Tag: "muni"

Posted August 10, 2010 by christopher

After Seattle's new Mayor campaigned on a community fiber network and consulted with both Lafayette and Tacoma on how to build it, it will now spend a year considering its options.

In discussing the current options for broadband in the city, Governing Magazine notes lack of demand for Comcast's "up to" 50/10 EXTREME package:

The demand for this "Extreme" tier speed, however, is "extremely low," says spokesman Steve Kipp. Later this summer, the ISP plans to offer 105 Mbps download and 12 Mbps upload speeds.

I suspect people mostly aren't interested in the extreme price for supposed extreme speeds. A number of communities that have built their own networks offer faster (and symmetrical) connections for considerably less. However, even there most people opt for lower tiers rather than the fastest speeds.

What the article utterly misses is that faster speeds are only one piece of the reason communities build these networks. Yes, next-generation networks offer faster speeds now and have much more capacity for future expansion than cable networks (and DSL is so far behind as to not be comparable).

But public ownership is about more than faster speeds. It spurs competition and lowers prices for everyone. It offers accountability, ensuring the network meets the needs of the community now and in the future. It allows public agencies to get faster connections at lower prices (though Seattle already has this through its previous investments in fiber-optics). As Seattle owns City Light, it would have greater abilities to invest in smart-grid and metering applications to make the city more energy efficient. When the community owns the network, it can ensure everyone has access to fast connections (particularly children in low-income neighborhoods where absentee companies may be reluctant to invest).

But to get back to the argument about network speeds, there is an argument for FTTH and faster speeds even if people do not demand them right now. Until people have access to robust connections, applications will not be created to take advantage of them. When people have access to faster connections that are affordable...

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Posted August 5, 2010 by christopher

Opelika, Alabama, is home of some 27,000 people and a public power utility called Opelika Power and Light. On Tuesday, Aug 10, the city will hold a special referendum to decide if the community can build a network that will cover telecommunications and smart-grid services.

Alabama is one of the states that preempt local authority to build broadband infrastructure, requiring a referendum and imposing limitations on the business plan for community-owned networks that it does not do for privately owned networks.

The local newspaper has a Q&A to answer questions about the project.

Expected cost is in the neighborhood of $33 million and will be funded with revenue bonds if citizens approve the project. Opelika Power and Light already has a fiber ring that will be used in the project if they move forward (the project could start offering services as early as Fall 2012).

From a distance, it appears that details are not yet worked out (and why would they be -- until they have the authority conferred by a successful referendum, they would not complete any agreements), but the private company Knology will likely provide some of the services on the network built by Opelika.

Opelika Power and Light

The local editorial board endorsed the plan.

“Shall the City of Opelika, Alabama, be authorized to acquire, establish, purchase, construct, maintain, lease and operate a cable television system for the purpose of furnishing cable service to subscribers?”
That’s what the ballot will read in Opelika on Aug. 10.


And the answer: absolutely yes.

Unless, of course, you are a massive company like Charter that already offers services. If you are Charter, you might make absurd claims that cable is somehow more reliable than fiber. The Charter Government Relations Director apparently suffers from what we might call the make-ity-up...

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Posted August 2, 2010 by christopher

Highland Communications Services will soon be the newest community-owned FTTH network. It is on schedule to start offering services to businesses in September and some residences in October. A local news story details some of the costs and contracts behind the network.

The project will be paid for by a $9 million Electric System Revenue Bond issue, utilizing the Build America Bond program, created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, as an incentive to communities to put people back to work. Build America Bonds will allow the City to issue taxable securities and then receive a subsidy from the U.S. Treasury equal to 35 percent of the interest.

Highland's population is approximately 10,000.

Please note the spelling error in the story - they are building a head-end, not a "dead-end" (despite the accusations of some).

Posted July 29, 2010 by christopher

John at Lafayette Pro Fiber posted about an upcoming Lafayette TV ad. Apparently, this is an advance copy. It emphasizes the ways in which LUS differs from privately owned networks. Community networks, no matter how technically superior to incumbent offerings, must have an outreach or advertising strategy. Having the best network does little good if few people know about it.

Posted July 28, 2010 by christopher

We've previously noted the successes of the Santa Monica approach to leasing dark fiber, but a new article reveals that Los Angeles, Burbank, and Anaheim also lease city-owned fiber assets.

In fact, Burbank generates substantial net income for its general fund through leases, including to major Hollywood studios.

Burbank first laid its fiber in the late 1980s and began leasing in the mid 1990s, said Robert DeLeon, a senior electrical services planner in Burbank. It currently leases to 15 studios, such as Warner Brothers and Disney, or studio-related businesses, like post-production companies. Like Santa Monica, Burbank's main goal in leasing its dark fiber was to attract business. But at $200 per strand per mile, Burbank is currently making approximately $1 million that is being put back into the general fund.

Santa Monica's revenues from leases have been more modest, but the benefits of leasing go far beyond regular payments. The network increases economic development and improves the quality of life with free Wi-Fi in a variety of public areas. Further, the city no longer has to overpay for the data connections it needs for municipal functions.

Santa Monica is also leasing to 15 businesses that include hospitals, entertainment companies and new media outlets, among others, but is only making $270,000. It was never Santa Monica's intention for the leasing of dark fiber to be a major source of revenue, Wolf said.

Santa Monica - UCLA Medical Center uses city-owned fiber because the city has better customer service:

Though there are other options for obtaining a fiber optic connection, such as AT&T, Kacperski said the hospital decided to lease from City Hall because hospitals are community based and because City Hall has better customer service than private carriers.

As we have often maintained, locally owned networks win on customer service (and often reliability). Community networks may not always win on prices because massive incumbents can engage in predatory pricing by cross-subsidizing from non-competitive markets, but they can win on providing a better experience for subscribers.

Moving forward, Santa Monica is starting to go beyond simply leasing dark fiber to actually...

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Posted July 8, 2010 by christopher

The May/June issue of Broadband Properties has a number of articles about muni broadband networks, including one in Canada - Bruce Telecom. The magazine also includes a story I originally wrote for MuniNetworks about Chattanooga after I updated some of the numbers.

Craig Settles discusses "Strategies for Sustainable Broadband and they resumed the Muni FTTH Snapshot with a look at Auburn Essential Services in Indiana.

The cover story, "Resurgence of Muni Broadband," includes a census of muni-related projects, with a note that no single model defines the muni approach. Punctuating that theme is Andrew Cohill's "Third Way Approach," (which I had previously featured here).

Posted July 8, 2010 by christopher

The May/June issue of Broadband Properties Magazine continued the Muni FTTH snapshot series, this time focusing on a small network in Auburn, Indiana. The network currently has 500 subscribers as it continues its buildout, which is scheduled to finish in 2011. By 2013, the business plan calls for serving 3200 subscribers.

The public power utility, Auburn Electric, has been using fiber-optics for internal use since 1985, but only began offering services to some customers in the mid 2000's. In 2007, they began deploying the FTTH. In 2005, their services kept an employer in town with a $7 million payroll.

Posted June 28, 2010 by christopher

In an editorial about the LUS Fiber lawsuit against NCTC, the local Lafayette paper made the following observation:

We've had our own reservations about LUS Fiber to the Home, based on concerns about a government enterprise encroaching on a market in which private-sector entities were already providing service. But LUS has, from all available evidence, enhanced the competition in the local marketplace in terms of both price and technology.

Those who claim community broadband networks decrease competition and incumbent investment do so against all empirical evidence.

Posted June 25, 2010 by christopher

Alex Marshall, Senior Fellow at the Regional Plan Association in New York City, recently asked why more cities aren't building fiber-optic broadband networks. The subtitle: "Don't wait to find out if Google will install broadband in your city."

He correctly notes this is not a new argument - cities have run utilities for decades (and been attacked for it regularly throughout).

Infrastructure is one of the primary ways that towns, cities and states can make themselves more competitive. Build the right thing at the right time, and new residents, jobs and businesses will come. But this terrain is rife with strife. A century ago, towns and cities started public power companies, and saw private power companies resist such efforts in courts and with legislation. Today many of these public power companies are doing quite well, thank you very much, as exemplified by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and others in small towns.

This is not your standard argument for cities to start building networks - Alex makes some novel points and the short column is well worth the full read.

Posted June 22, 2010 by christopher

Some 10,000 households and businesses in rural Kentucky will soon have FTTH as Russellville and Barbourville have decided to make this long term investment to ensure their communities can take advantage of modern technology and communications.

This Calix press release goes into the technical gear involved.

I think Barbourville already had an HFC plant and Russellville offered some wireless services previously. Both utilities work with the TVA and are looking toward future smart-grid capabilities.

(Image: Russellville Welcome Banner, a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial (2.0) image from jstephenconn's photostream)

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