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DC is the place to be May 1 - 3 to see how broadband and telecommunications policy will affect education, research, and healthcare. The Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband Coalition (SHLB) annual conference will be at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel.
The conference this year is titled "Getting to a Gigabit" and speakers will address a range of issues that will impact community anchor institutions, including E-Rate, BTOP and BIP funded projects, new programs developed to address the digital divide, state and local government broadband programs, and the Universal Services Fund.
A range of talented speakers will present, including Lawrence Strickling from the NTIA. Sunne McPeak from the California Emerging Technology Fund, Blair Levin, and a long list of other distinguished professionals in telecom.
You can still register to attend and there are also sponsorship opportunities available.
Another county in Washington will soon be connected via a community owned fiber network. Peter Quinn, of the Economic Development Committee Team Jefferson, tells us that the Public Utility District of Jefferson County will be investing in the new infrastructure. The Northwest Open Access Network (NoaNet), will operate the Jefferson County network for at least the next five years.
Nonprofit NoaNet has been expanding wholesale fiber infrastructure across Washington since 2000. NoaNet works with local communities to bring the fiber backbone to community anchor institutions (CAIs) such as schools, libraries, hospitals, and government facilities.
The Jefferson County project is funded with a $3.2 million American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) stimulus grant and a county contribution of $500,000. The network should measure approximately 70-100 miles, and connections to CAIs are expected to be 100 Mbps, however the planning is still in process.
The network will connect community anchor institutions including county schools, public safety facilities, city and county government facilities, several local libraries, healthcare clinics and hospitals, and state parks. Towns that will receive anchor connections include the City of Port Townsend, Port Ludlow, the Port of Port Townsend, Quilcene, Brinnon, and Chimacum. Approximately 90 community anchor institutions will be connected through fiber or the planned wireless network. Wireless will be offered where geography and expense preclude fiber installation.
Construction will start April 8th with a planned completion date of August 5th, 2013. Jefferson PUD will own the network and independent ISPs will provide service to the anchor institutions and have the option of expanding the network to serve local businesses and residents.
The plan is divided into three "tiers" and described on the Jefferson PUD Broadband Project website:
Tier 1 are anchor institutions that must have service to be compliant with the grant.
Adams County, situated in eastern Washington, is now connected to the regional Northwest Open Access Network (NoaNet) infrastructure. Ritzville, the county seat and home to about 1,600 people, connected last fall, funded through a combination of American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) stimulus grants, funds from public utility districts, and surrounding communities. As with other NoaNet projects, connectivity will include community anchor institutions in Ritzville such as the library, schools, and local healthcare clinics.
NoaNet, a nonprofit corporation, is bringing wholesale fiber backbone infrastructure across the state of Washington, connecting community anchor institutions (CAIs). Schools, hospitals, libraries, and government facilities connect via the open access network and retail providers bring service over the network. NoaNet's membership includes municipal utilities, tribes, cities, and counties. The collaboration began in 2000 and received $140 million in federal stimulus dollars to connect rural Washington state.
The community celebrated in November with a Ritzville Public Library Open House to show off the new technology. From the NoaNet Press Release:
“We’re just very excited about having consistently fast, high-speed Internet for our patrons. The benefits will be huge for everyone from online students watching class lectures to tech junkies trying to stream Pandora while downloading YouTube videos, to library staff offering reference help to the public” said Kylie Fullmer, Director of the Ritzville Public Library. “And once it becomes more widely available throughout the community, I think people are going to be just as excited as we are.”
Local community members recognize the importance of what the new connection an do for this agricultural community. Like many other small communities across the country, rural towens like Ritzville see their youth leave for larger markets for career reasons. From an editorial in the Columbia Basin Herald:
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.
