Tag: "kansas"

Posted December 1, 2020 by Ry Marcattilio-...

The state of Kansas continues to build momentum with the announcement of a new, ten-year broadband grant program designed to drive network expansion in unserved and economically depressed areas. It will go towards connecting tens of thousands of residents in the state who currently have no or few options for Internet access, while bringing commercial development and connecting farms desperately in need. 

The Good

Currently, 3.5% of the state’s population, totaling almost 100,000 people, have no Internet access options at all. Students sent home at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic have struggled all summer and fall to get online to do coursework. Both urban and rural areas have continued to face significant challenges over the last decade, and the problem has only increased in recent months. It’s also an issue that has had ramifications for employers like Citizens State Bank in Cottonwood Falls, which has considered cutting local positions and shifting them to places with better Internet access options.

The new Broadband Acceleration Grant Program (BAGP) [pdf] offers lots of provisions for positive progress. It prioritizes low-income, economically distressed areas, as well as those without access to speeds of at least 25/3 Mbps (Megabits per second). This likely means much of the money will end up in the southeastern and southwestern parts of the state (see map). The grant also urges applicants to engage local stakeholders in their communities and build relationships with community anchor institutions, businesses, and nonprofits so as to maximize impact.

Each project is eligible for awards of up to $1 million for each project, requiring a 50% match, and helpfully, the program remains open...

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Posted October 15, 2020 by Ry Marcattilio-...

Tens of thousands of homes, businesses, farms, schools, and community anchor institutions in the Sunflower State will see better connectivity options over the next few years. A recent executive order [pdf] establishing a Kansas Office of Broadband Development followed by the announcement of more than $49 million in grants to 67 projects around the state means a host of Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH), fixed wireless, and institutional networks will break ground in the near future. The measure comes in response to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

A Broadband Office and Grant Program

The new Office of Broadband Development has been placed in the state’s Department of Commerce, and given the task of promoting networks of all kinds — municipal, cooperative, private, and nonprofit — as well as supporting regional initiatives, developing a better broadband map, and removing policy barriers to fast deployment. 

The state actually has two grant programs ongoing at the moment as part of the connectivity program approved the state’s Strengthening People and Revitalizing Kansas (SPARK) Taskforce and the State Finance Council. The Broadband Partnership Adoption Grants (BPAG) are designed to help low-income Kansans pay for service with existing plans. The large pot of grant money just announced, on the other hand, is part of the Define Connectivity Emergency Response Grant (CERG), which will use CARES funding to facilitate new builds between now and the end of the year.

It is heartening to see that there were no restrictions placed on application eligibility for CERG, and that municipal, cooperative, and other community-owned networks could apply for support. In places like Ohio, we’ve recently seen the establishment of a broadband grant program which explicitly bars municipal...

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Posted October 8, 2020 by Ry Marcattilio-...

All across the country, municipal networks, cooperatives, and cities have been putting in extra effort to make sure that Americans have the fast, affordable, reliable Internet access they need to conduct their lives in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

AT&T has decided to take another route. A USA Today report last week revealed that the company has stopped making connections to users subscribing to its ADSL Internet as of October 1st. Anyone calling the company to set up new service is being told that no new accounts are being accepted. 

The decision comes right as the National Digital Inclusion Alliance has released a report detailing that only 28% of AT&T’s territory can get fiber from the company. AT&T has deliberately focused investment in more urban areas of higher income. From the report:

The analysis of AT&T’s network reveals that the company is prioritizing network upgrades to wealthier areas, and leaving lower income communities with outdated technologies. Across the country, the median income for households with fiber available is 34 percent higher than in areas with DSL only — $60,969 compared to $45,500. 

The Deep South Hit Hardest

As of today, it looks like the most conservative number of those affected by the decision will be about 80,000 households that have no other option. Our analysis using the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) Form 477 data shows that the Deep South will be hit the hardest (see table at the bottom of the page). 

Collectively it means more than 207,000 Americans who, if disconnected, will have no option for Internet aside from their mobile devices or satellite service. The number of Americans affected by the decision but which have additional wireline options is higher: roughly 2.2 million American households nationwide subscribe to the service (see map, below).  

