Pennsylvania's Rural Broadband Cooperative, which we first wrote about in July, has received a $514,000 grant from the Huntingdon County Commissioners to set up a new tower and expand their user base in Jackson Township and support repeater antennas in the area, bringing service to additional households in rural areas.
Tag: "user financed"
Scott Vanderlip can see Google’s headquarters from his house in the town of Los Altos Hills, California (pop. 9,000). But still, some of his neighbors struggle to access the online world that the tech company has helped shape.
“There are people in my town who actually have really no Internet options,” Vanderlip shared in a Zoom interview. This includes some households stuck with satellite connections that have low speeds, high latency, and restrictive data caps. “We are in Silicon Valley, and we have really bad pockets of [limited] broadband,” he continued.
Even the residents who could connect to AT&T or Comcast’s networks, such as Vanderlip, were dissatisfied with the monopoly companies’ poor service quality. So they created Los Altos Hills Community Fiber, a nonprofit mutual benefit corporation that’s bringing a local, high-quality connectivity option to the area.
Los Altos Hills Community Fiber, or LAHCF, owns and finances the local Fiber-to-the-Home network and recruits interested community members, while its technical partner Next Level Networks manages network operations and construction and provides residents with tools to help organize their neighbors. The arrangement gives LAHCF subscribers more say over how the network operates and what speeds they have access to, a stark difference from the antagonistic relationship that many national Internet service providers (ISPs) have with their customers.
“Anyone can do this,” said Next Level Networks COO David Barron in a phone interview. “You just need a few motivated people to organize, and you can be completely free of the telcos and cable operators.”
Money Can’t Buy Cable Upgrades
Comcast and AT&T are the major broadband providers in Los Altos Hills, but the lack of competition means there’s little incentive for providers to improve service quality, despite interest from subscribers. “Los Altos Hills sometimes is listed as the most affluent community in America, and we still have crap Internet service,” as a result of the ISPs’ reluctance to invest in network upgrades, explained Vanderlip.
Limited broadband options also impact service costs. “The price depends very much on where you live and if there’s any competition or not,...Read more
Tucked away in Kishacoquillas Valley (also known as Big Valley) between Stone and Jacks Mountains lies a 120-foot repurposed HAM radio tower, now the base of operations for the Rural Broadband Cooperative (RBC), a group bringing fixed wireless to a rural Pennsylvania community. RBC remains one of the many groups around the country making use of community ties to address connectivity issues in places where monopoly Internet service providers have for decades refused to invest.
RBC’s effort began in 2017. When asked about bringing high-speed broadband to the area, Comcast replied that it would need $80,000 to lay a line half a dozen miles long, according to one founding member of RBC. So the group — among them a retired professor, a former telecommunications manager, and a musician — formed the non-profit cooperative and moved forward with a different plan.
They leased a patch of land 1,900 feet up on the side of Stone Mountain with a view over the crest and a repurposed former HAM radio tower to bring low-latency fixed wireless Internet to the area. In total, the effort cost $60,000, with the money raised by the cooperative’s initial members. The tower itself is run by solar and wind, with a battery backup. The group’s backhaul connection comes from a 100 gigabit fiber line from Keystone Initiative for Network-Based Education and Research.
Most of those living within a 15-mile radius of the tower can receive service, with those lacking direct line-of-sight still eligible so long as they can establish a connection to neighbors with two or fewer degrees of separation.
Currently, RBC offers two tiers of service: a basic connection clocking in at 5 Megabits per second (Mbps) download and 1 Mbps upload for $40/mo, or a 25/3 Mbps connection for $75/mo. New customers also pay a one-time $300 setup fee. It’s a far cry from the $100/mo for 3 Mbps connection some area residents are stuck with.
Broadband Access in Rural PA
According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), approximately 600,000 Pennsylvanians don’t have...Read more
This week on the Community Broadband Bits podcast Christopher speaks with Deborah Simpier, CEO of Althea. Althea offers software and tools for communities looking to build and maintain sustainable networks in their own communities.
Althea works by installing custom firmware on the routers of its member-operators, connecting them all together in a fixed wireless, ad hoc network that dynamically responds to the supply and demand of individual users. That network is then linked to a commercial-grade backhaul, and users pay each other for bandwidth while configuring their own connection preferences and needs. Althea’s innovative software and staff help manage the network in real-time. The result is a decentralized, flexible, privacy-focused community of devices. Althea exists in more that three dozen communities around the United States, Canada, the Caribbean, and Africa.
Deborah reflects on how she came to the broadband space, and the origins of the first Althea network. Christopher and Deborah discuss what it means to play a central role in empowering communities to help create their own sustainable networks, and watching people put in Internet infrastructure themselves and take ownership. One example is Enfield, North Carolina, a state with some of the most onerous broadband restrictions which have resulted in poor connectivity options for that community.
We want your feedback and suggestions for the show; please e-mail us or leave a comment below.
Read the transcript for the episode.Read more
When municipalities and other local governments are planning for publicly owned Internet infrastructure, they must coordinate many moving pieces to get the project going and to keep it on a successful track. In this interview, Christopher and Tom Coverick, Managing Director at KeyBanc Capital Markets, discuss one of the most important components of community network planning: finance.
Christopher and Tom met up at the May 2018 Broadband Communities Summit in Austin, Texas.
In addition to some of the types of bonding and other mechanisms communities use to fund their projects, Christopher and Tom discuss the politics and ancillary issues that affect local leaders’ decisions to take the step to finance for a project. Risk is a consideration and it affects the cost of financing. Tom advocates that financing should be part of the equation early in the planning process and he explains why his experience has led him to this conclusion. Christopher and Tom also talk about some creative funding techniques that local communities have used to make borrowing more palatable and suitable for their unique situations.
Thanks to Arne Huseby for the music. The song is Warm Duck Shuffle and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.
I was troubled to see Broadband Communities publish an odd and misleading story about Palo Alto in the May-June issue [pdf]. Authored by Stephen Blum of Tellus Venture Associates, a consultant that has been hired by Palo Alto in the past, it showed a remarkable level of ignorance about community owned fiber networks and broadband more generally.
The title alone, "Can FTTP Work in Palo Alto?" is just odd. Why exactly would FTTP not work in Palo Alto? It works in hundreds of other cities and towns, most of whom are less well positioned than Palo Alto for such a venture. A more honest title would have been "Consultant Argues Never Used Financing Mechanism Also Won't Work in Palo Alto." Blum made a very good case for that narrow argument but fails to lay out any convincing evidence that a variety of other models are doomed.
Parts of the article can only be called cable and DSL boosterism - such as repeating the talking point that AT&T's U-Verse and Comcast already offer "high levels of service at competitive rates." Competitive to what? Neither can deliver the speeds offered by modern fiber networks and are only "competitive" if one ignores the much slower upstream speeds, higher prices, lesser reliability, problems of oversubscription, and poor customer service one gets from those providers.
Reminds me of "Slick Sam" from Lafayette and the "functional equivalence" between DSL and FTTH.
Blum apparently knows better - that Palo Alto residents are "happy" with the existing services because they have not spontaneously marched down El Camino Real demanding faster speeds at lower prices. This is the wrong measure - reminiscent of the now oft-quoted Henry Ford line that if he asked people what they wanted, they would have said "faster horses."
The number of specific errors in this piece are many, and have been well documented by those familiar with the history of Palo Alto's studies. I want to focus on just a few. Let's start here:
Overall, 79 percent of households would have to pay $3,000 apiece to fully fund FTTP construction costs.
YIKES! Cue the foreboding music! Palo Alto...Read more