Tag: "partnership"

Posted October 28, 2021 by Maren Machles

Once known as the center of bowling ball manufacturing, producing 60 percent of the world’s bowling balls, today Hopkinsville, KY (pop. 31,580) is on the verge of becoming a kingpin in a whole different lane: producing gig-speed broadband.

A municipal utility currently offering fiber Internet access to the residents of Hopkinsville, Hopkinsville Electric System (HES) is joining forces with Pennyrile Electric Cooperative to extend fiber-to-the-home Internet service to as many homes as possible in Pennyrile Electric’s service territory in southwestern Kentucky, starting with Christian, Trigg, and Todd Counties.

The three counties will contribute approximately $17 million of American Rescue Plan Act funds, while HES and Pennyrile will use a combination of state and federal grants and loans to contribute a 100 percent match for the $34 million project. When network construction is complete, it is expected to pass 28,000 households in the tri-county region. 

Scoring Big in Public Partnership

While HES EnergyNet connected its first household in 2016, the utility has been utilizing the power of fiber-optic broadband for decades. 

HES started as a municipal electric utility nearly 80 years ago, but in 1998, the board of directors decided to turn to fiber to connect its substations. By 1999, HES was offering fiber-fed broadband services to local businesses, industries, and city and county agencies through its ISP, EnergyNet

In November 2018, HES EnergyNet announced it had plans to bring gigabit speeds to every address in Hopkinsville. Since then, the network has grown to serve more than 12,000 residents and businesses.

As HES was putting its fiber network to use, Pennyrile Electric reached out to its future partner and presented the idea to continue building fiber out into the surrounding rural areas. Pennyrile Electric has members across nine counties and had been getting numerous calls from co-op members asking whether or not the cooperative would get into the broadband business. 

Jeff Hurd, the General Manager of HES...

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Posted October 21, 2021 by Maren Machles

Situated in rural Central New York, Madison County (pop. 71,000) was named in honor of America’s fourth President, James Madison. But it was the region’s history of growing hops for beer that really put the county on the map. By 1859, New York state produced 80 percent of all hops grown in the U.S., thanks in no small measure to the crops in Madison County.

Today, while the community still celebrates this history at the annual HopFest, county leaders are now focused on the future and how to ensure the region does not get left in the dust by missing out on an essential economic development ingredient: high-speed Internet connectivity. In a modern economy, broadband infrastructure is indispensable in general terms and specifically for the efficient operation of precision agriculture

With a focus now on the digital landscape, Madison County planners have embarked on a project to bring fiber to the farm as well as thousands of other other residents and businesses across the region.

What really got things off the ground, or rather into the ground, was the county being awarded a USDA ReConnect grant last year. Madison is the only county in United States to directly receive ReConnect grant funding in FY 2020.

In July, the USDA announced it would grant $10.1 million in ReConnect funds in support of the project to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises network that will connect 2,170 people, 50 farms and 30 businesses to high-speed broadband in Madison County as part of a larger countywide project. The county will work with private Internet Service provider (ISP) Empire Access to eventually bring fiber connectivity to nearly 7,600 households in the region.

A Fertile Land For Fiber

Two years ago, Madison County officials decided to make broadband a top priority. The most underserved area of Madison is in the southern part of the county, where DSL and satellite were primarily offered, with limited addresses eligible for cable access. 

The county held community forums. The response was overwhelming: frustrations with the limited, unreliable options had been long brewing in...

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Posted October 1, 2021 by Sean Gonsalves

Fiber-to-the-home service is on its way to three counties in Southeast Georgia. In July, the Midway-based Coastal Electric Cooperative and Darien Communications – a family owned telephone, cable TV, and Internet Service Provider – announced they were teaming up to build a $40 million fiber network. Once the initial network is up and running, 16,000 homes and businesses in the counties of Bryan, Liberty, and Long will have access to high-speed Internet service.

The partnership has given birth to a new co-op entity with Coastal Electric known as Coastal Fiber Inc., which will lease the infrastructure and begin offering retail broadband service as early as January 2022. Construction began this summer with phase one of the project slated to be rolled out over the next four years.

The new partnership will first target 9,800 homes in Bryan County, 6,200 in Liberty County, and 500 in Long County.

Phase 1 Focuses on Underserved County Residents

“The first phase goal is for customers in Liberty County to begin seeing availability in January 2022. The system will be built out in phases from that point with the total buildout by 2030. The service to Bryan and Long counties will be as we build out in phases. No dates for Bryan and Long have been determined yet,” Coastal Electric Communication Coordinator Bethany Akridge told the Savannah Morning News.

