Tag: "regional"

Posted August 15, 2017 by lgonzalez

For the past year, six municipalities along with local colleges and universities have collaborated to lay the groundwork for fiber optic infrastructure in the greater Asheville area. The group, West Next Generation Network (WestNGN), is now ready to find a partner to begin hammering out details in order to realize the concept. They’ve released the WestNGN Broadband Request for Negation (RFN) and responses are due September 21st.

The plan closely resembles the North Carolina Next Generation Network (NCNGN) in the Research Triangle area of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill. WestNGN will include the communities of Asheville, Biltmore Forest, Fletcher, Hendersonville, Laurel Park, and Waynesville - all of which belong to the Land of Sky Regional Council. The Council has helped with administration and in drafting the RFN aimed at improving local connectivity and boosting regional economic development.

Strategic Alliance Partnership

WestNGN’s RFN states that they want to establish a Strategic Alliance Partnership with a single ISP or a group of ISPs that possess an interest in both providing service and in deployment. WestNGN puts negotiation of ownership of assets and use of those assets at the top of the list for discussion points, signaling that rhey aren't set on a fixed approach. Similarly, they hope to negotiate matters such as management, operation, and maintenance of local networks; ways to speed up deployment and reduce costs; and ways to better serve low-income residents.

Goals For The Network

WestNGN plans to bring gigabit connectivity to residents, businesses, and community anchor institutions in the region. They specifically state their priority for this level of capacity, but note that their future partner will have time to gradually implement it, if necessary. They also stress the need for symmetrical service speeds. Several employers in the region have determined that upload speeds - from their offices and for their employees at home - are increasingly desirable. The consortium has recognized that home-based businesses in the region are also multiplying every year.

WestNGN states that they want to increase the amount of dark fiber available to lease to all providers. Potential partners should be willing... Read more

Posted July 24, 2017 by lgonzalez

Like other states with significant rural populations, local communities in Indiana have been working to come up with ways to improve connectivity for residents and businesses. Two more areas in Indiana can expect better connectivity as county government invests for economic development and a rural electric co-op decides its time to offer Internet access to members.

Jackson County Rural Electric Membership Corporation

In the south central section of the state, Jackson County Rural Electric Membership Corporation (REMC) serves members in ten counties. Their members don’t live in areas in and around the larger towns in the region because most of those premises already had electric service when REMC obtained a federal loan to electrify the area in 1937. Their service area covers about 1,400 square miles and they serve 24,200 members.

In June, the cooperative announced that it had approved a five-year plan to provide Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) connectivity to every member in its service area. In their press release, REMC compared the project to rural electrification, which launched the cooperative, and wrote: 

Several factors were taken into consideration: enhancing the quality of life for members, agricultural and agribusiness needs, providing an enhanced path for education and healthcare opportunities, keeping our communities economically viable, and developing a plan where no REMC member is eft out. All of these facts fall under Cooperative Principle #7: Concern for Community.

A Big Project

REMC will invest approximately $5.43 million for the project’s first phase; the entire project will cost $20 million in Jackson County alone. The investment for REMC’s entire service area will be $60 million. Co-op officials estimate the project will be cash positive in three years and will be completely paid for in 16 years.

In June, Jackson County Council unanimously approved a tax abatement for the cost of phase 1, which establishes the backbone for the system and snakes through most of the counties in REMC’s service area. Phase 1 will also include an opportunity to test the network by connecting approximately 990 members in order to work out problems before offering services to members across the entire network.

... Read more

Posted July 14, 2017 by lgonzalez

Just like cities around the county, rural communities are all unique. Nevertheless, there are some common steps they can take to improve the likelihood of achieving better local connectivity. The Arizona Rural Development Council and the Local First Arizona Foundation are hosting a free webinar series and on July 26th, the topic will be “Can You Hear Me Now? Strategies for Rural Broadband Access.”

The webinar is scheduled for Wednesday, July 26th, at 10:00 AM Pacific.

