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Golden, Colorado has struck a new right-of-way agreement with Google Fiber that should expedite the competitive delivery of affordable fiber to the city of 20,000.
The deal gives Google Fiber non-exclusive access to public right-of-way to build a commercial broadband network, though it delivers no guarantee of uniform access across the entire city.
In a memo to the Golden City Council, Chief Innovation and Technology Officer Jiles McCoy said the city’s new agreement “would act as a template for any future companies wishing to build broadband services in the Golden right of way.”
The move comes after years of discussion in the city as to how to improve local broadband competition, reduce prices, and expand affordable access.
In 2016, Golden residents voted to opt out of a now defunct state law, ghost written by regional broadband monopolies, restricting the construction and operation of community owned and operated broadband networks. Last year Colorado leaders finally eliminated the law completely, opening the door to greater expansion of community-owned networks.
In 2019 the city completed a feasibility study showing that the construction of a full city-owned fiber network would cost $37 million. Instead of tackling the entire project at once, advisers recommended the city proceed in phases, beginning with the construction of a $3.8 million, 10.5 mile fiber ring connecting key community anchor institutions.
Planning is Good, but Pivoting is Better in Fort Collins, Colorado - Episode 588 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast
This week on the podcast, Christopher is joined by Chad Crager, Broadband Executive Director at City of Fort Collins, to talk about the rapidly maturing city-owned network they call Connexion. From a feasibility study in 2018 to the lion's share of construction completed today, Connexion's story illustrates the value of being nimble when expectations meet reality. When planned use of existing conduit was thwarted by frozen and root-blocked pathways, the city bored new routes. When that led to increased construction costs, the city adjusted its target take rate upwards and hired dedicated, community-minded staff eager to be responsive to subscribers and build a sense of goodwill. And when developers argued they only needed a single fiber to run wireless for new apartment complexes, the city convinced them to plan for more growth in the future.
Along the way, the municipal network has committed to doing its part in the fight for digital equity. This includes the establishment of a fund with 6 percent of network revenues going to support low-cost plans and literacy efforts, to partnering with Larimer County on extending the network outside city limits, and more.
This show is 38 minutes long and can be played on this page or using the podcast app of your choice with this feed.
We want your feedback and suggestions for the show: please e-mail us or leave a comment below.
Thanks to Arne Huseby for the music. The song is Warm Duck Shuffle and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.
In January, we released our new census of municipal networks in the United States for 2024, and the significant growth that we've seen over the last two years as more and more cities commit to building Internet infrastructure to add new tools for their local government, incentivize new economic development, and improve connectivity for households.
The trend has not gone unnoticed by the monopoly players and their allies; we've seen new dark-money campaigns on both the East Coast and in the west, as astroturf campaigns and misinformation efforts have increased.
A new short documentary by Light Reading does a great job of outlining the stakes for local governments, residents stuck on poor connections, and the incumbents as the wave of municipal networks grows. Featuring the network in Loveland, Colorado and context by advocates like the American Association for Public Broadband (AAPB) Executive Director Gigi Sohn and Washington State Representative Drew Hansen, it's well worth watching.
Colorado has long been home to some of the most innovative municipal broadband projects in the country. That trend has only accelerated with last year’s voter-approved elimination of municipal broadband restrictions, and it’s now being buoyed by a massive new wave of state grants that should further expand affordable broadband to long-neglected parts of the state.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis recently announced the first of multiple broadband investments using stimulus funding from the U.S. Treasury’s Capital Projects Fund (CPF) program. The CPF is funded by $10 billion made possible by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), and is a key part of the state’s goal to bring affordable broadband to 99 percent of Colorado residents by 2027.
According to the Governor’s office, the state just authorized $113 million in CPF funds on 13 projects that will bring fiber service to nearly 19,000 homes and businesses across Colorado. State officials say the funding will be heavily focused on projects in the South and Southwest portion of the Centennial State, where connectivity needs are greatest.
The Colorado Broadband Office says it received 112 applications asking for more than $642 million in broadband funding across the state–five times greater than the allotted awards.
Boulder, Colorado officials have issued a new request for proposal (RFP) seeking partners for their ongoing quest to deliver affordable fiber to the city of 104,000.
According to an announcement by Boulder leaders, the city is offering potential partners a long-term lease of city-owned dark-fiber backbone infrastructure and a right of way agreement for the construction and operation of a network delivering Internet service offering 1 Gbps or more to all Boulder homes and businesses. Responses are due by March 1.
When we last checked in with Boulder in April of last year, the city was putting the finishing touches on a $20 million, 65-mile dark fiber backbone, funded by the competitive sale of its 2018 Broadband Taxable Certificates of Participation (COPs). The competitive sale was used to ensure that Boulder could get the lowest interest rates possible in financing the construction of the backbone.
While the process was technically started back in 2018, and then delayed by the pandemic, city officials remained committed to moving the project forward.
“What we are trying to do in Boulder – if we can find the right partner or partners – is about creating more competition; increase the competitive marketplace locally,” project manager and independent consultant Tim Scott told ILSR last year.
