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Plans for a fiber-optic middle mile network to serve the Brazos Valley in Texas are firming up and the project should be up and running within two years, reports KBTX from Bryan and College Station. The network will also have a fixed wireless complement.
The $22 million network backbone, funded through the FCC’s Healthcare Connect Fund and the Brazos Valley Council of Governments (BVCOG), will first connect healthcare providers such as hospitals, schools nurses, and jail clinics.
According to the April 2015 Network Plan from the Brazos Valley Council of Governments, 62 percent of the population in the proposed service area live in rural areas with poor access to quality healthcare. Twenty percent of residents in the region are 60 years of age or older. Texas A&M School of Public Health, one of the partners in the project, completed a study that indicated high percentages of chronic conditions in residents in the region. In 8 of 12 of those measures, the results were worse than the national average. In some cases, the rates were twice as high as national averages.Local leaders plan to next add libraries, workforce centers, schools, and a number of other local government facilities. "If our schools are spending a disproportionate amount of their funds on just providing the minimum of internet, that's not right. We can fix that," said Michael Parks, Executive Director of the Brazos Valley Council of Governments.
Residents and businesses in Rangely and Meeker are starting to feel the speed of the Rio Blanco County Broadband Project. The network is now offering fiber connectivity to the northwest Colorado towns.
Options At Last
The network brings choice and speed to Rio Blanco County, reports the Herald Times:
In just three years, Meeker and Rangely have gone from having a single choice for limited bandwidth internet to multiple local companies offering some of the biggest bandwidth packages available in the nation.
Subscribers have the option to choose between two providers which are offering services via the open access infrastructure. Local Access Internet (LAI) and Cimarron Telecommunications are both local providers that began offering wireless Internet access to subscribers before the project commenced. LAI also offers technical troubleshooting for PCS, laptops and cell phones.
Both companies offer symmetrical Gigabit Internet access (1,000 Megabits per second download and upload) for $70 per month. They match each others’ prices on two lower tiers also: $40 per month for 25 Mbps download / 5 Mbps upload and $55 per month for 100 Mbps download and 25 Mbps upload. Cimarron and LAI still offer fixed wireless packages.
We spoke with Bob Knight at Cimarron who told us that the 100 Mbps / 25 Mbps tier was the most popular with their subscribers, who are often families that run multiple devices simultaneously. While businesses are requesting the service, residents who have had little options except expensive and unreliable satellite are clearly hungry for better Internet access.
Bob was quick to point out that he expects the network to be an enticing economic development tool in Rio Blanco County. He says the quality of life is already good there and pointed out that there is ample hiking, fishing, biking, and other outdoor recreation. With high-quality Internet access, he hopes to see more entrepreneurs and families looking for clean air and beautiful country.
How Did They Get To Here?
Sometimes speed is not the answer. Chattanooga boasts EPB Fiber, a municipal network that can handle speeds of up to 10 Gigabits (that’s 10,000 Megabits) per second. That, however, is not what won it recognition this week.
PC Mag named Chattanooga as the Best Gaming Internet Service Provider (ISP) of 2017 because of its quick, reliable performance. The network beat out both Verizon FiOs (#2) and Google Fiber (#3).
Latency and Jitter
To determine which ISP was best for gaming, PC Mag looked specifically at two technical measurements: latency and jitter. Latency is how long it takes for a packet to travel from the user to the server and back. Jitter measures how consistent the latency is in a connection. High latency makes games lag -- the last thing you want for an online multiplayer.
It’s unsurprising that the top ISPs on the list have Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) networks. Fiber has the best performance in latency and jitter compared to cable and DSL connections. Chattanooga’s network has the least latency and jitter.
More MuniNetworks on the List?
Several cities have built FTTH networks. Why weren’t more municipal networks on the list? PC Mag Senior editor Eric Griffith explained in the article:
For an ISP to be included, it had to have a minimum of 100 tests with that tool in that time frame.
So yes, it is possible your own personal super-amazing Gigabit-capable uber-ISP didn't make the cut here—it's because we don't have enough tests from them to include and maintain any statistical validity. That said, share in the comments if you've got an ISP with not just great speeds but what you have determined to be killer quality when it comes to online gaming.”
If you want your network to be included on the list next year, encourage people in your community to take PC Mag's Speed Test. Until then, Chattanooga is the reigning champion.
Summit County in central Colorado is exploring how to bring Gigabit connectivity (1,000 Megabits per second) to homes and businesses in its region.
