Tag: "prices"

Posted February 5, 2020 by lgonzalez

Almost six years ago, we told readers about Ottawa, Kansas, where the community of around 13,000 people had invested in publicly owned fiber optic connectivity for local businesses. We recently touched base with IT Director Paul Sommer, who updated us on the progress of their broadband utility and how it has impacted the community.

Steady as it Grows

When we first met Ottawa, they had worked with the local school district and Franklin County to capitalize on existing fiber infrastructure and expand to more locations. Local leaders had learned from Ottawa businesses that the best options available from incumbent AT&T were T1 lines for approximately $600. Higher capacity connections were scarce and financially out of reach for local establishments, and AT&T could not be convinced to upgrade their infrastructure. As Bigham put it, AT&T was "milking the cow."

Once the city, school district, and Franklin County established a partnership, Ottawa began to expand fiber to other municipal facilities and businesses as requested. Sommers, who has taken over as IT Director, says that now all 10 city buildings are on the network. In addition to an industrial park on the original infrastructure on the north end of town, the network now reaches an industrial park to the south.

The electric utility has trained their own staff rather than hiring external fiber deployment personnel. In addition to enriching skills, their employees are able to respond quickly if there are downed cables or other maintenance issues. Sommers recalls an instance when a car, which had caught fire, sent shrapnel flying into the air. By a twist of fate, one piece severed the fiber optic cable hanging some distance away. His team was able to rehang and splice the cable that same day and get the subscriber back online.

By using electric utility staff, Ottawa has reduced the cost of their incremental build over the years. They typically budget around $100,000 each year for expansion of the network, have never gone over, and often don’t spend the entire allotment. Sommers says that, since they own the utility poles in town, have necessary personnel on hand, and equipment at the ready, unnecessary bureaucracy doesn’t slow down maintenance, repairs, or expansion efforts.

Bursting at the Streams

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Posted January 30, 2020 by lgonzalez

As federal, state, and local leaders increasingly recognize the need to make Internet access universal, they are also realizing that adoption is a separate issue. Programs such as the ReConnect and Connect America Funds I and II Auction have helped to expand infrastructure, but even in places where Internet access has been available for years, 100 percent of households do not subscribe. In an effort to better understand digital equity, the House Subcommittee on Communications & Technology of the Committee on Energy and Commerce recently sat down to listen to experts on digital equity. They discussed common misconceptions, hurdles that make wide-scale adoption difficult, and offered policy recommendations to help us achieve digital equity.

Not Only a Rural Problem

Angela Siefer, Executive Director of the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) described how her experience as a digital equity warrior has changed from working with people to learn the basics of computer use to the additional problem of helping people get online. Angela's statement addressed some of the most common myths associated with the digital divide that NDIA, through boots-on-the-ground research, has discovered, including:

The digital divide is a rural problem: Census results show that populations in urban areas do not have Internet access subscriptions of any kind; these are often low-income households.

5G will bridge the digital divide: Lack of infrastructure and devices deployed in areas where existing problems with digital inclusion continue with regards to this new technology.

People don't subscribe because they don't think the Internet isn't valuable: Accomplishing day-to-day tasks often require access to the Internet, which is a fact not lost on those who don't subscribe, but the cost is out of reach for many of those same people.

Read Angela's statement here...

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Posted September 10, 2018 by Katie Kienbaum

If you’re looking to move to a community with a relaxing, rural lifestyle and quality Internet access, then Lyndon Township in Michigan may have just jumped to the top of your list. Now that the community has chosen an ISP to serve the community via its publicly owned infrastructure and established the cost of service, they're eager to start deployment.

Lyndon Township Board recently approved rates for their forthcoming fiber network, setting the price of symmetrical 1 Gigabit per second (Gbps) Internet speeds at a reasonable $69.95 per month. This is a nice reward for the township’s residents, who last year approved a tax increase to fund the construction of the network. The affordable residential gig brings Lyndon Township into the same price range as communities such as Lafayette, Louisiana; Westfield, Massachusetts; and Longmont, Colorado.

