Tag: "FTTH"

Posted August 1, 2022 by Sean Gonsalves

City leaders in Gary, Indiana hope to have people singing a song first sung by the city’s most famous family. But instead of relying on The Jackson 5 to lead a reprisal of “Goin’ Back to Indiana,” the sheet music this time is a plan to “deploy ubiquitous, accessible and affordable high-speed broadband to every home and business within the City.”

Two weeks ago, the city issued a Request for Qualification as it seeks Internet service provider(s) for the city to partner with “to build, operate (and) maintain a government middle mile fiber ring leveraging the City’s ARPA funds and working together to obtain additional State funding to ensure the partner deploys commercial and residential retail broadband.” Bids are due by August 12.

While the city wants to build a fiber intergovernmental network to support the city’s government, the plan calls for a city-wide network “that raises all tides on the residential side. That is essential to Gary’s economic future,” Gary’s Chief Innovation Officer Lloyd Keith explained last week during an information session for potential partners.

The genesis of the proposed project, Keith explained, “came from us looking at a study during the pandemic and the issues we were having with students. We are basically inadequate as far as broadband access is concerned in comparison to other communities. So we looked at how we can go about resolving that situation.”

Despite the presence of AT&T and Comcast, Keith described his city of 67,000 just 30 miles southeast of Chicago as still being “underserved” as was made apparent when the city found numerous census tracts with a staggering number of residents who do not have home broadband service.

That’s why, Keith said, now is the time for Gary to leverage its Rescue Plan funds and the federal BEAD program to finance construction of a network that will cover the entire city.

...

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Posted July 29, 2022 by Ry Marcattilio

A new report out from the Copia Institute highlights the failures of the current national broadband marketplace and the value of locally-driven connectivity solutions, while underscoring once again the potential for open access models to break entrenched monopoly power. Along the way, the report offers some useful ways of reframing our understanding of how we got to a place where Internet access is dominated by just a handful of companies across the United States.

Cities as Laboratories, and the Possibilities of Open Access

“Competition is Just a Click Away” covers a lot of ground. Its author - Karl Bode - is a veteran of the broadband policy space (including writing for ILSR recently), and has long helped shed light on the consequences in increasing monopoly power in the technology landscape.

In the report, he begins by laying out the problems borne from a lack of competition, including: the consequences of regulatory capture of the FCC by huge, for-profit companies, past and continued problems with mapping, and the resulting slower speeds, lack of investment, astonishing extraction of wealth, and worrying lobbying power enjoyed by monopoly providers, all fueled by increasingly high prices and the efficient extraction of wealth from communities to further concentrate market reach and lobbying power. 

An important early point made in the report is that, in the face of these realities, over the last fifteen years local cities have become “telecom laboratories where financial and technical innovation flourish, providing blueprints federal policy makers struggling to boost affordable broadband availability would be foolish to ignore.” Chattanooga and a handful of other city-owned and operated networks illustrate the power of communities to retake control of essential infrastructure.

The community broadband movement is an organic market response to market failure and the extractive power of unchecked monopolization.

Among the many results, the report points out, is that subscribers in the United States pay higher prices for slower service than many other places. But it doesn’t have to be that way, Bode reminds us.

Open access networks offer a concrete path to separating Internet infrastructure from service provisioning, and allow even conservatively minded cities to use...

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Posted July 25, 2022 by Sean Gonsalves

The City of Waterloo, Iowa has been flirting with the idea of building a municipal fiber network since 2005 when voters approved the creation of a municipal utility service. Voters said yes to the concept then but were not asked to put any money behind it.

"We were so excited we passed it, and then nothing happened. (The plan had) been gathering dust for 16 years," at-large Councilor Sharon Juon, a member of the city’s broadband committee in 2005, told the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier when the city council unanimously approved a $2.5 million contract with Magellan Advisors to design and engineer a fiber network last fall.

This is something our city needs so desperately. We've lost businesses because we don't have the broadband needed.

Now, officials in this northeast Iowa city of 68,000 residents (the eighth-largest city in the state) are ready to take the next step, going back to voters with a ballot question that seeks approval for the city to borrow $20 million to build the network backbone.

Voters will head to the polls to decide the question on September 13. It will need 60 percent approval at the ballot box for the measure to pass.

The ‘Time is Here’

Characterizing the effort to build future-proof fiber infrastructure as “good for the long-range interest of this community,” Waterloo Mayor Quentin Hart told The Courier:

For the past 15 to 20 years, the city has done a lot of talking of needing to do this and to work for our own fiber network, and the time is here.

Should the ballot measure pass, the funds would be used to build a 100-mile fiber backbone to support the city’s sewer, storm water, traffic, and water systems. Consultants to the city have said that general obligation bonds are not required, but would be used to lower the cost of financing the overall project....

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Posted July 19, 2022 by Sean Gonsalves

In the heart of Maryland's Eastern Shore – a place Forbes Magazine considers one of the “Top 5 Coolest Towns to Buy A Vacation Home” – a fiber-to-the-home project is making the region an even cooler place to live.

Building on its historical allure and 600 miles of Chesapeake Bay waterfront views, state, county and local utility officials are making a multimillion-dollar investment to transform Talbot County’s half dozen towns (and a handful of other unincorporated communities) 40 miles east of Annapolis into a far more attractive place to live, work, and play. To do that, they are relying on Easton Utilities, the county’s seat long-standing municipal utility, to expand high-speed Internet access into the most rural reaches of the region.

In March, the Talbot County Council unanimously approved allocating $1.75 million of its American Rescue Plan Act funds to help bring fiber Internet connectivity to the hardest-to-reach parts of the county. That funding comes on the heels of Easton Utilities being awarded federal and state grant funds totaling $26 million, with the bulk of that going toward a fiber network expansion project known as Connect Talbot, while a portion is being used to upgrade its existing hybrid fiber-coax system.

With construction crews now working to extend Easton Utilities fiber backbone further out into the county, the utilities’ subsidiary – Easton Velocity – is already offering service to over 100 new subscribers.

When we checked in with Easton Utilities this week, Marketing and Communications Manager Kelly Simonsen told us the expansion project will ultimately pass over 3,600 premises and cover 100 percent of Talbot County’s unserved areas. That work is expected to be complete sometime in 2026.

Municipal Utility Well Positioned to Bridge County’s Digital Divide

It makes sense...

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Posted July 15, 2022 by Karl Bode

In the summer of 2021, Lakeland city commissioners voted 5-to-1 to strike a private-public partnership (P3) with Summit Broadband, part of a 10 year plan to expand broadband availability within city limits. But officials in this central Florida city of 112,000 have expressed growing consternation that the planned broadband expansion is behind schedule and more selective than expected. 

“I think this is the right move for the City of Lakeland as it will accomplish what was my goal: to make it a smart city without the burden of bonding out our debt,” Lakeland Commissioner Bill Read said shortly after the project was announced. “The private sector can do a job much better than any public entity, better than our city.”

A year later and several city leaders don’t seem entirely sure. 

Local news outlet LkldNow indicated last month that most Lakeland residents have yet to see service, and that Summit appears to have shifted its deployment priorities away from uniform house-by-house coverage, and toward select businesses and housing development developments.

Lakeland Mayor Bill Mutz said of the revelations:  

I am not satisfied with the speed with which Summit is rolling out service to consumers in Lakeland and concerned that they may have de-emphasized that express concurrent desire of the commission. Whereas it has been our goal to provide commercial business with improved Internet service, the consumer emphasis was originally and consistently one of our highest expressed priorities and motivations.

City Officials Question Partners’ Apparent Shift in Strategy

Under the city’s 10 year agreement with Summit, the provider pledged to spend $20 million over the next five years expanding the city’s existing 350-mile dark fiber network. Under the deal, Summit will pay the city $144,000 per year initially, ultimately switching to paying the city 10 percent of gross revenue on Internet services.

Under the terms of the deal...

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Posted July 12, 2022 by Sean Gonsalves

In the 1980s, Rancho Cucamonga proclaimed itself “The City with a Plan.” Back then, the plan was to remake this once rural enclave known for its vineyards into more than just one of the many sunny suburbs of Los Angeles. The vision was to leverage its stretch of the famed Route 66 highway as a branding and economic development tool and transform the city into a premier destination within the Inland Empire metropolitan area along the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains.

That forward-looking spirit was revived again 30 years later as city leaders looked to cultivate a digital vineyard with the creation of a “Fiber Optic Master Plan” – a six-year $13 million investment plan that targets the city’s new development.

Today, Rancho Cucamonga (its name was derived from a Native American word meaning “sandy place”) owns and operates Rancho Cucamonga Municipal Broadband in partnership with Onward, a local private Internet service provider.

The city built, owns, and maintains the physical infrastructure, which is managed by the Rancho Cucamonga Municipal Utility (RCMU). Onward, which is based in the city, provides gigabit speed Internet access to the network’s 525 mostly residential subscribers as the network slowly expands to reach yet-to-be-built residential developments.

Targeting Greenfield Projects and Businesses

The move toward municipal broadband began in earnest in 2016 when the city hired Magellan Advisors to develop a plan that would leverage the city’s existing fiber assets and expand its municipal utility fiber network to “greenfield projects” and the city’s business parks (see the map below that shows blue areas where service exists and orange areas where service is coming).  

“We had a bit of a...

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Posted July 8, 2022 by Karl Bode

Whidbey Island, Washington is the latest region poised to benefit from a major, multi-pronged boost in state fiber investment. Financing provided by the Washington State Public Works Board, combined with federal broadband infrastructure acceleration grants, should soon dramatically expand affordable fiber across various parts of the island.

Last December, the Washington State Public Works Board approved $44.6 million in financing for 15 broadband projects across the state. That included $4.8 million for the Port of Coupeville on Whidbey Island to expand fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) broadband service to under-served island communities.

As with countless U.S. towns and cities, Covid-19 home schooling and telecommuting dramatically highlighted a need to improve access to affordable, future-proof broadband infrastructure.

“We learned during the pandemic when we were trying to do school and Zoom meetings or virtual meetings, that having that capacity in the Internet was critical to our ability to educate our kids, do business, operate government and even just have parties with our families when we’re in isolation,” Island County Commissioner Janet St. Clair recently told the Whidbey News Times.

Bidding Process For Potential Partners Now Open

Initial reports stated that the Port of Coupeville would primarily be working with Ziply fiber, which was expected to finance the remainder of the fiber project’s estimated $8 million price tag. Other reports suggested that Ziply would be seeing exclusive operation/ownership rights as part of the arrangement. 

But Ziply and Port of Coupeville representatives told ILSR those reports were premature, the full scope and details of the project remain very much in flux, and additional bidders were now being considered.

“Things have evolved since the article came out,” a Ziply representative said. “The Port of Coupeville is seeking competitive bids from providers to exercise their grant award. We do not have a timeline on when this process will be complete.”

Michalopoulos...

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Posted June 23, 2022 by Sean Gonsalves

While known for its annual "Tulip Time" celebration, Pella is now celebrating the flowering of a municipal fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) network in this small central Iowa city.

Network planners say construction, deploying 100 percent of the fiber underground, is on track to be finished this week. And, although the city has not launched a formal marketing campaign, they have already reached a take-rate of over 40 percent with one subscriber now getting 10 gig service.

The new network is known as Pella Fiber – a subsidiary of the city’s municipal electric utility, which, in the words of the Pella Chronicle, has been bringing “rays of light … (to) dispel the darkness” for residents and businesses in this community since 1911. Over a hundred years later, and with 92 percent approval at the ballot box, Pella voters in May of 2018 authorized the creation of a new municipal telecommunications utility that would transmit rays of light through fiber optic cables. The vote would lay the groundwork for future-proof connectivity in this city of about 10,000 residents, just 44 miles east of Des Moines.

