In a recent episode of the Broadband Bunch, Jason Hart from the network design and software suite company ESRI talks about how Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are used to plan, build, and manage networks. A fascinating conversation for anyone interested in mapping at an accessible level, including wireline and wireless networks, unlocking z-scale dimensions, and a bunch of other things.
Tag: "Cost Savings"
Bar Harbor, Maine (pop. 5,500) has been trying to get a municipal fiber network off (and into) the ground for more than half a decade. If local officials throw weight behind the most recent move, we may see momentum continue to build for faster, more reliable, affordable, and universally available Internet access for government use, commercial development, and maybe, down the road, residents as well.
We last checked in with the town in 2016, when its franchise agreement with Charter had expired and negotiations for a new agreement had stalled. At the time, Bar Harbor was considering a $100,000 engineering study to flesh out the possibility of a municipal Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network or a $50,000 study to do so for a government-only network, but at the last minute the town’s Warrant Committee and Council decided not to move ahead on either at the last minute. Since then, the situation has remained more or less in stasis.
But with recent changes, Charter has signaled that it will begin to charge Bar Harbor $45,000 a year for access via – a ten-fold increase over the $4,500/year the town currently pays. With the company refusing to negotiate, on December 15 the Town Council, at the recommendation of the Communication and Technologies Committee (CTC), voted unanimously to place a $750,000 proposal to build their own institutional network onto the 2022 budget draft review. The general public will have the chance to vote on the measure in June.
Locally Owned Infrastructure at a Fraction of the Price
A 2019 Casco Bay Advisors engineering plan offers some additional details in the potential network. It would run for 19 miles, both aerially and underground, to connect initially nine but up to as many as 25 government buildings (including town offices, public safety locations, water and waste water stations, public works, etc.), three schools, a library, and other sites like the town’s highway garage. Because of the surrounding topography, wireless doesn't work well on the island (Acadia National Park and Cadillac Mountain both disrupt lines of sight). A wireline connection would be miles ahead of what they currently have. Included in the roughly $750,000 build is slightly less than $270,000 in...Read more
There’s a new short essay out called “Future-Ready Information Infrastructure Must Be Open Access” from Underline, a firm which specializes in design, financing, construction, and operation of open access networks. It which outlines both the need for more growth of this model but also why, at this moment, we are particularly well positioned to do so today. Read a few excerpts below, but read the whole post over at Underline.
To develop the networks we need now, we must challenge the status quo & rebuild our information infrastructure from first principles: the only solution is open access, content and service agnostic, fiber-based networks.
Multi-purpose, open access fiber networks are equivalent to our “open access” roads. As the necessity of connectivity continues to extend far beyond sending email and online shopping—to virtual learning, remote work, distributed healthcare, new wireless solutions (e.g., 5G) and resilient modernized infrastructure—open access fiber networks are the critical and most efficient foundation.
We can and must efficiently build new information infrastructure as the foundation for resilient, flourishing communities to enjoy new economic opportunities, modernize other critical community infrastructure, and form a pathway to responsible energy creation and secure smart grid technology.
For more on open access networks, read our primer on the benefits they offer, or listen to Episode 424 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast below to hear Christopher talk with Jeff Christensen from EntryPoint Networks.
On Episode 4 of Connect This! Christopher is joined by Jeff Christensen (President, EntryPoint Networks), Dane Jasper (CEO and Co-Founder, Sonic), and Travis Carter (CEO, US Internet) to talk about open access models, and the challenges and opportunities they present. During the discussion they discuss barriers to entry, differentiation, dark fiber, and why we don't see more cities pursuing projects like this. They also have a little fun sharing what they think the FCC has gotten right and wrong over the last 4 years, and what Comcast's recent announcement about bandwidth caps will mean for users and competing Internet Service Providers (ISPs).
Mentioned during the episode was Chris' conversation with NetEquity Networks' Isfandiyar Shaheen and Althea Networks' Deborah Simpier about innovating financing models for expanding fiber networks.
Subscribe to the show using this feed.
July has seen the release of two complementary reports which shed light on two of the topics we care about a great deal around these parts: availability and affordability of Internet access, and municipally-enabled networks.
