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Cox pushed Ketchum one step too far. The community of 2,700 formed a broadband advisory committee in November, 2012, and included a representative from Cox on the committee. Brennan Rego of the Idaho Mountain Express recently reported on happenings in Ketchum.
When residents in Wood River Valley started receiving push poll telephone calls from Cox to poison any possibility of a community owned network, Mayor Randy Hall and city leaders reacted promptly. They booted Cox off the broadband advisory committee.
Consistent with Cox push polls in other places, questions were leading:
“The questions were so outrageous, I didn’t want to continue with the survey,” [Valley resident Sarah Michael] said. “I got offended. They were inappropriate and misleading.”
Michael said that, in essence, one question asked: Would you support Ketchum’s broadband initiative if you knew the city would cut police, fire and other essential services to pay for it?
“Who’s going to answer yes to that?” she said.
Michael and other residents who received the calls contacted surprised city staff and Mayor Hall.
“As the mayor, I can’t stand by and let somebody imply that I’m going to compromise the Police Department and the Fire Department by taking money away from them and putting it toward a broadband initiative,” Hall said. “That’s insane. I would never do that. I think the survey was trying to create fear.”
Cox claimed the questions were designed to "learn more about the public's opinion" but would not divulge the wording of the survey questions.
The city posted a disclaimer on its website to ensure residents knew the survey was not associated with the committee.
“Cox is a very valuable member of our community,” Hall said. “But to imply that the city is willing to compromise the health and safety of its citizens by funding a broadband initiative is false and irresponsible.”
Hall said he considers Cox’s “unilateral action” in deciding to conduct the survey a “breach of trust,” but that the city would welcome a new representative of the company to the committee.
Bartow, Florida, located in Polk County near the center of the state, is considering a FTTH network for the community's 17,000 residents. At a recent City Commission meeting, members decided to put city administrators on task and develop a plan to eventually offer triple play services to residents.
Suzie Schottelkotte reported on the initiative for The Ledger.com, quoting Mayor Leo Longworth, who commented, "I think the residents are ready for it and it's something that's needed."
The City has an existing 100 mile fiber network and offers connections to some local businesses. Government and schools also use the network. At the meeting, city commissioners heard from a fiber optic consulting firm that estimated an expansion to households at $3.3 million for capital costs and $2.5 million to run the network during the startup years until the network breaks even.
Comcast now serves the community through its cable television franchise agreement and is a source of constituent discontent:
"Without discrediting anybody, we just don't have the quality," [Mayor Longworth] said.
The Polk County Democrat also covered the discussion. Steve Steiner referred to the Mayor's comments about the private sector:
[Mayor] Long reminded commissioners that they as well as city staffers and the general public present, are familiar with the problems experienced with the current broadband provider. Long also expressed the doubt another provider would be willing to come to Bartow to install and upgrade the current system in place. The number of businesses and the size of the population does not provide any true incentive.
The Florida Cable Telecommunications Association (lobbyists for the cable industry) responded to the initiative in a predictable fashion. From the Ledger article:
We recently reached out to Princeton, Massachusetts, after reading several local news articles about the city's ambition to improve broadband in the community. Phyllis Booth of the Landmark has been covering the story. Community leaders recently mailed survey cards to every residence in town and put the survey online to provide ample opportunity for feedback.
With survey results complied, the answer from respondents was an overwhelming, "Yes! We want better Internet!" The Princeton Broadband Committee has since made the results available in a series of visuals that express the community's experiences with speed, customer satisfaction, desirable applications, and other respondent concerns. Detailed survey results are available for review [PDF].
The results come as no surprise to Stan Moss, Board of Selectmen Member who is also on the Broadband Committee. "Everybody has tried everything," says Stan when he describes the survey outcome. The community of 3,300 has access to DSL in about 49% of households and other choices are satellite, dial-up, and wireless. According to Moss, Princeton DSL customers averaged a D+. From the Landmark article:
“Once we invest in the fiber it’s pretty good. It’s not costly to upgrade in the future, it’s reliable once it’s in place,” said [Broadband Committee Member John] Kowaleski. “If the town doesn’t do this, no one will,” he added. The town has contacted Verizon and Charter and “we’re not even on their plan,’’ said Kowaleski. “Princeton has insurmountable challenges. It isn’t profitable for Verizon or any other company to provide the infrastructure to give us the service,” said Kowaleski.
Moss says he receives calls on a regular basis from residents who want to know when the city is going to provide FTTH. Most of those calls come from people who work from home or have school age children.
