Tag: "partnership"

Posted October 31, 2019 by lgonzalez

Lawrenceville, Virginia, only has around 1,000 people living in the community, but they anticipate a boost in jobs in the near future, thanks to the local electric co-op, a partnership, and fiber optic connectivity. 

Small-Town Guys Getting It Done

Virginia Business reports that Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative (MEC) is in the process of wiring a former bank facility with Fiber-to-the-Premise (FTTP) in order for the next tenant to use the building as a call center. Echo World Communications, based in Bedford County, will take up residence and bring approximately 152 new jobs to Lawrenceville.

According to Virginia Business:

It never would have happened if the building couldn’t have been equipped with high-speed, reliable Internet, says Michael Dotti, business director of the Brunswick County Industrial Development Authority. “It’s a huge amount of technology. This was like small-town guys getting it done.”

Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative (MEC) is wiring the bank building this fall at no cost to Brunswick, with funding from Mid-Atlantic Broadband Communities Corp. (MBC), which started in 2004 as a cooperative to bring fiber-optic networks to rural Virginia. The broadband cooperative also has installed about 90 miles of fiber cables in six Southern Virginia counties, with 45 more miles planned by the end of 2020.

Productive Partners

This isn't the first time we've seen these two entities partner to expand access to broadband in southern Virginia. About two years ago, we reported on a project similar to the one in Lawrenceville in which MEC and MBC connected last mile and middle mile fiber to reduce costs and reach more premises.

The Virginia Business article also mentions that MEC is looking to acquire a local telephone cooperative, if the telephone co-op members approve.

MEC also has proposed the purchase of Buggs Island Telephone Cooperative (BIT) by MEC affiliate Empower Broadband. The merger is contingent on BIT’s 4,500 customers, who have been asked to submit votes by Nov. 13.

“We expect it will speed up the process of putting fiber in this area,” says David Lipscomb, MEC’s vice president of member...

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Posted October 25, 2019 by lgonzalez

We're pleased to bring you the first episode from a special bonus series of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast titled "Why NC Broadband Matters." The series is a collaboration with the nonprofit NC Broadband Matters, whose focus is on facilitating the expansion of ubiquitous broadband coverage to local communities for residents and businesses. We'll be working with NC Broadband Matters on this series to develop nine more episodes that center around broadband in North Carolina.

"Overbuilding Means Providing Internet Choice: How One Small Company is Closing North Carolina's Digital Divide," is a conversation between host Christopher Mitchell and Alan Fitzpatrick of Open Broadband. The North Carolina company delivers high-quality Internet access to local communities. As Fitzpatrick notes in the interview, Open Broadband uses different types of technology, depending on what's most effective in each region. The goal is delivering quality Internet access.

logo-nc-hearts-gig.png Christopher and Alan talk about how the term "overbuilding" is now associated with waste, rather than with competition. They discuss the benefits of overbuilding and competition, problems with of lack of choice, and Alan reviews some potential long-term policy changes that could encourage investment. Alan and Christopher talk about local government involvement in promoting competition for better access to high-quality connectivity. They also touch on how lack of competition can increase the digital divide and how North Carolina could make changes to allow local governments to...

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Posted October 18, 2019 by lgonzalez

When Lincoln, Nebraska, developed their extensive network of conduit back in 2012, they were working within the confines of restrictive state law to encourage better local connectivity. Jump ahead seven years and we find that the city has established a fruitful partnership with private sector partner ALLO Communications. The relationship has brought a long list of benefits to the community, but the latest will help nonprofit sector organizations — Lincoln and ALLO will provide free gigabit Internet access for 10 years to 75 local nonprofits.

The list contains 35 organizations that ALLO has already selected. The remaining 40 will be chosen through a lottery managed by the city’s Community Connect Program. In order to qualify, nonprofits must have fewer than 75 full-time employees, be certified as a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization, and have been operating for at least two years. There are other criteria that apply and interested local nonprofits can review the application here [PDF]. In January 2020, the city and ALLO will announce the list of nonprofits to receive the benefit. 