The Open Technology Institute at New America recently released “The Cost of Connectivity 2020” [pdf], which digs into the factors (some of which are explicit and others hidden) dictating how much Americans can expect to spend for Internet access in comparison to Europe, Asia, Canada, and Mexico. They conclude that, compared to the rest of the world, a lack of competition, regulation, and accurate data collection by the FCC has led to higher prices, slower speeds, exorbitant data cap fees, and deep digital divides running between those with high-speed access and those in Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities and low-income parts of American cities. And among its most compelling policy recommendations — based on data points from 296 standalone Internet plans in the United States — is that municipal networks offer a solution.
If OTI’s report outlines the deep and persistent problem of connectivity in the United States, US Ignite and Altman Solon’s “Broadband Models for Unserved and Underserved Communities” [pdf] provides a clear and thoughtful roadmap for local communities who ask “What can we do?” Above all else, the guide shows that high-speed broadband is a solvable proposition, and sketches out five models for local governments to follow according to their unique conditions. Like the OTI report, US Ignite and Altman Solon highlight the many inherent benefits of community-enabled networks.
Download the full reports at the bottom of this post.
Digging into the Data
The OTI report is based on data from 760 standalone Internet plans across 28 cities in North America, Europe, and Asia collected between June 2019 and March 2020 (though it also incorporates lessons learned from the current public health crisis). Across every type of connection (DSL, cable, and fiber) it found the U.S. to lag behind in at least one metric...Read more
There’s a new Thor in town, but instead of lighting up the night sky like the Norse god of thunder, it’ll be lighting up communities in rural Colorado with fiber optic connectivity.
A group of local governments and private partners, led by Northwest Colorado Council of Governments (NWCCOG), recently completed the first phase of Project THOR, a middle mile fiber network that will enable better connectivity in the participating towns, cities, and counties. The network, owned by NWCCOG, provides backhaul to local governments looking to connect public facilities, schools, hospitals, and other community anchor institutions. It’s also available to Internet service providers (ISPs) to serve residents and businesses.
Project THOR brings much needed redundancy to the region’s broadband infrastructure, where previously a single fiber cut could take entire communities’ health and public safety services offline. It also promises great cost savings for localities and ISPs. Perhaps most importantly, the new network gives communities the necessary leverage to improve local connectivity beyond begging the incumbent providers for better broadband. Jon Stavney, executive director of NWCCOG explained on Community Broadband Bits episode 406:
This project allows these local governments to actually have a lever to pull to hopefully affect local service, however they can do that, with whatever partners come to the table . . . They’re able to actually act.
Building Toward a Network
NWCCOG, which is composed of member governments in and around Eagle, Grand, Jackson, Pitkin, and Summit Counties, coordinated broadband efforts in the region even before Project THOR began. A number of years ago, the council invested in a regional plan and hired a broadband coordinator, Nate Walowitz, to offer technical assistance to the member governments.
At the time, communities were taking a variety of approaches to bolster connectivity. Some wanted to provide broadband access directly to residents, like Rio Blanco County which owns an open access Fiber-to-the-Home network....Read more
The breathtaking mountains of northwest Colorado have long attracted skiers and hikers, but broadband providers haven't found the region's rugged landscape and sparse population as appealing. Enter Project THOR, a middle mile fiber network developed out of a collaboration among local governments and private companies led by the Northwest Colorado Council of Goverments (NWCCOG). Over the last few years, the partners strung together more than 400 miles of fiber to provide reliable and affordable backhaul to municipal facilities, public schools, healthcare systems, and Internet access providers.
This week on the Community Broadband Bits podcast, Christopher talks with Jon Stavney, executive director of NWCCOG, and Evan Biagi, executive vice president of business development for network operator Mammoth Networks, to learn more about the recently completed project. Jon describes past broadband efforts in the region that led into Project THOR. The pair explain how the new middle mile network will allow localities to connect municipal facilities and anchor instutions and how broadband providers or the communities themselves can build off the network to serve residents and businesses. This will improve broadband reliability and affordability in the region, which had previously been plagued by network outages that cut access for hospitals and 911 calls.