The County recently issued a Request for Information (RFI) seeking Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to participate in a public-private partnership to bring a Fiber-to-the-Premises (FTTP) network to local businesses and residents. The County is also looking for a private partner to help deploy wireless broadband service. The deadline for submitting RFI responses is Jan. 9, 2017.
In its RFI, the County said it:
“[R]ecognizes that it may be economically challenging to deploy fiber-to-the premises infrastructure throughout the County and thus understands that early investments may focus on population centers in the County. The County’s hope, however, is that world-class networks will eventually expand to the less populous areas of the County.”
The county indicated it is seeking proposals from a potential private sector partner who would be interested in establishing a long-term relationship.
Summit County’s RFI comes a year after citizens voted in a referendum to opt out of Colorado SB 152, the state law that prevents local governments from providing service or partnering with private sector partners. More than two dozen local communities opted out of SB 152 this past fall, bringing the total to 95 Colorado communities, which have chosen to reclaim local telecommunications authority.
Summit County Overview
The imminent arrival of Google Fiber and two other Internet Service Providers offering Gigabit speeds (1,000 Megabits per second) to Huntsville, Alabama is expected to be a boon to subscribers, reports Alabama Tech.
The tech publication predicts the three ISPs - Google Fiber, AT&T and WOW! - will spur competition that will lower prices for residential and business subscribers. A newly-released report from Analysis Group and funded by the Fiber to the Home Council shows that direct competition in a designated market results in overall price drops for connectivity service of all speeds.
“Research shows a 'Gig City' lowers the monthly standard price on plans with at least 100 Mbps down 25 percent, or $27 per month. When it directly compares markets with one Gigabit provider compared to two, the price of Gigabit services decreases approximately 34 to 37 percent, or $57 to $62 per month.”
The tech publication also stated a domino effect occurs when an ISP says it will offer Gigabit services:
“The likelihood of other providers offering similar services increases in an effort to keep pace with its competition. This trend applies to Huntsville. WOW! and AT&T announced it had launched Gigabit-speed services for Huntsville customers in October 2016, which was less than a year after Google Fiber announced it would offer services to some Huntsville customers beginning in 2017.
From Alabama Tech:
“When Google Fiber enters the market, it will likely help lower prices in Huntsville...WOW! will likely offer gigabit speeds at $160 per month for customers after the conclusion of its $70 per month promotion, while AT&T Fiber is currently offering Huntsville customers a non-promotional rate of $90 per month for gigabit services. Google Fiber is expected to offer $70 per month services when it enters the market. AT&T Alabama president Fred McCallum wouldn't rule out price adjustments to compete with other providers.”
Since late 2015, the small city of Fairlawn, Ohio, has been planning and preparing for a network with next-generation connectivity. The city is building the network, FairlawnGig, which will offer speeds of a Gigabit (1,000 Megabits) per second to subscribers. All speed tiers will be symmetrical, so upload and download will be equally fast.
Lightwave reports that FairlawnGig has officially connected its first two business customers: RDA Hotel Management and the architectural firm David A.Levy & Associates.
Necessary Connectivity For Businesses
RDA Hotel Management officially signed up for the service and immediately experienced a 733 percent increase in Internet access speeds in its local hotel. The management company owns and operates the Hilton and Doubletree hotels throughout the nation. Two of the company's hotels have been connected to the network since early August as “beta customers” of the network. These “beta customers” (including hotels that hosted some Republican National Delegates) helped determine how well the network functioned, providing feedback on how to improve the experience for future subscribers.
The local architectural firm David A. Levy & Associates is also pleased with the new connectivity. Neal Levy, business development director at David A. Levy & Associates described how the municipal fiber network has already improved productivity in the Lightwave article:
"Prior to FairlawnGig, reliability was a serious issue and it took several minutes to save, transmit, and open a 50-MB file. Plus, our team couldn't work simultaneously in an AutoCAD [a design application used by many architect firms] file while it was auto saving or the file would freeze. Now it takes less than 10 seconds to open or save a file."
The FairlawnGig Story
This is the transcript for episode 230 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast. Harold DePriest of Chattanooga, Tennessee, describes his role in building the fiber network in the city. This is an in-depth interview of over an hour in length. Listen to this episode here.
Harold DePriest: This fiber system will help our community have the kind of jobs that will let our children and grand children stay here and work if they want to. That is the biggest thing that has happened.