Local Control

The concept of offering the service to local nonprofits was an important element of the partnership between the city and the Internet access provider. Even though Nebraska’s state law prevented Lincoln from offering Internet access directly to the general public, the city recognized the need for fast, affordable, reliable connectivity. When large national providers didn’t provide the types of services businesses and residents needed, they made an investment that would encourage competition.

Lincoln’s conduit infrastructure investment has allowed them to gain a measure of control over connectivity in the community. They considered future needs and varying sectors of the community when they penned the partnership with ALLO, which led to the ability to support local nonprofits.

By extension, nonprofits will be able to divert more of their limited resources to the needs of the Lincoln community.  Cause for Paws, an organization focused on helping local shelter animals hopes to be one of the beneficiaries:

Cause...

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Posted October 2, 2019 by lgonzalez

Fixed wireless Internet access from Open Broadband will soon be offered in special pilot areas of Alexander County, North Carolina, reports the Taylorsville Times.

According to the Times, the company started installing equipment on a local mountain; once it has been tested and configured, residents and businesses will be able to subscribe. People in Alexander County can join the wait list now and will be notified when service comes to their area.

“Alexander County conducted a broadband survey back in June 2017, which showed a tremendous need for expanding broadband Internet service in the county,” said Dr. Jeff Peal, Chairman of the Alexander County Board of Commissioners. “To get a better understanding of our need and how service could be improved, the county awarded a contract in September 2017 to Open Broadband for a feasibility study. After learning those results, we began investigating ways to move this critical project forward.”

...

The Alexander County EDC applied for, and received, a $50,000 grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) in early 2019 to help fund the pilot program. The EDC then issued a request for proposals in March to find an Internet Service Provider (ISP) with the best plan, qualifications, and price point. Upon review of the proposals, the EDC Board of Directors approved a contract with Open Broadband to conduct the pilot program. Per the contract, Open Broadband provided a $50,000 match to the ARC grant, and Alexander County Government contributed $36,470 to the project.

Peal told the Times that the pilot project results will determine the future of the partnership between Open Broadband and the county. 

“Pending the results from this pilot program, we hope to continue this partnership and work to expand the broadband network to cover as much of Alexander County as possible in the next few years,” Peal stated. “County officials and staff will continue to pursue all opportunities to expand broadband Internet service to our residents and businesses.”

Open Broadband CEO Alan Fitzpatrick encourages folks to sign up, regardless of where they live in relation to the pilot project.  “If we cannot turn up service at...

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Posted August 23, 2019 by lgonzalez

Spring Hill, Kansas, recently released a Request for Proposal (RFP) as they search for a partner to help them develop gigabit connectivity throughout the community. Deadline for responses is September 30, 2019.

Read the full RFP here.

Gigabit Fiber the Best Bet

The city received the results of a feasibility study in early 2018 and consultants recommended some policy changes to encourage a broadband friendly environment. CTC Energy and Technology also noted that a fixed wireless system was not a cost-effective way to provide ubiquitous connectivity to the community. The firm suggested that Spring Hill consider dark fiber infrastructure and a public-private partnership.

In 2017, Spring Hill also distributed an informal survey to residents and businesses. The results revealed that, even though the community is considered part of the Kansas City metropolitan area, there are pockets where people have no Internet access. Other issues include problem neighborhoods where speeds are slow and businesses have no access to fiber. In these areas, local establishments are paying high rates for unreliable, marginally faster speeds.

Community leaders in Spring Hill consider broadband an essential utility that should connect every premise. As part of their vision, they “intend to empower our residents and local businesses to be network economy producers— not just consumers of network information and data services.”

What Spring Hill Seeks

The partner the city chooses should be prepared for a long term relationship and should be ready to help Spring Hill achieve three goals of the project:

  • Balance financial goals - Spring Hill expects any partnership to involve investment from both parties.
  • Sustainable, affordable approach - Community leaders want to be sure that, as the city grows, the network can grow with it.
  • Community wide deployment - No cherry picking; businesses and residential deployment are equally important.