The webinar description:

As we progress into a world driven by technology the need for broadband access is hardly an option, it is a necessity. During this month's webinar, we will hear from four highly experienced professionals advocating for broadband access in rural communities around the state and the nation. 

Attendees of this webinar will learn:

  • Steps communities can make to ensure they are fiber ready
  • Alternative solutions to broadband access
  • How to work regionally or within a county
  • How to leverage any and all existing resources
  • Unique factors of costs to broadband deployment on tribal lands

On July 26th, presenters will include:

Deb Socia, Executive Director of Next Century Cities

Blake Mobley, Rio Blanco County, Colorado’s IT Director

Belinda Nelson, Gila River Telecommunications and member of the Gila River Pima tribe

Bruce Holdridge, Gila River Telecommunications

 

You can register for the free event online.

 

Posted July 8, 2017 by lgonzalez

The communities of Calais and Baileyville in Maine are joining forces and investing in fiber optic infrastructure. Recently, the city councils in both communities along with the local economic development corporation decided to construct a publicly owned dark fiber network. They’ve also chosen a local firm to construct it.

Dark Fiber

The idea for the project started in 2015 when the Downeast Economic Development Corporation (DEDC) contacted local Pioneer Broadband to discuss ways to improve connectivity. DEDC is a non-profit entity engaged in improving economic development in the region. Calais’s choices for Internet access were limited and some areas out of the city had no Internet access at all. DECD hired Pioneer to develop a feasibility study which would provide suggestions to improve access for both businesses and residents, with symmetrical connectivity a priority.

Pioneer’s study suggested a dark fiber municipal network with connectivity to all premises in Calais and adjoining Baileyville. ISPs will they have the opportunity to offer services to the community via the publicly owned infrastructure. Julie Jordan, director of Downeast Economic Development Corporation said: 

“I’m pleased to say that the Baileyville Town Council, Calais City Council and Downeast Economic Development board of directors have all endorsed this exciting project. We look forward to working with Pioneer and developing results that can dramatically improve service in our towns. With the construction of the fiber optic infrastructure, Calais and Baileyville businesses and residents will have access to state of the art, high speed, reliable internet and these communities will be poised for the jobs of today and tomorrow. Telecommuting options, telemedicine, online education, and media streaming will all be greatly enhanced.”

Along The Border

Calais has three ports of entry into Canada and is located on its southeastern border in Washington County. There are approximately 3,100 people in Calais and another 1,500 in Baileyville, which is just north. Retail... Read more

Posted July 1, 2017 by lgonzalez

In true publicly owned network fashion, ECFiber in Vermont has increased speeds without raising rates. This is the third such speed increase in four years that did not come with a price increase. Even better, ECFiber plans to do it again next year.

The break down of the changes are:

Basic: Increases from 10 Megabits per second (Mbps) to 17 Mbps

Standard: Increases from 25 Mbps to 40 Mbps

Ultra: Doubles from 100 Mbps to 200 Mbps

Wicked: Goes from 500 Mbps to 700 Mbps

All speeds from ECFiber are symmetrical, so upload and download speeds are the same. Later this year, the organization plans to increase speeds again and the organization will offer a gigabit plan.

Publicly Owned Networks Are Doing It

Municipal networks and regional networks make it a habit to increase speeds with modest or no price increases. We’ve noticed the behavior in several places, but gathered data for eight publicly owned networks in the state of Tennessee to highlight this characteristic.

Check out our Municipal Networks: Speed Increases & Affordable Prices fact sheet.

Expanding While Saving Public Dollars

As we reported in March, the town-owned Communications Union District is expanding and building out in remaining member towns. They are also serving community facilities, such as schools, libraries, and town halls with the fastest speeds available for only $74 per month. Incumbents charge $2,000 per month for the same level of service. In a school, that comes to about $23,000 each year to free up for educational programs, rather than telecommunications costs.

Listen our recent conversation with Carole Monroe and Irv Thomae about the network in episode 251 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast.