Like so many U.S. communities, Boulder sees limited competition between the local cable company (Comcast) and the local phone company (Centurylink/Lumen) resulting in slow speeds, spotty coverage, high prices, and substandard customer service.
Blue River, Colorado (est. pop. 882) is the latest Colorado municipality to explore building its own broadband network with an eye on affordable access. The town is part of a trend that’s only accelerated since the state eliminated industry-backed state level protections restricting community-owned broadband networks.
Just south of Breckenridge in the central part of the state, Blue River is nestled in one of the more rural parts of Summit County. Comcast (Xfinity) enjoys a broadband monopoly, resulting in spotty access, slow speeds, and high prices. Locals also routinely complain that cell phone service remains spotty in much of the mountainous area.
In response, town leaders recently hired the consulting firm, NEO Connect, to explore the possibility of building a town-wide fiber network. According to a feasibility study presented to the Blue River Board of Trustees by Mayor Toby Babich, the construction of a fiber network serving every town resident will cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $13 million.
While that “may seem out of reach,” Babich recently told the board, “we believe with the right funding and partnership we can move forward with this project.”
The estimates for network construction range somewhere between $7 million to $24 million, depending on how much underground trenching work is required.
As Loveland, Colorado’s municipal broadband network continues to rack up industry accolades on its path to providing world-class high-speed Internet service, the city is now celebrating another important milestone.
Last week, Pulse Fiber officials announced that construction of its community-owned broadband network is now complete with every household and business in this city of 77,000 now having access to affordable gig-speed service.
The $110 million construction project, which began in earnest only four years ago, is the largest capital project in the city’s history, reaching the finish line on time and on budget, city officials said.
In a press announcement Steve Adams, Loveland’s City Manager, captured the meaning of the moment:
“As we celebrate the successful conclusion of this historic project, Pulse stands as a shining example of what is possible when the community unites to pioneer innovative, collaborative solutions. We did this for ourselves, and we made it happen together.”
“This infrastructure has been designed and built with future generations in mind, ensuring Loveland remains at the forefront of modern, robust, and future-proof Internet delivery,” Pulse Broadband Manager Brieana Reed-Harmel added.
Pulse officials candidly acknowledged that the pathway to the leading edge of Internet connectivity wasn’t easy, as the city had to navigate network construction through a global pandemic, supply chain disruptions, and inflation. But despite those challenges, Pulse Fiber has deployed 631 miles of conduit and over 1,300 miles of fiber throughout the city.
From Colorado to Texas, municipal broadband providers continue to rack up industry accolades, not just for delivering fiber service–the gold standard of Internet connectivity–but for these networks’ ability to provide ubiquitous access across an entire community at affordable rates.
The National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors (NATOA) recently announced that its Community Broadband Projects of the Year Awards for 2023 will go to the Connexion network in Fort Collins, Colorado and TeamPharr.net in Pharr, Texas.
Awarding Community-Wide Access and Affordability
The Fort Collins award is in recognition for the city having established “a municipal broadband utility created by and for the community to improve the life of all 80,000 residential and commercial properties of Fort Collins through better, more affordable Internet,” NATOA said in announcing the award.
But it wasn’t just because Fort Collins’ network provides city-wide access to fiber. The award also recognizes that “Connexion offers the fastest Internet speeds available at affordable prices (emphasis added) as well as competitive phone and TV services.”
This week on the show, Christopher is joined once again by Sean Gonsalves, Associate Director for Communications for the Community Broadband Networks initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. After a short stop to talk about the establishment of a new municipal network in Timnath, Colorado, Christopher and Sean get down to talking about the BEAD 5-Year Plans that states are filing with NTIA to get their hands on the first tranche of what will be an historic pot of federal funds for new broadband investment.
Some states, like Maine and Vermont, Sean shares, are doing lots right: setting high bars for new infrastructure, listening to communities about their needs, folding in digital equity initiatives, and thinking about how to reach the last households that BEAD will fall short of. Others, like Pennsylvania, seem written with the intent to waste public money and leaves tens of thousands of households stranded with poor or no service - in other words, exactly what the monopoly cable and telephone companies want.
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Thanks to Arne Huseby for the music. The song is Warm Duck Shuffle and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.
Berthoud, Colorado, population 11,717, is the latest Colorado community to explore community broadband alternatives to expand public access to affordable fiber. Currently in the process of crafting a request for quote (RFQ), the city tells ILSR it hopes to make its final determination by November and have a preliminary plan in place by the end of the year.
Originally, Berthoud had planned on forming a coalition with three neighboring Colorado towns (Johnstown, Mead and Milliken) in a bid to expand access. That plan involved striking a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Lincoln, Nebraska based Allo Communications, to deliver fiber to every address within three years.
But city leaders say the original plan wasn’t meant to be.
“The four communities did not strike a deal with Allo,” Berthoud Business Development Manager Walt Elish told ILSR. “We could not come to terms. Since then, we have looked at other options, including a town-owned network.”
As with many towns and counties, the high cost of a municipally owned broadband network has the city examining different options, including a potential public private partnership (PPP) with existing providers. PPPs are increasingly common but can have their downsides, including less municipal control over pricing or the potential trajectory of the finished network.