Tag: "partnership"

Posted December 20, 2018 by Katie Kienbaum

Even if a local government isn’t ready or able to build its own broadband network, there are still ways they can help bring the benefits of better connectivity to their community. Over the past few years, several counties in Minnesota have partnered with local electric and telephone cooperatives to expand high-quality Internet access as an economic development strategy. In many instances, county governments have offered financial support to the local co-ops, in the form of grants and loans, to connect their rural residents with high-quality fiber networks, often supplementing federal subsidies or statewide Minnesota Border-to-Border Broadband Development grants.

Projects Across the State

Minnesota counties have taken a variety of approaches when it comes to helping cooperatives finance broadband deployment projects.

Some, such as Cook County in the far northeastern corner of the state, provided grants to local co-ops. Cook County began its partnership with Arrowhead Electric Cooperative back in 2008 when both entities contributed to a broadband feasibility study. At the time, the county suffered from the worst connectivity in the state, and many people still relied on dial-up. In 2010, Arrowhead was awarded a $16.1 million combined grant and loan from the stimulus-funded Broadband Initiatives Program (BIP) to build a fiber network in Cook County. The county government offered Arrowhead a $4 million grant for the project, funded by the voters’ reauthorization of a 1 percent sales tax that was due to expire. In return, Arrowhead agreed to provide services such as Internet access to county buildings at no cost.

Yet more local governments have opted to loan money to co-ops to expand broadband access in their county. Both Big Stone County and Swift County chose this route after Federated Telephone Cooperative received a $3.92 million...

Read more
Posted December 19, 2018 by lgonzalez

In early December, the city of Cortez, Colorado, released a request for proposals in their search for a private sector partner to help bring last mile fiber connectivity to premises throughout the community. The city is seeking a way to bring high-quality Internet access to the entire community, but will not expand it’s municipal fiber infrastructure. They're looking for ways to overcome some of the same challenges other small communities face as they attempt to improve local connectivity to every premise.

At A Crossroads

Smith told us that the city is at a crossroads and community leaders think that a public-private partnership (P3) might be the quickest way to get the people of Cortez better services they’re looking for at the affordable rates they deserve. The city faces the challenge of funding the expansion. Approximately $1 million from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) funded the Cortez middle mile infrastructure and connections to community anchor institutions (CAIs), including schools, healthcare facilities, and municipal facilities. Cortez is not able to obtain more grant funding from DOLA for last mile expansion.

When we spoke with Smith in June 2018 for episode 310 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast, he described how the city was contemplating a sales tax to fund the expansion, rather than the more common revenue bond funding. Smith explains that, if Cortez decided to go that route, their decision would trigger Colorado’s Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights (TABOR) regulations. Due to the time requirements, any ballot measure on such a funding mechanism could not be voted on before 2020. Once the measure is on the ballot, the city would not be able to promote it in accordance with Colorado law. If Cortez decided to ask local voters to support funding Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) with a sales tax, says Smith, the city would have to wait 4 - 5 years before they could promote the service. A survey in Cortez revealed that 64 percent of respondents supported a sales tax to fund expansion of broadband infrastructure to households and more businesses, but community leaders aren't comfortable waiting so long to bring better connectivity that is so desperately needed...

Read more
Posted October 2, 2018 by lgonzalez

When Fairpoint wouldn’t give folks in Crestone, Colorado, what they needed after repeated requests, they decided to take care of it themselves. By 2012, Ralph Abrams and his band of Internet pioneers had created Colorado Central Telecom, providing affordable, dependable fixed wireless service to premises throughout the region at much faster speeds than Fairpoint could ever deliver. In this episode of the podcast, Maisie Ramsay, Marketing and Business Development from the company, tells us more about the company and their work.

Colorado Central Telecom has been delivering Internet access to subscribers for a relatively short time, but it’s clear they have the needs of the community in mind. They’ve made steady investments in their equipment in order to improve their services and have even picked up some fiber network resources. Maisie describes some of the challenges of working in a mountain geography such as the San Luis Valley and the technologies they employ to get past the hurdles Mother Nature has created.

Maisie also talks about some of the collaboration Colorado Central Telecom is pursuing. It’s clear that the company has a goal — to bring better connectivity to the people in the region — and doesn’t mind sacrificing a little as a way to improve the situation for the whole region. No wonder they were named Service Provider of the Year at the 2018 Mountain Connect Broadband Development Conference.

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

This show is 23 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...

Read more
Posted September 28, 2018 by Katie Kienbaum

When communities deploy Internet access infrastructure, they use their investment to reduce costs for telecommunications, improve local connectivity, and encourage economic development. In Westminster, they’re also using their fiber optic network to boost local high school students’ tech skills in a fun and creative way. The community is using publicly owned fiber optic “magic” to multiply their youth’s opportunities.

Setting the Scene

The world has experienced a devastating disaster. Communications systems are down. Your ragtag band of survivors has been hiding from the zombies for several months now. After finding a generator and some computer parts inside an abandoned building, your group decides to use the pieces to create a working computer and try to establish contact with the other scattered survivors. But will you be able to do it before the zombies reach you …?

