Oregon's SandyNet to Use Sewers for Fiber Deployment

SandyNet, of Sandy, Oregon, recently announced that it plans to expand Internet service with fiber to every home and business in the city. The network, which has serviced the community for ten years, currently offers fiber to businesses along the Highway 26 corridor. Wireless service is available throughout town and in some rural areas around the City.

SandyNet plans to provide a range of tiers for fiber connectivity. Preliminary rates include residential fiber service of 100 Mbps for $39.95. Business service will vary from $69.95 per month to $499.95 per month for 1 Gbps. Construction is scheduled to begin spring of 2013 and the utility estimates service to be available by the end of the year in most neighborhoods.

The City will be working with i3 America, which uses city sanitary and sewer storm pipes as a makeshift conduit for fiber optic cable. i3's "FOCUS" system uses special armorerd cable designed to withstand a harsh environment and does not affect operation of clean or wastewater systems. Because this method uses existing pipes, construction costs can be up to 70% lower than traditional burying of conduit and fiber. The location of cable is much deeper in the wastewater pipes, so there will be less chances of damage due to construction or the elements.

From the press release:

The City of Sandy last year sponsored a "Why Wait for Google?" contest to gauge interest in fiber Internet service, and to select a neighborhood for a pilot program. Resients in every neighborhood expressed interest in the service , and i3 approached the city with a proposal to extend fiber to every building in the town.

Similar to the Google Fiber deployment in Kansas City, neighborhoods that show the most interest will be hooked up first. Residents and businesses are encouraged to sign up now.

Joe Knapp, IT Director and General Manager of SandyNet offered some details via email:

The City of Sandy will operate the network. i3 will own it initially and the City of Sandy will pay them a rate per home connected. After 10 years the city has an option to purchase the network. 

Sandy, located in north central Oregon, invested in a community network when the private market stayed away. Before SandyNet, the only Internet service available to its 9,570 residents was dial-up.

"How a Municipal Network Can Help Your City" Archive Now Available

Last week, Christopher Mitchell of ILSR joined other broadband and municipal network experts to present the webinar "How a Municipal Network Can Help Your City" from the National League of Cities.

Christopher was joined by Kyle Hollified, VP Sales/Marketing, Bristol Virginia Utilities, Bristol; Mary Beth Henry, Manager, Office for Community Technology/Mt Hood Cable Regulatory Commission in Portland, Oregon; and Colman Keane, Director of Fiber Technology, EPB, in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

The group discussed common challenges and benefits communities experience when investing in municipal networks.

If you were not able to attend the September 13 webinar, you can now listen to the archived, hour-long presentation at the National League of Cities website.

Community Broadband Bits 13 - Curtis Dean of Iowa Association of Municipal Utilities

Curtis Dean, the Telecommunications Services Coordinator for the Iowa Association of Municipal Utilities, joins us for our 13th Community Broadband Bits podcast. Curtis explains why Iowa has so many municipal utilities and why 28 of them offer some form of telecommunications service.

We talk about why making sure everyone in rural areas has access to affordable, reliable, and fast broadband is good for everyone in the entire country. And Curtis shares his experiences with the publicly owned FTTH network in Spencer.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show - please e-mail us or leave a comment below. Also, feel free to suggest other guests, topics, or questions you want us to address.

This show is 30 minutes long and can be played below on this page or subscribe via iTunes or via the tool of your choice using this feed. Search for us in iTunes and leave a positive comment!

Listen to previous episodes here.

Thanks to Fit and the Conniptions for the music, licensed using Creative Commons.

EPB Fiber Increases Residential Speeds at No Extra Cost

Chattanooga's EPB Fiber just announced that current customers will receive a bump up in speed at no extra cost for its FI-Speed Internet service.

Residential customers on three separate tiers will automatically receive an increase in speed with no increase in price. The upgrade has already happened and customers can immediately take advantage of the new speeds.

According to an Ellis Smith article in the Chattanooga Times Press:

EPB, which offers gigabit fiber-optic Internet speeds across its Chattanooga service area, is upgrading customers to celebrate its third anniversary in the fiber-to-the-home market, said Harold DePriest, president and CEO.

“Enhancing our FI-Speed Internet was something we could do to celebrate, so we did it,” DePriest said.

This is the second time EPB has upgraded service to customers for free. In 2010, EPB upgraded 15 Mbps service to 30 Mbps service. Oh, and the prices haven't increased over the three years. Look back at your cable bills from Comcast, Time Warner Cable, or others, and you'll likely find that rate increases outnumber speed boosts.

New speed (and old rates) look like this:

$57.99 - 30 Mbps symmetrical increases to 50 Mbps symmetrical

$69.99 - 50 Mbps symmetrical increases to 100 Mbps symmetrical

$139.99 - 100 Mbps symmetrical increases to 250 Mbps symmetrical

As an added bonus to cutomers on the 1 Gbps symmetrical tier, their rates will drop from $349.99 to $299.99.

