Tag: "utility"

Posted September 4, 2009 by christopher

Johnson City, Tennessee, is considering the pros and cons of expanding the fiber network its public electrical utility is installing to connect substations in order to improve grid reliability. They may follow the example of many other Tennessee public utilities that have offered broadband services to residents, creating competition in a sector sorely needing it.

They will need to speed the process along if they are going to get any stimulus money - many communities have been considering these options for longer and are ready with plans.

When Johnson City first considered connecting the substations, providers opposed it, afraid they would ultimately offer broadband services to residents. These providers said they already had fiber and would be happy to connect the substations at a "fraction of what JCPB [Johnson City Power Board] is about to spend."

Undoubtedly, they were comparing the costs of building a public network against the costs of leasing services for one year. Johnson City was smart to rebuff them and pursue owning the fiber - companies like Charter and Comcast don't make a profit by offering fair prices on connectivity (in fact, Charter is still bankrupt despite overcharging for its slow broadband speeds). Communities that own their fiber (regardless of whether they offer retail services to businesses and residents) find that they get better services at lower costs than when leasing connectivity.

These cable companies in Tennessee are brutal - they abuse the courts with frivolous lawsuits (that are frequently thrown out at the first opportunity) and invent data to suggest public ownership is a poor choice. Ultimately, Johnson City Power Board will have to choose what makes sense based on the numbers, not on fearmongering from companies that are just trying to protect high profits protected by a lack of competition.

Posted September 3, 2009 by christopher

Catching up a variety of recent stories:

  • An article from the Lafayette Advertiser notes: LUS Fiber plans faster rollout. Community networks are frequently attacked by incumbent groups and private providers for failing to immediately turn a profit after launching a network (something we have addressed here). LUS Fiber wisely started slow and will now start to ramp up the number of customers as they progress further along the learning curve of running the fiber-optic network.

    logo-LUS.gif

    As LUS Fiber passes the six-month mark, officials are planning to significantly increase the number of customers and areas that receive television, telephone and Internet service.

    The system launched in some areas of the city in February, and thus far, the rollout has been somewhat slower than many anticipated. Lafayette Utilities System Director Terry Huval said the process hasn't gone faster because of a desire to focus on providing high-quality customer service.

    "This is a new business," Huval said. "I intentionally held back because I wanted to make sure that every attempt we made to serve a customer was the best we could deliver. Now, we can start really accelerating."

  • A commentary worth reading: American broadband infrastructure: A national embarrassment

    Several months ago, I visited the Netherlands and had the rare opportunity to be personally embarrassed by our terrible broadband infrastructure. The Dutch were literally making fun of me. The fact that our country, with its vast resources and its illustrious history -- Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, Steve Jobs -- has such terrible internet service should be an outright national scandal.

  • If you live in Seattle and want to get involved in telecommunications issues, the city is looking for tech advisors. More details about the Citizens' Telecommunications and...

Read more
Posted July 10, 2009 by christopher

Another in the series of Municipal FTTH snapshots from Broadband Properties Magazine, Gainesville Regional Utilities network is a utility owned fiber network that is slowly working its way to citywide coverage. They serve the city and surrounding unincorporated areas.

The article covers their biggest challenges - including the importance of educating the population as to why the utility upgraded to fiber-optic connections.

Posted July 7, 2009 by christopher

From the intro:

Clark McLeod, the founder and former chairman and CEO of Iowa-based CLEC McLeod USA, announced his latest project: OpportunityIowa, a grass-roots non-profit aimed at educating Iowans on fiber to the premises (FTTP) and convincing them to create municipal communication utilities — if for no other reason than just to keep their options open.

This is a good short article looking at an initiative that unfortunately did not go very far in Iowa. McLeod explained some of the thoughts behind it:

The larger service providers in Iowa have categorically stated they are not putting in FTTP, and there's no need for it. We want both private industry and municipal options open. But quite frankly, unless private industry steps up to FTTP right now, it's up to municipalities to drive that issue in the state. In Iowa, we know the municipal model works because we have 20 municipalities providing services at rates far below the incumbents'. We at OpportunityIowa have said a network that's open to multiple carriers is the right model. However, all we want citizens to do today is vote on a municipal communications utility. Once that group is put in place, that commission will look at the alternatives.

Posted June 30, 2009 by christopher

Broadband Property's Muni FTTH Snapshot for Reedsburg, Wisconsin, offers some details on one of the earliest muni fiber deployers. They started in 2002 and began offering services in 2003. The network is run by the public utility, Reedsburg Utility Commission.

They offer a 10 Mbps symmetrical connection for $49.95/month and a very low churn rate.

The economic impact has been significant:

In April 2007 Reedsburg businesses participated in a groundbreaking research project conducted through Reedsburg Utility Commission and the Fiber-to-the-Home Council. The survey, which had a 23 percent response rate, found that the speed, bandwidth, reliability, pricing and customer service provided by Reedsburg’s fiber optic network helped them make operations easier, increase efficiency and save time.

Most of RUC’s business fiber customers were using their broadband connections for research, document transfer, and purchasing. Other uses included banking, advertising, customer service, employee training, online sales and telework.

Six in ten Reedsburg business customers reported cost savings from fiber averaging more than $20,000 per year. Half said they were able to adopt new and more efficient processes, and 46 percent cited marketing benefits. Forty one organizations, or 10 percent of all the businesses in Reedsburg, reported that their sales had increased as a result of their fiber connections, and an overall net increase in employment of 19.8 percent was attributed to fiber.

