Tag: "utility"

Posted June 14, 2019 by Katie Kienbaum

While Loveland’s proximity to Rocky Mountain National Park might be the lifeblood of this “Gateway to the Rockies,” the Colorado city is finding a new heartbeat with its planned broadband network, Pulse.

Loveland (pop. 76,700) announced the name and branding of its new Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network at a launch event on May 30, the Denver Post reports. As part of the Loveland Water and Power department, Pulse will connect the city’s residents and businesses with fast, reliable, affordable Internet access. At the event, City Councilmember John Fogle said, “Bringing broadband to our community is one of the biggest decisions City Council and city staff have made in the history of Loveland.”

Loveland Looks at Broadband

The name Pulse may be new, but Loveland’s planned fiber network has been six years in the making.

Loveland took its first major step towards municipal connectivity in 2015 when 82 percent of voters chose to opt out of Colorado Senate Bill 152, which prevents local governments from investing in broadband infrastructure. Then in the fall of 2018, after working with a consultant on a feasibility study, Loveland City Council decided to move forward with a municipal broadband network. Councilors had originally planned to pose the question to city residents in a special ballot, but with the community’s overwhelming support of the 2015 referendum in mind, they chose to proceed without the public vote.

While planning the fiber network, Loveland officials consulted other communities with successful municipal broadband networks, including Longmont, Colorado; Wilson, North Carolina; and Chattanooga, Tennessee. “[We] picked their brains...

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Posted April 17, 2019 by lgonzalez

Local communities in the state of Mississippi have the legal authority to develop publicly owned Internet networks and offer broadband, or any other utility, to the general public. When it comes to bonding in order to financing deployment for broadband infrastructure, however, the law isn’t as cut and dry. In order to stay on the right side of the law, the community of Columbus, Mississippi, decided to obtain permission from the state legislature to issue bonds for a $2.75 million expansion of their existing fiber optic network. Things didn’t work out as well as they had hoped, thanks to powerful lobbying influence in Jackson.

Stuck in Committee

Rep. Jeff Smith is Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee and introduced HB 1741, which would have granted permission for the city of Columbus to issue bonds to fund the infrastructure for better connectivity. Smith, who is also a board attorney for Columbus Light and Water (CLW), filed the bill because past opinions from state Attorneys General conflict on interpretation of the law. Bond attorneys told the utility board that the safest way forward would be to approach the Mississippi State Legislature for permission to bond.

The bill was directed to the House Local and Private Committee, but never received a hearing before the committee deadline of March 28th. According to Smith, HB 1741 had necessary support in the House, but Senate leadership would not let the bill advance:

"We were told lobbyists from Comcast and the other big cable providers had sat down with (Lt. Governor Tate Reeves) and encouraged him to kill three similar bills," Smith said. "He's the president of the Senate so ... when we heard that we knew it wasn't going to make it." 

seal-mississippi.png When compared to the lobbying forces of Comcast, AT&T, and other national Internet access providers, CLW and the city of Columbus can expect to be outgunned at every turn. Large companies with millions to spend on experts well-versed at convincing state Senators not to take up bills such as HB 1741 have an unfair advantage. With the financing and manpower to...

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Posted March 28, 2019 by lgonzalez

Lenoir City, Tennessee, has actively explored options for broadband for about ten years. After briefly considering broadband over power lines, the Lenoir City Utilities Board (LCUB) decided the time wasn’t right for the utility to offer Internet access to the public. The LCUB, however, is making a move to to open its fiber loop assets to potential partners, hoping to improve service for people in Lenoir City and surrounding areas.

Dark is the Way to Go

At their March 18th meeting, the LCUB members unanimously voted to accept proposals from private sector companies interested in leasing excess capacity on the utility’s fiber loop. According to LCUB general manager Shannon Littleton:

“There’s 80-85 roughly miles of 228-count fiber that’s around the perimeter of our system….We’re utilizing a small percentage of it right now. We plan on using a larger percentage of it in the future. We sat down as a group and decided there’s potentially 100 pair or 200 pair of fiber ... depending on what the board says, that we could put out to the marketplace for a period of time until the electric department decides to take it back for its own use.”

