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Spiral Investing in Rural California While AT&T Invests in Sacramento - Community Broadband Bits Podcast 267

muninetworks.org - 7 hours 15 min ago
Community Broadband Bits Episode 267 - Spiral Internet's CIO, Michael Anderson

With the right policies and local investment, Spiral Internet could bring high quality Internet access to much of northern California. Spiral is a small private company and its CIO, Michael Anderson, talks with us today for episode 267 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. 

We discuss Spiral's enthusiasm for open access fiber networks and how the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) is funding some rural Internet investment. In particular, we get a sense of how Spiral is making the transition from reselling DSL to fighting for open fiber networks in rural California. 

One of the larger challenges today is an effort in the California Legislature to modify the rural broadband subsidy program to essentially give AT&T veto power over the CPUC grants. As we have discussed many times before, AT&T and some of the cable companies want a right of first refusal to grants, a policy that would dramatically disrupt the process for the smaller companies that are actually investing in high quality connectivity in areas poorly served by the incumbents. 

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

This show is 28 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed.

You can download this mp3 file directly from here. Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Thanks to Arne Huseby for the music. The song is Warm Duck Shuffle and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.

Tags: ruralcalifornianevada cityopen accesscompetitionsubsidiescalifornia public utilities commissionpublic utilities commissionlobbyinglegislationgrantaudiopodcastbroadband bits

Cooperatives Cooperating For Better Wisconsin Connectivity

muninetworks.org - 11 hours 33 min ago

Chippewa Valley Electric Cooperative (CVEC) and local communications cooperative Citizens Connected are joining forces to improve Internet access in rural northern Wisconsin.

Collaborating For Connectivity

The two cooperatives recently announced that they will invest in fiber infrastructure to connect residents, businesses, and schools through a new entity called Ntera. Construction will start in Holcombe, population around 300, because it’s one of the communities with the worst Internet access within the CVEC service area. Construction in Holcombe should begin this fall.

Ntera will offer 1 Gigabit per second (1,000 Mbps) connectivity to premises in addition to voice and video. Rates have yet to be determined. CVEC’s service area includes approximately 7,500 premises within five counties. Citizens Connected has already invested in fiber infrastructure passing more than 3,200 premises.

Holcombe is a census-designated place in the town of Lake Holcombe, where the population is a little more than 1,000. Even though they’d like to, Lake Holcombe schoolteachers don’t offer devices to students because so many of them don’t have Internet access at home. Superintendent Jeff Matin says that more than half of the students don’t have Internet access because it isn’t available in their home or just too expensive.

The Lake Holcombe schools will use $80,000 in E-rate funding and state grants to connect to existing fiber in the community that will be incorporated into the larger network. Although the school district is obtaining funding to connect, the cooperatives are funding the network investment themselves. They have not yet released a final estimate for the cost of the project. School officials look forward to the educational opportunities the new fiber will bring:

Mastin is eager to have the improved broadband in the Holcombe area. Right now, there is Internet in the school building only.

“We’ll be able to have our community having easier access to the Internet,” Mastin said. “We could give (students) more devices to allow them to connect to it. It’s definitely needed for education in the 21st century.”

Cooperatives Connecting Country Regions

In December of 1936, organizers of CVEC signed its Articles of Organization, and by March 1938, the first 112 members of the cooperative obtained power in rural Wisconsin. Citizens Connected is an alternate business name for Citizens Telephone Cooperative, headquartered in New Auburn. The cooperative has been serving the region for 65 years, including providing dial-up Internet access when there was no other option.

Electric, telephone, and more recently broadband cooperatives, are rapidly becoming important players in high-quality Internet access for rural areas. Collaborations between member cooperatives that blend specific expertise and fiber infrastructure is a win for members and subscribers.

Tags: wisconsinruralrural electric cooptelephonecooperativegigabitvideovoiceschoole-rate

FCC Considers Mobile Internet Access As Broadband Deployment

muninetworks.org - August 22, 2017

Cell phones as a substitute for home Internet service? That’s what the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) suggested in an August 2017 document. Buried within the Notice of Inquiry for the Section 706 Report, the FCC quietly proposed that mobile service could be considered broadband deployment.

In a recent article, Jon Brodkin at Ars Technica dove into why that suggestion is laughable. Mobile Internet service, especially at speeds less than 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) download and 3 Mbps upload, is not equivalent to high-speed home Internet service. 

This proposal also raises concerns for rural communities exploring funding options.

Overstating Rural Connectivity Has Consequences

If the FCC treats mobile Internet access as broadband deployment, rural areas will suddenly look better connected. On paper, the FCC statistics will show that rural America has sufficient Internet access, but the reality in the trenches will remain as it is today - poor connectivity in many rural communities.

A similar situation has already happened in Iowa, where the inclusion of satellite Internet service is now considered broadband access. The interactive FCC 2016 Broadband Deployment Map clearly shows that almost all of Iowa has high-speed Internet access via satellite. One can use satellite service to browse the web, but it has significant limitations, especially when uploading data.

[Screenshot from August 2017 of FCC June 2016 Deployment Data of Iowa: Yellow = 25 Mbps/3 Mbps Internet access. Full map here.]

Despite the near-universal coverage shown by the FCC, rural communities in Iowa are still building fiber networks because they consider themselves lacking the connectivity they need to compete. In Iowa, it’s important to make sure that the agriculture community gets the high-speed connections they need for the newest technologies. In June 2017, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) provided $6.5 million in funding to Coon Valley Cooperative Telephone Association. These communities, municipalities, and cooperatives recognize that satellite service is not equal to high-quality connectivity regardless of what the FCC believes, and they choose to plan for the future. 

With incorrect statistics from the FCC the grossly overstate coverage, communities will find it even harder to obtain loans and grants, especially from entities like the USDA.

Share Your Thoughts

Since February 1999, the FCC has consistently released broadband progress reports on whether the U.S. is getting broadband access in a timely manner. The reports take into account the comments of the public and the state of Internet service. This is your opportunity to let the FCC know how you feel.

Through the Notice of Inquiry, the public has an invitation to submit comments on this proposal (17-199) by September 7, 2017 for the 2018 Broadband Progress Report. You can submit a comment directly from the left sidebar on this page.

Reply comments will be due about two weeks later on September 22, 2017.

Tags: fccmobile phonesruralfundingfederal governmentsatellitepublic commentfederal

Community Broadband Media Roundup - August 21

muninetworks.org - August 21, 2017

Florida

Lack of broadband hurts higher ed in rural areas by Lloyd Dunkelberger, The Gainesville Sun

 

Maine

Islesboro, CMP sign agreement to move broadband project forward by The Republican Journal Staff

 

New Mexico

Heinrich hosts tribal broadband listening session in Santa Fe by U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich, KRWG

 

Texas

Shenandoah city council OKs fiber Internet progression to boost web access by Hannah Zedaker, Houston Community Impact

Community wide broadband discussed at join city meeting by Erin Rogers, Texarkana Today

Members of the Joint Texarkana Community Committee, City Council of the City of Texarkana, Texas and Board of Directors of the City of Texarkana, Arkansas met Tuesday evening to discuss the possibility of community wide broadband for the twin cities. ...

Representatives from Texas A&M University-Texarkana and Texarkana College conveyed their need for robust internet connection; however, the project would encounter potential legal challenges and financial obstacles.

 

Vermont

Low cost high-speed Internet offered to eligible Burlington residents by Pat Bradley, WAMC

The city communications utility is the first ISP in the state to offer affordable high-speed internet to low-income residents.   Governor Phil Scott believes the idea could work statewide.  “It is a statewide issue.  Anytime that we can provide services to those with low income it’s beneficial for our economy. And I talk a lot about affordability in this state and this is an area that I think where the 21st century economy is almost essential to be a part of.  So a program like this could be translated to other areas of the state as well.”

 

Virginia

Franklin County looks at ways to improve broadband coverage in rural locality by Casey Fabris, Roanoke Times

 

Washington

Hey, Tacoma, your electrical utility faces big challenges that will affect you by Bill Virgin, The News Tribune

Darrington man sets up Internet utility to bring broadband to rural area by Matt Day, The Seattle Times

 

General

New FCC broadband 'advisory panel' stocked with telecom consultants, allies & cronies by Karl Bode, TechDirt

On the one hand, FCC boss Ajit Pai proclaims to be a man dedicated to hard data, transparency, and closing the digital divide. But we've repeatedly highlighted how his public rhetoric is miles from his actual policies, which by and large focus on making life easier than ever for the nation's entrenched, uncompetitive broadband mono/duopolies. From gutting broadband privacy and net neutrality protections, to protecting the cable industry's monopoly over the cable box, Pai's actions consistently reveal anti-competitive intent, while his words gracefully try to imply another, artificial artifice.

FCC packs broadband advisory group with big telecom firms, trade groups by Blake Dodge, Center for Public Integrity

Tags: media roundup

Connectivity: Coming Up Roses Since The 90s In Pasadena

muninetworks.org - August 21, 2017

Most people associate Pasadena with the annual Tournament of Roses parade and the Rose Bowl football game, but under the flowery surface, fiber is connecting Pasadena’s municipal facilities, businesses, and electric utility substations. Pasadena developed its fiber optic network to improve electric utility efficiency but also with an eye toward the future. When they invested in the infrastructure, community leaders anticipated that economic development would thrive in communities with ample high-quality connectivity.

Lori Sandoval, Telecom and Regulatory Administrator for Pasadena's Department of Information Technology was involved in the development of Pasadena's fiber network from the beginning and she shared the story with us. She also provided some lessons learned so other communities can get the most out of Pasadena's experience.

A Community Of Culture

The community of approximately 140,000 people was one of the first incorporated in what is now Los Angeles County and considered a cultural hub. IN addition to Caltech, Pasadena City College and the ArtCenter College of Design, the Pasadena Playhouse and several museums are there. JPL and Kaiser Permanente are two of its largest employers. Its school system, Pasadena Unified School District, extends beyond the reach of the city. Pasadena has been celebrated for its architecture, especially it 1930s bungalows and many historical estates.

How It All Started

In the mid-1990s, the community included construction of a fiber optic network in its strategic plan. Pasadena Water and Power had been using old copper lines for communications between substations and needed to replace them with something more reliable that also provided more bandwidth. During this same period, the City Manager’s Office was investigating ways to create new revenue and local businesses were finding that they could not obtain the Internet services they needed from incumbent ISPs.

