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Neighborly Announces 35 Communities Joining Accelerator Program
Earlier this summer, we talked with Jase Wilson and Lindsey Brannon from Neighborly, the investment firm that uses online investing to allow individuals to invest in publicly owned infrastructure projects, including broadband networks. Jase and Lindsey described a program they had just launched, the Neighborly Community Broadband Accelerator.
A Boost for Local Broadband
The program is designed to help local communities with necessary tools and financing from the start of their project planning. The Accelerator will provide mapping and community engagement tools, help from experts who will share best practices, and access to industry partners, such as ISPs and engineers. In addition to these and other information perks, communities accepted to the program will have the benefit of Neighborly financing at a competitive, below industry rate cost.
Applications were due by September 28th and more than 100 applications indicate that, more than ever, local communities are interested in taking action to improve connectivity. These 35 communities were accepted into the Broadband Accelerator Program:
Reedsburg Utility Commission Receives State Grant for Expansion
In April 2015, Wisconsin's Brett Schuppner from the Reedsburg Utility Commission (RUC) had a conversation with Chris about the utility's plan to expand the municipal fiber network. Funding is one of the biggest challenges but in December, the RUC learned that it a state grant will help move those plans forward.
WisNews recently reported that the RUC applied for $110,000 to bring the triple-play fiber network to Buckhorn Lake in Sauk County. The Wisconsin Public Service Commission announced on December 11th that the RUC will instead receive $69,300 which will allow the network to extend to an additional 105 homes and 40 properties. From the article:
Schuppner said an informal survey of members of the Buckhorn Property Owners’ Association suggests the utility commission will likely recover its out-of-pocket costs for the project not covered by the grant of about $40,000 from new users in the first year.
RUC began serving the community in 2003, expanding in 2011, and offering gigabit service in 2014. The community is located about 55 miles northwest of Madison and home to approximately 10,000 people.
Ten other entities across the state also received grants. RUC anticipates construction to begin on this expansion early this year.
In Reedsburg, Expansion Weighed After Muni Fiber Success - Community Broadband Bits Episode 147
Reedsburg Finally Launches Rural Expansion
Instead of accepting the bids, the utility decided to bid out rental contracts worth about $4 million to various companies, because the utility would not have to pay federal rates for temporary labor.Then the prices for fiber-optic cable and duct rapidly increased due to the increase in demand from stimulus projects and the Japan earthquake. Finally, they were stuck waiting for final approval from RUS. Now they are moving forward with the $9.5 million project ($5.2 million grant, the rest in revenue bonds), which is good given the apparent demand they are seeing for the service:
Douglas [Reedsburg Utilities Marketing and Media Specialist] said the utility has seen a very high rate of interest in the new service. "I would say nine out of the 10 people I've talked to are on board, out of everyone we've met with so far," Douglas said.