Lisa Gonzalez: This is episode 230 of the community broadband bits podcast from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. I'm Lisa Gonzalez. Chattanooga, Tennessee has been profiled in dozens of media outlets. It's a community reborn from one of the dirtiest cities in America, to what is now an economic development powerhouse. The city's publicly owned fiber optic network provides high quality connectivity that attracts businesses and entrepreneurs, but getting to where they are today did not happen overnight. In this episode, Chris has an in depth conversation with Harold DePriest, one of the men behind bringing fiber optics to Chattanooga. He's retired now, but as president and CEO of the electric power board, he was involved from the beginning. Harold describes how the electric power board made changes both inside and out, and went from being just another electric utility, to one that's considered one of the best in customer service in the country. The interview is longer than our typical podcast, but we think it's worth is. Now here are Chris and Harold DePriest, former CEO and president of the electric power board in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Christopher Mitchell: Welcome to a community broadband bits discussion. A long form discussion, a little bit different from what we normally do, with someone that I have a tremendous amount of respect for, Harold DePriest. Welcome to the show.
Harold DePriest: Thank you. It's good to be with you Chris.
While New York's Governor Andrew Cuomo focuses on improving Internet access in rural areas upstate, Westchester County is finding its own path to next-generation connectivity.
The county's largest cities are partnering with the county association to bring high-speed Internet access to every household, businesses, healthcare facilities, and educational organizations in the next three to five years.
Four Cities Together
In early October, the Westchester County Association and the cities of Mount Vernon, New Rochelle, White Plains, and Yonkers announced the formation of the Smart Growth Gigabit initiative. The cities entered into the “Smart City ComPACT” to collectively apply for funding, collaborate on innovation districts, and develop joint legislative agendas.
The cities are considering a Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) project to provide Gigabit (1,000 Megabits per second) connectivity necessary for telemedicine, digital learning, and economic development. Officials estimate the project will cost about $750 million, based on the costs of similar projects in communities with like populations (405,000 people total). The cities could own and build the network themselves or partner with a private provider; they have not yet decided on which model to pursue.
The Gigabit Initiative is part of Westchester County Association’s Blueprint for Smart Growth plan. The association is assembling a steering committee of members from Westchester’s cities, healthcare, biotech, education, business, and nonprofit sectors. The collaboration has been described as a public private partnership because Westchester County Association is a private entity.
In a break from our traditional format of 20-30 minutes (or so), we have a special in-depth interview this week with Harold Depriest, the former CEO and President of Chattanooga's Electric Power Board. He recently retired after 20 incredibly transformative years for both Chattanooga and its municipal electric utility.
We talk about the longer history behind Chattanooga's nation-leading fiber network and how the culture of the electric utility had to be changed long before it began offering services to the public. We also talk about the role of public power in building fiber networks.
Something we wanted to be clear about - we talk about the timeline of when Chattanooga started to build its network and how that changed later when the federal stimulus efforts decided to make Chattanooga's electric grid the smartest in the nation. This is an important discussion as few understand exactly what the grant was used for and how it impacted the telecommunications side of the utility.
But we start with the most important point regarding Chattanooga's fiber network - how it has impacted the community and the pride it has helped residents and businesses to develop. For more information about Chattanooga's efforts, see our report, Broadband at the Speed of Light, and our Chattanooga tag.
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. See other podcasts from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance here.
Thanks to mojo monkeys for the music, licensed using Creative Commons. The song is "Bodacious."
The NTCA-Rural Broadband Association this month awarded the Highland Telephone Cooperative (HTC) of Sunbright, Tennessee, its national certification as a “Gig-capable” provider, reports the Independent-Herald.
HTC serves Scott and Morgan counties in Tennessee and McCreary County in Kentucky and is now one of 85 Gig-certified company/cooperative providers in the nation. The certification recognizes rural communities that are at the cutting-edge of broadband technology, offering Internet service of up to at least 1 Gigabit per second (1,000 Megabits per second or Mbps). The association launched this national campaign in the fall of 2015.
Years of Planning
HTC completed its $66 million fiber-optic network within the last year; 1 Gig capacity Internet service is available to all 16,5000 members reports the Independent-Herald. The six-year project upgrades the cooperative’s old copper network. Highland Telephone CEO Mark Patterson:
"This gigabit certification caps off years of careful planning, investing and building a brand-new fiber network in our area...All along, we knew our commitment was worth the effort so our friends and families in this area could keep their rural lifestyle without sacrificing world-class connectivity."
The upgrade included more than 2,700 miles of fiber by the cooperative's crews and contractors — enough to stretch from Highland's office in Sunbright to Vancouver in British Columbia, the Independent-Herald reported.
"Our area lacks interstates and many economic advantages that other communities enjoy, and we've suffered through some extremely high unemployment in recent years," Patterson said. "An asset like a gigabit-capable network can be our competitive edge when it comes to bringing in industry and growing existing businesses."
85 Gig Networks