Tag: "collaboration"

Posted November 29, 2017 by ChristopherBarich

Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative (MEC) plans to partner with Mid-Atlantic Broadband Communities Corporation (MBC) to extend Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) to member residences and businesses in southern Virginia. MEC’s project is yet another effort from rural cooperatives to bring high-quality connectivity to regions that don’t have the same options as urban communities.

Another Electric Cooperative Expanding To Broadband Services

Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative (MEC) is a not-for-profit energy provider headquartered in Chase City, Virginia. MEC is a member of a regional electric cooperative Old Dominion Electric Cooperative (ODEC), which provides wholesale electric services to 11 member cooperatives in Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware. MEC is currently providing electric distribution service to residents, businesses, and other institutions in nine Virginia counties and five North Carolina counties. 

In September, MEC board of directors approved a plan to upgrade fiber optic network infrastructure to connect 27 substations and the three district offices. The upgrade will afford MEC the opportunity to implement a FTTH pilot project to connect member residences and businesses.

MEC plans to initially connect 47 miles of fiber to offices in Gretna and Chase City and seven substations. In the future, MEC would connect offices in Chase City, Ebony and Emporia. In total, the intended fiber optic network would pass within 1,000 feet of 3,000 member residences and businesses in 6 counties.

President & CEO of MEC John C. Lee, Jr.

“It would be inconceivable for us to deploy fiber that will pass right by the homes of many of our members and not make every effort to share that service with them, especially given that our members have waited patiently for access to the same high-quality internet service enjoyed by those in urban areas…they have waited long enough and they should never have to settle for less”

Mid-Atlantic Broadband Communities Corporation (MBC) will improve the chances of the pilot project moving forward while also reducing the cost... Read more

Posted November 24, 2017 by ChristopherBarich

Ely Area Broadband Coalition (Ely ABC) and the Ely Economic Development Authority (EEDA) are set to complete a broadband feasibility study and release report results by late-November.

The ABCs Of The Ely Feasibility Study

The Ely Area Broadband Coalition (Ely ABC) is a collection of city, township, school district officials, and private citizens working in partnership with the EEDA to improve broadband in Ely and the surrounding area. In mid-2017, Ely ABC and EEDA submitted the Request for Proposals (RFP) to conduct a broadband feasibility study.

The group is keeping an open mind and will consider a variety of models. In addition to publicly owned infrastructure, they're hoping to hear ideas that will include partnership possibilities or recommendations on encouraging the private sector to improve local services.

The City of Ely is in St. Louis County and located in the northeastern corner of Minnesota. The rural community has a population of approximately 3,500 year-round residents and covers 2.74 square miles. The community, known on the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, is known as the location of the North American Bear Center and the International Wolf Center.

In November 2016, Ely was one of six communities to receive a $25,000 Blandin Broadband Communities (BBC) program grant from the Blandin Foundation in partnership with Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board (IRRRB) and Saint Louis County. Ely ABC and EEDA utilized the BBC grant to fund the broadband feasibility study. 

Through the BBC program, the six communities will receive broadband planning, along with technical support and assistance to advance local technology initiatives over the next two years. The BBC program has assisted 18 other rural communities across Minnesota with broadband planning.

Blandin Foundation president and CEO,... Read more

Posted August 24, 2017 by lgonzalez

Early last year, the city of Steamboat Springs in Colorado took advantage of an opportunity to expand from an earlier public infrastructure investment. A state grant has allowed them to connect five community anchor institutions for better connectivity and cost savings.

Partners In Progress

In 2016, the Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) awarded the community $748,000 toward the cost of a fiber backbone across the length of the city. In order to complete funding for the $2.22 million project, the city and its other partners, the Steamboat Springs School District, Routt County, Colorado Mountain College, Yampa Valley Electric Association (YVEA), and Yampa Valley Medical District contributed matching funding.

Five community anchor institutions (CAIs) are now connected to the backbone, including the local U.S. Forest Service and Colorado Parks and Wildlife offices, the YVEA offices, and the school district building. The school district is also housing the communities publicly owned Carrier Neutral Location (CNL), which the city created in 2014.

The CNL Started It All

The CNL is a space owned by a neutral party - in this case the Steambot Springs School District city of Steamboat Springs - where broadband providers can connect to each other. Middle mile and last mile providers can connect to each other in these “meet-me rooms.” The partners in Steamboat Springs are saving because they’re paying less for bandwidth and, because the school district is hosting the meet-me room, there is no need to pay for a separate facility. In Steamboat Springs, Northwest Colorado Broadband connects with Mammoth Networks.

Community leaders hope the presence of the CNL and the fiber backbone will attract last mile providers to invest in Steamboat Springs so residents and businesses can obtain better connectivity in the future

"The benefits of the fiber optic project will be ample, redundant, more... Read more

Posted July 28, 2017 by Staff

This is the transcript for episode 263 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast. Anne Fifield and Nick Nevins discuss how Eugene, Oregon, uses a dark fiber network to encourage economic development. Listen to this show here.

Anne Fifield: I think we're going to start running out of office space downtown that we've had firms grow. We've had firms come just to locate here. They're here because of the fiber.

Lisa Gonzalez: This is episode 263 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. I'm Lisa Gonzalez. This week, Chris talks with two folks from Eugene, Oregon where the community is working on a dark fiber project to improve connectivity to the downtown area. He's joined by Anne Fifield who works in economic development and Nick Nevins from the Eugene Water and Electric Board, also known as EWEB. In this conversation, we learn about the collaboration between the two entities, including how the infrastructure is already improving Eugene's downtown, how they're funding the project, and more about the decision to expand existing fiber in Eugene. Before we start the interview, we want to remind you that this commercial-free podcast isn't free to produce. Please take a moment to contribute at ILSR.org. If you're already contributing, thank you for playing a part and keeping our podcast going. Now, here's Christopher with Anne Fifield and Nick Nevins from Eugene.

Christopher Mitchell: Welcome to another edition of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast. I'm Chris Mitchell with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. Today, I'm talking with Anne Fifield, Economic Development Planner for the city of Eugene in Oregon. Welcome to the show.

Anne Fifield: Hi, Chris.

Christopher Mitchell: We also have Nick Nevins on the line and he is the Engineering Technician for Eugene Water and Electric Board. Welcome to the show.

Nick Nevins: Thanks for having me, Chris.

Christopher Mitchell: I'm excited to learn more about what Eugene's doing and what the results have been. But let's start off with just a little bit of a background on what Eugene is for people who haven't been out there on the West Coast. Anne,... Read more

Posted June 3, 2017 by lgonzalez

Ammon’s fiber optic utility is opening up competition for residents and businesses in the Idaho community of about 15,000 people. Their software defined network (SDN) allows users on the network to increase efficiencies and explore all sorts of creative visions that require high-quality connectivity.

Innovation Just Keeps On Keepin' On

Now, Ammon is partnering with one of the providers on its infrastructure to launch the Ammon Tech Hub & Research Infrastructure Virtual Ecosystem (THRIVE). The project is available at no cost to researchers and developers and supports: 

1. Research requiring cloud functionality, high bandwidth, low latency network connectivity and a ‘living lab.’ 

2. Developers working on next generation networking services, products or Internet of Things (IoT) hardware in need of cloud functionality, high bandwidth, low latency network connectivity and a community of willing Beta testers. 

THRIVE is designed to allow Ammon premises that are connected to the Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network participate in projects so locals can contribute to research and development. In its press release, the city described research on aging and “smart” smoke detectors in its press release. The project will allow researchers and developer from all over the world to access Ammon’s network for collaborative projects.

Read the press release here.

For more on Ammon’s ground-breaking approach, check out the video we produced with Next Century Cities:

Posted March 27, 2017 by htrostle

In rural New Mexico, about 80 miles west of Albuquerque, sits the small town of Grants. This community of 9,000 people is the seat of Cibola County, but 77 percent of Grants' residents live without high-speed Internet access. Thanks to two intrepid electric cooperatives, however, the town is now set to receive a next-generation network.

Continental Divide Electric Cooperative is teaming up with Kit Carson Electric Cooperative on a 3-year plan to bring a high-speed, fiber network to Grants. Local economic development groups are excited for the telecommuting and entrepreneurial opportunities.

Steady Journey Leads to Cooperative Cooperation

Continental Divide Electric Cooperative spent several years investigating how to improve Internet service. In 2014, they were rejected for a grant to build a proposed $77 million Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network. By 2016, the cooperative devised another plan: partner with another organization to pursue better Internet access. The co-op members voted in May of that year to amend the bylaws to try that route. 

With the bylaws amended, the cooperative was then free to partner with Kit Carson Electric Cooperative, which built a fiber network in northern New Mexico a few years ago. Now, Kit Carson has the opportunity to share its experience. The cooperatives will connect homes and business in the town of Grants as they build out the network to connect Continental Divide's electrical substations. 

Chief Executive Officer Robert E. Castillo of Continental... Read more

Posted March 13, 2017 by lgonzalez

Whip City Fiber has big plans to serve more residents in its hometown of Westfield, Massachusetts, and is already helping some of its neighbors as they seek better connectivity.

Expanding At Home

In February, Westfield City Council unanimously approved the municipal utility’s request for a $15 million bond to fund expansion to more areas of the city. Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) connectivity is currently available to approximately 15 percent of the city. The additional funds will allow Westfield Gas + Electric (WG+E) to expand the network to about 70 percent of the community, or about 10,000 additional households. WG+E is planning the expansion on a two-year timeline.

As in the past, WG+E will use the “fiberhood” approach, giving priority to neighborhoods with the highest interest. They will also consider seasonal practicalities and the locations of existing infrastructure. According to their announcement, they will be installing overhead services this month and will begin underground installation when the ground thaws.

