Tag: "muni"

Posted June 13, 2018 by lgonzalez

Cortez, Colorado, has been serving public facilities, community anchor institutions (CAIs), and businesses officially since 2011. In 2015, they expanded to bring fiber connectivity to more businesses; today, seven providers offer services on their open access infrastructure. Now, Cortez is ready to take the next step by offering retail services to residents as an ISP; they’re engaged in a pilot project that will help them determine the best way to move forward. This week, General Services Director Rick Smith joins Christopher to discuss past, present, and future in this town of approximately 9,000.

The guys met up at Mountain Connect in Vail, where they’re joining many other industry and policy professionals discuss infrastructure, connectivity, and policy. While at the conference, Rick and the city received the Community Project of the Year Award.

Rick was on the show in 2014 to describe how this rural community incrementally built its network with local investment and state contributions. This time, Cortez is considering ways to shrink its digital divide and examining funding through ways other than traditional revenue bonding. They’ve also been working on regional efforts to help neighbors get the kind of connectivity needed for economic development. Rick describes how the outdoor equipment retailer Osprey has set up its headquarters in Cortez -- first on the list of necessities was not physical real estate, but the ability to access dark fiber.

As Cortez looks at challenges to achieve their goal of citywide Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH), they’re considering inventive and methodical ways to reduce costs. They are committed to bringing high-quality Internet access to every citizen in Cortez because they realize that, without action, residents face a potential monopoly provider.

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.

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Posted May 22, 2018 by lgonzalez

Hillsboro, Oregon, has studied the possibility of investing in high-quality fiber connectivity for residents and businesses since 2014. After considering the pros and cons, this northwest city of 105,000 has decided to move ahead, with spring 2019 as a target launch date of its own Internet access service.

Communications Utility and Beyond

In January, the City Council approved establishing a communications utility, creating a communications fund, and taking the necessary steps to develop a dig once policy in the city’s code. Elected officials had not yet decided if the community would pursue a city-wide network, but wanted to create an environment that would offer future options and encourage private sector partners to invest in Hillsboro.

The city already owns fiber optic resources that it uses for municipal facilities, schools, traffic signals, and other purposes. They plan to use that network as a foundation to expand in order to bring better connectivity throughout the community. With a wider network, Hillsboro hopes to adopt public Wi-Fi, better public safety notifications, and applications for smart-meters for utility services as well as real-time parking and traffic updates.

Keeping it Affordable for All Segments

Hillsboro plans to offer gigabit connectivity at around $50 per month but hopes to provide the same symmetrical service to lower-income households at a lower rate. In addition to equitable access for all income levels in Hillsboro, the city wants to ensure that students have the ability to compete.

“For our students, for our businesses, and for our entire community, we are moving forward now to expand the City’s fiber network to include Internet service,” said Hillsboro Mayor Steve Callaway. “We want to ensure affordable, equitable high-speed access to keep Hillsboro competitive with cities around the world."

The city wants to ensure that network neutrality protections remain in effect in the community for individuals and businesses. Encouraging entrepreneurs and making high-quality access with good customer service affordable for all subscribers are more goals they intend to pursue.

Incremental

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Posted May 15, 2018 by lgonzalez

Doug Dawson and his firm, CCG Consulting, recently marked their 20th year working in the telecommunications industry. Prior to establishing the firm, Doug already had significant experience in the field, having worked in the industry since 1978. Doug belongs to a small cadre of professionals who have the technical expertise and policy knowledge to set them apart. While Christopher was at the Broadband Communities Summit in Austin, he was lucky enough to spend some time with Doug and the two talked about a broad range of topics for episode 306 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast. 

Remember you can listen to our weekly podcast by signing up here on iTunes or listen using this feed. Commercial-free conversations like this are filled with useful information for anyone interested in better connectivity in their community. This 34-minute conversation with Doug is only one of many interviews we've had with high-quality guests that offer insights into better connectivity.

logo-community-bb-bits_small.png In addition to sharing how Doug’s work has developed as the industry has changed, he describes some of the lessons he’s learned from working with different types of clients. Doug and CCG has consulted for private and public sector clients -- those whose needs vary along with their definitions of success. Doug also shares his predictions about 5G and all the surrounding hype. Chris and Doug talk about Connect America Funding and ways to bring broadband to rural America. He’s been pondering the consequences of the FCC’s decision to remove federal network neutrality protections and what it means for municipal networks and smaller ISPs. Doug has some logical predictions on how local entities will move forward without network neutrality in place.

Check out the CCG Consulting website and be sure to peruse Doug’s blog, POTs and PANs. You can sign up for delivery of his articles directly to your inbox. You can also follow Doug on Twitter.

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Posted May 15, 2018 by lgonzalez

One several occasions, local leaders in communities with municipal networks have told us that one of the lessons they’ve learned is that marketing is important. While municipal networks can be considered utilities by community leaders who manage and operate them, they still need to be mindful of business in order to enhance subscriber numbers, compete with other ISPs, and establish a brand. This month, the Reedsburg Utility Commission (RUC) in Wisconsin launched a new brand for its triple-play network.