Pasadena's first approach was to focus on installing more conduit and fiber than needed for city services and to lease the asset to a competitive carrier. They allocated $1.8 million from the general fund to pay for network construction. If Pasadena had funded the deployment with electric utility funds, law required the infrastructure be used exclusively for electric utility purposes. The loan from the general fund was predicated on the understanding that funds from a lease to a competitive carrier would first go directly to the general fund to repay the cost of deployment.

The First Network

While the community dedicated an initial $1.8 million to deploy the 25-mile network, construction did not require the entire allocation. By taking advantage of existing power conduit, the community only needed to construct 80 feet of new conduit, which drastically reduced final costs. Five miles of the original network was aerial. Construction started in 1998 and was finished in 1999; over time they’ve added incrementally in order to connect customers.

After engaging in an RFP process, a dark fiber lease to GST Telecom allowed them to repay the loan to the general fund within the first 13 months of operation. Not long after, GST was acquired by Time Warner Telecom (TW Telecom); both offered services only to commercial subscribers. TW Telecom still uses the infrastructure to provide business service to Pasadena customers.

Connecting The City

In addition to linking utility substations, Pasadena City fiber connects 38 municipal facilities, including City Hall, the police department, seven libraries, two fire stations, and the Rose Bowl. They’ve been able to eliminate slow bandwidth connections and leased lines and, while they know they’re saving money, they don’t know exactly how much because they’ve been saving since 1999.

Pasadena public facilities offer free Wi-Fi using the fiber as backhaul and is working on an initiative now that will bring Wi-Fi to several outdoor spaces, such as city parks.

Dark Fiber

The city has always retained dark fiber for their own use and to lease out directly to institutional customers. Some of the customers they serve include the ArtCenter College of Design, Cal Tech, and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). JPL also uses sub-contractors and many of them use dark fiber from the Pasadena network for connectivity. The network brings in approximately $480,000 per year. 

Lit Services Leading To Economic Development

In 2016, Pasadena started offering lit services to current and potential customers. Business customers can obtain Internet access and connections to collocation and regional peering sites. The city offers 100 Megabits per second (Mbps), 1 Gigabit per second (Gbps), and 10 Gbps connections.

Lit services are still a small part of their business revenue and an area Sandoval describes as "in its infancy." While there are other providers offering commercial services in Pasadena, some businesses can’t get the capacity or lit services they need. The city is focusing on areas where businesses may need access and city fiber is nearby or where better connectivity can help enhance economic development. 

A developer was interested in establishing a co-working and event space in the “old Pasadena” section of downtown, which required renovating an older building. The city included high-quality connectivity in an economic development package to help attract the developer; the expansion will also help connect other buildings in the immediate area. Because the development focuses on the high-tech industry and many events tend to involve entrepreneurship, city leaders see it as a wise investment. The project is already paying off; whenever the event space is used, restaurants and other establishments nearby also benefit.

Fiber 2.0

Sandoval refers to Pasadena’s networks as “Fiber 1.0” - the original 25 miles and incremental, block-length expansions to add customers - and “Fiber 2.0,” which is today's network. In 2015, the city realized that their needs for both capacity and reach had grown and they began planning for significant expansion. The lease to TW Telecom, which included 75 percent of the fiber, consumed a large amount of network capacity. 

Pasadena began increasing capacity in the existing ring so the electric utility could make more use of the fiber network and the city could also make more use of the network. The utility now implements power distribution automation, advanced metering, and other technologies that increase efficiency but require more capacity. They also want to connect more city facilities and traffic signals that were not connected when an Intelligent Transportation System was installed by state and federal authorities years ago. Since the design of the original network used multiple interducts and the original network only required one duct, the cost of increasing the capacity is primarily labor and materials along the same path.

Fiber 2.0 includes expansion to areas that, until now, didn’t have fiber connectivity. The city has already completed one of their planned buildouts off the original ring. Pasadena has general plans for what areas they intend to expand through 2020. Over the past two years, Pasadena has invested an addition $1.2 million dollars on the upgrade and expansion. They expect to continue to invest another $600,000 per year for the next three years. 

Serving Businesses Only

Residents in Pasadena are able to choose between AT&T, Spectrum, and Frontier. Occasionally, Sandoval hears from residents who want the city to offer residential services, but they don't plan on offering residential services. Pasadena feels the level of investment required and the amount of competition in the area doesn’t create a favorable environment for publicly owned Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH). 

Lessons Learned

Some of the lessons learned that Sandoval shared include:

- Never underestimate the future demand for fiber connectivity.

- Look out for creative opportunities, including grant possibilities. Pasadena was able to use Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) to connect buildings with a public purpose, including fire stations and libraries. They’re using CDBG to fund the Wi-Fi in the parks program.

- Working with developers to ease connections to their buildings or projects can help cut costs or encourage network expansion. Pasadena encourages developers to plan a clear pathway to their main telecom room for the option of future connectivity.

- Sandoval also recommends staying in touch with public works and other utilities to determine if there are opportunities for conduit use or fiber placement collaboration. Pasadena has been communicating with a local fiber provider that is installing within the area about possibly piggybacking within their trenches. 

Sandoval recently talked to Christopher about Pasadena in episode 265 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. Listen to the interview to learn more.

Pic of the Rose Bowl Stadium courtesy of Sparrowman980 at English Wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons.

Pasadena Fiber Map Planned ExpansionTags: pasadenacaliforniamuniI-Netdark fiberleaseelectricutilitytransport servicesgigabitanchor institutionslibrarypublic safetycommunity development block grant

Transcript: Community Broadband Bits Episode 266

muninetworks.org - August 20, 2017

This is the transcript for episode 266 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. Benoit Felten of Diffraction Analysis offers a global perspective on telecommunications policy. Listen to this episode here.

Benoit Felten: Japan and Korea would be forward-thinking businesses, then Europe would be short-term businesses but forced to look at the long-term through policy, and then the US would be short-term businesses, laissez-faire, do what you want.

Lisa Gonzalez: This is episode 266 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. I'm Lisa Gonzalez. Benoit Felten is back on the show to talk more about connectivity from an international perspective. He last visited with Christopher way back in 2012 for episode 21. This time they discuss several models that his company, Diffraction Analysis have studied in areas other than the US. Learn more at the company website DiffractionAnalysis.com. Before we start the interview, we want to remind you that this commercial free conversation is not free to produce. Please take a moment to contribute at ILSR.org. If you've already contributed, thanks. Now here's Christopher and Benoit Felten from Diffraction Analysis.

Christopher Mitchell: Welcome to another addition of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. I'm Chris Mitchell with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and today I'm speaking with Benoit Felten, the CEO of Diffraction Analysis. Welcome back to the show, Benoit.

Benoit Felten: Thanks for having me.

Christopher Mitchell: We last talked about Stokab, I think in Stockholm. You are the CEO of Diffraction Analysis which does telecommunications research all around the world and I often think of you as my go-to person on how things work outside US and sometimes inside the US. Let me ask you, Benoit, when you hear people saying, "The United States sucks at broadband and Europe is so amazing." How do you react to those monolithic statements?

Benoit Felten: Yeah, well I think that's generally true. I mean, the problem is always that broadband is as good as where you measure it, right? Of course there are places in the US where you can measure broadband and it's really good. The other thing that very few people realize is that independently of the broadband infrastructure, the US remains, by far, the largest hub for Internet content. Whenever anyone in the world wants to access content, nine chances out of ten, it's going to go through the US. Which means that if you measure broadband in the US, actually you get a home corner advantage despite the infrastructure. Actually the fact that you get better broadband in Europe shows how bad the broadband infrastructure is in most of the US, because you have that home corner advantage. Having said that, I mean, there's no magic about this, the quality of broadband is directly linked to the quality of the broadband infrastructure. I think generally in the US, in the last 20 so years, there's been a prevalent world view that the private market will provide and it hasn't. Generally, this laissez-faire thing, that's probably culturally much stronger in the US than anywhere else in the world, has failed you. In a lot of other countries in the world, policies that have been put in place have changed things. It's not true absolutely everywhere, but essentially in our world view, and based on the research that we've done there, there are three models that have worked.

Christopher Mitchell: Before we get into those models, I'd be curious, there are places in Europe with subpar access, right? I was recently speaking with a friend who has family in southern France and they have very good access but I remember speaking, and maybe it's changed, but 10 years ago, I was speaking with someone from the French equivalent of their federal communications commission and he was saying that they didn't even have a plan to cover the 10% most rural areas of France at that time.

Benoit Felten: Yeah, so they have a plan now but that doesn't mean it's done.

Christopher Mitchell: Okay.

Benoit Felten: In fact, our new president has, if I may be so blunt, gloriously put his foot in it by coming in and saying we need to accelerate all of these broadband deployment plans, which, of course, everybody claps at. Then it turns out he doesn't have a clue what is required and basically what he was pushing for is already in place, which means that it's not going to make any difference. Yeah, I mean, the challenges of rural broadband are more or less the same everywhere, then it's a matter of demographics and geographical layout. Some countries are advantage like the Netherlands, because basically it's all flat and it's all mud so basically it's very easy to dig and you don't have to go through any solid rock anywhere. There's geography, Norway is a nightmare. It's solid rock all over the country so an average home build in urban Norway is already more than twice the price of what it would be in the US on average. That's just because you have to dig with heavy machinery just to get to the house, wherever that is. Rural broadband is a general issue all over the world and all over Europe. I can tell you what we think a good solution might be but I don't think a lot of countries are anywhere close to that.

Christopher Mitchell: Okay.

Benoit Felten: Basically the prevalent model for rural broadband is, "We'll throw money at it." That works well until the government says, "Oh my god, that's a whole lot of money," and then suddenly it stops. That's kind of where we are. There's no working solution for rural broadband today and also there's a lot of ambiguity in what we call rural. In some instances you might be talking about the last 25%, in some instances you might be talking about the last 5%. Again, that's down to geography and demographics and how forward thinking the operators may have been.

Christopher Mitchell: Yeah, I can imagine that rural Switzerland is more challenging than rural Netherlands.

Benoit Felten: Yeah, although that doesn't necessarily mean you get better broadband in rural Netherlands than rural Switzerland, because it so happens that Swisscom is one of the forward thinking operators. Even though they're absolutely not deploying fiber to the homes everywhere, they're thinking about how to improve broadband everywhere, which a lot of big common operators aren't really when it comes down to it. The main reason we can see that things are not working in the US is that actually urban broadband is comparatively crap. We're not even getting to the rural.

Christopher Mitchell: Right, right, that's a good reminder.

Benoit Felten: Right, so having said that, you have countries like, obviously the Nordics and Europe and France, now, and Spain, very much so. Spain is very much ahead of the curve, so is Portugal. A country like that, you don't necessarily get fiber broadband or fiber quality broadband everywhere in urban areas, but mostly that's done. Or if it's not completely done, it's going to be finalized within the next couple of years. By the way, the policy approaches have been different in these different countries. Then you have a few examples of the market will provide that actually worked. Korea and Japan actually are in as much as there is state involvement in the equity of the incumbent operators. You could argue that there is some state involvement, but having said that, it wasn't a heavily subsidized public plan that led to fiber being deployed. It's very much a cultural thing where these kinds of infrastructure industries like rail or telecom have always been in the mind frame of providing for the next 25 years. In 1999 when NGT started deploying fiber, it wasn't necessarily because the government was saying, "Ooh, we need very fast broadband," because back then, five [Mbps] broadband was considered fast. It was more like, "Is copper going to be good enough for 20 to 25? No, so we need to be slowly rolling out what we will need already." By now they're 95% coverage and they've done this over close to 20 years. It's actually, from an investment point of view, it's not a massive burden because it was spread out across a long period of time. Now obviously if you look at that amount, you turn to an investor and say, I need to invest that in the next three years, your investor's going to say no.

Christopher Mitchell: Right.

Benoit Felten: If you plan it and if you think of it as network renewal, which is how they looked at it, then it's actually not that painful an investment, but you have to plan it ahead of time.

Christopher Mitchell: NTT, of course, is the Japanese incumbent operator. Now, so you mentioned that there is some state investment in NTT, but that it's primarily a cultural thing that they're focused on long-term investment rather than the shorter term returns that we see in the United States.

Benoit Felten: Yep, absolutely. Not just in the United States, by the way, I mean, the reason that European policy has had to be a lot more involved in this is that that long-term culture doesn't exist here in Europe either. The thing is, that, again, it doesn't exist in the US but very few companies have that long-term perspective and the policy isn't getting involved, it's like one step further behind. If you wanted to see it like that, Japan and Korea would be like forward thinking businesses, then Europe would be short-term businesses but forced to look at the long-term through policy, and then the US would be short-term businesses, laissez-faire, do what you want, which is short-term by definitions.

Christopher Mitchell: You spend a lot of time in Hong Kong and you recently had spent some time in China and Shanghai, I believe, how did those cities compare? What's some of the policy, maybe starting with Hong Kong?

Benoit Felten: I rarely use Hong Kong as an example for the simple reason that it's a very small market, it's seven million people, and it's a hugely dense urban market, which means that the cost of deployment are relatively low. There is no policy involvement in Hong Kong. Hong Kong is a capitalistic society in the sense that basically a few billionaires own most of the real estate and if you own the real estate, you own more or less everything. They own most of the large utilities and companies and everything and so it's basically their decision. What happened in Hong Kong was, it was a perfect example of competition actually doing its job. In 2003, a very small company that was doing IP telephony at the time, started to deploy fiber into the home. They became Hong Kong Broadband Network and basically they understood that this was a long-term business, probably way better than the incumbent did, at the time. They started deploying with private investment that backed them for the seven or eight years where they were losing money, because they were investing so much. After eight years, when it started turning around, the profits they were making just became insane because the paradox of this is that fiber networks are actually a very, very sound investment. Compared to highways or office buildings or anything like that, they require very little maintenance. The cost to build is actually not all that high if you compare it to these other infrastructures, and the expectation of revenue is very high, but like any infrastructure investment, for the first 10 or so years, you're not going to make a dime. The problem is that, and this is what Hong Kong Broadband Network understood very well, the problem is that if you see this as anything else than an infrastructure project, you're going to fail, because your shareholders are going to expect profit within the first three to five years and that's just not going to happen. At some point, and this has happened in various places around the world, at some point, they're going to pull the plug. You're going to be arguing all you can saying, "Well, give us another few years and you're going to see a profit." They're going to say, "This is not what I paid for." This is one of the fundamental problems of where we're at. If these things were viewed as infrastructure investments, there would actually be no problem building a business case, but they're viewed as telecom investment and telecom, by definition, is a short-term perspective. That's where the entire problem is for this and this is true the world over.

Christopher Mitchell: Now when you talk about Hong Kong Broadband Network, were there others that -- You say that it's a good business and Hong Kong Broadband Network has certainly proved very savvy with a really great strategy, but I presume that there's a few others who thought that they had good strategies and lost to Hong Kong Broadband Network and then presumably went out of business.

Benoit Felten: There was one competing broadband operator in addition to the incumbent and the cable operator. The competing broadband operator is dead as far as I can tell and the cable operator is dying.

Christopher Mitchell: It's interesting to me, I mean, one of the things that we think of when we talk about Seoul, Tokyo, is having a lot of different choices, we can talk about whether or not that's correct or not. Now in Hong Kong-

Benoit Felten: That's not true.

Christopher Mitchell: Okay, so that's good to address then.

Benoit Felten: That's not true in Hong Kong. Again, as I told you, this is an unregulated market, as unregulated as they get, so there's no incentive for anyone to share their infrastructure. It is actually turning into a duopoly now. It was more of a, kind of, competitive market until now, but now with the smaller guys just dying off, it's turning into a monopoly, a duopoly network.

Christopher Mitchell: Do you envision Hong Kong Broadband Network taking advantage of its status then as basically almost a monopoly provider?

Benoit Felten: I'd say yes to a small extent. Basically, it gets to a point now where for HKBN acquiring PCCW's core set of customers, becoming more and more expensive and also because PCCW was very expensive and still is, their customer set is very different from Hong Kong Broadband Networks. Essentially within the areas where HKBN has very high penetration, it's very hard for PCCW to get in because they're too expensive. Within the areas where PCCW has very strong penetration, it's hard for HKBN to get in because people want more services than what HKBN was offering. The kind of cheap no frills offer that they have is not what people want. They want football league access and things like that, which HKBN doesn't have. I think, essentially, market shares are probably going to end up being fairly stable in the next few years, which does mean that HKBN can probably slowly increase it's tariffs, but they can't increase them too much because they need to keep that gap between them and PCCW from a pricing point of view. Anyway, to go back to my initial point, one of the reasons that I rarely use Hong Kong as an example, I do use HKBN as an example of a smart strategy but I don't use Hong Kong as an example of a market because that's actually not the kind of outcomes that we tend to want for larger markets. Again, remember, this is a seven million pocket of a market, it's completely disconnected from China. It's its own country effectively from that point of view and it has virtually no policy. For example, if you live on one of the islands, apart from Hong Kong island, you're screwed. You might get very old DSL that PCCW has no incentive to upgrade or you might get nothing and have mobile access if you're lucky sometimes, and that's that. No one has any incentive to deeply there because the density is too small and you'd have to pull undersea cable to connect the islands. They have, effectively, the same rural problems that you can find anywhere else, although rural Hong Kong sounds weird to a lot of people, it does exist. Because of the lack of policy involvement, these problems will not get solved.

Christopher Mitchell: Let's move over to Shanghai then. I mean, one of the things that I've been interested in is that, as far as I understand, hundreds of millions of people in China have fiber connections or soon will per state policy, and yet my understanding is your connectivity in Shanghai was not super reliable.

Benoit Felten: Again, this is a bad example from an international point of view. The first thing that you have to remember is that all three telecom operators in China, all three big telecom operators in China are 100% state owned. Whatever competition exists is actually between state entities. That's the first thing to keep in mind. The second thing is, fiber was deployed because the government said, "You're going to deploy fiber." When the government says something, you do it. I'm not even sure there's a business plan anywhere, or if there is, it's like a post-PAC business plan where you look at how much money you're going to make or lose, but there's no business decision so to speak. Okay? That's the second thing. The actual quality of the broadband infrastructure is fine. I could get 200 [Mbps] up and down to other Chinese cities, but the thing that very few people are aware of is that the great firewall of China is just one way in which the Chinese government blocks access to Internet content. Actually, the more devious ways that they underprovision international transit dramatically, it's probably a hundredth of the capacity that would be needed to deliver proper service. Basically you can ping a server in Beijing from Shanghai and get 200 [Mbps] and then you'll ping a server in LA and, if you're lucky, you'll get 800 kilos. It's nothing to do with the infrastructure, or rather it's something to do with upstream infrastructure but not access infrastructure. Again, we're back to what I was saying at the beginning. These are the kinds of problems that are actually solved natively in the US because there's no international transit issue for 80% of the content you might be willing to access. This is something that's often a little hard to understand for westerners in general where these problems are solved without them knowing about it. There are countries in the world where, especially like a lot of the Pacific Islands have the cost of international transit is like 100 to 300 times what it would be in LA. Now, when you have that kind of cost, then anyone watching a YouTube video is actually a measureable immediate cost to your business model, which means you have to charge them one way or another. In these countries, usually you have, no matter how good or bad the infrastructure may be, you have to throttle usage because otherwise the economics just don't work.

Christopher Mitchell: If I had to guess, I would guess that companies like YouTube and Netflix can solve that relatively easy with local cashing servers. It's probably a lot of, not necessarily the top five sites on the Internet like Facebook and others, or at least if it is today then it won't be in a few years because it's a relatively easy problem to solve if the companies that are delivering this content want to solve it.

Benoit Felten: It's a matter of volume, so if you're talking to Fiji, which is a few million people and most of them below the poverty level and very few of them actually connected to the Internet. Does Google have any interest in solving that for Fiji? Probably not. It becomes a financial decision at some point, and for Facebook, even assuming every Fijian went onto the Internet and used Facebook, adding four million Facebook users is trivial. It happens organically every other day or something like that.

Christopher Mitchell: They'll do it with satellites soon enough.

Benoit Felten: I'm probably exaggerating slightly, but you see my point. I mean, these problems are solvable but actually I think they will only be solved through policy, again, because someone will say, "Well, if these companies don't want to host and cache in our countries, then we need to organize that and make it happen on our own. We can cache without these companies agreeing to it effectively just by replicating the content that is downloaded the most but that costs money and so you have to get it organized and usually a single operator doesn't have the critical mass to do it only for his customers and therefore, blah, blah, blah. You get back into these sharing of resources aspects that have provided better broadband for a broader subset of the population.

