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Westfield To Widen Whip City: FTTH Pilot A Hit
Another pilot program is evolving into greater things.
Whip City Fiber, the Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network deployed by Westfield Gas & Electric (WG+E) in Massachusetts, announced in April that it has chosen three more neighborhoods for network expansion. Residents in the target neighborhoods are invited to sign-up by May 15th for one month’s free service. WG+E offers symmetrical 1 Gigabit per second (Gbps) service for $69.95 per month for residents and $84.95 per month for commercial subscribers. Wi-Fi routers are included; there is no charge for installation and no contracts.
Whip City Fiber only offers Internet access but like other municipalities opting out of video services, they see the trend toward Internet TV:
"This is not TV. But what we see is a lot of cord cutters that are streaming programming on Netflix, Hulu and Apple TV," [WG+E marketing and customer service manager Sean Fitzgerald] said. "The only thing missing are sports channel and those are coming around."
Expanding Use Of Fiber In Westfield
A Berkman Center report on nearby Holyoke Gas and Electric referenced Westfield’s recent pilot project. WG+E began using fiber-optic connections to monitor substations and municipal facilities, including schools and administrative buildings, about 20 years ago. The community also has a Municipal Light Plant (MLP), the entity responsible for owning and operating a municipal fiber network, and used the fiber infrastructure to provide Internet access to Westfield’s municipal facilities and local businesses for the past ten years.
In February, WG+E announced that it would expand the network beyond the pilot area and encouraged residents to express their interest by signing up. It was through those sign-ups, in part, that the utility determined these first expansions. According to WG+E General Manager, choosing the target area was no easy task:
Dark Fiber For The Future In Caswell County Schools, NC
Caswell County School Board members recently voted to take a long-term approach to student connectivity in North Carolina.
Ten Years Was A Lifetime Ago
Earlier this month, the issue of Internet access for the schools came before the Board because a lease with the telecommunications company connecting school buildings is about to end. Since the inception of the 10-year agreement, computer and Internet use in schools has skyrocketed; Caswell County Schools now aim to have every child on a computer at school. The district is now served by satellite Internet access to school facilities and in order to supply the speed and reliability they need, the Chief Technology Officer David Useche recommended a fiber-optic network to the Board.
Lease vs. Own
Useche offered two possibilities: 1. lease a lit network, which costs less in the first years of the contract but will not belong to the school district; or 2. pay more for the first five years to have a dark fiber-optic network constructed. The dark fiber network infrastructure will belong to the school district. Caswell County will use E-Rate to help fund the construction of the network, which will result in an overall long-term savings of $35,000. Useche told the Board:
“If we look at the projections for the Lit network, in ten years after E-Rate our cost is going to be $214,255. With the Dark network the cost is $178,729. The difference is a savings of $35,000,” said Useche, who added that the district will use $751,000 in E-rate funds to help build the network. Useche said that the State of North Carolina is using E-rate funds to build networks in some of its rural areas. “If we didn’t have E-Rate funds we could not afford either of these options. We are lucky to have them to provide the services the schools need.”
The Board agreed with Useche’s recommendation to approve the dark fiber option. The agreement will include 10 Gigabit per second (Gbps) connectivity for less than $100 per month more than 1 Gbps connectivity. “It’s not like we need ten gigabits right away but pretty soon we will need that much bandwidth,” said Useche.
Grass Will Be Greener With FairlawnGig In Ohio
Fairlawn, Ohio, a quaint little city in Northern Ohio, it is about to get a big Gig – lightning fast Internet speeds of up to one Gigabit (1000 Megabits) per second (Gbps) – for $75 a month. The city has considered the prospect of such a network since last year, and now the community is moving forward.
On April 4th, Fairlawn City Council unanimously approved several ordinances to build a Fiber-to-the-Home network (FTTH) called “FairlawnGig.” For financing, the network will use revenue bonds in an agreement with the Development Finance Authority of Summit County.
A New FTTH Muni
In November 2015, Fairlawn hired a consultant and envisioned a public-private partnership for the FTTH plan of FairlawnGig. Now, however, these ordinances ensure that the $10 million network that will begin construction in May 2016 will in fact be a municipal network. The ordinances enable the city to enter into a contract with a firm to design and construct the network in the way that best meets the community’s needs.
Currently, the prices are established as:
- Residential 1 Gbps – $75
- Residential 100 Mbps - $55
- Residential 30 Mbps - $30
All speeds will be symmetrical, so upload and download speeds are equally fast. The network will also offer phone service for an extra $25 a month. Businesses have similar speeds for prices between $90 and $500.
FairlawnGig will serve not only the 7,500 residents of Fairlawn, but it will also provide connectivity to the Akron-Fairlawn-Bath Joint Economic Development District. Ohio communities use these sort of districts to share infrastructure improvement projects.
From Vision to Reality
After thanking the City Council for passing the ordinances that have enabled the FTTH project, Fairlawn Mayor William J. Roth, Jr. further reiterated the purpose of the network:
Three Communities Make Big Moves Toward Municipal Fiber Networks
A March article in Broadband Properties Magazine spotlights three communities around the country that are making progress toward creating municipal fiber networks. The City of Centennial, Colorado announced that they have completed a feasibility study and a Master Plan detailing the city’s plans to develop a network. Additionally, the Cities of Indianola, Iowa and Rancho Cucamonga, California announced that they have begun studying the feasibility of starting their own municipal fiber networks.
Indianola, Iowa is a city of about 15,000 just 20 miles south of Des Moines. As we wrote a few years ago, Indianola currently owns an open access Fiber-to-the Premise (FTTP) network which provides Gigabit speed Internet access, plus TV, and phone service to most businesses and select residents in Indianola. The study they recently commissioned will explore the feasibility of using this existing network for constructing a FTTP network to the entire community.
Indianola built its existing fiber network, which they launched in 2012, out of frustration as CenturyLink refused requests from the community to upgrade their DSL network and the incumbent Mediacom began overcharging for their Internet services. Today, Indianola Municipal Utilities is the infrastructure owner and a wholesale provider of this fiber network while Mahaska Communication Group, an Iowa-based Internet Service Provider (ISP), performs the operations and maintenance services for the network.
Rancho Cucamonga, California
The City of Rancho Cucamonga, California recently asked a private consulting firm to perform a study to determine the feasibility of creating a fiber optic network. City officials see a municipal fiber network in this city of just over 170,000 as a potential driver of economic development. The city is located about 45 miles east of Los Angeles.
BT Advisory Board and Community Agree: Local Is Best
As Burlington, Vermont, searches for a buyer for Burlington Telecom, the local residents and business owners continue to remain engaged in the future of their beloved Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network. Most recently, they made it clear that their first priority is finding a local company to own and operate the fiber network.
VT Digger reported that, according to a survey conducted by the BT Board of Advisors:
Several residents have said they would like to see Burlington Telecom sold to a locally owned co-operative and that their greatest concern is the utility being sold to one of its larger competitors such as Comcast, AT&T or FairPoint.
Though the City is precluded by the terms of its settlement Agreement with Citibank from continuing to own the Asset, a carried equity interest is permitted. It is important that all ownership options be explored and considered in light of the legal requirements and the City’s goals for BT. However, the BTAB [Burlington Telecom Advisory Board] agrees with the vast majority of interested participants in this process that the sale of BT to one of its existing, national competitors would likely not be in the overall best interests of the City.
At a recent meeting, David Provost, chair of the advisory board said, “The best option from our perspective is finding a buyer with ties to the local community that will allow the city to have a minority stake in Burlington Telecom."
A Troubled Past, An Uncertain Future
After years of cover-ups by the city's past leadership, CitiBank eventually sued Burlington for $33 million. The parties settled and, as part of the settlement, Burlington transferred ownership to Blue Water LLC, a company formed by Burlington businessman Trey Pecor. In exchange, Blue Water provided $6 million in bridge financing to allow the city to settle the lawsuit with Citibank. The city is still leasing the network temporarily but the ultimate goal is to find a partner to purchase the network.
Gigabit Cities Live Conference, Next Tuesday, April 5th
Light Reading is hosting “Gigabit Cities Live” next week.
The conference will take place on Tuesday, April 5th at the Ritz Carlton in Charlotte, North Carolina.
It’s an all-day event bringing together city and industry leaders to explore the opportunities of Gigabit networks. The conference will cover topics such as Gigabit technologies, business models, and smart-city applications.
The Keynote Speakers are:
- Gigi Sohn, Counselor to the Chairman, the Federal Communications Commission
- Jeff Stoval, the Chief Information Officer, the City of Charlotte
- Robert Howald, VP of Network Architecture, Comcast
- Michael Slinger, Director of Fiber Cities Team, Google Fiber
For more information or to register, go to the conference’s website.
(Note: “Only individuals using qualified work email addresses will be considered for admission”)
Gigabit Awards Contest From Siklu: RFI Deadline March 14th
Siklu, known for its wireless technology innovation, is now in the process of granting a number of "Gigabit Awards." Their goal is to offer municipalities an opportunity to use their high-speed wireless technology.
Who Can Compete?
Communities who can offer quick deployment and meet the company's qualifying criteria will win the equipment package. A municipality will need the following to be considered for a "Gigabit Award":
1. An existing fiber network with accessible PoPs, and the ability to provide internet services over this network
2. The capability to install (internally or with a partnering ISP) the Gigabit links within a tight deployment schedule
3. Free services to underserved locations will be considered as an advantage: affordable housing, community sites, school facilities
The Siklu equipment package includes:
1. 10 gigabit links to connect buildings (MDUs, anchor institutions etc.)
2. Wireless planning, training and support services
Speed Is Of The Essence
The RFI submission deadline of March 14th is fast approaching and "Gigabit Award" announcements will begin on March 21st. Rollout plan submissions, approvals, and kick offs will all happen in April with completion goal scheduled for May 31st, 2016.
For more details, download the Gigabit Award Checklist, which contains information on RFIs, or contact Siklu's Boris Maysel at boris.m(at)siklu.com.
Nevada Electric Coop Gets Fiber, Creates Jobs
A growing number of electric coops are providing Internet access to residents and businesses in areas of the country where big providers don't offer services. It’s not a big leap because many electric coops already use fiber for communication between electric substations. Expanding in order to offer high quality Internet access is a logical next step.
In Nevada, the Valley Electric Association (VEA) is bringing Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) to members in 2016 and helping create new jobs in Pahrump and Fish Lake Valley. The coop's subsidiary Valley Communications Association (VCA), will operate the network.
Details on speeds and rates are yet to be determined, but the coop plans to offer Internet access up to 1 gigabit.
Community Job Creators
Currently, VEA employs 107 full-time staff and has 31 new job openings; they intend to add a total of 38 positions over the next year. The subsidiary VCA employs 10 full time and contract employees and anticipates adding another 50 employees by the end of 2016.
Municipal networks draw in new businesses and bring new life to communities. For instance, the network in Chanute, Kansas, helped draw in a new manufacturing facility with 150 jobs from Spirit AeroSystems in 2012. And in Thomasville, Georgia, the municipal network revitalized the downtown bringing more than 200 jobs to Main Street. With the addition of high-speed Internet access, this community in Nevada is well positioned for economic development.
From Small Coop to Big Dreams
In 1965, the VEA started off as a small rural coop, but now it has expanded to serve over 45,000 people across 6,800 square-miles of service area. Tom Husted, VEA's CEO, expressed his expectations for the new fiber network:
“It’s going to add jobs, enhance communications and revolutionize Internet service in our territory.”
Ting's Next Stop Greater Sandpoint, Idaho
Ting has chosen the Greater Sandpoint, Idaho, region as its next Internet access service area. The partnership will allow Ting to provide gigabit Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) Internet access to residents and businesses in Sandpoint, Dover, Ponderay, and Kootenai. The four communities are located in Bonner County, in the panhandle area of the state; approximately 9,700 people populate the proposed service area.
Rural Subscribers Want It, Need It, Will Use It
Potential subscribers can pre-order right away as part of Ting's "demand assessment" phase. Construction will begin later in 2016 when Ting determines there is sufficient demand in the region.
In a March 2nd announcement:
“Internet speed and infrastructure is an issue that is on the national agenda,” said Elliot Noss, CEO of Ting and its parent company Tucows. “While it’s obviously very important to get major metros connected with fast fiber Internet, Ting Internet is proving that the fastest Internet access available isn’t just for city centers. Smaller cities and towns need faster, more reliable Internet too. Maybe even more so.”
Ting has made it known that it is looking for more communities that are willing to lease their publicly owned fiber to the company. Ting hopes to build upon municipal fiber assets to bring FTTH to cities, towns, and villages of all sizes. We are pleased to pass on news of this plan to bring high quality Internet access to one of many less populated communities in the U.S. One should not have to live in a metropolitan area just to get fast, affordable, reliable Internet access.
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