Fierce Telecom's Sean Buckly shared some perspective on the change:

While major cable MSOs, including local operator Comcast, have been responding to the higher speed FTTH offerings made by the likes of Verizon and their 300 Mbps tier, it's clear cable's best offerings don't come close to what EPB can offer.

Comcast's 105/20 tier is priced at $115 per month plus the price of the modem rental, while Chattanooga EPB customers can get 250 Mbps symmetric service for $139.

EPB CEO Harold DePriest announced the upgrade with some other important news:

The upgrade, which EPB did not announce until after it was complete, came as the city-owned utility passed 40,000 fiber customers in the Chattanooga-area market. In its original business plan, EPB had projected a loss of $8 million in its third year, but actually made $4 million as of Saturday, DePriest said.

Cedar Falls Utilities Begins Rural Expansion

We have watched Cedar Falls Utilities (CFU) for the past several years as they upgraded their cable to fiber and started expanding their municipal network outside town limits. The Iowa water, electricity, and telecom utility just commenced further expansion to bring broadband to more rural residents through wireless and fiber with a broadband stimulus award.

Tina Hinz, at the WCF Courier, covered the story. Three new towers and more fiber installation will bring broadband service that is comparable to the connections in town to rural locations. Construction and customer installation should be completed by mid-2013.

According to Hinz:

CFU received final approval last month on a federal grant to fund nearly 40 percent of the $2.3 million installation cost. This reduces the high per-customer cost of building a communications system in an area with lower housing density. Customers will pay a similar price as those in town.

A PDF map of the rural expansion is available on the CFU website. CFU also provides a recent PDF map of their fiber-to-the-premises project, which is 70% complete.

Hinz spoke with rural customer Chris Hansen, who is in line for service through the new expansion.

Hansen called the development "a godsend." Recently he moved a mile west of the city limits on University Avenue. Accessing the web from his phone is functional but slow, he said.

...

Hansen has the wireless option, which will assist with his business as a sales representative for Bertch Cabinets and in his work on the family farm. He said he may subscribe to Netflix, which streams movies and television programs, and the Internet will benefit his twin children, Christian and Carina, 13, who currently share one phone with Internet.

The expansion will also allow CFU to improve electric service in rural areas and reduce loss due to outage and operational costs:

In addition, the wireless towers will serve two-way electric meters CFU is installing in the rural area. The digital meters will provide immediate reports of electric outages so crews can respond faster. They also will reduce meter reading costs, as a CFU employee will no longer need to visit rural properties to collect usage information. Lower costs help hold rates down.

Forum on Local Broadband September 19th

The Urbana Champaign Independent Media Center (UCIMC) will be hosting what is sure to be an interesting online discussion about local broadband models. On Wednesday, September 19th at 4:30 CST, an expert panel will be presenting "Models for Building Local Broadband: Public, Private, Coop, Nonprofit." The event will be held at Urbana City Hall in Illinois, but you can also stream the event live here.

In addition to our own Christopher Mitchell from ILSR, we will hear from Joanne Hovis, CTC Technology & Energy (public interest telecom expert and also NATOA President) and Wally Bowen, Mountain Area Information Network (non-profit internet provider in North Carolina).

From the press release:

Urbana-Champaign in Illinois is completing construction of a public system - called UC2B - that will connect 10% of the community with fast broadband they can use to access the internet, share videos, make phone calls and more.  The project was made possible by federal funds.

  • How do we connect the other 90% of our community to fast broadband? 
  • With what funds?  Who will control it? 
  • How can these models support digital inclusion for minority and low income users?

Urbana IMC has gathered some of the top experts in the field of community broadband to join in a discussion of these questions. During this forum, which will be webcast nationally, we will explore public, public-private, non profit, and cooperative models for building out broadband.We will discuss the benefits and challenges of each model to inform our community's upcoming decision about building out the rest of the UC2B network. Champaign-Urbana recently applied to build out the network with Gigabit Squared in a public-private partnership where the network is owned by a private company and the public sets the terms of use. The community is also exploring municipal and co-op models and has a request for proposals to seek other partners and solutions.

For more information, please contact Danielle Chenowyth, UCIMC board member, at chyn@ucimc.org.

Tullahoma Rolls Out Smart Meters Using Public Network

Last winter, we reported on Tullahoma, Tennessee's plans to use their fiber optic network for an Automatic Metering Information system (AMI). At the time, city leaders had just started a series of informational meetings for customers. Tullahoma Utilities Board (TUB) technicians are now in the process of installing the new meters in the full service area and expect to complete the project by April, 2013.

Brian Justice of the Tullahoma News, reported:

Brian Skelton, TUB general manager, said Wednesday the results have proven to be very effective, and now the utility is spreading out to install 10,500 electric meters and 9,500 water meters that electronically read and provide TUB with the usage information.