Christopher Mitchell: Do you have a lot of choices in those areas, all of Japan and South Korea?

Benoit Felten: In Japan, there's a theoretical unbundling policy for fiber. I say theoretical because the economics are so bad that no one's actually using it. One thing that's important to understand, and unfortunately it's a complicated thing to describe, but whenever you implement network sharing at a passive level, which means the ability for a competing operator to use your infrastructure as if he had deployed his own and have full control over that infrastructure, you're hugely dependent on points of concentration. Where you enable access to that infrastructure is a key factor of the economic model. One of the elements of this is that if you deploy a point-to-multipoint fiber network, which is what is being deployed in Japan, you either have full access to the entire end-to-end connection to the customer in which case you might be able to connect thousands of customers from a single point, but that's a discontinuous point, so that means that multiple operators have to be able to access that at the same time so usually these models are very complicated to set up. What you do instead is you have access at the splitter and the splitter connects 32 customers or 64 customers, and that's actually too small for you to connect that point with your own fiber. The cost of doing that for potentially up to 64 customers, assuming you have 100% market share, is just not workable. In the same way that sub-loop unbundling, as this is called in copper, has never worked. There are numerous countries where policies are being put in place forcing the incumbent operators to open up their VDSL copper, so what you call fiber to the cabinet in the US, open up these cabinets for competitors but actually no one's buying because the cost of connecting those cabinets is too high. Then you have to buy from the incumbent operator the cost of going to those cabinets and suddenly you can't make money anymore because you're paying too much of a recurring cost to make any margin. The fact is that in Japan, there is also an active resale product, so basically competing operators to the incumbent can buy capacity and serve the customer with their own brand. Now, these are lower margin products. The service is actually on the active layer, their service is actually run by NTT. It's not exactly like white labeling but it's not very far from that. It would be comparable to what an MVNO is to a mobile operator.

Christopher Mitchell: Right, a company like Ting that's using the Sprint network and just providing customer service, effectively.

Benoit Felten: Yeah, well, a little bit more than that but, so it's a similar model to that. Now, you have a few competing operators in Japan, so NTT has competition from KDDI and a couple of other smaller ones, but these don't have 100% coverage so there's probably half the country where NTT's infrastructure is going to be what you're using anyway. Now, don't get me wrong, I think that's better than nothing. It could probably be optimized, but at least customers do have a certain amount of choice. In Korea, it's a pure infrastructure competition. You have essentially two very large players, the incumbent KT, and the competing operator SK Broadband. Both Korea Telecom and SK have their own independent fiber networks. As far as I know, there's no sharing of infrastructure or anything so you're kind of in a duopoly system as well.

Christopher Mitchell: We think of, I think, these Asian areas as being some of the most highly advanced networks and in no case is it resulting in robust competition. Now, in most of these areas you can get very high quality connections but there are limitations on each and to some extent you get a sense that US policymakers are really just trying to invent something that no one else has done before and not heeding lessons from areas we consider to be some of the most highly connected where you tend to get it from one to two operators, it sounds like.

Benoit Felten: It's been my experience that American policymakers and, in general actually, American decision makers in businesses in the areas that I cover, have a hard time even accepting the idea that any other country may have lessons worth giving. I remember this huge and very interesting report that Yochai Benkler did, was it 10 years ago?

Christopher Mitchell: Almost, yes.

Benoit Felten: He got slammed left, right, and center for even daring to suggest that there were models outside the US that might be worth getting inspired from. My company has kind of given up making business in the US for that reason, because the value that we bring is the experience of dozens of other countries where interesting things happen in circumstances that might be very comparable to what you might see in US cities. It's extremely hard to drive that message through, nobody wants to listen and even at municipal level, most people are just reluctant to agree that there might be lessons to be learned from outside the US. That's the way it is. I've kind of made my peace with it but I can see how frustrating it might be for you trying to push cities into making right decisions and trying to find interesting examples outside the US that might be replicable. I was very frustrated with, in the early days of Google Fiber because I got the impression that they were just reinventing the wheel. If they looked at what was being done, I swear they could've saved themselves a whole lot of bother and frustration and time and money. Because none of what they were doing was unique to the US and yet they were convinced they were doing something revolutionary.

Christopher Mitchell: Well, not only that, I mean, when I talked to some of the people that have been involved with this, you get the impression that Google hired major contractors that said, "We're going to reinvent the wheel and we're going to do it without using any curved surfaces." Because they were belittling of anyone that had any experience, it was stunning frankly. It's amazing how smart people hiring smart people can do so many dumb things.

Benoit Felten: I think there were three working models. I don't mean workable, I mean working.

Christopher Mitchell: In real life.

Benoit Felten: In real life to improve broadband infrastructure. The challenge of extending those models to rural areas, they're still out there. There's one model out of the three that I think works even in rural. One is to say you want infrastructure competition that's the closest to what you might have in the US if there was actual competition. The point is that you cannot get competition in the same territories if one of the players has a massive advantage in deployment costs. The fact is that the incumbent has a massive advantage in deployment cost because all of the underlying infrastructure, the ducts, the poles, that you need to deploy better fiber broadband, is already in place so you're shaving off maybe 40-50% of your deployment costs just from that. Which means that there's no competitor can match that unless there's a policy in place to address that. There are a few countries in Europe that have done that. It's actually, conceptually, very simple, and the principle is that any preexisting passive infrastructure has to be shared and accessible at the same cost bases by everyone. Portugal did this, they said, "Okay, every duct and pole that exists, whether it's electricity, telecom, anything else, is registered. We look at how much space is available in there, we establish a rental cost for this that is low enough that anyone can affordably deploy a network." It took three to four years to actually set it up, get it in place. Which seems like a long time, but you have to think about the fact that you have to build a national register. You have available infrastructure and space in that infrastructure. It's actually a massive undertaking. Once you've done that, anyone can enter the market and affordably deploy. In a country as small as Portugal, you have three quasi national fiber operators competing, and so it works. The incumbent, of course, has a very strong incentive to start deploying and deploying fast because they know that if they don't do it, someone else is going to do it.

Christopher Mitchell: Now, did the incumbent just decide to do this or was there a government edict?

Benoit Felten: No, they were forced to participate. Obviously they didn't want to at first. Over time actually I think they realized that the model was beneficial for them as well because it meant that in areas where others were deploying, where they'd never deployed the proper infrastructure, they could use that infrastructure as well. It lowered their deployment costs significantly as well and it sped up their deployment. Lithuania did slightly different but roughly the same. This is actually, in my view, one model that should be top of mind for policymakers in a lot of developing countries, because in developing countries you get a huge amount of real estate is built every year as lower middle class people kind of get up in the world and they want to move into proper apartments and proper houses and so there's a huge property boom. It would be absolutely trivial and virtually costless to just connect all of these homes with ducts and then have these ducts open on the market for anyone who would want to deploy. That's model number one.

Christopher Mitchell: Model number one is sharing infrastructure, basically.

Benoit Felten: Model number two is also a form of sharing infrastructure but it's a different form of sharing infrastructure.

Christopher Mitchell: Okay.

Benoit Felten: Model number one is actually infrastructure competition but there's a level of sharing the underlying network elements, okay? Model number two is actually a model of proper infrastructure sharing in the sense that basically you either only deploy one infrastructure nationally and everybody can purchase and access that. Or each operator deploys their own infrastructure but they all do it together at the same time, which means that you only dig once and they all share the cost of that dig. If you do that, then effectively, the cost of deployment is hugely reduced for everyone which means you can go further and still get a certain level of competition. Now, these two models, they work, but they kind of break down when you get into rural because the density becomes so low that only the operators who have the most money can still afford to play, and therefore, basically, pass the first maybe 50% or 60% of population, you get only one player and so you're back to monopoly. Even that monopoly will not go all the way to 100%, it'll probably stop around 65-70% of the population.

Christopher Mitchell: That's actually, oddly enough, where the United States, we have a benefit in that. The United States can just say, "We're just going to give money to this firm to do that." Now, in Europe I think that's harder to do because of the anti-state subsidization rules for different countries, but in the US I think when it comes to rural in part because of our ability for the government just to give money away in ways that is harder to do elsewhere. Our history of cooperatives, I think rural is more or less solved in the US once we get our heads around it. I think we can just focus on the cities for the majority of your three models.

Benoit Felten: I think there is a question about whether you want a monopoly anywhere. I think that there's a real challenge in addressing that point, a service monopoly, I mean. The third model is a structural separation model. We have one example worldwide which is New Zealand, which went down that route. Where basically not only do you have a single infrastructure nationally, but that single infrastructure is not owned by a telecom operator, it's owned by an infrastructure company that manages and activates that network but they don't sell. Only the retail service providers buy from them the wholesale access and then they resell it to the end customer. The beauty of that model is that because you get demand certainty in that infrastructure, the economics become unbelievably better. As a consequence, the prices can go down and the reach can go further out. We actually published a white paper last year where we built that model comparing a pure retail operation to a pure wholesale operation and we came to the conclusion that by standard market expectation in terms of return on investment, you could probably cover 95% plus of the country without any subsidies in that last model. That's not the direction that the telecom deregulation went, right? It all started in the US actually, because when the deregulation, when the liberalization happened and the old Bell monopoly was broken down, instead of realizing that the infrastructure was actually a natural monopoly but the services above that should be competing and therefore slicing it horizontally, if you will, with the infrastructure being owned by one regulated entity and then free competition on top of that infrastructure, they sliced it vertically, geographically. Which actually didn't make a whole lot of sense because you still had local monopolies and then unbundling came and created some competition and then unbundling was killed and that competition died and then cable started doing broadband and they said, "Oh, well, it's okay we have competition," but the fact is that there's no healthy model for competition when you look at it that way. New Zealand's a really interesting example. We're hoping that a few other countries go down that route. There's some signs that some of them might.

Christopher Mitchell: In the time we have left, I'm curious, can you just contrast that with Britain where I think people might think Openreach is kind of that approach with that infrastructure play?

Benoit Felten: Yeah, it's not actually, because the key aspect is that the infrastructure company has to be able, has to have full freedom to reinvest it's benefits in infrastructure. Because it's the long-term thing I was talking about earlier, you have to be in this for the long-term. In the UK, what happens is that Openreach is a separate entity but it's owned by BT.

Christopher Mitchell: British Telecom.

