Tag: "partnership"

Posted March 14, 2018 by lgonzalez

Before the days when Comcast, AT&T, and CenturyLink were some of only a few ISPs for subscribers to choose from, much of the country received Internet access from small Internet access companies. In episode 297 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast, Christopher talks with one of the pioneers in bringing the Internet to everyday folks, Gary Evans. Gary is retired now, but he spent many years developing a company that is now known as Hiawatha Broadband Communications, or HBC.

HBC began more than 20 years ago in Winona, Minnesota, in the southeastern area of the state. The company evolved from an initiative to bring better connectivity to the community’s educational institutions. Since then, it has expanded, spurred local economic development, and helped drive other benefits. During its growth, HBC has always strived to work for the community.

logo-hbc.jpeg Gary and Christopher reminisce about the beginnings of HBC, the challenges the company faced, and how they overcame those challenges. They also discuss some of the interesting partnerships that helped HBC continue to grow and that Gary and other HBC leaders used to develop the company’s culture. Gary’s been in the business a long time, and he has some great stories to tell, so we decided to make this an extended episode that runs a little over an hour.

You can play the show on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed.

You can download this mp3 file directly from here. Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Thanks to Arne Huseby for the music. The song is Warm Duck Shuffle and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.

Check out this short video from HBC's founders:

... Read more

Posted March 9, 2018 by lgonzalez

Last week we reported about the uncertain position that faced Washington ports might find themselves in, should they decide to bring better connectivity to the areas within and around their service areas. We are pleased to learn that the state legislature saw the light and chose to pass the bill without the proposed harmful Senate amendments. It's good news, but the final bill isn't ideal. 

The Problem; The Proposed Solution

Current law allows ports to develop and use fiber optic infrastructure for its own uses both within and beyond their geographic borders; they can only offer wholesale services to other entities within their borders. HB 2664, as introduced, removed the geographic restriction for wholesale services. Communities like Bellingham want to attract ISPs to their cities to compete with incumbents and encourage better prices and services. With the ability to use fiber from the port and possibly integrate it into an expanded network, a city like Bellingham could save time and considerable expense if they wish to invest in Internet infrastructure throughout the community.

Local advocate Jon Humphrey, who has been following this bill and others in his area, noted that the bill had much to do with population density. There had been a change to the original language of bill — the “rural” port requirement, which effectively protected national ISPs from any competition. Humphrey wrote, “This is where the modification of the bill should have ended.”

To The Senate

The bill had no problem passing the House, but when the Senate took it up, they added several amendments that distressed Humphrey and others watching the bill and rooting for it to pass.

We were also concerned about the amendments, including a change that required projects to prioritize unserved and underserved areas. Serving such areas is certainly critical, but this type of language in legislation serves to protect incumbent ISPs from competition rather than to bring high-quality Internet access to areas ignored by those same incumbents. Allowing some level of competition in more densely populated areas helps support projects that reach into less populated unserved and underserved areas.

Humphrey expressed concern... Read more

Posted February 28, 2018 by lgonzalez

PUDs in Washington have been developing fiber optic networks as open access infrastructure for decades. Even though ports have the same authorization to develop broadband infrastructure, their authority is limited. Currently, a port may operate telecommunications facilities for its own uses within and beyond its district, but can only provide wholesale services within the districts. A bill in the legislature would remove the ports' geographic limits and expand their authority, but amendments to the bill might cut into the measure's effectiveness.

Ports Want To Partner

HB 2664, which has worked its way through the state legislature aims to change the current situation by expanding a port’s ability to offer wholesale services outside of its district. The goal is to allow a port to use its infrastructure to partner with a private sector ISP to bring better connectivity to residents, businesses, and other entities in the areas around the port’s district.

HB 2664, which passed the House on February 14th, went on to the Senate and passed there, but was amended to require a project to focus on unserved and underserved areas. In places like Bellingham, where a city has grown up around the port and beyond its boundaries, the community could work with the port to make use of its fiber infrastructure to develop better connectivity for economic development, public savings, and better services for schools and libraries. A restriction forcing the port to prioritize on unserved and underserved communities, however, might thwart a project where DSL or cable now serves the community, even though the service is far below what the FCC considers broadband, expensive, or limited to spotty areas in town.

Putting It All Out There

Another amendment requires that any ports that decide to start using their infrastructure for wholesale service must first establish a business plan and have it reviewed by an independent third party consultant. Recommendations and adjustments associated with the review must all occur transparently. Often private sector partners shy away from working with the public sector when state laws put them in such a potentially vulnerable position.

HB 2664 started off as a promising piece of legislation but amendments may considerably limit its effectiveness.

The Process Continues

Due to the amendments in the Senate, the bill will go back to the House.... Read more

Posted February 8, 2018 by lgonzalez

In a series of decisions, Loveland, Colorado’s City Council voted earlier this week to take the next step toward developing a municipal broadband network. In addition to allocating funds to develop a business plan, city leadership established an advisory board, accepted task force recommendations, and voted to amended current code to allow the electric utility to handle communications activities.