Not Newbies

We’ve written about RUC’s network in the past, including their efforts to expand to rural areas and the decision in 2014 to offer gigabit connectivity. We even interviewed RUC General Manager Brett Schuppner in 2015, who shared the history of the network back to 2003, which means it’s one of the oldest Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) networks in the U.S.

According to the RUC press release, the new brand and logo — LightSpeed — “has roots back to the initial launch of RUC’s telecom services.”

Now, subscribers can obtain gigabit connectivity for $44.95 per month when they purchase bundled services. In addition to gigabit Internet access, residents can subscribe to a 100 Megabits per second tier. The service is symmetrical, so upload speeds are as fast as download. Symmetrical connections allow subscribers the ability to send large data files as well as receive them, which creates a better environment for entrepreneurs, teleworkers, and students who need robust connections for homework.

From the press release:

"At Reedsburg Utility we are customer focused and strive to provide the best service for the price” said RUC’s General Manager Brett Schuppner. “We feel the internet provider should not be the limiting factor on how quickly a customer can access internet content. With LightSpeed Internet, we’ve removed the bandwidth restrictions so customers can fully...

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Posted April 25, 2018 by lgonzalez

Anacortes, Washington, has been working toward a publicly owned fiber optic network for several years. They’re now at a point in development when potential partners are visiting the community to present proposals for collaboration. There are still details to decide, but Anacortes is well on its way to fast, affordable, reliable connectivity to the entire community. 

Building On The Water

Anacortes wanted better connectivity between water treatment plants and pumping stations, which were previously communicating via radio. Nonprofit Northwest Open Access Network (NoaNet) began working with Anacortes in 2016 to help them design the network to meet the needs of the water utility. As part of preparation for the new infrastructure, Anacortes decided last year to take advantage of existing water pipes as conduit, adopting a new approach in the U.S. 

The fiber system for the utility communications will serve as the basis for the citywide network. Anacortes has already deployed a fiber optic backbone in the eastern half of the city by aerial and underground means and plans to continue to the western half this year.

Last fall, community leaders reached out to residents and businesses to find out their needs for better connectivity and to gauge interest in a publicly owned network. They asked the community to complete a survey. Respondents indicated that speed, reliability, and price are major concerns for them.

Frontier DSL, Comcast, and Wave Cable now offer Internet access in the community of 16,800, but the community wants to prepare for the future and know that they need fiber optic connectivity in Anacortes for economic development.

In January, the city released a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) to find an ISP to manage and operate its infrastructure and offer Internet access to the community. While they had considered an open access model in the past, they’ve now decided to choose one entity to partner with while considering opening up the network to more providers in the future....

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Posted April 19, 2018 by lgonzalez

On April 14th, folks in Alford, Massachusetts, gathered at their fire house to attend a presentation about the bright future of their connectivity. After a long journey to find better connectivity in the small western Massachusetts town, residents and businesses are now subscribing to Fiber-to-the-Premise (FTTP) Internet access from AlfordLink, their own municipal network.

Years Of Work

With only around 500 residents in Alford, it’s no surprise that big incumbents decided the lack of population density didn’t justify investment in 21st century connectivity. By 2012 and 2013, the community had had enough; they decided to pursue their own solution with a municipal network. Alford voted to form a Municipal Light Plant (MLP), the entity that that manages publicly owned networks in Massachusetts.

In addition to the $1.6 million the town decided to borrow to spend on fiber optic infrastructure, the town will also receive around $480,000 in state grant funds. The Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI) is handling distribution of funds to Alford and other towns that have decided to use the funding to invest in publicly owned Internet infrastructure.

Alford, Blandford, and Shutesbury, are a few of the hilltowns contracting with Westfield Gas+Electric (WG+E) in Westfield. WG+E’s WhipCity Fiber began by serving only Westfield, but now contracts with other small towns to either assist them as they establish their own telecommunications utilities or to provide Internet access and operate a publicly owned network. In very small communities like Alford, they may not feel they have the resources or expertise to manage a gigabit network, but don’t want to relinquish control of their connectivity to an untrustworthy corporate incumbent.

Last year, Charter offered to take MBI funds and build a network in Shutesbury that the company would own and control. The town rejected the offer for the hybrid fiber coaxial network,...

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Posted April 17, 2018 by lgonzalez

When Fort Collins voters chose to amend their charter last year, they were choosing a path to simplify their ability to improve local connectivity. When Comcast tried to derail the measure to protect their monopoly, community members established a vibrant grassroots effort to overcome the influx of cash and disinformation. Now, Fort Collins is moving ahead after establishing that they intend to issue revenue bonds to develop a municipal fiber optic network.

Big Spending Didn’t Stop The Need

After all the spending was totaled last December, Comcast and CenturyLink under the mask of Priorities First Fort Collins, spent $900,999 to try to defeat measure 2B. The proposal passed anyway and allowed the city to amend its charter. That change allows Fort Collins to issue bonds for telecommunications infrastructure and to take other steps necessary to offer Internet service without taking the issue to the voters a separate time.

