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Content tagged with "bozeman"
New Municipal Broadband Networks Skyrocket in Post-Pandemic America As Alternative To Private Monopoly Model
As the new year begins, the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) announced today its latest tally of municipal broadband networks which shows a dramatic surge in the number of communities building publicly-owned, locally controlled high-speed Internet infrastructure over the last three years.
Since January 1, 2021, at least 47 new municipal networks have come online with dozens of other projects still in the planning or pre-construction phase, which includes the possibility of building 40 new municipal networks in California alone.
Hoping to ensure it can actually spend its share of historic broadband funding, Montana lawmakers have tweaked the state’s restrictions on community broadband. However, experts say most of the state law’s pointless restrictions remain intact, undermining state efforts to bring affordable, next-generation broadband access to Montana residents.
Montana’s one of seventeen states that have passed laws banning or restricting municipal broadband networks. The bills are usually ghost written by telecom monopoly lawyers, and in many states either outright prohibit community-owned broadband networks, or are designed to make funding and expanding such networks untenable.
Montana’s specific law, Mon. Code Ann. § 2-17-603, only allow municipalities to build and deliver broadband alternatives if there are no other private companies offering broadband within the municipality’s jurisdiction, or if the municipality can offer “advanced services” that are not available from incumbents.
Covid home schooling and telecommuting needs highlighted the counterproductive nature of such restrictions, driving some states—such as Arkansas and Washington—to dramatically roll back their restrictions.
UTOPIA Fiber continues to grow and is now exporting its expertise into Bozeman, Montana – one of the fastest-growing cities of its size and often listed among the best places to live in the country.
Referred to by some as “Boz Angeles” because of the influx of Californians to the area, this Rocky Mountain city of 53,000, nestled in Gallatin Valley, is about to become even more attractive as a rising tech hub for millennials. At the Broadband Communities 2021 Summit last month, it was announced that Bozeman Fiber, a non-profit organization created by the city to expand high-speed Internet connectivity across the region, has partnered with Utah-based UTOPIA Fiber to build an open access fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) network.
Bozeman Fiber has already built an open access fiber ring, serving city, county, and school facilities. It has also connected 200 commercial customers. The partnership with UTOPIA will allow Bozeman Fiber to extend the network across the city, passing 22,000 homes and businesses, with plans to extend further out into the more rural parts of Gallatin County down the road.
Network construction, which is estimated to cost $65 million, is slated to begin in the spring of 2022 and is expected to take three years to be completed.
“This is the first phase of a project that will cover the city and some areas of the county, and the intention is we’ll have future phases that reach further out into the county to hit more rural areas,” UTOPIA Fiber executive director Roger Timmerman said during the press conference announcing the partnership.
Bozeman Fiber CEO Greg Metzger added: “with this project, we’ll be able to attract and retain more businesses, and create jobs.”
County Provides Access to Bond Market
In mid-April, city leaders in Bozeman, Montana, passed Resolution No. 5031 to officially declare broadband essential infrastructure for the city. The declaration comports with the city’s long-term goal to bring high-quality connectivity throughout the community.
Pointing Out the Positives
In addition to describing the ways access to broadband has improved opportunities for residents and businesses, the language of the resolution lays out the steps Bozeman has already taken. In addition to establishing a planning initiative, the resolution describes their decision to adopt a master plan, and the creation of nonprofit Bozeman Fiber. The resolution also chronicles the city’s investment and urban renewal plan, which includes Bozeman Fiber, and the fact that broadband has become a contributing factor to the city’s social and economic health.
As part of the resolution, the City Commissioners include their next steps in order to advance citywide connectivity in Bozeman:
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the City of Bozeman will; 1) create and implement a conduit utility master plan and begin the transition for operating the conduit system as its own enterprise fund; 2) include a conduit design and construction standard as part of the City’s approved engineering standards; 3) maintain updated record drawings and GIS mapping of the City-owned conduit network; 4) consider the expansion of the existing City-owned fiber optic conduit network infrastructure when appropriate and when funding is available; 5) utilize conduit lease revenue for the purchase of additional public conduit; and 6) align conduit network expansion decisions with the City Budget and Capital Improvement Plans and planning processes.
This is the transcript for episode 233 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast. rit Fontenot and Anthony Cochenour of Bozeman, Montana, explain how Bozeman Fiber is a nonprofit, open access, community network. They go into detail about the funding behind the project. Listen to this episode here.
Anthony Cochenour: There were a number of trusting moments along the way and I'm happy to say that since then we've been able to meet and exceed all the expectations that have been set, and so I think that definitely gives us a good leg up for the future.
Lisa Gonzalez: Welcome to episode 233 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. I'm Lisa Gonzalez. We followed Bozeman, Montana's fiber-optic network initiative for the past few years, now, as it developed from vision to reality. The open access network is already serving local government facilities, and public schools, and businesses are also being connected. In this interview, Christopher talks with the city's economic development director, Brit Fontenot, and Anthony Cochenour, president of Bozeman Fiber, the nonprofit entity created to manage and operate the network. Christopher, Brit and Anthony share an update on what has been happening with the network since our last interview, that was during episode 142, back in March of 2015. The guys talk about the nonprofit open access model, and the city's current role. They also discuss how the community obtained funding for the project and what it was like rallying local banks to contribute to the project. Now, here's Chris with Brit Fontenot, the city's economic development director and Anthony Cochenour, president of Bozeman Fiber.
Christopher Mitchell: Welcome to another edition of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast. I'm Chris Mitchell. Today, I'm speaking with two folks from Bozeman, Montana, catching up on a network that we previously discussed. First of all, we have Brit Fontenot, who is the city of Bozeman's economic development director. Welcome back to the show.
Brit Fontenot: Thanks, Chris. It's a pleasure. Thanks, a lot.
This week, we return to Bozeman's unique model in Montana to get an update now that the network is up and running. President of Bozeman Fiber Anthony Cochenour and city of Bozeman Economic Development Director Brit Fontenot join us again to discuss their unique approach. We last spoke with them on episode 142.
We discuss how they are doing two months after launching the network. With five ISPs already using it to deliver services a several more in the process of signing up, they are on target for where they hoped to be.
We talk about how their nonprofit approach is governed and how expected challenges turned out to be not as challenging as expected - financing in particular. Many local banks stepped up to particpatein the project, something Bozeman Fiber credits with having strong relationships within the community.
All of our coverage on Bozeman is available here.
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 Admiral Bob for the music. The song is Turbo Tornado (c) copyright 2016 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. Ft: Blue Wave Theory.
Businesses Up Next
Bozeman City offices, Gallatin County offices, and local public schools are already connected to the open access network, which is owned and operated by the nonprofit entity Bozeman Fiber. There are already three Internet Service Providers (ISPs) operating on the community network but local officials do not expect residents to have Fiber-To-The-Home (FTTH) Internet access just yet:
“Within a few hundred feet of where the fiber currently is will be available day one of commercial operations,” said Anthony Cochenour, president of the board of Bozeman Fiber. “As far as expanding the network and running under our own steam, (we want to) get business first, fill the coffers, then in years two and three make a bigger push into residential areas.”
Connecting to businesses first allows a community to test the waters, locate potential problems, and create interest in a community-based initiative. With the revenue generated by commercial customers and infrastructure deployed strategically throughout the community, it’s easier to expand to residential areas.
Standing On Its Own
In Bozeman, the $3.85 million in funding for the project came from local banks, so local officials feel especially compelled to create a self-sustaining and stable project. “While setting up Bozeman Fiber was important for economic development, we wanted it to be an agency that stands on its own. Bozeman Fiber is running its own show,” said [Bozeman economic development specialist David] Fine.
The Bozeman Fiber nonprofit plans to connect a local hospital in the near future and add another line west of town. They also hope to eventually host up to ten ISPs by the end of the year, increasing choice for consumers in the future.
Local officials are preparing to light a highly anticipated municipal fiber-optic network in Bozeman, Montana. Over the course of three years, nonprofit Bozeman Fiber, Inc. laid about 30 miles of fiber optic cable in downtown Bozeman, connecting local government, businesses, and schools to a high-speed, fiber-optic network. According to local news provider MTN News via KBZK, Bozeman Fiber will be completely operational within the next 60-90 days.
For Bozeman, affordable fiber-optic Internet access presents an important opportunity for local economic development. Anthony Cochenour of Bozeman Fiber explained the project’s goal to MTN News,
"More bandwidth at lower costs, and better availability for higher bandwidth than we can get today. It’s one of the barriers to entry that Bozeman has to attracting increasingly large and interesting businesses, the business that we want to be here.”
A Unique Arrangement
Bozeman recently amended its ten-year old Downtown Urban Renewal Plan to prioritize fiber-optic infrastructure. When the city decided it needed a better network, locals created a private nonprofit entity, Bozeman Fiber, to oversee fiber deployment. Instead of the city running the network itself, they felt that a nonprofit would be better suited for the role. A majority of its seven board members come from the public and private sector, with just one seat for the city. The project’s $3.85 million budget was funded exclusively by private equity investments from local banks.
We’ve been closely following Bozeman’s unique public-private collaboration:
When communities decide to proceed with publicly owned infrastructure, they often aim for open access models. Open access allows more than one service provider to offer services via the same infrastructure. The desire is to increase competition, which will lower prices, improve services, and encourage innovation.
It seems straight forward, but open access can be more complex than one might expect. In addition to varying models, there are special challenges and financing considerations that communities need to consider.
In order to centralize our information on open access, we’ve created the new Open Access Networks resource page. We’ve gathered together some of our best reference material, including links to previous MuniNetworks.org stories, articles from other resources, relevant Community Broadband Bits podcast episodes, case studies, helpful illustrations, and more.
- Open Access Arrangements
- Financing Open Access Networks
- Challenges for Open Access Networks
- U.S. Open Access Networks
- Planned Open Access Networks
Check it out and share the link. Bookmark it!
Bozeman, Montana, continues to move forward toward a future of fiber optics connectivity. Last we checked in, the community had formed a nonprofit, Bozeman Fiber, to own and operate the community network, had started to secure private funding, and were well on their way to their end goal.
City leaders have now approved an update to the Downtown Bozeman Urban Renewal Plan to allow Tax Increment Financing (TIF) as a way to fund the project. This is an important step to ensure that the fiber infrastructure project maintains a sustainable funding source.
Amending the Plan
Ten years ago the city adopted an ordinance creating the Urban Renewal Plan and the TIF districts. The plan uses 9 principles to guide the development and growth of the community. City leaders approved amendments to the ordinance this past December to better prioritize the current needs of businesses and residents. The amendment in question would add the importance of fiber optics to the first principle, “Strengthen Downtown’s Economic Vitality.” Brit Fontenot, Director of Economic Development, described the necessity of the changes (from local news station KTVM):
"A lot of commerce happens downtown. It's not just art galleries and restaurants. We also have things like hardware stores and high-tech companies. In order to keep up with the demand downtown, we need infrastructure that can accommodate and, in this case, it's fiber optics."
Tax Increment Financing
By amending the ordinance, the city can more easily use TIF funding for the construction costs of the fiber network. The idea behind TIF is that a community can borrow against the future increases in the property tax revenue of the area where the particular project will be developed. We’ve reported on this funding method before: it has been considered in Sanford, Maine, and Wabash County, Indiana.
The Proposed Network