The Houston, Missouri City Council has finalized speed tiers and rates for their upcoming Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) service. Symmetrical residential connections of 25, 50, 100, and 1,000 Megabits per second (Mbps) will run $30, $50, $70, and $90/month, respectively, with a $100 installation cost and $3/month equipment rental.
A year ago we wrote about Illinois’ $420 million commitment to broadband expansion, and now the first round of grant winners has been released. Together they total $50 million in state funds matched by $65 million in additional money for 28 projects by 18 different Internet Service Providers (ISPs) that will, ultimately, connect 26,000 homes, farms, community institutions, and businesses in the state. It represents the first milestone in what is a significant commitment to closing Illinois' broadband gap.
Lots of Winners, Some Caveats
The Broadband Grant Program offers applicants up to $5 million in funding for projects with the stipulation that they match it with an equal or greater amount of other, nonstate funds. First-round winners consist of both middle- and last-mile builds touching at least 27 counties throughout the state. For example, Cook County received a little under $2 million to expand its Chicago Southland Fiber Network (CSFN). CSFN provides backhaul services to many, including the Illinois Century Network — which serves over 3,400 public K-12 schools, universities, and libraries. Their application committed to focusing “on fiber paths that will provide distribution and host last mile service platforms addressing those communities with the greatest need, municipalities with no fiber assets . . and key regional education campus facilities.”
In total, providers representing local control and democratic decision-making did well. The Illinois Electric Cooperative got a little under $3.5 million to build out symmetrical 1 Gigabit per second (Gbps) last-mile connections to 746 unserved households and 95 businesses, farms, and community anchor institutions in Calhoun County. Currently, its telecommunications division accounts for a relatively small but growing proportion of the services it provides to its more than 14,000 members across the state. JoCarrol Energy Cooperative, founded in 1939, also received $6 million to complete...Read more
Chicopee, Massachusetts, Ward 1 City Councilor Joel McAuliffe wrote an editorial recently that is well worth reading. In it, he explains how his city of 55,000 people, situated a few miles north of Springfield, has seen in concrete terms the benefits of building a municipal fiber network a year ago. Crossroads Fiber — an initiative of Chicopee Electric Light (founded 1896) — began connecting customers in late summer of last year, with the utility building out in phases. There are plans to provide service to everyone connected to electric. Even so, he says, citizens are already benefitting from municipal fiber during the current pandemic:
Fiber optic cables continue working during power outages and remain lightning-fast no matter how many users are plugged in. These past few months, internet usage has spiked worldwide, but municipal broadband is allowing hundreds of people in Chicopee to stay connected without interruption.
McAuliffe emphasizes the centrality of fiber to towns and cities in all realms who are looking to the future. And while it’s been nice to see large telecoms stepping in to donate or help communities get connected, McAuliffe rightly emphasizes the dangers of relying on corporate generosity instead of investing in local infrastructure that will benefit the community for generations to come:
Chicopee’s investment in municipal broadband is the first step, but we and cities across the country must commit to further investment to build a more prosperous and equitable society. It is becoming clear why a fast, reliable internet connection is absolutely essential for today and for our future.
We’ve covered Chicopee and Crossroads Fiber a couple of times before, and Christopher spoke with City Councilor McAuliffe on...Read more
John Lester, General Manager of Clarksville Connected Utilities (CCU) in Clarksville, Arkansas, knows a thing or two about the value of a municipal broadband network.
“Just keeping the dollars in Clarksville is gonna have a big impact. Do you have a calculator handy?” Lester asked me, when I called him earlier this month to learn more about the city’s planned foray into residential broadband services.
“Let me talk you through something,” he replied, after I said I did. “Let’s say we’ve got 4,500 potential customers and 75 percent of them get high-speed Internet, in some fashion. What’s that number?”
From there, he ran through a handful of calculations to illustrate the economic benefit of Clarksville’s new Fiber-to-the-Home network. Assuming residents save about $20 per month and the savings continue to circulate locally, the network could grow the city’s economy by $4 million every year.
