Tag: "oregon"

Posted October 22, 2020 by Ry Marcattilio-...

Along the banks of the Columbia River, Multnomah County (pop. 813,000), Oregon is considering a publicly owned Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network after being handed a study more than a year in the making. The report estimates that a countywide network reaching every home, business, and farm in a five-city area would cost just shy of $970 million, and bring with it a wealth of savings and other benefits to the community it serves.

Origins

The study has its origins in a 2017 push initiated by an advocacy group called Municipal Broadband PDX which has sought more affordable and equitable Internet access in the region. In 2018, the County Board of Commissioners agreed that it should be explored and approved the funding of a study, with the city of Portland and Multnomah County each contributing $100,000 and the remaining towns of Fairview, Gresham, Troutdale, and Wood Village joining the effort to collectively contribute an additional $50,000 for funding. Over the next year, CTC Technology and Energy conducted a comprehensive survey, analysis, and evaluation, and the results were delivered at the end of September.

The report offers good news: the majority of residents in Multnomah County want a publicly built and operated FTTH network, and it would be economically viable to provide symmetrical gigabit service to as many of the more than 320,000 households as want it for $80/month. At a projected 36% take rate on a 4% bond over a 20-year period, the network would cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $966 million, depending on a host of local and market factors, some of which are fixed and others subject to change. It would see net positive income by the end of its fourth year of operation, and see a total of more than $54 million in positive net income by the end of its 20-year depreciation period (a standard model for fiber infrastructure, though they often last longer). These numbers change when adjusting the take rate and interest rate, but in the vast majority of scenarios, building a community owned FTTH network in Multnomah County is feasible. 

Broadband in Multnomah County

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Posted September 18, 2020 by Ry Marcattilio-...

Over the summer, Oregon took a second swing at revising its state Universal Service Fund program by passing SB 1603, a bill which will create a larger rural broadband development fund by including retail wireless and VoIP service (in addition to traditional telephone service) in the fees it collects to bring basic connectivity services to unconnected parts of the state. The new law lowers the current tax rate on telecommunications service provider's gross revenue (from 8.5% to 6%) but dramatically broadens the collection base, which will bring in needed dollars to expand broadband access to state residents without it in coming years. The move comes on the heels of the state’s move to establish a Broadband Office in 2018 to “to promote access to broadband services for all Oregonians in order to improve the economy and quality of life.”

Nuts and Bolts

SB 1603, which passed the state legislature on June 26 and was signed into law on July 7, directs the Oregon Business Development Department  (OBDD) to transfer up to $5 million of the funds collected each year to a broadband fund for rural development projects, administered by the OBDD. While the amount that will be collected remains unknown at the moment, it will no doubt represent a significant boost: the current mechanism for funding rural information infrastructure projects — the Rural Broadband Capacity Pilot Program — received 25 applications for almost $5 million in requested funding, but was only able to grant $500,000, or 10%. SB 1603 caps the money to be collected by the Oregon Universal Service Fund at $28 million annually.

As a result of SB1603, Oregonians can expect the average cell phone bill would go up by about $4 a year, and those with landline telephone service will see an annual decrease of $12 a year. Some VoIP providers had contributed willingly prior to the bill — that voluntary opt-in is removed.

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Posted March 9, 2020 by Katie Kienbaum

In two letters sent at the end of February, Oregon Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden urged the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to reconsider certain aspects of the agency’s ReConnect broadband grant and loan program. The senators’ letters, addressed to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue, called on the agency to address, “administrative hurdles and eligibility problems within the ReConnect Program that have put critical broadband infrastructure assistance out of reach for Oregonians and communities across America.”

The USDA, which is currently accepting applications for the second round of ReConnect funding, has awarded more than $600 million in grants and loans since launching the program in 2019.

“A High-stakes Gamble”

Merkley and Wyden’s first letter [pdf], joined by Oregon Representatives Suzanne Bonamici, Peter DeFazio, and Kurt Schrader, raised lingering problems with the USDA’s determination of eligible areas and the application process for the program.

