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Exploring the Huntsville Fiber Model - Community Broadband Bits Podcast 191
Muni Network in Huntsville Draws Google Fiber
Huntsville Utilities and Google Fiber announced today that the utility will construct a dark fiber network and that Google Fiber will offer services to the community via the city's new fiber infrastructure investment.
We applaud Huntsville and Google for helping develop an innovative model that will create more choices for local businesses and residents. We believe this is an important step that can lead to a true market for Internet access, allowing people a real choice in providers while ensuring the network is accountable to local needs.
Next Century Cities (NCC) describes the arrangement as a "promising new model for ensuring greater access to high-quality broadband Internet." We see this as a significant step forward in creating competition and bringing high quality Internet access to every one. For many years, we have seen communities desire to invest in infrastructure but not have to engage in service competition with powerful rivals like Comcast or AT&T.
Huntsville Is Different
Google Fiber is already known for bringing affordable gigabit service to subscribers in Kansas City and Provo, Utah and they have plans to expand in a number of other communities. Huntsville will be more than "just another" Google Fiber community because the infrastructure will belong to the community.
Other providers will be able to offer services via the network as well, ensuring more competition and providing choice for residents and businesses. Smaller providers will have an easier time establishing themselves in Huntsville with infrastructure in place on which to offer services. If subscribers are not happy with one provider, there is a good chance that there will be other options.
Andrew Blum Decides to Visit the Internet - Community Broadband Bits Podcast 187
Lake Oswego Seeks Out Expert Advice: Video
Lake Oswego, Oregon, was [no-glossary]pegged[/no-glossary] as a potential target for Google Fiber in 2014 but this town of 35,000 may not wait for the tech giant to bring fast, affordable, reliable connectivity. They may just do it themselves.
In order to get more information about municipal fiber networks, our Chris Mitchell visited during an October City Council meeting at the request of community leaders. The Lake Oswego Review covered the meeting.
According to the Review, the northwest community issued an RFP in June and received two responses. City leaders are still pondering the responses and feelings are mixed over whether or not to make the investment.
City Manager Scott Lazenby told the Council:
Just getting this network would put Lake Oswego on the map…I think increasing that level of service, especially for the demographics we have here — highly educated, many tech-oriented folks in our community — that would be a real service to make available.
Chris pointed out that the area is ripe with a number of high-tech companies and other entities that will find a fiber network attractive. “Not everyone has that regional connectivity that you have here,” he told the Council.
He also asked them to consider all the long term possibilities if Google does eventually enter into the market in Lake Oswego:
“When I think about relying on Google, if Google decides to get out of this business, the community has no say about who takes it over,” he said.
After discussion, the Council voted to negotiate an agreement with one of the RFP respondents for further review, contingent on a market study.
To view Chris's entire presentation to the Lake Oswego City Council, watch the video below:
Ting! Holly Springs, NC to Get a Gig
While Google Fiber and AT&T focus on the large cities of the Research Triangle of North Carolina, the small town of Holly Springs is pursuing a third option.
Holly Springs will be the third town to see Ting’s “crazy fast fiber Internet.” After a successful foray into the U.S. mobile service market, the Toronto-based company Ting has started to provide Internet service by partnering with local governments. Ting will offer 1 Gbps in Holly Springs by building on the town’s $1.5 million municipal fiber network.
Muni network restricted by state law
Holly Springs, with a population of almost 30,000, has worked hard to improve its connectivity. In mid-2014, they completed a 13-mile fiber Institutional network (often called an “I-Net”) to connect the municipal buildings and other public institutions, such as schools and hospitals.
Unfortunately, when business and residents wanted to connect to the network, a North Carolina state law prevented the town from providing Internet services directly. As it became obvious that Google Fiber would not pass through the town, leaders worked with a consulting company to try to draw in a private Internet service provider (ISP).
Ting! Innovative Partnerships
The locked-up potential of that fiber helped attract Ting. The municipal network's unused fiber will function as a backbone for Ting to deploy its own last-mile infrastructure, which will provide connectivity directly to homes and businesses.
FCC Opens Spectrum; Creates Citizens Broadband Radio Service
On April 17th, FCC Commissioners voted unanimously to expand the use of spectrum previously reserved for U.S. Army and Navy radar systems. The FCC Report and Order creates the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) which establishes rules for shared use by licensed and unlicensed users.
This is a step forward to ensuring we are getting the most use out of the spectrum - by allowing different entities to share the spectrum when it is not being used in some geographic areas for the purpose it was originally allocated for. Milo Medin of Google explained this plan at Freedom to Connect - watch his presentation here.
According to the FCC Press Release [PDF], sharing will be managed with a three-tiered approach:
In addition to the protected incumbent tier, the Report and Order authorizes two commercial tiers of use in the Citizens Broadband Radio Service. The General Authorized Access tier, which allows any user with a certified device to operate without seeking any further Commission approval, will permit low-cost entry into the band, similar to unlicensed uses. A Priority Access tier will make geographically targeted, short-term priority rights to a portion of the band available through future spectrum auctions. One or more Spectrum Access Systems, operated by private commercial entities, will facilitate coexistence among the different user tiers.