Read more details about what Spring Hill is looking for in a partner by...

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Posted August 7, 2019 by lgonzalez

In the Internet access industry, large corporations typically fight to maintain their positions as monopolies. Even if they have no intention of serving certain communities, big cable and telecom companies work to prevent others from gaining a foothold, fearful that they may someday lose subscribers. On the other hand, municipalities that operate publicly owned networks often encourage, mentor, and collaborate with neighboring communities to get people connected. Now, EPB Fiber Optics in Chattanooga is partnering with municipalities and cooperatives interested in offering Internet access.

Working Past Restrictions

Tennessee still prevents municipal power utilities from offering telecommunications services beyond their electric service areas, but state law won’t deter EPB Fiber Optics from doing what they can. Recently, EPB Vice President of Marketing J. Ed Marsten spoke with Telecompetitor. “We’re partnering with some other municipal and cooperative providers to help them get into the business,” Marston said. “We’ve seen a ton of interest.”

EPB Fiber Optics is offering a range of services to potential utility partners as a way to bring better connectivity to more Tennesseans. In addition to consulting services, the utility may be able to provide transport to an Internet point of presence (POP) and offers tech support. When municipalities or cooperatives work with EPB and use Chattanooga’s staff, they can cut operating costs and reduce the time it takes to begin offering services.

In Massachusetts, Westfield Gas+Electric (WG+E) offers similar services to the nearby rural towns that lack high-quality Internet access. Westfield’s Whip City Fiber, however, is not precluded from offering Internet access via local public infrastructure. Like EPB, WG+E also offers consulting services, if municipalities choose to operate their own networks.

Publicly Minded Moves…So Many

Earlier this year, EPB tripled the speed of their most popular service from 100 Megabits per second (Mbps) symmetrical to 300 Mbps with no price increase. They also decided to drop the price of gigabit...

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Posted August 6, 2019 by lgonzalez

In June, Indiana’s Hendricks Power Cooperative and Endeavor Communications Cooperative announced that they will be partnering to expand fiber optic connectivity in west central Indiana. Endeavor will provide gigabit Internet and voice services over Hendricks's fiber optic network, bringing broadband to more than 5,000 households within the next four years.

Members Want It

According to the June press release, growth in Hendricks, Putnam, and Montgomery Counties have left businesses and residences in need of high-quality connectivity. The region is outside the Indianapolis metro and growing. Because it has been historically rural, large corporate Internet access companies have not made the same investments they’ve made in urban areas.

From the Hendricks Power press release:

“Our members and community leaders greatly expressed the need for access to high-speed Internet,” said Greg Ternet, CEO of Hendricks Power Cooperative. “Combining the resources of these two cooperative-based businesses will allow us to bring fiber-based technological services in a quicker and more efficient fashion. Joint investments by Hendricks Power and Endeavor Communications will help our community grow in terms of quality of life and economic development.”

Endeavor has been serving rural Indiana communities for around 65 years and began deploying fiber in 2006; they completed fiber deployment in 2016 in nine service exchange areas. With several awards under their belt at the state and national level, and ample experience at communications in rural environments, they seem a natural fit for another rural cooperative, such as Hendricks Power.

Hendricks began like many other electric cooperatives in the 1930s — with rural members working together to get power to their homes and farms. The co-op was formed in 1936 when the local utility, which was owned by private interests, would not expand out where population was sparse. Hendricks Power Cooperative now serves more than 30,000 members.

Getting A Gig

Endeavor is using crowdfiber to determine where to connect homes first. Folks should sign up to...

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Posted August 1, 2019 by lgonzalez

The South Bay Cities Council of Governments (SBCCOG), a group of 16 cities, has joined with Los Angeles County and will work with American Dark Fiber to develop a fiber optic network throughout the region.