Jon and Evan also discuss how the partners lowered project costs by leveraging existing infrastructure. They share some of the challenges involved in designing a network with so many partners. At the end, Jon explains how Project THOR will give communities more opportunities to take action...Read more
South Bend, Indiana, is a mid-sized city of around 100,000 people where they are making practical use of their dark fiber network and technology. In episode 378 of the podcast, Christopher talks with Denise Linn Riedl, Chief Innovation Officer. Denise describes many of the "non-sexy" ways the community and her department are using technology to encourage interdepartmental cooperation, efficiency, and the idea that technology is a standard tool, rather than a "shiny new thing."
Denise introduces us to the publicly owned dark fiber infrastructure, Choice Light, and shares a little about its history. She describes how Internet access companies use the infrastructure to provide service to various sectors of the community. Digital inclusion is on the minds of South Bend leadership and Denise describes partnerships that have helped shrink the lack of access for people who struggle to get online. Christopher and Denise delve into the subtle digital inclusion efforts that happen every day in South Bend.
The interview also covers the city's work to use technology and data to measure success and find areas for increased efficiencies in city services. Christopher and Denise examine ways to reduce bureaucracy through technology and take a practical approach by considering what resources are currently available. Denise's department works with other governmental departments on adopting new approaches and working through change management. She discusses the city's data governance project and reviews some of the surprising moments that have led to innovative use of data to enhance city operations in South Bend and cut costs.
We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e...Read more
Portsmouth, Virginia, recently announced that they intend to invest in fiber optic infrastructure to reduce telecommunications costs, encourage economic development, and keep the city competitive in the region. The project is also part of a regional effort to foster economic development in the Hampton Roads metropolitan area.
In the April press release, the city announced that the project will include a 55-mile fiber optic ring around the city that will connect municipal facilities and anchor institutions. The plan will use a five-year multiphase approach for the estimated $9 million capital project and construction is likely to begin this summer.
According to city CIO Daniel Jones, costs for the first year will come in at around $2.7 million. Portsmouth is currently reviewing bids for the project.
Portsmouth CIO Dan Jones noted, “Right now, Portsmouth is internet carrier dependent. The broadband network will improve municipal operations at a substantial cost savings.”
Last year, the city adopted a Fiber Master Plan, which analyzed potential cost savings, should Portsmouth choose to invest in its own Internet network infrastructure. Consultants estimated that the city and public schools spend more than $1 million on connectivity costs per year for municipal facilities, schools, and public libraries. The community’s schools’ telecom expenditures are almost $638,000 per year; libraries spend around $29,000 per year. Portsmouth schools receive an 80 percent reimbursement from the federal E-rate program, which allows the school system to receive a subsidy of more than $510,000 annually. Portsmouth plans to use E-rate dollars to help fund network construction in areas where it serves school facilities.
When Portsmouth invests in its own infrastructure, rather than leasing lines from the incumbent providers, consultants...Read more
Earlier this year, we shared the story of Clarksville, Arkansas, and described how they used supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) to make efficiencies in their municipal electric utility. The resulting fiber optic infrastructure reduced energy costs and allowed them to better manage other utilities but also gave Clarksville the opportunity to explore high-quality connectivity for the community. Their investment is paying off and bringing new jobs to Clarksville.
Stepping Up Economic Development
In a recent press release, the Clarksville Regional Economic Development Organization (CREDO) announced that Monro Shoe has entered into a partnership with Clarksville Light & Water (CL&W), the city, and CREDO to expand its production and add 25 new positions. The community’s gigabit fiber optic network played an instrumental role in the expansion. In addition to better connectivity, CL&W will provide an energy audit to help the company cut production costs.
Serving The Clarksville Community
Clarksville’s population is just under 10,000 with Tyson Foods, Haines, and motor control manufacturing processor Balder as some of the largest employers. University of the Ozarks also employs many of the people in Clarksville. CL&W plans to connect the University to the network in the near future.
Community leaders wanted to be sure to use the network to serve all sectors of Clarksville when they pounded out their plans for the network in 2015. They chose to allocate a designated number of strands each for educational facilities, healthcare institutions, public safety needs, and government facilities. The municipal utilities used another segment, and a sizable segment was left open for future economic development use, such as the connectivity arrangement for Munro Shoes. As Clarksville’s network serves more entities we expect to see more positions added to the community; after all, they're just getting started.
Learn more about how publicly owned networks bring better opportunity by perusing our economic development page.