Tag: "expansion"

Posted June 9, 2020 by Matthew Marcus

Westfield Gas+Electric (WG+E) started its broadband division WhipCity Fiber and the buildout of their network five years ago. The project started with only serving Westfield, but WG+E is now contracting with other small towns in Massachusetts to assist in building and potentially operating their own fiber networks.

Today, WG+E is slated to help connect 12,400 households in 20 Massachusetts towns over the next 10 years. In order to do this, WG+E and WhipCity Fiber will receive more than $10 million over the next ten years through the Federal Communication Commission’s Connect America Fund Phase II auction, which awarded $1.5 billion in subsidies to broadband providers to expand rural connectivity across the nation. The 20 towns that are partnering with WG+E to build fiber networks are: Alford, Ashfield, Blandford, Becket, Charlemont, Chesterfield, Colrain, Cummington, Goshen, Heath, Leyden, New Ashford, New Salem, Otis, Plainfield, Rowe, Shutesbury, Washington, Wendell, and Windsor.

Adapting While Expanding

Westfield has been slowly building out its network, which is owned and operated by WG+E, and it is now roughly 75 percent complete. Lisa Stowe, the communications manager at WG+E, said that they temporarily paused new installations in Westfield due to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, she is hopeful that they will begin connecting new customers and resume their buildout of the network this year.

WhipCity Fiber logo

To construct the WhipCity Fiber network, Westfield issued a $15 million bond. The city must pay down that bond and do routine updates to the network as they continue expanding. Stowe explained that they are well on track to having the network fully constructed within their original six year timeline.

WG+E has been adaptable during the ongoing pandemic. In partnership with the state, they have helped install nine free Wi-Fi hotspots in the region with more on the way. Additionally, as a stopgap for not being able to connect new...

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Posted May 7, 2020 by Ry Marcattilio-...

Lighting up the first phase of middle-mile network Project THOR isn’t the only good news coming out of northwest Colorado recently. Glenwood Springs, a city of 10,000 forty-five minutes north of Aspen, is once again looking to secure the future of its information infrastructure.

In a recent 6-1 decision, the city council voted to replace and expand the reach of its existing fiber system, which currently serves businesses and a select number of residents. The resulting network of 150 miles is projected to cost around $9 million and take two years to complete. Once done, current users will be switched over with no disruption. The new network will be citywide and have the capacity to handle Glenwood Springs’ 4,800 residences and commercial premises. Hopes are, many will sign up.

Building up a Fiber Legacy

This isn’t the first time Glenwood Springs has taken such initiative. Almost twenty years ago the city had access to speeds below one megabit per second (Mbps) and — after being told by Qwest (now CenturyLink) there were no plans for investment or upgrades — it built its own fiber backbone to community anchor institutions with a wireless overlay to provide service to residential customers. The city later expanded the fiber network to connect businesses and some households and opened up the network for participation by private Internet service providers (ISPs).

In defiance of a 2005 state law intended to prevent municipalities from building and operating their own networks, Glenwood Springs was also the first community to opt out of Senate Bill 152. That was 2008. Since then more than 100 communities have followed suit. Longmont, a city of 90,000 five miles north of...

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Posted March 10, 2020 by lgonzalez

Norman, Oklahoma, is known for the University of Oklahoma and, with 30,000 students enrolled, one expects Internet access to be vibrant and readily available throughout the area. It hasn't always been that way, but thanks to Oklahoma Electric Cooperative and their OEC Fiber, those who live and work in the areas around the fringes of the University and the city now have access to fast, affordable, reliable connectivity.

CEO of the co-op Patrick Grace and President of OEC Fiber David Goodspeed visit with Christopher during this week's episode. They talk about how the electric cooperative got into offering fiber to folks in their region and how they've financed the deployment. Patrick and David describe how local competition has influenced their project and how they knew they needed to pursue the prospect of offering Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) service. They talk about their rapid expansion and share information on the popularity of their gig service.

They also describe the reactions from subscribers who once had to rely on satellite or mobile hotspots as they've transitioned to at-home gigabit connectivity. Enthusiasm for OEC Fiber has been high, partly due to the services they offer, but also because the community and employees of the cooperative have a deep sense of pride in the contribution their project is making to the region. 

This show is 42 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...

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Posted February 5, 2020 by lgonzalez

Sixteen months ago, OMUFiberNet in Owensboro, Kentucky, was about to celebrate the 500th subscriber. Now, that number has doubled, reports that Messenger-Inquirer.

