Tag: "FTTH"

Posted October 19, 2021 by Maren Machles

On this episode of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast, host Christopher Mitchell talks fiber with Gary Bolton, CEO and President of the Fiber Broadband Association (FBA) at the Broadband Communities Summit in Houston, TX. 

The two discuss a recent fiber optic technician training program that FBA is rolling out, not only to fill expertise gaps and the labor shortage, but also to provide individuals with an opportunity to start a career in broadband deployment. The association will be working with state broadband offices and workforce development to recruit people and shape the program to local needs. The curriculum has been approved by the Department of Labor. 

Mitchell and Bolton talk about FBA’s motto: “If it’s not fiber, it’s not broadband.” They debate whether future-proofing broadband infrastructure by installing fiber is a worthwhile investment, and compare the deployment of fast, reliable Internet access to U.S. electrification. 

This show is 29 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed. You can listen to the interview on this page or visit the Community Broadband Bits page.

Transcript coming soon. 

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

Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Subscribe to the Building Local Power podcast, also from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, on iTunes or ...

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Posted October 18, 2021 by Maren Machles

More than $34.6 million in COVID relief funds were awarded in August to 15 Minnesota cities and counties across the state as part of the Small Cities Coronavirus Community Development Block Grant Program (CDBG-CV). The grant program was created to support Minnesota’s COVID-19 response efforts with the help of a special allocation of Community Development Block Grant funds from the CARES Act fund. 

The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) administered the grants which can be used for projects like housing assistance and commercial rehabilitation, but the majority of the funding - approximately $32 million - will be used for broadband projects. 

“The pandemic has made clear how vital broadband is to the lives of Minnesotans and to the economic vitality of our state,” said DEED Commissioner Steve Grove in a DEED press release. “These grants will help communities fund broadband and other important projects as we write the next chapter of our economy.”

Aitkin County, receiving the largest grant of $4.8 million, submitted an application to work with the Mille Lac Energy Cooperative on a fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) project that would pass approximately 565 homes across seven communities, six of which don’t even have access to 10/1 Megabit per second (Mbps). The application projected it would take approximately 93 miles of fiber and $9,000 per passing location. In its application, the county shared that while the median household income across Minnesota is $71,300, the median across these communities is $45,990, demonstrating that there is a clear issue of infrastructure and access, but also affordability. As part of its application, Aitkin County and MLEC announced the latter would include a low-cost plan to help address the digital divide: 

MLEC will offer a discounted plan at $39.95 with speeds of 50Mbps/50 Mbps to qualifying residents.If the Emergency Broadband Benefit is continued after the initial funding period" MLEC hopes to participate in this program and will discontinue the discounted...

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Posted October 14, 2021 by Jericho Casper

North Louisiana has more premises unserved with high-speed Internet access than any other region of the state. In an effort to bring reliable Internet access to its members who have gone without service, directors of the Northeast Louisiana Power Cooperative (NELPCO) recently agreed to pursue a $54 million fiber buildout. 

During a special meeting called on June 29th, NELPCO’s Board of Directors voted 5-2 to begin providing high-speed Internet access across the seven rural parishes the cooperative serves through its wholly-owned subsidiary, Volt Broadband LLC.

The exact details of the project and how it will be funded are still being worked out. But, the cooperative is preparing to bond for $50 million to deploy fiber infrastructure across its 2,180-square-mile service territory, which runs from “south of Turkey Creek Lake in Franklin Parish north to the Arkansas line, and extends into Morehouse Parish,” according to the cooperative’s website.

Construction of the fiber network will be completed in segments, beginning in the most populated regions and extending to the most rural, to eventually serve all 11,000 co-op members.

The cooperative will put up the majority of its capital credit – $30 million – as collateral to secure the bond. “Capital credits are retained margins left over at the end of the year at nonprofit electric cooperatives such as NELPCO,” Board of Director member Thad Waters told The Franklin Sun. “This is the most significant source of equity for most cooperatives, and capital credits reflect each member's ownership in the cooperative.”

Aiming to Reinvigorate Industry

Positioned in the delta of rich soils between the Ouachita and Mississippi rivers, agriculture has dominated the economy of Louisiana’s northeast region for centuries. Where once cotton was king, driving through the region...

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Posted October 5, 2021 by Jericho Casper

Following hundreds of requests from community members urging the local Public Utility District (PUD) to address the lack of Internet access in Lewis County, Washington, the Lewis County PUD is answering the call with a proposal to construct an open access countywide fiber-to-the-home network and a relentless pursuit of broadband construction grant opportunities on behalf of its 33,000 members.

The plan to construct the 110-mile-long fiber backbone – anticipated to cost between $110 and $130 million to build – is months in the making. Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, the PUD has applied for over $30 million of state and federal broadband grants. 

In August of 2020, the PUD applied for a $5.5 million grant through the Washington State Public Works Board to provide fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) services to residents of four communities in the western region of the county – “from west Chehalis to Adna and Pe Ell along Highway 6, and down through the Boistfort Valley,” according to the PUD’s website

When that grant application was not awarded, the PUD turned to the USDA’s Community Connect program to propose a smaller project that would serve three of the four aforementioned communities. The USDA is expected to announce those grant recipients soon. 

Lewis County PUD’s most recent attempt to access funding for the project was in May of 2021, when the PUD’s Commissioners requested that Lewis County Commissioners reserve $1 million of the county’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds for the countywide broadband project. The PUD, hopeful that county officials will honor the request, is...

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Posted October 1, 2021 by Sean Gonsalves

Fiber-to-the-home service is on its way to three counties in Southeast Georgia. In July, the Midway-based Coastal Electric Cooperative and Darien Communications – a family owned telephone, cable TV, and Internet Service Provider – announced they were teaming up to build a $40 million fiber network. Once the initial network is up and running, 16,000 homes and businesses in the counties of Bryan, Liberty, and Long will have access to high-speed Internet service.

The partnership has given birth to a new co-op entity with Coastal Electric known as Coastal Fiber Inc., which will lease the infrastructure and begin offering retail broadband service as early as January 2022. Construction began this summer with phase one of the project slated to be rolled out over the next four years.

The new partnership will first target 9,800 homes in Bryan County, 6,200 in Liberty County, and 500 in Long County.

Phase 1 Focuses on Underserved County Residents

“The first phase goal is for customers in Liberty County to begin seeing availability in January 2022. The system will be built out in phases from that point with the total buildout by 2030. The service to Bryan and Long counties will be as we build out in phases. No dates for Bryan and Long have been determined yet,” Coastal Electric Communication Coordinator Bethany Akridge told the Savannah Morning News.

“The service in Bryan County, for example, depends on where you live. There is broadband available in the more populated areas because it is more profitable for companies,” Akridge said. “The reason the cooperative is involved is because there is a need, so we are stepping in to fill that need where those areas are not served or underserved.

...

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Posted September 30, 2021 by Maren Machles

Four communities across Denton County, Texas, home to the North Texas State Fair and a thriving equine and agricultural center, are trying to bridge the digital divide for residents who live in the region.

The cities of Corinth and Lake Dallas, as well as the towns of Hickory Creek and Shady Shores put out a Request for Proposal (RFP) at the beginning of September for a public-private partnership to deploy a fiber network to households and businesses in all four communities, collectively known as the Lake Cities. The project, with the help of $4 million in American Rescue Plan funds, would include building a middle mile fiber ring to support government services around the four cities, connecting public buildings and facilities. 

The RFP seeks a financially sustainable public-private partnership where the local governments of the four cities make the initial capital investment and jointly own the network with a private Internet Service Provider. The ISP would operate and maintain the network primarily with little to no additional government funding needed after the network is up and running. 

The State of Broadband in the Lake Cities

Currently, there are three incumbent ISPs that offer wired broadband in the area: Charter Communications and Grande Communication, both of which are cable companies; and CenturyLink, which is the only provider that offers limited fiber service. Over the last year, the Lake Cities have analyzed the regional broadband market with surveys showing that residents are unhappy with their current service and would prefer faster, more reliable Internet access.  

The RFP comes on the heels of the Lake Cities Broadband Committee’s efforts to address unmet connectivity needs. The committee formed in January 2020 with the mission of “enhancing and expanding broadband access, adoption and use throughout the region for the benefit of residents and businesses.” 

In June 2020, the Committee contracted with Connected Nation Texas (CN Texas) to assess the Lake Cities broadband infrastructure and to...

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Posted September 23, 2021 by Jericho Casper

Just a year after city leaders of Superior, Wisconsin (pop. 26,000) passed a resolution declaring fiber optic cabling critical infrastructure, officials are beginning to put the city’s money behind an action plan. In August, a majority of City Council members voted to adopt a plan to develop a city-owned fiber network and Superior Mayor Jim Paine proposed to reserve the bulk of the city’s American Rescue Plan federal relief funds to back the project.

The recent 8-2 City Council vote gave the green light to move forward with Connect Superior – a plan to construct open access, fiber optic broadband infrastructure reaching every resident, community anchor institution and business in the city. 

As Mayor Paine plans to budget no less than $10 million of the city’s $17 million in Rescue Plan funds to finance the project, Superior’s legislative and executive officials are largely united behind the decision to pursue the path laid out in a Broadband Master Plan [pdf] developed for the city by EntryPoint Networks.

City Councilors’ adoption of the Master Plan is a significant step forward, even as there are still numerous motions the City Council will need to approve in order for municipal fiber to become a reality. 