Unclogging the Streets, Now and Tomorrow

The public-private partnership aims to develop infrastructure to improve local connectivity, but another key goal is real-time transportation and traffic control. With better traffic synchronization that involves all the participating communities, traveling from one town to the next can be seamless. The SBCCOG is also considering a future that will include autonomous vehicles and seeking the connectivity needed to manage driverless cars.

In addition to applications that directly impact traffic on the road, the SBCCOG is considering ways to reduce the number of car trips. They want to invest in a fiber network to enable applications such as smart city halls — allowing folks to access municipal services from home — telemedicine, distance education, and telecommuting. By reducing the need for people to travel with their vehicles, the sixteen communities that belong in the SBCCOG also aim to reduce pollution.

Partnership

The consultant hired by SBCCOG in 2016 to develop a Master Plan recommended that the organization pursue a public-private partnership. American Dark Fiber (ADF) will build the network, the city recently announced [PDF]. SBCCOG received $4.4 million in funding from the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority and $1.2 million from the State of California to build the fiber ring. The network is the foundation for the region's master plan, which they also developed with consulting firm Magellan Advisors.

Approximately 100 miles of fiber will connect all city halls, at least two data centers, and approximately fifty other buildings identified as “critical” by the SBCCOG. The network will belong to ADF, but Jory Wolf, Vice President of Digital Innovation at Magellan Advisors, says that communities that belong to SBCCOG will be able to opt out at various intervals of the contract.

Public ownership of the infrastructure creates a situation where local governments have more control over how that...

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Posted July 9, 2019 by lgonzalez

This week, we’re bringing another podcast interview that Christopher conducted while at Mountain Connect in Colorado. David Young, former Fiber Infrastructure and Right-of-Way Manager for the city of Lincoln, Nebraska, sat down to reminisce about the city’s network that began as conduit and has evolved into citywide Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH).

David has moved on to Kansas City in Kansas, but he was deeply involved in the advancement of Lincoln’s network that has done so much for competition and better connectivity in Lincoln. In addition to all the direct benefits that the city is enjoying from a gigabit fiber network, there’s a long list of indirect benefits that David and Christopher discuss that affect sectors such as education, economic development, and public safety.

Along with sharing the many ways the fiber infrastructure has helped the city and it’s people, David shares words of wisdom for other communities who may be considering similar investments. He offers some technical advice on deployment, important factors for communities working in a state with restrictions, and thoughts on their decision to choose a public-private partnership model.

We’ve documented Lincoln’s story, so check out more of their history here.

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

This show is 29 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...

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Posted July 8, 2019 by Katie Kienbaum

The lakes and forests of Aitkin County in northern Minnesota make it an ideal location for a vacation home, but poor connectivity has historically limited days spent at the cabin to weekends and holidays. However, a new partnership between Mille Lacs Energy Cooperative (MLEC) and Consolidated Telecommunications Company (CTC) is making it possible for families to extend their trips up north by connecting lakeside cabins with high-speed Internet access.

The two co-ops are working together to build a Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network, XStream Fiber, that will bring fast, reliable broadband access to homes and businesses in MLEC's service territory. MLEC hopes that the improved connectivity will benefit the local economy by encouraging seasonal residents, who make up more than 40 percent of the cooperative's membership, to stay in the region for longer.

Partnership Lands State Grant

According to Stacy Cluff, Technology and Energy Services Manager at MLEC, the electric cooperative had been exploring its options for offering high-speed broadband access for a decade. But it wasn’t until 2016 when MLEC began working with CTC, which had previously partnered with Arrowhead Electric Cooperative on a broadband project, that the XStream Fiber network became a reality.

CTC’s role in the partnership is to provide network connectivity, Internet backhaul, and backend support while MLEC manages billing, marketing, and other subscriber services. The cooperatives coordinate technical support calls, with MLEC handling basic issues itself and pushing higher level problems to CTC. The electric co-op owns all of the fiber infrastructure within its service territory.

logo-xstream-fiber.png The Xstream fiber might not have made it into the ground the $1.76 million Minnesota Border to Border Broadband grant that MLEC received in 2016. The award was the first Border to Border grant...

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