Or at least that’s the setting for the first ever Project e-Reboot competition, hosted by the Mid-Atlantic Gigabit Innovation Collaboratory (MAGIC) and e-End. Teams of students were tasked with rebuilding a functioning computer from old components in a hypothetical post-apocalyptic scenario. The challenge was held at e-End’s electronics recycling facility in Frederick, Maryland, in cooperation with MAGIC, a nonprofit organization based one county over in Westminster.

Partnering for Project e-Reboot

logo-Magic-Logo.png Fifteen high school students, in teams of up to three, participated in the Project e-Reboot event on September 15. The teams, with names like “Free Pizza” and “Brogrammers,” worked together to build working computers from used parts and then use their machines to complete a variety of tasks, including accessing the Internet and printing off a document. Team Detemmienation, made up of Alana Koh, Ben Bonen, and Elizabeth Metzler, won first place...

Read more
Posted July 26, 2018 by Hannah Rank

Buried under Jackson, Mississippi’s streets are miles of untapped dark fiber. The city council and new mayor’s office hope to change that, and have made moves to relight the fiber optic cables and put Jackson on the path to become the next regional tech hub.

The dark fiber city officials plan to relight have been around since at least 1997, and were installed by Capitol Cablevision, a subsidiary of Time Warner (now Spectrum Cable). They city already manages a little more than 100 miles of fiber cable, and 12 municipal facilities use it for high speed network access.

The Clarion Ledger of Jackson recently published a comprehensive summary of the municipality’s plans to capitalize on existing fiber assets. By tapping into the fiber incrementally, it hopes to slowly but surely get the city beyond 1 gigabit broadband speeds. So far, fiber access would be available for schools, hospitals, and other city institutions, as well as businesses in the area. Fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) is still years off.

Mississippi’s Off the Map

Mississippi is one of the lowest-ranked states in terms of access to broadband. In a 2017 opinion piece for the Jackson Free Press, Mississippi State University professor Pete Smith wrote about just how far reaching the digital divide is in the state:

“A September 2017 joint congressional report shows that one-third of Mississippians lack access to residential high-speed-Internet technology...as a 2016 Mississippi State University Extension Service report notes, broadband speeds for a majority of those who have access still fail to meet the suggested FCC download and upload speeds [of 25 Megabits per second download/3 Mbps upload]," Smite wrote. "In other words, we're almost dead last among all states in our efforts to close the broadband ‘digital divide.’"

The only provider currently offering...

Read more
Posted July 5, 2018 by Hannah Rank

Ting Fiber has continued its expansion into two more U.S. metropolitan areas, lighting fiber up in a northern Idaho town and planting a flag in a city south of the research triangle in North Carolina. Residents of the region of greater Sandpoint, Idaho (a service area of nearly 10,000 residents), and Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina (population of around 25,000), will soon see the benefits of fiber Internet access with Ting’s Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) service.

Sandpoint Successes

In the spring of 2017, Sandpoint began leasing out part of its core dark fiber infrastructure to Ting. The Toronto-based ISP has been working on building out its fiber in the Idaho town since early April of this year, and just lit up its first customers (two small businesses) from a fiber expansion effort in downtown and central Sandpoint. Eventually Ting is planning on offering FTTH for residential and business access in Sandpoint, as well as Dover, Ponderay, and Kootenai, all in Bonner County. 

Sandpoint worked on building out its own dark fiber network for around five years, with the intent of leasing its infrastructure out to ISPs. Crews installed two conduits, one to reserve for emergency communications that the city would retain, and one for an open access network for ISPs to utilize.

The city has already entered into one non-exclusive franchise agreement with Intermax, which provides fiber to commercial businesses, and has contracted out fiber builds with Fatbeam. Both companies are local to the northern Idaho region.

A Long Time Coming

logo-fuquay-varina-nc.png The town of Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina, has been making strides toward gaining a fast Internet network ever since high speed fiber Internet has slowly expanded in the region. Ting already provides fiber to the...

Read more
Posted June 28, 2018 by lgonzalez

In May, Connecticut’s Public Utility Regulatory Agency (PURA) struck a blow at local authority when the ruled that communities could not use their protected utility pole space for municipal fiber deployment. Big cable and telephone companies cheered, broadband advocates and communities that need better connectivity decided to take action. Now, PURA faces lawsuits that challenge the decision from the Office of Consumer Counsel (OCC), the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities (CCM), and at least three local communities that just want high-quality Internet access.

Long Wait

The focus of the controversy is Connecticut’s Municipal Gain Space Law, which was first established in the early 1900s to guarantee municipalities the ability to hang telegraph wires. The municipal gain space is a location on all utility poles — publicly or privately owned — situated in the public right-of-way. After multiple law suits over the years in which cities and the state typically won, Connecticut’s legislature finally amended the language of the law to allow government entities to use the municipal gain space for “any use” in 2013.