Thanks to the efforts of Colin Garfield and Glen Akins and their citizen-led effort to educate and correct Comcast’s disinformation, voters in Fort Collins passed measure 2B. The city opted out of the state’s restrictive SB 152 back in 2015 and voices in the community have advocated for exploration of a publicly owned option for several years. Seems people and businesses in Fort Collins were not able to get the connectivity they needed and incumbents weren’t interested in providing better services.

When the FCC decided late in 2017 to abandon network neutrality policy, Fort Collins City Council decided the time was right to move forward. In January, they voted to establish a municipal telecommunications utility. Their first step was in approving $1.8 million for startup costs, including hiring personnel, equipment, and consulting; the measure passed unanimously. The city council approved the loan from the city’s general fund to the city’s electric...

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Posted April 3, 2018 by lgonzalez

An increasing interest in publicly owned network projects has also spurred an increase in creative collaborations as communities work together to facilitate deployment, especially in rural areas. This week, we talk with Sharon Kyser, Marketing and Public Relations Manager for Newport Utilities (NU) in Newport, Tennessee, and Jody Wigington, General Manager and CEO of Morristown Utility Systems (MUS), also in Tennessee, for episode 300 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast.

We’ve written about MUS Fibernet and had Jody on the show several times to talk about how they built their own network and the ways it has improved the electric utility and helped the community. Now, they’ve entered into a partnership with their neighbors in Newport, who also want to reap the benefits of public ownership. Sharon tells us how the people in Newport need better services, economic development, and how her organization is working with MUS to make that vision a reality.

The two communities are working together to develop a Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network for residents and businesses in the NU service area. MUS is offering the expertise they’ve developed over the past 12+ years along with other technical and wholesale services that will greatly reduce costs and deployment time for NU. This is an example of rural communities sticking together and is an example we hope to see more often in the future.

In the interview, Jody also mentions a partnership in the works with Appalachian Electric Cooperative; we spoke to him and General Manager Greg Williams about the proposed collaboration for episode 203 of the podcast. Listen to that conversation here.

This show is 30 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed.

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Posted March 30, 2018 by lgonzalez

A new report from the American Civil Liberties Union (ALU) examines municipal networks as a way to protect network neutrality and privacy, and to improve local access to broadband. The report, titled The Public Internet Option, offers information on publicly owned networks and some of the most common models. The authors also address how community networks are better positioned to preserve privacy, bring equitable Internet access across the community, and honor free speech. There are also suggestions on ways to begin a local community network initiative.

Read the full report.

Preserving Online Expectations

The ACLU report dives into the changes the current FCC have made that have created an online environment hostile toward preserving privacy and innovation. When FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and the Republican Commissioners chose to repeal federal network neutrality protections, they handed a obscene amount of power to already overly-powerful corporate ISPs. Ever since that decision, local communities have been looking for alternatives.

Authors of the report describe the ways local communities are using their existing assets and investing in more infrastructure in order to either offer connectivity themselves or work with private sector partners. In addition to having the ability to require network neutrality from partners, communities with their own infrastructure are able to take measures to protect subscribers’ data and implement other privacy protections. The current administration removed privacy protections for subscribers in 2017.

The ACLU offers best practices that rely on three main principles:

1. High-speed broadband must be accessible and affordable for all.

2. Community broadband services must protect free speech. 

3. Community broadband services must protect privacy.

Within each principle, the report offers specific information and considerations. As we would expect from the ACLU, they cover the...

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Posted March 29, 2018 by lgonzalez

Cortez is ready to use its publicly owned infrastructure to begin a Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) pilot project. At the March 27th City Council meeting, members unanimously approved fees and rates for the Cortez Community Network Pilot, which marks a shift as the city moves to offer retail Internet access to residents and businesses.

Time To Serve Residents

Earlier this month, General Services Director Rick Smith presented information to the City Council about the pilot at a workshop so they could ask in-depth questions. At the workshop, City Manager Shane Hale described the challenges of finding ISPs willing to offer residential Internet access via Cortez’s fiber infrastructure. “We found that there were very few providers that actually wanted to go Fiber-to-the-Home,” he said. “Homeowners are a lot of work.”

The city’s network has provided open access fiber connectivity to municipal and county facilities, schools, community anchor institutions (CAIs), and downtown businesses for years. They officially launched the network in 2011 after serving public facilities and a few businesses on an as-needed basis. A 2015 expansion brought the network allowed Cortez to offer fiber connectivity to more premises. There are at least seven private sector ISPs using the infrastructure to offer services to local businesses.

The open access model will remain for commercial connections in Cortez, but for now the city plans to operate as a retail ISP for residents who sign up on the pilot program. At the March 27th meeting, the City Council established rates for subscribers, who will pay $150 for installation and $60 per month for 100 Megabits per second (Mbps) for upload and download speeds. Subscribers will also need to rent a GigaCenter Wi-Fi router for $10 per month.

Waiting On The Wings Of The Pilot Program

According to Smith, potential subscribers are already interested in signing up to participate in the pilot program. He told the Cortez Journal that 11 residents were in the process of being connected and 58 residents and...

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