...

In addition to reading electric and water meters automatically, the system will be used for a number of other tasks to reduce peak electric demand and take advantage of TVA’s new wholesale rate plan.

As we reported earlier, utility managers decided to pursue the new system when the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) announced it would change to a "time of use" pricing structure. Because rates will be higher at peak times, the TUB want to give customers the chance to manage their utility costs.

Brian Coate, manager of the electric and fiber departments, told Justice:

“Automated metering will not only reduce personnel costs, but also provide better information on leak detection, outage management, and theft of service,” he said. “The system will also have a server and data portal where customers can examine their time of use habits and have more control over their bill.”

The new meters contain a radio transmitter that sends usage data to a collector secured on a utility pole. The information is then transferred to the TUB via the fiber optic network.

Electric usage will be monitored hourly while water usage info will be available on a daily basis. Customers will also be able to determine if there are any water leaks based on the results. Residents will be able to monitor their usage via a computer or smart phone.

A small number of customers expressed concern over the privacy of their data and opting out is an option. A Tullahoma News article by Andrea Agardy notes that opting out will cost $50 each month. Because the number of customers opting out is so low, the TUB will revisit the opt out program in the future and may discontinue it.

Read the frequently asked questions here [pdf].

ILSR and MuniNetworks.org Recognized By NATOA

The National Association of Telecommunication Officers and Advisors (NATOA) has recognized our work by naming us one of the Community Broadband Organizations of the Year for 2012. The award will be celebrated along with other 2012 Community Broadband Awards at their annual conference in New Orleans on September 27-29.

In the press release, NATOA noted our work "…for persistent reporting on community broadband initiatives and their opponents, thereby educating and informing the public and policy-makers nationwide."

The Massachussetts Broadband Institute (MBI) received a similar award for their work in regional broadband collaboration and development.

Other recipients include:

John Windhaousen, Blair Levin, Clakamas County, Oregon, the Cities of Wilson, North Carolina, and Port Angeles, Washington, and the Urbana-Champaign Big Broadband (UC2B) project.

From the Press Release:

We are thrilled to recognize such a broad spectrum of people, communities, and organizations that lead the nation in advocating for and improving government and public options in broadband technology," said Joanne Hovis, president of the NATOA Board of Directors.  "These pioneers have distinguished themselves in their extraordinary efforts, achievements and innovation in community-based approaches to broadband.

Webinar - "How a Municipal Network Can Help Your City"

We want to remind our readers that tomorrow, September 13, is the day for "How a Municipal Network Can Help Your City." The webinar runs from 2-3 Eastern time. Registration is free and Christopher Mitchell will be joined by Kyle Hollified, VP Sales/Marketing, Bristol Virginia Utilities and Colman Keane, Director of Fiber Technology, EPB, in Chattanooga.

Christopher will be discussing his report, “Broadband at the Speed of Light” as well as other economic benefits from publicly owned networks and the panel will talk about lessons learned in building and deploying municipal networks. Mary Beth Henry from Portland will discuss their experience with broadband as well.

The Public Technology Institute and the National League of Cities are sponsoring the event.

New Network in Carroll County Maryland on Track for 2013 Completion

Two years ago, we reported on the emerging partnership between Carroll County, Maryland, and the Maryland Broadband Cooperative (MBC) to build a fiber network to local business clients. The County financed the investment in part through cost savings obtained as a result of transitioning away from expensive T1 lines.

This summer, the Carroll County Office of Technology Services reported that the network is on track to be completed by January, 2013. In an interview with the Carroll County Times, Mark Ripper noted that the network is 60% complete. When deployed, the Carroll County Public Network (CCPN) will be 110 miles long and connect 132 sites, including the county public schools, the public library, and Carroll County Community College.

Carroll is one of a group of Maryland counties that comprise the Inter-County Broadband Network, a group of local government entities partnering to connect the smaller municipal networks across Maryland like the CCPN.

Back in 2007, when the CCPN was in its infancy, a Baltimore Sun article discussed significant cost savings estimated for the local library:

Currently, Ripper said the county pays $3,300 a month to connect all the local library branches to the Internet. Those costs will be eliminated once the network is built out.

Savings to the schools, the libraries, the college, and county government are expected to be significant. Short term annual savings for all four entities are estimated at $950,000 per year in leased line costs, according to a 2010 Carroll County Credit Rating Report. The report goes on to estimate potential revenue from the network at $300,000 to $600,000 in the short term and as high as $3,600,000 to $7,200,000 in the long term, depending on how the network is used in the future. The credit report PDF is available here.

The $9 million project, partly funded through a stimulus funding, is expected to pay for itself in 10 - 15 years through the significant cost savings. The future jobs created and economic development for the region will continue long after the capital asset is paid off. View a PDF of the map.