Tag: "muni"

Posted February 5, 2020 by lgonzalez

Almost six years ago, we told readers about Ottawa, Kansas, where the community of around 13,000 people had invested in publicly owned fiber optic connectivity for local businesses. We recently touched base with IT Director Paul Sommer, who updated us on the progress of their broadband utility and how it has impacted the community.

Steady as it Grows

When we first met Ottawa, they had worked with the local school district and Franklin County to capitalize on existing fiber infrastructure and expand to more locations. Local leaders had learned from Ottawa businesses that the best options available from incumbent AT&T were T1 lines for approximately $600. Higher capacity connections were scarce and financially out of reach for local establishments, and AT&T could not be convinced to upgrade their infrastructure. As Bigham put it, AT&T was "milking the cow."

Once the city, school district, and Franklin County established a partnership, Ottawa began to expand fiber to other municipal facilities and businesses as requested. Sommers, who has taken over as IT Director, says that now all 10 city buildings are on the network. In addition to an industrial park on the original infrastructure on the north end of town, the network now reaches an industrial park to the south.

The electric utility has trained their own staff rather than hiring external fiber deployment personnel. In addition to enriching skills, their employees are able to respond quickly if there are downed cables or other maintenance issues. Sommers recalls an instance when a car, which had caught fire, sent shrapnel flying into the air. By a twist of fate, one piece severed the fiber optic cable hanging some distance away. His team was able to rehang and splice the cable that same day and get the subscriber back online.

By using electric utility staff, Ottawa has reduced the cost of their incremental build over the years. They typically budget around $100,000 each year for expansion of the network, have never gone over, and often don’t spend the entire allotment. Sommers says that, since they own the utility poles in town, have necessary personnel on hand, and equipment at the ready, unnecessary bureaucracy doesn’t slow down maintenance, repairs, or expansion efforts.

Bursting at the Streams

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Posted February 3, 2020 by shrestha

In  November 2017 we reported that Mount Washington, a town of roughly 200 people in southwestern Massachusetts, had deployed its own infrastructure for broadband service. More than two years after the initial setup, a recent article in Government Technology on municipal broadband in Massachusetts takes us back to the tiny town. We learn how fast affordable, reliable publicly owned Internet infrastructure has brought positive transformation to the citizens of Mount Washington, located in the Taconic Mountains.

You Could Barely Use It

The article covers several layers of how high-speed Internet access has provided a jumpstart for the local economy. The small town with its remote landscape and inherent challenges had only two options before broadband: dial-up or a long-distance Wi-Fi service, which provided download speeds of less than 1 Mbps. 

“You could barely use Wi-Fi calling, and it was impossible to stream anything,” said Brian Tobin, Mount Washington select board member. “You could send emails, and you could do Internet searches that just took a long time.”

In spite of the fact that they're the third smallest town in the state, the Mount Washington Broadband Network now offers fiber optic infrastructure and contracts with an Internet access provider to offer speeds which surpasses those in some of the state's much larger communities. Funding for the network is part of a larger state plan to bring broadband to rural towns in need of Internet service. The Government Technology article notes that: 

“Mount Washington benefited from the Last Mile Program, which provided more than $35 million in grants for rural broadband. The program is run by the Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI), which is part of the state agency Massachusetts Technology Collaborative (MassTech).”

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Posted January 28, 2020 by lgonzalez

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.

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

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Posted January 8, 2020 by Katie Kienbaum

We last wrote about MB Link, the municipal fiber network in Mont Belvieu, Texas, in October 2018. Since then, the city near Houston has connected about half of its 7,500 residents to the network and is talking about expanding into the surrounding county, reported the Dallas Morning News.

The in-depth article from late last month discussed many aspects of the groundbreaking network, including why the city decided to take charge, the legal and logistical challenges it faced, and how local service is benefiting the community.

MB Link Emerges

As in other communities, poor service quality from existing providers drove Mont Belvieu to deploy a city owned broadband network, the article explained:

For years, residents of this fast-growing town on the outer ring of Houston complained to local leaders about slow and spotty Internet. They put satellite dishes on their rooftops. They endured intermittent service and frequent outages.

. . .

So Mont Belvieu took matters into its own hands: It decided to build and operate its own high-speed Internet service.