“The service in Bryan County, for example, depends on where you live. There is broadband available in the more populated areas because it is more profitable for companies,” Akridge said. “The reason the cooperative is involved is because there is a need, so we are stepping in to fill that need where those areas are not served or underserved.

...

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Posted September 17, 2021 by Maren Machles

The San Marcos City Council held a working session in August to review a presentation on the state of broadband in the Texas city and decide whether it should pursue a municipal broadband option. While some members wanted to pursue a fiber-to-the-home municipal network after the presentation, others pushed back despite the fact that the city has its own fiber I-Net (Institutional Network). City council ultimately voted to look for partnerships and alternative options, as opposed to funding and operating its own network. 

Existing I-Net

Sitting just south of Austin, Texas’ state capitol, San Marcos (pop. 63,000) has been developing an I-Net since 2000, when it entered a franchise agreement with Grande Communication and got access to 12 strands of dark fiber to connect city facilities. In 2018, the city developed a “Master Fiber Plan” that would expand the I-Net, further connecting critical infrastructure. The project was funded by general, water and electric capital improvement project funds and construction began in 2020.

Currently, that fiber network has enabled all city facilities to provide public wireless access, and American Rescue Funds have been approved by council to expand public access at the library and city parks.

The presentation to council noted that there are currently eight Internet Service Providers in the San Marcos area, with average download speeds in the city of around 127 Megabits per second (Mbps). There are DSL, cable, wireless, satellite, and fiber options, with fiber covering 43 percent of households inside city limits.

Lack of Competition

While 100 percent of San Marcos has a 25/3 Mbps service option from three different providers, only two percent has three 100/10 Mbps options. The lack of competition is partially why the city council wanted this presentation: to weigh the costs and benefits of getting into the market and offering more affordable and reliable options to residents. 

“What I’m thinking is, just like we were able to do with our electric utility, is to be able to provide for people in their time of need, and the city is best positioned to [provide broadband], whereas private industries can take advantage of people or the situation,” Council member Maxifield Baker...

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Posted September 1, 2021 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

With the first traunch of American Rescue Plan funds going out to counties and cities earlier this summer, many local leaders have begun to propose projects and seek input from citizens about how they should be used. The American Rescue Plan (ARP) represents an unprecedented amount of money flowing to local governments, but the consequences of operating for more than a year and a half under the burden of the Covid-19 pandemic are such that there seems to be so many things that need attention.

Access to universal, affordable, fast Internet access is among them, but the road from recognizing the need and implementing thoughtful policies is not an equally smooth one for all. Sometimes, a little inspiration is all it takes.

That's where our new resource comes in. Our Big List of American Rescue Plan Community Broadband Projects documents the ongoing list of city, county, and state projects which are under consideration, have been announced, or are under way. Arranged alphabetically by state and organized by whether they are under consideration or are planned, the below are those broadband expansion projects being pursued by cities and counties as they look to expand access via telephone and electric cooperatives, nonprofits, community-owned solutions, or private providers. 

This resource will be updated in the coming weeks and months, but if you have any corrections, additions, or updates, please email ry@ilsr.org

Read Our Big List of American Rescue Plan Community Broadband Projects here.

Posted August 25, 2021 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

Cuyahoga County, Ohio (pop. 1.23 million), encompassing Cleveland and the surrounding area along the bottom edge of Lake Erie, has released a new Request for Proposals (RFP) as part of its ongoing effort to "expand affordable, high-speed broadband services to those lacking Internet access." Sustainable solutions are the focus of the RFP, with particular emphasis given to economically disadvantaged communities and approaches that can not only offer low-cost or free options but convince households to sign up for service.

Proposals are due September 8th at 11am ET.

The RFP is just the latest effort as part of the Office of Innovation and Performance's effort to closing the digital divide in the city and surrounding area. It notes that:

Cuyahoga County is one of the worst-connected communities in the U.S., with 19 percent of households in the County without any type of Internet service, including mobile data plans. About 32 percent of households in the County do not have a broadband connection at home, and 69 percent of these households have annual incomes below $35,000. 

The RFP and two subsequently released addenda (addendum 1 and addendum 2) indicate that a wide variety of options are being considered to address the connectivity challenges across the three different tiers of wireline coverage across the county (see map below. Red areas indicate that less than 60 percent of census tracts have basic broadband, peach areas indicate that 60-80 percent of census tracts have coverage, the yellow and grey hatched...

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Posted August 18, 2021 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

Nonprofit Alleghenies Broadband is leading a cohesive effort across a six-county region in south-central Pennsylvania to bring high-speed Internet access to areas that are unserved or underserved by reliable networks.

