Tag: "feasibility"

Posted November 15, 2018 by lgonzalez

This past summer, a group of Portlanders with digital equity as a primary goal, launched Municipal Broadband PDX. The grassroots organization seeks to mobilize folks from the Rose City to let their local leaders know that they’d like local government to take the lead in bringing fast, affordable, reliable connectivity to the entire city. At their official kick-off, our own Christopher Mitchell spoke to the crowd along with Commissioner Lori Stegmann, who pledged her support to the initiative. Now Municipal Broadband PDX is asking Portlanders to answer a call to action to move to the next phase.

A first and important step for any community considering investing in high-quality Internet access infrastructure is to conduct a feasibility study. Multnomah County Board of Commissioners approved $150,000 for a broadband study earlier this year along with the communities of Gresham, Troutdale, Fairview, and Wood Village. Municipal Broadband PDX has applied to the City of Portland for a special appropriations grant program. The group is requesting $100,000 to add to the pledges from the county and the other municipalities. The Portland City Council is considering the grant applications and results will be announced on November 26th. 

Municipal Broadband PDX asks that supporters contact Portland elected officials and request that the project receive the grant. If you’re interested in making an impact and letting your elected representatives know that you support learning more about local options with a feasibility study, now is your opportunity.

The group has drafted a sample email and a draft voice mail message, along with contact information for decision makers. You can find the drafts and information here.

More on Municipal Broadband PDX

The organization follows the philosophy that Internet access is a public utility and should be provided to every member of the public in the same manner as other utilities we take for granted — as a service that is always there. Municipal Broadband PDX also strongly supports the concept of network neutrality and argues that income level should not be a barrier to Internet access. According to Michael Hanna, a Municipal...

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Posted September 26, 2018 by lgonzalez

Last March, the community of Stillwater, Oklahoma, issued a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) seeking a firm to complete a feasibility study. After narrowing down their list of responses, the Stillwater Utilities Authority (SUA) unanimously approved funds for a feasibility study that will examine the potential for a publicly owned network in the city of approximately 50,000.

One Step Forward

At the September meeting, trustees approved $150,000 for the study. Staff have narrowed down the list of potential firms for the feasibility study from 13 responses to the top three firms. Now they will ask those three firms to provide more detailed proposals. Some of the information community leaders want include estimated deployment and operating costs and the demand in Stillwater for publicly owned Internet infrastructure. 

SUA is also interested in which models would best suit the community. Stillwater leaders have concerns with the quality of local connectivity, the consequences of the repeal of federal network neutrality protections, and their ability to compete economically. SUA systems administrator Billy Palmisano said, “It’s just a basic question, do we want to lead the way and have the ultimate decision on the path that we take, or do we want to let others help us on that path.”

Each Community is Unique

SUA staff discussed possible models, including open access, public-private partnerships, and direct retail services. Choosing the right model for Stillwater is an area where consultants’ recommendations appears to be most requested:

“That’s been one of the big questions that we’ve had, is whether this is something that typically goes in rural areas where they don’t have a lot of options, but there’s at least one other community in Oklahoma, Sallisaw – Fort Collins, Colorado – and several other communities that had other options but chose to go with this anyway,” [Special Projects Director John] McClenny said. “It’s been across the board. Would this fly in Stillwater or not, that’s one of the things we need to know from the study.”

Stillwater’s Oklahoma State University campus brings about 23,500 students to the community and has its own fiber optic network. SUA staff see an opportunity to possibly work with OSU and expand the infrastructure project....

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Posted September 18, 2018 by lgonzalez

Determining if a publicly owned network is right for your community is a multi-step, complex process. Many factors will influence whether or not the residents, business owners, and local leaders in your community will want to make an investment in Internet access infrastructure. ILSR’s Community Broadband Networks Initiative is now working with NEO Partners, LLC,* to help local communities in the early phases as they consider investing in publicly owned infrastructure. For a limited time, a few select communities will receive special pricing to help spread the word about the Community Networks Quickstart Program. Apply by September 28th to be considered as one of the pilot communities.