Extrapolating from the sample, the estimated benefit to the community as a whole amounts to $1.85 million per year in additional sales and a net cost savings of $4.4 million per year.

Posted June 30, 2009 by christopher

Pulaski, Tennessee, has used its public power utility, Pulaski Electric System, to build a fiber-to-the-home network. They started building the network in 2006 and offering services in 2007.

In this snapshot by Broadband Properties, the technical aspects of the network are explored.

Some economic development impact:

Local economic development leadership has begun marketing PES’ services to nearby Huntsville, Alabama, which is home to a large number of defense and space industries. Before PES built its network, the community had never attempted to approach the defense or aerospace companies because it had little to offer that met their special needs.

The FTTH network has allowed several existing industries to receive superior service at much lower prices. The system has become a focus of community pride and an example of the community’s willingness to invest in the future.

One key lesson learned has been that the long term needs of the community are not reflected in the current preferences of residents:

Although we built a state-of-the-art fiber network, we came to realize that most residential customers do not concern themselves with future applications. They are looking to replace or upgrade the services they have today. So even though we built a system capable of cutting-edge services, it often still comes down to which TV channels you offer and at what price. Customers are shoppers first.

They have also offered increasing educational opportunities:

PES established a partnership with the local college to operate our local access channel, 3PTV. This channel provides the students at Martin Methodist College with an opportunity to learn video production and technical editing, and it provides a valuable and exclusive channel offering for PES.

Also, we partnered with AT&T to provide a turnkey network that links all the schools in our county. PES provides the fiber connection, and AT&T manages the data and technical support. This allowed the local school district to use AT&T’s state contract pricing, yet be linked with PES’ fiber network.

Posted June 16, 2009 by christopher

Though Danville, Virginia, was hit hard by the simultaneously decline of tobacco and textile industries, the community has responded: Danville Utilities has been building a state of the art all fiber network. Like many communities, they built a backbone and connected the schools and government buildings first. They then started to connect businesses. This summer they will be rolling out a pilot project to connect a few thousand homes to their open services network. As they add more potential subscribers to the network, they will be more attractive to service providers. This should spur competition, increase innovation, reduce prices, and otherwise make the network more desirable to subscribers. Though the open access idea has been somewhat maligned following the troubles of UTOPIA (many of which had nothing to do with the wholesale model), the consulting firm Design Nine has helped both nDanville and The Wired Road move forward with a revised wholesale-only model. This approach may be gaining traction nationally depending on how the rules for the stimulus grants are written: Stimulating Broadband suggests broadband stimulus funding from USDA will favor "projects that will deliver end users a choice of more than one service provider." Back in Danville, the schools have much faster Internet access while shaving their telecom budgets. Other key features are listed on the network's site, including:

The nDanville Medical Network project has begun to connect a majority of doctor’s offices and medical clinics around the city. The network is already being used by the Danville Regional Medical Center to provide super high speed connectivity to satellite clinics and offices in Danville.

Last year, Last Mile featured an article on the network that includes some numbers, goals, and history of the project. Below is a video that discusses some of the benefits of the network.

Posted June 11, 2009 by christopher

Doris Kelley takes a look at one of the early citywide publicly owned broadband systems - Cybernet in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Cybernet is run by CFU and is an HFC (cable) network that also offers some fiber-optic connections for businesses. In this paper, Kelley takes a look at some of the benefits the network has brought to the community.

From the start of the paper:

Cedar Falls Utilities, the largest municipally owned four-service utility in Iowa, provides electric, natural gas, water and communications services to a community of over 36,000 people. The citizens of Cedar Falls have been and continue to be the driving force behind Cedar Falls Utilities. Because of citizen demand and involvement, what once began as an unreliable water supply from “Big Springs,” a small light plant built with discarded bricks and an outdated manufactured gas system, has grown into an organization that is recognized nation-wide in the utility industry for outstanding performance management and some of the most favorable utility rates in the country.

Cedar Falls Utilities (CFU) is a strong supporter of economic development. Through the years, the Cedar Falls community has directly benefited by the operation of its municipally owned utilities through direct customer rate savings, free or special customer service programs and fund transfers to the City’s general fund.

CFU has made great strides to further its commitment to economic development. In 1994, a new horizon was encouraged through visionary thinking. Considerable strategic planning and analysis preceded the decision to design, construct and operate a Broadband Fiber Optic Communications System. The Cedar Falls Board of Trustees spent approximately 24 months studying the technical and financial feasibility of constructing and operating such a network. Finally, on October 24, 1994, the Cedar Falls City Council adopted ordinance No. 2072 forming the country’s second Municipal Communications Utility and transferring authority to the Cedar Falls Utilities Board of Trustees.

Posted June 10, 2009 by christopher

This same development is occurring today in the area of advanced communications services just as it did in electricity over 100 years ago. Public power systems in some areas are meeting the new demands of their communities by providing broadband services where such services are unavailable, inadequate, or too expensive. These services, provided with high quality and at affordable prices, are crucial to the economic success of communities across the nation.

Posted June 9, 2009 by christopher

The Broadband Properties Muni Snapshot of Jackson Energy Authority, serving Jackson Tennessee, offers a fiber-to-the-home network. As is common to the snapshots, it is heavy on technical data.

After 4 years, they had an overall take rate of 39% as well as some businesses locating in the area due to the network. Residents have saved some $8 million in aggregate since the network began offering services.

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