The next phase of the project involves designing and planning the network and hiring the contractors who will build it. City Council members will have to approve every contract with every consultant, design, and engineer firm along the way; as well as the Mayor’s American Rescue Plan budget in order to award the funds necessary to get the project rolling.

In a recent interview with ILSR, the City Council President Tylor Elm, who first proposed the idea for municipal fiber to Mayor Jim Paine several years ago, said the overwhelming support of the City Council demonstrated during the Master Plan vote provides a good perspective on how the project will fare.

Community Savings

The main objective of the Connect Superior project is reducing the cost of...

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Posted September 21, 2021 by Maren Machles

On this week’s episode of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast, host Christopher Mitchell is joined by Scott Vanderlip, chair of Los Altos Hills Community Fiber, to talk about how he and other Los Altos Hills residents banded together to create a subscriber-owned network.

The two discuss the challenges of building a locally-owned network from the ground up. Los Altos Hills Community Fiber began with a handful of residents who pooled together the funds to connect six homes using dark fiber; today, it includes 35 households, with plans to triple its footprint in the near future thanks to a partnership with Next Level Networks. Christopher and Scott discuss the barriers that exist in building a community-owned, but not municipally owned, network, and how with patience and persistence they’ve seen steady growth and increased interest. 

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 listen to the interview on this page or visit the Community Broadband Bits page.

Read the transcript here

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

Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Subscribe to the Building Local Power podcast, also from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, on ...

Read more
Posted September 17, 2021 by Maren Machles

The San Marcos City Council held a working session in August to review a presentation on the state of broadband in the Texas city and decide whether it should pursue a municipal broadband option. While some members wanted to pursue a fiber-to-the-home municipal network after the presentation, others pushed back despite the fact that the city has its own fiber I-Net (Institutional Network). City council ultimately voted to look for partnerships and alternative options, as opposed to funding and operating its own network. 

Existing I-Net

Sitting just south of Austin, Texas’ state capitol, San Marcos (pop. 63,000) has been developing an I-Net since 2000, when it entered a franchise agreement with Grande Communication and got access to 12 strands of dark fiber to connect city facilities. In 2018, the city developed a “Master Fiber Plan” that would expand the I-Net, further connecting critical infrastructure. The project was funded by general, water and electric capital improvement project funds and construction began in 2020.

Currently, that fiber network has enabled all city facilities to provide public wireless access, and American Rescue Funds have been approved by council to expand public access at the library and city parks.

The presentation to council noted that there are currently eight Internet Service Providers in the San Marcos area, with average download speeds in the city of around 127 Megabits per second (Mbps). There are DSL, cable, wireless, satellite, and fiber options, with fiber covering 43 percent of households inside city limits.

Lack of Competition

While 100 percent of San Marcos has a 25/3 Mbps service option from three different providers, only two percent has three 100/10 Mbps options. The lack of competition is partially why the city council wanted this presentation: to weigh the costs and benefits of getting into the market and offering more affordable and reliable options to residents. 

“What I’m thinking is, just like we were able to do with our electric utility, is to be able to provide for people in their time of need, and the city is best positioned to [provide broadband], whereas private industries can take advantage of people or the situation,” Council member Maxifield Baker...

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Posted September 14, 2021 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

Ponca City, Oklahoma (pop. 24,100) sits in the north-central part of the Sooner State 100 miles north of Oklahoma City. Its history as a community built and shaped by the oil town looms large, from the E.W. Marland Mansion which still stands as a testament to the efforts of the oil baron who helped build the city in the first decades of the 1900s, to the Conoco Museum which offers residents and tourists a look at the history of the corporate giant which emerged in the latter half of the twentieth century.

But today, instead of pumping petroleum in the name of keeping the local economy strong, officials are broadcasting bytes to residents, business, government facilities, and community anchor institutions via their new municipal fiber utility: Ponca City Broadband. The project, which left its pilot phase two years ago in July, has passed the halfway point of a full greenfield overbuild which will see more than 400 miles of new fiber pulled to build the citywide network as it aims for completion in late 2022.

A Wired Upgrade

Ponca City’s current fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) project was born in 2014, when local officials began talking about bringing more robust connectivity to every location in town. While it began laying fiber for city services as far back as 1996 and used those assets as the basis for a free citywide public Wi-Fi network which launched in 2007, the onset of increased usage that went with HD streaming services called for more. The solution they landed on was a fiber-to-the-home network hitting every premises in town, with planning beginning around 2015. When we last checked in with Director of Technology Services David Williams in July of 2019, the network was completing Phase 1: a 1.5-square-mile rectangular area sitting squarely in the center of town.

Today, Ponca City Broadband is nearing the end of Phases 2 and 3...

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