No Public Vote

The council addressed whether or not to ask voters to approve efforts to establish a municipal broadband network, even though the issue was not part of the agenda. City staff drafted an amendment during the meeting to require a vote, but after prolonged discussion City Council members voted 5-4 against including it.

Last fall, the city of Fort Collins needed to bring the issue before voters in order to amend their charter so community leaders could move forward with a municipal network. After spending more than $900,000 through a bogus citizens group to try to stop the measure, Comcast was unable to persuade Fort Collins to defeat it. Nevertheless, most of Loveland’s council members don’t want a repeat of the expensive hassle in Fort Collins.

Councilman John Fogle said that, prior to the Fort Collins election, he supported the idea of a vote on the issue, but he feels different now. "It's not an even playing field when incumbent industries will spend $900,000 at the drop of the hat to perpetuate ... a monopoly," he said at the February 6th Council meeting.

Other council members who voiced opposition to a vote said that they’ve heard from constituents since 2015, when the city voted to opt out of the state’s restrictive SB 152. Since then, residents have contacted them to express their support to move the project forward. "I'm tired of being beaten," said Councilor Rich Ball, "... Read more

Posted February 7, 2018 by christopher

We are checking back in with Ernie Staten, Deputy Director of Public Service in Fairlawn, Ohio now that their muncipal Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network - FairlawnGig - is built out and they are still building the citywide Wi-Fi network that will accompany it. We previously talked with Ernie when the network was being built two years ago in episode 201.

Fairlawn is located near Akron and a city without a municpal electric utility. Though they started expecting to work with a local partner ISP, they quickly decided it would be better to both own and operate the network. 

Though the network is quite young, it has already helped to boost property values and has attracted new businesses. FairlawnGig was also the primary reason one local business expanded in Fairlawn rather than moving to another location. In short, the network has provided a strong, positive impact almost immediately. 

This show is 24 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed.

Read the transcript for this show here.

You can download this mp3 file directly from here. Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Thanks to Arne Huseby for the music. The song is Warm Duck Shuffle and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.

Posted January 31, 2018 by lgonzalez

I3 Broadband, the private sector partner working with Champaign-Urbana to deliver high-quality connectivity, continues to expand throughout the region and announced that it will aim to offer services to 3,000 more premises during 2018.

One Step At A Time

The company has mapped out the community into neighborhoods and decides order of deployment on several factors, including proximity to areas already being served and level of interest. Residents can indicate their interest online at the company’s website or request the company send them a form to fill out and mail back. I3 will consider bringing the network to a neighborhood when 30 - 45 percent of households express interest in signing up for the Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) service.

I3 serves premises in 24 neighborhoods in Champaign-Urbana, which includes neighborhoods that UC2B built out with fiber and areas where iTV-3 deployed fiber.

When the communities of Champaign and Urbana began looking for a partner to offer services via the publicly owned UC2B network, they first chose iTV-3 because the ISP was a local company with a community minded approach. In 2014, they began working with iTV-3, but within two years, iTV-3 decided to sell its assets to Countrywide Broadband. 

The UC2B leadership chose iTV-3 in part because the company had expressed a commitment to keep expanding the network to other neighborhoods. The sale raised concerns because Countrywide was a larger entity taking over a local interested provider, but the community hoped that Countrywide would be better able to expand the infrastructure because it held considerable assets. Champaign-Urbana chose not to exercise the right of first refusal to purchase fiber assets that had been deployed by iTV-3, but they retained ownership of original UC2B assets. Countrywide began serving customers under its subsidiary i3.

As part of their five-year plan to build out the network, i3 announced in the spring of 2017 that they aimed... Read more

Posted January 19, 2018 by lgonzalez

Ever since the FCC reversed network neutrality protections, an increasing number of local communities have started to wonder about the advantages of publicly owned Internet infrastructure, including conduit. At the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, we’ve received an uptick in requests for information from elected officials, community business leaders, and local citizens.

When folks are similarly curious about public-private partnerships, they wonder about whether or not a municipality or other form of local government can require a private sector partner ISP to adhere by the tenets of network neutrality. An agreement between public and private sector partners to bring better connectivity to a city or region is a contract between the involved parties; the FCC’s decision won't interfere.

Looking At Lincoln

Lincoln, Nebraska, has fine-tuned the art of working with private sector partners interested in using their publicly owned conduit for privately owned fiber. The city invested in an extensive conduit system back in 2012 to create an environment that would welcome private sector providers. Nelnet’s ALLO Communications uses the conduit to offer Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) in Lincoln. 

The city uses a Broadband Franchise agreement to allow ISPs non-exclusive use of their publicly owned conduit. In Section 4: Service Characteristics, Lincoln requires any private sector ISP that wishes to use their conduit to adhere by network neutrality rules, which they clearly spell out. You’ll notice that the city also imposes a “no data caps” rule:

Section 4: Service Characteristics. 

A. The System shall, at a minimum, provide the following capabilities and characteristics: 

1.Net Neutrality: In the provision of Broadband Service, Franchisee shall comply with the Open Internet regulations. 

