Fast, affordable Internet access for all.
Content tagged with "hillsboro"
HiLighting Hillsboro, Oregon - Episode 538 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast
This week on the podcast, Christopher is joined by General Manager Brad Nosler and Senior Customer Support specialist Elizabeth Pereira, both from the city of Hillsboro, Oregon. The city's municipal broadband network, HiLight, is new, having begun signing up subscribers in the spring of 2021.
Notably, HiLight began building in the areas highest-need neighborhoods, where connectivity rates were disproportionately low. Equally importantly, HiLight has among the best income-qualified subscription tiers for families struggle to pay for access of any network in the nation, offering symmetrical gigabit service for just $10/month. Brad and Elizabeth talk with Christopher abou
This show is 33 minutes long and can be played on this page or via Apple Podcasts or the tool of your choice using this feed.
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Thanks to Arne Huseby for the music. The song is Warm Duck Shuffle and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.
Jamestown Leads the Charge for Municipal Fiber in Western New York
Jamestown - home to 30,000 residents, the largest population center in western Chautauqua County - could become the first city in the state of New York to construct a citywide municipal fiber network using American Rescue Plan relief funds.
In April, Mayor Eddie Sundquist formed a task force to assess the potential for a municipal fiber network in Jamestown. The city is currently working with EntryPoint Networks on a feasibility study to estimate the overall cost of the project, as well as surveying residential interest in building a municipally owned open access broadband network in Jamestown.
If the city's American Rescue Plan spending plan is approved by the Jamestown City Council, Jamestown will be the first city in New York state to embark on a municipal fiber build. Although many cities across New York state own dark fiber assets, and cooperatives in the southeastern and northern regions of the state are serving some residents, no city in the Empire State has moved forward with building a citywide fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) network.
Idea Dating Back to Sundquist’s Mayoral Campaign
Connecting citizens to new technology was a component of Mayor Eddie Sundquist’s 2019 mayoral campaign, centered around efforts to enhance economic development and community revitalization projects.
“Who says that we can’t become a technology hub attracting businesses around the country with our low cost of living and rich resources? Who says we can’t wire broadband and fiber to every home and business in this city at a lower cost?,” WRFA reported Sundquist campaigning in 2019.
In an interview with ILSR, Mayor Sundquist recalled that the message was well-received by Jamestown residents, and that even pre-pandemic, city residents were calling for more reliable Internet access offering higher speeds.
Weaving a Fiber Net Through Oregon’s Silicon Forest: Hillsboro’s Municipal Network Goes Live
HiLight — Hillsboro, Oregon’s (pop. 105,000) citywide Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network — has officially launched and begun connecting its first subscribers. After five years of consideration and planning, it’s an exciting moment, with hundreds of homes and businesses brought online over the last few months. Over the next seven years, at least $28 million will be put towards the rollout, bringing the municipal network to tens of thousands of locations across the city.
Hillsboro sits just outside of Portland, and has been looking for better connectivity options for years. A large proportion of its population is comprised of tech workers and residents with advanced degrees; the city, in fact, anchors the state’s Silicon Forest, so named for the group of technology firms employing tens of thousands of workers across three Intel campuses as well as operations by Oracle, Salesforce, Epson, and Synopsis. A citywide fiber network serves to provide competition and capacity to keep them in the area:
Hillsboro is the tallest tree in the Silicon Forest and the center of Oregon’s high-tech cluster. With an affordable high-speed network, Hillsboro’s homegrown talent — our students and entrepreneurs — will be better positioned to lead the world in innovating for the future. Hillsboro will continue to attract and retain talent and be a hub for innovation.
But Hillsboro also faces a stark digital divide fueled by economic inequality, and bridging it has been one of the city council’s (and now the network’s) main agenda items. This has driven the project’s second focus: bringing affordable, high-quality access to economically vulnerable residents stuck with no quality options today. It’s why the city has introduced one of the fastest low-cost access program we’ve seen established by any broadband network in the United States, with qualifying families getting access to symmetrical gigabit service for $10/month.
Putting Glass in the Ground
Thankful for Growing Efforts at Digital Inclusion
As late November arrives, so does the the holiday season for many of our readers. People reading up on local efforts to improve Internet access will be counting their blessings today, which inspires us to do the same. There are many things we have to be thankful this year.
As access to affordable broadband becomes increasingly critical in today's world, however, and as rates from the large Internet access companies continue to rise, getting online is more challenging than ever for folks with limited incomes. We want to express our appreciation for local communities who adopt policies to make high-quality Internet access available to lower income households through their municipal networks.
A Growing Awareness
Wilson, North Carolina, decided that as part of the community network's mission, they would offer fast, reliable fiber Internet access available to those living in public housing residences. Since then, we've seen other communities take creative approaches to ensure that everyone can use the network, not only those who are already better off. Municipalities that see the value of publicly owned fiber optic infrastructure understand the value of eliminating cherry picking as a way to tap into their undiscovered human capital.
