Tag: "pilot"

Posted April 19, 2019 by Katie Kienbaum

Earlier this month, Redding City Council decided to take the next step toward building a fiber network in a portion of the Northern California city’s downtown. Council members voted unanimously to move forward with exploration of the proposed pilot project after considering the design and cost assessment presented at the April 2nd council meeting.

City staff have been methodically researching the fiber project since May 2017. The exact model of the network is still up in the air; options include retail services from the city to the general public over the fiber infrastructure, opening up the network to multiple Internet service providers (ISPs) in an open access framework, or partnering with a single private provider. Following the approval from council, the city will now conduct further stakeholder engagement and a thorough risk assessment of the proposed fiber project.

Reading up on Redding

Redding (pop. 91,000) is the county seat of Shasta County in Northern California. Local industries include lumber, retail, and tourism, and the city is home to Mercy Medical Center. The community may already be familiar to some as Redding was impacted last summer’s devastating Carr Fire. Residents in outer neighborhoods and nearby towns had to evacuate to escape the wildfire, which killed eight people and consumed more than 220,000 acres and 1,000 homes.

For Internet access, residents can generally choose between DSL from AT&T and cable Internet access from Charter Spectrum, while businesses have a few more options, including fiber in certain areas. However, costs for fiber optic connectivity are high, according to Vice Mayor Adam McElvain, and some small sections of the city still don’t have any wireline connectivity. The...

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Posted March 13, 2019 by lgonzalez

In an effort to find ways to connect some of the state’s most disconnected communities, RiverStreet Networks and North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives recently announced that they will work together for a series of pilot projects across the state. The initiative has the potential to discover new options for high-quality Internet access for residents and businesses in areas that have been left behind by national Internet service providers.

Going All Out 

North Carolina’s RiverStreet Networks is bent on bringing high-quality connectivity to people living and working in rural North Carolina. After expanding their physical infrastructure through deployment, the communications cooperative started to acquire other fiber networks in various areas across the state. Most recently, RiverStreet merged with TriCounty Telephone Membership Corporation

For RiverStreet, branching out among areas of the state were there is no high-speed Internet access is an opportunity to tap into an underserved market, not only an underserved population. It’s become obvious in recent years that rural communities want high-quality Internet access at least as fervently as in densely populated areas where big corporate ISP already have a monopoly. After upgrading their own members, RiverStreet was looking for growth; partnering with electric cooperatives is the next step to reaching more subscribers.

Listen to RiverStreet’s Greg Coltrain and Christopher discuss the merger and RiverStreet's plans to bring broadband to rural North Carolina:

...

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Posted March 6, 2019 by lgonzalez

Idaho Falls residents in select areas are now able to tap into fast, affordable, reliable connectivity through their city’s fiber optic network. Idaho Falls Fiber (IFF) and Idaho Falls Power (IFP) recently announced that premises in three residential areas of the city can now sign-up to connect to the open access Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network. 

Check out the IFF Fiber Service Areas Map.

With A Little Help From UTOPIA

Idaho Falls has operated Circa, a municipally owned dark fiber network for around eight years. The infrastructure has been managed by IFP to offer connectivity to local businesses and municipal facilities, but a few years ago, community leaders began investigating ways to use the resource for residential purposes.

After working with two separate consulting firms and reviewing options and recommendations, city leaders decided to move forward. Located across the Snake River from Ammon, Idaho Falls may have been inspired by the accolades Ammon has collected in developing their open access software defined network. With significant infrastructure in place via the Circa Network, a residential pilot program is a logical step toward improving connectivity for the entire community.

Idaho Falls leadership began collaborating with folks from UTOPIA Fiber, who they hired to design and manage the pilot. As in places such as Owensboro, Kentucky and Anacortes, Washington, the city chose to pursue the pilot to examine how FTTH might be received by residents, what technical issues might arise, and to help spread the word that high-quality Internet access would be available from the municipal utility.

"We'll see how the economics work out in this, what the, you know, support is within the community, support is within the neighborhoods," [General Manager of IFF and IFP Bear...

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Posted January 17, 2019 by lgonzalez

Last spring, we reported on Anacortes, Washington’s efforts to evaluate private sector partners to deliver high-quality connectivity via their publicly owned fiber optic infrastructure. After examining their financial position, the desires of the community, and considering the pros and cons, the community has decided to offer services directly to the public. The island community will start deployment in 2019 and plans to have the network completed within four years.

Moving Along

Director of Anacortes Administrative Services Emily Schuh reached out to us to let us know that the city will be expanding from their fiber back bone to serve businesses and households in the community and to update us on the project. She also wanted to let us know that Anacortes is actively recruiting for a Municipal Broadband Business Manager.

Anacortes (pop. approx. 17,000) lies off the coast of Washington on Fidalgo Island, connected to the mainland via two bridges and ferry. Regular readers of MuniNetworks.org will recognize Mount Vernon on the map, located east and operating a municipal open access network for decades. Comcast offers Internet access throughout Anacortes and DSL service is available from Frontier, but businesses and residents want access to more reliable connections and faster upload speeds, which are not forthcoming with the incumbent ISPs.

In 2016, community leaders chose to work with the Northwest Open Access Network (NoaNet) to replace an existing radio-based system they used to monitor water and wastewater utility systems. There were dead zones that could not receive signals, Schuh told us. Anacortes became the first municipality to use active water infrastructure to house fiber optic conduit in the U.S. The city’s municipal utilities use the network to monitor the water treatment plant, wastewater treatment plant, sewer pump stations...

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Posted December 19, 2018 by lgonzalez

In early December, the city of Cortez, Colorado, released a request for proposals in their search for a private sector partner to help bring last mile fiber connectivity to premises throughout the community. The city is seeking a way to bring high-quality Internet access to the entire community, but will not expand it’s municipal fiber infrastructure. They're looking for ways to overcome some of the same challenges other small communities face as they attempt to improve local connectivity to every premise.

At A Crossroads

Smith told us that the city is at a crossroads and community leaders think that a public-private partnership (P3) might be the quickest way to get the people of Cortez better services they’re looking for at the affordable rates they deserve. The city faces the challenge of funding the expansion. Approximately $1 million from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) funded the Cortez middle mile infrastructure and connections to community anchor institutions (CAIs), including schools, healthcare facilities, and municipal facilities. Cortez is not able to obtain more grant funding from DOLA for last mile expansion.

When we spoke with Smith in June 2018 for episode 310 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast, he described how the city was contemplating a sales tax to fund the expansion, rather than the more common revenue bond funding. Smith explains that, if Cortez decided to go that route, their decision would trigger Colorado’s Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights (TABOR) regulations. Due to the time requirements, any ballot measure on such a funding mechanism could not be voted on before 2020. Once the measure is on the ballot, the city would not be able to promote it in accordance with Colorado law. If Cortez decided to ask local voters to support funding Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) with a sales tax, says Smith, the city would have to wait 4 - 5 years before they could promote the service. A survey in Cortez revealed that 64 percent of respondents supported a sales tax to fund expansion of broadband infrastructure to households and more businesses, but community leaders aren't comfortable waiting so long to bring better connectivity that is so desperately needed...

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Posted September 17, 2018 by lgonzalez

Holland, Michigan, has now officially transitioned from construction into operation of their downtown fiber optic network.

After a spring decision to expand the range of the initial pilot project, community leaders began contemplating the possibility of offering Internet access directly to the public. Local residents and businesses had long remained unsatisfied with the options they had from incumbents AT&T and Comcast. Entrepreneurs and business owners took to pressuring elected officials into making more use of the community’s existing fiber to improve connectivity.

Holland Board of Public Works (BPW), which had deployed the fiber in the 1990s, used its fiber infrastructure for electric utility purposes and had already been offering wholesale services to a limited number of local businesses. They’ve taken a slow and steady approach toward their pilot and expansion efforts in order to investigate all the options as they move forward.

As in the case of pilots in Westfield, Massachusetts, or Owensboro, Kentucky, the success of the pilot in Holland will help determine whether or not the BPW will extend the network to more residents and businesses. According to the Holland Sentinel, BPW had connected 96 downtown subscribers to the network as of September 13th. The new connections will generate approximately $135,720 in annual revenue and BPW is still taking subscribers at their website.

Subscribers can sign up for symmetrical gigabit access for $85 per month or enhanced gigabit connections for $220 per month. The latter offers additional features that businesses are most likely to need, such as static IP addresses, service level agreements, and priority restoration.

Helping Out Neighbors, Too

Holland’s northeast neighbor,...

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Posted July 19, 2018 by Katie Kienbaum

Residents of northern Arkansas will soon be able to obtain high-speed Internet access through their local electric cooperative. North Arkansas Electric Cooperative (NAEC) recently received approval from its Board of Directors to expand its residential broadband pilot program, NEXT, Powered by NAEC. This expansion will bring Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) connectivity and one gigabit speeds to the co-op’s entire service area. 

Origin of NEXT, Powered by NAEC

We first covered NEXT last year on Community Broadband Bits episode 243, when we talked to Mel Coleman, the CEO of NAEC.

While on the podcast, Coleman discussed how rural electric co-ops brought “the next greatest thing,” electricity, to their members. He views the provision of Internet services as following in the same historical tradition: “What we like to think is, ‘This is the next “next greatest thing,”’ and that is broadband in your home, true broadband.”

To bring broadband to their members, NAEC created the subsidiary NEXT to develop the fiber network and connect residences.

Developing a Successful Pilot

In 2016, the NEXT pilot program was launched in three locations in Baxter and Fulton counties. The pilot area included both urban and rural communities as well as portions of the small town of Salem, where NAEC is headquartered. Internet, voice, and video services were offered to approximately 1,500 co-op members within the pilot program’s targeted areas, according to the press release carried by Areawide News.

Since NAEC already owned a fiber backbone to manage its electrical system, the co-op simply had to build out from the existing infrastructure to connect residences. Eligible members could subscribe to symmetrical gigabit services for only $79.95 per month.

“We exceeded our goal of [pilot program] subscribers,” said Coleman, as quoted on the NAEC site, “and many have shared with us the benefits true broadband internet has brought to their families and businesses.”

What’s Next for NEXT?

Following the success of the pilot and the recent approval from the Board of...

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Posted June 13, 2018 by lgonzalez

Cortez, Colorado, has been serving public facilities, community anchor institutions (CAIs), and businesses officially since 2011. In 2015, they expanded to bring fiber connectivity to more businesses; today, seven providers offer services on their open access infrastructure. Now, Cortez is ready to take the next step by offering retail services to residents as an ISP; they’re engaged in a pilot project that will help them determine the best way to move forward. This week, General Services Director Rick Smith joins Christopher to discuss past, present, and future in this town of approximately 9,000.

The guys met up at Mountain Connect in Vail, where they’re joining many other industry and policy professionals discuss infrastructure, connectivity, and policy. While at the conference, Rick and the city received the Community Project of the Year Award.

Rick was on the show in 2014 to describe how this rural community incrementally built its network with local investment and state contributions. This time, Cortez is considering ways to shrink its digital divide and examining funding through ways other than traditional revenue bonding. They’ve also been working on regional efforts to help neighbors get the kind of connectivity needed for economic development. Rick describes how the outdoor equipment retailer Osprey has set up its headquarters in Cortez -- first on the list of necessities was not physical real estate, but the ability to access dark fiber.

As Cortez looks at challenges to achieve their goal of citywide Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH), they’re considering inventive and methodical ways to reduce costs. They are committed to bringing high-quality Internet access to every citizen in Cortez because they realize that, without action, residents face a potential monopoly provider.

This show is 29 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed.

...

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Posted June 11, 2018 by lgonzalez

Bartow, Florida, has owned and operated its own fiber network for years as a way to connect municipal facilities and offer high-quality connectivity to a few select businesses. Now, they’re on the verge of expanding use of their fiber by developing a pilot project to connect more businesses and also residents.

A Recurring Theme

Back in 2013, the City Commission had begun a serious investigation of the possibilities. The city has had continuing plans to use fiber infrastructure for smart metering for Bartow’s electric service. Many people in the community have also been unhappy with service provided by Comcast, the incumbent cable ISP.

The City Manager George Long also recently told the Ledger, that the municipal electric utility will use an upgraded electric system to allow customers more flexibility in managing their accounts and conserving energy.

“This program will include the ability to pay for utilities in incremental portions.”

For example, a resident would be able to purchase a week’s worth of power at a time, in advance, rather than have to pay a month’s bill at once.

“There are people who need to be able to do that,” he said, “and this will give them that flexibility.”

The $2.5 million needed for the pilot has already been included in the budget for the year. The next step for the City Commission is to determine the location of the pilot project; community leaders have estimated that the pilot will serve approximately 1,000 premises. They intend to address the matter in June at a workshop.

Bartow

The county seat in Polk County, Bartow, is in the central area of the state and home to more than 19,000 people. Industries such as phosphate mining, citrus production, and honey production play key roles in the economy. They’re also around 50 miles away from Walt Disney World and Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, which makes tourism another important economic driver. 

The Proof Is in the Pilot

Pilot projects have become a common step for communities to take as they consider...

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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...

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