Located in the southwestern corner of Missouri, Nixa has joined the growing list of local communities fed up with slow Internet access. A recent Rance Birger News-Leader article, describes the frustration of local tech CEO, Jeremy Bartley. He is not the only business leader in Nixa who is not willing to accept the Internet status quo. Bartley is part of an organized effort to investigate the possibility of a municipal fiber network.
The group has the ear of the City Council and the Mayor, who have put city staff on the project. From the article:
“I personally would like for staff to contact a city that’s relatively our size, and talk to somebody that started from scratch to where they’re successful, and how much it really cost them to do what they did,” [Mayor Sam] Clifton said.
“They may also have some insight on to other issues that arose when they did that as far as legalities and such,” Councilman Aron Peterson said.
Nixa has its own electric utility, which can often facilitate development of a municipal network. The first step is a survey, which will be distributed in March utility bills and is already available online.
Depending on the survey results, which should be available in April, the next step would be a preliminary design.
Like many other communities, Nixa has been left behind by the big national cable and telephone corporations. Community leaders understand why and want to proceed with caution. From the article:
City Administrator Brian Bingle acknowledged that private businesses haven’t shown interest in running fiber in Nixa.
“If the private sector could make money off it, they’d be doing it already, and we all know that,” Bingle said. “We’re looking into something that, one, there is a demand for it, two, that we can get ourselves reimbursed for it."
Nixans who are spearheading the project also see the current and future value of a community owned network:
“One of the goals of my company is to bring other tech companies to Nixa, because it’s the future of businesses, it’s the businesses that are going to create the most income for a city. Tech is the future of all jobs,” Bartley said.
The town of Erie, Colorado, is conducting a residential survey as it considers a community owned network. Erie has about 18,000 residents and straddles Boulder and Weld Counties.
The concerns facing Erie's community leaders were recently summed up in a John Aguilar article in the Boulder Daily Camera. According to the article, four companies were to be screened to complete a $50,000 feasibility study. The community owned broadband approach has both strong supporters and some doubters in town.
From the article:
Trustee Jonathan Hager, who has spent the last dozen years managing fiber-optic networks for a Westminster-based wholesale electric power supplier, championed the idea for Erie from both a local control perspective and an economic development one.
"If I'm a company and I'm going to relocate here with 100 employees and I need 100 megabits per second of speed and the town can provide that, I think that would be something I would look at," Hager said. "If we can make Erie stand out as a good place to live because we offer broadband, that puts us in a good position."
Internet access, he said, has become so ubiquitous and necessary that it could be seen as just another municipally provided utility, like water and electrical service.
"We can provide it ourselves and cut out the middle man," Hager said.
Those who are not sold on the idea of funding a study, express resignation at entering a challenging industry:
"I'm very sensitive to the speed of technology's progression," Mayor Joe Wilson said. "By the time we cut the ribbon on this technology, it's old news."
Wilson also voiced concerns about whether it is government's proper role to be providing broadband Internet service or whether that is better left up to the private sector. He said there hasn't been an outcry from residents to pursue such a service.
Carl Junction, Missouri, is moving ahead with plans to build a fiber network.
Steve Lawver, City Administrator, tells us that funding for the $5.2 - $5.6 million project will most likely come through a lease program from the Missouri Public Utility Alliance (MPUA). Lawver tells us that funding will involve private placement non-taxable bonds, available to members of MPUA.
The network, which will be entirely fiber to the premises, will serve local government, schools, businesses, and residents. In an email, Lawver notes that:
We, as many rural communities, have found that the incumbent providers that are serving us have no plans for the improvement or expansion of their system here in our city. With little else to do we decided to build it ourselves and find a service provider that is responsive and customer oriented.
The City began pursuing the network some time ago. Last September, TSI Global presented information at a City Council meeting after completing 75% of a feasibility study. In a Joplin Globe article, Andra Bryan Stefanoni described data they gathered on available service in the Carl Junction area:
Mediacom users can download data at 20 megabits per second and upload at 2 megabits per second for $30 a month. AT&T users can download at 6 megabits per second and upload at 1 megabit per second for $20 a month. Zing fixed wireless users can download 3 megabits per second and upload at 1.5 megabits per second for $99 a month.
At that same September meeting, Stefanoni noted that residents commented on the project. While not all of the comments favored pursuing broadband infrastructure investment, most of the speakers at that meeting commented on poor choices:
A collaboration between local Idaho and Wyoming counties, the town of Rexburg, Idaho, and Brigham Young University will be exploring the possibility of a community owned fiber optic network. Significant business interest in the project has contributed to the decision to move forward with a feasibility study.
