Tag: "cooperative"

Posted October 11, 2017 by lgonzalez

Another rural electric cooperative is set to bring high-quality connectivity via fiber optic infrastructure. Volunteer Electric Cooperative (VEC) in Tennessee will be investing in a pilot program in Bradley County by year’s end.

A Learning Process - The Pilot

When it comes to fast, affordable, reliable connectivity via publicly owned Internet infrastructure, Chattanooga is typically the first location on everyone’s lips. Unfortunately, neighboring Bradley County has struggled with chronically poor connectivity. Even though Chattanooga would very much like to expand their reach to serve Bradley County residents and businesses, restrictive state law prevents the city from helping their neighbors.

Last summer, VEC saw an opening when the state legislature changed existing barriers that prevented electric cooperatives from offering broadband access or from applying for state grants to deploy the infrastructure. VEC is currently in the process of preparing grant applications through the state’s economic development commission. 

The purpose of the pilot, according to VEC President Rody Blevins, is to determine the level of interest in Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) connectivity in Bradley County. Areas VEC chose for the pilot include homes where there is no service and premises were there are more than one option.

"We are doing that to discover how many would choose our services who have no options as well as those who do have a source for broadband service already available," Blevins said. "That helps us looking at the bigger financial model."

"If we have real low response, that's going to hurt us," he added. "We are not for- profit, so this thing has to pay for itself overtime. If I show my board it will never pay for itself, we can't do it. But, I don't think that's going to be the case."

Blevins told the Cleveland Banner that the cooperative estimates the cost to cover 75 percent of Bradley County would be approximately $40 million. He went on to say that if 50 percent of households in the pilot areas chose to sign up, “we would be in pretty good shape.” 

Working... Read more

Posted September 21, 2017 by lgonzalez

And then there were three. After months of review and vetting, the field of bidders to purchase Burlington, Vermont’s, treasured municipal network is now a manageable number. On September 20th, city officials announced which entities were still in the running and released details of their proposals.

Ting

Toronto company Ting, which is owned by Tucows, submitted a bid to purchase the network. The company is already providing services in Charlottesville, Virginia; Holly Springs, North Carolina; and in Westminster, Maryland, where the public-private partnership has received several awards. The company is also planning construction in Sandpoint, Idaho, and Centennial, Colorado, where they will also be partnering with the municipalities to use publicly owned fiber.

They describe the key points of their offer as $27.5 million in cash and they will pay the city an additional $500,000 if BT earns $4.25 million earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) during the 2018 fiscal year. Ting is offering the city a minority interest in the network that they can later divest if they choose.

logo-ting.png Ting will also relocate BT’s equipment, currently housed in the city’s Memorial Auditorium. The move is estimated to cost $800,000. As part of the deal, the company will also donate $250,000 toward the city’s Burlington Ignite and other programs to encourage entrepreneurship and closing the digital divide.

In their offer, Ting guarantees expansion within the city and beyond the city limits. Like the other bidders, Ting plans to keep the current operational team in place. They also guarantee customer rates for 30 months.

Review the details of the Ting/Tucows offer here.

Schurz

Schurz... Read more

Posted September 19, 2017 by lgonzalez

In southwest Ohio, a new broadband cooperative is taking shape and taking steps to bring better connectivity to residents, schools, and businesses in their region. The Greene County Broadband Cooperative recently released a Request for Proposals (RFP) for a consultant to conduct a broadband feasibility study. Responses are due October 27.

A Regional Effort

The organization wants to bring gigabit (1,000 Megabit per second) connections to the communities of Cedarville Township, Clifton Village, and surrounding areas. They are especially concerned about bringing fast, affordable, reliable Internet access to the Cedarcliff School District and students in the area. The cooperative also notes that they hope to expand access to other townships in the eastern areas of the county in the future.

Spectrum Cable, AT&T, and satellite providers offer Internet access to premises within the 39 square miles to be studied. There is a small amount of commercial fiber, but not enough to support the needs of the region. The RFP describes the situation as:

Service speeds provided in the villages and in limited rural areas are 12-50 mega-bits per-second. Much of the service area has either a single DSL provider or satellite Internet service, both of which fail to meet the FCC’s standard of broadband speed. Combined with the data usage caps of wireless and satellite Internet providers, most rural residents have an Internet access that is functionally useless. 

Cedarville and Clifton

The residential population of the area too be studied is approximately 9,700 which does not include an additional 3,700 students who attend Cedarville University. Because the University has its own fiber optic infrastructure, students attending the college don’t have the same connectivity problems as local residents. Of the students attending the local public schools, 64 percent use DSL at home that hampers they ability to complete online homework assignments.

The broadband cooperative recognizes that the area’s economic development prospects depend on better local connectivity. According to the RFP, businesses have left the area or chosen not to expand in Cedarville due to poor Internet access options.

Residents and businesses in Sibley and Renville Counties in rural south central Minnesota faced similar issues so they also formed a... Read more

Posted September 18, 2017 by lgonzalez

The Blandin Foundation will be holding its Border to Border Broadband Conference this October at Madden’s on Gull Lake. This year, the title of the event is “Bridging the Gaps - Expanding the Impact.”

Up North In The Fall

The folks at Blandin looked around the state to find rural communities where local decisions are having a positive effect by improving connectivity. The event will be October 25th - 26th and will include presenters from local government, cooperatives, and the private sector:

  • Rural Alvarado, BEAMCO & Wikstrom Telephone
  • Westbrook & Woodstock Telephone Company
  • Rock County Broadband Alliance
  • Renville County – RSFiber & HBC
  • Palmer Wireless – Big Lake Industrial Park
  • Mille Lacs Energy Cooperative & CTC
  • Fayal & Harris Townships - Mediacom

If you attend the conference, you’ll start the event by choosing between the Broadband 101 or Digital Inclusion preconference sessions. Later, there will be presentations on public-private partnerships, real life benefits to better rural connectivity, and methods for grassroots outreach.

Attendees can also experience the popular Broadband Learning Stations, described as:

…[F]eature stories of partnerships and perseverance that define the Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program participants. All sessions highlight what it takes for community success -- the partnerships, the strong community spirit and perseverance, the long-haul financial commitment, and the positive economic and social impact these investments have and will have on local businesses, households, and community institutions. Come for the community camaraderie and advice; leave better informed and inspired as you seek to reach your own community broadband goals.

Eyes On Minnesota

In recent months, legislators from the states of Ohio and Virginia have looked to Minnesota’s approach to expanding connectivity in rural areas. Minnesota’s Border-to-Border Broadband program, which allows the state legislature to allocate funding to rural projects,... Read more

Posted September 14, 2017 by lgonzalez

As fall sets in, the Burlington Telecom Advisory Board (BTAB) is still working on choosing a buyer for the Vermont city’s municipal network. The review of the four semi-finalists continues, concerned people express their opinions and BT’s work benefits the community.

High-Speed For Low-Income

In August, BT officials announced that they would be the first ISP in the state of Vermont to offer high-speed Internet to low-income residents through the federal Lifeline program. Lifeline provides a $9.25 monthly credit for qualifying households; BT will be offering symmetrical 25 Megabit per second (Mbps) service for $9.95 per month, leaving the balance for subscribers.

According to BT General Manager Stephen Barraclough, BT is able to participate in the program due to previous upgrades to the infrastructure:

“Because we have a gigabit network, because over the past three, four, five years we’ve essentially swapped out the majority of equipment that’ll allow a thousand meg to go to every home we have lots and lots of equipment that we’ve actually taken off the side of homes that is more than capable of delivering more than 25 meg symmetrical.  We have lots and lots of routers that can still be used. So if you look at it from a marginal cost perspective, how can we afford to do this, really there’s very little incremental out-of-pocket cost over and above what we already have.”  

Surpassing Goals

August was also an exceptional month for subscriber numbers at BT. In addition to reaching a new height for the number of subscribers added in one month, BT eclipsed their original goal of 7,000 total subscribers. As of the end of August, the network served 7,136 members of the Burlington community.

On their website, BT celebrated with this message for the community:

This amazing level of growth is a historical achievement for Burlington Telecom. We owe special thanks and gratitude to those who make this all possible, our customers – those who stood by us in BT’s darkest days, those who left but then came back, and those growing numbers who have been willing to give BT a chance.... Read more

Posted September 13, 2017 by lgonzalez

A Tennessee communications cooperative will soon bring fiber connectivity to Kentucky’s Warren County. North Central Telephone Cooperative (NCTC) will offer high-quality Internet access via gigabit (1,000 Megabits per second) connectivity via its North Central Communications, Inc., subsidiary.

Starting With New Construction

NCTC will start in a new subdivision and has already installed fiber prior to new home construction. The cooperative will also offer services in a nearby apartment complex. NCTC will make Internet access along with video service available to the new homes that are not yet built. They intend to expand to other multi-dwelling units and subdivisions in the area and hope to develop a larger regional footprint.

In order to accomplish their goal, NCTC is enlisting the help of other local entities:

“We’re talking to Warren Rural Electric Cooperative and Bowling Green Municipal Utilities, trying to implement your vision that everyone in Warren County is served by broadband eventually,” said [Nancy White, NCTC CEO]. “We all have the same vision to provide broadband to as many people as want it.”

Not A Stranger To Kentucky

Approximately 120,000 people live in Warren County with a little more than half making their homes in the county seat of Bowling Green. The population has increased steadily by double digits since 2000. It’s located in the south central area of the state and also home to Southcentral Kentucky Community and Technical College and Western Kentucky University.

On September 8th, the Warren County Fiscal Court approved a non-exclusive franchise agreement to allow NCTC to serve people in the county. NCTC is already serving subscribers in Allen County as part of the Kentucky Wired project. Warren County adjacent on the northwest border of Allen County. 

“They’ve been in Allen County for quite some time, and I have nothing but good things to say about them,” Allen County Judge-Executive Johnny Hobdy said. “They have continued to upgrade and bring service to parts of our county that hadn’t been served. I think Warren County will be satisfied with their service.”

The Kentucky Wired project paid NCTC to deploy fiber from Allen County into... Read more

Posted August 26, 2017 by htrostle

The lakes and woods of northern Minnesota are home to high-speed Internet service. Paul Bunyan Communications Cooperative has developed a 5,000 square mile GigaZone service area, where it offers symmetrical speeds of up to 1 Gigabit per second (1,000 Mbps) to homes and businesses. Paul Bunyan Communications CEO Gary Johnson explains how the cooperative built a Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network throughout rural areas.

In this TEDx Bemidji talk, Johnson explores through the history and mission of telephone cooperative and points to the importance of building networks for the future. Specifically, he highlights the need for high-speed uploads for innovators and entrepreneurs in rural communities. 

Watch Johnson at TEDx Bemidji below:

Posted August 23, 2017 by lgonzalez

Chippewa Valley Electric Cooperative (CVEC) and local communications cooperative Citizens Connected are joining forces to improve Internet access in rural northern Wisconsin.

Collaborating For Connectivity

The two cooperatives recently announced that they will invest in fiber infrastructure to connect residents, businesses, and schools through a new entity called Ntera. Construction will start in Holcombe, population around 300, because it’s one of the communities with the worst Internet access within the CVEC service area. Construction in Holcombe should begin this fall.

Ntera will offer 1 Gigabit per second (1,000 Mbps) connectivity to premises in addition to voice and video. Rates have yet to be determined. CVEC’s service area includes approximately 7,500 premises within five counties. Citizens Connected has already invested in fiber infrastructure passing more than 3,200 premises.

Holcombe is a census-designated place in the town of Lake Holcombe, where the population is a little more than 1,000. Even though they’d like to, Lake Holcombe schoolteachers don’t offer devices to students because so many of them don’t have Internet access at home. Superintendent Jeff Matin says that more than half of the students don’t have Internet access because it isn’t available in their home or just too expensive.

The Lake Holcombe schools will use $80,000 in E-rate funding and state grants to connect to existing fiber in the community that will be incorporated into the larger network. Although the school district is obtaining funding to connect, the cooperatives are funding the network investment themselves. They have not yet released a final estimate for the cost of the project. School officials look forward to the educational opportunities the new fiber will bring:

Mastin is eager to have the improved broadband in the Holcombe area. Right now, there is Internet in the school building only.

“We’ll be able to have our community having easier access to the Internet,” Mastin said. “We could give (students) more devices to allow them to connect to it. It’s definitely needed for education in the 21st century.”

... Read more

Posted August 10, 2017 by htrostle

Electric cooperatives have the potential to build next-generation networks to provide high-speed Internet service, and they are stepping up to the plate. In episode 26 of the Building Local Power podcast from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR), Nick Stumo-Langer sits down with Christopher Mitchell and Hannah Trostle to discuss how electric cooperatives are improving Internet access in rural communities. 

From Washington to Missouri, many rural folks already have high-speed Internet service through cooperatives. Hannah describes how the cooperatives did that, and then Christopher dives into some of the barriers to local investment. Check out a summary of their research on the resource page Cooperatives Build Community Networks -updated monthly. 

This conversation also builds on Building Local Power podcast episode 12 with Karlee Wienmann. Hannah and Karlee discuss how cooperatives work on both Internet access and renewable energy. That episode is available at ILSR.org along with all the other Building Local Power podcast episodes.

Listen to Nick, Hannah, and Christopher in episode 26, Connecting Rural America: Internet Access for All.  

 

Posted August 1, 2017 by lgonzalez

Vernon Communications Cooperative (VC Co-op), serving much of rural Vernon County, Wisconsin, was recently named a Certified Gig-Capable Provider by NTCA-The Rural Broadband Association. VC Co-op joins a growing list of rural cooperatives that are offering gigabit connectivity to members in places where national Internet service providers don’t want to invest in infrastructure. The certification requires that "gigabit technology is currently commercially available within 95 percent of one or more exchanges within [the provider's] serving territory and that such service can be provided without new trenching or stringing new aerial facilities."

Why Do Co-ops Always Start? To Fill A Need

VC Co-op started as a telephone cooperative in 1951 when local farmers collaborated, obtained funding from the Rural Electrification Act, and formed the Vernon Telephone Cooperative. After partnering with other telephone companies in the region to establish Internet service in the early 1990s, VC Co-op also began offering long distance voice and television services in 2001.

VC Co-op has also made a name for themselves by offering twelve community television channels that broadcast various local events, including school sports and concerts, local weather, and even radio shows.

By 2008, VC Co-op had finished upgrading their network in the county seat of Viroqua (pop. 4,400), replacing copper lines with fiber. Viroqua has taken advantage of the fiber in ways that touch almost all aspects of daily life. In addition to public safety, healthcare, and education, local businesses using fiber connectivity have been able to grow beyond the limits of Viroqua. All the while, the VC Co-op has served the community with the same spirit we see from other cooperatives.

logo-organic-valley.jpeg Organic Valley, a farmers cooperative with headquarters in Vernon County, suffered a catastrophic fire in 2013. Without missing a beat, VC Co-op connected 21 temporary locations to house Organic Valley employees and established a connection for the farmers cooperative in another building.

VC Co-op is in the... Read more

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