Tag: "muni"

Posted December 12, 2016 by lgonzalez

Seattle hasn’t given up the possibility of fast, affordable, reliable connectivity for all.

The city has long struggled with how to improve Internet access for residents and businesses. They commissioned a feasibility study in 2015 to learn more about the cost and potential for a citywide broadband utility, but the hefty estimated cost - $480 million to $665 million - subdued the conversation. The City Council, however, is taking steps to ensure the city doesn’t lose site of the idea of Internet access as a utility.

Keeping The Dream Alive

Council Member Rob Johnson introduced an amendment to the Mayor’s Comprehensive Master Plan to keep the concept of ubiquitous high-quality connectivity in the city’s future. Johnson’s amendment, which passed at a September City Council meeting, added Municipal Broadband to the list of potential future discretionary projects in the Mayor’s Comprehensive Master Plan. The plan addresses the city’s long-term growth vision. 

The fiscal analysis, or Green Sheet, puts the price tag at $303,000 in 2017 and $137,000 in 2018. The funding would cover the cost of a full-time staff person in the city’s IT department and the cost to develop a business plan for a city-owned municipal broadband utility. The funding did not make it into the final budget, but with municipal broadband in the Master Plan, a future budget may see the addition.

Christopher has visited Seattle to talk munis with the Seattle Citizens' Telecommunications and Technology Advisory Board and local reporters consulted with him on the results of the 2015 feasibility study. The interest in a community network...

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Posted December 10, 2016 by htrostle

Sometimes speed is not the answer. Chattanooga boasts EPB Fiber, a municipal network that can handle speeds of up to 10 Gigabits (that’s 10,000 Megabits) per second. That, however, is not what won it recognition this week.

PC Mag named Chattanooga as the Best Gaming Internet Service Provider (ISP) of 2017 because of its quick, reliable performance. The network beat out both Verizon FiOs (#2) and Google Fiber (#3).

Latency and Jitter

To determine which ISP was best for gaming, PC Mag looked specifically at two technical measurements: latency and jitter. Latency is how long it takes for a packet to travel from the user to the server and back. Jitter measures how consistent the latency is in a connection. High latency makes games lag -- the last thing you want for an online multiplayer.

It’s unsurprising that the top ISPs on the list have Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) networks. Fiber has the best performance in latency and jitter compared to cable and DSL connections. Chattanooga’s network has the least latency and jitter. 

More MuniNetworks on the List?

Several cities have built FTTH networks. Why weren’t more municipal networks on the list? PC Mag Senior editor Eric Griffith explained in the article: 

For an ISP to be included, it had to have a minimum of 100 tests with that tool in that time frame.

So yes, it is possible your own personal super-amazing Gigabit-capable uber-ISP didn't make the cut here—it's because we don't have enough tests from them to include and maintain any statistical validity. That said, share in the comments if you've got an ISP with not just great speeds but what you have determined to be killer quality when it comes to online gaming.”

If you want your network to be included on the list next year, encourage people in your community to take PC Mag's Speed Test. Until then, Chattanooga is the reigning champion.

Posted December 8, 2016 by lgonzalez

On November 27th, the Chattanooga area was pelted with rough storms. According to the city's Electric Power Board (EPB) spokesman John Pless, the utility smart-grid kept the lights on for 90 percent of the city’s electricity users who would have otherwise experienced an outage. A smart-grid detects where damage occurs and allows the network to self-heal when possible, often in seconds and undetected by electricity users.

"Smart grid automation either prevented or automatically restored more than 23,000 customer outages, with almost 2,100 customers experiencing outages of greater than five minutes," Pless said.

In addition to the security of maintaining electric service during severe weather, businesses lose productivity when the power goes out. By 2014, EPB officials estimated the technology had saved local businesses approximately $50 million in two years; it had reduced outages by 60 percent. Since then, they have worked with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory to get maximum efficiency from the EPB smart-grid.

Harold DePriest, retired President and CEO of EPB, spoke with Christopher recently in episode #230 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. During the conversation, Harold talked about how the smart-grid has positively impacted the community:

"[T]hat one thing is saving our community's businesses somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 to 60 million dollars a year. That's pretty substantial. [F]rankly, the revenues are now staying here in Chattanooga. We'll be, this year, about $150 million in revenues. That means there are additional monies for taxes. Our in lieu of tax payments are actually up about $8 million because of our smart-grid, on an annual basis. Roughly half of that goes to the school system, so that's a pretty neat thing in my opinion. The other is it's supplied the money for EPB to invest in other things that are of value to our customers, a new control center, GPS in all of our trucks, the ability to respond quicker and more efficiently on a daily basis, and in large outages. All...