According to a Standard Journal article, Design Nine has been hired to conduct the study which will look at what networks are currently in place and provide a detailed plan for future development. The $78,000 study, to be completed in May, is funded in half by a federal grant with the remaining paid for by public and private donations.
Fremont County, Idaho; Madison County, Idaho; Teton County, Idaho; and Teton County, Wyoming are all participating and together obtained the federal grant. According to the City of Rexburg Department of Economic Development website on the fiber initiative:
Rexburg's City Council recently (June, 2011) passed an initiative to facilitate the availability of broadband internet in Rexburg. High-speed broadband internet, as referred to in this initiative, is a fiber-optic connection with download speeds exceeding 1,000 bytes per second (1 Gbps). Private businesses have requested for upgraded services, but these requests have not yet been met. Accordingly, citizens and city officials have established the Rexburg Community Access Network Initiative. High-speed broadband means smart growth for Rexburg.
From the Standard Journal Article:
Two companies have already expressed interest in adding data centers in Rexburg, but current lack of bandwidth makes that a challenge, [Economic Development Director for Rexburg Scott] Johnson told members of the Kiwanis Club earlier this week.
Brigham Young University-Idaho is the main component behind the study, he said during the meeting.
Sixteen new towns became members in 2012, which brings the grand total to 42. Business planning progressed during 2012. From the WiredWest newletter:
Significant work was undertaken in 2012 to enable financing and buildout of the network. That work was made possible by grants from the Massachusetts Broadband Institute, Berkshire Regional Planning Commission and the Central Berkshire Fund, in addition to support from donations, Cooperative membership fees, and thousands of volunteer hours.
The group also conducted a market survey in member towns. WiredWest confimed that demand is strong in the region. The organization is using the information to determine what services to offer and to support pro-forma financial statements, developed with help from groups that know the ins and outs of community broadband:
WiredWest has created comprehensive pro-forma financial statements with input from other municipal fiber networks and appropriate financial expertise. The leadership team has met with a number of public and private financing sources and advisers to refine our financing strategy and put the project on track for financing in 2013.
Los Alamos County is commonly known as home to the Los Alamos National Laboratory. It may soon also be home to an incredible next-generation network owned by the community.
New Mexico's Regional Economic Development Initiative (REDI) received BTOP funding to construct a middle-mile fiber network connecting anchor institutions in Rio Arriba, northern Santa Fe, and Los Alamos Counties, along with the City of Espanola, and Pueblos of Ohkay Owingeh, Santa Clara, San Ildefonso, and Tesuque. REDI is also working with local coops and with municipal utilities to bring the network across the northern part of the state.
Los Alamos County is expanding from the middle-mile network in anticipation of bringing fiber to every premise in Los Alamos county, about 8,900 homes and businesses. The design for the project is 90% complete and cost estimates are around $61 million.
While initial possibilities included cost projections for 100 Mbps and 300 Mbps connections, the County is pursuing 1 Gbps connectivity after early debate. From an April, 2011 article in the LAMonitor.com:
“These are immediate local uses for the infrastructure. But it’s also a long-term need,” [Tobey] Johnson, [managing partner of the Broadband Planning Group] said. “When you look at making this type of infrastructure investment in your community, it’s essential that the infrastructure’s going to be utilized for the next 30 years. So while there might be a handful of examples for uses today, how will it be used five years from now, 10 years from now? How will it be used locally in the community? How will it be used to connect the community to the outside world? A lot of those advances are still coming down the road, but we feel the best starting point for infrastructure is to look at gigabit speeds.”
The network will be open access with the hope of creating meaningful competition for consumers in Los Alamos County. At this point, no financing mechanism is in place and the surveys include questions on the public's tolerance for debt on the project.
Not long ago, we brought you news about the status of the new network being constructed in Carroll County, Maryland. The County is partnering with local Maryland Broadband Cooperative to provide better service to local businesses.
Earlier this week, Brett Lake of the Carroll County Times reported that Westminster, a town of about 18,000 residents in the north central part of the state, will move forward with a broadband feasibility study. From the article:
The study will include an assessment of the city’s long-term broadband needs, a market and benefits study, analysis and business plan, a detailed installation plan and options for potential funding opportunities.
Among the scope of work performed for the study includes the likely long-term broadband needs of Westminster’s community including residents, businesses and industrial parks.
The study will also provide the city with the potential market for fiber-based voice, data and video services along with the opportunities and obstacles for economic development related to the fiber-based services.
The city will also receive a report on the benefits and risks of community broadband initiatives on various fields including education, public safety, healthcare, economic development and government services.
The study is scheduled to be completed within nine months. We look forward to following the developments in Westminster.