Tag: "partnership"

Posted January 11, 2021 by sean

Privately-owned broadband infrastructure builder and operator SiFi Networks is sprouting roots in cities from California to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

The Fullerton FiberCity network was SiFi’s first FiberCity — a privately built, financed, and operated open access network. Network construction in Fullerton started in November 2019 and involved over 600 miles of micro-trenching underground fiber, a technique designed to minimize traffic and neighborhood disruption sometimes associated with ripping up roads to install fiber conduit. The first residential customers were hooked up in June, with an anticipated completion date in the fall of 2021.

And while construction of the fiber network in Fullerton isn’t quite finished yet, eight other communities across the country are in the process of becoming the next SiFi fiber cities.

Salem

In Salem, Ma., SiFi Networks announced at the end of November it had completed a “construction trial” which is a “practice run” ahead of the actual construction of the citywide network, slated to start this spring.

Once completed, the Salem project, in which SiFi Networks is partnering with GigabitNow, will offer the city’s 43,180 residents an alternative to the monopoly services of Comcast. GigabitNow, which will be the Internet Service Provider (ISP) for Salem FiberCity, estimates they will be able to begin providing services as early as summer 2021.

It should be noted that open access networks are intended to entice multiple ISPs to enter the market and create more robust competition by separating the infrastructure and service components of broadband access. However, it is currently a challenge in some areas to find a multitude of ISPs to compete on these networks, in contrast to ...

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Posted January 7, 2021 by Ry Marcattilio-...

Drawing inspiration from the association of electric cooperatives a century ago, five Maryland and Virginia cooperatives have come together to better pursue projects "aimed at encouraging the expansion of high-speed internet service in underserved rural areas." From Virginia Business, the group is comprised of: "Millboro-based BARC Electric Cooperative and its BARC Connects subsidiary; Arrington-based Central Virginia Electric Cooperative and its Firefly Fiber Broadband subsidiary; Waverly-based Prince George Electric Cooperative and its Ruralband subsidiary; as well as Chase City-based Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative and its Empower Broadband subsidiary and Denton, Maryland-based Choptank Electric Cooperative and its Choptank Fiber LLC subsidiary." 

The article calls the association the first of its kind, and presumably will promote cooperation and shared use of existing electric infrastructure for quicker, more efficient broadband expansion. 

Posted January 4, 2021 by Ry Marcattilio-...

A host of cities and counties in Arkansas are about to get a major broadband boost thanks to local officials taking steps to act on a grant program deployed by the state last year. Borne out of the state’s 2020 1st Extraordinary Session at the end of March 2020 in response to the Covid 19 pandemic, the new Rural Broadband I.D. Expenses Trust Fund Grant Program will disburse $2 million in funds divided into 30 one-time grants of $75,000 each to towns, cities, and counties to tackle the digital divide in the Toothpick State. The program is financed via Arkansas’ Restricted Reserve Fund with money given to the state by the CARES Act, and is administered by the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) Institute for Digital Health & Innovation. And while an array of projects have been awarded funds, money remains available and applications are being accepted on a rolling basis for those who have yet to take advantage.

A Win for Local Self-Reliance and Increasing Competition

The program is expressly designed to bridge the gap for communities that want to begin to improve local Internet access but are stymied by a necessary first step: paying for those economic, design, and feasibility analyses which require pulling together the wide range of options available in the context of local conditions. That’s where this program comes in, according to Rachel Ott, the UAMS Institute’s for Digital Health and Innovation Grant Director. Communities can use the work produced to apply for federal grants down the road, including the recently concluded Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF), the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s ReConnect Program, funds from the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, and any other forthcoming federal funding programs. 

Cities, towns, counties, and unincorporated communities are all eligible to apply. Non-profits and for-profit entities are also eligible to apply, but only in unincorporated communities. If they want to undertake projects in cities or towns, they are required to...

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Posted December 16, 2020 by Ry Marcattilio-...

Cuyahoga County, Ohio’s Office of Innovation and Performance just issued a Request for Information (RFI) [pdf] which seeks to gather information from private vendors in the initial stages of a plan to improve connectivity for those on the wrong side of the broadband gap in Cleveland and the surrounding area. Responses are due January 15th.

