Located in the northeast corner of the state of Tennessee, Morristown Utility Systems offers FiberNET to Morristown's 30,000 residents and businesses. MUSFiberNET is another community that decided to take control of its destiny and invest in a municipal broadband network.
And by offering 1 Gbps anywhere in the community, Morristown is in the ultra-elite category of broadband in America.
We featured Morristown in one of the Muni FTTH Snapshots way back in June of 2009. They were doing well at the time but this great news shows how Morristown has brought next-gen, affordable, and reliable capabilities to anyone who wants it.
Morristown's Gig announcement never received the attention given to Chattanooga or Google's roll-out in Kansas City, which is unfortunate.
For commercial users, the Gig runs $849.00 per month, a ridiculously inexpensive price point compared to what large carriers commonly charge for the service. Morristown Schools are also taking advantage of the network, including making full use of the gig service. Residential prices vary from 6 Mbps/4 Mbps, download and upload speeds, for $34.95 to 20 Mbps/10 Mbps for $74.95 and MUS FiberNET also offers a variety of triple-play bundles.
Like many other communities in Tennessee, Morristown has few choices for service from private providers. After promising the state legislature major investments in Tennessee in return for favorable legislation, AT&T decided to only served high end, dense neighborhoods, as we have seen just about everywhere else.
Communities that are satisfied with last generation connections and having no control over the networks on which they depend can make do with AT&T and cable companies. But those who want universal access to fast, affordable, and reliable services should consider building a community fiber network.
Chattanooga has established a summer program for forward-thinking people to explore a world effectively without bandwidth limitations (thanks to their community fiber network) -- the Gig Tank in the Gig City.
What could you do if bandwidth was no longer a barrier? Choose your track and bring your world-changing gigabit idea to the Gig Tank.
Whether you are an entrepreneur or student, there is an opportunity for you. But you better act fast! The deadline for applications is fast approaching -- get in your application before Tuesday, March 20 transitions into March 21.
They have prizes and plenty of other benefits for the people selected to join the program. If you are the first to identify someone who joins the program, you could get some cash money yourself - so check out this video and spread the word.
Broadband for the Rural North Ltd has been registered as a Community Benefit Society within the Industrial and Provident Societies Act 1965 (IPS), and is controlled by the Financial Services Authority. Shares will be issued to provide funding for the project and members of the community will be encouraged to subscribe to the share issue. The share issue will comply with the Enterprise Initiative Scheme established by HMRC to encourage individual share holdings in new and developing companies. Under certain circumstances investors could reclaim 30% of the value of shares produced.
As a community company, the project will be funded and to a greater extent built by the community for the community. Our ambition is to keep expenditure, where possible, within the community. In addition to purchasing shares, the community will have the opportunity to “purchase” shares in exchange for labour and materials during the project build.
The initial share offer will be £2,000,000 of shares with a face value of £1, to be launched in late 2011 and open for 1 year. The project is expected to commence on site in early 2012 and completed by the year end. The initial network will be progressively added to over subsequent years until approximately 15000 properties in adjoining rural parishes are completely connected to the FTTH network.
To keep costs low in their rural areas, B4RN will be taking a non-traditional approach:
B4RN will adopt a different approach; we will lay the duct not on the highway but across the farmland on the other side of the wall. Digging a narrow trench and installing a duct within it is dramatically less expensive across private farmland than along the highway. The work can be done by agricultural workers and the farmers themselves; it’s not high technology, similar to laying a simple water or drainage pipe which they do all the time. The combination of lower cost labour and simple installation without the regulatory burden of the street works act and similar impediments results in a dramatic reduction in cost per metre installed. Of course the costs of the materials will actually be rather higher than those paid by telecommunications companies due to our smaller scale of operations; however this is much more than offset by the reduced laying costs. Where necessary we will use the highways but this should be for a small proportion of the duct length, mainly for road crossings and short sections where the farmland is either not available to us or unsuitable. We will be applying to OFCOM for Code Powers to permit us to do this in the same way as any other telecommunications company.
The big problem is that for this model to work the land owners must be prepared to grant free wayleaves to lay duct across their land. Clearly they would refuse to do this if the applicant were a traditional telecommunications company out to make a profit, but if it were a community owned cooperative run for the benefit of the community the story is different.
They are looking for a very ambitious take rate - on the order of 80% in year 4.
Some still question whether we need FTTH networks, suggesting that modest copper upgrades will be fine for most over the next 5-10 years. When it comes to essential infrastructure, the idea that we should "cut costs" by operating right on the margin usually ends poorly -- and costs more, particularly in lost opportunities.
