on the project has now begun "in [the] area bounded by the West Mixmaster, Ashworth Road and 22nd Street," the first of six phases.
The group collectively imagines what they would recommend to the FCC if they were called upon to help facilitate urban wireless deployment in the name of more affordable, equitable Internet access. They dig into different approaches, dissect the 5G hype, and mull the recent opportunities offered by Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS). Putting on their private Internet Service Provider (ISP) hats, Mason, Deborah, and Travis tell Christopher what they'd be looking for from cities considering building publicly owned infrastructure — conduit or fiber — in the name of incenting more competition. Finally, they spend some time talking about the particular challenges and solutions presented to urban wireless by apartment complexes and other types of multi-dwelling units (MDUs).
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After years of fielding complaints from residents about the speed, reliability, and poor customer service of the city’s single wireline broadband provider, Springboro, Ohio (pop. 19,000) has decided enough is enough. Over the next year, the city (situated ten miles south of Dayton) will build a 23-mile fiber loop for municipal services and, at the same time, lay five additional conduits to entice additional Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to come in and offer service, stimulating competition and economic development in the region moving forward.
A Fiber Master Plan
City Manager Chris Pozzuto laid out the plan for the city council, which staff had been working on for the last half year, back in July. It was driven in part by the criticism his office had fielded for years about the incumbent wireline service provider (the two satellite providers also prompted plenty of complaints of their own). Out of a desire both to provide residents with symmetrical gigabit access and stimulate economic development on a 200-acre commercial plot, Pozzuto started talking with regional partners and putting together an alterative.
The city’s Fiber Master Plan [pdf] calls for a 72-strand, 23-mile loop to be built around Springboro, along every major street and thoroughfare and up to the entrance of every neighborhood. Via microtrenching, six conduits will be laid — one for the city, and the remaining for up to five new ISPs to compete for service.
The city will contract with the Miami Valley Education Computer Association (MVECA) to build the network, lay the additional conduit, and provide access back to the peering point to the northeast in Columbus. A second line will come in from the south via the Southwest Ohio Computer Association (SWOCA) to provide redundancy.
Construction is projected to be complete within a year, and expected to cost around $2.5 million. The Warren County Port Authority will own the network and lease it to Springboro until the debt is repaid, at...Read more
In July we wrote about West Des Moines’ announcement that it would build an open access citywide conduit system to spur broadband infrastructure investment, and how Google Fiber became the Iowa city’s first partner.
In this episode of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast, Christopher is joined by Jamie Letzring, Deputy City Manager for West Des Moines, Iowa, and Dave Lyons, a consultant with the city, to discuss in more detail how things unfolded behind the scenes.
Together, the group digs into the how West Des Moines started with a long-term vision—called West Des Moines 2036—that, in part, brought local leaders together to discuss universal high-speed Internet access as a path to equity, economic vitality, and citizen engagement. Jamie and Dave share the challenges that came with a rapidly congesting right of way (ROW) landscape, and how that ultimately led to the decision to commit to a citywide conduit model that has attracted Google Fiber. Finally, Chris, Jamie, and Dave talk about what the citywide conduit system will do for business development and city residents once it’s complete.
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This show is 40 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.
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On July 6th, the City of West Des Moines, Iowa, announced an innovative public-private partnership with Google Fiber to bring gigabit Internet to all 67,000 of its citizens over the next two and a half years. The city will build conduit connecting every home and business and available for use by different providers. Google Fiber will be the first, coming in and laying and maintaining its own fiber once the city’s construction is complete. It’s the result of years of effort by the city council and serves as an example of other communities looking for solutions to improve options for all citizens.
The origin of the decision dates to 2016 and the city’s 2036 Vision [pdf]. In it, West Des Moines committed to “doubling down on technology,” creating five- and ten-year milestones that reached for specific markers of success by 2026, including: 80% of the population having access to gigabit Internet service, $2.5 million per year in new revenue generated by the city’s information infrastructure, and all citizens using the West Des Moines Integrated Network app for greater dissemination of information and citizen engagement.
In the city’s announcement, Mayor Steve Gaer said,
A key element of the City’s 20-year strategic plan calls for all residents, regardless of their means, to benefit from high-quality and high-speed connectivity.
