Tag: "retail"

Posted March 18, 2019 by lgonzalez

Last week, Trustees in Estes Park, Colorado, unanimously voted to change the community’s municipal code in order to bring constituents what they want — a publicly owned broadband network.

Strong Support

It’s been four years since 92 percent of voters in Estes Park chose to opt out of the state’s restrictive SB 152. By reclaiming local telecommunications authority through the opt out referendum in 2015, the mountain town of approximately 6,300 residents was able to explore possibilities for better connectivity. 

After several days-long outages caused by lack of redundant infrastructure in the area, local business leaders and town officials knew it was time to take control of the situation. Surveys in the community revealed that approximately two-thirds of respondents want better connectivity in the community and of those respondents, 40 percent consider it the most important service the town can offer. 

Recently, local editors from the Trail Gazette echoed the sentiments of the community and urged community leaders to end discussion and take action:

…Estes Park needs more action and less discussion for greater access to information and global connectivity. No longer is accessible, fast and reliable broadband Internet a luxury; it is a necessity in our digital world.

Prior to the March 12th vote, the Broad of Trustees opened up the meeting to allow comments from the public. In addition to Trustees’ questions about economic development, reliability, and potential capacity of the proposed infrastructure, residents stepped forward to voice their opinions.

Not one citizen spoke out against the project.

Town resident Michael Bertrand, who works as an asset manager for a real estate investment firm and works remotely, opened up public comment with a statement in favor of the project. "I need reliable internet," Bertrand said. "I've had fiber in other locations in the past and it's incredible. The speeds you get are just fantastic."

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Posted January 17, 2019 by lgonzalez

Last spring, we reported on Anacortes, Washington’s efforts to evaluate private sector partners to deliver high-quality connectivity via their publicly owned fiber optic infrastructure. After examining their financial position, the desires of the community, and considering the pros and cons, the community has decided to offer services directly to the public. The island community will start deployment in 2019 and plans to have the network completed within four years.

Moving Along

Director of Anacortes Administrative Services Emily Schuh reached out to us to let us know that the city will be expanding from their fiber back bone to serve businesses and households in the community and to update us on the project. She also wanted to let us know that Anacortes is actively recruiting for a Municipal Broadband Business Manager.

Anacortes (pop. approx. 17,000) lies off the coast of Washington on Fidalgo Island, connected to the mainland via two bridges and ferry. Regular readers of MuniNetworks.org will recognize Mount Vernon on the map, located east and operating a municipal open access network for decades. Comcast offers Internet access throughout Anacortes and DSL service is available from Frontier, but businesses and residents want access to more reliable connections and faster upload speeds, which are not forthcoming with the incumbent ISPs.

In 2016, community leaders chose to work with the Northwest Open Access Network (NoaNet) to replace an existing radio-based system they used to monitor water and wastewater utility systems. There were dead zones that could not receive signals, Schuh told us. Anacortes became the first municipality to use active water infrastructure to house fiber optic conduit in the U.S. The city’s municipal utilities use the network to monitor the water treatment plant, wastewater treatment plant, sewer pump stations...

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Posted March 29, 2018 by lgonzalez

Cortez is ready to use its publicly owned infrastructure to begin a Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) pilot project. At the March 27th City Council meeting, members unanimously approved fees and rates for the Cortez Community Network Pilot, which marks a shift as the city moves to offer retail Internet access to residents and businesses.

Time To Serve Residents

Earlier this month, General Services Director Rick Smith presented information to the City Council about the pilot at a workshop so they could ask in-depth questions. At the workshop, City Manager Shane Hale described the challenges of finding ISPs willing to offer residential Internet access via Cortez’s fiber infrastructure. “We found that there were very few providers that actually wanted to go Fiber-to-the-Home,” he said. “Homeowners are a lot of work.”

The city’s network has provided open access fiber connectivity to municipal and county facilities, schools, community anchor institutions (CAIs), and downtown businesses for years. They officially launched the network in 2011 after serving public facilities and a few businesses on an as-needed basis. A 2015 expansion brought the network allowed Cortez to offer fiber connectivity to more premises. There are at least seven private sector ISPs using the infrastructure to offer services to local businesses.

The open access model will remain for commercial connections in Cortez, but for now the city plans to operate as a retail ISP for residents who sign up on the pilot program. At the March 27th meeting, the City Council established rates for subscribers, who will pay $150 for installation and $60 per month for 100 Megabits per second (Mbps) for upload and download speeds. Subscribers will also need to rent a GigaCenter Wi-Fi router for $10 per month.

