Tag: "partnership"

Posted December 10, 2019 by lgonzalez

The Medina County Fiber Network (MCFN) has already made important strides in north central Ohio. The network, which offers dark fiber and lit services, provides important connectivity for carriers, institutions, and businesses. In this interview, we hear from CEO David Corrado, who explains how it's time to move to residential services; he introduces us to MCFN's partner, Lit Communities. CEO Brian Snider and Chief Marketing Officer Ben Lewis-Ramirez join in the conversation.

Our three guests explain the new entity that they're creating through this venture, Medina Fiber, and talk about how the partnership came about. We learn more about Lit Communities and their commitment to the community based model that combines private capital with open access infrastructure to serve the needs of a local community. Ben and Brian discuss their hopes and ideas for the model and why they feel it's especially suitable for a place like Medina County.

We learn more about some of the benefits that are growing out of the MCFN and how Medina Fiber will use the infrastructure to deliver special services for residents. Brian, Ben, and David discuss their ideas of success for the project.

You can hear more about the MCFN from our last conversation with David during episode 220 from 2016.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

This show is 37 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes ...

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Posted November 19, 2019 by lgonzalez

Tri-County Electric Cooperative in north central Pennsylvania has listened to its members' wishes and is developing a Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network for Internet access. While Christopher was at the October Broadband Communities Economic Development event in Alexandria, Virginia, he met up with Craig Eccher, President and CEO of the co-op, to learn more about the project and the cooperative.

Craig describes how the infrastructure was needed for basic electric operations - to improve communication between substations - and that members had also begun to request Internet access from their co-op. When they sought information through a survey, the results were supportive, but cooperative leadership needed to take a creative approach to get members to attend a meeting for discussion about project details. Craig describes how the demographic support surprised and encouraged them and how state and federal funding provided the boost they needed to confirm the project.

The cooperative is redefining partnerships both in the community and in ways that go beyond the co-op's service area. Craig talks about business and member partnerships that will help expand the use of the infrastructure. He also describes how the project has breathed new life into the role of the cooperative within the Appalachian community it serves and how, while happy with the new excitement, it's important to manage expectations.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

This show is 24 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this...

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Posted November 14, 2019 by lgonzalez

In early November, Founder and President from The Broadband Group, Tom Reiman, appeared on Fox Business to discuss partnership opportunities that may indicate a shift in perspective.

Strange Distruption

Reiman discussed the recently announced partnership between CenturyLink and the city of Springfield, Missouri, where the national company has decided to work with the municipal utility. The ISP and the utility will expand the publicly owned fiber infrastructure and CenturyLink will offer services via the network. 

The arrangement is a major shift in the traditional approach that large companies have taken until now: preferring to own and operate their own infrastructure and to serve primarily densely populated regions with high-quality Internet access. Rural areas have typically been forced to rely on, at best, DSL from national companies such as CenturyLink.

Reiman discussed how The Broadband Group reasoned with CenturyLink by highlighting the ease of entry into a market where infrastructure and opportunity already exists. It also became apparent to CenturyLink that the company needs to move forward and improve services in order to stay financially viable in a market in which subscribers’ demands continue to follow innovation.

Watch the Fox Business segment here.

We spoke with Reiman in 2016 about the partnership in Huntsville between the city and Google Fiber, which is similar to the Springfield partnership. He and Stacy Cantrell from Huntsville Utilities described the arrangement in episode 191 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast.

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Posted November 7, 2019 by Sayidali Moalim

Minnesota Democratic Senators Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith, alongside Republican State Representative Pete Stauber recently announced a $1.9 Million grant for broadband deployment in Aitkin County. Two local cooperatives will use the Community Connect grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), to deploy fiber optic infrastructure in order to spur economic development, business, telehealth, and educational improvements.

In a press release, Sen. Klobuchar said, "This crucial funding will connect these communities - bringing high speed Internet to even more Minnesotans. We must continue working to expand broadband access in our rural areas, a necessity for our families and businesses.” Sen. Smith commented, "I’m glad to see USDA investing in Aitkin County—including Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe—to ensure rural Minnesotans aren’t left behind in our work to provide affordable and reliable service to everyone.”

Co-ops Cooperating

In 2016, Mille Lacs Energy Cooperative (MLEC) received a $1.76 million grant from the Minnesota Border to Border Broadband Program. MLEC partnered with Consolidated Telecommunications Company (CTC) and worked together to successfully create XStream Fiber, a Fiber-to-the-Home network (FTTH). The Border to Border Broadband Program grant allowed the co-ops to deploy XStream Fiber to 800 households, several businesses, and local institutional sites in Aitkin County. 

The Community Connect grant will allow the  partners to expand XStream Fiber to 235 more homes and businesses in Rice River Township, Spaulding Township, and tribal lands in Aitkin County, Minnesota. 

MLEC will be in charge of managing billing, marketing, and other subscriber services and CTC will manage network connectivity, Internet backhaul, and backend support. MLEC will also be in charge of handling basic inquiries from...