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Posted December 6, 2016 by lgonzalez

Iowans in the small town of Osage have been able to obtain cable Internet access from the community’s municipal utility since 2001. The community is about to take the next step; Osage Municipal Utility (OMU) is acquiring a fiber-optic backbone from a private provider. The purchase will get them started on what will eventually be a Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) upgrade.

Serving Osage For More Than 125 Years

Osage, the Mitchell County seat, is home to about 3,600 people and located in north central Iowa. The electric utility began as Osage Electric Light, Heat and Power Company in 1890. After several ownership changes, the municipality became the owner in 1941. In 1959, the utility began supplying natural gas and in 2001, the utility added a communications system. In addition to Internet access, OMU also began offering cable TV and telephone service.

OMU is also developing a Voluntary Community Solar Program in which customers can purchase units of Solar Array capacity and in return they receive a production-related credit on their monthly utility bill.

Another Local Tool

Josh Byrnes, general manager of OMU, described the backbone as “another tool in the economic toolbox.” He noted that the line will create opportunities for people outside of OMU’s service area that live along the backbone to potentially obtain service from private providers.

In addition to providing FTTH to customers in the future, Byrnes noted that OMU will also be bringing much needed redundancy in the area. Incumbent Omnitel Communications is the sole provider of fiber-optic services in Mitchell County. OMU will offer fiber in Mitchell, one of the towns in the county where Omnitel has no fiber presence.

“We are simply getting connectivity to Osage and build out from there. There are going to definitely be opportunities for savings to our rate payers long term. Even more important is the dependability of services moving forward. It’s hard to put a price on that.”

Posted December 1, 2016 by lgonzalez

Manchester, Connecticut, was the first city in the state to build its own fiber-optic Institutional Network (I-Net). Now, the community has issued a Request for Information (RFI) for Fiber-to-the-Premises (FTTP) of Homes and Businesses. Responses are due by December 6, 2016.

Much To "Gain"

The community took advantage of the “Municipal Gain” Law, which guarantees space on utility poles and conduit to house its I-Net. A private provider took the town to court over the law, which came to a successful resolution in the early 2000s.

As we reported last summer, the Office of Consumer Counsel (OCC) and the State Broadband Office (SBO) sought clarification on the state statute. The question is whether or not the space reserved on utility poles in municipal Rights-of-Way (ROW) can be used for municipal fiber-optic network deployment. While the question seems simple on its face, implementing it has raised a number of questions from pole owners and municipalities. The OCC and SBO filed a petition last summer with the Public Utility Regulatory Agency (PURA) asking for clarification.

Manchester is located in the center of the state just ten miles east of Hartford. The town’s population is approximately 58,000 residents and there are 22,000 parcels in Manchester on its 250 miles of city streets. While it has roots in textiles and the silk industry, it is now home to a number of large shopping outlets and plazas. The community also has a co-working space in the downtown area, Axis901, for entrepreneurs and small businesses.  

Having experienced the benefits of its I-Net, Manchester wants to expand those benefits to businesses and residents, so is exploring the possibilities. According to the RFI:

The Town is interested in a vendor’s perspective of the positive economic development value of their proposal.  Toward this end, information on a Responder's offering will likely result in a dialog with the Town's Board of Director's Broadband Economic Development Subcommittee.

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Posted November 30, 2016 by lgonzalez

Conway, Arkansas, has been offering Internet access for approximately 20 years; in December, it will begin offering Gigabit (1,000 Megabits per second) download connectivity to the community. Conway's highest tier Internet access will cost $94.95 per month. According to Conway Corp.'s announcement, the utility will use a 32-channel cable modem to deliver the faster download speeds via the current infrastructure. Upload speeds will be 50 Mbps.

In a statement, reproduced in Multichannel News, CEO Richard Arnold said:

“Internet usage has grown and will continue to as cloud-based products and services become more prevalent. Gigabit download speeds seem a luxury today, but may be tomorrow’s necessity.”

Between 1995 and 1997, the utility completed a citywide cable rebuild in which they used both fiber and coaxial cable. The $5.6 million project allowed them to offer Internet access to Conway subscribers. As an early adopter of municipal Internet access, Conway’s move toward Gig connectivity makes sense:

“For several years, we have been on a strategic path toward gigabit service,” said chief technology officer Jason Hansen in a statement. “With this initiative, Conway Corp is embracing its position as an Internet technology leader.”

Conway Corp’s Internet rates also include:

  • Basic : 6 Mbps download / 1 Mbps upload - $36.95 per month
  • Broadband 25 : 25 Mbps / 3 Mbps - $41.95 per month
  • Broadband 50 : 50 Mbps / 5 Mbps - $51.95 per month
  • Broadband 100 : 100 Mbps / 10 Mbps - $84.95 per month

Conway is county seat to Faulkner County, located in the center of the state and through its utility system, Conway Corp., provides electric, water, wastewater, Internet access, cable TV, and telephone services to the community of 65,000. Conway is considered a suburb of Little Rock, but many of the residents don't commute out of the city for work as there are a number of large employers in Conway.