The letter reads:

We heard several concerns from our constituents in Oregon that the initial design of the ReConnect Program limited accessibility for local Internet service providers (ISPs) due to both administrative issues and eligibility restrictions. While changes have been made to improve the program, we continue to hear from many Oregonians that several major issues unfortunately remain.

In particular, the Oregon officials identified as barriers the complicated and costly application process as well as an inaccurate and unclear designation of underserved areas. “Many local ISPs feel as if [applying] is more akin to a high-stakes gamble rather than soliciting funding for a fiber-to-the-premises project,” they explained.

Additionally, the lawmakers noted that the ReConnect program’s scoring criteria can prioritize less rural, non-tribal areas, writing, “If this grant focuses on bringing broadband to rural and unserved America, the evaluation criteria seem to contradict the program’s mission.”

Satellite Subsidies Limit Opportunity...

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Posted December 19, 2019 by lgonzalez

In October, the East Oregonian reported that the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR) are planning to develop a broadband network.

From the East Oregonian:

Ryan DeGrofft, an economic planner for the CTUIR, said the tribes are planning the project in three phases.

The first would create a fiber loop between the CTUIR’s government facilities and tribal enterprises like Wildhorse Resort and Casino. The second phase would connect the reservation to Pendleton’s fiber infrastructure.

The final phase would see the tribes becoming its own Internet service provider for residential customers living on the reservation.

DeGrofft cautioned that the plan was still in its early stages, and even if all phases came to pass, there still might be some remote parts of the reservation that might not get the service.

At this point, DeGrofft said the CTUIR is conducting a survey to get a sense of where Internet speeds are across the reservation. Anecdotally, even some locations in Mission are experiencing slow and spotty internet service.

DeGrofft said the project is dependent on obtaining funding through grants and other sources, so there isn’t a definitive timeline for it yet.

CTUIR is asking community members to run a speed test and submit their results. They also want to know where there is no service and encourage people to contact Tribal Services.

The tribes live in the Umatilla Indian Reservation in Umatilla County in northeast Oregon. Three tribes - Cayuse, Umatilla, and Walla Walla - make up the CTUIR. There are about 2,900 people as registered members with approximately half living on or near the reservation, which is about 290 square miles. People from other tribes and non-Native Americans also live on reservation land.

Posted December 9, 2019 by lgonzalez

Earlier this year, community leaders in Portland, Oregon, decided to join other cities in Multnomah County to commission a broadband feasibility study. The goal of the study is to examine the potential for publicly owned broadband network options in the region. Portland's decision to join in the study strengthened the project. As the study moves forward, community leaders and broadband advocates are asking for input from citizens to determine how best to develop a municipal broadband network project.

Spreading the Word and Keeping the Public Engaged

Since their founding, we’ve followed the work of Municipal Broadband PDX, a grassroots collection of residents and businesses working to inform the community about the potential for publicly owned broadband in the region. 

The group started off with a bang, by releasing a cool, nerdy video about the need to bring competition to Portland and Multnomah County. They’ve been especially diligent in keeping the public informed about County Board and City Council meetings in which the project is discussed. Their efforts at keeping the public abreast of developments have contributed to the advancement of the project.

Now that the feasibility study is being developed, Municipal Broadband PDX has organized several town hall meetings to share and inform. The goal of the meetings is to allow local elected officials the opportunity to discuss the project progress. In addition, organizers want people attending the meetings to provide “ideas, needs, and wants about Internet access.” They want to make the network a success by keeping lines of communication open and understanding the needs of the public.

The first Broadband Town Hall attracted 75 residents in Northeast Portland on December 4th. The next meeting is scheduled for December 17th in Gresham at the Multnomah County East Building, 600 NE 8th Street, in the Sharron Kelley Room A & B. Elected officials at the event will be:

  • Multnomah County Commissioner Lori Stegmann, District 4 (east)
  • Multnomah County Commissioner Jessica Vega Pederson, District 3 (southeast Portland, Parkrose)
  • Gresham City Councilor Eddy...
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Posted October 30, 2019 by lgonzalez

Eugene, Oregon’s publicly owned EUGNet is helping create jobs and fill empty office buildings in downtown Eugene, reports KMTR Channel 16.