Benoit Felten: Whatever profit it makes, go back to the British Telecom group, for them to invest in whatever they want and whatever they want recently has been football rights and mobile spectrum, but it hasn't been infrastructure at all. The consequence is that actually the UK is slipping down the ranks in terms of the quality of their broadband because basically Openreach invested in the cheapest possible upgrades to the existing DSL network. While some might consider that acceptable in terms of performance, it's certainly way below what other neighboring countries are now providing to their citizens.

Christopher Mitchell: Thank you, Benoit. This has been very interesting and I think to anyone who is not familiar with you or Diffraction Analysis, I hope will get a better sense of the value you provide, your perspective that could be useful in any city around the United States in terms of lessons learned, but also that you're not just knowledgeable but able to translate it into very normal language anyone can understand, so thank you for that.

Benoit Felten: If I can just add something, is that we don't only focus on policy, we're also very interested in the operational challenges and the marketing and the selling and all kind of very practical aspects of building a better broadband network. Yeah, I hope some people find this interesting and I hope we can talk again soon.

Lisa Gonzalez: That was Christopher and Benoit Felten, CEO of Diffraction Analysis, talking about connectivity and business models in Europe and Asia. We have transcripts for this and other Community Broadband Bits podcasts available at MuniNetworks.org/BroadbandBits. Email us at podcast@MuniNetworks.org with your ideas for the show. Follow Chris on Twitter, his handle is @CommunityNets. You can also follow MuniNetworks.org stories on Twitter where the handle is @MuniNetworks. Subscribe to this podcast and all the other ILSR podcasts including Building Local Power, and the Local Energy Rules podcast. You can access them on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or wherever else you get your podcasts. Never miss out on our original research, subscribe to our monthly newsletter at ILSR.org. Thank you to Arne Huseby for the song Warm Duck Shuffle, licensed through Creative Commons, and thanks for listening to Episode 266 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast.

Link: Tags: transcriptinternationalinfrastructureeuropepolicycompetitionopen accessdark fibermonopoly

Broadband Communities Mag Atlanta Conference, Nov. 7 - 9

muninetworks.org - August 19, 2017

This November, Atlanta will be hosting Broadband Communities Magazine Fiber for the New Economy: Economic Development Conference from the 7th - 9th. Register now and start making your plans to attend the conference, to be held at the Renaissance Concourse Atlanta Airport. There will be a special program the afternoon of Tuesday, November 7th, offered by the Coalition for Local Internet Choice.

Panels will include a range of broadband experts in private, public, and non-profit sectors. In addition to discussions about state efforts on rural broadband solutions, participants will talk about life in gigabit communities and connectivity in education and the workforce.

Electric cooperatives and their role in rural connectivity will also be on the agenda, as will white spaces and 5G. Marketing tools, economic development strategies, MDUs, and digital equity are only a few more topics.

As a special treat, the short film "Do Not Pass Go: The Battle For Broadband" will screen during the lunchtime keynote address on Thursday, November 9th.

Christopher will be participating in the Broadband Champions Speak Out panel on Wednesday, November 8th, at 10 a.m. The group of broadband advocates have all been involved in educating and advancing better connectivity for years. They will provide their opinions on the most pressing issues and set the tone for the conference.

Check out the full agenda here and register to secure your spot here.

Tags: conferenceeventchristopher mitchellbroadband communities magazine

Bring On The Ballots: Two More Colorado Communities Face Opt Out Question

muninetworks.org - August 18, 2017

As predicted, more Colorado communities are opting out of the state’s restrictive SB 152 that removed local telecommunications authority in 2005. Two more communities have decided to put the question to voters this fall in order to take the reins and reclaim local control.

Eagle County

There are about 53,000 people living in Eagle County, located in the northwest section of the state. The County Commission had considered taking the matter to the voters last fall, but considered the ballot too full with other measures. The town of Red Cliff within Eagle County voted to opt out of the law in 2014. County officials have included telecommunications in their legislative policy statement supporting their intent to reclaim local authority and bringing better connectivity to both urban and rural areas of the county.

Eagle County encompasses 1,692 square miles; much of that is managed by the Bureau of Land Management. There are several national protected areas within the county. They haven’t established a plan to invest in publicly owned Internet infrastructure, but first want to deal with the issue of opting out of SB 152.

City of Alamosa

Alamosa, county seat of Alamosa County, is also planning on bringing the issue to voters this fall. Like many other communities that have voted to opt out, Alamosa doesn’t have specific plans to invest in infrastructure yet, but they want to have all options on the table. 

They’re interested in using existing city owned dark fiber and conduit and exploring possible public-private partnerships, but they’ve not ruled out offering direct services. In a few of the public areas, Alamosa intends to offer free Wi-Fi while they look into possible solutions.

Alamosa is in south central Colorado and home to approximately 8,800 people. The climate is a cold desert where the Rio Grande River passes through town. More than half of county residents live in the city.

Joining An Ever Expanding List

Earlier this year, Central City and Colorado Springs voters chose to opt out of SB 152, bringing the list to nearly 100 local communities. In order to assist with local efforts, the Colorado Municipal League and Colorado Communities, Inc., have created the SB05-152 Opt Out Kit: A Local Government Blueprint For Improving Broadband Service in Your Community. The kit includes sample ballot language, provides resources for educating voters, and shares outcomes in communities where voters chose to opt out.

In most case, support to reclaim local authority greatly outweighs votes against it, reinforcing research that reveals strong support for local choice and municipal networks. As in other Colorado referendums, the decision proved to be bipartisan with voters from all parties supporting the idea to reclaim local authority; clearly Coloradoans from across the political spectrum understand the need for high-quality Inernet access.

Tags: alamosa cocoloradoeagle countysb 152referendumelectionlocalresource

Grant County, Oregon, Starts Planning Internet Infrastructure Project

muninetworks.org - August 17, 2017

With funding from the state to jumpstart their initiative, the city of John Day in Grant County, Oregon, is working with local communities to deploy fiber to nearby Burns. The infrastructure will bring better connectivity to local residents in the mostly rural community.

Beginning Of A Plan

City Manager of John Day Nick Green told the Blue Mountain Eagle that the plan is still in the works, but representatives from the county and local towns will be part of the Grant County Digital Coalition. The group, which is still being organized, will own and manage the infrastructure. They anticipate the network will likely be some sort of hybrid design, rather than Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) throughout the entire 4,529 square mile county. “Our goal is to address the entire county’s needs, but we will start with the urban corridor,” said Green.

Green told the Eagle that average download capacity in the county is 10 Megabits per second (Mbps) and local officials want the new infrastructure to boost averages to at least 30 Mbps. There is some fiber in the region for businesses but residential access is poor.

County To County

The city of John Day received $1.82 million from the state, which will fund the project. The county will deploy a 75-mile fiber optic line from Burns in Harney County to the Grant County seat, where about 1,800 people live. John Day is the most populous community in the county, where only about 7,500 people reside. Phase 1 will deploy an additional 85 miles of fiber to connect Grant County facilities, such as city halls, schools, and the county court. For Phase 2, local communities will construct municipal networks to offer residential service in the south and east of the county seat. Phase 3 will follow with a similar effort in the northern and western communities.

Once the Coalition is formed, they will decide whether to offer services directly as a utility company or to lease the infrastructure to a private sector provider. In addition to improving residential Internet access, local officials hope improved connectivity will spur economic development. The early timeline for the Grant County Digital Network estimates local residents will be able to obtain service as early as October 2018.

The "New West"

About 63 percent of the land in Grant County is controlled by the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. There are several National Forests and designated Wilderness Areas in Grant County. In recent years, the community has experience population decline, high unemployment, and an aging population. They’ve started several initiatives to reinvigorate the region in order to stimulate growth, including a focus on targeting young working families and digital commuters.

State Sen. Ted Ferrioli of John Day, who worked to obtain the state funding, referred to John Day as a “new West” community. “It could turn out to be the key piece to attracting a few new employers and growing local businesses.”

Tags: oregonjohn day orgrant county orfundingregionalrural

Voters Say "Yes!" In Lyndon Township, Michigan

muninetworks.org - August 16, 2017

In a record high turnout for a non-general election, voters in Lyndon Township, Michigan, decided to approve a bond proposal to fund a publicly owned Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network. The measure passed with 66 percent of voters (622 votes) choosing yes and 34 percent (321 votes) voting no.

Geographically Close, Technologically Distant

The community is located only 20 minutes away from Ann Arbor, home to the University of Michigan and the sixth largest city in the state, but many of the Township’s residents must rely on satellite for Internet access. Residents and business owners complain about slow service, data caps, and the fact that they must pay high rates for inadequate Internet service. Residents avoid software updates from home and typically travel to the library in nearby Chelsea to work in the evening or to complete school homework assignments.

Lyndon Township Supervisor Marc Keezer has reached out to ISPs and asked them to invest in the community, but none consider it a worthwhile investment. Approximately 80 percent of the community has no access to FCC-defined broadband speeds of 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) download and 3 Mbps upload.

“We don’t particularly want to build a network in our township. We would rather it be privatized and be like everybody else,” Keezer said. “But that’s not a reality for us here.”

When local officials unanimously approved feasibility study funding about a year ago, citizens attending the meeting responded to their vote with applause

A Little From Locals Goes A Long Way

The community will finance their $7 million project with a 2.9 millage over the next 20-years, which amounts to a $2.91 property tax increase per $1,000 of taxable value of real property. Average cost per property owner will come to $21.92 per month for the infrastructure. Basic Internet access will cost $35 - 45 per month for 100 Mbps; speeds will likely be symmetrical. They estimate the combined cost of infrastructure millage and monthly fee for basic service will be $57 - 67 per month. Lyndon Township wants the network to also offer gigabit speeds for a slightly higher rate and will search for a private sector ISP willing to provide services within their chosen parameters.

The Michigan Broadband Cooperative, a grassroots volunteer driven non-profit organization focusing on improving connectivity in western Washtenaw and eastern Jackson Counties spearheaded the initiative in Lyndon Township. Now that the community is ready to move to the next phase, the cooperative hopes other communities in the state will follow their lead:

Following the vote, Lyndon resident Ben Fineman, who also volunteers as president of the Cooperative, said “This moment is bigger than Lyndon Township. Lyndon Township’s success has the potential to provide a transformative model not only to other rural townships of Washtenaw County, but also to rural communities throughout the state. I am hopeful that our success can contribute to closing the gap for the other 458,000 Michigan households who are still lacking broadband access.”

