Tag: "FTTH"

Posted March 1, 2022 by Sean Gonsalves

The Dover Bridge is the span of infrastructure that crosses the Choptank River into Maryland’s Eastern Shore. But it’s the Choptank Electric Cooperative that’s building a bridge across the digital divide in the rural reaches of the region.

Building on the fiber backbone that connects the co-op's smart grid, the member-owned cooperative began construction of a fiber-to-the-home network (FTTH) last year that will reach all 54,000 of its members spread out across nine counties. Now subscribers are being lit up for service as the co-op continues to extend the network.

Thanks to the passage of the “Rural Broadband for the Eastern Shore Act” in May of 2020, it paved the way for the co-op to create a wholly-owned subsidiary known as Choptank Fiber. Moving quickly, in April of 2021, just two months after network construction began, Sherry Hollingsworth – whose grandfather was the first to get electricity through the co-op back in 1939 – became the first member to get service.

At the ribbon-cutting ceremony outside her home in Denton, a town in Caroline County a little over an hour's drive from the nation's capital, Hollingsworth told The Star Democrat she was “honored” to be Choptank Fiber’s first subscriber because, like many households in and around the Eastern Shore, “we have struggled with our personal service and our business service for many, many years.”

The meaning of the moment was neatly summarized by Jeff Rathell, the co-op’s Chairman of the Board of Directors: 

We have been so successful over the years at delivering electric service to rural residents … Today, broadband service and Internet access have become almost as important as electric service was over 80 years ago. I am pleased that we have found a way to deliver this life-changing service to our...

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Posted February 25, 2022 by Emma Gautier

With nearly 65,000 households unable to connect to the Internet at basic broadband speeds of 25/3 Megabits per second (Mbps), municipalities across the Green Mountain State have risen to the fore in formulating creative models for addressing the tens of thousands of homes without broadband access. Iterating on the EC Fiber (with roots back to the early 2000s), joint, municipally led projects have led to the creation of a total of nine Communications Union Districts (CUDs) at present, which places community-owned broadband at the forefront in Vermont.

What’s equally exciting is that the state has likewise stepped up, calling the CUDs the primary avenue by which it will solve the state’s connectivity crisis, and funneling at least $116 million in their direction in the next handful of years, with much of this spending dedicated to CUDs. To date, nearly 85 percent of Vermont’s municipalities and 90 percent of its underserved locations fall within a CUD. 

Otter Creek Communications Union District (OCCUD) is one of the newest additions, located in the south-central part of the state. It was conceived in July 2020 when the Vermont Department of Public Service awarded the Rutland Regional Planning Commission with a grant for a feasibility study and business plan to bring fiber broadband to the community. The town of Brandon then voted to create ​​OCCUD, and the town of Goshen voted to join the CUD soon afterwards. Today, Otter Creek comprises 14 member communities in South Central Vermont, including Benson, Brandon, Castleton, Chittenden, Fair Haven, Goshen, Hubbardton, Pittsford, Rutland Town, Sudbury, West Rutland, Poultney, Mendon, and Pawlet. 

As a new CUD, Otter Creek is still navigating the planning stages of the project, motivated by the opportunity fiber will provide to allow residents to “compete in the global economy.” Otter Creek’s feasibility study for a fiber buildout was...

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Posted February 11, 2022 by Emma Gautier

Located in the most northeastern part of Tennessee, BrightRidge has served as Johnson City’s public power utility for nearly 80 years. About a decade ago, BrightRidge stepped into the broadband space, and has since been taking serious strides to connect Johnson City residents and surrounding communities. 

When we left off with BrightRidge in 2019, the utility was about to start into the first three phases of a fiber buildout to provide 3,847 homes and 373 businesses with broadband access. Since then, state and local funding as well as utility investments have allowed BrightRidge to reach thousands of residents in the area.  

Back in 2009 is when Johnson City, Tennessee began thinking about a possible fiber buildout. Since then, the city of 67,000 has considered a number of approaches, eventually landing on building out a hybrid (fiber and fixed wireless) network and serving as a publicly owned broadband utility to bring Internet access to residents. Known today as BrightRidge Broadband, the utility offers symmetric speeds of up to 10 Gigabits per second (for $149/month) in Johnson City and nearby communities.  

Originally slated to be complete in 2026, demand and success in rolling out the infrastructure has led the utility to speed up its deployment plans. According to a June press release, BrightRidge anticipated “collapsing its 8-year build-out plan down to seven years, with 5,449 customers with service available compared to the original FY 22 plan of 2,940.” The release also cited a plan for Phase 5 of deployment, “beginning in July 2023 [and adding] 8,248 customers – 5,300 more than originally planned for the phase.” BrightRidge is currently halfway through Phase 4 of buildout, and has a current coverage area of over 15,000 homes and businesses in Johnson City, Jonesborough and Washington County. Importantly, the network construction so far has been funded internally with the help of local, state and federal funding: electric customers will see...

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Posted February 10, 2022 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

Dickson, Tennessee (pop. 15,500) was the third municipal electric system to take power from the Tennessee Valley Authority after its creation in 1933, but the utility actually predates the regional electric generation system by almost 30 years. Today, it’s entering a new phase of life, parlaying its 117-year history of bringing affordable electric service into an $80 million fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) build that will see every household in its footprint (37,000 meters) get future-proof Internet access within the next four years.

A Cooperative in Municipal Clothing

Established in 1905, the very first Dickson Electric System (DES) customers received their power from a single 150-horsepower external combustion steam engine. DES upgraded its capacity in 1923, switching to two 150-horsepower oil-burning engines. A little more than a decade later, the TVA was established and DES took service, joining the maturing regional electric system and bringing its 650 customers and 50 miles of line into what would eventually be a group of more than 150 local power utilities almost a century later.

Today, Dickson Electric territory covers almost 800 square miles across Dickson, Hickman, Cheatham, Williamson, Humphreys, Houston, and Montgomery Counties (with the bulk of its customers in the first three), across about 2,600 miles of distribution line to 37,000 locations.

Because of this and some other factors, in many ways Dickson, Tennessee’s municipal electric system looks more like an electric cooperative than typical city-centered infrastructure, General Manager Darrell Gillespie shared in an interview. Just the fourth general manager to serve in the position since DES’ founding, Gillespie said that only 22 percent of its meters are located in the city of Dickson. The rest are spread across the seven-county footprint - many in rural areas, and including in parts or all of four other cities. In fact, DES averages just 13 customers per mile across its service area.

With a long history of providing affordable, reliable, locally accountable electric service, leadership at the utility have been talking about expanding into the fiber business for years. The onset of the pandemic in the spring of 2020...

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Posted February 7, 2022 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

With a little less than a year left in its projected build schedule, Fort Collins (pop. 168,000) continues to make progress on its municipal fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) network, while also releasing new resources to help keep citizens informed and help households with affordability challenges stay online. 

When we last checked in on Fort Collins' Connexion a little more than a year ago, the network was nearing a milestone, having spent roughly 49 percent of its construction budget. Today, the network is well over the halfway point of its $142 million-dollar build. In fact, it expects to be done placing vaults and with boring work in July.

Along the way, local officials have taken steps to increase transparency and improve communication with local residents. Last summer, it released a construction map of the networks' anticipated 357 fiberhoods, delineating which areas were in design, under construction, or fully lit.

In addition, at the end of November of 2020 the network released a Network Status tracker so that users could see in each of the four quadrants of the city if connections were down. 

The network also continues to offer a tier for income-qualified households who might have trouble paying for service. Anyone with access to the network currently "in a City income-qualified program," can get symmetrical gigabit Internet access for just $20/month. This means those connections are free for those able to particicipate in and apply the current federal Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB).

In fact, even after the the EBB transitions to the new Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) on March 1, the $30 monthly subsidy will still mean that the network's income-qualified access tier remains free, which should be a significant benefit for those in the city who desperately need to stay connected to the...

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Posted February 2, 2022 by Karl Bode

Fairfield City, California is one of several cities in the state hoping to lean on both California’s broadband expansion initiative and the American Rescue Plan Act to provide faster, less expensive Internet access for city residents. The city says it will soon exit the research phase of its project and outline what they believe is the best path forward.

Last May the city council approved a plan to deploy a city-owned broadband network to expand broadband options in the city using Rescue Plan funds. Last August, the city launched a Broadband Action Planning (BAP) process to measure the scope of Internet access gaps and propose a solution, the results of which will soon be shared with the city council and the public.

Digital Divide Exacerbated

Like so many U.S. communities, the lack of affordable, equitable Internet access was particularly pronounced during the Covid crisis, the city said. 

“Access to broadband is becoming a prerequisite for improving economic and social welfare,” Fairfield City Communications Manager, Bill Way, told ILSR. “It provides a conduit to enable open and accessible government, enhance business competitiveness, and improve the quality of residents’ lives through improved delivery of services such as telework, telehealth, distance learning, and digital inclusion.”

The city recently completed a survey of community members, and the majority of the almost 300 responses cited limited competition and a lack of affordable Internet access options. 

“While a few comments were positive, most comments indicated lack of options, low speeds, and high costs,” Way said. “One specific consideration to note, although city staff coordinated with outside agencies to cast a broad reach for the survey, and utilized in-house engagement efforts, the responses did not generally capture vulnerable populations, most at-risk of being digitally excluded.”

Other cities in the state exploring similar initiatives (...

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Posted February 1, 2022 by Sean Gonsalves

Known for decades as the "Sweet Onion Capital of the World," tourists are still drawn to the rural farmlands of Toombs County in east central Georgia for the annual Vidalia Onion Festival.

But in early November 2021, officials from the member-owned electric cooperative Altamaha Electric Membership Corporation (EMC), flanked by an assortment of state and local officials, gathered at the sprawling L.G. Herndon Farms to announce the cultivation of a new venture. Through its newly created subsidiary Altamaha Fiber, the 86-year-old cooperative recently started construction of a fiber-to-the-home network to serve its 14,000 members who live in Toombs County and in the six neighboring counties (Emanuel, Johnson, Laurens, Montgomery, Tattnall, and Treutlen).

A 5,000-acre spread where they grow Vidalia onions, greens, soybeans, and corn (with over 1,600 cattle and a trucking company on the property), L.G. Herndon Farms was chosen as the site to make the announcement because the farm also happened to be the first business test customer for Altamaha Fiber.

Fiber-to-this-farm will allow for precision agriculture. And, as reported by The Advance, Phil Proctor, the engineer overseeing network construction, noted an added benefit, especially in an area that prizes college football in the ACC: “The lines coming into this building would allow owner Bo Herndon to live stream the Georgia Tech vs. Virginia Tech football game in vivid 4k resolution.”

Beyond the Herndon farm, Georgia Public Service Commissioner Jason Shaw spoke of the far ranging benefits of broadband for the region:

Quality broadband access is key to competing in a 21st-century economy. You can’t participate in e-commerce, education, or telemedicine without access to the Internet. It’s that simple. I’m so pleased to be here today and grateful for the leaders of Altamaha EMC...

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Posted February 1, 2022 by

This week on the podcast, Christopher is joined by PJ Armstrong, Interim General Manager at Monmouth Independence Networks (MINET) operating in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.

During the conversation, the two discuss how MINET came into existence over fifteen years ago, unique perspectives from an older municipal network, progress on MINET’s recent investor-backed expansion into Dallas, Oregon, and how the pandemic has affected the operations and marketing of municipal networks. Christopher and PJ also geek out about MINET’s custom-built operational support system (OSS) and the technology that powers their networks.

This show is 24 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.

Subscribe to the Building Local Power podcast, also from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, on iTunes or Stitcher to catch more great conversations about local communities, the concentration of corporate power, and how everyday people are taking control.

Thanks to Arne Huseby for the music. The song is Warm Duck Shuffle and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.

Posted January 31, 2022 by

Join Us Thursday, February 3rd at 5pm ET, For A Reality Check: Scaling Networks in 2022 - Episode 31 of the Connect This! Show.

 

In this episode of the Connect This! Show, co-hosts Christopher and Travis Carter (USI Fiber) are joined by Monica Webb (Ting) and Robert Boyle (Planet Networks) to talk about the realities of expanding network infrastructure in 2022.

 

The panel will dig into supply chain issues, challenges faced in scaling up, and what type of partnerships help grow networks quickly.

 

Subscribe to the show using this feed on YouTube Live or here on Facebook Live, or visit ConnectThisShow.com.

 

Email us broadband@muninetworks.org with feedback and ideas for the show. Watch here on YouTube Live, here on Facebook live, or below.

Posted January 24, 2022 by Karl Bode

Hoping to leverage both a major new California broadband expansion initiative and American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds, Chico, California is moving forward with its plan to deliver affordable fiber broadband to historically-underserved city residents. 

The Chico city council last year began exploring using $4.8 million of the city’s $22 million in American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds to build a citywide fiber network. After spending $250,000 to research its options, the city council voted last week to move forward with the plan.

Dual Purposes

City leaders hope the network will provide more reliable connectivity for the first responders battling historic wildfires in the region. But like many communities, Chico was also spurred to action by telecom market failure, a lack of competition among regional monopolies, and the slow speeds, spotty coverage, and high prices that routinely result. 

“All of us have had experience with the existing incumbents and what we pay for versus what we get,” said Chico's Information Systems Manager Josh Marquis. “There's a lot of areas of our region that do not have access either through affordability gaps or through service gaps.”

Much like Fort Pierce, Florida, Chico will begin by running a pilot project first targeting lower income parts of the city like the Chapman Mulberry neighborhood. There, residents will be provided inexpensive access to symmetrical fiber either through the city or a partner, made cheaper still once the FCC’s Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) discounts are applied. 

Marquis says the city hopes to make the Chico EBB application process much smoother than incumbent offerings, which have been widely criticized for being intentionally cumbersome - and attempting to upsell struggling Americans to more expensive...

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