Posted May 9, 2017 by lgonzalez

Southwest Minnesota Broadband Services (SMBS) is now rolling out gigabit connectivity to local communities. Local leaders and network officials anticipate the upgrade will attract more jobs and more people to this rural area of the state:

"Jackson is very fortunate. This is something that a lot of people probably take for granted and don't realize how lucky we are in greater Minnesota to have high capacity access," said Jackson City Administrator Jennifer Bromeland.

"It's just been so vitally important, and to be able to offer that in the communities of our size is just something else. It's absolutely fabulous," SMBS General Manager Travis Thies said.

Regional Effort

SMBS received $12.8 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funding to add to their own contributions, for the 181-mile fiber project in 2012. The publicly owned regional network serves the communities of Jackson, Bingham Lake, Heron Lake, Lakefield, Brewster, Wilder, Okabena, and Round Lake. Several of the communities in the consortium had been told by incumbent CenturyTel (now CenturyLink) they would never get upgrades faster than dial-up because the towns were just too small to justify investment from a national provider. Now all the communities collectively own the high-speed fiber-optic network. 

Local businesses strongly supported the project and helped secure the ARRA funding with letters to the federal government expressing the need for better connectivity in the region. Municipal facilities were connected to the Internet via 1.5 Mbps connections that drained bandwidth for the rest of the community. Local healthcare facilities and nonprofits also stepped up to submit appeals to the federal government. Clearly, the entire region - and all sectors in it - needed better connectivity.

Things have changed since the communities took matters into their own hands.

"We have the fiber set up to many of our businesses and residents right now, so we have had this for a while and it's helping or businesses to meet their goals and just helping us to keep people in Jackson and attract people to want to move to Jackson," said Bromeland.

Better Broadband On The Prairie

In addition to bringing high-quality Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) access to people... Read more

Posted March 9, 2017 by lgonzalez

Residents and businesses in rural regions between Reno and Las Vegas recently learned that their odds at obtaining high-quality Internet access just went through the roof. A collaboration between county owned Churchill County Communications (CC Communications), the Valley Communications Association of Pahrump (VCA), and Switch technology company to deploy a middle mile fiber-optic backbone will open up a range of possibilities for rural communities along the U.S. Highway 95. The route runs north and south along Nevada's far west, passing through a number of small towns that are welcoming the new alliance.

A Backbone Running North And South

For the past 11 months, CC Communications and the VCA have been working to deploy more than 450 miles of fiber from north to south. Switch provided funding for the deployment to link its data centers in Las Vegas and the Tahoe-Reno area and will also provide funding for expansion to some rural communities. VCA will service the network in the south and Churchill will care for the north section.

Along the backbone, CC Communications and VCA will connect local communities. Beatty, in southern Nevada, plans to be the first use the new infrastructure and to deploy fiber in the community. The unincorporated community is home to about 1,000 people and is about 120 miles northwest of Las Vegas. According to Valley Electric Association, the rural electric cooperative that owns and operates VCA, they have plans to expand fiber throughout the Beatty community.

“With that backbone, you can link up any town anywhere near it,” said Michael Hengel, spokesman for the Valley Electric Association. “The first all-fiber community in Nevada will be Beatty.”

logo-valley-communications.png

Like other rural electric utilities that have chosen to offer broadband, Valley Electric will be using its existing fiber resources initially installed for managing electric distribution for customer connectivity. The cooperative is currently offering fixed wireless Internet access with plans to offer... Read more

Posted February 16, 2017 by htrostle

In 2008, the counties of Accomack and Northampton created the Eastern Shore of Virginia Broadband Authority (ESVBA) to serve local needs and boost economic development. NASA provided key funding to build the backbone of the regional network. Today, the ESVBA has already improved wireless services in several communities and is at work on a Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) test project.

The space agency played a key role in bringing high-speed connectivity to rural communities on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Virginia, employs 1,100 people, launches rockets, and features a visitor center. Government agencies, local schools, and healthcare institutions on the shore all needed reliable connectivity for their programs.

Internet Service Like Lightspeed

The FTTH test project started last September in Harborton, Virginia, as part of the Town Broadband Initiative Project. The landscape is typical of rural Virginia with little density as houses and businesses spread out into the woods. They have recently signed up the first few customers; this small town on the eastern shore has about 100 homes.

Community Effort: Local Seed Funding

In 2008, the counties of Accomack and Northampton created the public, not for profit entity through the Virginia Wireless Service Authorities Act to solve a growing problem on the shore. The lack of connectivity was having a negative impact on local rural communities. The counties provided an initial sum of about $270,00 to ESVBA to plan the network. 

logo-ESVBA.png

Then the ESVBA went in search of further funding. They received about $8 million in federal and state support - nearly half of which came from NASA - to build the middle mile backbone. Funding for the last mile to residential properties and small businesses came from the communities themselves, with about $... Read more

Posted December 13, 2016 by lgonzalez

Residents and businesses in Rangely and Meeker are starting to feel the speed of the Rio Blanco County Broadband Project. The network is now offering fiber connectivity to the northwest Colorado towns.

Options At Last

The network brings choice and speed to Rio Blanco County, reports the Herald Times:

In just three years, Meeker and Rangely have gone from having a single choice for limited bandwidth internet to multiple local companies offering some of the biggest bandwidth packages available in the nation.

Subscribers have the option to choose between two providers which are offering services via the open access infrastructure. Local Access Internet (LAI) and Cimarron Telecommunications are both local providers that began offering wireless Internet access to subscribers before the project commenced. LAI also offers technical troubleshooting for PCS, laptops and cell phones.

Both companies offer symmetrical Gigabit Internet access (1,000 Megabits per second download and upload) for $70 per month. They match each others’ prices on two lower tiers also: $40 per month for 25 Mbps download / 5 Mbps upload and $55 per month for 100 Mbps download and 25 Mbps upload. Cimarron and LAI still offer fixed wireless packages.

We spoke with Bob Knight at Cimarron who told us that the 100 Mbps / 25 Mbps tier was the most popular with their subscribers, who are often families that run multiple devices simultaneously. While businesses are requesting the service, residents who have had little options except expensive and unreliable satellite are clearly hungry for better Internet access.

Bob was quick to point out that he expects the network to be an enticing economic development tool in Rio Blanco County. He says the quality of life is already good there and pointed out that there is ample hiking, fishing, biking, and other outdoor recreation. With high-quality Internet access, he hopes to see more entrepreneurs and families looking for clean air and beautiful country.

How Did They Get To Here?

In 2014, Rio Blanco County... Read more

Posted December 8, 2016 by Scott

Summit County in central Colorado is exploring how to bring Gigabit connectivity (1,000 Megabits per second) to homes and businesses in its region. 

The County recently issued a Request for Information (RFI) seeking Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to participate in a public-private partnership to bring a Fiber-to-the-Premises (FTTP) network to local businesses and residents. The County is also looking for a private partner to help deploy wireless broadband service. The deadline for submitting RFI responses is Jan. 9, 2017.

In its RFI, the County said it:

“[R]ecognizes that it may be economically challenging to deploy fiber-to-the premises infrastructure throughout the County and thus understands that early investments may focus on population centers in the County. The County’s hope, however, is that world-class networks will eventually expand to the less populous areas of the County.”  

The county indicated it is seeking proposals from a potential private sector partner who would be interested in establishing a long-term relationship. 

Summit County’s RFI comes a year after citizens voted in a referendum to opt out of Colorado SB 152, the state law that prevents local governments from providing service or partnering with private sector partners. More than two dozen local communities opted out of SB 152 this past fall, bringing the total to 95 Colorado communities, which have chosen to reclaim local telecommunications authority. 

Summit County Overview 

Summit County (pop. 29,000) is nestled among the high peaks of the Colorado Rockies and is about an hour’s drive from the Denver metro area. About 80 percent of the county’s 630 square miles are federal public land; its governmental roots date back to... Read more

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