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Posted October 31, 2019 by lgonzalez

Lawrenceville, Virginia, only has around 1,000 people living in the community, but they anticipate a boost in jobs in the near future, thanks to the local electric co-op, a partnership, and fiber optic connectivity. 

Small-Town Guys Getting It Done

Virginia Business reports that Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative (MEC) is in the process of wiring a former bank facility with Fiber-to-the-Premise (FTTP) in order for the next tenant to use the building as a call center. Echo World Communications, based in Bedford County, will take up residence and bring approximately 152 new jobs to Lawrenceville.

According to Virginia Business:

It never would have happened if the building couldn’t have been equipped with high-speed, reliable Internet, says Michael Dotti, business director of the Brunswick County Industrial Development Authority. “It’s a huge amount of technology. This was like small-town guys getting it done.”

Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative (MEC) is wiring the bank building this fall at no cost to Brunswick, with funding from Mid-Atlantic Broadband Communities Corp. (MBC), which started in 2004 as a cooperative to bring fiber-optic networks to rural Virginia. The broadband cooperative also has installed about 90 miles of fiber cables in six Southern Virginia counties, with 45 more miles planned by the end of 2020.

Productive Partners

This isn't the first time we've seen these two entities partner to expand access to broadband in southern Virginia. About two years ago, we reported on a project similar to the one in Lawrenceville in which MEC and MBC connected last mile and middle mile fiber to reduce costs and reach more premises.

The Virginia Business article also mentions that MEC is looking to acquire a local telephone cooperative, if the telephone co-op members approve.

MEC also has proposed the purchase of Buggs Island Telephone Cooperative (BIT) by MEC affiliate Empower Broadband. The merger is contingent on BIT’s 4,500 customers, who have been asked to submit votes by Nov. 13.

“We expect it will speed up the process of putting fiber in this area,” says David Lipscomb, MEC’s vice president of member...

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Posted October 25, 2019 by lgonzalez

We're pleased to bring you the first episode from a special bonus series of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast titled "Why NC Broadband Matters." The series is a collaboration with the nonprofit NC Broadband Matters, whose focus is on facilitating the expansion of ubiquitous broadband coverage to local communities for residents and businesses. We'll be working with NC Broadband Matters on this series to develop nine more episodes that center around broadband in North Carolina.

"Overbuilding Means Providing Internet Choice: How One Small Company is Closing North Carolina's Digital Divide," is a conversation between host Christopher Mitchell and Alan Fitzpatrick of Open Broadband. The North Carolina company delivers high-quality Internet access to local communities. As Fitzpatrick notes in the interview, Open Broadband uses different types of technology, depending on what's most effective in each region. The goal is delivering quality Internet access.

logo-nc-hearts-gig.png Christopher and Alan talk about how the term "overbuilding" is now associated with waste, rather than with competition. They discuss the benefits of overbuilding and competition, problems with of lack of choice, and Alan reviews some potential long-term policy changes that could encourage investment. Alan and Christopher talk about local government involvement in promoting competition for better access to high-quality connectivity. They also touch on how lack of competition can increase the digital divide and how North Carolina could make changes to allow local governments to...

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Posted October 18, 2019 by lgonzalez

When Lincoln, Nebraska, developed their extensive network of conduit back in 2012, they were working within the confines of restrictive state law to encourage better local connectivity. Jump ahead seven years and we find that the city has established a fruitful partnership with private sector partner ALLO Communications. The relationship has brought a long list of benefits to the community, but the latest will help nonprofit sector organizations — Lincoln and ALLO will provide free gigabit Internet access for 10 years to 75 local nonprofits.

The list contains 35 organizations that ALLO has already selected. The remaining 40 will be chosen through a lottery managed by the city’s Community Connect Program. In order to qualify, nonprofits must have fewer than 75 full-time employees, be certified as a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization, and have been operating for at least two years. There are other criteria that apply and interested local nonprofits can review the application here [PDF]. In January 2020, the city and ALLO will announce the list of nonprofits to receive the benefit. 

Local Control

The concept of offering the service to local nonprofits was an important element of the partnership between the city and the Internet access provider. Even though Nebraska’s state law prevented Lincoln from offering Internet access directly to the general public, the city recognized the need for fast, affordable, reliable connectivity. When large national providers didn’t provide the types of services businesses and residents needed, they made an investment that would encourage competition.

Lincoln’s conduit infrastructure investment has allowed them to gain a measure of control over connectivity in the community. They considered future needs and varying sectors of the community when they penned the partnership with ALLO, which led to the ability to support local nonprofits.

By extension, nonprofits will be able to divert more of their limited resources to the needs of the Lincoln community.  Cause for Paws, an organization focused on helping local shelter animals hopes to be one of the beneficiaries:

Cause...

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Posted October 2, 2019 by lgonzalez

Fixed wireless Internet access from Open Broadband will soon be offered in special pilot areas of Alexander County, North Carolina, reports the Taylorsville Times.