Tags: lyndon township mimichiganruralelectionbondfundingmuniFTTHgigabitinfrastructureballotreferendumproperty tax

Benoit Felten of Diffraction Analysis Talks Global Strategies - Community Broadband Bits Podcast 266

muninetworks.org - August 15, 2017
Community Broadband Bits Episode 266 - Benoit Felten, CEO of Diffraction Analysis

When policy and decision makers discuss how to improve connectivity in the U.S., they often compare Internet access in other parts of the world to connectivity in America. We can learn from efforts in other places.

Benoit Felten, CEO of Diffraction Analysis, has analyzed business models, approaches, and infrastructure development all across the globe. His company has studied infrastructure and Internet access from short-term and long-term perspectives through the multi-faceted lens of international economies. Benoit joins us for episode 266, his second appearance on the Community Broadband Bits podcast.

In addition to development of infrastructure, Christopher and Benoit get into competition, quality of services, and how it varies from place to place. Benoit has recommendations based on his years of analysis from different communities and cultures around the world. Be sure to also check out episode 21, in which Benoit and Christopher discuss Stokab.

Read the transcript of this show here.

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

This show is 40 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed.

You can download this mp3 file directly from here. Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Thanks to Arne Huseby for the music. The song is Warm Duck Shuffle and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.

Tags: audiobroadband bitspodcastbenoit feltoninternationalinfrastructureeuropepolicycompetitionopen accessdark fibermonopoly

North Carolina's WestNGN Releases Request For Negotiations: Responses Due September 21st

muninetworks.org - August 15, 2017

For the past year, six municipalities along with local colleges and universities have collaborated to lay the groundwork for fiber optic infrastructure in the greater Asheville area. The group, West Next Generation Network (WestNGN), is now ready to find a partner to begin hammering out details in order to realize the concept. They’ve released the WestNGN Broadband Request for Negation (RFN) and responses are due September 21st.

The plan closely resembles the North Carolina Next Generation Network (NCNGN) in the Research Triangle area of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill. WestNGN will include the communities of Asheville, Biltmore Forest, Fletcher, Hendersonville, Laurel Park, and Waynesville - all of which belong to the Land of Sky Regional Council. The Council has helped with administration and in drafting the RFN aimed at improving local connectivity and boosting regional economic development.

Strategic Alliance Partnership

WestNGN’s RFN states that they want to establish a Strategic Alliance Partnership with a single ISP or a group of ISPs that possess an interest in both providing service and in deployment. WestNGN puts negotiation of ownership of assets and use of those assets at the top of the list for discussion points, signaling that rhey aren't set on a fixed approach. Similarly, they hope to negotiate matters such as management, operation, and maintenance of local networks; ways to speed up deployment and reduce costs; and ways to better serve low-income residents.

Goals For The Network

WestNGN plans to bring gigabit connectivity to residents, businesses, and community anchor institutions in the region. They specifically state their priority for this level of capacity, but note that their future partner will have time to gradually implement it, if necessary. They also stress the need for symmetrical service speeds. Several employers in the region have determined that upload speeds - from their offices and for their employees at home - are increasingly desirable. The consortium has recognized that home-based businesses in the region are also multiplying every year.

WestNGN states that they want to increase the amount of dark fiber available to lease to all providers. Potential partners should be willing to make those assets available and possibly plan on expanding dark fiber. Several members of the consortium have dark fiber that they would contribute to use for the project.

The Region

The Bureau of Labor Statistics sees significant job and wage growth in the region where WestNGN plans to develop the network; the population is expected to also increase. Local employers include Evergreen Packaging, BorgWarner Turbo Systems, and GE Aviation. In addition to 22 advanced manufacturing companies, the area supports a thriving tourist economy.

Home to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Centers for Environmental Information, Asheville describes itself as the center of climate data and research. The area has embraced the concept of bringing more scientists into its research-based and technical entrepreneur facilities. Venture Asheville brings start-ups, mentors, talent, and funding sources together. The Collider is a meeting place for climate scientists and entrepreneurs to collaborate and discover ways to use climate data in business ventures. Mountain Bizworks helps small businesses in the region.

In addition to the University of North Carolina Asheville, North Carolina State University is also a partner in WestNGN. Both schools, along with several other colleges, offer tech training to students and need better connectivity at an affordable rate. Local K12 schools have started one-to-one device programs for students, but poor connectivity at home (and sometimes at school facilities) limit the effectiveness of programs.

Important Dates

Read the full Request For Negotiations here and learn more about the region and the project at the Land of Sky Regional Council’s website.

Last Date for Questions: August 18, 5:00 pm 

Responses Due: September 21, 4:00 pm 

Evaluation of Responses Completed: October 19

Interviews with Respondents Completed: November 9

Selection of Potential Partners for Further Discussions: November 22

Agreements Finalized: January 31, 2018

Tags: WestNGNnorth carolinaregionalrfirfprfqpartnershipashevillegigabiteconomic developmentanchor institutions

Community Broadband Media Roundup - August 14

muninetworks.org - August 14, 2017

Colorado

Fort Collins broadband faces long road ahead by Kevin Duggan, The Coloradoan

Fort Collins voters are a step closer to deciding whether the city may provide high-speed internet service to homes and businesses.

However, there are a lot more steps to be taken before the proposed service becomes a reality.

 

Florida

Commissioner Justin Troller says he will push for action on Lakeland broadband service by Christopher Guinn, The Ledger

 

Kansas

Gigabit City Summit shines national spotlight on KC Smart City by Meghan LeVota, Startland News

 

Michigan

Lyndon Township broadband vote passes two to one by Ben Fineman, Michigan Broadband Cooperative

 

General

Broadband economic benefits: Why invest in broadband infrastructure and adoption? by Roberto Gallardo and Mark Rembert, The Daily Yonder

Maybe Americans don't need fast home Internet service, FCC suggests by Jon Brodkin, ArsTechnica

Commissioner Mignon Clyburn objected to several aspects of the notice of inquiry, including the failure to increase the home Internet speed benchmark and the consideration of mobile as a replacement for home Internet service.

FCC faces backlash for saying Americans might not need fast home Internet by Jon Brodkin, ArsTechnica

Tags: media roundup

Fond du Lac Band Builds Fiber Network In Northeast Minnesota

muninetworks.org - August 14, 2017

Native nations are building community networks, owned and operated by tribal governments to ensure that Indian Country has high-speed Internet access. In July 2017, the Fond du Lac Band of Ojibwe announced a plan to build a Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network to 900 homes that only had access to dial-up Internet service.

The Duluth News Tribune reported that the Fond du Lac tribal government is putting more than $2 million towards the venture and has secured about $6 million in federal grants. We spoke with Jason Hollinday, the Planning Director, to get more details on Fond du Lac Communications and what it means for the community. 

Fond du Lac Connectivity

The Fond du Lac reservation, “Nagaajiwanaang,” covers about 150 square miles in northeastern Minnesota, and the FTTH project will encompass most of the area - about 120 square miles. The network will offer voice, video, and Internet service.

Anyone, including non-tribal members, will be able to get connected within the service area. Prices have yet to be determined, offering affordable rates is a priority. In a recent Pine Journal article, Band IT director Fred Underwood pointed out that "Connectivity is available anywhere, but is it affordable?" and added that affordability in rural areas is often hard to find. Connectivity for the FTTH network will include a program to connect low-income residents and installation fees have been waived for any subscriber who signed up before July 31st.

Community centers and public buildings will all be connected and receive two years of free Internet service. The goal is to make sure that the network will be a community asset benefiting everyone.

Hollinday mentioned how excited people are to have high-speed Internet service at home for the first time. Several have already expressed their anticipation at being able to enjoy Netflix and take online college courses. As the project got underway, the community celebrated with a groundbreaking at the Sawyer Community Center.

Making The Project A Reality

This project has been almost 10 years in the making. Hollinday described how the planning department had been laying the groundwork for this project for nearly a decade from looking for grants to preparing a request for proposals (RFP).

The plan finally came together when they received two Community Connect grants - each worth $3 million - from the federal government’s Department of Agriculture (USDA). These were the only two grants awarded to a Minnesota community through this program.

The network will be mostly buried underground, which is often more expensive than putting the fiber on utility poles. The tribal government has pulled together another $2.2 million to put toward the project, and they also intend to apply for a Minnesota Border-to-Border grant to help with the cost of building the network. Officials estimate the project will cost a total of approximately $8.2 million. 

They plan on commencing service to the reservation with a pilot area as early as next spring to work out any issues before offering it to the wider service area.

[Secretary/treasurer Ferdinand] Martineau said. "It is very important for our community to have that access and I think it's a great project. It not only benefits the Fond du Lac Band but will benefit everyone in the project area." 

Tags: FTTHfederal fundingnative americanstribal landsminnesotaruralgranteconomic developmentanchor institutions

Saturday Show: Listen to a Latticework Interview with Elliot Noss

muninetworks.org - August 12, 2017

The Latticework podcast invited Elliot Noss, CEO of Tucows - the parent company of Ting - to discuss his work at Tucows and his thoughts on the future. The conversation touches on everything from the idea of post-Democracy to how companies build Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) networks.

Noss previously joined us for the Community Broadband Bits Podcast in 2015. In that episode, Chris and Noss discuss Ting's approach to FTTH and wireless networks and how that intersects with community networks. That podcast is available here.

Ting has a public-private-partnership with the city of Westminster, Maryland, and has started projects in a number of other cities including Holly Springs, North Carolina; Centennial, Colorado; and Sandpoint, Idaho. We discuss the Westminster partnership in our 2016 report, Successful Strategies for Broadband Public-Private Partnerships.

Listen below to the Latticework podcast (22 minutes):

 

Tags: tingelliot nossfiberaudioFTTH

Transcript: Community Broadband Bits Episode 265

muninetworks.org - August 11, 2017

This is the transcript of episode 265 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. In this episode, Lori Sandoval the telecom and regulatory administrator of Pasadena, California, joins the show to discuss the city's fiber network and business climate. Listen to this episode here.

 

Lori Sandoval: We saw an opportunity, and it was sort of the first hints of bringing in competitive carriers and trying to get more competition locally. We started thinking about how Pasadena could implement a fiber network here.