But to get a taste of what is possible on next-generation networks, check out a short video synopsis (the first video) of an entire conference discussing this subject.
The following videos are much more in-depth (and in chronological order), following the theme of "Public Services in a Gigabit World."
Case Western Reserve University, one of the original partners in the OneCommunity Project, lit up a 1 Gbps network in a poorly served neighborhood near campus. This video explains some of the uses they have found thus far.
Guy Daniels heads to Chattanooga to learn about the best broadband network in the country -- interviews with Katie Espeseth (VP of EPB Fiber Optics) and Harold DePriest (President and CEO of EPB) from Telecom TV
Advocates for community broadband networks in urban areas that already have cable and DSL options are often asked why the community needs something better. Aside from the many benefits in terms of reliability and symmetrical offers, we do need faster connections. Those who doubt that may want to remind themselves of a great list of very smart people underestimating technology.
1876 “The telephone has too many shortcomings…the device is inherently of no value to us.” Western Union
1897 "Radio has no future" Lord Kelvin, President, Royal Society
1899 "Everything that can be invented has already been invented.”Director, U.S. Patent Office
1927 “Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?” H.M. Warner, Warner Brothers
1936 “Television won’t matter in your lifetime or mine.” Rex Lambert, Editor, Radio Tim
1977 “There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.” Ken Olsen, Founder and Chairman DEC (Digital Equipment Corporation, now part of Compaq
1981 “640K ought to be enough for anyone.” Bill Gates
I encourage everyone to call their ISP to ask what 1Gbps would cost. If you get a sales person who knows what 1Gbps is, you will probably get a hearty laugh. These services are rarely available in our communities… and when they are, the cost is measured by thousands to tens of thousands. Chattanooga's offering, though clearly out of the league most of us are willing to pay for residential connections, is quite a deal.
The reaction that it is pricey blows my mind… at $350 for 1Gbps, one is paying $.35 for each megabit. I pay Comcast something like $4.5 for each megabit down and $35 for each megabit up (I actually pay more as I rarely get the speeds advertised).
Make no mistake, Chattanooga's 1Gbps is very modestly priced. And I would not expect many communities to duplicate it. Chattanooga has some unique circumstances that allow it to create this deal; the fact that other community fiber networks around the country cannot match it should not be taken as a knock against them. Ultimately, communities must do what is best for them, not merely try to steal the thunder as the best network in the nation.
But for the folks who have the best network in the nation, I get the idea they have enjoyed the vast coverage of their creation. The Chattanooga Times Free Press ran a lengthy story titled "Fastest on the web."
"We can never overestimate the amount of bandwidth that will be needed in the future," said jon Kinsey, a Chattanooga developer and former mayor who is working with local entrepreneurs to study ways to capitalize on the faster broadband service. "What EPB has set up gives us an opportunity as a community to get into a whole new realm of business growth."
One might expect that the president of the "Information Technology and Innovation Federation" would be interested in the most cutting edge broadband network in the country -- and one that is excited to work with innovative countries. But no:
“Chattanooga definitely is ahead of the curve,” Atkinson said. “It’s like they are building a 16-lane highway when there is a demand for only four at this point. The private companies probably can’t afford to get that far ahead of the market.”
ITIF has long been suspected of being too friendly with big carriers who do not appreciate it when communities build far better networks than they offer. But I have to agree with Atkinson and even go a bit further -- big private companies have proven unable to even offer what communities need today, let alone worrying about being ahead of the market.
This is due to the massive imbalance of private interests versus community needs. A Herald Tribune article on Chattanooga talks with a local business owner who subscribes to Comcast's highest tier of service:
Swier said he pays $200 a month for Comcast service rated at 50 megabits per second download and five megabits upload speed.
"It is the best service they provide in my location," said Swier, whose offices are a few blocks north of Fruitville Road off Central Avenue.
Swier said the day-to-day speed of the broadband service is even slower.
"What kills us is the up," Swier said, meaning the ability to move large amount of data from his business to another site or entity. "At best, we get three megabits up and we send a lot of data out. And that is just, like, slow."
This is exactly why Comcast and other private companies tied EPB up in the courts for years to prevent or at least slow down their deployment (something missed in most of the stories).
They quote me in the story:
Mitchell said with EPB’s announcement, entrepreneurs in rural Tennessee “will pay far less for far greater speeds than even those in Silicon Valley.”