Public Knowledge applauded the decision. Senior Vice President Harold Feld:
Today’s FCC’s actions lay the groundwork for changes in the very way we use wireless, allowing different levels of interference protection and network architecture that will make the wireless world of the future as radically different as the smartphone and the WiFi hotspot are from touchtone phones and the CB radios.
New America's Michael Calabrese, Director of New America's Wireless Future Project commended the FCC and pushed for more action:
Gigabit Networks and Utah: March 24th Luncheon and Webcast
On Friday, April 24th, make plans to attend the Utah and Broadband Breakfast Club Luncheon Event. If you can't make it in person, attend the webcast. The topic: Gigabit Networks in Utah.
From the announcement:
In announcing in late March that Google Fiber will expand to Salt Lake City (its eighth metropolitan area nationwide), the broadband world turned its envying eyes on Utah. With Google Fiber in Provo and now Salt Lake -- and with Gigabit Networks available in the 11 cities served by the Utah Telecommunications Open Infrastructure Agency, or UTOPIA -- Utah is poised to be the first state where a substantial portion of its residents have access to the fastest-possible broadband internet services.
What does Google's investments say about the economic health and technology-savvy nature of Utah? What do cities and citizens get from Google Fiber that they haven't gotten from traditional telecom companies? And, for cities and states seeking to get a Gig, what are the best options to build and enhance Gigabit Networks?
A panel of experts will discuss what Google and Gig networks mean to Utah and its citizens. The webcast is free and the event is $25 for Nonmembers of the Utah Breakfast Club or $15 for Members. Lunch will be served at the Utah State Capitol at 11:30 a.m. MT and the panel discussion will and webcast will start at 2 p.m. ET/Noon MT.
As a bonus, you may now obtain a free three-month trial membership to the Utah Breakfast Club.
Panelists will be:
- Devin Baer, Head of Fiber Business, Salt Lake, Google
- Paul Cutler, Mayor, City of Centerville, Utah
- Justin Jones, Vice President, Public Policy and Communications, Salt Lake Chamber
- David Shaw, Shareholder, Kirton McConkie; Chair, Government and Utilities Practice Group
- Moderated by Drew Clark, Of Counsel, Kirton McConkie; Founder, Utah Breakfast Club
Register online for the webcast or buy tickets for the live event.
Missouri Anti-Muni Bill Advances Out of Committee
The Missouri Senate Jobs, Economic Development and Local Government Committee voted to pass anti-local choice SB 266 on March 18th. This bill, sponsored by Senator Kurt Schaefer, will increase barriers for municipal networks and damage the possibility of highly-effective partnerships with the private sector. Call your Missouri State Senator and let them know you consider this bill anti-competitive, hostile to local interests, and that you will remember their vote at the next election.
The bill was discussed in the same committee earlier this month when a number of private tech firms, industry associations, and utilities groups wrote to members to express their concern with the bill. A dozen entities, including Google, NATOA, and APPA wrote that the provisions in the bill would prevent public private partnerships that improve connectivity at the local level. [See a PDF of the letter here.]
At the time, the committee chose not to vote. Rather than listen to experts, however, they postponed the decision and voted to pass the bill on Wednesday. The only amendment was a provision excluding Kansas City, Springfield, and St. Louis.
The exceptions will help Google and SpringNet but other communities will be shackled. The legislation states that its goal is to encourage innovation but the result is just the opposite by discouraging investment through intimidation.
Columbia is watching the course of this legislation with particular interest. As we reported last fall, the city is considering expanding use of its current fiber resources to spur economic development. This bill could derail their plans and keep Columbia's population limping along with CenturyLink's dismal DSL. Mid-Missouri Public Radio reported on the bill in February:
Missouri Senate Committee Hears Anti-Muni Bill; Private Companies and Groups Ask For No Vote
As the Senate version of Missouri's latest anti-muni bill, SB 266 [PDF], moved forward recently, a group of private sector companies and interested organizations appealed to state lawmakers [PDF] urging them to stop it in its tracks.
In January we reported on HB 437, introduced by House Member Rocky Miller. Its Senate companion, which establishes an identical slash and burn strategy to discourage municipal broadband investment, appears to be gathering interest.
The Senate Jobs, Economic Development and Local Government Committee heard the bill on February 18th but chose not to vote on it, reports the Columbia Tribune. Members of the committee received a copy of the correspondence.
Readers will recall that Columbia is one of the many communities that have been actively investigating the possibility of municipal open access network investment. Last fall, Columbia received the results of a feasibility study that recommended the town make better use of its existing fiber assets for economic development purposes.
The letter, sent to Senator Eric Schmitt, Chairman of the Missouri Senate Committee on Jobs, Economic Development, and Local Government, stressed the importance of public private partnerships in the modern economy. SB 266 and HB 437, with their onerous barriers, would certainly discourage private investment in Missouri. From the letter: