Tag: "upgrade"

Posted June 24, 2019 by htrostle

Ponca City, Oklahoma, is a small community of about 24,000 just 30 miles off of I-35. Although known for its history museums, Ponca City also has a rich history in its publicly owned network. The city was one of the pioneers of citywide Wi-Fi in the 2000s, and now they are embarking on a Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) project. Construction on the first phase of the network will be complete with customers online by mid-July. We spoke with David Williams, the Director of Technology Services, to learn more about Ponca City’s project. 

The First Phase

The first phase of the new FTTH network is a small section of the city, a 1 mile by 1.5 mile rectangle bounded by Bradley Avenue, Highland Avenue, 14th Street, and Union Street where the city is primarily deploying aerially on poles. The entire city is only about 20 square miles and the entire network for the city will eventually be a mix of underground and overhead deployment, matching the municipal electric network infrastructure.

The engineering estimate for the first phase puts the cost at approximately $3.5 million. The city estimated how many people will sign up for service (the take rate) very conservatively and is on track to meet its target number.

PoncaCity-small.jpeg Williams said they chose to focus exclusively on Internet service and will have no data caps or subscriber contracts. There will be an activation fee with two payment options: a one-time payment of $200 or $10 per month for 24 months.

Residents can choose from three speed tiers all are symmetrical:

  • 50 Mbps for $60 per month
  • 100 Mbps for $100 per month
  • 1 Gbps for $250 per month

Service for businesses will also be available; rates are available on a case-by-case basis.

There were about 395 pre-sign ups for the city’s fiber Internet access service according to Williams. Pre-sign ups are non-binding expressions of interest in the project. When...

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Posted May 30, 2019 by Katie Kienbaum

Beresford, South Dakota (pop. 2,000), has a long history of providing for itself. Located in the southeast corner of the state, Beresford operates its own electric utility as well as a municipal liquor store and golf course. For nearly 90 years, the city has also provided communications services to the community with the Beresford Municipal Telephone Company (BMTC), which currently offers DSL connectivity to residents and businesses.

In response to subscriber requests for faster speeds, BMTC recently decided to replace its old copper lines with a fully fiber optic network. The Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) upgrade will improve the network’s capacity and reliability, and city officials are optimistic about the potential benefits of better connectivity. “This is really a game changer for us,” said Beresford Mayor Nathan Anderson in a press release announcing the project.

Project Details

Over the next year, BMTC will deploy 70 miles of fiber to replace its current network. The new FTTH network will be capable of gigabit speeds, which over ten times faster than what BMTC can offer now.

“Our copper infrastructure has supported our many services over the years,” explained BMTC General Manager Todd Hansen, “but fiber optic cable improves speed, provides stability and will increase bandwidth.”

City officials believe the new fiber network will help the community grow. “Fiber is really going to help us to recruit and retain people to come, live, work, play and spend in Beresford,” Mayor Anderson said. “It’s potentially going to open new opportunities not just for residents but also for businesses.”

Beresford plans to spend approximately $5 million building the new network. At a March city council meeting, council members decided to commit $2.5 million to the project. The city expects to finance the remaining costs by issuing bonds.

BMTC will start construction on the FTTH upgrade in the fall.

...

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Posted April 11, 2019 by Hannah Bonestroo

In Hopkinsville, Kentucky, “the idea that [Internet] connectivity is a luxury” will soon be a relic of the past. The city’s municipal electric provider, Hopkinsville Electric System (HES), is currently working through its Internet service, EnergyNet, to bring Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) to all premises.

Looking Ahead

EnergyNet has offered fiber Internet service for over 10 years to local businesses, but in January 2018, HES made the special announcement that it would soon be providing the same service to all local residences, with the goal of making Hopkinsville the next “gig city.”  The General Manager of HES, Jeff Herd, explained that by offering fiber Internet service, HES “is looking ahead and building infrastructure not only for today’s needs, but any future needs [Hopkinsville] might have as it relates to connectivity.”

While the current plan is to offer citywide FTTH, HES is building out the network one neighborhood at a time. Hopkinsville residents can register their interest for service on the EnergyNet website and neighborhoods with the most reported interest will be served first.

All options are symmetrical, and subscribers can choose from three tiers of service:

  • $59.95 per month for 200 Mbps
  • $79.95 per month for 500 Mbps
  • $99.95 per month for for 1,000 Mbps (1 Gigabit)

The Kentucky Infrastructure Authority (KIA) has approved $4.3 million in loans to Hopkinsville Electric System in order to make the expansion happen. Past KIA loans have focused on loans to communities for water and wastewater infrastructure projects, but their Fund C program also provides loans for publicly owned broadband infrastructure.

Changing with...

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Posted November 28, 2018 by lgonzalez

In a recent episode of the Community Broadband Bits podcast, host Christopher Mitchell spoke with Hank Blackwood from Dalton Utilities in Georgia about their publicly owned network, OptiLink. Hank described an upcoming milestone for the community of around 35,000 and a few surrounding rural areas with access to the network. Now it’s official — OptiLink is the first municipal network in the state that offers residential gigabit Internet access to subscribers.

Updates, Updates

Gigabit connectivity is coming on the heels of another improvement for OptiLink subscribers. This fall, officials at Dalton Utilities launched their new video product, VidLink. Hank described that the old video equipment needed a facelift after providing services to the community for 15 years.

With VidLink and the new subscriber base it began to attract, and the desire to give Dalton the economic development tools for a truly tech-centered economy, network officials decided it was time to expand gigabit connectivity. They had offered the service to businesses for about four years and on November 19th, 2018, officially launched residential symmetrical gig service.

Residential GIGLink service is an affordable $79.95 per month when bundled with VidLink and voice. Stand alone GIGLink service costs $84.95 per month.

Households can still sign up for three other symmetrical tiers as low as $41.95 per month for 50 Megabits per second (Mbps). Bundling with voice and video saves subscribers $5 per month.

It All Began With SCADA

Dalton Utility customers have enjoyed OptiLink since 2003, but the fiber infrastructure took root in Dalton in the 1990s. Like many other municipal networks that have been serving subscribers since the early 2000s, Dalton Utilities needed better communications between facilities and the ability to better manage and control their electric, gas, water, and wastewater utilities. They developed their Supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system; soon some of the larger local businesses were approaching Dalton Utilities requesting connectivity. As a major center for carpet manufacturing, some of the community’s largest employers needed the kind of high-speed...

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Posted July 3, 2018 by lgonzalez

Another small rural community in Colorado has recently taken an important step toward better connectivity for the community. The Town of Mountain Village issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) late in June to find a firm to conduct a Broadband Assessment and Feasibility Study. Responses are due August 10, 2018.

Read the RFP here.

Assess and Propose

The Town of Mountain Village (TMV) has an existing municipal cable network that offers Internet access, voice, and video. Community leaders want to engage a firm to assess the current infrastructure, consider improvements over the next few years, and make recommendations for improvements.

In addition to searching for ways to improve service and pinpoint any potential adoption and service gaps, the consultants will also be expected to devise a broadband strategy. TMV community leaders understand that the future will require better infrastructure than they now possess. The city wants to learn about the possible outlook for Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH), potential partnerships, smart policies, and potential funding sources.

Town of Mountain Village

With only approximately 1,300 full-time residents and an additional non-resident property owner population, Mountain Village has similar qualities to some of the other rural communities we’ve covered. Penobscot, Maine, where seasonal visitors swell the population and the need for better connectivity, recently issued an RFI in their search for firms to help improve local Internet access. In addition to offering services to the general public, TMV's existing network connects municipal facilities, including water and wastewater, public transportation, public safety, parks and recreation, municipal offices, the housing authority properties.

As the name implies, TMV sits within the mountains. At the base of the Telluride Ski Resort in the southwest corner of the state, TMV adopted a free gondola and chondola (chair gondola) system as public transportation in 1996. Cars are still allowed in the town, but parking is limited to two garages and not permitted...

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Posted August 29, 2017 by lgonzalez

Several communities in Kentucky have been managing publicly owned Internet networks for decades, including Barbourville and Frankfort. Residents and businesses depend on their great customer service and quality Internet access. Like everything else, however, telecommunications infrastructure ages and now both communities are considering how to upgrade.

Barbourville Going With Fiber

Barbourville, Kentucky, began offering cable Internet access to residents in the 1990s and were one of the first to offer cable TV service back in the 1950s. Currently, residential customers can opt for 6 or 12 Megabits per second (Mbps) with 384 Kbps and 1 Mbps respectively. Now, the public utility is upgrading to Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH), which will significantly boost both download and upload speeds. Barbourville Utilities advertise identical commercial options for customers with an additional option of 25 Mbps / 2 Mbps. They also advertise symmetrical fiber optic business services that range from 6 Mbps to 10 Gigabits per second.

In their announcement, Barbourville Utilities estimates more than 4,000 residential and business customers will have access to the new FTTH service. They’re christening the new high-quality fiber Internet access “Blink” and construction will start on September 5th.

“We are extremely pleased to bring revolutionary Internet technology to our community,” Barbourville Utilities General Manager Josh Callihan said. “Increasing broadband access is a top priority in southeastern Kentucky and we are proud that our community will be a pioneer for this growth.” 

Barbourville is located in Knox County in southeastern Kentucky, within the Appalachians. Like other communities in the region, Barbourville faces unique problems that affect rural economies. Fortunately, Barbourville Utilities have already established infrastructure and the personnel in place with expertise to manage a network. Their past decision to invest in a community network will help keep them stay competitive today as new businesses look for affordable locations with high-quality connectivity.

Frankfort Considering FTTH

Earlier this month, Frankfort’s Plant Board...

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Posted June 6, 2017 by lgonzalez

In addition to studying how and where local communities examine the potential for publicly owned Internet networks, we’ve looked at rates over time in select areas of the country. We recently put together a comparison of historical rates for municipal networks in Tennessee. Our findings are consistent with what we’ve seen all over the country - publicly owned networks don't hesitate to raise speeds while keeping rates affordable. We've documented the data on our fact sheet: Municipal Networks: Speed Increases & Affordable Prices.

Not Like The Big Guys

National providers make it a habit to periodically raise rates and over time those increases add up. They’ve done it so often, subscribers have come to expect it on a regular basis. Price increases don’t usually include a speed increase. With no need to appease shareholders, officials in charge of publicly owned networks can set rates at a level that allow a network to be sustainable rather than rates that maximize profits.

Publicly owned networks have increased speeds for subscribers, often with little or no fanfare other than quietly alerting subscribers to their improved service. Places Chattanooga’s EPB, Morristown’s FiberNET, and BET in Bristol are in a much different habit than Comcast or AT&T - they increase speeds with no increase in price. Other Tennessee communities have increased speeds significantly with only slight price increases over years of service.

Speeds, Rates Then And Now

On our fact sheet, we include prices for the basic tiers now and when the network began offering services. We also compare the basic speeds when the network began serving the community and today. The results reflect how publicly owned networks focus on providing fast, affordable connectivity to subscribers rather than collecting profit from customers.

Some results may surprise you:

  • Morristown has never increased prices for their standard speed offering. It’s always been a solid $34.95 each month. The speed has increased to 50 Mbps, an 8 fold increase!
  • Bristol has operated a municipal network since 2008. The standard speed is 5X faster than when the city started building the network. (With no price increase.)
  • Chattanooga has not raised their prices since...
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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...

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Posted April 28, 2017 by lgonzalez

Coon Rapids, Iowa, recently began its upgrade project, replacing its cable network with Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH). Coon Rapids Municipal Utilities (CRMU) hopes to have the citywide project completed by late summer 2018.

Experience From The Eighties

CRMU started offering cable TV to the community in 1982. At first, the system only offered about 35 channels. In 1996, community leaders began considering the possibility of offering Internet access and formed a task force to address the idea. After talking with residents and researching other communities’ approaches, the task force recommended Coon Rapids move forward with establishing a communications system.

In 1996, 87 percent of votes cast in a referendum were in favor of investing in a municipally owned cable communications system and a similar percentage voted to have CRMU be in control of the system. By the end of August, just a few weeks after the vote, CRMU was offering dial-up Internet access.

The utility constructed a fiber-coaxial system in 1998 and within a year CRMU was providing telephone, Internet access, and cable TV services via the community network.

Coon Rapids is home to about 1,300 people and is located about an hour west of Des Moines.

Posted April 11, 2017 by htrostle

Out in Big Sky Country, some rural communities look forward to high-speed Internet service from their local telephone co-op. 3 Rivers Communications in Montana has spent the last few years steadily building out their Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network to rural residents.

This spring, 3 Rivers Communications is set to start on two new areas: an $8 million project near Choteau (pop: 1,700) and a $1.5 million project near Fairfield (pop: 700). 

Focus on Rural Residents

The local newspaper Choteau Acantha reported on 3 River Communications’ latest plans. About 500 folks will be able to get high-quality phone, video, and Internet service at home when the co-op finishes both projects in late 2017 or early 2018. 

The current plans focus on rural residents on the outskirts of both towns. Folks in Fairfield already have access to fiber service, but people within the city of Choteau have DSL. Businesses in Choteau can request fiber connections, but the co-op is not currently planning to offer fiber connectivity to residents inside town limits.

These fiber projects are all part of a larger program to upgrade in the cooperative's service area of 17,000 square miles. The co-op is taking out the old copper telephone lines and replacing them with brand new fiber-optic cables. It’s a large undertaking and will serve approximately 20,000 members.

Federal Funding for Rural Areas

To upgrade to fiber in its large service area, 3 Rivers Communications obtained funding from several federal programs, including the Rural Utilities Services (RUS) and the Universal Service Fund. The co-op received a $70 million loan in 2011 and another $30 million loan in 2016 to improve the network. 

Currently, the lowest tier bundle of phone and 10 Mbps Internet service is $85 per month, but co-op members get back excess revenue in capital credits each year. 3 Rivers General Manager Dave Gibson described the balance of costs and prices to the Choteau Acantha:

“Our customers have the same wants, needs and...

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