Unlike large corporate Internet access providers, publicly owned networks don't need to maximize profit from every subscriber in order to please shareholders. They consider themselves in place for the public good. Munis can dedicate themselves toward digital inclusion efforts, which are in line with their mission.
During Digital Inclusion Week in October, we detailed some of the innovative approaches that local decision makers are adopting to ensure the least fortunate in their communities have access to the community's new fiber tools. Here are just a few:
Municipal Fiber Networks Power Digital Inclusion Programs
Which would you choose — a broadband subscription with download speeds of 15 Megabits per second (Mbps) or a much faster gigabit plan for the same price?
The choice is clear, and it’s one that low-income households in Hillsboro, Oregon, may soon make, thanks to the city’s planned municipal fiber network. Earlier this year, Hillsboro announced that its new broadband utility, HiLight, will offer gigabit connectivity for only $10 per month to qualified low-income residents. In comparison, Comcast’s Internet Essentials program provides low-income families in the city speeds of just 15 Mbps for roughly the same monthly cost.
Hillsboro isn’t the first community to leverage its publicly owned fiber network for digital inclusion efforts. Municipal networks across the country are providing low-cost connectivity, affordable devices, and digital skills trainings to their communities, bringing the educational, economic, and healthcare benefits of broadband access to more people.
Defining Digital Inclusion
Digital inclusion is the practice of ensuring digital equity, which the National Digital Inclusion Alliance defines as “a condition in which all individuals and communities have the information technology capacity needed for full participation in our society, democracy and economy.”
Broadband availability is only one of many “digital divides” that explain who is and isn’t connected. For instance, income and affordability also play a role. According to the Pew Research Center, adults with annual incomes of $75,000 or more are almost twice as likely to have broadband access at home than adults with annual incomes of less than $30,000. Among those without home broadband access, the high cost of a subscription is most commonly cited as the top reason why, Pew reports.
HiLight in Hillsboro to Offer $55 Gig
Hillsboro, Oregon, has decided that fast, reliable, and affordable Internet access is a top priority. As they continue to fine-tune their fiber optic network plans, community leaders recently announced pricing and speed tiers for HiLight, expected to launch in 2020.
This summer, the Hillsboro City Council confirmed proposed pricing to reflect the community's commitment to bringing high-quality Internet access to each premise; HiLight will offer symmetrical gigabit Internet access for $55 per month to residents. According to the Oregonian, the rate is about half what Comcast charges. HiLight will also provide a 4 gigabit option for $300 per month, which is comparable to Comcast’s price for 2 gigabit service.
Subscribers will also have the option to sign-up for VoIP services for $20 per month, but the utility will not offer video.
Low-income households will be able to subscribe to gigabit service for $10 per month, but the community is still working out details for eligibility. Comcast’s plan for similarly situated folks allows Internet access at 15 Megabits per second (Mbps) download while providing slower upload speeds.
Like many other publicly owned networks, Hillsboro plans to offer symmetrical service to allow subscribers to take full advantage of fiber optic connections. With the ability to send as well as receive data-intensive files, subscribers are more likely to work from home, complete distance learning educational programs, engage in telehealth apps, and partake in innovative technologies.
The city plans to take an incremental approach and dedicate about 10 years toward completion of citywide deployment while avoiding debt. Hillsboro has decided to allocate around $4 million each year for the next 7 years toward the build. City financial experts estimate the network will begin generating revenue in 11 years and will pay for itself in 17 years.
Hillsboro, Oregon, Introduces Broadband Utility: Hello, HiLight!
Last year, city leaders in Hillsboro, Oregon, decided to pursue a Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network for all premises after studying the possibilities since 2014. Crews have started construction and the city has now introduced the name of its newest utility, HiLight.
Throughout the process of exploring municipal network possibilities, community leaders in Hillsboro have kept digital equity high on their list of priorities. In order to meet one of their goals — to bring high-quality connectivity to lower income neighborhoods — one of the first areas of the city where HiLight will deploy is in Southwest Hillsboro and the premises around Shute Park. Connectivity rates in these areas are the lowest in Hillsboro, where many residents qualify as lower income.
In order to expedite deployment, the city has decided to start construction in the South Hillsboro area, a section of town where new roads and homes are being built. By taking advantage of the current excavation, the city’s dig once policy will ensure conduit goes in the neighborhood now, which will greatly reduce the cost of deployment. Hillsboro will also install conduit whenever roads are excavated in other areas of town to prepare for future deployment.
