The latest addition to our Community Broadband Network Map is Indianola, Iowa. The Indianola Municipal Utilities own a network that a private partner, MCG, presently uses to offer services to commercial companies. Come summer, the network will begin serving residents also.
Indianola is the county seat of Warren County and has a population pushing 15,000. Back in 1998, the city had a referendum before building a fiber ring. The utility first used its telecommunications capacity for SCADA applications and public safety communications but began using spare capacity to benefit local businesses after 2005.
Indianola describes its network as open access but the network only has one provider. Nonetheless, it serves 70 commercial customers and is presently expanding. It is not available on citywide basis yet and further rollout will be on an incremental basis over many years.
In the open access arragement, service providers have to come to an agreement with the utility on pricing and adequate levels of customer support.
The utility entered the broadband space because incumbent providers Qwest (now CenturyLink) and Mediacom were not meeting local business needs, a familiar story we hear from communities around the country.
Contrary to the common claims of big cable and DSL companies, the city was still willing to work with its telecom competitors -- but it was Mediacom that said it was uninterested in using utility ducts created when parts of town were transitioned from aerial utility service to buried.
In reaction to the competition, Mediacom dropped its business pricing for customers that agreed to long-term contract offerings. IMU (and partner MCG) once had a considerable advantage in pricing but Mediacom's new packages have eroded some of that difference. Fortunately, IMU has a better reputation for service and does not require long term contracts.
One of the biggest benefits to the community is the high-capacity connections at schools, libraries, and public buildings. Schools connect to each other at a gigabit, allowing them to centralize network operations and cut costs. The municipal and county governments gain the same benefits.
Todd Kielkopf, IMU General Manager, told me "You can't put a price tag on what the savings have been."
When I called a local business, EDJE Technologies, that uses the publicly owned network, the owner candidly told me "Qwest is not good enough for us."
Communities like Indianola are smart to invest in broadband to benefit local businesses. It may anger the cable and DSL companies that are used to a non-competitive environment, but it is the only way many local businesses will gain access to the connections they need to be competitive in the digital economy.
Blue River, Colorado is the latest Colorado municipality to explore building its own broadband network with an eye on affordable access. The town is part of a trend that’s only accelerated since the state eliminated industry-backed state level protections restricting community-owned broadband networks. Town leaders recently hired the consulting firm, NEO Connect, to explore the possibility of building a town-wide fiber network.
California has an ambitious $6 billion proposal to shore up affordable broadband access throughout the state, which includes a $3.25 billion plan to build an open-access statewide broadband middle-mile network backers say could transform competition in the Golden State. But while the proposal has incredible potential, digital equity advocates remain concerned that the historic opportunity could be squandered.
Cleveland, Ohio is putting the finishing touches on an ambitious plan to build a citywide open access fiber network–and deliver affordable fixed wireless service–at minimal cost to city residents. The double-edged proposal aims to bring both meaningful broadband competition–and lower rates–to the long neglected city of 1.7 million people. DigitalC will spend 18 months building a fixed wireless broadband network, while SiFi builds citywide fiber network.
Berthoud is the latest Colorado community to explore community broadband alternatives to expand public access to affordable fiber. Currently in the process of crafting a request for quote (RFQ), the city says it hopes to make its final determination by November and have a preliminary plan in place by the end of the year.
Officials in Loveland and Timnath, Colorado recently announced the ratification of an Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) that greenlight’s a plan to bring ubiquitous, affordable high-speed Internet access to yet another community in the Centennial State, as an increasing number of Colorado cities and towns embrace municipal broadband after years of frustration with the inadequate, high-priced service from the region’s monopoly incumbents.
Decorah, Iowa is moving forward on a long-percolating plan to expand the city’s core fiber ring to provide affordable broadband access to long-neglected residents and businesses. While the project has been discussed for years, local officials tell ISLR the project gained renewed momentum during peak COVID, and is creeping closer to launch. While contracts are still being finalized, the city hopes to spend somewhere around $12 to $15 million to deliver fiber to all 3,000 potential subscriber locations.