Local Support Founds, and Funds, the Network

Though only a 20-minute drive from the University of Michigan, a world class research institution, Lyndon Township residents are mostly stuck with expensive, slow, and unreliable satellite Internet service. Around 80 percent of the community doesn’t currently have access to broadband, which the FCC defines as a minimum of 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) download speed and 3 Mbps upload speed.

When attempts to get existing Internet service providers to expand into the community failed, the township decided to build its own Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network. To fund the approximately $7 million network, residents approved a millage increase in 2017, with 66 percent of voters in support. The millage amounts to a property tax increase of $2.91 per $1,000 of taxable property.

Fast Speeds, Low Rates...

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Posted August 31, 2018 by lgonzalez

Consumer Reports (CR) has once again gone straight to the source to collect opinions on subscribers’ experiences with their Internet access, telephone, and pay TV services. Unsurprisingly, a vast majority of respondents to their survey of 176,000 people expressed dissatisfaction with the large national providers. Once again, municipal network Chattanooga EPB Fiber walked away as the only Internet service provider to receive top marks for value, speed, and reliability.

This isn’t the first time the Tennessee publicly owned network appeared at or near the top of the list in a customer satisfaction survey. In addition to consistent high scores on CR surveys, EPB Fiber has also earned kudos from J. D. Power.

After Chattanooga EPB Fiber, Google Fiber was the only private sector ISP to garner a positive rating from subscribers. Google Fiber also obtained a favorable score for value.

Bigger is Better (Not!)

The most recent survey from CR also underscored what many Internet access, pay TV, and telephone subscribers keep expressing year after year — that they despise the big, corporate behemoth providers. When it comes to Internet access, smaller cable ISPs fared a little better, but only Armstrong Cable Company, serving communities in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and four other states, received an “overall satisfaction” rating.

RCN, Hawaiian Telecom, and Grande Communications also did better than the large ISPs, including Comcast, Spectrum, and Cox Communications.

Hiding Fees in the Bundles

According to a CR article on their survey and analysis of the results, approximately 75 percent of subscribers answering the survey needed to bundle TV, Internet access, and telephone to obtain what they thought was the best deal. Subscribers reported that, even though they had to continually haggle for acceptable pricing, they still felt overcharged.

One of the most prominent areas of complaint from subscribers who answered the survey, dealt with hidden fees, unexplained increased, and confusing bills....

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Posted July 31, 2018 by lgonzalez

In recent years AT&T and Verizon, the nation’s two largest telco Internet providers, have eliminated their cheaper rate tiers for low and mid-speed Internet access, except at the very slowest levels. Each company now charges essentially identical monthly prices – $63-$65 a month after first year discounts have ended – for home wireline broadband connections at almost any speed up to 100/100 Mbps fiber service.

This policy of upward “tier flattening” raises the cost of Internet access for urban and rural AT&T and Verizon customers who only have access to the oldest, slowest legacy infrastructure.

Affordability is the greatest barrier to increased home broadband subscriptions. In the United States, broadband is becoming faster for some households and more expensive for others.

This report from the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) takes a detailed look at tier flattening from AT&T and Verizon, digging into monthly rates that users pay and the types of services they obtain from each company. The authors put the numbers side by side and show that those purchasing what used to be the most economical Internet access service are now simply paying higher rates for slow service.

Download the report to see the comparisons and the authors' analysis.

Posted January 16, 2018 by lgonzalez

Now that they have removed the weight of Colorado’s restrictive SB 152, Greeley is looking forward to future solutions to poor Internet access. In a recent letter to the local Tribune, resident Richard Reilly offered three reasons why Greeley should develop a plan to move toward municipal broadband.

Reilly’s points are:

First and foremost, net neutrality must be at the heart of a municipal broadband. As the big Internet Service Providers start to throttle specific websites that compete or offer tiered packages, Greeley must commit itself to net neutrality. One price for full Internet access. Period.