Almost two years ago, we reported on the petition filed by the OCC and the State Broadband Office (SBO) with PURA asking for clarification on the law, which included establishing clear-cut rules on using the municipal gain space for fiber optic deployment. They felt the rules needed cleaning up because some incumbents in Connecticut were still finding ways to thwart competition and stop or delay plans for municipal fiber deployment. 

logo-PURA-ct.jpeg In addition to using restrictive pole attachment agreements, incumbents were exploiting the lack of definition in the statute to slow make-ready work, question who pays for make-ready work, and generally delay municipal projects. Time is money and losing momentum can drive up the cost of of a project, which in turn erodes a community's will to see it realized.

The Decision in Question

In addition to the petition that the OCC had filed, Frontier, the Communications Workers of America, and the New England Cable and...

Read more
Posted May 31, 2018 by lgonzalez

Public entities in Skagit County, Washington, are joining forces to improve connectivity in rural areas while developing infrastructure to connect the entire county. Earlier this month the Port of Skagit and the Skagit Public Utility District (PUD) entered into an agreement to form an entity to develop an open access network in keeping with the county’s strategic fiber plan.

Strategic Plan

In March 2017, the county, Port of Skagit, and the Economic Development Alliance of Skagit County developed the Skagit County Community Fiber Optic Network Strategic Plan. Within the county, the cities of Mount Vernon and Burlington own fiber networks; Anacortes is in the process of developing a municipal network. Private companies also have infrastructure within the county. These local communities in Skagit County are independently moving forward by improving their connectivity, but rural areas and smaller towns don’t have the connectivity needed for economic development or the resources to develop their own publicly owned networks.

From the Fiber Optic Plan: 

The primary goal is to guide development of a countywide, carrier grade, open access fiber optic network that will deliver affordable high speed Internet access to the citizens of Skagit County for the purposes of economic development, education, public health and safety, and transportation. It is our goal to deliver carrier grade fiber optic infrastructure from Anacortes to Concrete.

To carry out the mission of the Plan, the Port and the PUD will work together to oversee the development of additional fiber running from Anacortes, on the far west of the county, to Concrete located near the middle of the county. Along the route, the network will integrate connections in the communities of Mount...

Read more
Posted May 14, 2018 by lgonzalez

Traverse City Light & Power (TCLP) recently took the next step in their efforts to build out a citywide Fiber-to-the-Premise (FTTP) network. City leaders issued a Request for Information (RFI) for Partnership for Deployment; responses are due June 29th.

Read the full RFI.

All the Possibilities

TCLP has had their own fiber network in place for about a decade. The city uses it to offer free Wi-Fi in the downtown area and leases excess capacity to anchor institutions, such as local hospitals and the school district. Like many other municipalities with similar infrastructure, TLCP invested in the network as a way to enhance electric services and provide communications between substations.

About a year ago, the community utility board decided unanimously to move forward with plans to adjust their capital improvement plan in order to fund fiber optic connectivity throughout the city. Their decision came after considerable deliberation on whether or not to expand their existing infrastructure and if the city should fill the role of Internet service provider (ISP).

They’ve had past conversations with local ISPs and a cooperative that is in the process of installing fiber within its service area. TCLP has also discussed various models, such as open access, retail services, and public-private partnerships. The community is taking time to do their homework and consider which approach is best for their unique situation.

Picking A Partner

A feasibility study completed last year recommended either operating a citywide network as a city utility or leasing it to a single partner. Last May, TCLP board members decided to seek out a partner rather than pursue the municipal utility option. The current RFI seeks a network operator to design, build, operate, and maintain what TCLP describes as the first phase of the project.

TCLP wants a relationship that:

1. Balances financial risk

2. Adopts an open...

Read more
Posted April 25, 2018 by lgonzalez

Anacortes, Washington, has been working toward a publicly owned fiber optic network for several years. They’re now at a point in development when potential partners are visiting the community to present proposals for collaboration. There are still details to decide, but Anacortes is well on its way to fast, affordable, reliable connectivity to the entire community. 

Building On The Water

Anacortes wanted better connectivity between water treatment plants and pumping stations, which were previously communicating via radio. Nonprofit Northwest Open Access Network (NoaNet) began working with Anacortes in 2016 to help them design the network to meet the needs of the water utility. As part of preparation for the new infrastructure, Anacortes decided last year to take advantage of existing water pipes as conduit, adopting a new approach in the U.S. 

The fiber system for the utility communications will serve as the basis for the citywide network. Anacortes has already deployed a fiber optic backbone in the eastern half of the city by aerial and underground means and plans to continue to the western half this year.

Last fall, community leaders reached out to residents and businesses to find out their needs for better connectivity and to gauge interest in a publicly owned network. They asked the community to complete a survey. Respondents indicated that speed, reliability, and price are major concerns for them.

Frontier DSL, Comcast, and Wave Cable now offer Internet access in the community of 16,800, but the community wants to prepare for the future and know that they need fiber optic connectivity in Anacortes for economic development.

In January, the city released a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) to find an ISP to manage and operate its infrastructure and offer Internet access to the community. While they had considered an open access model in the past, they’ve now decided to choose one entity to partner with while considering opening up the network to more providers in the future....

Read more

Pages

Subscribe to partnership