Owensboro Municipal Utilities (OMU) has taken a deliberate, steady approach in expanding the network since the 2016 pilot program. Residents and businesses in the community are signing up at a faster rate than anticipated, says OMU telecommunications superintendent Chris Poynter. The utility had not expected to reach the 1,000 mark until late spring.

The Messenger-Inquirer reports that at a recent Owensboro Utilities Commission meeting, Poynter told commissioners:

Beginning next month, OMU will work to provide internet service to its third segment, or a large portion of Owensboro, The new segment, which will extend the service to about 3,800 potential customers, will run east from South Griffith Avenue, with Griffith Avenue and East 20th Street as its northern borders and College Drive and West Byers Avenue as its southern borders, to Breckenridge Street.

Construction on the third segment is scheduled to start in January and end around May 2020. 

Poynter said there is a backlog of about 110 customers, with a waitlist that extends into late February and early March. About 14 percent of potential customers are using the service. Poynter said customers on the waiting list are completed on a first-come, first-serve basis.

 “Business is growing and doing well and having a backlog and the problems that Chris mentioned are problems of growth,” said General Manager Kevin Frizzell at the meeting.

OMUFiberNet offers three tiers of service with all speeds symmetrical:

  • 50 Mbps for $49.99 per month
  • 100 Mbps for $69.99 per month
  • 1 Gbps for $99.99 per month

Subscribers also pay a one-time installation fee of $49.99.

OMU plans to blanket the city with Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) and expects to finish the project by 2023. 

Posted January 22, 2020 by lgonzalez

Iowa has multiple rural communities where large national Internet access companies have not invested in high-quality Internet infrastructure. Iowans have adopted a self-reliant approach, however, and one look at the community networks map shows that publicly owned networks pepper the state. Osage, in the north-central part of Iowa, has offered Internet access to the community since 2001. In a recent announcement from the U.S.D.A, we learned that Osage Municipal Utilities (OMU) will receive almost $400,000 to continue their efforts to connect more premises in rural Mitchell County and connect people with fiber Internet access.

According to the announcement:

Osage Municipal Utilities (OMU) in northern Iowa will use a $397,749 ReConnect Program grant to provide broadband service to underserved households, farms and businesses in Mitchell County. This will be accomplished by directly accessing a fiber trunk line that runs through the heart of Mitchell, Iowa, and up to the border of Minnesota, allowing OMU to increase its service area bandwidth. The funded service area includes 151 households spread over 20 square miles.

We wrote about Osage's broadband and solar projects and interviewed OSU General Manager Josh Byrnes back in 2016. Listen to the interview here:

Posted January 8, 2020 by Sayidali Moalim

Grays Harbor Public Utility District (PUD) recently received a $50,000 Washington state grant to conduct a feasibility study in order to determine the best route for expansion of their open access broadband infrastructure into Oakville and the Chehalis Indian Reservation. Both areas are considered underserved and some areas in the region have no Internet service available to residents or businesses.

The Reasons Are There

The Commerce Department’s Public Works Board awarded the $50,000 grant and eight other grants for eight other feasibility studies around the state. The funds will likely pay for the entire study and, according to director of PUD Core Service Rod Hanny, will determine the best route for a fiber line and identify "right-of-way issues, permitting requirements, construction costs, and whether the project would fit the needs of the communities and the utility itself."

Officials at the PUD say that they've received many requests from residents and businesses in the area to establish fiber infrastructure for Internet access. The PUD also wants to put fiber in place in order to improve other utility operations. Currently a substation in the area is monitored via satellite and a fiber connection would be create a more reliable method of communication. If the feasibility study reveals that a project would be a beneficial investment for the region, the project would take roughly a year to complete.

Washington ports are now allowed to develop and use fiber optic infrastructure both within and beyond their geographic borders. Prior to 2018 ports were prohibited from offering wholesale services outside their borders. After HB 2662 unanimously passed, places such as the Port of Ridgefield...

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Posted December 10, 2019 by lgonzalez

The Medina County Fiber Network (MCFN) has already made important strides in north central Ohio. The network, which offers dark fiber and lit services, provides important connectivity for carriers, institutions, and businesses. In this interview, we hear from CEO David Corrado, who explains how it's time to move to residential services; he introduces us to MCFN's partner, Lit Communities. CEO Brian Snider and Chief Marketing Officer Ben Lewis-Ramirez join in the conversation.

Our three guests explain the new entity that they're creating through this venture, Medina Fiber, and talk about how the partnership came about. We learn more about Lit Communities and their commitment to the community based model that combines private capital with open access infrastructure to serve the needs of a local community. Ben and Brian discuss their hopes and ideas for the model and why they feel it's especially suitable for a place like Medina County.

