Tag: "q-life"

Posted October 8, 2014 by tanderson

Of the more than 400 communities around the country that have built and benefitted from community networks, the town of The Dalles in Oregon may have a case for the title of “most bang for the buck.” Their commitment of $10,000 12 years ago to leverage a $1.8 million “QLife” fiber optic network has lead to a massive, $1.2 billion dollar investment from Google in the form of a huge data center, employing nearly 200 people and generating millions in tax revenues for the local community. And at the end of September, the QLife board of directors announced that they had paid off the loans used for network construction more than three years ahead of schedule. 

We covered part of The Dalles’ network story two years ago: a small city of just 13,000 was told by Sprint in 2000 that it would have to wait 5 to 10 years for broadband Internet access. Meanwhile, local manufacturing was declining and employers were overlooking the town due to its outdated infrastructure. Before building the QLife network, The Dalles had no access to the major long haul fiber pathway that happened to run right through town. As city manager Nolan Young told Andrew Blum in an interview for his book “Tubes,” it was like “being a town that sits next to a freeway but has no on ramp.” 

The city decided enough was enough, and partnered with the county and the local public utility district on a plan for a $1.8 million, 17 mile fiber optic loop through the community that would connect anchor institutions and offer middle mile access to private providers. 

The nascent network faced opposition from a local telecom in the form of a lawsuit, which scared the public utility district away from the partnership. It had another setback when a private partner declared bankruptcy, saddling the public agency with an $800,000 loan. The city and Wasco County pressed forward with their partnership, however, and secured half of the needed $1.8 million in state and federal grants while covering the rest with loans. The city made a one-time contribution of $10,000. QLife pursued a cautious strategy, building in successive phases only after enough subscriber revenue commitments were in place to cover the requisite loan payments.  

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Posted December 26, 2012 by christopher

As I recently mentioned in my endorsement of Tubes by Andrew Blum, the book explains how a municipal fiber network helped to attract Google to town. Google sited its first "built-from-scratch data center" there, a $600 million investment according to Stephen Levy. According to Blum, it all started back in 2000 when the community got fed up with incumbent telephone company Sprint.

The Dalles was without high-speed access for businesses and homes, despite the big nationwide backbones that tore right through along the railroad tracks, and the BPA's big network. Worse, Sprint, the local carrier, said the city wouldn't get access for another five to ten years. "It was like being a town that sits next to the freeway but has no off-ramp," was how Nolan Young, the city manager, explained it to me in his worn office...

The Dalles was suffering economically due to its reliance on industrial jobs that were slowly disappearing.

"We said, 'That's not quick enough for us! We'll do it ourselves,'" Young recalled. It was an act of both faith and desperation--the ultimate "if you build it they will come" move. In 2002, the Quality Life Broadband Network, or "Q-Life" was chartered as an independent utility, with local hospitals and schools as its first customers. Construction began on a seventeen mile fiber loop around The Dalles, from city hall to a hub at the BPA's Big Eddy substation, on the outskirts of town. Its total cost was $1.8 million, funded half with federal and state grants, and half with a loan. No city funds were used. ... Once Q-Life's fiber was in place, local Internet service providers quickly swooped in to offer the services Sprint wouldn't. Six months later, Sprint itself even showed up--quite a lot sooner than its original five-year timeline. "We count that as one of our successes," Young said. "One could say that they're our competitors, but now there were options." But the town couldn't have predicted what happened next. At the time, few could have. The Dalles was about to become home to the world's most famous data center.

Blum goes on to describe how the investment played out, with Google hiding its involvement in the project for years by working through other companies. The guy who coordinated it - Chris Sacca of...

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