Tag: "regional"

Posted March 11, 2020 by shrestha

Many Vermont communities are looking to ECFiber and Central Vermont Internet as models for the creation of communications union districts (CUD) to develop regional fiber networks. By combining several towns’ efforts, CUDs bring high-quality Internet service to underserved residents and local businesses.

On March 3rd, four towns from Windham County in the southeastern corner of Vermont voted to create a CUD. The new Deerfield Valley CUD will join the small towns of Marlboro, Halifax, Whitingham, and Wilmington. All four communities are located in mountainous areas where infrastructure development is often challenging and costly. The towns’ joint venture will help finance broadband deployment in the region.

Slow Speeds, High Costs

The towns have been operating on slow DSL connectivity, which is insufficient for things like telehealth services, online education, and local economic development. According to state data from 2018, about 27 percent of all locations in Windham County do not have access to broadband.

Clay Purvis, director of telecommunications at the Vermont Department of Public Service, described how connectivity is an issue in the state because of the high price to deploy the infrastructure:

Our geography is really challenging in Vermont — we are dispersed, we have small towns, we have farming communities — so the distance between service locations is far, so the cost of deploying broadband is more expensive per location . . . Hills are the enemy of wireless technology and it requires a lot more towers, for instance, to bring cell coverage to the same number of people.

More power to small towns

The CUD model minimizes the...

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Posted February 25, 2020 by lgonzalez

Rural areas are taking steps to improve their connectivity and are developing high-quality Internet access on par with the best services in urban centers. When smaller communities band together, they increase their chances of developing fast, affordable, reliable community networks that serve a larger swath of people. This week, Christopher speaks with Travis Thies, General Manager of one of those networks established to serve an eight-town region, Southwest Minnesota Broadband Services (SMBS).

The network started with funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) and has continued to make improvements and upgrades to serve folks who were once stuck with antiquated Internet access. Before SMBS, several communities had been told by the incumbent Internet access provider that the best they could ever expect was dial-up service. Now, subscribers can sign-up for gigabit connections. With intelligent partnerships, they're also able to provide service to farms and rural premises beyond town limits.

Travis and Christopher discuss the history of the project, the challenges that community leaders and network officials have faced and overcome, and how the area's demographics have helped them determine the best ways to serve subscribers. They also discuss their partnership with a local fixed wireless Internet service provider and the how better connectivity has attracted people and businesses to the region.

This show is 24 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 February 14, 2020 by Katie Kienbaum

A pair of Michigan cities are taking the next step toward a municipal broadband network by pursuing a feasibility study.

Farmington and Farmington Hills, suburbs of Detroit, approved the joint broadband feasibility study at the end of January. Officials hope the study will help reveal whether one or both cities should invest in a municipal broadband network. "It really will give us a much better understanding of how Farmington Hills and Farmington may or may not benefit by exploring this further," Farmington Mayor Sara Bowman told local news.

Cities Unite for Broadband

Farmington and Farmington Hills are bustling suburbs of Detroit, located approximately 25 miles northwest of the city. With a combined population of over 90,000, the two cities are close geographically as well as economically and politically. Farmington Hills almost entirely surrounds Farmington, and officials have previously considered merging their municipal governments. Though that proposal failed, the cities still share certain services, such as the school district.

In 2018, Farmington and Farmington Hills formed a joint task force to study the creation of a municipal broadband network in the cities. The task force, “began with the premise that broadband Internet is a critically important 4th utility, along with electricity, gas and water,” explains the Farmington Hills website.

The effort was prompted by residents who complained about limited broadband options and high costs, Farmington Councilman Joe LaRussa told a state news site. “Fiber-based Internet infrastructure was being prioritized in business corridors and bypassing neighborhoods and more remote areas of Farmington Hills,” he explained.

logo-farmington-hills-mi.png Officials like LaRussa believe a...

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Posted February 13, 2020 by lgonzalez

Local officials in eight mostly-rural counties in southwest Pennsylvania are combining efforts to determine first, what connectivity is available and, second, what can be done to improve it.