At this point the decision seems only to affect those subscribing to the company’s ADSL service. Those subscribing to ADSL2 and asymmetric VDSL won’...

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Posted February 5, 2020 by lgonzalez

Almost six years ago, we told readers about Ottawa, Kansas, where the community of around 13,000 people had invested in publicly owned fiber optic connectivity for local businesses. We recently touched base with IT Director Paul Sommer, who updated us on the progress of their broadband utility and how it has impacted the community.

Steady as it Grows

When we first met Ottawa, they had worked with the local school district and Franklin County to capitalize on existing fiber infrastructure and expand to more locations. Local leaders had learned from Ottawa businesses that the best options available from incumbent AT&T were T1 lines for approximately $600. Higher capacity connections were scarce and financially out of reach for local establishments, and AT&T could not be convinced to upgrade their infrastructure. As Bigham put it, AT&T was "milking the cow."

Once the city, school district, and Franklin County established a partnership, Ottawa began to expand fiber to other municipal facilities and businesses as requested. Sommers, who has taken over as IT Director, says that now all 10 city buildings are on the network. In addition to an industrial park on the original infrastructure on the north end of town, the network now reaches an industrial park to the south.

The electric utility has trained their own staff rather than hiring external fiber deployment personnel. In addition to enriching skills, their employees are able to respond quickly if there are downed cables or other maintenance issues. Sommers recalls an instance when a car, which had caught fire, sent shrapnel flying into the air. By a twist of fate, one piece severed the fiber optic cable hanging some distance away. His team was able to rehang and splice the cable that same day and get the subscriber back online.

By using electric utility staff, Ottawa has reduced the cost of their incremental build over the years. They typically budget around $100,000 each year for expansion of the network, have never gone over, and often don’t spend the entire allotment. Sommers says that, since they own the utility poles in town, have necessary personnel on hand, and equipment at the ready, unnecessary bureaucracy doesn’t slow down maintenance, repairs, or expansion efforts.

Bursting at the Streams

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Posted August 23, 2019 by lgonzalez

Spring Hill, Kansas, recently released a Request for Proposal (RFP) as they search for a partner to help them develop gigabit connectivity throughout the community. Deadline for responses is September 30, 2019.

Read the full RFP here.

Gigabit Fiber the Best Bet

The city received the results of a feasibility study in early 2018 and consultants recommended some policy changes to encourage a broadband friendly environment. CTC Energy and Technology also noted that a fixed wireless system was not a cost-effective way to provide ubiquitous connectivity to the community. The firm suggested that Spring Hill consider dark fiber infrastructure and a public-private partnership.

In 2017, Spring Hill also distributed an informal survey to residents and businesses. The results revealed that, even though the community is considered part of the Kansas City metropolitan area, there are pockets where people have no Internet access. Other issues include problem neighborhoods where speeds are slow and businesses have no access to fiber. In these areas, local establishments are paying high rates for unreliable, marginally faster speeds.

Community leaders in Spring Hill consider broadband an essential utility that should connect every premise. As part of their vision, they “intend to empower our residents and local businesses to be network economy producers— not just consumers of network information and data services.”

What Spring Hill Seeks

The partner the city chooses should be prepared for a long term relationship and should be ready to help Spring Hill achieve three goals of the project:

  • Balance financial goals - Spring Hill expects any partnership to involve investment from both parties.
  • Sustainable, affordable approach - Community leaders want to be sure that, as the city grows, the network can grow with it.
  • Community wide deployment - No cherry picking; businesses and residential deployment are equally important.

Read more details about what Spring Hill is looking for in a partner by...

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Posted July 22, 2019 by lgonzalez

We are saddened to learn that two quiet champions of broadband have passed away — one recently and one about a year ago, although we only recently learned of his passing. Drew Davis of Larimer County, Colorado, and Larry Gates from Chanute, Kansas, performed the heavy lifting behind the scenes to help move their communities forward with essential investments. Both men and their quiet determination will be missed in their communities and by us.