Gigabit connectivity from service providers operating via the city’s dark fiber infrastructure are charging around $79 per month, allowing more interest in downtown locations and better economics for local entrepreneurs. 

This makes it a game-changer for software firms, graphic art firms, medical- just about anyone that handles large amounts of data.

“Before we had EUGNet, we just couldn't do this product, it would be impossible,” said Pipeworks Studio Technical Director, Daniel White.

Since using the network, Pipeworks has grown tremendously. A faster network means more work and that increase in productivity has allowed them to hire 50 new employees.

“The door was always there, we just couldn't open it...but now you can. Yes, It allows us to do projects we couldn't have done before, it's very reasonably priced... it's super reliable,” said White.

Vacancy in the downtown district has dropped from ten percent to seven percent since 2017.

“The economic impacts from this project are everything we thought they would be and I think even more.,” said City of Eugene Economics Strategies Manager, Anne Fifield, “We have seen the cost of Internet service really come down and service levels go up.”

Watch local reporting on the results of Eugene's fiber optic network investment:

Posted August 29, 2019 by lgonzalez

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.

$55 Gig!

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 Timeline

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.

Construction is already in progress in the Sourh Hillsboro neighborhood, a new area of town where approximately 8,000 new homes are being built, allowing crews to install conduit and fiber simlutaneously. Next they plan to...

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Posted March 21, 2019 by lgonzalez

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.

Equity Matters

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.

logo-hilight-hillsboro.jpeg 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

Earlier this year, Hillsboro and the Hillsboro School District (HSD)...

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Posted February 4, 2019 by lgonzalez

In a February Facebook post, the good folks at Municipal Broadband PDX out of Portland, Oregon, shared the news that the city will be contributing to the cost of a broadband feasibility study. The $25,000 city pledge, pooled with the funds the group has raised so far, brings the total funds for a feasibility study to $225,000. The group learned of the city’s intention to contribute on February 2nd and shared the news immediately.

In order to keep the momentum high, leadership at Municipal Broadband PDX are encouraging people to attend a Multnomah County Board meeting on Thursday, February 7th. Multnomah County has already committed $150,000 for the study and the communities of Gresham, Troutdale, Fairview, and Wood Village were also early to express their support.

Grassroots and Growing

In November, Portland was chosen as one of 35 communities as part of the Neighborly Community Broadband Accelerator Program. The program provides access to experts, mapping, and financial tools to help local communities get their projects off the ground.

The grassroots organization launched in the summer of 2018 with the intention of guiding local residents and businesses toward motivating Portland and Multnomah County leaders. They believe that high-quality Internet access is a public utility and should be provided to every member of society in the same way every one has access to electricity. Municipal Broadband PDX also strongly supports network neutrality and believes that lower-income households should have the same access to the Internet as higher-income folks. Their goal is “Internet for the People.”

Comcast and CenturyLink control Internet access in Portland and the community’s attempt to offer citywide Wi-Fi several...

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Posted January 22, 2019 by lgonzalez

Before the Oregon communities of Monmouth and Independence banded together to form MINET, many people in the community were accessing the Internet via old dial-up connections. This week, MINET’s General Manager Don Patten comes on the show to discuss the past, present, and future of the network that has revolutionized connectivity in the far western cities near Salem and Portland.

During their conversation recorded in Washington D.C., Christopher and Don review some of the difficulties that MINET has had and the changes that have helped the organization overcome those challenges. By adopting an approach that embraces the competitive spirit, MINET has achieved a take rate of more than 80 percent.

Now, MINET is venturing into another community as they expand to nearby Dallas, Oregon. Working with atypical investors and private sector entities, MINET will be bringing service to a community that has been actively seeking connection to MINET. Don shares some details of the plan.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

This show is 30 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.

The transcript for this episode is available here.

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