Seeking Updated Information

Westmoreland, Fayette, Cambria, Somerset, Blair, Bedford, Huntingdon, and Fulton counties have been working with consulting firm Design Nine to develop a survey to share with residents in the region. The Regional Broadband Task Force, established by the Southern Alleghenies Planning & Development Commission (SAP&DC), gathered limited data in the past. They estimate that six percent of folks in the region live in places without wired broadband Internet access.

An earlier study determined that:

...2.3 percentage of the 354,751 residents fall below that level of service [25 Mbps upload and 3 Mbps download]. About 1.6 percentage of Blair County’s 123,842 population and 2.2 percentage of Cambria County’s 134,550 population are lacking that basic level of connectivity. At the other end of the spectrum, 55.2 percentage of Fulton County’s 14,506 residents are without the service.

ARC Funds

Funding for the study comes from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC). The Task Force received $50,000 from ARC and the member counties contributed a matching $50,000 for the study. They began looking for a firm to help develop the study last fall and chose Design Nine hoping to determine:

  • Level of service being provided; the needs of local businesses and the reliability of the current services being provided;
  • An inventory of broadband assets already in place;
  • An assessment community broadband requirements for bandwidth needs;
  • Determine best technologies to meet the coal impacted community needs; and
  • Cost estimates for different deployment strategies

Businesses Want More in Westmoreland

While the Regional Broadband Task Force is seeking data about connections consistent with the FCC's definition of "...

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Posted February 11, 2020 by lgonzalez

In 2012, the Medina County Fiber Network (MCFN) first began offering fiber optic connectivity to businesses and community anchor institutions in the county. Jump forward eight years later and the network is now proving the case that Ohioans also want fast, affordable, reliable connections in the small communities where national providers aren't willing to upgrade.

Meeting a Goal

When we spoke with CEO David Corrado from MCFN in December 2019 for episode 386 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast, we learned about the new partnership between MCFN, Lit Communities, and Peak Communications. CEO Brian Snider and Chief Marketing Officer Ben Lewis-Ramirez from Lit Communities also participated in the conversation and the three explained how the partners were employing a community based model to expand the open access fiber optic infrastructure with private capital. 

The entity they created for the project is Medina Fiber and focuses on expanding the benefits of the network to residents in Medina County.

In a February 11th press release from MCFN, Corrado announced that the project has reached a key milestone. Monthly revenue from the network now equals the MCFN $100,000 monthly bond payment.

From the press release:

“This is a key metric that we’re pleased to reach as Medina County Fiber Network begins expanding our trusted network to homes throughout Medina County. It’s proof that the county’s investment in fiber infrastructure works well now, and positions our community for even more economic success and better quality-of-life.”

In December, the initial construction began to approximately 6,100 households in the Villages of Seville, Westfield Center, and Guilford Township at a cost of around $8 million. According to Corrado, demand in these areas "remains strong." Now that the community based open access model is proving to be effective to bring better connectivity to residents and that locals are showing they want to sign up for services, plans are in...

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Posted November 20, 2019 by lgonzalez

When Vermont passed legislation to establish "communications union districts" in 2015, funding options expanded for regional community network ECFiber. Since then, other states trying to expand access to broadband in rural areas have looked at the success of ECFiber as a possible model. Now, New Hampshire is considering establishing a similar option as a way for local communities to improve local connectivity.

Waiting for Session

Democratic State Senator Jeanne Dietsch from Peterborough has drafted legislation she intends to introduce in the 2020 session. The bill will allow communities to establish "communications districts" to develop broadband infrastructure, similar to the way they band together in order to create sewer districts for necessary infrastructure. The entities are able to finance projects by applying for grants, loans, issuing bonds, and charging user fees, but are not able to tax.

In a recent GovTech article, Dietsch said:

“We modeled it on New Hampshire sewer districts just because that is language that’s already familiar to our legislators, and it’ll be much easier for them to pass it that way than to try to make it look like Vermont.”

The lawmaker was reflecting on difficulties the legislature had passing Senate Bill 103, which allows municipalities to work together for "multi-town bonding projects." Special interest lobbyists, whose job it is to maintain ISP monopolies, leveled their efforts at the bill when it appeared fearing the competition it might bring. Dietsch wants to avoid a similar fight with the communications district proposal, so has carefully crafted the language of the bill.