Drew Davis and Discovering Larimer County

We spoke with Drew last summer when he came on the Community Broadband Bits podcast for episode 311. As Program Manager for Larimer Broadband, he and Director of Economic and Workforce Development Jacob Castillo and CIO Mark Pfaffinger joined discussed results of the county’s feasibility study survey. Drew was instrumental in developing the county plan as they find a way to bring better connectivity to people in Larimer County.

Drew was always helpful whenever we needed information about what was happening in the Colorado broadband world. He was a leader and strived to help others, including in the Larimer County Sheriff’s Department and Search and Rescue.

We know that folks in Colorado are also grieving his potential as well as the loss of his presence. Colin Garfield, who was one of the leaders of the municipal broadband effort in Fort Collins writes:

"Drew was a trusted adviser, a formidable ally to our efforts, and a local visionary who will be dearly missed. His contributions and leadership for rural broadband and policy flashed local brilliance. As northern Colorado becomes a stronghold for local connectivity, Drew's contributions, vision, and compelling arguments will not be forgotten. I'm grateful for the many enlightening, humorous, and blunt conversations we had over the past three years - I'm lucky to have even had the opportunity to cross paths with him."

Larry Laid the Foundation

When word reached us that the city of Chanute decided to begin developing a Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) pilot project,...

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Posted July 11, 2019 by lgonzalez

About four years ago, city commissioners in the community of Chanute, Kansas, stepped back from plans to finance a Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) project. At the time, newly elected city leaders decided not to pursue the project, but Chanute once again has fiber on their list of priorities. Late in June, the current city commission voted 3 - 1 to deploy FTTH in two neighborhoods

Requested by Residents

Residents from the Hillside/Sunset subdivisions and the neighborhood between 7th and 14th streets approached the city and asked to be connected. The pilot areas will include approximately 344 premises; city staff estimate connecting them will cost approximately $550,000. The vote in June authorized the city to spend idle funds from the electric utility with an expected payback within three year years.

Subscribers will pay $75 per month for gigabit connectivity, authorized by vote at the same meeting. The city will offer month-to-month service and will charge $135 to reconnect if a subscriber cancels but wants to sign up again later.

AT&T offers DSL in most of the city and CableOne has offered cable Internet access in Chanute for years, but residents are increasingly looking for the speed and reliability of fiber connectivity.

Fiber in Chanute

We wrote about Chanute’s investment in fiber connectivity and complementary fixed wireless for local businesses, schools, and municipal facilities back in 2013 in our report, "Chanute's Gig: One Rural Kansas Community's Tradition of Innovation Led to a Gigabit and Ubiquitous Wireless Coverage." The community was able to develop their gigabit network, which began with as a way to improve utility operations, with no bonding or borrowing.

After their network helped bring jobs and community savings to the mostly rural community, they began to consider investing in fiber for every premise. The city commission approved the project and the state granted permission to bond for deployment, but after the election...

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Posted October 11, 2018 by lgonzalez

City Officials in Fort Scott, Kansas, located about 95 miles south of Kansas City, say that they haven’t been able to entice national providers to bring high-quality Internet access to their town of about 8,000 people. That may be a good thing — Craw-Kan Telephone Cooperative is building out fiber in Fort Scott as early as 2019.

Working With the City

Planning for the network has involved collaboration between Fort Scott and the cooperative. Before bringing connectivity to residents, the cooperative has been deploying to a local industrial part, the airport, and the golf course. 

The plan has included an Exchange Agreement between the city and Craw-Kan which allows the co-op to use vacant conduit to connect Fort Scott’s Water Treatment Plant to the golf course and the airport. Fort Scott will also provide an easement for a fiber node at the golf course. Craw-Kan will provide six fibers for the city to use along this part of the route, and will also install vacant conduit for the city during construction at another location. The additional conduit will be earmarked exclusively for the city’s use.

City officials and representatives from Craw-Kan have been working on the deal and the project since the fall of 2017. At a recent City Commission meeting, City Manager Dave Martin said that Fort Scott was excited that the cooperative was bringing gigabit Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) connectivity to town, noting that they’d tried to attract ISPs that would offer better services. Suddenlink offers services in parts of town and AT&T’s DSL is also available. 

Craw-Kan will provide $70 per month symmetrical gigabit connections  with no data caps in addition to 10/10 and 50/50 for $50 per month and $60 per month respectively. Installation is free and a Wi-Fi router is included in the monthly rate.

Working With Other Communities

logo-craw-kan-coop.png

The Fort Scott project is the latest in the Craw-Kan portfolio as they work with local communities in the region. Further south in Pittsburg, Craw-Kan has been building their...

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Posted March 29, 2017 by lgonzalez

Spring Hill, Kansas, just released a Request for Proposals (RFP) for a Citywide Fiber Optic Network Feasibility Study. The community of approximately 6,000 people has established April 26th as the deadline for submissions.

 

Open To Suggestions

Spring Hill wants study authors to look at several models, including:

INFRASTRUCTURE PROVIDER – the City provides conduit and dark fiber services for lease to community organizations, businesses and broadband providers, which use the fiber to connect to one another and to data centers to reach the internet, cloud services and other content networks;

OPEN-ACCESS PROVIDER – the City owns the fiber optic network and equipment needed to create a broadband network and may operate said network itself or in contract with others on its behalf. Content is typically resold from other providers;

PUBLIC-PRIVATE PARTNERSHIPS – the City and one or more private organizations enter into a partnership to plan, fund, build, operate and maintain a broadband network within the municipality’s jurisdiction.

A Growing Community Needs To Grow Its Connectivity

Spring Hill has grown in recent years, tripling in size since 2000. Even thought there are two incumbents - CenturyLink and SuddenLink - some residences in the community don’t have access to either provider. Where a household is located within the city determines which, or whether, residents have any choices. The town is situated along the southern edge of the Kansas City metro.

According to the RFP, there’s an industrial part in the city that houses several local services and retail businesses. They anticipate even more business growth because a BNSF Intermodal Facility is located in town and commercial activity is growing nearby.

The local school district has recently undertaken a 1-to-1 laptop program for both middle and high school students, so the community will also need fast affordable, reliable connectivity to support the students both home and at school.

Important dates:

RFP respondent notice of intent due: Monday, April 10, 2017 

RFP respondent questions due: Wednesday, April 12, 2017 

Proposals due: Wednesday, April 26, 2017 (5:00 PM...

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Posted January 22, 2016 by ternste

In July, the Columbus Telephone Company (CTC), a cooperative in rural Cherokee County, Kansas, announced plans to expand its fiber-to-the-home network to the nearby city of Pittsburg. 

When CTC built the fiber network in 2004, it was the first 100% fiber-optic network in the state. This expansion marks the first time the coop has expanded outside Cherokee County, located in the southeast corner of the Sunflower State. 

New Branding for New Expansion

Last year, CTC announced the creation of Optic Communications, a new brand the company started to expand beyond their original footprint. The news of the expansion to Pittsburg comes after the network’s first expansion project last year. They built a fiber-optic ring that now links together Cherokee County’s three major cities: Columbus, Galena, and Baxter Springs. The coop has also acquired Parcom, LLC, the leading Verizon retailer in the region.

Subscription Details

Residential rates for stand alone Internet access from Optic Communications are $40 for 10 Megabits per second (Mbps), $50 for 20 Mbps, $65 for 50 Mbps, and $90 for 100 Mbps. All speeds are the same for both upload and download. Gigabit service is also available but rates determined on a case-by-case basis. Optic also offers customized bundles including subscription options for any combination of Internet access, phone, and cable TV service. 

Rates for the different bundled packages vary based on the number of cable TV channels the customer wants, access to DVR and HD capability, and which tier of phone service. The network also offers designated Internet access and phone rates for business customers.

A Long History of Innovation

The people in this rural community have a long legacy of telecommunications innovation. In 1905, a group of Columbus-based farmers started the CTC coop to bring telephone service to their rural homes. Throughout the 20th century, CTC provided phone service to people living within the 2.4 square mile serving area within the City of Columbus.

Now, over 100 years later, CTC...

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