Fast, affordable Internet access for all.
Content tagged with "fort collins"
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.”
Loveland’s municipal broadband utility Pulse is a heartbeat away from expanding into a small neighboring Colorado town eager to offer its residents the same attractive, high-quality Internet access that can be found in Larimer County’s biggest cities.
Officials in Loveland and Timnath, Colorado (pop. 7,800) recently announced the ratification of an Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) that greenlight’s a plan to bring ubiquitous, affordable high-speed Internet access to yet another community in the Centennial State, as an increasing number of Colorado cities and towns embrace municipal broadband after years of frustration with the inadequate, high-priced service from the region’s monopoly incumbents.
"The selection of Pulse as our broadband service provider reflects a thorough process of assessment and consideration,” Timnath Town Planner Brian Williamson said in a press statement after the agreement was approved. “We are excited to work together, leveraging their expertise to ensure our residents have access to reliable, high-speed Internet that will contribute to the growth and prosperity of Timnath."
Keeping Up With The Loveland’s
This week Williamson spoke to ILSR about the project and why a town-wide fiber network is such valuable and vital infrastructure.
“Timnath is an interesting place. We are predominantly a residential community and we are growing quickly,” he said, adding that in a post-pandemic world of distance learning, remote work, and telehealth, an important part of the mix when people decide where to live and work is whether that community has reliable and affordable high-speed Internet access.
With the construction of its 65-mile dark fiber backbone nearly complete, city officials in Boulder, Colorado are now ready to move into the next phase of their plan: test the waters for a partnership with private or nonprofit Internet service providers (ISPs) to build out a citywide fiber network to deliver last mile service to the city’s 104,000 residents and businesses.
Last week, the city issued a Request for Information (RFI) “to gauge the interest of for-profit and nonprofit entities in forming a public–private partnership (PPP) with the city to make Gigabit per second-class bandwidth available to all Boulder homes and businesses.”
“As we prepare for further City Council discussion on a future community broadband operating model, it is imperative that we understand the market potential for a PPP (public-private partnership) to meet the city’s goals related to connectivity. We look forward to responses that consider a variety of business models to share technological and operational responsibilities and financial risk with the city in innovative ways,” Innovation and Technology Deputy Director Mike Giansanti said in a press statement when the RFI was issued.
The city is looking for a partner or partners that will come to table with new ideas, create competition, and either fully fund or share costs.
Having prioritized a city-wide fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) build, city officials have identified two main goals: serve the growing demand for “affordable, reliable, and sophisticated broadband technology; and support a thriving business environment.”
Responses to the RFI are due by May 19 at 4 pm MDT.
City officials say they will consider a range of construction and operation designs as well as a variety of ownership models as the City Council will likely vote on the path forward and the execution of a contract sometime this year.
Earlier this month, a new Colorado bill was introduced that, if passed, would rid the state of a law designed to protect monopoly Internet service providers (ISPs) from competition.
SB-183, titled “Local Government Provision Of Communications Services,” seeks to gut a law Big Telecom pushed state lawmakers to pass in 2005. That law, known as SB-152, prevented any of Colorado’s 272 municipalities from building and operating their own telecommunication infrastructure unless local voters first passed a referendum to “opt out.”
End of ‘the Qwest Law’?
Known also as “the Qwest law,” Qwest (now Lumen but more recently CenturyLink), with the help of Comcast, leaned on legislative allies to pass SB-152 to protect their monopoly profits. On our Community Broadband Bits podcast, Ken Fellman and Jeff Wilson, prominent telecom attorneys, recount how lobbyists for the monopoly ISPs were instrumental in pushing two false, but effective, narratives we’ve seen many times before: that SB-152 only sought to “level the playing field” so that private companies could compete with municipally run networks, and that SB-152 “protected” Coloradoans from irresponsible local governments, as if there were no such things as local elections.
But, if passed, the new proposed legislation (SB-183) – co-sponsored by a bipartisan-ish group of state legislators (10 Democrats and 2 Republicans) – would neuter SB-152 and allow local communities to decide for themselves if they wanted to pursue municipal broadband without needing special permission from the state.
More than 121 Colorado cities and towns have now opted out of SB152, a 17-year old state law backed by telecom monopolies greatly restricting the construction and funding of community broadband alternatives.
And the trend shows no sign of slowing down.
Colorado’s SB152, passed in 2005 after lobbying pressure by Comcast and Centurylink, prohibits the use of municipal or county money for broadband infrastructure without first holding a public vote.
For the past four consecutive years, community owned and/or operated broadband infrastructure has proven to be a key ingredient in the makings of some of the fastest Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in the nation.
As was the case last year, PCMag’s recently released Top 10 list of “The Fastest ISPs of 2022” feature operators that are either municipal broadband networks or use city-owned fiber or conduit to deliver service across whole or parts of their footprint (with the exception of this year’s ninth-place finisher). Another way of saying that is: not one of 10 fastest networks in the nation are owned or operated by the major national ISPs, many of whom have embarked on an aggressive lobbying campaign to misinform public officials in particular and the public in general on the viability and successes of municipal broadband and local partnerships.
