Tag: "utility"

Posted March 14, 2017 by lgonzalez

Erwin Fiber is growing in stages and now that the utility in Erwin, Tennessee, has completed phase three of its Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) deployment, about half of its electricity customers have access to high-quality Internet access. That’s not all - phase four this spring will bring gigabit connectivity to more rural customers in two nearby mountain communities.

Reaching Out In Steps

All told, Erwin Fiber more than tripled its service area in 2016. A December grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) will allow the utility to complete the spring build out, which will serve an additional 680 homes and 30 businesses. The Temple Hill and Bumpass Cove areas located in the mountains outside of downtown Erwin will have access to Erwin Fiber's symmetrical Internet access. Due to the remote character of these neighborhoods, people here had little prospect of obtaining high-quality Internet access from other providers. The 35-mile expansion will cost approximately $400,000.

November’s expansion added 2,200 homes and businesses, while a similar effort last March included 1,300 homes and businesses. Both expansions came after the community successfully experimented with a 2015 pilot project in which the city’s electric utility connected an initial 1,200 customers. The utility needed the infrastructure for the electric system other utilities; it was the right to to invest in the equipment for high-speed connectivity and phone service 

Not An Impluse

The municipality of about 6,000 people had considered the investment some 15 years prior but couldn’t afford the investment until recent years when the cost of deployment decreased. In January, Christopher interviewed Lee Brown and John Williams from Erwin Utilities who discussed the community’s project and explained how the fiber infrastructure is benefitting all the utility customers, even those who don’t subscribe to FTTH services.

Posted March 13, 2017 by lgonzalez

A new article from the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society takes a look at the pay in and pay off from Chattanooga’s investment into its fiber-optic network. The article, Smart Grid Paybacks: The Chattanooga Example, was written by Davd A. Talbot and Maria Paz-Canales.

From the Abstract:

After building a fiber optic network throughout its service territory, the city-owned electric utility in Chattanooga, Tennessee, became the first U.S. company to offer Internet access speeds of 1 gigabit per second to customers. The fiber also serves as the backbone for a sophisticated smart grid.

Data show that the savings produced by the smart grid, plus revenue from access fees paid by the utility’s Internet access business, more than cover the capital and operating costs of the smart grid. What’s more, we estimate this would still be true even if the utility hadn’t received a $111.6 million federal stimulus grant, and instead borrowed the extra amount. We reach this conclusion after counting direct savings in the utility’s operating costs (such as labor, truck maintenance, and fuel), avoided purchases of expensive wholesale power at peak times, and avoided power losses.

The region is also experiencing second-order benefits including economic development and savings to local businesses thanks to fewer and shorter power outages. The data on the following two pages were provided by the utility (known as the Electric Power Board of Chattanooga, or EPB), and include data on second-order benefits originally published by Bento Lobo at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

The authors detail direct and indirect paybacks to the community from the smart grid investment. The grand total? $67.1 million.

Check out the full article here.

Posted March 10, 2017 by lgonzalez

Mayor Gary Fuller won’t tolerate lies about his city. In a recent Opelika City News release titled, Setting the Record Straight - Response to Yellowhammer article, Mayor Fuller corrected the numerous misleading errors in a piece written by Jordan LaPorta. The Yellowhammer article covered a Taxpayer's Protection Alliance Foundation (TPA) report, filled with errors and misrepresentation about municipal Internet networks. TPA is one of the many front groups that describe themselves as "nonpartisan think tanks" but are actually funded by industry leaders with an agenda to advance policies that limit competition.

Mayor Fuller has seen untruths written about Opelika before, but this time he felt it was time to fight the flying monkeys.

Get Your Facts Right

Mayor Fuller corrected a number of brazen untruths LaPorta tossed out in his article, including:

  • OPS ONE is not taxpayer-funded - No, LaPorta, there are no tax subsidies. Additionally, there have not been any federal or state grants used for the network.
  • Expenditures grossly overstated - LaPorta incorrectly attributes the cost of an electric grid modernization ($20 million) to the cost of the FTTH network ($23 million). The two are not one and the same. Do your homework.
  • Number of Gig subscribers - LaPorta reports that OPS has one Gigabit subscriber, but they actually have five residential customers who take the service. The city council has recently reduced the price to $94.99 for Gigabit service in some bundles.

This Is Why Opelika Is A Success

OPS ONE is generating annual gross revenues of around $5.5M after three years serving the community. There are more than 3,200 subscribers and testimonials of customers who appreciate obtaining service from a hometown Internet access provider. Even though OPS ONE is still young, states Mayor Fuller, it’s on track:

Mr. LaPorta does correctly quote me as stating Opelika’s network “has not...

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Posted February 27, 2017 by lgonzalez

The community of Rock Falls, Illinois, is well on its way to developing a gigabit municipal network to offer better connectivity to residents, businesses, and public facilities. Last week, the City Council adopted an ordinance that allows the city to issue general obligation bonds to fund citywide fiber-optic Internet infrastructure.

Following Demand

The city’s plan will expand first in business corridors and then use the fiberhood approach in residential areas, building only after a certain percentage of households preregister. The plan divides the city into 14 fiberhoods with each area’s build out cost estimated to be approximately $250,000. Residential fiberhoods will require 45 percent participation prior to construction. Consultants estimate citywide buildout costs will be $13 million; the City Council authorized bonding for that amount. The first bond issue will be $4.1 million likely to happen in early May if approval proceeds as planned.

The City Council authorized the first phase of the project to begin - network design and project administration - which will cost approximately $207,000. The process to issue GO bonds will start in March and city leaders hope to have the backbone completed by the end of June.

Most publicly owned Internet infrastructure is funded by revenue bonds, avoided costs, or interdepartmental loans rather than GO bonds. When funded by general obligation bonds, a project is backed by the credit and taxing power of the issuing jurisdiction and the resource is always publicly owned. Clearly, the community of Rock Falls recognizes how critical the investment is to the community's future.

From The Mayor

In his recent State of the City address, Mayor Bill Wescott focused on three factors that drove the initiative: growth, the city’s strong finances, and local control.

While it’s common knowledge that economic development needs better connectivity than what is now available in Rock Falls, Wescott noted that residents stuck with 10 - 20 Megabits per second (Mbps) download Internet access need and deserve higher capacity connectivity to participate in the modern economy. He defined “growth” broadly, encompassing jobs, education, innovation, public safety, and government.

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Posted February 7, 2017 by lgonzalez

Muscatine, Iowa, is ready to begin its upgrade, bringing municipal cable network customers up to Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) technology. Last week, the Board of Water, Electric & Communications Trustees from Muscatine Power & Water (MP&W) awarded the contract to a firm that will transform the network and bring speeds up to 1 Gigabit per second (1,000 Megabits per second) download tier. No word yet on upload speeds.

As we reported last spring, MP&W is taking a slow march toward finishing this project because there are a number of interlocking pieces that need to fit together correctly. The firm awarded the contract was able to introduce several alternatives that reduced the initial estimate of $8.7 million to $7.5 million. The upgrade will be funded with an interdepartmental loan from the electric utility.

At the same meeting, the Board also reviewed the 2016 budget which came out well for the MachLink communications utility.

Net income of $1,372,919 was budgeted for the communications utility, but actual net income was $2,148,272, with an ending cash balance of $8,257,000. There also is debt of $9,044,000 owed to the electric utility. Gowey said revenues were 3.2 percent over budget, while expenses were 25 percent under.

The upgrade will begin in May and customers are expected to be on the new system as early as August. The project should be completed by the end of 2018.

Posted January 24, 2017 by christopher

When we first learned of the Lookout Lane fiber-optic project in the Kitsap Public Utility District in Washington, we knew we wanted to learn more. Kitsap PUD General Manager Bob Hunter and Telecommunications Superintendent Paul Avis join us for episode 237 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast.

KPUD has historically focused on water and wastewater services but they increasingly hear from residents and businesses that Internet access is a major priority. We talk about their approach and how neighborhoods are able to petition KPUD to build fiber to them. The first area to use this option had very poor Internet access from the incumbent telephone provider.

The discussion covers a lot of interesting ground, from how it is financed to where the demand is heaviest, and why public utility districts should have the option of using a retail model in some areas rather than continuing to be limited solely to wholesale-only by state law. 

For related information, consider our coverage of the Northwest Open Access Network.

Read the transcript of the show here.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

This show is 33 minutes long and can be played below on this page or via iTunes or via the tool of your choice using this feed.

You can download this mp3 file directly from here. Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Thanks to Admiral Bob for the music. The song is Turbo Tornado (c) copyright 2016 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. Ft: Blue Wave Theory.

Posted January 10, 2017 by christopher

Nestled in the Cherokee National Forest on the border of Tennessee and North Carolina, not far from Virginia, is Erwin. Erwin Utilities runs the water, wastewater, and electricity for the town of 6,000 and long wanted to invest in a fiber network. After years of following industry trends, they developed a plan to build it and tell us how in Community Broadband Bits episode 235.

General Manager Lee Brown and Fiber-Optic Engineer John Williams join us to discuss what started as a pilot project but is now an incremental plan to connect the entire community with a Fiber-to-the-Home network offering high speed Internet access and telephone service.

We discuss the reaction from the community, financing, and how they are using it for smart utility management -- not only for electricity but also for water services.

Read the transcript of the show here

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

This show is 29 minutes long and can be played below on this page or via iTunes or via the tool of your choice using this feed.

You can download this mp3 file directly from here. Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Thanks to Admiral Bob for the music. The song is Turbo Tornado (c) copyright 2016 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. Ft: Blue Wave Theory.

Posted December 19, 2016 by lgonzalez

About a year ago, we reported that Rock Falls, Illinois, had decided to develop a fiber network to offer connectivity to local businesses. Now, the town of less than 10,000 is closer to expanding that network to offer Gigabit Internet access and voice to residents.

Considering Expanding Services

In September, community leaders began considering the expansion after consultants suggested investing in Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) as the best way to make use of the city’s resources. They offered a “fiberhood” option so Rock Falls Electric Department could connect new subscribers incrementally; they suggest starting with business corridors where many commerical entities are already taking service. The fiberhood approach requires people in specific areas of the city to sign up first, then after a certain percentage of the households committ, construction begins.

Rock Falls began planting fiber and conduit in the 1990s and have connected the municipal electric utility substations, schools, and other municipal facilities. They have also leased out excess capacity to private providers who want to offer connectivity to commercial customers in prior years.

Funding - It's Complicated

The fiber backbone is already in place but a complete citywide FTTH system will cost approximately $13 million, estimate consultants. After consulting bonding professionals, city leaders discovered that they needed to consider a few issues before deciding how to proceed. SaukValley.com reported on the financing discussion:

“We need either a feasibility study or our most recent audit that includes revenues from the broadband business to show we can make our bond payments,” [City Administrator Robin] Blackert said. “But a new feasibility study would cost us between $60,000 and $80,000, and we have no past revenue history with the new utility.”

Blackert said it was previously thought that the new fiber utility could be the primary alternate revenue source, and the electric department, which has been handling the broadband operations to this point, could be...

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Posted December 15, 2016 by KateSvitavsky

Super-fast, reliable, and affordable Internet access is coming to residents living in public housing in Wilson, North Carolina. Greenlight, Wilson’s municipal network, recently began providing 40 Megabits per second (Mbps) for $10 per month to public housing residents -- about a quarter of the service’s original cost. All services from Greenlight are symmetrical, so upload speeds are just as fast as download speeds.

“Because of this partnership, more students will be able to be online in their homes and more adults will be able to take advantage of online job training and application tools…In addition, the partnership connects more customers to the community network, thereby increasing the return on the community’s investment,” said Greenlight general manager Will Aycock.

Partners For Progress

A new partnership between the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Wilson’s Public Housing Authority enables residents to receive discounted Greenlight services. HUD Secretary Julian Castro visited Wilson in October to discuss the importance of Internet access, indicating it is becoming a higher priority for the Department:

"We know these days that the Internet is not a luxury; access to it is really a necessity in this 21st-century global economy. And we want to make sure every single child in our nation has access to it… Our goal is that every single public housing resident have access to the Internet."

Residents receive a router at no cost from the Housing Authority, which oversees public housing in Wilson. Greenlight, the community's municipal fiber network offers speeds from 40-100 Megabits per second (Mbps). As a service of the City of Wilson, Greenlight emphasizes its commitment to fair pricing and providing a quality product. 

“One of Greenlight’s core principles is to enhance the quality of life for all residents, making high-speed internet available for everyone… It’s an important step in bridging the digital divide,” stated City Manager Grant Goings during the initial announcement event.

Low Income Programs Not Always This Good

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Posted December 14, 2016 by Anonymous

This is the transcript for episode 232 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. In this episode, General Manager Josh Byrnes of Osage Municipal Utilities joins the show to share how fiber connectivity has benefited the Iowa community. Listen to this episode here.

Josh Byrnes: Everything is live about it, you can lock in your commodity prices, all your inputs and all those things can be done. We've got to have connectivity, in rural Iowa.

Lisa Gonzalez: Welcome to episode 232 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast from the Institute For Local Self-Reliance. I'm Lisa Gonzalez. In Osage, Iowa, the community's electric utility has served the town and some of the rural areas around it for about 125 years. Osage Municipal Utilities also offers natural gas services and invested in its own communication system in the early 2000s. They offer telephone, cable TV and Internet connectivity via their cable network. Clearly Osage is one of those rural communities that think about the future. In this interview Christopher speaks with Josh Byrnes, the general manager of Osage municipal utilities, who discusses their long term plans to bring Fiber-to-the-Home to the community. Josh who is also a former state representative spends some time discussing Iowa's approach to rural connectivity and its investment in the Iowa communications network. Now here's Chris talking with Josh Byrnes, general manager of the Osage municipal utilities and a former member of the Iowa House of Representatives.

Chris Mitchell: Welcome to another edition of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. I'm Chris Mitchell and today I'm speaking with Josh Byrnes, the general manager of Osage Municipal Utilities in Iowa. Welcome to the show.

Josh Byrnes: Thanks for having me Chris.

Chris Mitchell: I'm excited to talk to you, as I was saying in our pre-interview I actually have this memory and I'm excited to be reminded of the story that you'll be telling us in a few minutes about these cattle prices and an app, around how it's important to have Internet access out on farms near your community. Let's start with a little bit of background for people who aren't familiar with Osage. Where are you in Iowa? What's the community like?

Josh Byrnes:...

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