Secondly, speed needs to be a priority. Comcast and the other ISPs have received billions of dollars to build the infrastructure for gigabit speeds. If Greeley can commit to the infrastructure to offer gigabit speeds, other ISPs will struggle to survive in our city — and good riddance.

Thirdly, customer service is key.

Already On Track

Reilly’s suggestion follows the community’s decision last summer to fund a feasibility study. At the time, they expressed a hope that the study might encourage incumbents to offer better rates and services. In addition to better connectivity for the general public, Greeley’s Family and Recreation Center’s poor Internet access interfered with bookings. When the City Council decided to fund the study, they cited economic development as a key factor in finding ways to improve local connectivity.

Local Commitment

Since the City Council’s decision to fund the feasibility study, the FCC has repealed network neutrality protections and is considering lowering the speed definitions of broadband. Reilly writes that Greeley needs to engage in local action:

Greeley is in a unique position to protect its residents from a rogue administration. Despite the fact that a vast majority of Republicans, Democrats and independents support net neutrality rules, the FCC rolled back the regulations meant to protect the freedom to information in this country.

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Posted January 8, 2018 by lgonzalez

In the midst of price increase announcements from Comcast and others for 2018, gigabit subscribers in Longmont, Colorado, are enjoying a price decrease from their publicly owned network, NextLight.

Happy New Year

As of January 1st, standard residential gigabit Internet access rates dropped from $99.95 per month to $69.95 per month. According to Longmont Power and Communications (LPC), about 28 existing subscribers obtained gigabit speeds at the old rate; along with any new gigabit subscribers, the existing customers will receive the new rate.

In addition to this most recent price reduction, NextLight offers a loyalty bonus for subscribers who obtain service for 12 continuous months. Gigabit subscribers who qualify have rates reduced to $59.95 per month. Charter Members — residents who subscribe for services within three months that service is available within their area — are able to receive gigabit connectivity for $49.95 per month as long as they keep their services. Charter Member rates stay with the premise if they sell their home and take that rate with them to their new residence. NextLight subscribers can also sign up for 25 Mbps service for $39.95 per month.

All speeds are symmetrical so subscribers can take advantage of the robust upload speeds. Subscribers are better positioned to work from home and establish at-home businesses. With symmetrical connectivity, Longmont’s school children can take full advantage of web based home work programs and adults who want to pursue distance learning don’t have the hurdle of poor Internet access to handicap their goals.

Part Of The Success

In addition to affordable rates, NextLight offers promotions to increase sign-ups. Subscribers who successfully refer others will get one month of free service for each new subscriber. NextLight is extending the promotion to its Digital Voice service during the first three months in 2018.

"We're customer-based and customer-focused," Longmont Power and Communications General Manager Tom Roiniotis said in a statement.

"This is a further opportunity for residents who didn't sign up...

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Posted September 4, 2017 by lgonzalez

It’s been almost two years since 82 percent of Loveland voters chose to opt out of Colorado’s restrictive SB 152. Last fall, the community started working with a consultant on a feasibility study and now, residents and businesses are being asked to complete a second survey to gauge interest in the potential for connectivity offered by the city.

One Step At A Time

Loveland, a community of about 69,000 people in the southeast corner of the state, completed a survey last year, which revealed that 56 percent of residents and 37 percent of businesses feel incumbents are not meeting their connectivity needs. Affordability is a big factor for both sectors with lack of capacity and reliability following close behind. Residents reported they were also unhappy with customer service. Within both sets of respondents, a high percentage showed interest in obtaining service directly from the city or from a private provider working with the city.

This summer, the city released an RFP, hoping to elicit interest from the private sector for potential partners to help them develop a municipal fiber network. Read the full text of the RFP here.

Many premises in Loveland subscribe to cable from Comcast, which faces little or no competition from services other than DSL at much slower speeds. Resident Roger Ison wrote to the Reporter Herald recently encouraging residents and business owners to participate in the survey:

Comcast reaches enough Lovelanders to set the market price for high-speed service here. Competition and citywide access are inadequate because no other competitor has deployed a modern, high-performance network that reaches most potential subscribers.  