As Westfield’s FTTH has grown piece by piece, they’ve had opportunities to work out the rough patches and determine what challenges communities in western Massachusetts may face when they build out Internet networks. Now, WG+E is reaching out to other communities who are looking for guidance.

State Finally Releases Funding

A change in recent policy from the Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI) has enabled Westfield and it's neighbors to have a little more control over their telecommunications future.

Since 2014, MBI has grappled with how it intends to distribute $50 million worth of state funding designated for communities in need of better connectivity. After several changes in policy, the agency required rural towns to get approval from MBI for business plans and to work with the organization before they could receive funding. The agency and the state have been widely criticized for its heavy-handed, yet slow-footed approach.

In February, representatives from a number of rural towns let MBI officials... Read more

Posted March 8, 2017 by htrostle

Last April, the small town of Waverly in central Iowa connected its first customers to test the new, citywide, Fiber-to-the Home (FTTH) network. After years of sub-par service from incumbent providers, the residents wanted something better. After securing funding, the municipal Waverly Utilities set to work on the Connect Waverly network. Services officially became available for everyone in July 2016.

Today, Connect Waverly stretches to all 10,000 homes and businesses in the town and provides high-speed Internet service of up to 1 Gigabit per second (1,000 Mbps) symmetrical to more than 1,200 residential and commercial customers. The Courier's Cedar Valley Business Monthly reports that Waverly's high take rate is double their six-month goal.

Jennifer Bloker, Waverly Utilities’ Director of Marketing and Public Information, told the Courier’s Cedar Valley Business Monthly, “We’re investing back into our community. We care about Waverly as a whole.”

Collaboration with Cedar Falls

Waverly Utilities had support from another utility, the long-running municipal network in Cedar Falls, Iowa. The two towns are collaborating and will share ownership of new equipment, such as an IPTV head-end system, to serve the customers on both networks. 

Waverly Utilities’ Director of Telecom Service, Jeff Magsamen, appreciates the support. Magsamen told the Courier:

“We have a good partnership with them. They’re always there to answer questions, they’ve helped us out a lot. Drawing on CFU’s [Cedar Falls Utilities] decades of experience has benefited us greatly.” 

Learn More About Waverly And Beyond

Back in 2013, Waverly turned to the voters to approve a measure for a municipal telecommunications utility. The community had already passed a similar... Read more

Posted February 24, 2017 by htrostle

Electric cooperatives are increasingly creating local solutions to rural connectivity woes. Many have built networks that rival those in the best connected cities in the U.S. Rather than waiting for disinterested national providers, cooperatives and their members have found workable solutions.

In south-central Missouri, the Sho-Me Power Electric Cooperative is once again exercising the power of community network projects. The Houston Herald reports that Sho-Me Technologies, the communications subsidiary of the co-op, is deploying a fiber-backed, fixed wireless project to connect businesses in Houston, Missouri.

Houston, We’ve Got A Problem

Houston (population: 2,000) is the capital of Texas County, Missouri -- yes, Missouri. Home to about 25,000 people, the rural county has poor connectivity; about 90 percent of the county’s population doesn't have access to high-speed Internet service of 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload. The Houston Herald reports that speeds of up to 10 Mbps download are the norm in Texas County. Upload speeds are even slower.

The situation has been rough for small businesses in Houston, where they could not perform routine updates without impeding service. For instance, the local dentist office, Family Dentistry, could not accept Microsoft updates for its network without disrupting daily operations at the practice.

Downtown Houston Finds The Local Co-op Solution

The community group, Downtown Houston Inc, was on the look-out for a solution to this problem. Sho-Me Power already had fiber connecting the... Read more

Posted December 2, 2016 by htrostle

While New York's Governor Andrew Cuomo focuses on improving Internet access in rural areas upstate, Westchester County is finding its own path to next-generation connectivity.

The county's largest cities are partnering with the county association to bring high-speed Internet access to every household, businesses, healthcare facilities, and educational organizations in the next three to five years. 

Four Cities Together

In early October, the Westchester County Association and the cities of Mount Vernon, New Rochelle, White Plains, and Yonkers announced the formation of the Smart Growth Gigabit initiative. The cities entered into the “Smart City ComPACT” to collectively apply for funding, collaborate on innovation districts, and develop joint legislative agendas. 

The cities are considering a Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) project to provide Gigabit (1,000 Megabits per second) connectivity necessary for telemedicine, digital learning, and economic development. Officials estimate the project will cost about $750 million, based on the costs of similar projects in communities with like populations (405,000 people total). The cities could own and build the network themselves or partner with a private provider; they have not yet decided on which model to pursue.

Smart Growth

The Gigabit Initiative is part of Westchester County Association’s Blueprint for Smart Growth plan. The association is assembling a steering committee of members from Westchester’s cities, healthcare, biotech, education, business, and nonprofit sectors. The collaboration has been described as a public private partnership because Westchester County Association is a private entity.

Westchester County has six cities and 19 towns, and is home to several large companies including the biotech company Regeneron and the technology company IBM. Several of the towns are also... Read more

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