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Fiber to the Home

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Developments in Iowa and a Fresh New Look for CommunityNets.org - Episode 541 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast

This week on the show, Christopher, Sean, and Ry sit down to catch up on a handful of community broadband projects in Baltimore and Iowa. Waterloo had a recent vote to embark on a citywide fiber network, and it's garnering some attention from national providers. Equally exciting is that West Des Moines has taken great strides in the construction of its citywide conduit network, with plans to be done by the end of the year. Christopher, Sean, and Ry end the show by talking about the new CommunityNets.org, and putting a fresh coat of paint on the digital home of the Community Broadband Networks initiative. 

This show is 36 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.

Open Access Conduit in West Des Moines, Iowa Brings Google Fiber, Choice to City Residents

West Des Moines, Iowa is making steady progress on a $60 million open access fiber-optic conduit system to expedite the delivery of affordable fiber citywide. And they’re doing it with the help of Google Fiber, which has slowly started to reverse course after the company’s 2016 decision to lay off hundreds of staff and freeze most meaningful expansion.

West Des Moines is a suburb of Des Moines with a population of 67,000 residents. Like so many U.S. communities, locals have long complained of high broadband prices, spotty coverage, and terrible customer service by the area’s entrenched local monopolies. Iowa studies routinely identify substandard broadband access as a top regional complaint.  

So, as in many communities across the U.S., West Des Moines leaders decided to do something about it, in the form of a new public-private partnership with Google. The $60 million bond-funded project will result in citywide fiber conduit, which will be made available to any Internet service provider (ISP) interested in serving the city in a bid to dramatically boost local broadband competition.

The city is hopeful that ISP access costs ultimately cover the full build cost of the fledgling network. Google Fiber has already committed to pay the city an estimated $16 million to access the city’s new open access conduit system. Other ISPs that have never served the city before, including locally owned and operated Mi-Fiber, have also stated they’ll pay to access the conduit.

Generate City Revenue and Meet Growing Need of Residents

West Des Moines first announced the project in the summer of 2020, noting that it would lay more than a 1,000 miles of conduit alongside city streets, after which Google would come in and deploy its own fiber network to every last city address. In preparation, Google Fiber opened a brick and mortar retail location in West Des Moines in 2021.

Waterloo, Iowa Voters GO Forward with Municipal Fiber Network

After years of consideration and planning, Waterloo, Iowa is finally moving quickly forward with its plan to build a citywide municipal fiber network. Once complete, the network aims to provide the city’s 67,695 residents with an affordable, fiber-based alternative to local monopolized broadband options that have long left regional locals frustrated and disappointed.  

Waterloo expects that it will cost somewhere around $115 million to build the necessary fiber backbone and connect all Waterloo residents and businesses to the fledgling network. City officials expect the first customers to go live sometime later this year at up to gigabit speeds, though it will take roughly three years for the entire network to be built.

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Waterloo Iowa map

Much like the rest of the country, Waterloo leaders and residents received a crash course in the importance of affordable broadband during the Covid crisis, when the country’s spotty, sluggish, and expensive broadband networks were on full display due to a massive rise in telecommuting and home education.

Voters Declare GO Time on Muni Broadband

Fueled by frustration, Waterloo voters in September overwhelmingly approved the city issuing general obligation bonds to fund the start of construction for a city-wide municipal fiber network.

HiLighting Hillsboro, Oregon - Episode 538 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast

This week on the podcast, Christopher is joined by General Manager Brad Nosler and Senior Customer Support specialist Elizabeth Pereira, both from the city of Hillsboro, Oregon. The city's municipal broadband network, HiLight, is new, having begun signing up subscribers in the spring of 2021.

Notably, HiLight began building in the areas highest-need neighborhoods, where connectivity rates were disproportionately low. Equally importantly, HiLight has among the best income-qualified subscription tiers for families struggle to pay for access of any network in the nation, offering symmetrical gigabit service for just $10/month. Brad and Elizabeth talk with Christopher abou

This show is 33 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.

Dryden, NY Launches Municipal Fiber Network

Dryden, New York, population 14,500, has formally launched the town’s municipal broadband network, becoming the first municipality in the state to provide residents with direct access to affordable, publicly owned fiber.

According to the Dryden Fiber website, the town now offers local access to fiber broadband at three speed tiers: symmetrical 400 Megabits per second (Mbps) for $45 a month, symmetrical 700 Mbps for $75 a month, and symmetrical gigabit broadband service for $90 a month.

LA County Selects Pilot Communities for Major Broadband Expansion

LA County is accelerating its plan to deliver affordable broadband access to the city’s unserved and underserved, with an eye toward building one of the biggest municipal broadband networks in the nation. But the county is first taking baby steps, recently announcing target communities prioritized in a pilot program aimed at bridging the digital divide.

In late 2021, the LA County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a major new broadband expansion plan. The plan’s first order of business: deliver free broadband to the 365,000 low-income households in Los Angeles County that currently do not subscribe to service, starting with a 12,500-home pilot project.

Last September, the LA County Board of Supervisors approved using a total of $56 million in American Rescue Plan funding to help connect these families to fast, free, and reliable Internet service.

To help coordinate the effort, LA county designated the Internal Services Department (ISD) as the lead agency responsible for managing this and any future projects. The ISD is now working in conjunction with the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to determine which areas of the county should see funding and logistical priority. 

The ISD and LA County Supervisor Holly Mitchell recently released a map of priority locations where the County will build low-cost internet for households in the Second District. 

“I joined the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors in the height of the pandemic,” Mitchell said in an announcement. “And it became very clear that access to reliable Internet was critical to our success of emerging out of the pandemic. In the Second District, as much as 30 percent of households lack home internet [access]. This is unacceptable, and Los Angeles County is working aggressively to upend this. We are leading the nation on a plan to crush the digital divide.” 

Market Dynamics, Regulations, and Historic Fiber Investments in Europe - Episode 536 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast

Community Broadband Bits

This week on the podcast, Christopher is joined by Rudolf van der Berg, Partner at Stratix Consulting, a Dutch consulting firm that does work in telecommunications and has been deeply involved in the historic level of new infrastructure deployment projects in northern Europe. Rudolf breaks down what's going on today in Europe's broadband landscape, including efforts to reach the unserved, new entrants, and the actions of private equity.

Rudolf challenges the notion that overregulation stifles innovation and competition, and dispels the rhetoric (pushed by monopoly ISPs in the United States) that the European networks struggled with the onset of the pandemic because of the regulatory landscape and comparative lack of investment as compared to their ISPs' American counterparts. Christopher and Rudolf close out the show by digging into the struggle between tech companies and ISPs between which should pay for infrastructure upgrades.

This show is 41 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.

Electric Coops in North East Mississippi Using RDOF Funds to Expand Broadband

North East Mississippi Electric Power Association (NEMEPA) cooperatives celebrate another year of funding and progress toward building better broadband across nine service areas.

At a recent event, Northern District Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley said: "We are going to be one of the most connected states in the United States of America in some of the most rural areas of America. It has been amazing to watch. This has been not just a top priority for me but also our co-ops."

Allegan County, Michigan Zeroes in On New Open Access Fiber Network

Allegan County, Michigan is moving forward with an ambitious new plan to bring affordable fiber broadband to 12,000 unserved addresses across the county. The project will be in partnership with Southfield, Michigan based 123NET, made possible in large part due to more than $17.7 million in county American Rescue Plan Act funds.

“123NET has proposed a fiber to the home proposal to approximately 12,000 addresses of residents who don’t have access to 100 Mbps (Megabit per second) download fixed service,” Allegan County Broadband Project Manager Jill Dunham told ISLR.