Grace Chu, Cleveland Foundation Public Service Fellow with the Cuyahoga County Office of Innovation & Performance, spoke with us about the origins of the RFI and what the county hopes to get out of the request. The county released a new strategic plan in 2017, and broadband played a prominent role. In the time since, the county has partnered with local organizations (like DigitalC and PCs for People) in distributing devices and hotspots to get families connected. Their efforts have intensified during in 2020 and in the wake of the pandemic, but local officials seek a longer term, more comprehensive solution to the connectivity crisis. It sees projects coming to fruition over the next couple of years.

In the announcement, County Executive Armond Budish emphasized the scope of the digital divide and how the efforts they’ve taken during the ongoing Covid 19 pandemic:

Sadly, Cuyahoga County is one of the worst connected communities in the U.S., with 19 percent of households not having any type of internet service. While we’ve been working to lessen the digital divide through partnerships with the Cleveland Foundation and PCs for People—we provided broadband access to over 3,000 homes through this initiative—this RFI allows us to work toward a more long-term solution that can reach more people and provide easier access for those who need it.

In the request, the county signals its willingness to consider “a wide range of construction, operation, ownership, and financing options associated with public-private agreements, non-exclusive franchises, and other appropriate alternatives in its evaluation of business models to pursue. This includes creative solutions maximizing the efficiency of total investments by all parties while providing the scope of work...

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Posted December 15, 2020 by Ry Marcattilio-...

We've written a lot about RS Fiber, a broadband cooperative operating in two rural counties in south-central Minnesota. This week on the podcast Christopher talks with two representatives from the cooperative which serves almost three thousand members in Renville and Sibley counties. Our first guest is Jake Reiki, a corn and soybean farmer and Board Chair for RS Fiber. We’re also joined by Jenny Palmer, City Administrator for Winthrop and Treasurer for the cooperative.

Christopher, Jake, and Jenny talk about the trials that shaped a network which fostered some division but which the community now takes for granted, its hybrid fiber and wireless approach to connectivity, what having fast, affordable broadband has done for families and business in the area, and where the network sits financially moving ahead as it continues to expand and see robust, steady growth. 

For more on the history of the network, read our 2016 case study Fertile Fields for New Rural Internet Cooperative, or listen to Episode 198 and Episode 99 of the podcast.

This show is 41 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed

Don’t forget to check out our new show, Connect This!, where Chris brings together a collection broadband veterans and industry experts live on YouTube to talk about recent events and dig into the policy news of the day. 

Transcript coming soon.

Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes ...

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Posted December 8, 2020 by Ry Marcattilio-...

A new project borne out out of the Michigan Moonshot Initiative promises to help thousands of families and students without home Internet access get online. Led by the Merit Network, a coalition of partners (including Toyota, Cisco, the Detroit Public Library, the Washtenaw County Broadband Task Force, and county school districts) is installing Wi-Fi hardware at 50 sites around the southeastern part of the state to bring broadband access to thousands. Nine locations are up and running, with more soon to follow. 

The effort is taking place in the cities of Detroit, Inkster, Flint, as well as Washtenaw County. Toyota and Cisco are providing funds and hardware, and the project takes advantage of the Merit Network’s extensive fiber backbone running throughout the state (4,000 miles in total). Wayne State University is also participating, and inviting students and faculty and staff to participate in a broadband survey. Funds are being dispersed in the form of grants which will go to community organizations to boost existing Wi-Fi networks at schools and other anchor institutions across participating areas.

At the moment, the Detroit Public Library’s nine sites are the only ones active, but there are an additional 24 ready to be activated, and ten more pending after that. These include a host of early childhood centers, elementary, middle, and high schools, private schools, and community centers; in addition to the nine Detroit Public Library sites, installation will take place at six community centers around the city of Detroit, seven township halls via the Washtenaw County Broadband Task Force, and almost three dozen locations across the Washtenaw Intermediate School District. See the full list of active and upcoming sites, and a map of current sites below.

Atiim J. Funchess, assistant director of...

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Posted December 4, 2020 by Ry Marcattilio-...

States have gotten creative over the last half year in making use of CARES Act funding to improve connectivity for families and students, but one project in Mississippi shows that oftentimes a good old Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) build is best.  The West Jasper School District (enrollment 1,700), sixty miles southeast of Jackson, partnered with telephone and network operator TEC to do just that with a project aimed at bringing Internet access to 125 families that do not have it in the area. 