Moultrie City Manager Discusses Origins of CNS Network in Georgia for Community Broadband Bits Episode 39
Mike Scott, City Manager of Moultrie in Georgia, joins us for Episode #39 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast to share the origins of the Community Network Services (CNS) network that joins four towns in four counties in rural southwest Georgia. In this interview, Mike Scott shares some of the benefits of the network for local schools and community savings. Built originally because the existing cable and telephone companies would not invest in their communities, CNS has proved itself an incredibly valuable community investment. CNS is credited with creating over 6,000 jobs in the communities it serves, a tremendous boon for the communities that joined together to create this network. During our interview (below), we note a video they created to show off some of the benefits of this network. Here it is: Read the transcript from this podcast here. We want your feedback and suggestions for the show - please e-mail us or leave a comment below. Also, feel free to suggest other guests, topics, or questions you want us to address. This show is 20 minutes long and can be played below on this page or subscribe via iTunes or via the tool of your choice using this feed. Search for us in iTunes and leave a positive comment! Listen to previous episodes here. You can can download this Mp3 file directly from here. Find more episodes in our podcast index. Thanks to D. Charles Speer & the Helix for the music, licensed using Creative Commons.
Mount Vernon, Washington, started building their own fiber optic network in 1995 and over the past 18 years have continued to add incrementally. While the network started as a way to connect a few municipal facilities, it has since expanded to nearby Burlington and the Port of Skagit. The network now serves government, schools, hospitals and clinics, and a broad range of businesses in the area.
We spoke with community leaders from Mount Vernon for our 38th episode of the Broadband Bits podcast. Mount Vernon owns the network and operates it out of the Information Systems office.
The network required no borrowing or bonding because initial funding came from a state Community and Economic Revitalization Board (CERB) grant. Since then, Mount Vernon has used revenue from the network and creative cost sharing with partners to expand throughout the city. When expanding into Burlington and the Port of Skagit in 2008, city leaders received a county sales tax grant to fund deployment.
The Mount Vernon School District became a partner early in the evolution of the network. According to Kim Kleppe, Information Services Director, K-12 schools do not pay a monthly fee to receive up to 1 gig of capacity for their 10 facilities. He estimates the current costs of a dark fiber connection for one facility at $700 per month. Total savings are astronomical, allowing the schools to dedicate significant dollars toward other expenses.
Mount Vernon city government saves over $100,000 per year and nearby Burlington saves over $52,000. The network has never been in debt and maintains a reserve.
Mount Vernon's network is an open access model on which ISPs serve customers via the city's infrastructure. Subscribers pay a one time fee to the city to be connected. Onging revenue comes from the ISPs, who pay to the city a percentage of what they collect in customer connectivity fees. Currently, eight different providers offer services via the Mount Vernon network, providing ample competition.
In Washington, Mt. Vernon Attracts Businesses with Open Access Network - Community Broadband Bits Episode 38
As we monitored Georgia's HB 282, a bill to limit the capacity of local governments to invest in Internet networks that spur economic development, we learned of many existing networks that have helped communities to thrive.
Brian Thompson, Director of Electric and Telecommunications in Monroe took some time to tell us a little about their city network. Located in the north central section of Georgia, with a population of 13,000, the network now offers triple play services to residents and businesses. Its network started in the 1970s with a municipal cable tv network. Today, the network is a hybrid with fiber having been added as an expansion to its cable network.
Monroe's investment in its fiber began as a way to improve connections for education. The Walton County School District could not find a private provider willing to collaborate on an affordable network between school facilities. The city took on the challenge and built a point-to-point network which the School District paid for in 10 years. In the mean time, the city expanded its network in other areas. Now, the Walton County Schools have gig service between facilities and to the Internet. The District pays only $500 per month for a service that would cost five times more from a private provider.
Thompson also confirmed what we hear from other communities with publicly owned networks - prices for business and residential services are very competitive and service is superior. He notes that customers often express appreciation for local representatives, rather than dealing with a huge bureaucracy like those at Verizon or AT&T. New connections can be created in a matter of hours or days instead of weeks.
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: