TCL&P Fiber, which launched earlier this fall, has doubled its subscriber base over the last six weeks. It now has 88 active users, with 17 additional ready to go online and 64 on the waitlist.
Less than seven months has passed since the city of Anacortes, Washington (pop. 17,000) connected the very first subscriber in a pilot project for its municipal network. In the interim, thousands of households have signed up, construction continues at full-steam, and local officials are looking forward to years of providing fast, affordable, reliable service to those living on Fidalgo Island.
Five Years in the Making
We’ve been following Anacortes since 2015, when the city first began discussing the issue, watching as as local leaders and stakeholders assessed community needs, the state of broadband in the area, and options available to them, and much has changed. Read through our previous coverage if you’re interested in how things unfolded, but by the early part of 2019 the city had decided to pass on the other options and build, maintain, and operate the network themselves.
Access-Anacortes, the municipal network borne out of that decision, is approaching the end of a two-year pilot project which by all metrics has been successful. In an interview, Emily Schuh (Administrative Services Director) and Jim Lemberg (Municipal Broadband Business Manager) shared what they’ve learned and how things are going. Throughout 2019 and 2020, construction has passed just over 1,000 premises and achieved a 39.6% take rate, surpassing the 35% bar they set early on, in three pilot areas which sit on the north side and down the middle of town. The city owns, maintains, and operates the network, with the library serving as the center of operations. Access-Anacortes consists almost entirely of new construction, though it does use some of the city’s internal backbone fiber — which itself is only a handful of years old — as well.
The green, yellow, and orange...Read more
This week on the podcast Christopher welcomes back Lee Brown, President and CEO of Erwin Utilities, to talk about what’s been going on since we last spoke with them more than three and a half years ago. Erwin is a town of around 6,000 and the county seat of Unicoi County, Tennessee, along the state’s eastern border.
The two revisit the success Erwin has seen with an incremental Fiber-to-the-Home buildout over the last six years. The utility at this point has no debt, and covers the whole town aside from one remaining pocket to be complete early next year. It has expanded into the county, bringing affordable 25mbps and gigabit Internet access to residents, and enjoys a take rate of nearly 50%.
Lee reflects on the benefits of Erwin’s strategic approach to building a fiber network and lessons learned. In 2019 it completed the transition to becoming the Erwin Utilities Authority, which will give it flexibility moving into the future, and in April of this year connected its 3000th customer.
This show is 26 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.
Read the transcript for this episode.
Subscribe to the Building Local Power podcast, also from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, on iTunes or ...Read more
Traverse City has officially launched its new municipal Fiber-to-the-Home network in the northern Michigan town of 15,000. The city's municipal electric utility, Traverse City Light & Power (TCL&P), owns the network and operates it in a partnership with Fujitsu, with the latter building and initially helping operate it, but turning management over to TCLP as the city utility feels comfortable with each aspect of the operation.
TCL&P Fiber is being built incrementally, starting in the downtown area where the economic heart of the community lies. The first phase is estimated to cost $3.5 million and will offer 2,200 locations service. The rest of the community will be connected in coming years and perhaps ultimately areas outside the current electric footprint.
Getting up to Speed
Traverse City has been working in the communications space for more than 10 years with dark fiber leases to major anchor institutions and key economic entities. In more recent years they were providing free Wi-Fi downtown while considering how to improve Internet access to smaller businesses and residents. For years, they examined various options, with serious consideration of an open access network where the city would build the infrastructure but other ISPs would use it to connect customers.
In an interview today, TCL&P Executive Director Tim Arends told us that they moved on this project after sensing a lot of pent up demand for better service — with speed, reliability, and especially customer service as common complaints with existing service. Though TCL&P did not name check the existing providers, AT&T DSL and Charter Spectrum cable are the main incumbent providers.
In 2017 TCL&P's Board voted unanimously to move forward with a citywide fiber approach but did not plan to be a retail provider themselves. But in 2019, a new plan with Fujitsu evolved into the current approach.
