Fast, affordable Internet access for all.
Content tagged with "carroll county"
In the early 2000s, Carroll County, Maryland, invested in publicly owned fiber infrastructure to reduce costs and improve services for public schools, county government, and Community Anchor Institutions (CAIs). In addition to meeting that goal, the county’s asset connected to the Westminster Fiber Network, a municipal Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) partnership that’s brought gigabit connectivity to a community that once struggled with poor Internet access. In order to build off that success in other parts of the county, the Carroll County Board of Commissioners recently voted to allocate $400,000 to provide grants for more Carroll County Fiber Network expansion.
Second Year In A Row
The funding for 2018 follows last year’s decision to provide $1 million to expand the network. Department of Economic Development executive director Denise Beaver told that Carroll County Times that the county’s broadband committee recommended the grants because ISPs’ reasons for not investing in the rural parts of the county were primarily connected to the cost of deploying fiber.
Carroll County's elected officials decided last year to focus on connecting industrial parks and directed staff to communicate with municipal leaders to learn more about opportunities for fiber in downtown areas to spur economic development.
The Carroll County Broadband Grant Program will provide grants of up to $25,000 per project to ISPs or other entities that ensure a 50 percent matching reimbursement. Each entity can receive no more than $100,000 per fiscal year. Eligibility includes a range of types of projects, including those that involve “…the construction, acquisition, or leasing of facilities or spectrum, land, towers or buildings used to deploy broadband service for business and residentially-based businesses.”
Entities that want to apply for the grants need to be searching for funding that will bring connectivity to “unserved or underserved” areas. The county has decided to define those types of areas for purpose of the grants:
A recent series of in-depth articles from Education Week brings to light a persistent aspect of the digital divide: the lack of fast, affordable, reliable connectivity in rural schools. Throughout the country, schools struggle to pay exorbitant fees for aging copper networks. Teachers and students are cut off from digital learning opportunities as whole regions fall farther behind. Education Week brings these issues to the forefront - and community-owned institutional networks could be the answer.
The Education Week articles describes the harsh impact of these grim statistics. The nonprofit EducationSuperHighway found that for rural schools, the median price for connectivity is more than double that of urban or even suburban schools. Although the number of students without access to sufficient bandwidth has been cut in half since 2013, at least 21 million students do not have access to adequate connections.
In extremely rural communities, large service providers do not have an incentive to build high-speed networks, and small private providers often cannot take on those high upfront costs. This leaves communities with no choice, but to pay skyrocketing rates for slow, unreliable Internet access over aging infrastructure.
East and West: Students Face Similar Challenges
The articles present two compelling case studies of Calhoun County, Mississippi, and Catron County, New Mexico, to tell the story of how high-speed connectivity is so often out-of-reach for rural schools.
Two schools in sparsely-populated western New Mexico split 22 Megabits per second (Mbps) of bandwidth for $3,700 per month. An increase to 50 Mbps wouldn’t require new fiber, but the upgrade would cost an extra $1,003.47 each month. The local provider has a de facto monopoly in the region so the schools have no choice but to pay the going rate; with no competition they have no leverage for negotiating. According to the New Mexico Public School Facilities Authority, monthly rates range from $1.35 to $3,780 for each Mbps of speed across the state.
Westminster's open access fiber optic project is now officially in construction, after a groundbreaking ceremony on October 16th at a local deli in the Airport Business Park. Dr. Robert Wack, spearheading the initiative in Maryland, told the Chamber of Commerce:
“The Air Business Park is the ideal location for our groundbreaking since this is our first business location for fiber installation,” says Dr. Robert Wack, President of the Common Council. “This initiative is a key factor in economic development, and we are eager to offer broadband in an effort to bring more new businesses in Westminster.”
According to an article in the Carroll County Times, directional drilling is expected to move along at 500 feet per day to an eventual 60 miles.
The community originally planned several pilot projects, but enthusiasm grew quickly; even before the start of deployment, businesses expressed intense interest. After examining the need, the possibilities, and the risks, the Common Council approved a budget that included funding for a broader deployment. The project will eventually take advantage of the nearby Carroll County Public Network for a wider reach.
You can listen to Chris interview Dr. Wack on episode 100 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast.
Story Behind Westminster's Pending Open Access Fiber Network - Community Broadband Bits Podcast Episode 100
For our 100th episode, we are excited to share a conversation with Dr. Robert Wack, city council member and driving force behind a planned open access fiber network in Westminster, Maryland. Westminster has just decided that instead of a fiber pilot project, they are going to move ahead with the first phase of a larger deployment.
Dr. Wack and I discuss how that came to be and how the network has already resulted in a committment from an employer to move more jobs into the community. We finish our discussion with a personal anecdote about the benefits of expanding the reach of telehealth applications. Read more about Westminster and Carroll County.
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 Valley Lodge for the music, licensed using Creative Commons. The song is "Sweet Elizabeth."
Westminster's FTTP pilot project continues to blossom. We recently heard from Dr. Robert Wack, one of the local leaders of the project.
Engineering, the first phase, is almost completed with bids for construction soon to be solicited.