By late 2019, HiLight should be connecting residents and businesses to the network. They plan to take an incremental approach to connecting all areas of the city and will strategically consider locations of businesses, busy travel corridors, and schools as they decide where to expand. Hillsboro will invest approximately $4 million toward deployment per year for the next seven years and anticipate subscriber revenue will cover operating costs.
Schools as A Building Block
Hillsboro, Oregon, Ready to Invest in Fiber for Residents, Businesses
Hillsboro, Oregon, has studied the possibility of investing in high-quality fiber connectivity for residents and businesses since 2014. After considering the pros and cons, this northwest city of 105,000 has decided to move ahead, with spring 2019 as a target launch date of its own Internet access service.
Communications Utility and Beyond
In January, the City Council approved establishing a communications utility, creating a communications fund, and taking the necessary steps to develop a dig once policy in the city’s code. Elected officials had not yet decided if the community would pursue a city-wide network, but wanted to create an environment that would offer future options and encourage private sector partners to invest in Hillsboro.
The city already owns fiber optic resources that it uses for municipal facilities, schools, traffic signals, and other purposes. They plan to use that network as a foundation to expand in order to bring better connectivity throughout the community. With a wider network, Hillsboro hopes to adopt public Wi-Fi, better public safety notifications, and applications for smart-meters for utility services as well as real-time parking and traffic updates.
Keeping it Affordable for All Segments
Hillsboro plans to offer gigabit connectivity at around $50 per month but hopes to provide the same symmetrical service to lower-income households at a lower rate. In addition to equitable access for all income levels in Hillsboro, the city wants to ensure that students have the ability to compete.
“For our students, for our businesses, and for our entire community, we are moving forward now to expand the City’s fiber network to include Internet service,” said Hillsboro Mayor Steve Callaway. “We want to ensure affordable, equitable high-speed access to keep Hillsboro competitive with cities around the world."
The city wants to ensure that network neutrality protections remain in effect in the community for individuals and businesses. Encouraging entrepreneurs and making high-quality access with good customer service affordable for all subscribers are more goals they intend to pursue.
"Not Feasible" May Be A Reflection of the Consultant Rather Than A Community Network
To be fair, "not feasible" could also mean that you are asking the wrong questions. Nothing rules out that the problem lies with both the consultant AND the questions. It's hard to tell from the outside which of these factors dominates.
An Incomplete Path
For years, Iowa's Decorah has been considering a municipal fiber network and local folks have been educating people on the possibilities. With so many other communities in Iowa moving forward successfully with projects, one would have thought Decorah might snag one of the consultants involved in those. It went instead with Uptown Services.
We generally don't name consultants unless we feel compelled to on this site but Uptown Services was also the consultant the last time I saw such a poor feasibility that I couldn't avoid writing about it - in Hillsboro, Oregon. They were also the consultant for Provo, Utah; Alameda, California; Salisbury, North Carolina; and other networks that have encountered significant challenges in their business plans. We don't know what role, if any, the consultants played in their struggles and, to be fair, Uptown Services has contracted with networks that have avoided any serious pitfalls.
I have no way of evaluating the many services they provide, but I can say that cities looking for feasibility analysis and early guidance in how to improve Internet access in a community should carefully consider their track record.
What upsets me is not that Uptown told Hillsboro and Decorah that a bond-financed rapid-deployment of citywide FTTH was too risky in their analysis. That may or may not be correct - and I deeply respect consultants that are willing to tell clients what they do not want to hear. The problem is that a consultant's job should not be to say "yeah" or "nay" for one particular approach but rather to guide a community along a feasible path of improving Internet access.
Want a Gig? Ask Consultants the Right Questions
Hillsboro officials have heard back from the consultant they hired to examine the feasibility of building a municipal fiber network that would bring high-speed, lower-cost Internet service to city residents. The answer? Don't do it.Stories like this make my blood boil. It is the absolute wrong question. But to delve into it, I want to abstract away from any specific consultants or approaches. This is not a failing of a single consultant, but something we have seen to various degrees from many. Jumping ahead, the correct approach is to develop a description of the problems a community faces or wants to solve relating to Internet access. Then, examine a variety of approaches to pick the best option rather than only evaluating the single most expensive option. Some consultants are very happy to bid a project, answer a narrow question, and then let the community go on its perhaps puzzled way. They have the list of phone poll questions, the spreadsheet full of assumptions, and final feasibility report template all ready for the next community. (We do not offer consulting services.) Other consultants go out of their way to educate, guide, and otherwise help the community develop and achieve its objectives. These consultants may appear to cost a [no-glossary]bit[/no-glossary] more, but actually can be much more cost effective. Some consultants bid the bare minimum, planning to charge extra later for supposedly supplemental information that is actually essential for continuing the process. A consultant should be a guide to achieving objectives rather than simply evaluating a single, likely over-simplified question. It all starts with what questions a community asks.