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Martinsville, located in south central Virginia within Henry County, is home to about 14,000 people, 10% fewer than in 2000. The town built a city-owned fiber optic network to connect local businesses and spur economic development in cooperation with the Mid-Atlantic Broadband Cooperative.
The backbone of the Martinsville Information Network (MINET), consists of 48 strands of fiber and it connects schools, municipal sites, and local businesses. Back in 2009, the City estimated it was saving between $130,000 to $150,000 each year by not having to lease telephone services.
“It’s one of the best investments the city has made,” [Mike] Scaffidi said in a February WorkItScoVA.com article by Tara Bozick.
Scaffidi, the City Telecommunications Director, has good reason for his praise. The 20 mile fiber optic network has been quietly growing for about 10 years and has been recognized as a key to economic development.
Recently, the network has attracted businesses like Faneuil, which relies heavily on data, voice, and video streaming, for their call center in Martinsville. Other companies that connect to MiNet include Mehler Technologies, American Distribution and Warehousing, and SPARTA Inc., a defense contractor. SPARTA, which was recently acquired by Parsons, credited the network for attracting them to the town.
MiNet connects with the Mid-Atlantic Broadband Cooperative network (MBC), which connects to communties all over the county. The combined efforts of MiNet and MBC preceded the announcement that more jobs were coming to a local industrial park. From the article:
…[W]orking with MBC to get fiber to the area’s industrial parks is paying off to bring jobs, especially with the announcement last year that ICF International, a Fairfax-based professional and technology services firm, would create 539 jobs in Patriot Centre…
Chattanooga is once again using their municipally owned network to improve the quality of life and save money at the same time. New LED street lamps have been installed all over the City and the anticipated energy savings are expected to be significant. In addition to the obvious, saving money with more efficient LED lights, the City anticipates cutting costs in other ways associated with the change. From a recent Mary Jane Credeur Bloomberg Businessweek article:
Almost a third of Chattanooga’s annual energy bill comes from old high-pressure sodium streetlamps. At any given time 5 percent of the bulbs are burned out, and they sometimes go on during the day, needlessly adding to electric bills. “You’ve got a certain amount of lights out but you have no idea where they are, so workers literally drive around in a truck looking for them, and it’s a real waste,” says David Crockett, director of the city’s office of sustainability.
The change to LEDs is expected to cut energy use by 70%. City officials, however, have taken it one step farther and have installed a whole new system that will drive those savings up to 85%, or approximately $2.7 million. Global Green Lighting, a local company, developed a sophisticated lighting system using a wireless network that is fed by EPB Fiber. The system provides the ability to control each light's output 24/7 to tailor the level of light specifically to each lamp, the environment, the time of day, and even what might be happening on the ground. When a light is not working, it can self-diagnose and send a message to maintenance describing what is broken and what is required to fix it. There is no need for manual meter readers because energy usage reports back to the electric company via the network.
The community sees enhanced public safety from the new lighting. Prior to the install of the new system, Chattanooga had frequent criminal activity in several parks at night. Also from the Credeur article:
New Hanover County and The City of Wilmington do not plan to charge people to use the WiFi capability made possible by the new network. As long as the service is free neither they nor other municipalities deploying the technology are likely to run afoul of anti-municipal network legislation that has been adopted in some areas.Recall that North Carolina passed a law last year to limit local authority to build networks that could threaten Time Warner Cable or CenturyLink's divine right to be the only service providers in the state (even as they refuse to invest in modern networks). These white spaces are sometimes called "Super Wi-Fi" because the public knows that Wi-Fi is wireless and therefore anyone can quickly grasp that "Super Wi-Fi" is newer, better, and perhaps even wireless(er). GovTech also covered the announcement:
According to the FCC, these vacant airwaves between channels are ideal for supporting wireless mobile devices. The FCC named the network “super Wi-Fi” because white spaces are lower frequency than regular Wi-Fi and, therefore, can travel longer distances. New Hanover County is deploying the super Wi-Fi in three public parks, starting with a playground area at Hugh MacRae Park on Jan. 26, followed by Veterans Park and Airlie Gardens. Other locations in Wilmington, N.C. — located in the county — will also have access to the new network.
We have had one instance where we needed to contact customer service, and the problem was fixed quickly and easily by the most polite customer service rep I’ve ever dealt with. Comcast came by recently to offer us a “substantial savings” if we’d make the switch back to them. My question was, why now? I was a customer for years and treated poorly as rates increased exponentially. Now the offer the discount? No thanks. For the $5 extra per month that we pay for EPB, we receive better features, prompt and polite customer service, and an all around trouble free experience. Thanks EPB!
Albert Lea, a town of 18,000 in southern Minnesota, transitioned from getting its Internet access from a private ISP to its County, Freeborn. This is part of a larger IT collaboration between the local governments.
Previously, the community was paying $95/month for a 3Mbps DSL connection from a local private company (the options from the telephone and cable incumbents were even more expensive, offering less value). Now Freeborn County is providing a connection of at least 25Mbps for $150/month -- however the connection regularly offers connections over 50Mbps.
There is an upfront cost of $9,000 to make this switch, which pays off in less than 2 years (local governments often fail to make smart investments that have longer break-even windows because of how they budget for capital vs. ongoing costs). After it breaks even, Albert Lea says it will save $6,000 a year.
Local governments will need broadband connections as long as they exist, meaning that leasing connections from a private party is often fiscally irresponsible. Better to own it or work with another community provider that prices its service closer to the cost of actual provisioning rather than marking it up to reflect a scarce market.
Another video from the Building Community Capacity through Broadband project (hosted by the University of Wisconsin Extension service) takes a look at how local governments use broadband and the importance of high capacity, reliable connections that they can actually afford.This video is no longer available.
Arizona Avenue, the Mid-City area and the city's office district will all be getting makeovers if the City Council approves two contracts that will connect 40 signalized intersections to City Hall's centralized traffic control system. The work represents the fourth phase in a five-phase effort to connect all of Santa Monica's intersections using fiber optic cables.
"We're allowing point of care treatment through remote specialists that actually allow, not only a triage of patients in the emergency room, but actually direct treatment and diagnosis on site in real time from a third-party specialist located in another institution."OneCommunity's network is sufficiently large that these hospitals can connect directly to each other rather than each connecting to the larger Internet to send information amongst themselves.