Waiting On The Wings Of The Pilot Program

According to Smith, potential subscribers are already interested in signing up to participate in the pilot program. He told the Cortez Journal that 11 residents were in the process of being connected and 58 residents and...

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Posted February 8, 2018 by lgonzalez

In a series of decisions, Loveland, Colorado’s City Council voted earlier this week to take the next step toward developing a municipal broadband network. In addition to allocating funds to develop a business plan, city leadership established an advisory board, accepted task force recommendations, and voted to amended current code to allow the electric utility to handle communications activities.

No Public Vote

The council addressed whether or not to ask voters to approve efforts to establish a municipal broadband network, even though the issue was not part of the agenda. City staff drafted an amendment during the meeting to require a vote, but after prolonged discussion City Council members voted 5-4 against including it.

Last fall, the city of Fort Collins needed to bring the issue before voters in order to amend their charter so community leaders could move forward with a municipal network. After spending more than $900,000 through a bogus citizens group to try to stop the measure, Comcast was unable to persuade Fort Collins to defeat it. Nevertheless, most of Loveland’s council members don’t want a repeat of the expensive hassle in Fort Collins.

Councilman John Fogle said that, prior to the Fort Collins election, he supported the idea of a vote on the issue, but he feels different now. "It's not an even playing field when incumbent industries will spend $900,000 at the drop of the hat to perpetuate ... a monopoly," he said at the February 6th Council meeting.

Other council members who voiced opposition to a vote said that they’ve heard from constituents since 2015, when the city voted to opt out of the state’s restrictive SB 152. Since then, residents have contacted them to express their support to move the project forward. "I'm tired of being beaten," said Councilor Rich Ball, "...

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Posted January 17, 2018 by christopher

Do municipal fiber networks offer lower prices than the their competitors? Yes, almost always, according to a study from Harvard's Berkman Klein Center called Community-Owned Fiber Networks: Value Leaders in America.

David Talbot, a Fellow at Harvard's Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society, joins us for episode 289 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast to discuss the study, conclusions, and challenges. He was last on episode 162 to talk about a report they did on muni fiber in Massachusetts. 

We talk about the challenges of doing an analysis like this, the range of results, and how pricing from munis tends to not only be lower but also more transparent. 

This show is 19 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed.

Read the transcript for this show here.

You can download this mp3 file directly from here. Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Thanks to Arne Huseby for the music. The song is Warm Duck Shuffle and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.

Posted November 22, 2017 by lgonzalez

Like some of the foods on a traditional Thanksgiving Day table, different publicly owned network models uniquely suit the needs of their communities. We all have our favorite dish from a holiday dinner, which made us reflect on some of the characteristics of five of the most well known models and their benefits. We found fun comparisons to share with readers who understand the way publicly owned fiber optic networks nourish the communities they serve.

The Turkey = Full Retail Service

The most common for citywide networks, just as turkey is often the centerpiece of a Thanksgiving Day dinner. The retail model offers services directly to the public the same way a private cable company do, only usually with better customer service and better quality. Telephone, Internet access, and video are the services many offer to subscribers. Chattanooga’s EPB Fiber Optics is the most famous example. Others include Lafayette, Louisiana, where take rates have recently topped 45 percent. Another example is Sandy, Oregon, where subscribers can get symmetrical gigabit connectivity for around $60 per month.

Stuffing = Dark Fiber and Conduit

stuffing.jpg It does its most important job out of sight. In a turkey, it adds flavor to the bird. In a network, it provides a low cost, cow risk option that can attract competition for the community. In states where municipalities are not allowed to use their own infrastructure to serve the public, dark fiber and conduit can serve as the foundation for partnerships that fill in gaps left by incumbents. Lincoln, Nebraska’s extensive conduit network eventually led to a Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) venture with a private sector ISP. Rockport, Maine, has deployed dark fiber and has the first municipal network in the state; they work with a local ISP to serve businesses and other local institutions.

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Posted August 25, 2017 by lgonzalez

Bit by bit, Anacortes has been taking steps to cultivate better connectivity in their community of approximately 16,000. Earlier this week, city leaders decided to move forward with a survey to determine if residents and businesses are interested in service from a municipal Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network.

Considering The Next Steps

At the August 21st City Council meeting, staff provided an update of the project that the city is working on with Northwest Open Access Network (NoaNet) to improve city water utility efficiencies. Anacortes needed better communications between more than 30 pump stations, reservoirs, and water treatment plants and, working with NoaNet, determined that they could use abandoned water lines for fiber conduit. They’re nearing the end of what they describe as Phase I of the project.