Lisa Gonzalez: This is episode 265 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast, from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. I'm Lisa Gonzalez. Lori Sandoval from Pasadena California talks with Christopher in this episode about the community's fiber-optic network. In addition to serving the municipality's needs, the network offers dark fiber connectivity, and is branching into other services for local businesses and entities. In this conversation, Lori explains how Pasadena got started in fiber-optics, how they funded the investment, and where they're headed next. As a reminder, this great conversation with Lori is commercial-free, but our work at ILSR does require funding. Please take a moment to contribute at ilsr.org. If you've already contributed, thanks. Now, here's Christopher with Lori Sandoval from Pasadena, California.

Christopher Mitchell: Welcome to another edition of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. I'm Chris Mitchell with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, and today I'm speaking with Lori Sandoval, the telecom and regulatory administrator for the City of Pasadena. Welcome to the show.

Lori Sandoval: Oh, thank you. I'm glad to be here.

Christopher Mitchell: For people who only know of Pasadena in terms of beautiful weather, and thinking about the lovely beaches and whatnot of Southern California, how would you describe it?

Lori Sandoval: Pasadena's a really interesting community. It's a little bit city, and a little bit suburbia. We are located north of downtown, have some world-class institutions here: CalTech, JPL, Rose Bowl, of course, ArtCenter School of Design, and a very vibrant local economy and social scene. It's a fun place to be.

Christopher Mitchell: And you have a municipal electric utility, I understand.

Lori Sandoval: We do, both water and power. We do other things, like we have one of the few city health departments in California.

Christopher Mitchell: Excellent. Well, let's talk a little bit about how Pasadena got involved with fiber-optics. Where did that come from?

Lori Sandoval: You know, there were a couple of different things that came together. Back in the mid-90s was the initial consideration. Our electric utility was using copper communications lines to link its facilities for a variety of monitoring purposes, and finding that they needed to do more, and that those copper lines weren't really meeting their needs. At the same time, we saw an opportunity, and it was sort of the first hints of bringing in competitive carriers and trying to get more competition locally. We were beginning to see some of the first municipal networks or muni-sponsored network initiatives, at least in our part of California. Those things came together. We started thinking about how Pasadena could implement a fiber network here.

Christopher Mitchell: Well, let's just pause for a second. I mean, I've really looked into Santa Monica, and I was just fascinated at the level of community involvement, and the CIO at the time was just really interested in thinking about this. Was there any specific people that were driving this forward, or was this something that was just kind of -- Was it bursting out of CalTech for instance, or how did it come about?

Lori Sandoval: No, I think it was more of a behind-the-scenes or quieter initiative, with a variety of city folks driving it, looking at how this could bring benefits to the community certainly, so it wasn't solely focused internally from that perspective. But then we started reaching out to identify, were there folks at CalTech or JPL and other local institutions and businesses who were interested. We did end up garnering quite a bit of support from those quarters during that outreach.

Christopher Mitchell: Were there kind of public meetings about it then, or was this more of like, "Hey, we're thinking about doing this. Let's just get together and chat about it"?

Lori Sandoval: We did a formal business plan, not the traditional community meetings, but lots of one-on-one interviews and discussions. Then we did present the business case for the network to the city council, so that was a public forum for discussion. Less community-focused than some initiatives, but that was an element there.

Christopher Mitchell: What was the business plan then? What was the focus that you were proposing to do?

Lori Sandoval: What we were looking at, from a business perspective, could we make an investment in this infrastructure and create a return on investment, and satisfy some needs of the city internally? There was definitely a cost offset aspect to it. A big factor underlying that business plan was the assumption that we would be leasing fiber to the private sector, to a competitive carrier, and that that would bring revenue in for the project, but it would also foster competition locally and support what we were hearing from the business community about needs that may not have been met.

Christopher Mitchell: You were looking primarily at connecting some municipal anchor institutions and hitting some key areas of town, but you weren't proposing to actually go to residents an things like that, right?

Lori Sandoval: That's correct. What we ended up doing was a 25-mile network that passes along some major corridors of the city, primarily in commercial areas, and of course picks up all of the power substations, for example, across the city, but it did not have a residential focus.

Christopher Mitchell: Well then I would guess that you probably do a fair amount of water monitoring too. I think people like us up here in Minnesota tend to forget that water's pretty important to keep track of down there.

Lori Sandoval: It is; however, unlike power, revenue on the water side is more constrained. I would have to say, on the water side we're doing less from a fiber-connected perspective than we do on the electric side.

Christopher Mitchell: Well, yeah. I'm not too surprised to hear that because it seems that that's true of a lot of places, and sometimes I hear people complaining that the tools uses to try and track the water aren't nearly as good as have been developed for the electric side. But I guess I'm curious, would you say that that network that you moved forward with, I mean, it's going on 20 years, was that a success?

Lori Sandoval: I would say so, yes. We've accomplished much of what we set out to accomplish in that initial kind of business plan, and in terms of facilitating self-reliance for city operations, but also filling some needs that were not being met in the community. That ranges from bringing that competitive carrier in and making a wider variety of services available to businesses locally, but also meeting some of the dark fiber needs of our local institutions, and offsetting a variety of expenses at the city level, or improving connectivity by moving to fiber and off of copper.

Christopher Mitchell: To clarify, when you talk about the competitive carrier, that's a company that basically wanted to try to deliver services to some of the businesses in your community but it needed access to municipal fiber to do it because they didn't want to build their own fiber. Is that right?

Lori Sandoval: That's correct. Yeah.

Christopher Mitchell: Okay. I think it's always worth noting that, because those of us advocating for municipal networks are sometimes accused of being anti-business, which I find deeply ironic since the reason most local governments have gotten into this is specifically to support local businesses and give opportunities to other businesses to try and connect them.

Lori Sandoval: Yes.

Christopher Mitchell: One of the reasons that we wanted to have you on was to talk about where the network is going, because as you said, the network has succeeded, and now it sounds like you're getting a little bit more ambitious.

Lori Sandoval: Yes. I think we initially installed our network in 1998 and 1999, and we built incrementally but very slowly over another 15 or so years. But starting in about 2015, we've really tried to expand our view of what the network can do and where we can go. This falls in a couple different areas. One is just a recognition of the number of things, or targets, that we might connect to fiber that would be of benefit to city operations, and that reflects a evolution of technology. We're doing a lot more connecting of devices in the field, and we need to get fiber to more places to do that. The other aspect of it is that competitive carrier meets some, but not all, needs in the community, and there was an opportunity for us to use fiber in a creative way, as a creative tool to facilitate economic develop and to assist with business attraction and retention. That's sort of the area that we're moving into now, with a focus on a lot of new fiber installation over the past two years.

Christopher Mitchell: One of the things that we've seen with cities that started off like yours is that the focus on dark fiber gets you so far. There's some businesses, often more data-intensive businesses, that they are looking for dark fiber, but a lot of businesses are just thinking, "You know, I just want a basic connection." Is that what you're doing more of now is you're starting to offer some of that -- I guess in some ways you might think of it as -- It's obviously a lit service, but I think of it as more just a basic connection to folks that don't want to have to deal with dark fiber.

Lori Sandoval: That's correct. We are looking now more at how we can provide a transport service, so we're leveraging a DWDM, or dense wave division multiplexing, network that we have up and running to meet city needs. We're leveraging capacity in that to carry traffic from businesses that may not be getting what they need from other providers, and partnering with an ISP that has a local data center, so really providing an alternative Internet connectivity for businesses, particularly those that may not be able to get that currently from another provider.

Christopher Mitchell: Are you also seeing the need for businesses that aren't even really looking for Internet, they just want to connect themselves to different branch locations maybe?

Lori Sandoval: We typically have provided a dark fiber solution in those instances, and aren't seeing as much of a need for a lit connection, but to create a campus network. We tend to be serving entities like CalTech and JPL and the local ArtCenter College of Design with dark fiber.

Christopher Mitchell: One of the things that I'm always curious about is some of the numbers around this in terms of the revenues that you have been seeing from leasing the dark fiber and the cost of expanding the network.

Lori Sandoval: I'm going to go back to the beginning of our network development. Something that was important for us was that we didn't go out, and didn't issue bonds to finance the network. We looked at some internal reserve funds that were essentially loaned to the project. It was very important for us to, when we did the dark fiber lease to that competitive carrier, to be able to pay back that loan. Our initial budget was 1.8 million. We were able to pay back that internal loan within about 13 months of leasing the fiber. Our revenue stream was very heavy on the front end, and at this point we are bringing in revenues of about 480,000 annually. It's a fairly steady revenue stream right now. We are looking at some of the things that we've just talked about of growing that revenue stream over time again.

Christopher Mitchell: What kind of expenses are you seeing to do the connections that you were talking about adding on to it today?

Lori Sandoval: We've budgeted about 600,000 a year for a network expansion program, where we're looking at essentially a five-year program that will increase capacity within our existing ring, and then also extend fiber to places that it isn't currently within the city. That covers really the kind of backbone and mainline installations. Then we really budget on a connection-by-connection basis when we bring on new commercial buildings or additional city facilities and the like.

Christopher Mitchell: When you bring on a new building, let's assume it's a commercial building, do you charge that to them right away up front, or do you try to make it up over time? How do you work that out?

Lori Sandoval: Typically we do try to make it up over time. You know, in order to make this a feasible business proposition for a local customer, they're typically not in a position to pay the full installation cost up front, and so we are recouping that over time.

Christopher Mitchell: Do you have them in a contract then? The reason I ask is this is a common question, because I think one of the things I've seen is cities say, "Well, we'll just expand it at their expense," and then they find that many businesses, even if they have a sense they're going to make that money back, they're still unwilling to make the commitment.

Lori Sandoval: Yeah. We're not going to expand the network by getting customers to pay up front for all of those extensions. Particularly if it's a commercial building where there's the opportunity or the possibility of serving multiple customers, then we would look at, how can we look at this creatively so that we're not essentially killing the deal up front, you know? We want to make it feasible for businesses to proceed with our service. To answer you question about an agreement, we do capture the kind of the terms and conditions under which we're providing the service in a standard city agreement. We know that the revenue stream is going to be there over time, even if we're not getting the upfront costs right at the beginning of the arrangement.

Christopher Mitchell: I'm curious if you've looked into any low-income housing issues, like if you have any public housing or anything, using your fiber to try and connect them at all, or if there's a different solution?

Lori Sandoval: We've looked at it to some extent. The city does not own any low-income housing developments, but we're very active in working with other entities that do. We explored a grant program that helps fund infrastructure development basically to extent connectivity to low-income housing developments. Through that evaluation, I learned that there are locally-managed low-income housing developments that have applied for those grant funds, but there didn't seem to be a direct city role in that process. It really needs to be the owner of the building that leverages those funds.