According to the Times, the company started installing equipment on a local mountain; once it has been tested and configured, residents and businesses will be able to subscribe. People in Alexander County can join the wait list now and will be notified when service comes to their area.

“Alexander County conducted a broadband survey back in June 2017, which showed a tremendous need for expanding broadband Internet service in the county,” said Dr. Jeff Peal, Chairman of the Alexander County Board of Commissioners. “To get a better understanding of our need and how service could be improved, the county awarded a contract in September 2017 to Open Broadband for a feasibility study. After learning those results, we began investigating ways to move this critical project forward.”

...

The Alexander County EDC applied for, and received, a $50,000 grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) in early 2019 to help fund the pilot program. The EDC then issued a request for proposals in March to find an Internet Service Provider (ISP) with the best plan, qualifications, and price point. Upon review of the proposals, the EDC Board of Directors approved a contract with Open Broadband to conduct the pilot program. Per the contract, Open Broadband provided a $50,000 match to the ARC grant, and Alexander County Government contributed $36,470 to the project.

Peal told the Times that the pilot project results will determine the future of the partnership between Open Broadband and the county. 

“Pending the results from this pilot program, we hope to continue this partnership and work to expand the broadband network to cover as much of Alexander County as possible in the next few years,” Peal stated. “County officials and staff will continue to pursue all opportunities to expand broadband Internet service to our residents and businesses.”

Open Broadband CEO Alan Fitzpatrick encourages folks to sign up, regardless of where they live in relation to the pilot project.  “If we cannot turn up service at...

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Posted August 23, 2019 by lgonzalez

Spring Hill, Kansas, recently released a Request for Proposal (RFP) as they search for a partner to help them develop gigabit connectivity throughout the community. Deadline for responses is September 30, 2019.

Read the full RFP here.

Gigabit Fiber the Best Bet

The city received the results of a feasibility study in early 2018 and consultants recommended some policy changes to encourage a broadband friendly environment. CTC Energy and Technology also noted that a fixed wireless system was not a cost-effective way to provide ubiquitous connectivity to the community. The firm suggested that Spring Hill consider dark fiber infrastructure and a public-private partnership.

In 2017, Spring Hill also distributed an informal survey to residents and businesses. The results revealed that, even though the community is considered part of the Kansas City metropolitan area, there are pockets where people have no Internet access. Other issues include problem neighborhoods where speeds are slow and businesses have no access to fiber. In these areas, local establishments are paying high rates for unreliable, marginally faster speeds.

Community leaders in Spring Hill consider broadband an essential utility that should connect every premise. As part of their vision, they “intend to empower our residents and local businesses to be network economy producers— not just consumers of network information and data services.”

What Spring Hill Seeks

The partner the city chooses should be prepared for a long term relationship and should be ready to help Spring Hill achieve three goals of the project:

  • Balance financial goals - Spring Hill expects any partnership to involve investment from both parties.
  • Sustainable, affordable approach - Community leaders want to be sure that, as the city grows, the network can grow with it.
  • Community wide deployment - No cherry picking; businesses and residential deployment are equally important.

Read more details about what Spring Hill is looking for in a partner by...

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Posted August 7, 2019 by lgonzalez

In the Internet access industry, large corporations typically fight to maintain their positions as monopolies. Even if they have no intention of serving certain communities, big cable and telecom companies work to prevent others from gaining a foothold, fearful that they may someday lose subscribers. On the other hand, municipalities that operate publicly owned networks often encourage, mentor, and collaborate with neighboring communities to get people connected. Now, EPB Fiber Optics in Chattanooga is partnering with municipalities and cooperatives interested in offering Internet access.

Working Past Restrictions

Tennessee still prevents municipal power utilities from offering telecommunications services beyond their electric service areas, but state law won’t deter EPB Fiber Optics from doing what they can. Recently, EPB Vice President of Marketing J. Ed Marsten spoke with Telecompetitor. “We’re partnering with some other municipal and cooperative providers to help them get into the business,” Marston said. “We’ve seen a ton of interest.”

EPB Fiber Optics is offering a range of services to potential utility partners as a way to bring better connectivity to more Tennesseans. In addition to consulting services, the utility may be able to provide transport to an Internet point of presence (POP) and offers tech support. When municipalities or cooperatives work with EPB and use Chattanooga’s staff, they can cut operating costs and reduce the time it takes to begin offering services.

In Massachusetts, Westfield Gas+Electric (WG+E) offers similar services to the nearby rural towns that lack high-quality Internet access. Westfield’s Whip City Fiber, however, is not precluded from offering Internet access via local public infrastructure. Like EPB, WG+E also offers consulting services, if municipalities choose to operate their own networks.

Publicly Minded Moves…So Many

Earlier this year, EPB tripled the speed of their most popular service from 100 Megabits per second (Mbps) symmetrical to 300 Mbps with no price increase. They also decided to drop the price of gigabit...

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