If passed, the new authority will allow cities to develop the infrastructure in order to work with private sector partners. ECFiber offers fast, affordable, reliable Internet access directly to the public, rather than providing fiber optic infrastructure for Internet access companies to use.

ECFiber

logo-ecfiber.png Prior to becoming a communications union...

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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 August 1, 2019 by lgonzalez

The South Bay Cities Council of Governments (SBCCOG), a group of 16 cities, has joined with Los Angeles County and will work with American Dark Fiber to develop a fiber optic network throughout the region.

Unclogging the Streets, Now and Tomorrow

The public-private partnership aims to develop infrastructure to improve local connectivity, but another key goal is real-time transportation and traffic control. With better traffic synchronization that involves all the participating communities, traveling from one town to the next can be seamless. The SBCCOG is also considering a future that will include autonomous vehicles and seeking the connectivity needed to manage driverless cars.

In addition to applications that directly impact traffic on the road, the SBCCOG is considering ways to reduce the number of car trips. They want to invest in a fiber network to enable applications such as smart city halls — allowing folks to access municipal services from home — telemedicine, distance education, and telecommuting. By reducing the need for people to travel with their vehicles, the sixteen communities that belong in the SBCCOG also aim to reduce pollution.

Partnership

The consultant hired by SBCCOG in 2016 to develop a Master Plan recommended that the organization pursue a public-private partnership. American Dark Fiber (ADF) will build the network, the city recently announced [PDF]. SBCCOG received $4.4 million in funding from the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority and $1.2 million from the State of California to build the fiber ring. The network is the foundation for the region's master plan, which they also developed with consulting firm Magellan Advisors.

Approximately 100 miles of fiber will connect all city halls, at least two data centers, and approximately fifty other buildings identified as “critical” by the SBCCOG. The network will belong to ADF, but Jory Wolf, Vice President of Digital Innovation at Magellan Advisors, says that communities that belong to SBCCOG will be able to opt out at various intervals of the contract.

Public ownership of the infrastructure creates a situation where local governments have more control over how that...

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Posted July 16, 2019 by lgonzalez

Rio Blanco County in western Colorado is more than 3,200 square miles with a population of only about 6,400 people in the entire county. Due to the low population density and rural nature of much of the county, large corporate Internet access providers have not felt motivated to invest in broadband access. Thanks to public investment from the county, however, people living in Rio Blanco County are obtaining access to some of the best connectivity in the state. This week, Rio Blanco County’s Communications Director Cody Crooks is at the mic to tell us about their project.

While at the Mountain Connect conference, Christopher and Cody got together to record the interview so we could catch up on the progress of the fiber build. Subscribers in more than 80 percent of premises passed are connecting to the open access network — about double what planners originally anticipated. As Cody explains, folks in the county are “starved” for broadband, the price is right, and two providers offer choice. People are even moving to the county in order to connect to the network.

Cody also gets into some of the other benefits that people are enjoying due to better connectivity. He discussed how they’re funding the investment and the special concerns they have as a governmental entity. Christopher and Cody talk about western Colorado’s project THOR and how Rio Blanco County is involved in the regional initiative to expand affordable rural connectivity.

Check out this promotional video on the network:

Read more about the project's evolution here.

We want your feedback and...

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Posted December 4, 2018 by lgonzalez

This week on the Community Broadband Bits Podcast, we hear from Russell Senior and Michael Hanna from Portland, Oregon. Russell is President of the Personal Telco Project and Michael is a Data Engineer for Multnomah County; both are on the Board of the Municipal Broadband Coalition of America.

In this interview Christopher, Russell, and Michael discuss the goals of the Coalition and their current work grassroots organizing in Portland and across and Multnomah County for the Municipal Broadband PDX initiative. In addition to hearing how Portland and the surrounding county has reached a point where residents and businesses are ready for better connectivity, we also find out how these two organizers became involved in the efforts.

Michael and Russell describe the way the project has evolved after years of attempts to improve Internet access in the region and their approach toward organizing such a large area with a high population. Our guests describe some of the challenges they have coped with and other issues they anticipate along the way as well as the basic principles that create the foundation for their initiative. They also define their visions for a successful outcome and offer suggestions for others who are considering organizing for better Internet access.

Check out the clever short film created to help launch Municipal Broadband PDX:

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 ...

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