And they also note that the network is already responsible for bringing in new jobs:
Last week, HomeServe USA announced plans to locate a 140-employee call center in Chattanooga, in part due to Chattanooga’s faster broadband service.
“They told us we probably have more Internet fire power in a home in Chattanooga than they have in their whole operation in Miami,” Hamilton County Mayor Claude Ramsey said.
Chattanooga's strategy is multi-pronged - EPB offers excellent electrical reliability (which will only improve with this fiber network enabling smart-grid improvements. Chattanooga is turning into an excellent example of what communities can do when they take responsibility for themselves.
Fiber to the home has a new rock star. His name is David Wade [Senior VP of the Public Power Utility], he has a charming Tennessee drawl, and his company is the first in the US to deliver a symmetrical 1 Gbit/s to residential customers.
For people looking for more numbers, Wilson provides them:
EBP, which is using Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) GPON technology, has had its plan widely vetted in a series of public meetings, since it is a municipally owned utility company. It's projecting a strong payback on its FTTH network, even given the expense of building in areas that are not densely populated. That plan was based on an installation rate of 50 homes a day and a 30 percent take rate on voice, data, and video services within five years.
EBP is actually installing 130 to 140 homes a day and has hit the 15 percent penetration point in its first year, Wade says.
Perhaps more importantly, EBP expects to save $300 million over 10 years on wholesale electricity purchases by using the smart meters deployed on its fiber optic network to reduce consumption.
And as a final benefit to the community, Wade noted that for the first time he can remember, they made it through a January where Comcast did not raise prices. Ah the benefits of community fiber networks….
Chattanooga has announced a new level of service, offering 1Gbps to all subscribers in a unique citywide offering. Chattanooga previously led the nation with a 150Mbps tier. Today has been crazy, and lots is being written about this announcement, so I'll highlight stories and saving adding something interesting until later.
Only Hong Kong and a few other cities in the world offer such lightning-fast service, and analysts say Chattanooga will be the first in the United States to do so. “This makes Chattanooga — a midsized city in the South — one of the leading cities in the world in its digital capabilities,” said Ron Littlefield, the city’s mayor.
The city hopes this will give it a competitive advantage; on the new website promoting the service, the city's Electric Power Board pitches its country-leading broadband as "a test bed for next generation technology," as "the ultimate tool for entrepreneurs," and a place where "bandwidth is no problem." The consistent theme: you should move to Chattanooga.
(It also reminds us that Chattanooga is far beyond the FCC's timid goals in the National Broadband Plan.)
EPB says that their 100 Mbps service is now costing $140 a month and the 1 Gbps service will cost $350 a month.
Though Chattanooga has beat Google to the punch, this does little to change Google's goal of even cheaper 1Gbps with open access - the race is not simply to 1Gbps, it is to the future! Those who are putting Google down in some way are grasping for something to say about a stunningly unique offering. Sad to see Google put down in some way merely because they announced their big ambitions.
Dr. James Busch is a local Chattanooga radiologist who currently uses Fi-Speed Internet service and is looking forward to speeds of up to 1 gig. He says even at his current speeds, each radiologist has increased their work flow by 27 percent – equivalent to having three extra doctors on staff. With 1 gig, who knows what advancements an office like Dr. Busch’s could make.
That Harold knows Dr. Busch is a good sign -- community fiber networks know their subscribers. I doubt Comcast's execs could find most of the communities they serve on a blank map.
Don't forget the smart-grid benefits,
And then there are the Smart Grid benefits. By fall of 2012, all 170,000 homes and business within EPB’s service area will be connected to our 100% fiber optic Smart Grid. This means a 40 percent reduction in customer outage minutes, increased electric power reliability and efficiency, and customer tools to manage energy needs, like an energy portal on your home computer or television.
We have built an expansive, powerful, 100% fiber network. But the power isn't in the platform. The real power is in how we use it. Our infrastructure spurs research and development of new technologies right here in the United States, and preserves American jobs.
This is the ultimate tool for entrepreneurs. For established companies looking to become game-changers. For anyone needing a system that can help test and prove ideas.
Instead of trying to guess what products and services the market will demand, we are inviting talented people to use our network to work on complex challenges.
Not one size fits all, but one platform for mass innovation, accelerated R&D, broad testing and deep creativity.
Critics also charge that municipalities only succeed due to tax exemptions and subsidies -- but Florida municipalities return as much, if not more, funds to public treasuries that private telecom firms. And as for subsidies -- well, incumbents themselves have received direct subsidies of nearly $390 million in the last five years to provide service in Florida.