Tag: "kansas"

Posted October 9, 2012 by christopher

Following the release of our case study on Chanute, Kansas, we have an interview with City Manager JD Lester and Director of Utilities Larry Gates for our 16th podcast -- Community Broadband Bits.

JD Lester and Larry Gates discuss Chanute's network and its impact on their rural community. As detailed in the case study, Chanute built a fiber optic and wireless broadband network to connect schools, public safety, and local businesses. And they did it all without bonding or borrowing -- an impressive feat with implications for many other communities that have similar needs.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show - please e-mail us or leave a comment below. Also, feel free to suggest other guests, topics, or questions you want us to address.

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Thanks to Fit and the Conniptions for the music, licensed using Creative Commons.

Posted October 2, 2012 by christopher

The Institute for Local Self-Reliance has just released a new case study on community broadband -- this one examines how Chanute, Kansas, built its own broadband network over a period of many years without borrowing.

Download a PDF of Chanute's Gig: One Rural Kansas Community's Tradition of Innovation Led to a Gigabit and Ubiquitous Wireless Coverage here.

Local businesses are strong supporters of the network. From Ash Grove Cement to MagnaTech, business clients have remained satisfied subscribers. The network continues to encourage economic development and provides connectivity options that attract high bandwidth employers. The network generates $600,000 per year for Chanute’s Electric Utility, 5 percent of which goes to the general fund as a franchising fee each year.

Author Christopher Mitchell, Director of the Telecommunications as Commons Initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, believes Chanute can offer valuable lessons to other communities across the United States. “This community has demonstrated that communities can meet their own telecommunications needs with smart public investments — they did not wait for national corporations to solve their problems.”

City Manager J.D. Lester refers to municipal broadband as “the great equalizer for Rural America,” saying: “You don’t have to live in Kansas City to work there.”

The City also operates a 4G WiMAX network that connects public safety and is used to feed Wi-Fi hotspots throughout the community.

Local leaders plan to expand the network to offer access to all residents and businesses in the future as extending it become financially feasible. As it expands, it will offer the potential for smart-grid type investments in the gas, water, and electrical utilities — all of which are owned and operated by the local government.

One of the key lessons other communities can take away from this case study is how planning and prioritizing community investments in broadband can greatly benefit the community, especially local businesses. Chanute took advantage of several opportunities to expand what started as a very basic network over the course of many years at low cost.

Posted August 17, 2012 by christopher

A Business Journal story yesterday reveals that Time Warner Cable is adding 81 jobs in Kansas City, an increase of 9% over its present area workforce:

The company, which currently employs about 900 locally, wants to fill customer service, finance, sales and other positions.

These are the jobs that result from competition - which does not exist when the providers a limited to a complacent duopoly comprised of a single cable company and a single telephone company. This is one of the way that community networks create jobs.

Community Networks create traditional jobs to offer their own services (and a multiplier effect by using local accounting, local marketing, and other services). But they also create more revenue for local papers (advertising) and job opportunities with rival companies that suddenly need to fight for subscribers.

On a different track, Light Reading says it has a copy of Google's franchise with the city and notes that Google is under no obligation to serve everyone in the city. However, Karl Bode rightly notes that it was the state legislature in Kansas, flush with AT&T campaign contributions, that revoked the authority of local governments to require cable providers to serve everyone.

Presently, 14 "fiberhoods" in Kansas and 49 in Missouri have met the registration goals and will be among the first served. Google will build to any fiberhood that meets the minimum threshold of interest.

One cannot blame Google then for only building where they will profit. In fact, this is what one would expect any rational profit-maximizing company to do. It is a failure of governance to require that everyone have access to an essential infrastructure. And we know what causes these failures of governance - systematic legalized bribery in our campaign finance system.

Light Reading does note that the franchise is far more generous to Google than overbuilders can typically negotiate. This is a result of Google offering such a unique product. Local leaders decided to effectively subsidize Google's network with favorable terms in the right-of-way, including making inspections as quick and painless as...

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Posted July 26, 2012 by christopher

Google Fiber is unveiled. And it sucks to be Time Warner Cable right now. But they already knew that.

Google is offering 3 packages in Kansas City - a gigabit Internet connection for $70/month, a TV + Gigabit Internet connection for $120/month, and a free Internet tier of 5/1Mbps (subject to a one time $300 connect cost). The first two packages also have the $300 connect fee but it is waived with a contract.