Reaching the Unconnected

The effort is funded by $390,000 in CARES funding via the Mississippi Pandemic Response Broadband Availability Act managed by the Mississippi Department of Education. The initiative was established by HB 1788, which aimed at “providing payments to eligible Mississippi public school districts, independent schools and Native American tribal school districts . . . as equitably and efficiently as possible after determining the unserved areas of the state . . . to increase or gain broadband access.” It passed both chambers unanimously in July, allocating $50 million for the effort. 

Ten miles of new fiber were installed along County Road 12 to bring 135 previous unconnected homes online to TEC’s (a regional telephone and broadband company which offers services in Tennessee, Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi) network at the end of November. Current users connected to its fiber infrastructure can choose between symmetrical 250 Mbps, 500 Mbps, and gigabit tiers for $55/month, $65/month, and $80/month respectively. 

School District Superintendent Warren Woodrow said of the project:

We felt like the best use of it would be to put fiber in the ground and to serve our students and our community.

The...

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Posted December 4, 2020 by Ry Marcattilio-...

The collection of western Massachusset's towns continue to make progress on network construction, with Becket beginning it's build over the winter. The town has been split into 10 service areas which will be brought online between now and the end of 2022. Wired West will manage the network once it's complete.

Posted December 3, 2020 by sean

Four times a week, from 1960 to 1968, a plane marked with the insignia of the Midwest Program on Airborne Television Instruction (MPATI) took off from the Purdue University Airport in West Lafayette, Indiana and flew a figure-eight pattern above Montpelier. At an altitude of 23,000 feet, the DC-6AB aircraft used onboard Stratovision to broadcast pre-recorded courses to schools in Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin. The 200-mile radius of the broadcast was estimated to cover 5 million students in 13,000 schools, though only about 1,800 schools became paying members.  

With seed money from the Ford Foundation, it sparked hope that the MPATI program, which predated widespread cable or satellite TV, would serve as a model for how educators could use the cutting-edge technology of the day to make top-flight education more accessible to students in rural America. The experiment lasted for eight years until the two-plane fleet was permanently grounded due to financial difficulties and, ironically, a National Association of Educational Broadcasters study that argued MPATI used too much of the UHF television spectrum.

Today, the Purdue Research Foundation's Innovation Partners Institute (IPI) has resurrected the spirit that gave wings to MPATI in an effort to reach students in the Kankakee Valley School Corporation with a pilot program of a different sort. Instead of using Stratovision and airplanes, IPI has partnered with Wabash College, SBA Communications, Watch Communications, and the State of Indiana to connect 500 households to a wireless broadband network in support of remote learning.

“I was tasked with leading the ‘Safe Campus’ initiative at Purdue (University) when Covid hit, which accelerated the potential of adapting new technology. What we realized is that when it comes to learning, especially in rural areas of Indiana, one in four students don’t have connectivity,” said David Broecker, Chief Innovation and Collaboration Officer at the Purdue Research Foundation, which manages Purdue’s Discovery Park District....

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Posted November 24, 2020 by Ry Marcattilio-...

Residents in the village of Tupper Lake, New York, will soon enjoy a municipally owned broadband option to get online. With the awarding of a grant by the Northern Border Regional Commission matched by local funds, a hybrid Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) and fixed wireless network will bring faster speeds and more reliable service to homes and businesses in the northern part of the Empire State by the middle of next summer.

Unreliable Service

The village of Tupper Lake (which sits within the boundaries of the town of Tupper Lake) is located in the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains not too far from Lake Placid. It’s an overwhelmingly rural area, and a little more than 3,500 people call the village home. 

Last year we wrote about local efforts to improve connectivity options. Back in 2018, a broadband committee was born mostly in response to a lack of Internet access options and complaints about poor service (Spectrum services the region). A study followed that work in 2019, and included a survey of the speeds and prices that homes and businesses in the downtown were paying. Frequent and prolonged outages were a particular problem in Tupper Lake. “We were talking to one business owner who said I was out of service for a day and a half,” Development Authority of the North Country (DANC) General Manager for Telecommunications told WAMC public radio, “[T]hat is almost impossible to do, because now I’ve got to write down credit card numbers and wait for a day to charge people and stuff like that and it just was very difficult.” The Adirondack Daily Enterprise reported that “broadband was the topic of around 30-50% of the emails and calls” to State Assemblyman Billy Jones’ office even before the pandemic.

Connectivity for students was also a driving factor, with a large majority of families with students reporting to the St. Lawrence...

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