We learn more about some of the benefits that are growing out of the MCFN and how Medina Fiber will use the infrastructure to deliver special services for residents. Brian, Ben, and David discuss their ideas of success for the project.

You can hear more about the MCFN from our last conversation with David during episode 220 from 2016.

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

This show is 37 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes ...

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Posted November 26, 2019 by Sayidali Moalim

The community of Coldwater, Michigan, is considering an upgrade to its existing community network cable infrastructure by investing in fiber optic upgrades to connect homes and businesses. In the coming months, the Coldwater Board of Public Utilities (CBPU) will create a formal recommendation to the city council. If the city moves forward with the project, they plan to replace their current Hybrid Fiber Coaxial (HFC) with faster, more reliable Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) infrastructure.

Connecting More Utilities

Last March, CPBU approved a $40,000 proposal for Apsen Wireless to provide design services for upgrading the city’s 1997 fiber backbone. CPBU Director Jeff Budd called for major upgrades in order to maintain reliability, enhance security of the network, and to connect more water, wastewater, and energy utility systems facilities. The connections are necessary to monitor operations and to provide automatic meter reading capabilities. According to Coldwater city staff, by using their own network, the city is able to cut costs by $250,000 per year.

Examining an Upgrade

CPBU also asked Aspen to provide an estimate for the cost of a fiber upgrade for residential and business connections citywide. Aspen worked with Marshall and Traverse City, other Michigan communities that have invested in fiber optic infrastructure for better connectivity. Coldwater is working with Marshall by providing after-hours service calls for Marshall's FiberNet.

In mid November, members of the board and community leaders at a joint meeting between the CBPU and city council discussed the potential expansion of fiber to commercial and residential subscribers, phase two of the city's infrastructure upgrade. Budd...

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Posted November 19, 2019 by lgonzalez

UTOPIA Fiber will soon be branching out as they continue to forge partnerships with local communities in their region. In addition to expanding their own infrastructure, the organization is working across the state line to help Idaho Falls expand a municipal network.

Funding in Place

The Utah Infrastructure Agency (UIA) recently announced that it will provide $48 million to UTOPIA Fiber to facilitate expansion of the network. UIA is a separate entity, but the two operate as an integrat; leaders from both entities credit this approach for the growth of the network since 2009. According to a November 14th press release, UIA secured the funding with Lewis Young Robertson & Burningham, Inc. (Financial Advisor), KeyBanc Capital Markets Inc. (Senior Managing Underwriter), and Gilmore & Bell (Bond and Disclosure Council). 

Executive Director of UTOPIA Fiber Roger Timmerman said:

“We have the best partners in the business who have worked relentlessly over the past few months to get us to this point. The demand for municipally-owned fiber has skyrocketed and we are excited to be a leader in the industry. Over the past four years, UTOPIA Fiber has doubled the number of subscribers on its fiber network and has entered into partnerships with several additional communities.”

The newly acquired funding demonstrates a growing interest in open access fiber network infrastructure as investment. The UTOPIA Fiber network is currently an option for more than 100,000 premises, providing multiple options for households and businesses in a competitive environment. Other open access networks in locations around the U.S. are in the works, including publicly and privately owned infrastructure.

According to the press release, this is the fourth round of funding that UIA has closed on within the last year in order to meet demand and expand to additional communities.

Connecting an Expanding List of Communities

The town of Morgan City, which will be the 13th community in Utah to connect to the publicly owned open access network,...

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Posted November 14, 2019 by lgonzalez

In early November, Founder and President from The Broadband Group, Tom Reiman, appeared on Fox Business to discuss partnership opportunities that may indicate a shift in perspective.

Strange Distruption

Reiman discussed the recently announced partnership between CenturyLink and the city of Springfield, Missouri, where the national company has decided to work with the municipal utility. The ISP and the utility will expand the publicly owned fiber infrastructure and CenturyLink will offer services via the network. 

The arrangement is a major shift in the traditional approach that large companies have taken until now: preferring to own and operate their own infrastructure and to serve primarily densely populated regions with high-quality Internet access. Rural areas have typically been forced to rely on, at best, DSL from national companies such as CenturyLink.

Reiman discussed how The Broadband Group reasoned with CenturyLink by highlighting the ease of entry into a market where infrastructure and opportunity already exists. It also became apparent to CenturyLink that the company needs to move forward and improve services in order to stay financially viable in a market in which subscribers’ demands continue to follow innovation.

Watch the Fox Business segment here.

We spoke with Reiman in 2016 about the partnership in Huntsville between the city and Google Fiber, which is similar to the Springfield partnership. He and Stacy Cantrell from Huntsville Utilities described the arrangement in episode 191 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast.

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