Even before any fiber is in the ground, Westminster is feeling the positive economic development effects from the network. According to Dr. Wack, Carlisle Etcetera, a women's fashion clothing company, will be relocating from New York City to Westminster. Carlisle will bring its distribution and data centers because it will have access to the next generation fiber network.
The local Industrial Development Authority is an official supporter of the project and will contribute local funds for capital costs.
Westminster began its FTTP pilot project last summer and interest is high. Brett Lake from the Carroll County Times recently reported the project is growing. According to the story, the Mayor and Common Council voted in late November to spend city capital projects reserve funds to expand the pilot.
During the engineering phase of the project, officials identified several opportunities to expand the footprint at nominal construction expense. The additional reach will include an industrial park and a residential neighborhood adjacent to Carroll Lutheran Village, one of the original sites.
The Village is a continuing care facility of single- and multi-family dwellings. Project leaders hope to learn to serve both with the pilot project. Residents also receive healthcare services so the fiber network will facilitate onsite telehealth.
The city will also install a ring for redundancy within the Air Business Center to connect potential business customers. The business center is adjacent to the industrial park that will now be included in the pilot project.
Each location is near the Carroll County Public Network (CCPN). Westminster will take advantage of the proximity and will tap into the CCPN fiber to reduce costs. The entire pilot project is estimated at approximately $650,000.
Gary Davis, CIO of the Carroll County Public Schools and Chairman of the CCPN, spoke with Chris in Episode #43 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. The network serves government, schools, and libraries across the county.
Westminster, Maryland, began public consideration for community broadband investment last fall and has now decided to "stick our toe in the water and see how it works." The Carroll County Times recently reported that the community will move ahead with engineering for two community pilot projects.
Local leaders see this as an opportunity to flesh out any challenges for residential and business connectivity. Carroll Lutheran Village, a retirement community, was chosen for several reasons. From the article:
The residential pilot project, Carroll Lutheran Village, would cover approximately 90 acres, according to the feasibility study.
The area presents well-defined boundaries and enough population density to allow a relatively small fiber build to reach a relatively large group of currently unserved residents, the study states.
Carroll Lutheran Village will also provide insight into potential construction issues around single and multi-family housing, and the benefits and impacts of telehealth, according to the study.
Westminster's business pilot project, located in the Westminster Technology Park, is near the Carroll County Public Network (CCPN). The feasibility study notes the location as a good candidate for economic development and also a relatively dense area. We had a great conversation with Gary Davis from CCPN in episode #43 of the Broadband Bits podcast. Davis relayed how the CCPN is saving money and creating opportunities for Caroll County Public Schools.
Both Westminster projects include local cost sharing for construction; the city will use capital benefit assessment funds specially designated for such improvements. Estimate for both projects is $650,000.
Westminster's long-term goal is to connect every resident and business in the city. Like the situation all over the county, Westminster cannot convince large providers to bring the connectivity they need for economic development.
Carroll County is a bedroom community, with a variety of economies all around it. Washington, D.C., Camp David, Baltimore, Harrisburg, Fort Detrick, and the Aberdeen Proving Ground are a few of the places surrounding Carroll County. There is very little major transportation infrastructure and no major waterways. Many of the county's 167,000 people commute daily to jobs outside of the bullseye.
Gary Davis, Chief Information Officer at the Carroll County Public Schools (CCPS) and Chairman of the Carroll County Public Network (CCPN) started at the school district in 2002 and immediately recognized that the telecommunications arrangement was insufficient.
Schools and other facilities were connected to the hub via 1.5 Mbps T1 connections and the whole wide-area-network was connected to the Internet via an expensive Frame Relay DS3 connection. The total cost ran as high as $600,000 per year.
When CCPS approached Verizon about increasing bandwidth, Verizon’s proposal was extremely cost-prohibitive. Verizon wanted a long-term commitment that resulted in more than 10 times their current costs. Basically, Verizon would own the network but capital costs would be funded by CCPS and maintained with ridiculously high recurring fees. The return on investment for Verizon was just too low owing the community demographics.
At that time, Davis met Robert Wack of the Westminster City Council and the two compared notes. Davis' vision for Carroll County Public Schools and Wack's ideas for Westminster and Carroll County were very similar. Both involved a high-speed network and Westminster is currently involved in its own municipal network project (to be covered in an upcoming post).
Not long ago, we brought you news about the status of the new network being constructed in Carroll County, Maryland. The County is partnering with local Maryland Broadband Cooperative to provide better service to local businesses.
Earlier this week, Brett Lake of the Carroll County Times reported that Westminster, a town of about 18,000 residents in the north central part of the state, will move forward with a broadband feasibility study. From the article:
The study will include an assessment of the city’s long-term broadband needs, a market and benefits study, analysis and business plan, a detailed installation plan and options for potential funding opportunities.
Among the scope of work performed for the study includes the likely long-term broadband needs of Westminster’s community including residents, businesses and industrial parks.
The study will also provide the city with the potential market for fiber-based voice, data and video services along with the opportunities and obstacles for economic development related to the fiber-based services.
The city will also receive a report on the benefits and risks of community broadband initiatives on various fields including education, public safety, healthcare, economic development and government services.
The study is scheduled to be completed within nine months. We look forward to following the developments in Westminster.