Tag: "regional"

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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Posted November 13, 2018 by lgonzalez

When anti-muni groups have taken aim at publicly owned networks, they’ve often put UTOPIA in their crosshairs. The Utah Telecommunications Open Infrastructure Agency has had times of struggle, but those days seem to be over. The network is expanding, subscribers are touting the benefits that come with the choice of an open access network, and other communities are reaching out to UTOPIA for advice. Days in UTOPIA country are sunny.

In this interview, Christopher speaks with Kimberly McKinley, UTOPIA’s Chief Marketing Officer, about the new and improved UTOPIA. Kimberly describes some of the ways the agency has adjusted their thinking from public entity to public entity with a competitive edge. She notes that marketing isn’t something that organizations such as public utilities think they need to worry about, but in the world of connectivity, strong marketing strategy pays off.

Along with lessons learned, Kimberly shares the triumphs that have turned UTOPIA into the leader in the region. UTOPIA’s footprint is growing, their services are expanding, and they’re influencing more communities. They’ve worked hard to reach this level of success and we see their trajectory to continue upward.

Check out more coverage of UTOPIA on MuniNetworks.org.

Read the transcript for the show.

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

This show is 18 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed. You can...

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Posted November 6, 2018 by lgonzalez

This week, Christopher presents the last of the interviews he conducted while at the 2018 Broadband Communities Economic Development Conference in Ontario, California, in October. As long as he was in the Golden State, he decided to check in with Jory Wolf, Vice President of Digital Innovation at Magellan Advisors.

Jory may work in the consulting field now, but he’s known by the MuniNetworks.org audience as the man behind Santa Monica CityNet. When he retired from his position as CIO at the city after 22 years, Jory didn’t settle for the slow lane. Now he’s working with communities all over California and in other states find ways to improve their local connectivity.

In this interview, he sits down with Christopher and discusses several of the many California projects he’s been working on, including regional initiatives in South Bay and Ventura County. Jory shares some of the discoveries that local communities have made as they’ve sought out ways to make the most out of their existing assets and develop new types of partnerships with the private sector. With his years of expertise and his ability to find ways to overcome challenges that local governments encounter, Jory has the right skillset to help his clients prepare for a future of better connectivity.

You can also listen to Jory and Christopher discuss CityNet in a podcast episode from 2014.

Read the...

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Posted October 30, 2018 by lgonzalez

While Christopher was in Ontario, California, at the 2018 Broadband Communities Economic Development Conference, he took advantage of the opportunity and recorded several discussions with experts to share with our Community Broadband Bits Podcast audience. This week, we’re presenting his conversation with Deb Socia, Executive Director of Next Century Cities, and Bob Knight, Executive Vice President and COO of Harrison Edwards. His Public Relations and Marketing Firm has some special insight into the broadband industry.

In their discussion, Deb, Bob, and Christopher get into the challenge that faces every community that searches for ways to improve local connectivity — political will.

We often report on communities that are considering some level of investment in publicly owned Internet network infrastructure. From convening committees to commissioning feasibility studies to entering into talks with potential partners there are many steps that a community may take that may lead to nowhere. The reality is that moving from consideration to implementation is a path filled with potential pitfalls, especially when elected officials face challenges from incumbents bent on maintaining their positioning in a community. It’s also a process to determine if a publicly owned network is right for a community; every place is different and each local government faces the process of discovering what’s best for them.

Bob and Deb have worked with many local officials and have seen firsthand the types of issues that can fracture political will toward a local broadband initiative. In this...

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Posted October 8, 2018 by lgonzalez

Local governments in Maine have been going all out in the past few years to address the problem of lack of high-quality Internet access in rural areas. Now, Cumberland County is using Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) to help develop a resource they hope will assist local communities interested in publicly owned Internet access infrastructure. They’ve released a Request for Proposals (RFP) to Develop Regional Broadband Planning and Management; proposals are due October 31, 2018.

Read the full RFP here.

The Playbook

Elected officials in Cumberland County report that local community leaders from different towns throughout the county have expressed an interest in a regional initiative for better connectivity. At least four towns and the Greater Portland area have been working to develop broadband plans with an eye toward regional possibilities. This RFP is an effort to bring all those separate plans together and examine the possibility of a regional utility.

The county has determined that the playbook should provide information in three main areas: resource mapping, financing, and utility development. 

Information to be included in the document will provide estimated costs and challenges of building fiber networks to each municipality in Cumberland County. This mapping portion of the playbook should compare last mile connectivity costs to middle mile network costs, consider specific plans for some of the county’s hard-to-reach areas, and examine working with privately owned fiber that is currently in place.

County officials want respondents to investigate and propose ways to finance a regional utility. They also want to know more about models that include both publicly owned and privately owned infrastructure. As part of the playbook, county officials expect a survey of residents in Cumberland County.

logo-DBU.jpg Lastly, the county wants a resource that will help local communities band together to form a broadband utility that can serve the region. According to the RFP, county officials...

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Posted October 2, 2018 by lgonzalez

While major media outlets cover news about California Governor Jerry Brown’s decision to sign the state’s network neutrality bill, we’re high-fiving his signature on AB 1999. On September 30th, Gov. Brown approved the bill that removes state restrictions limiting publicly owned options for rural Internet access. The change signifies what we hope to see more of - state action empowering local communities set on improving local connectivity.

We’ve been following the development of the bill, introduced by Assembly Member Ed Chau, since early this year when it began to make its way through committee. Christopher went to California in May to testify in support of the bill at a hearing of the Assembly Communications and Conveyance Committee.

Easing the Way for Rural Communities

AB 1999 focuses on the responsibilities and authority of community service districts (CSDs), created to provide necessary services. CSDs are independent local governments usually formed by residents in unincorporated areas for the purpose of providing the kinds of services city-dwellers often take for granted: water and wastewater management, trash collection, fire protection, etc. In keeping with the ability to raise funds for these services, CSDs have the authority to create enhanced infrastructure financing districts (EIFDs). CSDs are allowed to use EIFDs to fund development of Internet access infrastructure in the same way they would sewer infrastructure, or convert overhead utilities to underground, or other projects that deal with infrastructure and are in the public interest.

Prior to the adoption of AB 1999, however, a CSD would first have to engage in a process to determine that no person or entity was willing to provide Internet access before the CSD could offer it to premises. Additionally, if a private sector entity came along after the infrastructure was deployed and expressed a willingness to do so, the CSD had no choice by law but to sell or lease the infrastructure they had developed rather than operate it themselves.

With the passage of AB 1999, CSDs no longer need to adhere to those strict requirements.

When the California State Legislature chose to pass the...

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