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Allegan County Michigan Open Access Fiber Network Gets $30 Million Grant Infusion

Allegan County, Michigan will soon receive a $30 million state grant to finalize the deployment of a new open access, carrier-neutral fiber network. The end result will bring overdue competition – and affordable multi-gigabit fiber access – to long neglected communities by 2025.

The $30 million award is part of Michigan’s $238 million Realizing Opportunity with Broadband Infrastructure Networks (ROBIN) grant program, made possible by 2021’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and the resulting Capital Projects Fund.

123NET was chosen by Allegan County in late 2021 to help spearhead the Allegan County Broadband Project. The public-private partnership will bring access to more than 10,000 Allegan County residents either underserved or completely unserved by regional telecom giants, spread out across 1,000 square miles.

123NET and Allegan County had already committed to contributing $17.5 million for the construction of the network, with the county’s share coming from earlier ARPA awards.

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123Net logo

"We are pleased to be selected as a recipient of the Michigan ROBIN Grant Funding. This recognition validates the hard work and dedication that both we and Allegan County have put into this Project,” Dan Irvin, CEO of 123NET said of the award. “We look forward to partnering with additional communities throughout Michigan in a combined effort to make this state the best connected on the planet."

Colorado Springs Utility Fiber Deployment Moves Into Second Phase

Colorado Springs, Colorado and its city-owned utility have begun construction on the second phase of a promising open access fiber optic network that should bring affordable fiber broadband to the city of half a million residents.

Construction of the network by Springs Utilities began in the first region in September 2022, shortly after the city-owned utility struck a 25-year lease agreement with Ting to be the network anchor tenant. Once completed, the network aims to deliver multi-gigabit service to roughly 200,000 homes, businesses, and city anchor institutions.

Local residents can pre-order service via the Ting website, but the company has yet to announce pricing or service tiers for its Colorado Springs deployment.

Brian Wortinger, Manager of fiber optics and telecommunications for Springs Utilities, told ILSR that the first phase of deployment passed 21,000 homes in the first fiber hut reason.

“Take rate is not a consideration for us, as we will lease 100 percent of the addresses to our anchor tenant, Ting Internet,” Wortinger said when asked about subscriber interest. “Their degree of success in obtaining customers has no impact on the revenues that we will generate through our dark fiber lease with them or any other tenant.”

The first phase of the network construction began in September of 2022, resulting in 225 new fiber route miles between I-25 and North Powers Boulevard. The second phase of the deployment began in June, and is focusing on the Rockrimmon neighborhood in Northwest Colorado Springs across I-25.

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Colorado Springs network construction map

Overall, project managers say they are only slightly behind their original projected schedule.

Suwannee Valley Electric Cooperative Should Light Up First Fiber Users By August

Suwannee Valley Electric Cooperative (SVEC) has begun construction on an ambitious new fiber deployment that will soon bring affordable, multi-gigabit fiber access to all of the cooperative’s existing electrical customers in rural Northern Florida.

Cooperative officials tell ILSR its three-phase build out is well underway, with a beta anticipated this summer and the first commercial customers connected by August. SVEC Communications Director Jon Little says the cooperative’s goal remains to deliver affordable fiber to all 20,000 of the cooperative's current electric customers by the end of 2026.

“We’ve broken our territory into three phases based partly on population or possible customers,” Little said.

The cooperative’s recently created subsidiary, Rapid Fiber Internet, will interface directly with subscribers, while Conexon manages deployment of more than 4,100 miles of fiber. Electrical users won’t see price hikes; the projected $93 million deployment cost will be funded by a combination of grants and loans paid back exclusively through user subscriptions.

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Suwannee Valley Electric Cooperative Rapid Fire Internet logo

Little told ISLR that make ready (preparing utility poles for fiber attachments) prep and engineering for phase one are complete, and make ready construction for phase one is roughly 40 percent complete. He added that primary fiber construction for phase one is roughly twenty percent complete.