“That stays in our consumers’ pockets right here in Clarksville, Arkansas,” Lester explained. “There is an economic impact today and every year going forward.”
Residential broadband service is only the most recent evolution for Clarksville’s municipal fiber network, which already connects utility infrastructure as well as area businesses and community anchor institutions in the city of nearly 10,000. Home installations are due to start soon, depending on delays caused by the global Covid-19 outbreak.
Starting With a Plan
Clarksville’s fiber journey began in 2016 when the city utilities department (which rebranded last year to Clarksville Connected Utilities) deployed a SCADA system to connect its electric, water, and wastewater systems. At the time, Lester was already thinking about how the rest of Clarksville could benefit from the utility’s fiber network, drawing on his prior experience as the city manager of Chanute, Kansas. “We absolutely needed a communications system for our utility infrastructure,” he explained, “but we leaned strongly on one of Stephen Covey’s...Read more
When Paul Revere rode through Concord, Massachusetts, to warn the Colonists about the Red Coats, horseback was the fastest way to move information. More than 240 years later, the community that was so instrumental to founding of the United States as we know it now sends information via their own fast, affordable, reliable Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) municipal network. This week, Concord's former CIO Mark Howell joins Christopher to talk about the community and their investment.
Mark discusses the community's history and the story of the network, which includes their reasons for investing in the infrastructure. He talks about the local citizens' enthusiasm for the project and what it was like to go from operating an electric utility to adding Internet access for the public. Mark also discusses the funding mechanism that Concord used to pay for the project and shares a few of the many benefits that the network has brought to Concord and its people.
Christopher and Mark review the reasoning behind the different service offerings available to subscribers and the rationale behind choosing these tiers. They also talk about some of the challenges Concord has faced and Mark gets into the possibilities of regional efforts in order to maximize the possibility of reaching more households.
Read more about the network in the 2017 report published by the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, ...Read more
NextLight, the municipal Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network in Longmont, Colorado, has been serving residents and businesses in the community since 2014 and offers reliable gigabit connectivity at affordable rates. This week, Director of NextLight, Valerie Dodd, is on the show to discuss the past, present, and future of NextLight with Christopher.
NextLight has implemented some special marketing and customer service techniques, which has helped achieve the high take rate that continues to grow. As the network expands to all areas of the city, Longmont has used some creative approaches and contended with a few challenges to connect residents and businesses. Valerie and Christopher talk about some of these decisions and how those choices have panned out.
They also discuss the community's commitment to digital inclusion and how it's paying off in an increasingly diverse and growing city. Valerie describes how her experience with a private sector provider has contributed to NextLight's focus on subscribers and breaks down some of the key differences between a traditional municipal utility, such as an electric service, and broadband service from the city.
We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.Read more
People with an interest in municipal networks usually know about Ponca City, Oklahoma's free municipal fixed wireless network because it's been around for years. In the summer of 2019, however, community leaders decided it was time to start offering Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) and created Ponca City Broadband.
Dave Williams, Director of Technology Service from Ponca City, comes on the show this week to discuss the new utility. Dave and Christopher review the history of the fixed wireless network and the factors that led Ponca City to shift toward FTTH. Dave explains how economic development, changing technology, and an eye toward the future convinced Ponca City that it was time to invest in citywide FTTH for residents.
The city has been able to take advantage of some cost saving strategies with the benefit of decades of technical know-how associated the municipal network and the electric utility. Additionally, they're implementing marketing approaches and customer service techniques that make Ponca City Broadband stand apart from other Internet access providers.
We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.Read more
In the spring of 2019, Houston, Missouri, sent out a call to citizens to share their thoughts on whether or not they'd like to subscribe to Internet access from a municipal network. Less than a year later, the city of around 2,000 people has forged ahead and has hired an engineering firm to begin work on their multi-phase fiber optic project.