2.No Blocking: Franchisee shall not block lawful content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices; and 

3.No Throttling: Franchisee shall not impair or degrade lawful Internet traffic on the basis of Internet content, application, or service, or the use of non-harmful devices; and 

4.No Paid Prioritization: Franchisee shall not engage in paid prioritization, where paid prioritization means the management of the System to... Read more

Posted November 22, 2017 by lgonzalez

Like some of the foods on a traditional Thanksgiving Day table, different publicly owned network models uniquely suit the needs of their communities. We all have our favorite dish from a holiday dinner, which made us reflect on some of the characteristics of five of the most well known models and their benefits. We found fun comparisons to share with readers who understand the way publicly owned fiber optic networks nourish the communities they serve.

The Turkey = Full Retail Service

The most common for citywide networks, just as turkey is often the centerpiece of a Thanksgiving Day dinner. The retail model offers services directly to the public the same way a private cable company do, only usually with better customer service and better quality. Telephone, Internet access, and video are the services many offer to subscribers. Chattanooga’s EPB Fiber Optics is the most famous example. Others include Lafayette, Louisiana, where take rates have recently topped 45 percent. Another example is Sandy, Oregon, where subscribers can get symmetrical gigabit connectivity for around $60 per month.

Stuffing = Dark Fiber and Conduit

stuffing.jpg It does its most important job out of sight. In a turkey, it adds flavor to the bird. In a network, it provides a low cost, cow risk option that can attract competition for the community. In states where municipalities are not allowed to use their own infrastructure to serve the public, dark fiber and conduit can serve as the foundation for partnerships that fill in gaps left by incumbents. Lincoln, Nebraska’s extensive conduit network eventually led to a Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) venture with a private sector ISP. Rockport, Maine, has deployed dark fiber and has the first municipal network in the state; they work with a local ISP to serve businesses and other local institutions.

... Read more

Posted November 21, 2017 by lgonzalez

The people of Burlington have proven beyond a doubt that they believe in publicly owned Internet networks. They’ve fought harder than any other community we’ve seen to maintain a voice in the future of their much loved publicly owned fiber optic network, Burlington Telecom (BT). Now after months of ruminating, debating, and examining their options, the future of BT is still uncertain.

The Back Story

We’ve covered BT extensively and dived into both the numerous benefits the community has enjoyed as well as the problems caused by former Mayor Bob Kiss and his administration. Bad choices and a lack of transparency snowballed, leaving the city to contend with sizable debt. Through all the difficulties, residential and business subscribers have consistently praised their hometown publicly owned network and expressed an appreciation for accountability, good service, and BT’s local ownership.

Citibank-Logo-1.png In order to fend off a lawsuit from Citibank, the city of Burlington had to agree to find a buyer for the network. To maximize the funds the city will receive from the transaction, a sale needs to be finalized by early January.

On November 6th, the City Council was scheduled to vote on which entity would be allowed to purchase the network, but that would have been a dull ending to a story filled with drama and, as the fates would have it, that isn’t what happened. At all.

The Kiss Of Debt

The Kiss administration’s choice to hide cost overruns from the public and the City Council led to a $33 million obligation to CitiBank. In 2014, the two reached a settlement after CitiBank decided to sue in 2011 and the parties had haggled in court for three years. As part of the settlement, the community committed to selling BT. In order to obtain the largest share possible of the proceeds from the sale - 50 percent - Burlington must reach an agreement with a buyer by January 2nd, 2018. The longer it takes to find a buyer, the less of the net proceeds the city will retain.

As an added incentive to get a... Read more

Posted November 13, 2017 by Staff

This is the transcript for Episode 277 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. Luis Reyes from Kit Carson Electric Cooperative joins the show to explain how electric cooperatives are solving the digital divide in rural America. Listen to this episode here.

Luis Reyes: People trust co-ops. They trust Electric co-ops. They've been - been around since the mid 30s. I think there was a lot of faith that we could pull this off and make it as reliable as we made the electric system.

Lisa Gonzalez: You're listening to episode 277 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. I'm Lisa Gonzalez. Rural New Mexico has some of the most scenic landscape in the U.S. It also presents some of the most difficult challenges in getting its widely dispersed population connected with high quality connectivity. The Kit Carson Electric Cooperative it's changing the situation in the north central area of the state. For several years now they've been connecting people in the region with fiber to the home improving connectivity for residents, businesses, and local entities. This week we hear more about the project from Luis Reyes CEO of Kit Carson who gives us a history of the project and how high quality Internet access is benefiting the region. Now, here's Christopher and Luis.

Christopher Mitchell: Welcome to another edition of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. I'm Chris Mitchell from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance up in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Today I'm speaking with Luis Reyes the CEO of Kit Carson Electric Cooperative. Welcome to the show, Luis.

Luis Reyes: Thanks Chris. I'm happy to talk to you.

Christopher Mitchell: Well I'm excited to talk to you as well. We've we've been covering a lot of the electric cooperatives getting into fiber networks. You've been doing this longer than many. We've interviewed a few others but I think this is incredibly important for rural America. Maybe start by telling us a little bit about Kit Carson. Where are you located and what's the geography around your area?

Luis Reyes: So Chris, Kit Carson is located in north central New Mexico. So Taos being the center of our system. We sit right in the... Read more


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