After ranking the major ISPs in their own slower category, PCMag turns to “talk about real speed.”
For that, you don’t go to the big guys … Higher speeds are found in smaller, localized ISPs.
Need for Speed? Look to Local ISPs and Munis
After PCMag compiled a year’s worth of speed tests to analyze which ISPs offer the fastest download and upload speeds, Sonic – a California-based independent ISP – came out on top this year, having “posted the highest number we have ever seen in our test results. Because the uploads this company offers are, on average, eclipsing download speeds—by a lot.”
Catapulting to the top of this year’s list (from 10th place last year), Sonic is a privately-owned company that uses publicly owned conduit in Brentwood, California.
With a little less than a year left in its projected build schedule, Fort Collins (pop. 168,000) continues to make progress on its municipal fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) network, while also releasing new resources to help keep citizens informed and help households with affordability challenges stay online.
When we last checked in on Fort Collins' Connexion a little more than a year ago, the network was nearing a milestone, having spent roughly 49 percent of its construction budget. Today, the network is well over the halfway point of its $142 million-dollar build. In fact, it expects to be done placing vaults and with boring work in July.
Along the way, local officials have taken steps to increase transparency and improve communication with local residents. Last summer, it released a construction map of the networks' anticipated 357 fiberhoods, delineating which areas were in design, under construction, or fully lit.
In addition, at the end of November of 2020 the network released a Network Status tracker so that users could see in each of the four quadrants of the city if connections were down.
In Larimer County, at the northern end of the Front Range in Colorado, county officials are looking to secure between $5 million and $30 million in federal grant money to expand broadband access into underserved areas. Last month, the County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved up to a 10 percent match, or up to $3 million, if the county is awarded the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) grant.
The Fort Collins-based engineering and construction firm Ditesco has been hired by the county to help apply for the grant. Ditesco has a track record in the county for successfully supporting broadband projects, helping both Fort Collins, the seat of Larimer County, and Loveland with the engineering and managing of their networks.
During a presentation at the county board meeting in early August, Nathan Hoople, senior project manager for Ditesco told the board of commissioners there are 10 high priority areas where these funds could be used. This phase could potentially serve 7,300 premises, with about 3,000 to 4,000 households expected to sign up for county broadband.
The county’s plan is to fund the expansion of the existing municipal fiber networks in Loveland (Pulse Broadband) and Fort Collins (Fort Collins Conexon) into some of these high priority areas.
“Our strategy is to build from where we have existing service providers and start expanding out,” Mark Pfaffinger, Larimer County Chief Information Officer said at the meeting. “Our goal is not just to stop here, but to fill in all the other areas that are currently identified as areas of need.”
We’ve been reporting on the push for broadband expansion in Larimer County since 2017 when the county was awarded with a $82,000 grant from the State of Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) Broadband Program to conduct a feasibility study.
The Front Range in Colorado has been a hotbed of activity recently, and just before Christmas we wrote about how Fort Collins, Estes Park, and Loveland are all pursuing projects to bring better connectivity to residents in the region. This week on the podcast, Christopher talks with Fiber Manager Brieana Reed-Harmel and Marketing and Communications Manager Lindsey Johansen from Loveland’s Pulse network to get some more questions answered.
The network in the city of 79,000 is just finishing its first year of construction. Brieana and Lindsey share with Chris the history behind the birth of the network back to 2014, talk about what success would look like in five years, and share what it has taken to become a valued, local broadband utility for residents of Loveland. They also reveal how they’re working together with Fort Collins and Estes Park to share costs and bring efficiencies to all the municipal networks in the region.
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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.
Over 140 municipalities in Colorado have opted out of a state law (SB-152) that prevents local governments from investing in broadband infrastructure. With overwhelming support from voters on Election Day last month, Denver, Berthoud, and Englewood became the most recent Colorado communities to bail on SB-152 in the 15 years since Qwest (now CenturyLink) and Comcast successfully lobbied for passage of the anti-local authority bill designed to protect their profits.
While Denver, Berthoud, and Englewood residents ponder next steps, a number of other Colorado communities have already built, or are in the process of building, municipally-owned broadband networks, the most successful example being the NextLight Fiber-To-The-Home (FTTH) network in Longmont.
NextLight, which began building its award-winning FTTH network in 2014, now offers Longmont’s 90,000 residents access to gigabit (1,000 Mbps) service and has surpassed a 50% take rate.
Three other communities in the Front Range region of Colorado are now on the front lines of building municipal broadband networks.
Loveland, a city of 76,700 situated in a 25.5 square mile valley at the entrance to Big Thompson Canyon, opted out of SB-152 with 82% voter approval in 2015, a year after Longmont began building its fiber network 17 miles south of the “gateway to the Rockies.”
Over the past five years, the Loveland Water and Power Department has been planning, and now building, its own Pulse fiber network.
To finance the project, city officials opted to issue $95.5 million in bonds. The bonds are backed by Loveland’s electric utility, which serves 37,500 residential and commercial accounts.