Part of its work is a recently completed Request for Proposals (RFP) in search of forming a series of public-private partnerships to help identify target areas and offer robust solutions to bring new infrastructure to the businesses and residents who need it most. As that process continues to unfold, however, the nonprofit is already working with city and county leaders to pursue a range of wireline and fixed wireless options that will result in better service and publicly owned infrastructure. 

A Regional Approach

Formed in October 2020, Alleghenies Broadband is part of the Southern Alleghenies Planning & Development Commission. By coordinating efforts in six counties (Bedford, Blair, Cambria, Fulton, Huntingdon, and Somerset, collectively representing about 500,000 residents), it hopes to address the broadband gaps scattered across the region. Somerset, Fulton, and Huntingdon seem to be in the worst shape at present: while many residents have access to cable service, large swaths of the counties are stuck with DSL or satellite service only, leading to median download speeds of just 3.7-8 Megabits per second (Mbps) (see Fulton and Huntingdon coverage maps below, with satellite-only areas in grey). The remaining three counties also have significant gaps where no wireline access is available, representing thousands of households with poor or no service.

The recently closed RFP from Alleghenies Broadband offers collaboration with the “six boards of county commissioners in the Region, [as well as]...

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Posted July 14, 2021 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

The project, which will result in an open access conduit network with Google Fiber as the first ISP operating, has seen some equipment delays (handholds and vaults) recently but remains on schedule. "The first conduit section in the city that'll be complete includes Valley High and the surrounding neighborhood," We Are Iowa writes. The first users are scheduled to be brought online later this year.

Posted June 30, 2021 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

After three years in a row with similar results, PCMag’s “Fastest ISPs in America” for 2021 analysis shows a clear trend: community owned and/or operated broadband infrastructure supports networks which, today, handily beat the huge monopoly Internet Service Providers (ISPs) - cable and telephone alike – for sheer speed.

The latest list proves it. Of the ten-fastest ISPs in the country, all of them feature operators that either are cities themselves or use city-owned fiber or conduit to deliver service across whole or parts of their footprint. 

City-run networks making the list again this year include Longmont, Colorado (third); Chattanooga, Tennessee (sixth); and Cedar Falls, Iowa (seventh). Cedar Falls topped the list last year, but all three networks are regulars over the last three analyses done by the outlet. Broken down regionally, they are also joined by other municipal networks around the country, including FairlawnGig in Ohio and LUS Fiber in Louisiana.

But equally telling is that the private ISPs which make up the remainder of the list lean heavily on publicly built and/or operated broadband infrastructure in parts of their service territory. Overall winner Empire Access has used fiber routes from an open access middle mile network via Empire Axcess in New York state. Likewise, second-place Google Fiber and fourth-place Ting lease city-owned fiber to operate in places like Huntsville, Alabama and Westminster, Maryland, respectively. Fifth-place Hotwire uses public fiber in Salisbury, North Carolina. Eighth-place ALLO Communications is a public-private partnership veteran. Ninth-place Monkeybrains uses city-owned dark fiber in San Francisco, California. Finally, tenth-place Sonic...

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Posted June 22, 2021 by Maren Machles

Residents and businesses in Drammen, Wisconsin are about to benefit from a combination of state grants and public financing to bring fiber connectivity which promises to cover the whole town over the next two years. Twin projects by neighboring telephone cooperatives will utilize a total of $1.9 million to expand into the town of about 800, located 10 miles southwest of Eau Claire, which has long struggled with adequate Internet service.

By Our Powers Combined 

The work comes in part as the result of two funding streams. The first is $1.5 million from among the $28.4 million awarded to 58 projects around the state by the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin via the latest round of awards from the Broadband Expansion Grant Program, in March 2021. 24-7 & West Wisconsin Telcom Cooperative received $710,000 to connect six businesses and 110 residences on the west side of town, while Tri-County Communications Cooperative received $740,000 to connect six businesses and 156 residences on the east side of town. All told, the two cooperatives will install 58 miles of fiber connecting 278 residents and businesses.

Drammen is playing a key role in driving the project along, successfully acquiring a low-interest $400,000 loan from the Wisconsin Board of Commissioners of Public Lands, which manages a state trust fund that supports, among an array of other activities, municipal infrastructure projects like these. The award, announced in April, will join the grants to facilitate the construction.

A Long, Local History

24-7 & West Wisconsin Telcom Cooperative was founded 65 years ago by local farmers trying to bring telecommunications to their areas. Today, it has connected communities in Chippewa, Dunn, Eau Claire, Pepin, Pierce and St. Croix counties.

Tri-County Communications Cooperative has a similar origin story, forming as a telephone cooperative in 1966. In 2010, it started its first FTTH project, and today, 11,000 households have...

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