Phase II involves determining whether or not the city wants to harness extra dark fiber capacity in the backbone for a municipal FTTH network throughout the community. Before they decide to move forward with a trial system, Anacortes and NoaNet will reach out to the community for their input starting with a survey. At the meeting the City Council approved $10,000 to fund the survey, which will also help determine which areas have the greatest demand.

If the community decides it wants a municipal network, Phase III would depend on the success of the “trial phase” and would require installation of fiber within the community. While Anacortes is still developing solid details for this phase of the plan, early discussions indicate they will take an incremental or fiberhood approach based on demand in particular areas of town. 

So Many Choices

City leaders anticipate an open access model, but they are considering also taking on an additional role as a retail Internet Service Provider. In order to examine all the options, city staff are examining several possible models. One of their primary goals is to increase competition.

Posted July 12, 2017 by lgonzalez

When local communities look for ways to improve connectivity, they may consider investing in a municipal fiber optic network. As they begin to review possible options, local officials, their staff, and community groups will realize that there are a number of potential models. We’ve put together the Muni Fiber Models fact sheet that takes a brief look at those models and provides some examples.

From “Retail” to “Tubes In The Ground”

Chattanooga is the most well known municipal Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network and is offered by the community’s Electric Power Board (EPB). EPB’s service offers telephone, Internet access, and video service directly to subscribers. The fact sheet provides more examples of communities that have decided that full retail service is right for them. On the other end of the spectrum, places like Lincoln, Nebraska, provide only the infrastructure and lease it to private sector providers who then offer retail services to businesses and residents. The other approaches we find most commonly used include open accessI-Nets, and Partnerships between local government and the private sector.

We’ve included short explanations for each model and provide some examples for a starting point. We encourage you to share the fact sheet with others who are interested in learning about different paths to better connectivity through publicly owned networks.

Download the Muni Fiber Models fact sheet here.

Review our other fact sheets and check back periodically for new additions. Fact sheets are a great way to quickly and easily share information and cultivate interest in learning more.

 

Posted February 23, 2017 by lgonzalez

While people in rural Washington State continue to limp long on DSL, satellite, and even dial-up, two bills in the state legislature that would have allowed public utility districts (PUDs) to offer retail services stalled in committee. 

Rural Areas Need Retail Service From The PUDs

State law requires PUDs to adhere to the wholesale-only model so rural residents and businesses can't obtain the connectivity they need because national providers don't offer high-quality Internet access in those regions. If no providers are interested in working with the PUDs to lease fiber infrastructure to serve rural areas, potential subscribers in the hardest to reach areas are just out of luck. These two bills would have filled the gaps by allowing PUDs to directly serve customers.

One Step Forward

HB 1938 was reviewed and there was some testimony in the House Technology & Economic Development Committee, but no vote. The Senate companion, SB 5139, was never picked up in the Senate Energy, Environment & Telecommunications Committee. In order for the bills to advance, they needed to pass out of their referred committees by February 17th.

Even though these bills failed to move forward, the fact that they were introduced and one obtained attention from committee members is encouraging. If you live in rural Washington, you understand how difficult it is to obtain fast, affordable, reliable connectivity. You don’t need to wait until a bill has been introduced to contact your elected officials to let them know you support state policies like HB 1938 and SB 5139; they want to hear from you all year.

Posted February 16, 2017 by lgonzalez

Two Washington state bills in separate committees would allow public utility districts (PUDs) to offer retail communications services. HB 1938 and SB 5139 are the kind of legislation that would allow local communities to improve connectivity. Now, PUDs are restricted to the wholesale-only model, but businesses and residents in rural areas question the wisdom of the restriction.

Unfortunately, big incumbent providers have sent their lobbyists to fight against the two bills and the efforts to pass them are having a difficult time competing. A few representatives from local public utility districts testified in the House committee hearing, but the telecom industry sent out its army in full force.

In order for this bill to go anywhere this session, it needs to be passed by the House Technology & Economic Development Committee and the Senate Energy, Environment & Telecommunications Committee this week. While the bill has had some attention in the House Committee, it has yet to be voted on. It isn’t on the Senate Committee’s agenda, so it doesn’t look likely to move in that body.

Nevertheless, this is an opportunity for Washington constituents to call their state elected officials and let them know that, even if this bill doesn’t go anywhere this session, this is the type of legislative change they want for better connectivity.

You can contact House Committee and Senate Committee members and also touch base with your own Representatives and Senators and express your desires to see more legislation like this. Even if the bill doesn’t go anywhere this session, lay the groundwork for future change.

Video from the brief discussion of the bill in the House Committee:

 

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