Let us know at: info@cnquickstart.com

Please include the proposed study region, an estimate for the number of premises to be considered, and any relevant factors. We will select up to four communities with the goal of having a mix of rural and urban, large and small, and geographic distribution.

Knowledge of the Possibilities is Power

When it comes to planning for deployment or expanding existing infrastructure, one of the most challenging unknowns is cost. With our new Community Networks Quickstart Program, we will provide cost estimates for three possible models for communities who sign up for the service:

1. Full Fiber-to-the-Premise

2. Full Wireless

3. Hybrid

In addition to an estimate on cost, we will consider the size, population, and other characteristics of your community and provide advice and resources that will be the most effective for your community’s situation. You’ll also receive a recommended design that you can refer to as you work with consultants, engineers, and as you apply for grant or loan funding. Our mission is to give you some preliminary information and guidance to make your work with an in-depth consultant more effective. We are not replacing the need for in-depth design work.

Each community is unique, so after you provide some basic information about your community, we'll seek out more specific data to help with our analysis. We’ll hold a conference call with you to review the results and provide documentation on our analysis and additional resources that we believe will provide additional insight.

Our design advice stems from years of working...

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Posted September 4, 2018 by lgonzalez

In a state as large as Texas, it makes sense to divide the eastern half into defined regions. Likewise, when counties, towns, and other entities in one of those areas realize they need better connectivity, it makes sense to work together on a regional project. The Deep East Texas Council of Governments (DETCOG) and Economic Development District recently issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) for a Fiber Optic Broadband Market Analysis and Cost Study. Proposals are due September 25th, 2018.

Read the RFP.

Deep East Texas

The region is also known as the Texas Forest County, with four national forests, lakes, and primarily a rural landscape. Twelve counties constitute the Deep East region that borders Oklahoma on the north and the Gulf of Mexico on the south. About 385,000 people live in the region, which covers more than 10,380 square miles.

DETCOG is an organization that has been around since the mid-1960s and includes counties, cities, school districts, and other entities in the region interested in participating in local economic development efforts. According to the RFP, the DETCOG Board of Directors has decided to re-allocate some of the remaining relief funds from Hurricane Ike to boost the region’s options for high-quality Internet access. Estimated funds remain at  around $513,000.

Within the region, 50 public school districts serve residents in 43 communities. There are two colleges, eleven hospitals, and more than 30 additional healthcare facilities. Ten cooperatives, including telephone, gas, and electric, operate in the region.

Much of the region obtains Internet access via DSL, with cable connections available in a few of the more densely populated areas, such as the county seats. There are also a few fixed wireless providers and at least one area where fiber is available on a limited basis. Some of the most rural areas depend on satellite. There’s very little consistency in the Deep East Texas Region and rates appear to run high for the level of service.

What They Want

To commence their journey toward better regional connectivity, the DETCOG seeks a consultant to study what is now available, what businesses and residents want and need, offer recommendations on what would work well for the region, and provide cost estimates. The...

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Posted September 3, 2018 by lgonzalez

The city of Solon, Ohio, has their eyes on Hudson, their neighbor about 10 miles to the south. Both communities have a population of around 23,000 but Hudson businesses have access to the publicly owned fiber network and community leaders are considering expanding the service to residents. In order to explore the idea further, Solon city leaders have decided to fund a feasibility study.

Steady Stream of Complaints

At a recent meeting of the Solon City Council Finance Committee, the city’s Director of Information Technology Jim Gibbs presented his memo outlining why he believes now is the time to issue a Request for Proposals (RFP) for a feasibility study.

People and businesses in Solon are not happy about their current choices, and they let Gibbs know about it:

I receive a steady stream of complaints and requests for help from Residents and Businesses to get access to better Internet Service Providers, and what I believe is the most telling of the need for this project is, most people are not complaining about cost. Most are complaining about the very poor level of service they are being forced to endure by the largest players in this space, AT&T and Spectrum. 

While many subscribers focus their complaints on rates, hidden fees, and baffling billing, it's no surprise that Soloners don't like the options they have to choose from or find issues with reliability. Residents and businesses located in places where a publicly owned network is an option, often cite better customer service as the catalyst for switching from incumbent ISPs. Municipal network subscribers have the luxury of obtaining service from a provider centered in their community, rather than from a company with headquarters located several states away. Paying the bill or addessing concerns can be done in an effective, face-to-face manner.

Looking for Options and Possibilities

As part of the study, the city wants a needs assessments for both commercial and residential sectors along with cost estimates for a citywide Fiber-to-the-Premise (FTTP) deployment. Solon has existing fiber, which they ...

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Posted August 7, 2018 by lgonzalez

Interest in broadband as a utility continues to rise across the country and in places where elected officials need a show of support, grassroots groups are stepping up. Recently in Portland, Oregon, a group of locals launched Municipal Broadband PDX, an effort to grow an already increasing momentum in the Rose City.

No Stranger to Fiber

The idea of better connectivity and local control over infrastructure is something that Portland has wrestled with for several years. With Comcast and CenturyLink controlling much of the market in the city of about 647,000 people, citizens have always struggled to get fast, affordable, reliable connectivity. The city failed at its attempt to provide free citywide Wi-Fi and the estimated price tag on a feasibility study more than ten years ago scared off the community. At one point, the city seemed about to get Google Fiber, but the plan never came to fruition.

Portland’s Integrated Regional Network Enterprise (IRNE) serves public entities with fiber connectivity and its leadership has been part of discussions on how to bring better access to businesses and residents. Back in 2012, we spoke with Mary Beth Henry with the Director of the Portland Office for Community Technology about early discussions. That was episode 7 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast.

Moving Forward

logo-MBPDX-Rose.png Earlier this summer, Municipal Broadband PDX scored a victory when the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners approved $150,000 for a broadband study. Commissioners responded to the realization that many lower-income folks in the county don’t have access to the connections they need for typical 21st century daily activities. Michael Hanna, a Municipal Broadband PDX representative, told the Board, “Almost 30% of low-income households in the Portland Metro area lack broadband access, and this...

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Posted July 16, 2018 by lgonzalez

In the wake of the FCC’s 2017 decision to repeal federal network neutrality protections, more communities than ever are considering their role in local connectivity. As it turns out, their citizens are thinking about it, too. In the case of Larimer County, Colorado, almost half of respondents to their recent survey replied that they want their county government to play a part in rural broadband.

Surprising/Not Surprising Results

We spoke with Drew Davis, Jacob Castillo, and Mark Pfaffinger in June to get an idea of some of the results of the survey and hear more about the county’s plans. You can listen to episode 311 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast to hear the conversation. Approximately 32 percent of those who were sent the survey responded, which is a higher than average response rate and shows that people in Larimer County feel strongly about the issue and want their opinions heard.

At a July County Commission meeting, Davis presented detailed survey findings. Results reflected that 49 percent of respondents want the county to play an active part in broadband deployment:

  • 33 percent of respondents want the county to offer services directly to the public; and
  • 16 percent want the county to deploy the infrastructure and lease it to private sector ISPs

Only 11 percent want the county to leave efforts entirely to the private sector, while 18 percent replied that they believe the county should try to encourage private sector providers to build a fiber optic network in Larimer County. Another 20 percent had no opinion.

In addition to using broadband for common applications, including social media, email, and streaming online movies and television, Davis, Castillo, and Pfaffinger were surprised to see the high numbers of people interested in exploring other ways to use high-quality Internet access. Fifty-two percent of respondents said they either work from home or would like to but can't due to the low-quality of their connections. There were also surprisingly high numbers of people who would like to use the Internet for entrepreneurial purposes. They were...

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Posted July 11, 2018 by lgonzalez

Officials in Keene, New Hampshire, have been discussing ways to improve local connectivity for several years. In early July, they received more food for thought when the consultant they hired presented the results of a broadband study.

Check out the full study.

Assistant city manager and technical director for the city Rebecca Landry noted at a June meeting of the City Council’s planning, licenses, and development committee that companies and residents in surrounding states typically pay less for high-quality connectivity. She stressed that their ability to boost economic development relies in part on fast, affordable, reliable broadband access. She also reminded members that the study was not a proposal or a plan, but a review of options for consideration.

Survey Confirms Better Options Needed

Both business and residential surveys revealed that the community of Keene needs and wants better Internet access. A whopping 90 percent of residential respondents and 77 percent of business respondents chose the “I need better Internet/data service” option as part of the general questions on the survey. Additionally, 98 percent of residents and 100 percent of business owners who responded to the survey stated that they believe Internet access and technology are important to their household and/or the future success of their business.

Comments included a desire for more competition. Within Keene, property owners have access to Spectrum cable Internet access while just beyond town limits, Consolidated Communications (formerly Fairpoint) offers slow DSL or people can subscribe to expensive and unreliable satellite Internet access. Respondents replied with stories about visitors who express shock at the poor state of Internet access in Keene. Folks who work from home complain that, if they want better speeds, their only option is expensive business class connections from Spectrum. 

Business respondents’...

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Posted July 3, 2018 by lgonzalez

Another small rural community in Colorado has recently taken an important step toward better connectivity for the community. The Town of Mountain Village issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) late in June to find a firm to conduct a Broadband Assessment and Feasibility Study. Responses are due August 10, 2018.

Read the RFP here.

Assess and Propose

The Town of Mountain Village (TMV) has an existing municipal cable network that offers Internet access, voice, and video. Community leaders want to engage a firm to assess the current infrastructure, consider improvements over the next few years, and make recommendations for improvements.

In addition to searching for ways to improve service and pinpoint any potential adoption and service gaps, the consultants will also be expected to devise a broadband strategy. TMV community leaders understand that the future will require better infrastructure than they now possess. The city wants to learn about the possible outlook for Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH), potential partnerships, smart policies, and potential funding sources.

Town of Mountain Village

With only approximately 1,300 full-time residents and an additional non-resident property owner population, Mountain Village has similar qualities to some of the other rural communities we’ve covered. Penobscot, Maine, where seasonal visitors swell the population and the need for better connectivity, recently issued an RFI in their search for firms to help improve local Internet access. In addition to offering services to the general public, TMV's existing network connects municipal facilities, including water and wastewater, public transportation, public safety, parks and recreation, municipal offices, the housing authority properties.

As the name implies, TMV sits within the mountains. At the base of the Telluride Ski Resort in the southwest corner of the state, TMV adopted a free gondola and chondola (chair gondola) system as public transportation in 1996. Cars are still allowed in the town, but parking is limited to two garages and not permitted...

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Posted June 19, 2018 by lgonzalez

Late last year, Larimer County, Colorado, commissioned a broadband feasibility study to examine the possible solutions toward better connectivity across its more than 2,600 square miles. This week, three guests from Larimer County are here to discuss the community’s plan as it’s taking shape, Broadband Program Manager Drew Davis, Director of Economic and Workforce Development Jacob Castillo, and CIO Mark Pfaffinger. The interview was one of several Christopher conducted while at the Mountain Connect conference in Vail.

Drew, Jacob, and Mark discuss the results they’ve recently received from phase one of the feasibility study, the residential survey. They didn’t enter into the study with any preconceived notions, but the people of Larimer County still found a way to surprised county officials. In addition to confirming their belief that locals are an entrepreneurial sort, Drew, Jacob, and Mark were surprised at the wide range of people who expressed a desire for high-quality connectivity and the different ways they want to use broadband. Approximately 32 percent of residents responded to the survey, which was more than twice the expected rate; clearly, this is an important issue to locals.

Christopher, Drew, Jacob, and Mark also ponder the role of the county in bringing better Internet access to both residents and businesses. They intend to explore the many options available to them and continue the spirit of interdepartmental collaboration that has served them well so far. Larimer County leaders have included a broadband component in their strategic plan because they see how better local connectivity has become a necessity for the kind of life people expect there.

This show is 33 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed.

Read the transcript for this episode here.

You can download this mp3 file directly...

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