LCUB has already received requests to lease fiber on the network, suggesting potential competition and better options for folks in the rural areas of the LCUB service area. AT&T and TDS Telecom are incumbents with Lenoir City, but in the areas outside of town wired Internet access is difficult to come by.

Feasibility Results

LCUB deployed the fiber ring approximately three years ago for electric utility use, but has since hired a consultant to complete a broadband feasibility study with the asset in mind. The study estimated that Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) for all of LCUB service area premises would cost approximately $127.5 million. While it’s clear that people in rural areas of LCUB territory are lacking options, the more densely populated communities have fiber service from private sector providers. According to Littleton, approximately 13,000 customers are situated within a quarter-mile of the fiber optic ring and LCUB...

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Posted November 14, 2018 by lgonzalez

Until November 6th, community leaders in Loveland, Colorado, vacillated between whether or not to hold a referendum for final voter approval on a muni project. Asking voters to make the final call can remove political uncertainty, but there are times when elected officials have to make the call themselves. When the city opted out of Colorado's restrictive SB 152 three years ago, 82 percent of voters supported the measure. On November 6th, Loveland City Council vacated a previous order to put the issue on the ballot and decided that it's time to move ahead on establishing a broadband utility.

Special thanks to Jeff Hoel who provided additional resources to enhance our reporting!

A Steady Hike Onward in Loveland

Loveland’s population is around 77,000 and growing. The city rests in the south east corner of Larimer County, which is located along the north central border of the state. Located about 50 miles north of Denver as part of the Fort Collins-Loveland Metropolitan Statistical Area, the city is organized as a home rule municipality. Other towns we’ve written about are part of the same statistical areas, including Estes Park and Windsor. They’re one of several bedroom communities where residents who live there work in Denver, Boulder, and Fort Collins.

Like more than 140 other local communities in Colorado, Loveland has opted out of the state’s restrictive SB 152. Loveland voters chose to shed themselves of the law in 2015 and the city followed up with a feasibility study the following year. Since then, they’ve moved ahead carefully with support from the community, including editorials from local media. City leaders have stated that their constituents also vocalize support for a publicly owned project. Approximately, 82 percent of voters approved opting out in 2015. In 2016, 56 percent of residential survey respondents and 37 percent of business survey respondents stated that incumbents were not meeting their needs. With numbers like that, it’s no surprise the public appears ready for community...

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Posted August 7, 2018 by lgonzalez

Interest in broadband as a utility continues to rise across the country and in places where elected officials need a show of support, grassroots groups are stepping up. Recently in Portland, Oregon, a group of locals launched Municipal Broadband PDX, an effort to grow an already increasing momentum in the Rose City.

No Stranger to Fiber

The idea of better connectivity and local control over infrastructure is something that Portland has wrestled with for several years. With Comcast and CenturyLink controlling much of the market in the city of about 647,000 people, citizens have always struggled to get fast, affordable, reliable connectivity. The city failed at its attempt to provide free citywide Wi-Fi and the estimated price tag on a feasibility study more than ten years ago scared off the community. At one point, the city seemed about to get Google Fiber, but the plan never came to fruition.

Portland’s Integrated Regional Network Enterprise (IRNE) serves public entities with fiber connectivity and its leadership has been part of discussions on how to bring better access to businesses and residents. Back in 2012, we spoke with Mary Beth Henry with the Director of the Portland Office for Community Technology about early discussions. That was episode 7 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast.

Moving Forward

logo-MBPDX-Rose.png Earlier this summer, Municipal Broadband PDX scored a victory when the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners approved $150,000 for a broadband study. Commissioners responded to the realization that many lower-income folks in the county don’t have access to the connections they need for typical 21st century daily activities. Michael Hanna, a Municipal Broadband PDX representative, told the Board, “Almost 30% of low-income households in the Portland Metro area lack broadband access, and this...

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Posted July 30, 2018 by lgonzalez

Ocala, Florida, is one of those communities that doesn’t think twice about offering high-quality Internet access to businesses and residents. They’ve been doing it for decades and, when media coverage around gigabit connectivity began to expand, they were a little surprised because they had been offering similar services since the early 2000s. The benefits were nothing new to Ocala.

A Familiar Story Taken to Its Logical Conclusion

We touched based with Arnie Hersch, Senior Broadband Engineer for the City of Ocala, who shared the story of the network. Arnie has spent more time working on the network than anyone else in Ocala.

As in many other communities, Ocala started deploying fiber between its municipal utility facilities, including electric substations and water and wastewater locations, to improve inter-facility communications. In 1995, copper connected the city’s substations for SCADA operations. The copper was aged and had been struck by lightning, which negatively impacted its ability to perform; decision makers at the utility decided to replace the copper with fiber optic lines. As they finished deploying that year, Arnie joined the city's telecommunications utility; one of his primary objective was making the most out of the new fiber network.

First, Ocala connected all of its 52 municipal facilities in order to improve connectivity and cut costs. At the time, city offices still used dial-up connections for Internet access. Within two years, Arnie had switched the city to an Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM), which allowed them to use the new infrastructure for computing and voice applications. The change opened new doors for the city.

logo-ocala-fiber.jpeg Ocala leadership decided that the Telecommunications Utility should charge the municipality the same rates that the local Regional Bell Operating Company (RBOC) had charged for a T1 line, which offers capacity of approximately 1.5 Megabits per second (Mbps). Even though utility poles belong to the city, the Ocala Fiber Network (OFN) also pays pole attachment...

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Posted June 28, 2018 by lgonzalez

In May, Connecticut’s Public Utility Regulatory Agency (PURA) struck a blow at local authority when the ruled that communities could not use their protected utility pole space for municipal fiber deployment. Big cable and telephone companies cheered, broadband advocates and communities that need better connectivity decided to take action. Now, PURA faces lawsuits that challenge the decision from the Office of Consumer Counsel (OCC), the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities (CCM), and at least three local communities that just want high-quality Internet access.

Long Wait

The focus of the controversy is Connecticut’s Municipal Gain Space Law, which was first established in the early 1900s to guarantee municipalities the ability to hang telegraph wires. The municipal gain space is a location on all utility poles — publicly or privately owned — situated in the public right-of-way. After multiple law suits over the years in which cities and the state typically won, Connecticut’s legislature finally amended the language of the law to allow government entities to use the municipal gain space for “any use” in 2013.

Almost two years ago, we reported on the petition filed by the OCC and the State Broadband Office (SBO) with PURA asking for clarification on the law, which included establishing clear-cut rules on using the municipal gain space for fiber optic deployment. They felt the rules needed cleaning up because some incumbents in Connecticut were still finding ways to thwart competition and stop or delay plans for municipal fiber deployment. 

logo-PURA-ct.jpeg In addition to using restrictive pole attachment agreements, incumbents were exploiting the lack of definition in the statute to slow make-ready work, question who pays for make-ready work, and generally delay municipal projects. Time is money and losing momentum can drive up the cost of of a project, which in turn erodes a community's will to see it realized.

The Decision in Question

In addition to the petition that the OCC had filed, Frontier, the Communications Workers of America, and the New England Cable and...

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Posted June 6, 2018 by lgonzalez

The Maine towns of Baileyville and Calais are known for their beautiful scenery and their clean rural lifestyle; soon the region will also be known for its broadband. The two communities have joined together to form the Downeast Broadband Utility (DBU) in order to develop a regional fiber optic network for businesses and residents. Julie Jordan, Director of DBU has joined Christopher this week to talk about the project.