Phase One is a Go
Economic Development Director in Houston Rob Harrington says that the city hopes to have the first phase — an eighteen-mile fiber ring that connects city facilities — completed and functional by the end of the summer.
Houston owns and operates a municipal electric utility, which is a big plus for communities interested in better connectivity through publicly owned fiber optic network infrastructure. The Houston Herald reports that the city’s electric utility has brought in additional revenue that, over the last fifty years, has contributed to public improvements in Houston. Houston is the seat of mostly rural Texas County, located in south-central Missouri; the community is about 3.7 square miles.
Another factor in Houston's favor: the city owns the utility poles, which will reduce make-ready time and reduce final cost. A feasibility study, which reported a favorable situation in Houston for a publicly owned Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) system, suggested all but about three miles of the first phase of the infrastructure could be deployed on poles. Sewer lift stations, water towers, and other city facilities will connect, which will allow Houston to reduce telecommunications costs. The city will use reserves to fund the first phase of the project.
When phase two is deployed, residents and businesses throughout Houston will have access to symmetrical gigabit (1,000 Megabits per second) connectivity, says City Administrator Scott Avery. The goal is to provide an option...Read more
As Redding, California, aims to bring better connectivity to businesses and residents, they're looking to locals for advice on how to move forward.
As we reported in April, community leaders voted to proceed with a pilot project in their downtown area. Economic development in the downtown area drove the plan, but reducing the cost of Internet access through a publicly owned network and the availability of a more reliable, faster service generated force behind the project.
In April, the city council decided to explore possibilities and now they're interested in finding out the public's interest in a citywide network for residents. The Vice Mayor, City Manager, and staff from Redding held a public meeting in late November to share information with locals about possibilities.
"Fiber is an essential element of the future and its economy," Tippin said. "Vice Council Macaulay brought this forward to council and we agreed that we should study this so we've hired consultants and we've been doing a study - looking into cost, what elements should be required and whether it would be beneficial from a community standpoint."
In order to determine the public's feelings on whether they agree Tippin, the city is asking Redding residents to complete a simple online survey. The survey is six questions about perceived value, current options, and respondents' likelihood of supporting a municipal fiber optic network project.
An Existing Advantage
Unlike many other California cities, Redding owns a municipal electric utility, which provides an advantage in both deployment, potential lowered cost, and ease in operations for a municipal utility. According to the city's Master Broadband Plan, the city bought the Redding Electric Utility (REU) from PG&E in 1921 and serves around 44,000 residential and commercial...Read more
The community of Coldwater, Michigan, is considering an upgrade to its existing community network cable infrastructure by investing in fiber optic upgrades to connect homes and businesses. In the coming months, the Coldwater Board of Public Utilities (CBPU) will create a formal recommendation to the city council. If the city moves forward with the project, they plan to replace their current Hybrid Fiber Coaxial (HFC) with faster, more reliable Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) infrastructure.
Connecting More Utilities
Last March, CPBU approved a $40,000 proposal for Apsen Wireless to provide design services for upgrading the city’s 1997 fiber backbone. CPBU Director Jeff Budd called for major upgrades in order to maintain reliability, enhance security of the network, and to connect more water, wastewater, and energy utility systems facilities. The connections are necessary to monitor operations and to provide automatic meter reading capabilities. According to Coldwater city staff, by using their own network, the city is able to cut costs by $250,000 per year.
Examining an Upgrade
CPBU also asked Aspen to provide an estimate for the cost of a fiber upgrade for residential and business connections citywide. Aspen worked with Marshall and Traverse City, other Michigan communities that have invested in fiber optic infrastructure for better connectivity. Coldwater is working with Marshall by providing after-hours service calls for Marshall's FiberNet.
In mid November, members of the board and community leaders at a joint meeting between the CBPU and city council discussed the potential expansion of fiber to commercial and residential subscribers, phase two of the city's infrastructure upgrade. Budd...Read more