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In Springfield, Ohio, community leaders are looking for ways to use their share of a commercially owned fiber optic loop on the eastern side of town. The community hopes to secure a $50,000 Local Innovation Fund grant from the state to finance a feasibility study reports the News-Sun.
Approximately 60,000 people live in Springfield, located 45 miles west of Columbus. Advanced Virtual Engine Test Cell, Inc. (AVETEC) owns and operates a 19-mile fiber optic ring connecting downtown to its facility. The fiber route passes the Clark State Community College and at least one public school. Springfield owns 24 unused strands of the AVETEC network and wants to build off that asset to save public dollars, improve school connectivity, and encourage economic development.
From the News-Sun article:
“From an economic development standpoint, it’s definitely capitalizing on an amenity that’s already in the ground that we can use then to leverage as an additional incentive or perk to doing business in Springfield, especially business that’s proximal to that fiber in the near-term,” said Josh Rauch, the city’s deputy economic development administrator. “Then as it builds out, you get more and more connectivity throughout the city.”
“The goal is to take the fiber build-out we’ve got and look at other places you could build fiber,” Rauch said.
The Miami Valley Educational Computer Association (MVECA) is a regional nonprofit consortium of twenty-five local K-12 school districts. MVECA leases and maintains a fiber network for the Springfield City School District and other Clark County school districts. The Executive Director of MVECA, anticipating the need for 10 gigabit connections, hopes to see a collaboration with the City to bring the fiber to Springfield and area schools. He believes working together will reduce costs for local school districts and MVECA.
Centennial is asking its voters to reclaim local authority this election. City leaders want to make better use of an existing fiber optic system but a 2005 Colorado state law pushed by a corporate telephone company precludes it. If the citizenry reclaims its local authority through referendum, the City can take the next step toward providing indirect services via its fiber network.
We contacted City Council Member Ken Lucas to find out more about the ballot question. Centennial is a relatively young city that was incorporated in 2001 and has about 100,000 residents. Lucas told us that this ballot question is not only about using their fiber resources. The community of Centennial considers this a critical step toward maintaining a business friendly environment.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) provided grants to install the existing network for traffic control, security cameras, and public works monitoring. The City contributed only approximately $100,000 to the network, valued at $5 million. Traffic and public safety now use only two strands of the network that runs through the center of town. City leaders want to use the remaining 94 strands to improve access in the community. To see a map of the fiber and open conduit in Centennial, check out the City's PDF.
Approximately 94% of Centennial businesses and 85% of households are within one mile of the fiber backbone. Residents and business owners can now choose between Comcast or CenturyLink and rates are high. Lucas tells of one business owner who asked Comcast to provide 1 Gbps service to his building. Comcast offered to lease a line to the business at a high rate, but the customer would still have to pay $20,000 for installation.
We introduced you to Olds, Alberta and their community network O-Net in 2012. Now this community of 8,500 will be the first Canadian "gig town" where residents will have access to a gig at incredibly low prices.
CBC News reports that the Olds Institute for Community and Regional Development, the nonprofit organization building the network, recently approved the upgrade. Residents with 100 Mbps will have access to a gigabit with no increase in price. Depending on how they bundle, the price for Internet will range between $57-90 per month.
CBC's Emily Chung noted how much of rural Canada offers only dial-up or satellite. Olds used to have the same problem; businesses were considering leaving town:
"We had engineering companies here who were sending memory chips by courier because there wasn't enough bandwidth to deal with their stuff," recalls Joe Gustafson, who spearheaded the project to bring a fibre network to Olds.
"Now there's no talk about people leaving because of bandwidth challenges."
The $13-14 million project, which also included a video conference center and 15 public use terminals for residents, launched in July 2012. The organization acquired a $2.5 million grant from the province of Alberta and a $6 million loan from the town of Olds. When incumbents were not interested in providing service over the network, O-Net adapted:
"We said, 'Well I guess if we're going to do this, we have to do our own services,'" Gustafson recalled.
The Olds Institute spent $3.5 million to buy the necessary electronic equipment to run internet and other services on the network and to build a central office to house it all. Last July, it launched O-Net.