“We’re hoping that we will have a group of beta customers starting next month,” Little said. “We want to go about a month to get their feedback, and so we’re still hoping sometime in August to offer hookups to our members on that first feeder.”

New Video: Coalition of Community Broadband Advocates Prevail in Louisiana

Sometimes local coalitions can beat Goliath.

In July of 2022, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards and several state lawmakers visited Lake Providence in East Carroll Parish to announce the community had secured a $4 million grant to build a fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) network in one of the most poorly connected parts of the state.

But, as we first reported here, the monopoly cable provider Sparklight (formerly known as Cable One) filed a challenge to the grant claiming the cable company already serves 2,856 homes there. Following Sparklight’s multi-state campaign to prevent competition in areas where the company operates, the challenge brought the project to a grinding halt, sparking Delta Interfaith to leap into action. With the help of allied organizations, the coalition was able to secure a major victory for community broadband in rural Louisiana.

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Delta Interfaith logo

The Power of Community-based Coalitions

Demand Driven by the People in Kitsap County, Washington - Episode 557 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast

Kitsap Public Utility District (KPUD) provides water, wastewater, and Internet service on Bainbridge Island and the neighboring peninsula in the Puget Sound in Washington state. It began building an open access fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) network in 2016 to address decades of poor DSL service as the only option offered by the private marketplace. Today, the Kitsap fiber network has grown to 500 route-miles and offers service to more than 1,600 premises via almost a dozen ISPs with the help of a growing team. 

This week on the podcast, Christopher is joined by three members of that team: Allison Cotner (Telecom, Business, and Projects Manager), Stephanie Hall (Telecom, Business Development, and Community Relations Specialist), and Thomas Schreyer (Network Engineer). They share the building momentum in Kitsap County, driven by ever-increasing demand by residents and businesses for the publicly owned fiber network. 

Christopher learns more Kitsap's innovation in using Local Utility Districts to drive expansion, which allows small groups of homes to petition KPUD to extend its network to their neighborhood. More than 50 have formed so far. He also hears about the flexible financing mechanisms the PUD and local government have created for households to foster expansion, and how happy residents are to see trucks in the area. Increased revenue has driven more investment in infrastructure to reach new households and new LUDs, which has meant more and more work for Stephanie and Thomas as they continue to build relationships with the local chamber of commerce and make sure that the network can sustain that growth far into the future.

Watch the video below to learn more about the expanding KPUD Fiber.

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This show is 29 minutes long and can be played on this page or via Apple Podcasts or the tool of your choice using this feed

Transcript below.

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 Arne Huseby for the music. The song is Warm Duck Shuffle and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.

Eagle, Idaho Poised to Build Open Access Fiber Network as Nearby Communities Forge Ahead on Similar Projects

Inspired by Ammon, Idaho’s heralded open-access fiber network, the city of Eagle, located in the southwestern part of the state and home to 32,000 residents, is now soaring ahead with building its own open-access fiber network to connect city facilities and bring quality broadband to residents and businesses.

Eagle’s low density makes it expensive to connect, and as a result, the city has suffered from a lack of investment from private broadband providers. This has left residents – many of whom work from home or homeschool their children – with limited and antiquated options. But Eagle Mayor Jason Pierce wasn’t ready to hand over the city’s connectivity future to the big incumbents.

He explained to ILSR how Ammon’s “successful model” was the inspiration for Eagle and other cities across the Gem State to embark on a mission to provide city-wide connectivity and competition in areas underserved by the big incumbents.

“Cities were using [American Rescue Plan Act] ARPA dollars to help supplement […] private companies. We didn’t think that was the proper way to [go]. Federal dollars are the people’s money, they should own whatever we use it for. We need to be going after [public funding] to get [our residents’] tax dollars back into our communities.”

The open access network will give small local providers a chance to go into areas that it would not have previously made financial sense for them to serve. With the infrastructure already in place though, these companies will be able to enter the market and offer competition.

Longmont’s NextLight Wins Top Spot In PC Magazine’s Readers’ Choice Award

Longmont, Colorado’s NextLight community fiber network isn’t just delivering fast and affordable fiber access to locals, it’s consistently winning awards nationwide.

The city-owned network has topped PC Magazine’s Readers’ Choice rankings, which asked readers to rate their satisfaction with their residential broadband providers. Nextlight was also rated as the top gaming ISP of 2023, and was rated the fastest ISP in the nation in 2018 and the second fastest ISP by the magazine last year.

The city was also rated the 17th best work-at-home city in another 2022 survey. This latest survey asked magazine readers to assess ISP satisfaction based on speed, reliability and value. NextLight excelled at all three.

“NextLight's near-perfect scores, including an astronomic 9.9 for overall satisfaction, are unprecedented in the history of PCMag's surveys of ISPs,” the magazine noted. “The company's lowest score is for setup, and yet that number is still higher than almost any other rating earned by another ISP in any category.”

CA Broadband Activists Aim For Big Wins On Mapping, Cable Franchise Reform

As California aims to boost broadband competition and Los Angeles County pursues what could be the biggest municipal broadband network ever built, local activists say they’ve made some meaningful recent inroads on both improving broadband mapping, and regulatory reform that should aid the equitable deployment of modern, affordable access.

Recently, inroads have been made on fixing long-broken California cable franchise law. In the early aughts, cablecos (and telcos pushing into the TV business) successfully lobbied for state-level “cable franchise reform” laws they promised would dramatically lower prices. In reality, such bills were often little more than legislative wishlists crafted by telecom giants.

Often these state-level replacements for local franchise agreements eroded legal regulatory authority, eliminated long standing requirements for uniform broadband and TV deployment, and in some states–like Wisconsin–even acted to strip away local consumer protections and eminent domain rights. Warnings by academics on this front were widely ignored.

Seventeen years after its passage, California activists say that California’s 2006 Digital Infrastructure and Video Competition Act (DIVCA) was no exception.

After Years of Talk, Cambridge, MA is Now Taking Serious Look at Municipal Broadband

In Cambridge, Massachusetts, digital equity advocates and city leaders have been debating the idea of building a citywide municipal fiber network for years now, mostly over whether the estimated $150 to $200 million it would cost to build the network would be worth it.

In a tech-savvy city, home to Harvard and MIT, the former city manager was resistant to a serious inquiry into municipal broadband. He retired last summer. But before he left, he relented on the broadband question – under pressure from city councilors and a local citizen group advocating for municipal broadband, Upgrade Cambridge.

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Cambridge Feasibility Study coversheet

With many residents weary of being held hostage to the whims and high cost of service from the monopoly provider in town (Comcast), which currently controls 80 percent of the city’s market, in 2021 the city hired the well-regarded Maryland-based consulting firm CTC Technology & Energy to conduct a thorough feasibility study. Now, with a new supportive city manager in office, city leaders have agreed to continue to investigate the options laid out in the recently published study.

‘Significant Public Support’ Even If It Requires Tax Money

Gigapower, Anna Gomez Nominated to the FCC, and Charter's ACP Shenanigans | Episode 72 of the Connect This! Show

Connect This

Join us Friday, May 26, at 2pm ET for the latest episode of the Connect This! Show. Co-hosts Christopher Mitchell (ILSR) and Travis Carter (USI Fiber) will be joined by regular guests Kim McKinley (UTOPIA Fiber) and Doug Dawson (CCG Consulting) to talk about all the recent broadband news that's fit to print. They'll chat about Gigapower, Anna Gomez' nomination to the FCC, and more.

Email us at broadband@communitynets.org with feedback and ideas for the show.

Subscribe to the show using this feed or find it on the Connect This! page, and watch on LinkedIn, on YouTube Live, on Facebook live, or below.

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