Now, MB Link offers residents across the city speeds of up to 1 Gigabit per second for only $75 a month. Approximately half of all Mont Belvieu households get Internet access from the municipal network, which has recently begun providing service to businesses as well.

Community Networks Create Competition

Mont Belvieu isn’t the only city that has built a broadband network to create options for residents and businesses, the article noted:

Christopher Mitchell, director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance’s community broadband network initiative, said cities began building broadband networks in the 1990s when they had no Internet. Now, he said, they’re motivated because they feel stuck with Internet that’s inferior or overpriced.

. . .

“The simple fact is without good government policy to create...

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Posted December 25, 2019 by lgonzalez

As we greet each holiday season, we try to re-live the classic creations from years gone by and treasure hoilday memories the creative writers at MuniNetworks.org have developed to enjoy the season. Four years ago, Tom Ernste and Hannah Trostle wrote “Twas the Night Before Muni Fiber” which has always been one of our favorites.

Both authors have journeyed on to other careers but we get to keep their contributions to ILSR’s work, including this poem in the style of “A Visit from St. Nicholas” by Clement Clarke Moore. We've made it a tradition each year to publish the piece for new readers.

Enjoy, share, and thank you for your support! 

 

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Posted December 12, 2019 by lgonzalez

With an incredible resource such as the Greenlight Community Broadband Network in town, leaders in Willson, North Carolina, have the ability to pursue any number of innovations. This past November, Greenlight, Wilson Community College, and the Gig East Exchange held their first Fiber Boot Camp, a training program to certify people interested in working as fiber optic technicians.

Accessibility for Students

The boot camp was borne from a prior course that lasted 10 weeks. The longer course filled up quickly and, recognizing the need for the training, Manager of Outside Plant Gene Scott and his team realized that a more intensive, but shorter course could benefit people from other communities.

“The class filled to capacity right quick. People came from as far away as Salisbury to attend, a two-hour drive each way once a week, for 10 weeks.”

He added, “Affordability was a big factor in our approach. Most fiber certification classes run a few thousand dollars. We want this untapped workforce to have a chance at this training. Our 10-week course was $140.”

The course received an outpouring of positive feedback.

When they realized the high demand for the training and that people all over the state were interested in the course, they knew that making the course a fit for people from other areas of the state would pay off.

“What if we had a fiber boot camp. Something where folks did not have to drive back and forth, but could stay here and get 10 weeks of training in five days?”

...

“To our amazement,” Scott said, “we had representatives from as far away as Asheville sign up.”

Scott discussed the longer course and the plans for the boot camp in our conversation with him for episode two of our special NC Broadband Matters Series. Check it out:

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Posted December 10, 2019 by lgonzalez

Islesboro Municipal Broadband (IMB) is about to celebrate its second birthday. Instead of two candles on a cake, the community has around 630 lit Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) subscriptions to mark the occasion. With more than 90 percent of the premises on the island connected to the network, the community can revel in its accomplishment as it considers the future.

Super Affordable, Super Satisfied

Residents pay only $360 per year to connect to the gigabit service, which has become part of the "fabric of the island" says Roger Heinen, Selectman who's part of the Islesboro Broadband Committee. Property owners also pay a modest increase in property taxes to satisfy the municipal bond the community issued to pay for deployment. In total, most property owners pay less than $85 per month for gigabit connectivity and the optional voice service from GWI. In addition to bringing fast and affordable high-quality Internet access to the community, Roger says that its reliability is so consistent that he thinks people have forgotten what the situation was like before the community network served the island community.

Subscribers report high satisfaction with IMB on biannual surveys. While there are still a few people in the community that have not connected to the IMB, he speculates that those people aren't interested in connecting in any way.

Saving Smartly

Every connection in Islesboro provides gigabit Internet access and, according to Roger, the decision to limit offerings to one tier was a way for the community to reduce costs. There's no need for complicated inventories of different types of gear, they know that every premise has the same gear and level of service, making billing easier and more streamlined, and they received a substantial discount because they bought so many of the same type of electronics. They knew that standardization would simplify and reduce costs and wanted gigabit service because it accommodates future innovation that demands more capacity.

logo-isleboro-me.png In order to fund the deployment, Islesboro bonded $3.8 million to deploy the dark fiber network infrastructure. The infrastructure belongs to Islesboro, which maintains it. GWI, a Maine Internet access...