Ison pointed out one of the positive side effects of municipal Internet infrastructure - its influence on incumbent pricing. When competition comes into a community in the form of a publicly owned network, incumbents that may have been setting rates unchecked suddenly reexamine their prices. The same holds true for customer service. It isn’t only munis that offer locals a respite from inflated prices, any...

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Posted June 6, 2017 by lgonzalez

In addition to studying how and where local communities examine the potential for publicly owned Internet networks, we’ve looked at rates over time in select areas of the country. We recently put together a comparison of historical rates for municipal networks in Tennessee. Our findings are consistent with what we’ve seen all over the country - publicly owned networks don't hesitate to raise speeds while keeping rates affordable. We've documented the data on our fact sheet: Municipal Networks: Speed Increases & Affordable Prices.

Not Like The Big Guys

National providers make it a habit to periodically raise rates and over time those increases add up. They’ve done it so often, subscribers have come to expect it on a regular basis. Price increases don’t usually include a speed increase. With no need to appease shareholders, officials in charge of publicly owned networks can set rates at a level that allow a network to be sustainable rather than rates that maximize profits.

Publicly owned networks have increased speeds for subscribers, often with little or no fanfare other than quietly alerting subscribers to their improved service. Places Chattanooga’s EPB, Morristown’s FiberNET, and BET in Bristol are in a much different habit than Comcast or AT&T - they increase speeds with no increase in price. Other Tennessee communities have increased speeds significantly with only slight price increases over years of service.

Speeds, Rates Then And Now

On our fact sheet, we include prices for the basic tiers now and when the network began offering services. We also compare the basic speeds when the network began serving the community and today. The results reflect how publicly owned networks focus on providing fast, affordable connectivity to subscribers rather than collecting profit from customers.

Some results may surprise you:

  • Morristown has never increased prices for their standard speed offering. It’s always been a solid $34.95 each month. The speed has increased to 50 Mbps, an 8 fold increase!
  • Bristol has operated a municipal network since 2008. The standard speed is 5X faster than when the city started building the network. (With no price increase.)
  • Chattanooga has not raised their prices since...
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Posted December 7, 2016 by Scott

The imminent arrival of Google Fiber and two other Internet Service Providers offering Gigabit speeds (1,000 Megabits per second) to Huntsville, Alabama is expected to be a boon to subscribers, reports Alabama Tech

The tech publication predicts the three ISPs - Google Fiber, AT&T  and WOW! - will spur competition that will lower prices for residential and business subscribers. A newly-released report from Analysis Group and funded by the Fiber to the Home Council shows that direct competition in a designated market results in overall price drops for connectivity service of all speeds. 

“Research shows a 'Gig City' lowers the monthly standard price on plans with at least 100 Mbps down 25 percent, or $27 per month. When it directly compares markets with one Gigabit provider compared to two, the price of Gigabit services decreases approximately 34 to 37 percent, or $57 to $62 per month.”

The tech publication also stated a domino effect occurs when an ISP says it will offer Gigabit services:  

“The likelihood of other providers offering similar services increases in an effort to keep pace with its competition. This trend applies to Huntsville. WOW! and AT&T announced it had launched Gigabit-speed services for Huntsville customers in October 2016, which was less than a year after Google Fiber announced it would offer services to some Huntsville customers beginning in 2017.

From Alabama Tech:

“When Google Fiber enters the market, it will likely help lower prices in Huntsville...WOW! will likely offer gigabit speeds at $160 per month for customers after the conclusion of its $70 per month promotion, while AT&T Fiber is currently offering Huntsville customers a non-promotional rate of $90 per month for gigabit services. Google Fiber is expected to offer $70 per month services when it enters the market. AT&T Alabama president Fred McCallum wouldn't rule out price adjustments to compete with other providers.”

 The Fiber Council’s report is based...

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