Last year,...Read more
John Lester, General Manager of Clarksville Connected Utilities (CCU) in Clarksville, Arkansas, knows a thing or two about the value of a municipal broadband network.
“Just keeping the dollars in Clarksville is gonna have a big impact. Do you have a calculator handy?” Lester asked me, when I called him earlier this month to learn more about the city’s planned foray into residential broadband services.
“Let me talk you through something,” he replied, after I said I did. “Let’s say we’ve got 4,500 potential customers and 75 percent of them get high-speed Internet, in some fashion. What’s that number?”
From there, he ran through a handful of calculations to illustrate the economic benefit of Clarksville’s new Fiber-to-the-Home network. Assuming residents save about $20 per month and the savings continue to circulate locally, the network could grow the city’s economy by $4 million every year.
“That stays in our consumers’ pockets right here in Clarksville, Arkansas,” Lester explained. “There is an economic impact today and every year going forward.”
Residential broadband service is only the most recent evolution for Clarksville’s municipal fiber network, which already connects utility infrastructure as well as area businesses and community anchor institutions in the city of nearly 10,000. Home installations are due to start soon, depending on delays caused by the global Covid-19 outbreak.
Starting With a Plan
Clarksville’s fiber journey began in 2016 when the city utilities department (which rebranded last year to Clarksville Connected Utilities) deployed a SCADA system to connect its electric, water, and wastewater systems. At the time, Lester was already thinking about how the rest of Clarksville could benefit from the utility’s fiber network, drawing on his prior experience as the city manager of Chanute, Kansas. “We absolutely needed a communications system for our utility infrastructure,” he explained, “but we leaned strongly on one of Stephen Covey’s...Read more
Auburn Essential Service (AES) is one of those networks that has been serving the community for years with a steady presence and a strong commitment to the community. This week, Christopher talks with AES General Manager Chris Schweitzer about their fiber optic network, how they're innovating, and their recipe for consistent growth.
AES began with fiber infrastructure for their electric utility. They entered the broadband business first for municipal facilities, and later for businesses when the incumbent providers couldn't deliver necessary connectivity to one of the city's prominent employers. The company was ready to relocate until AES stepped in. Rather than face the economic impact of substantial job losses, AES connected the company and never looked back.
That was in the early 2000s and now AES offers Internet access to large segments of residents and businesses. Christopher and his guest talk about the way AES has taken a deliberate approach to expanding the network citywide and how they're implementing new technologies as they refresh the infrastructure. They discuss the network’s financial health (hint: it’s doing great) and how AES seeks grant funding to aid in further expansion.
Chris describes the new partnership that AES and nearby Garrett, Indiana, have developed to bring fiber broadband to the residents in the small community of about 6,300 people. The utility has a philosophy that other munis also embrace — straightforward pricing and customer-centered services — that have helped drive their success in the residential market.
Check out our first interview with...Read more
People with an interest in municipal networks usually know about Ponca City, Oklahoma's free municipal fixed wireless network because it's been around for years. In the summer of 2019, however, community leaders decided it was time to start offering Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) and created Ponca City Broadband.
Dave Williams, Director of Technology Service from Ponca City, comes on the show this week to discuss the new utility. Dave and Christopher review the history of the fixed wireless network and the factors that led Ponca City to shift toward FTTH. Dave explains how economic development, changing technology, and an eye toward the future convinced Ponca City that it was time to invest in citywide FTTH for residents.
The city has been able to take advantage of some cost saving strategies with the benefit of decades of technical know-how associated the municipal network and the electric utility. Additionally, they're implementing marketing approaches and customer service techniques that make Ponca City Broadband stand apart from other Internet access providers.
We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.Read more
Finding the right moment to move forward with a publicly owned broadband infrastructure investment isn’t always cut and dry. Davis, California, has considered the possibilities for the past three years and at the June city council meeting, decided to assign city staff the task of examining the details of an incremental fiber optic network deployment. “We can’t approve a municipal fiber network today,” Councilman Will Arnold said, “but we can kill it, and I’m not willing to do that.”
Broadband Advisory Task Force
Davis’s Broadband Advisory Task Force (BATF) recommended to the city council that Davis move forward with developing a fiber optic network. The task force has examined the issue since it was formed in 2016, at the urging of citizens who formed a group calling themselves DavisGIG. The group’s main purpose has been to encourage the city to begin the process of examining the possibility of developing a Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network.
The city hired Finley Engineering and CCG Consulting, which worked together to deliver results of a feasibility study with recommendations in March 2018. They concluded that a citywide build out funded completely with one bond issue wasn’t feasible. In their opinion, Davis would require additional funding, such as sales tax or property taxes. Citywide deployment, which consultants estimate to be around $106.7 million, would be high due to poor pole condition, labor costs, and high housing density. An incremental approach, however, is a goal that Davis should consider.
The consultants found that Davis would certainly benefit from a publicly owned fiber network. A significant digital divide problem and lack of choice in Davis has residents and businesses caught with few options. After examining possible models, Finley and CCG suggested that...Read more
At their May 14th board meeting, the Traverse City Light & Power Board (TCLP) decided to move forward and begin contract negotiations with Fujitsu Network Communications to expand the city’s fiber optic network in order to begin serving residents as well as businesses.
A Careful Approach
The community of about 10,000 has taken a cautious approach as they’ve investigated the possible ways to improve Internet access in the community. TCLP and city leaders have thoroughly examined the pros and cons, which has allowed them to make decisions based on ample amounts of information.
Earlier this year, they hired Fujitsu to develop a potential business plan, along with a design and operations plan for a municipal network. In past years, the city issued an RFI for a partner to develop an open access network on which TCLP would offer services as an Internet access provider, and they’ve commissioned a feasibility study which examined leasing to a single provider or operating as a municipal Internet access network. TCLP has also discussed the possibility of working with an electric cooperative that operates the region. In the end, they decided to pursue a municipal fiber network.
Traverse City has operated its own downtown WiFi for more than a decade, so understands the value of Internet access to the economy, while folks who live there have come to appreciate access to connectivity.
At the May meeting, representatives from the firm went through the plan Fujitsu has developed. The firm described an incremental build, focusing first on an area of the city with a mix of residences and businesses. Working with the TCLP staff, Fujitsu identified an area where premises are somewhat dense, located near a data center, and also geographically close to existing TCLP fiber. Fujitsu explained that by focusing on a subset of Traverse City...Read more
Great Lakes Energy (GLE) is considering expanding their Truestream fiber Internet access and voice service to more rural areas in the northwestern region of Michigan’s lower peninsula. In a recent news release, the electric cooperative announced that they began sending engineers to their Boyne service area to collect necessary information for analysis as they explore possible deployment in the area.
Growing One of the Largest
Last summer, we reported on the co-op's pilot project in the Petosky service area and their long-term plans to bring gigabit Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) connectivity to their 125,000 members. The cooperative decided to begin with residential service and potentially expand to business subscriber offerings in the future.
Subscribers from the pilot area have reported positive feedback. Brian Bates, who is also the owner of Bear Creek Organic Farm in Petosky, posted speed test results on the Truestream FB page and commented:
“Truestream is more than 400 times faster than speeds we were able to get with our previous Internet provider. And for 75% less money with no contract and unlimited everything!”
By January, approximately 9,000 potential subscribers had registered interest via the Truestream website.
Better Broadband Coming to Boyne
Boyne City is located directly south of the city of Petosky and the GLE Boyne service area includes parts of five counties in the surrounding region. GLE will conduct a second field study this fall if results of the first study are favorable.
“If the findings are positive,” said [Lacey Matthews of GLE Communications and Communications], “Great Lakes Energy may budget for expansion of the fiber network in 2020, pending approval by the Great Lakes Energy Board of Directors in late 2019.”
As other...Read more