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Posted December 3, 2019 by lgonzalez

For the third year, the Internet Society worked with locals to hold an annual Indigenous Connectivity Summit as a way to teach and share information. In November, participants collaborated to deploy a fixed wireless community broadband network in a small village in Hawai'i and Christopher had the chance to participate.

While he was there, he interviewed Matt Rantanen, Director of Technology for the Southern California Tribal Chairman's Association, and Brandon Makaawaawa, Deputy Head of State for Nation of Hawai‘i. Christopher, Matt, and Brandon discuss the summit and the need for connectivity in Pu‘uhonua o Waimānalo, the village where summit participants worked with local indigenous folks to build the network in just a few days.

Brandon talked about some of the obstacles that have faced the people of the Nation of Hawai'i and how those obstacles have put them on the wrong side of the digital divide. Without sovereign nation status, like many other indigenous people in the U.S., Brandon's people don't have access to funding. When the opportunity to work with the Internet Society to establish a community network arose, the village jumped at the chance as a way to learn and teach others in Hawai'i.

Learn more about the 2019 Indigenous Connectivity Summit here. Be sure to check out the information on past Summits in Inuvik, Northwest Territories, and Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Don't miss Brandon's essay on the importance of...

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Posted November 22, 2019 by lgonzalez

Multichannel News recently published an informative and detailed look at municipal networks and the surge in interest that communities have exhibited as they've explored ways to improve local connectivity. Author Mike Farrell provides an indepth examination some of the many local communities that have used fiber optic connectivity to attract job creators and some of the common challenges they've encountered.

Still Some Opposition 

As Farrell notes, several candidates for President have mentioned funding for municipal networks in their platforms, bringing more attention to publicly owned Internet networks. The interest has been growing for some time, however, as has opposition. Farrell writes:

But no matter which side you’re on, one thing is increasingly clear: municipal broadband is gaining steam and some communities are finding innovative ways to finance and maintain projects. And the risk, as many areas are finding out, is becoming worth it.

When Farrell spoke with the NCTA - The Internet & Television Association (formerly the National Cable & Telecommunications Association), which lobbies on behalf of large and small Internet service providers, they indicated a dislike of competition:

“Broadly, we support government programs that dedicate money to building networks where they don’t exist or make economic sense for private ISPs to build, and believe that taxpayer dollars should not be used to subsidize competition where networks already exist,” NCTA senior vice president, strategic communications Brian Dietz said in an email message.

Here and There

Farrell covers communities where networks have been serving the public for years and in places where locals have only recently decided to make the investment. One of the places Farrell writes about, which many other authors have covered, is Chattanooga, Tennessee: 

When municipalities want to talk about successes, they usually point to Chattanooga, which built its broadband network in 2009 and became the first municipality in the country to offer 1 Gigabit per second Internet service city-wide. That “Gig City” designation made the community a magnet for business. According to a study by the University of Tennessee, broadband helped drive about $1.3 billion in economic development...

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Posted November 12, 2019 by lgonzalez

Whenever Christopher attends a Broadband Communities event, he returns with great stories from cities and towns across the U.S. that have invested in publicly owned Internet infrastructure. This week, we share his interview with Mel Poole, Ocala Fiber Network Director.

You may automatically think of Kentucky when you consider horses, but Ocala, Florida, is considered the "Horse Capital of the World." Fast thoroughbreds may end up at The Derby, but they often start in Ocala. Whether it's gigabits or galloping horses, Ocala has found a way to capitalize on the concept of speed.

The city first began with publicly owned fiber optic infrastructure for SCADA operations and later expanded their use to reduce telecommunications costs. Since ending leased T1 lines, the city has saved millions and taken control of connectivity. That was before Mel worked for the city, but he's well-versed in the story of the Ocala Fiber Network, and describes how they expanded to offer services to more sectors of the community.

Mel and Christopher talk about the city's decision to begin working with the public and how, by educating local decision makers, Mel and his team were able to help them make an informed choice. As Ocala worked with more entities, they've also faced challenges related to deployment and marketing. There's a fine line they need to walk between spreading the word about great service and their ability to connect subscribers in a timely fashion. Christopher and Mel talk about demographics, economic development, and Mel's vision for Ocala that's tied into their fiber optic infrastructure.

Read more about Ocala and...

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