The city is home to Hewlett Packard, marketing technologies firm Acxiom, and technology company Insight Enterprises. Conway is also home to a...

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Posted November 26, 2016 by lgonzalez

After months of planning, we’re excited to launch our new website design!

We still have daily news, a huge cache of resources, and the information you need to learn about community networks. We’ve updated our look and organized so everything is even more accessible. As you explore you may even find some information you never knew we had available at our former site.

Our search capability is not yet up and running and we don't yet have all our podcasts imported to the new site. We encourage you to explore and let us know what you think about the site so far. You can share your thoughts at broadband@muninetworks.org.

Enjoy and thanks for your continued support!

Firework pic courtesy of geralt via pixaby.

Posted November 23, 2016 by lgonzalez

In early November, voters in 26 additional Colorado communities chose to opt out of SB 152. The state’s restrictive law took away local telecommunications authority in 2005. The results in many of the towns and counties were overwhelming majorities - loud and clear in favor of local authority. Now, 95 local communities across the state have reclaimed local authority.

We covered the election results in detail on MuniNetworks.org and what those results say about local communities’ desire for better connectivity. We spoke with local community leaders. As part of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance’s Building Local Power podcast, episode #5, Christopher and I also discussed what those results say about the desire to make connectivity choices at the local level.

Beyond Colorado...

In addition to Colorado, we also talked about local publicly owned networks in other parts of the nation and how they are changing the expectations for Internet users in urban and rural America.

We also discussed the general election results that brought Donald Trump to the presidency, specifically noting the impact that his ascension brings to local communities’ ability to provide Internet connectivity to their residents. We pondered the implications of a Trump presidency on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance’s mission of working across partisan lines in local communities.

We invite you to check out episode 5 of the Building Local Power podcast and check out other episodes, all highlighting the work we do at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.

Posted November 19, 2016 by lgonzalez

Alford, Massachusetts, located along the western border of Massachusetts, recently released a Request for Proposals (RFP) for fiber optic network design and contractors; the community wants to deploy a Fiber-to-the-Premises (FTTP) network. Deadline for proposals is December 21, 2016.

A Long Journey To Now

Alford is home to approximately 500 residents and has pursued better connectivity since the early 2000s, when it first approached the incumbents. As is often the case, national providers continued to pass by Alford over the years leaving them with old, unreliable technology. During 2012 and 2013, the community took the necessary steps and voted to create a Municipal Light Plant (MLP), the entity that manages publicly owned networks in Massachusetts. Since then, they have formed a broadband committee, conducted surveys of local interest and requirements, and examined financial models. 

In 2015, the town approved a measure to borrow $1.6 million to cover the expenses to deploy a FTTP network. The Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI), the state agency tasked with administering more than $71 million in federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) and state funds, informed the MLP Board that the town will receive approximately $290,000 in grants funds.

The Alford MLP’s November update reports that the community has made significant progress on make-ready work to prepare utility poles:

The MLP has now come to an agreement with Verizon and National Grid about the extent of “make-ready” work required to prepare the poles to accept fiber. In the next few weeks the MLP will make payments to the utilities, clearing the way for the work to begin. The MLP has no control over the timing of the work, which will probably begin around year- end and which can take up to six months to complete. 

The Project

Alford wants a network that is scalable and capable of offering high-speed connectivity and telephone service to each premise in the community. They estimate there are 734 utility poles on which to hang fiber-optic cable and that 22 miles of fiber-optic plant will be necessary. There are...

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Posted November 17, 2016 by htrostle

Digital learning initiatives for K-12 grades and online coursework for college programs both require high-speed connectivity in school and at home. Policymakers cannot overlook this issue when discussing municipal networks.

The Education Commission of the States addressed connectivity in the classroom and at home in a short policy report, entitled Inhibiting Connection: State policy impacting expansion of municipal broadband networks in September 2016. 

Inside the Report

Co-authors Lauren Sisneros and Brian Sponsler provide an overview of how municipal network issues intersect with state education goals. The paper covers the major arguments for and against municipal networks as well as current state laws restricting those networks:

"As state education policymakers explore options to support postsecondary access and success, they may be well served to consider their states’ policy addressing municipal broadband networks."

They also highlight our Community Networks Initiative as a resource for policymakers to access fact sheets, case studies, and videos. 

Read the entire policy report on the Education Commission of the States' website

For more information on connectivity in schools in general, check out our Institutional Networks page.

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