The details are available via DSL Reports and The Verge. There are several interesting enticements along with the connectivity.

Plans and pricing is here. I'm surprised at the number of television channels that are available on that package. Notable channels missing include Disney and ESPN, probably because ABC was trying to rake Google over the coals on pricing.

Neighborhoods will be competing to get enough presubscriptions to get connected (at $10 per potential subscriber). It will be interesting to see how this goes - the approach makes sense from a business perspective but could result in a patchwork of neighborhoods lacking access.

Google Fiber

In short, this will be interesting to watch. How will Time Warner Cable respond? How enthusiastic will ordinary people be? Google's marketing talent is considerably more advanced than that of the local governments and small companies (Sonic.net) that first blazed this trail. Speaking of which, I have not yet seen how other service providers will be able to use this network, if at all.

The free 5/1 connection is interesting. For a massive company like Google, providing hundreds or thousands of 5/1 connections essentially has zero cost. This is also true of Comcast and CenturyLink, which is why they are profitable on those $10/month low-income packages.

This is not a Google experiment. Those running this project are expected to earn a profit. How Google chooses to calculate that, we do not know.

Our biggest fear with this project is that we will see communities looking to Google to...

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Posted May 7, 2012 by lgonzalez

We told you how Chanute, Kansas, was using their community network to serve local businesses. Now we want to share a story about how the community network helped bring a new business to Chanute.

Chanute, who is named after Octave Chanute an aviation pioneer, adopts the motto "A Tadition of Innovation." Chanute has proven that they are serious about that mantra with the expansion of their community network. They boast free Wi-Fi in all green spaces and parks, schools that are connected with fiber and wireless, several fiber loops throughout the city, plans for a smart grid, and are even exploring FTTH capability.

Spirit AeroSystems, the world's largest supplier of commercial airplane assemblies and components, just opened a new manufacturing facility in Chanute. The plant is expected to create up to 150 new jobs in the southeastern Kansas community and will include a health clinic on site for employees.

As Spirit was approaching different communities, it had a variety of requirements that included reliable electricity and reliable broadband. Nothing exorbitant -- they weren't asking for a gig or even 100Mbps. But they needed reliability. And Chanute was poised to deliver. Publicly owned networks do not exist in a vacuum; they are often one piece of a well-run community.

If Chanute only had a slow DSL and absentee-owned cable company offering broadband, maybe Spirit still would have chosen them and maybe that would have been the tipping point for a different community. We don't know for sure. 

What we do know is that Chanute is getting more jobs and that owning their own network helped.

Posted March 15, 2011 by christopher

I continue to find it odd that more communities with publicly owned networks do not create official videos or other promotional material that is readily accessible on the Internet.  Videos discussing fiber-optic investments continue to be the exception to the rule. 

But it was a video promoting Chanute's fiber-to-the-business network that I stumbled across in a search for something else.  It turns out that Chanute has built a network with a variety of current and planned uses:

  • Smart Grid
  • Energy Management
  • Utility SCADA Systems
  • Interactive Distance Learning (IDL)
  • Free WiFi Hotspots
  • Telemedicine
  • College – using broadband for testing, building partnerships
  • City – meeting broadcasts, pool construction, public awareness, accounting, record-keeping, collaborations with other entities, security, emergency communications, and back up to the county 911 emergency operation center.
  • Real-time video surveillance of public assets – Chanute currently monitors over 40 high resolution video cameras connected to its community network. These cameras provide improved public safety and enhance security for the community’s public assets. The cameras can be configured individually for viewing by the City from various display terminals within the City’s emergency operations center, and at governmental, utility and public safety department offices. Video surveillance images from the school district and the local community college can be viewed by government officials.

They have also made significant wireless investments for redundancy:

We have a City-owned Broadband Wireless Network which also provides back up to the fiber system for critical facilities in the community. Most of the broadband wireless links are dedicated to the private use of the City to support its utility operations, video surveillance, and provide wireless backup in the event of a fiber segment failure. There is one commercial customer that uses this as a primary source for Internet connectivity. Chanute views these wireless assets as a mechanism to provide immediate access to the community’s network to support the short-term commercial needs of businesses in Chanute. The wireless links can be deployed rapidly, sometimes in less than 24 hours, until such time as the fiber infrastructure can be extended to the...

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