It took two years to develop the business plan and design the network before the city hired Excel Utility Contractors to begin construction in June 2020. First having deployed nearly 34 miles of fiber, network builders connected Pella’s backbone to the Grinnell Hospital facilities nearby, a collaboration that linked the two cities, a critical part of the core network that allowed Pella to provide the needed bandwidth to build out to Pella residents and businesses.

In the fall of 2021, Pella Fiber began lighting up its first subscribers. Today, in the city that Wyatt Earp and his family once called home, residents no longer need to get out of Dodge to get triple play services as the fledgling municipal network is a one-stop shop for high-speed Internet access, cable, and phone service.

When we checked in with Pella Fiber this week, Telecommunications Director Doy Ousley told us they were “moving at a perfect pace.”

This week network construction will be complete and today we...

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Posted June 21, 2022 by Sean Gonsalves

Gainesville City Commissioners dealt a severe – if not fatal – blow to the expansion of municipal broadband in the Florida city where Gatorade was invented. Last week, five of the city’s seven commissioners voted to reject a proposal to spend $10 million of its American Rescue Plan funds to build a fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) pilot project.

As we reported here and here, city officials had been leaning in the direction of using $10 million of its $32 million in federal rescue plan funds to extend the city utility’s existing fiber network to bring high-speed Internet access to about 5,000 households caught on the wrong side of the digital divide.

Gainesville Regional Utility (GRU) has already deployed over 600 miles of fiber throughout the city, and for the past two decades, its subsidiary GATOR NET has been offering symmetrical gig-speed service to a limited number of area businesses, apartment buildings, government agencies, and community anchor institutions. 

In 2017, the citizen-led group Connected Gainesville began a public campaign with the hopes of persuading city officials to bring FTTH service citywide in a market dominated by Cox Communications, the incumbent monopoly cable provider serving this city’s approximately 141,000 residents, 56,000 of whom attend the University of Florida.

Death-knell for Municipal Broadband in Gainesville?

But now that city commissioners opted not to take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime infusion of federal funds for broadband, Connected Gainesville founder Bryan Eastman sees last week’s vote as a death-knell for expanding municipal broadband in the city, he told ILSR when we spoke to him this week.

If we are risk averse with free federal money we will not likely look for...

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Posted June 17, 2022 by Karl Bode

NEK Broadband has been awarded a $16 million grant by the Vermont Community Broadband Board (VCBB) to expand fiber access to 10 new Vermont communities. It’s among the earliest of what is likely to be a flurry of activity by the mostly-newly created Communications Union Districts - partnerships between rural cities and towns - which have formed over the last few years to solve the connectivity crisis for the tens of thousands of Vermonters who have been left behind by the current broadband marketplace.

A New Approach

Vermont’s broadband policy leaders say they plan to embrace CUDs as the primary avenue by which they hope to bridge the state’s long standing digital divide. A significant portion of the state’s $150 million broadband package will be funneled toward CUDs in a state where 85 percent of municipalities and 90 percent of underserved locations fall within a CUD.

The formation of most of the state’s CUDs is relatively new, though the most veteran example (EC Fiber) formed more than fifteen years ago. After years of persistence by EC Fiber, determined progress, and attitudinal changes in policy at the state level, CUDs now sit at the heart of the state’s rural broadband efforts.

Today, the municipally led CUDs can legally fund needed broadband expansions through debt, grants, and donations - but not taxes. Enter Vermont’s Act 71 Broadband Construction Grant program, which is doling out grants to the CUDs to deliver symmetrical speeds of 100 Megabits per second (Mbps) to underserved portions of the state. 

NEK Among the First

NEK Broadband is one of nine municipal partnerships called Communications Union District (CUD), scattered across the state of...

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