The community-owned service offers not just internet, but also phone and IPTV services — TV signals carried on the network that includes dozens of SD and HD channels, and movies on demand that can be paused and later resumed.
In the 1990s, the community of Shafter, California, began developing its strategic plan; the move would eventually lead them to build a municipal broadband network. The town of 17,000 still depended primarily on agriculture but manufacturers were relocating to the community, drawn by its proximity to the railroad and its open space. Potential employers increasingly focused on broadband access as a priority and Shafter realized broadband would be critical to continued growth.
Shafter’s Assistant City Manager Scott Hurlbert recently explained to us how the community built its own fiber network to serve commercial clients, local government, and schools. This incremental approach is not unique but Shafter has no municipal electric nor gas utility, which does puts it in the company of Santa Monica, Mount Vernon, and a few other communities that have built networks without having a municipal power company.
Shafter’s City Council examined its strengths and its weaknesses and found a way to build a network with no borrowing or bonding. The community continues to expand its fiber network, attracting businesses and improving quality of life in this central California town.
In the 1990s AT&T was the main business services provider and it would only improve business telecommunications on an order-by-order basis. Companies that wanted to build beyond the developed town had to pay for the installation themselves, often waiting months to get connected. Prices were "obscene" and the delays almost killed several commercial deals. Even today AT&T takes the same approach in Shafter.
When he joined the City in 2005 as the IT Director, Hurlbert and his staff researched wireless technologies but determined that fiber-optic deployment would be the best option. At that time, the bandwidth demand was already intense and a wireless network would need fiber for backhaul. Hurlbert and staff also investigated other communities, including Chelan, Washington, to look for workable models.
In 2010, Silverton, Colorado, decided to build a fiber-optic loop for savings and better connectivity in rural San Juan County. At the time, Qwest (now CenturyLink) provided a microwave connection to the town of around 630 residents. After taking state money to connect all the county seats, Qwest decided to take fiber to everyone except Silverton, much to the frustration of local residents. We wanted to catch up with happenings in this former silver mining camp.
We spoke with Jason Wells, Silverton Town Administrator, who told us that Silverton's loop is part of a regional effort, the Southwest Colorado Access Network (SCAN). Silverton's loop broke ground in April and it will cost $164,000. Silverton and San Juan County contributed $41,000 and the remainder comes from a Southwest Colorado Access Grant. Wells says public institutions will be hooked up first, then downtown businesses. Connecting the schools will come later.
The community is limited by its remote geography. At 9,300 feet above sea level, the town is one of the highest towns in the U.S. and still served by microwave technology. Wells hopes future expansion will include wiring Silverton to Durango, the closest SCAN community. Durango connects municipal and La Plata County facilities with its municipal fiber and leases dark fiber to local businesses, private providers, and community anchor institutions.
Wells connected us to Dr. Rick K. Smith, Mayor of participating Bayfield and General Manager of the Southwest Colorado Council of Governments (SWCCOG). Dr. Smith shared some history on the SCAN project.
CapeCodToday, recently ran two interviews relating to OpenCape, the publicly owned network nearing completion in Massachusetts. The interviews follow a belated March press release from Comcast, announcing its new service contract with Cape Cod Community College (CCCC). Like some others familiar with the project, we were surprised to see the college choosing Comcast for connectivity instead of OpenCape.
As we previously noted, CCCC and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute were two OpenCape founding members in 2006. The nonprofit OpenCape received $32 million in a Broadband Technology Opportunity Program (stimulus) award and gathered an additional $8 million in funds from the state, the county, and CapeNet, the company building and operating the network.
Regarding the delay in publicity, the College was not willing to comment on the connection, including statements to Comcast itself, until we had actively used it for a couple of months.
When the contract was negotiated, CCCC needed fiber service and OpenCape was not ready to serve them. Cox stated that the college needs to stay competitive and referred to a Bridgewater University satellite campus that will soon open in the community. Community colleges rely heavily on reliable connectivity as students look for distance learning opportunities.
A collaboration between local Idaho and Wyoming counties, the town of Rexburg, Idaho, and Brigham Young University will be exploring the possibility of a community owned fiber optic network. Significant business interest in the project has contributed to the decision to move forward with a feasibility study.
According to a Standard Journal article, Design Nine has been hired to conduct the study which will look at what networks are currently in place and provide a detailed plan for future development. The $78,000 study, to be completed in May, is funded in half by a federal grant with the remaining paid for by public and private donations.
Fremont County, Idaho; Madison County, Idaho; Teton County, Idaho; and Teton County, Wyoming are all participating and together obtained the federal grant. According to the City of Rexburg Department of Economic Development website on the fiber initiative:
Rexburg's City Council recently (June, 2011) passed an initiative to facilitate the availability of broadband internet in Rexburg. High-speed broadband internet, as referred to in this initiative, is a fiber-optic connection with download speeds exceeding 1,000 bytes per second (1 Gbps). Private businesses have requested for upgraded services, but these requests have not yet been met. Accordingly, citizens and city officials have established the Rexburg Community Access Network Initiative. High-speed broadband means smart growth for Rexburg.
From the Standard Journal Article:
Two companies have already expressed interest in adding data centers in Rexburg, but current lack of bandwidth makes that a challenge, [Economic Development Director for Rexburg Scott] Johnson told members of the Kiwanis Club earlier this week.
Brigham Young University-Idaho is the main component behind the study, he said during the meeting.
Franklin, Kentucky expects to see more positive economic growth when it launches its new fiber optic network. According to an article in the Bowling Green Daily News, the south central community is ready for the upgrade:
“We are super excited about it,” said James McCaslin, associate vice president of academic affairs and director of Franklin-Simpson Center. “It will be like going from 1970 to 2013 with the flip of a switch.”
We contacted Tammie Carey, Fiber Services Manager for Franklin Municipal FiberNET, and she was good enough to answer some questions. She told us that 32 miles of aerial fiber are strung in three loops around the city to ensure redundancy. She expects the network to launch near the end of January for local businesses, though the utility has already been serving one business as detailed below.
The decision was based solely on a desire to boost economic development, a sentiment echoed in the Daily News article:
It’s hard to recruit industry now if you don’t have (fiber optics),” said Dennis Griffin, industrial recruiter for Simpson County. “A lot of industries, particularly in this area, are satellite plants connected to their corporate offices, somewhere else in the United States. They all need to be connected by fiber.
“So if you don’t have that, it’s hard to compete with communities that do,” Griffin said. “Ten years ago, you could get by with T-1 lines – now most industries are just expecting that you have fiber."
Apparently, City officials contacted AT&T and Comcast several years ago and asked them to install fiber to the Franklin industrial parks. When they refused, City Leaders began pondering the possibility of a municipal fiber network. Tammie tells us about the decision in an email:
In 2007, the City of Amherst, Massachusetts received a $150,000 grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) to build a wireless mesh network. DARPA and NSF have long been interested in developing mesh networks that are more resilient than traditional hub and spoke type networks.
The City IT Department, UMass Amherst Office of Information Technology Department, DARPA and NSF collaborated to deploy the network that now covers much of the city.
According to GazetteNet.com, the city is now investing another $50,000 to upgrade the system which now extends a mile through downtown. From the article:
“We definitely have the fastest and largest outdoor Wi-Fi network in the state,” said Information Technology Director Kristopher Pacunas.
The new system, which replaces aging equipment that was part of a smaller municipal Wi-Fi system, will be a boon to those who live, work and shop in downtown Amherst, said Pacunas, who anticipates as many as 2,000 different people will use the system daily.
“We’ve seen data in the short time we’ve had this (that) people will come to downtown areas with free Wi-Fi,” Pacunas said.
While the new upgrades were not officially launched until the start of 2013, Pacunas said that over 10,400 people used the system in the weeks leading up to the new year. Pacunas also notes that the network has limited functionality indoors, being designed mostly for public outdoor spaces downtown.
The Town of Amherst Public WiFi website describes how the design was meant to blend in with the look of the city and the light and utility poles that house the access points. There are 30 wireless mesh access points and burst speeds up to 80 Mbps. This is another example of how a municipal network can create direct benefits AND indirect benefits simply through its implementation. Also from the article:
Alex Krogh-Grabbe, director of the Amherst Business Improvement District, said he sees the benefits of the system.