Christopher Mitchell: Yeah, that makes sense, and most of the activity that I think we're seeing where cities are getting involved in this directly, whether it's in San Francisco or Wilson, North Carolina have done it, it's generally to publicly-owned housing stock. If you don't have that, you're options are certainly more constrained.

Lori Sandoval: One thing that we have focused on, sort of in contrast, is, is there a way for us to leverage fiber and other resources to provide connectivity to the public in general, so not necessarily in housing, but in community centers and parks? That's also an area where we've been trying to do more, and have been gearing up to push out a Wi-Fi service that is backhauled over fiber, but supporting public Internet access in that fashion.

Christopher Mitchell: Great. Well, is there anything else that we should know about what you're working on to improve Internet access in Pasadena?

Lori Sandoval: We also are looking at how we can work earlier in the development process. We are having something of a develop boom here in Pasadena, seeing a lot of new projects being implemented, and so always trying to look for, is there a way that we can get involved in those projects early on to establish paths for the future, both figurative and actual paths? So can we accommodate, or can we incorporate, conduit for potential future fiber links into commercial spaces and institutional spaces so that we're not trying to do that down the road when it's more expensive to do so, and also creating those relationships so that developers and the folks that they have assisting them in projects understand that the city is a potential provider, whether it's for dark fiber or other Internet or Internet-related connectivity. I know that there's one development in particular, and possibly others, in Pasadena that are pursuing wired certification. They're looking for that redundancy and resiliency in their building's connectedness. That's something that we're trying to explore at this point in time.

Christopher Mitchell: Yeah, I think those relationships are important, more important than people sometimes realize. Do you have any requirements in code to, for instance, have a nice demarcation point where you can get into the building once you're ready with the fiber?

Lori Sandoval: No, we don't. We have been working on a more informal basis, so trying to share information, both within departments that interact with developers and others who are implementing new projects, as well as with contacts with the developers themselves.

Christopher Mitchell: Yeah, that's something that I've seen up here in a suburb of Minneapolis where they're working on getting something into code, but in the meantime, they've had really great experience just developing those discussions with the companies that are building properties, in this case mostly apartment building type properties, to make sure that the wiring is good enough to support multiple providers that may be available in the future. Thank you so much for coming on and telling us more about what's going on in Pasadena, and good luck.

Lori Sandoval: Oh, thank you, and I enjoyed the opportunity to share about the Pasadena network.

Lisa Gonzalez: That was Lori Sandoval describing the City of Pasadena's foray into fiber-optics. We have transcripts for this and other Community Broadband Bits podcasts available at MuniNetworks.org/BroadbandBits. Email us at Podcast@MuniNetworks.org with your ideas for the show. Follow Chris on Twitter. His handle is @CommunityNets. Follow MuniNetworks.org stories on Twitter. The handle is @MuniNetworks. Subscribe to this podcast and the other ILSR podcasts, Building Local Power and the Local Energy Rules podcasts. You can access them on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or wherever else you get your podcasts. Never miss out on our original research by also subscribing to our monthly newsletter at ILSR.org. Thank you to Arne Huseby for the song Warm Duck Shuffle, licensed through Creative Commons, and thanks for listening to episode 265 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast.

Tags: transcriptdark fiberI-Netpasadenacaliforniaanchor institutions

Internet Association's Video Looks At Network Neutrality And What ISPs Are Really Saying

muninetworks.org - August 11, 2017

With the FCC taking another look at the advancements in network neutrality rules passed during the Obama administration, the topic has been on the lips of many segments of the population. Many of us consider a free an open Internet a necessity to foster innovation and investment, but the words from the lips of the big ISPs are changing, depending on whom they’re talking to.

The Internet Association, who went on record in 2015 in support local authority for Internet infrastructure investment, recently released a video about the fickle financial reporting of Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon. 

The Internet Association describes the situation like this:

In our latest video, Internet Association takes a look at what Internet Service Providers (ISPs) told the government about net neutrality’s impact on investment and what they told their investors about its impact. They don’t quite match up.

Something to keep in mind: when companies like ISPs talk to their investors, they’re legally obligated to tell the truth.

The question of infrastructure investment is an important one because network investment helps the entire Internet economy grow and thrive. Innovative websites and apps fuel consumer demand for the Internet, which in turn fosters further network investment, which then fosters further innovation by websites and apps.

At Internet Association, we believe that the only way to preserve the free and open internet – and this cycle of innovation – is through strong, enforceable net neutrality rules like the ones currently on the books.

Check out the video and hear the contradictions from the lips CFOs who head up these big ISPs. What’s the real story here?

Tags: internet associationnetwork neutralityinfrastructurecomcastverizonvideoliesfinancial

Cooperatives Connect Rural America on ILSR’s Building Local Power Podcast

muninetworks.org - August 10, 2017
Building Local Power Episode 26 Connecting Rural America

Electric cooperatives have the potential to build next-generation networks to provide high-speed Internet service, and they are stepping up to the plate. In episode 26 of the Building Local Power podcast from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR), Nick Stumo-Langer sits down with Christopher Mitchell and Hannah Trostle to discuss how electric cooperatives are improving Internet access in rural communities. 

From Washington to Missouri, many rural folks already have high-speed Internet service through cooperatives. Hannah describes how the cooperatives did that, and then Christopher dives into some of the barriers to local investment. Check out a summary of their research on the resource page Cooperatives Build Community Networks -updated monthly. 

This conversation also builds on Building Local Power podcast episode 12 with Karlee Wienmann. Hannah and Karlee discuss how cooperatives work on both Internet access and renewable energy. That episode is available at ILSR.org along with all the other Building Local Power podcast episodes.

Listen to Nick, Hannah, and Christopher in episode 26, Connecting Rural America: Internet Access for All.  

 

Tags: ruralcooperativerural electric coopchristopher mitchellinstitute for local self-reliancepolicylocal

Burlington Considers Bid Process for BT

muninetworks.org - August 9, 2017

The clock is ticking as the city of Burlington examines bids from entities to buy or partner to operate Burlington Telecom. The community has narrowed down what sort of characteristics they want in a buyer, but there is also some debate about the process as city officials move toward the final process.

On To The Next Step

The community received eight bids, none coming from large national telecommunications companies. Early in July, the Burlington Telecom Advisory Board (BTAB) reported that the highest bid was two and a half times the lowest, but they did not make dollar amounts public. They’ve eliminated some of the bids and on July 31st, the finalists are scheduled to make presentations to the City Council in an executive session. 

While price is a factor that the city and the BTAB are considering, it isn’t the only criterion that matters. Last year, the BTAB released a report based on community input, recommending the city first look for a locally based entity. Many people in Burlington like BT as a locally controlled asset and fear it may eventually be swallowed up by one of the large, distant carriers. 

Keep BT Local formed when city residents banded together to create a cooperative. They started in 2012 and have recruited members committed to keeping BT in the hands of local residents. Keep BT Local was one of the entities that submitted a bid.

How Much Public Input?

Keep BT Local is the only bidder that has publicly acknowledged its decision to bid on the network and city officials are still undecided about how much information to release to the public about bidders. Mayor Miro Weinberger has indicated he would prefer the bidders and their bibs remain confidential until after city officials make a final decision.

“Each bidder is working hard to convince the city they can meet those criteria, and they don’t fully know how they stack up against and what the others are offering,” Weinberger said. “That dynamic creates a strong negotiating position for the city.”

Keep BT Local’s chairman Alan Mattson, understands the reasoning, but also believes releasing the information would allow the public to be more engaged in the process.

The upside to engaging the public is that it would create greater support for whomever is eventually selected, Mattson said, while helping city officials make a selection that’s truly in the public interest.

Mattson pointed to the process by which City Market was selected to build a grocery store at its downtown location as an example. Public input swayed that process by showing that residents preferred the co-op to a Shaw’s.

“We should all put our cards on the table, and let those cards play,” Mattson said.

A recent VT Digger article pointed out a potential conflict of interest based on the city’s relationship with Dorman & Fawcett, the firm which has helped manage BT and will received a share of the final sale price. Mayor Weinberger says, “We are very aware of that potential conflict and working to make sure it doesn’t become an actual conflict.”

Concern has developed because the firm could be in a position to sway public officials’ decision regarding the process. 

“Mr. Dorman of course is used to a completely private kind of sale, and here we have a public that feels strongly vested in this decision and rightly so,” [City Council President Jane] Knodell said. “We need to take that into consideration while also acknowledging that disclosure in some cases could be adverse to the public’s interest.”

It's Been A Long Road

In 2014, Burlington came to a settlement with Citibank, which required the city to sell the municipal network either in whole or in part. A previous Mayoral administration hid major cost overruns from the public for years and the city eventually owed Citibank approximately $33 million. After a drawn out lawsuit, the parties settled. They city would pay $10.5 million to the company and a share of BT’s future value.

Burlington had to turn to a local business owner for the bridge funding, who agreed to provide much of the funding in exchange for transfer of ownership of the network to Blue Water LLC, a company created specifically for this purpose. The city then leased the network from Blue Water.

If Burlington sells BT by January, the city will keep more funds from the sale, under the terms of the settlement agreement with Citibank. Burlington officials say they’re on track to meet that date; any final deal must be approved by Vermont’s Public Utility Commission.

Tags: BurlingtonBurlington TelecomVermontpublic v private

Pasadena Benefits From Municipal Fiber - Community Broadband Bits Podcast 265

muninetworks.org - August 8, 2017
Community Broadband Bits Episode 265 - Lori Sandoval, Pasadena Telecom & Regulatory Administrator

It shouldn't be surprising that the city that is home to CalTech and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory needs high-quality connectivity. Those institutions are part of the reason Pasadena began investing in its own fiber network.

To learn the other reasons and how they went about it, Pasadena's Telecom & Regulatory Administrator Lori Sandoval joins us on Community Broadband Bits podcast 265. 

The original business plan focused on connecting community anchor institutions and leasing dark fiber to private sector providers. They wanted to facilitate more private sector investment and competition in addition to meeting the internal needs of the city and the municipal electric utility.

Read the transcript of the show here.

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

This show is 21 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed.

You can download this mp3 file directly from here. Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Thanks to Arne Huseby for the music. The song is Warm Duck Shuffle and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.

Tags: dark fiberI-Netpasadenacaliforniaaudiobroadband bitspodcastanchor institutionsutility
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