Like many other rural areas in Maine, the towns found that for decades they have had difficulty attracting and retaining businesses and new residents. Community leaders recognize that the poor Internet infrastructure in the area is one of the root causes and aim to amend the problem. By working together, Baileyville and Calais can achieve what would have been extremely difficult for each to do on their own. Once community leaders began investigating what it would take to create a publicly owned network and the benefits that would result, they realized that they had the ability to improve local connectivity. Julie discusses how they've dealt with some of the challenges they've faced and how they're preparing to contend with potential difficulties.

The Post Road Foundation, a nonprofit researching the possibilities of sustainable infrastructure, broadband connectivity, and investment, will be working with DBU. The organization is looking at ways to increase rural deployment across the U.S. DBU is one of several communities partnering with the Post Road Foundation to document discoveries that may help drive investment.

This show is 26 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 ...

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Posted May 3, 2018 by lgonzalez

Looking at the Community Network Map, anyone can see that Iowa is filled with towns that have chosen to invest in publicly owned Internet infrastructure. On May 1st, the community of Pella took a step at the polls that will bring them a little closer to having a "pin" on our map. Ninety-two percent of those voting in the special election chose to authorize the City Council to establish a telecommunications utility.

Approval to Move Ahead

The election results don't establish a timeline for construction or operation of a fiber network or authorize any funding, simply allow city leaders to take the initial steps at forming the utility in the future. The city already operates its own municipal electric utility, so they have the same advantage of many other rural Iowa communities that go on to deploy fiber networks. At a March 12 City Council meeting, elected official unanimously approved the resolution to hold the election. From the minutes of the meeting:

The need for a municipal telecommunications utility is being driven by concerns expressed by citizens and businesses regarding access to highspeed Internet. Furthermore, a municipal telecommunications utility could help meet the long-term high-speed internet access needs of our citizens and businesses.

It is also important to note that many rural communities across Iowa have either formed municipal telecommunications utilities, or are in the process of forming the utility. The reasons these communities have authorized the formation of a municipal telecommunications utility are similar to the reasons the City of Pella is considering this issue. 

The Pella Area Community and Economic Alliance (PACE), a nonprofit of business and citizen leaders, has endorsed the initiative to establish a municipal telecommunications utility. They note that larger businesses in town that require fiber for daily operations have been able to obtain lines from incumbents, but other businesses must suffer with slow connectivity. Incumbents Windstream and Mediacom offer DSL and some cable in the community....

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Posted May 1, 2018 by lgonzalez

There are often common characteristics among communities that have invested in fiber optic infrastructure. While many of them can't get the connectivity they need from the incumbents or lack reliable Internet access, many begin their ventures into better broadband by connecting utility facilities. A new nonprofit, the Post Road Foundation, sees a valuable link between intelligent infrastructure, high-quality connectivity, and sustainability. By bringing together members of the public and private sectors, the Post Road Foundation is implementing an innovative approach to funding. With support from the Rockefeller Foundation, they've selected five partners to begin implementing their new approach to funding, connectivity, and sustainability.

Bringing It All Together

Co-founders of the Post Road Foundation, Waide Warner and Seth Hoedl, have decades of experience between them in law, policy, and leadership. Their areas of expertise span cyberlaw, government and finance, environmental law and policy, electricity, telecommunications and energy law and policy, nuclear physics, and the list goes on. Through their years of research and in consulting with both public and private entities, Warner and Hoedl both saw that many rural communities needed better connectivity for economic development, better quality of life, and to keep populations strong. They've also found that if local communities or cooperatives are able to use fiber optics to synergize multiple utilities, the community is resilient and more self-reliant.

bluefiber_reverse.jpg Smart grid applications along with water and wastewater utility controls are already known to reduce waste and cut costs in places such as Chattanooga. Smart grids can quickly determine where any damage to a network occurs, allows energy to be diverted to prevent loss of service for customers, and if necessary alerts the control center where an outage has occurred. The system prevents or greatly reduce outages, reduces the number and time that trucks and technicians need to be dispatched, and prevents loss of...

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