Community leaders, stakeholders, and citizens all played a role during the planning phase, and project officials considered three criteria for guidance. The first was the expectation by its citizens had that the Internet was a utility; whether or not the city wanted to become an ISP, its efforts would have to work toward universal, affordable, reliable access. The second was a determination to regain and then maintain control of the municipality’s rights-of-way so as to preserve the infrastructure future of West Des Moines. And the third was that any future public network facilitated by the city should serve as a platform for serving residential and commercial users according to their diverse needs, from business to education to telemedicine.
Deputy City Manager Jamie Letzring...Read more
In early November, the city of Alexandria, Virginia, began seeking bidders to construct an institutional network to connect city facilities. In addition to developing infrastructure to meet the city administrative needs, Alexandria wants to bring local schools, public safety, and its Smart City Mobility transportation efforts together on a publicly owned fiber optic system.
In addition to improving connectivity among City facilities and sites, the Municipal Fiber project will create potential partnership opportunities to expand consumer choice and increase available speeds for broadband services available in Alexandria. In response to consistent feedback regarding the lack of options for cable television and broadband Internet services, the City has actively pursued other potential providers. With the construction of the new fiber optic network, the City is planning to seek new partners who could lease excess conduit space to provide broadband service to residents and businesses. This would allow all providers to compete fairly and would encourage providers to offer consumer services.
The city of Alexandria currently leases an I-Net from Comcast and has decided to make the long-term investment to replace that infrastructure. By eliminating the lease arrangement, Alexandria will have more control over the use of the fiber optic network, giving them the ability to expand it in the future to businesses and households or work with private sector partners if the community chooses. The city will also be able to better plan for financial needs if they don't have to contend with unpredictable rate hikes from Comcast.
Alexandria has been looking at developing a municipal network for several years now, but budgeting has been a roadblock. By eliminating an expensive lease from Comcast, they will be able to redirecting those funds toward better local connectivity through a municipal network project.
In order to reduce the cost of the deployment wherever possible:
Because digging and burying conduit is a significant cost of building a fiber network, the City is taking all reasonable opportunities to...
When Lincoln, Nebraska, developed their extensive network of conduit back in 2012, they were working within the confines of restrictive state law to encourage better local connectivity. Jump ahead seven years and we find that the city has established a fruitful partnership with private sector partner ALLO Communications. The relationship has brought a long list of benefits to the community, but the latest will help nonprofit sector organizations — Lincoln and ALLO will provide free gigabit Internet access for 10 years to 75 local nonprofits.
The list contains 35 organizations that ALLO has already selected. The remaining 40 will be chosen through a lottery managed by the city’s Community Connect Program. In order to qualify, nonprofits must have fewer than 75 full-time employees, be certified as a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization, and have been operating for at least two years. There are other criteria that apply and interested local nonprofits can review the application here [PDF]. In January 2020, the city and ALLO will announce the list of nonprofits to receive the benefit.
The concept of offering the service to local nonprofits was an important element of the partnership between the city and the Internet access provider. Even though Nebraska’s state law prevented Lincoln from offering Internet access directly to the general public, the city recognized the need for fast, affordable, reliable connectivity. When large national providers didn’t provide the types of services businesses and residents needed, they made an investment that would encourage competition.
Lincoln’s conduit infrastructure investment has allowed them to gain a measure of control over connectivity in the community. They considered future needs and varying sectors of the community when they penned the partnership with ALLO, which led to the ability to support local nonprofits.
By extension, nonprofits will be able to divert more of their limited resources to the needs of the Lincoln community. Cause for Paws, an organization focused on helping local shelter animals hopes to be one of the beneficiaries:
This week, we’re bringing another podcast interview that Christopher conducted while at Mountain Connect in Colorado. David Young, former Fiber Infrastructure and Right-of-Way Manager for the city of Lincoln, Nebraska, sat down to reminisce about the city’s network that began as conduit and has evolved into citywide Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH).
David has moved on to Kansas City in Kansas, but he was deeply involved in the advancement of Lincoln’s network that has done so much for competition and better connectivity in Lincoln. In addition to all the direct benefits that the city is enjoying from a gigabit fiber network, there’s a long list of indirect benefits that David and Christopher discuss that affect sectors such as education, economic development, and public safety.
Along with sharing the many ways the fiber infrastructure has helped the city and it’s people, David shares words of wisdom for other communities who may be considering similar investments. He offers some technical advice on deployment, important factors for communities working in a state with restrictions, and thoughts on their decision to choose a public-private partnership model.
We’ve documented Lincoln’s story, so check out more of their history here.
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