Fast, affordable Internet access for all.
Content tagged with "hot spots"Displaying 1 - 10 of 10
As the novel coronavirus has spread across the United States, so too have efforts to bring Internet access to digitally disconnected households during a time of nationwide social distancing. Washington and Massachusetts are on different coasts, but both states are working with publicly owned broadband networks to deploy emergency Wi-Fi hotspots in underserved communities in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
In Washington, a state-led initiative is deploying hundreds of new Wi-Fi access points with the help of community networks, including Northwest Open Access Network (NoaNet), a statewide middle-mile network, and several Public Utility Districts (PUDs). And on the other side of the country, Massachusetts has enlisted the help of municipal network Whip City Fiber to establish Wi-Fi hotspots in communities with poor connectivity.
The drive-up public hotspots will allow residents of both states to complete online school assignments, apply for unemployment insurance, and connect with healthcare providers, among other essential tasks.
“We’ve all been in a position where we understand to connect to the world during this really challenging time, Wi-Fi is essential,” said Dr. Lisa Brown, Director of the Washington Department of Commerce, during a livestreamed launch of the state Wi-Fi initiative.
Washington Partners with PUDs for Wi-Fi
Across the country, more people than ever are working and learning from home, making a quality Internet connection vital for everyone in every locality during the Covid-19 pandemic. For Americans in inadequately connected areas — rural and urban — adapting to a more isolated and remote learning and working lifestyle proves extremely difficult when lacking a reliable Internet connection.
Many electric cooperatives and other broadband providers have quickly rolled out solutions to ensure that their subscribers are connected and well-equipped to adapt. Many of them are also working with community institutions to ensure all residents have some level of connectivity, especially children for remote learning purposes.
OzarksGo Brings Broadband to Busses
Ozarks Electric Cooperative has been working diligently with its fiber division, OzarksGo, to find solutions to improve connectivity for the communities it serves. In a phone interview, Steven Bandy, the general manager of Ozarks Electric, explained that as stay at home orders were issued, more and more homes within their service area were requesting new fiber hook ups. At the same time, families outside of their territory were scrambling for Internet connectivity.
OzarksGo serves nine counties in Arkansas and western Oklahoma, and they have thus far built out 75 percent of their network. They began deploying the network in 2016 and set a goal of having all of the fiber lit within six years. Bandy is still confident they can stick to this timeline, but he explained that the COVID-19 pandemic has interrupted their supply chain and temporarily slowed their ability to make new connections to homes.
On June 18 Holly Springs, home to approximately 25,000 people, started saving money with its new fiber I-Net. Last summer, the Town Council voted to invest in fiber infrastructure as a way to take control of telecommunications costs. Just one year later, the 13-mile network is serving community anchor institutions.
After exploring options with CTC Technology and Energy, Holly Springs determined that deploying their own $1.5 million network was more cost effective than paying Time Warner Cable for data services. Annual fees were $159,000; over time those costs certainly would have escalated. According to the Cary News, Holly Springs anticipates a future need for more bandwidth:
“And we wouldn’t have been able to actually afford as much (data) as we need,” [Holly Springs IT Director Jeff Wilson] said. “Our costs were going to be getting out of control over the next couple of years.”
Because state law precludes the town from offering services to homes or businesses, Holly Springs plans to use the new infrastructure in other ways. State law allows the community to offer free Wi-Fi; the town will also lease dark fiber to third-party providers. According to the News article, the town has already entered into a 20-year contract with DukeNet, recently acquired by Time Warner Cable. DukeNet may expand the fiber to the Holly Springs Business Park for commercial clients.
The community's free Wi-Fi in public facilities is approximately 20 times faster than it was before the deployment, reports the News:
When the town activated the network on June 18, “People told us they could tell the difference immediately,” said Jeff Wilson, Holly Springs’ IT director.
According to the News, the fiber network allows the city to expand free Wi-Fi to more green spaces. Cameras at baseball fields now stream live video of games; parents and grandparents can watch activities online if they cannot attend games in person.
In an effort to bring better connectivity to New Yorkers, the City is transforming old pay phones into free Wi-Fi hotspots. Rick Karr, reporter for MetroFocus from New York Public Media, reached out to ILSR's Chris Mitchell to discuss the project.
Chris and Karr discuss the challenges faced by lower income people in our digital age, many of whom depend on mobile devices for Internet access. From the video:
“Low income people and especially minority populations really depend on mobile devices. So having WiFi that they can use when they’re on the go is going to be a good way of keeping their costs down. But you’re not going to see kids writing term papers on mobile devices,” said Mitchell.
Mitchell said that low-income people need better and more affordable options. “Possibly, something run by the city so that it can ensure that low-income people have access in their homes and they don’t have to go outside in order to use their devices.”
According to the New York City Information Technology & Telecommunications website, over 20 locations already offer free municipal Wi-Fi. The City intends to expand the current program and has called for proposals from potential private partners due by the end of June.
Mayor de Blasio has stated that his administration will make free Wi-Fi a priority in order to help reduce the City's income inequality. Maya Wiley, de Blasio's chief counsel told the New York Daily News:
“High-speed Internet access is now as fundamental as water, as fundamental as the railroads were in the 18th century,” Wiley said in an interview with the Daily News.
“If you are low-income and you want to find a job, increasingly, you need high-speed broadband to do it,” Wiley said.
Dublin, home to 16,000 people, is also home to a network that snakes through the city and parts of Laurens County. In addition to a natural gas utility that serves the region, the city provides connectivity to two area school districts and local businesses. We contacted Guy Mullis, IT Director for the City of Dublin.
The fiber optic network was installed in 1999 to provide connectivity for the two separate school systems in the community, Laurens County Schools and Dublin City Schools. The school districts needed better connectivity because dial-up was the only option at the time. The school districts could not afford the cost of installing their own fiber networks.
The City used its own funds to construct a network that is 85% aerial. Mullis was not an employee of the City at the time, but he estimates the network cost approximately $1.5 - $2 million. He also believes the funds were a combination of capital improvement funds and economic development funds. From the start, the plan has been to serve the schools but also to provide connectivity to spur economic development.
Eight city school facilities and six county school facilities use the network today for connections between buildings. Dublin City Schools have 10 Gbps speeds between facilities; Laurens County Schools have equipment in place for 1 Gbps connections between schools. Both school districts use the Georgia Technology Authority for Internet access.
Once the network was in place, AT&T and Charter Communications began building in Dublin. Mullis says he does not believe AT&T and Charter would have invested in Dublin in 2000 if not for the presence of the community network. He notes that AT&T begin installing DSL in areas of town within a year of the fiber network deployment.
The City of Los Angeles has announced a confusing intention to release an RFP for a vendor to install a gigabit fiber network. A recent Government Technology article touches on the broad plan to build a massive fiber and wireless network to every public and private premise.
GovTech spoke with Steve Reneker, general manager of the Los Angeles Information Technology Agency. We last spoke with Reneker in Episode #11 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. In that interview, he described how Riverside, California, used the publicly owned network to revitalize the economy and support the community's digital inclusion plan. Los Angeles wants to emmulate Riverside's success. From the GovTech article:
“[The plan] is really focused on fixing the operational issues that due to the economy have been left by the wayside over the last three and four years,” Reneker said. “So, correcting the lack of investment, the lack of technology refresh, the reduction in staff that make operational aspects of our infrastructure difficult to keep going forward, tries to deliver an incremental approach to starting a long, lengthy rebuilding process.”
Councilman Bob Blumenthal introduced a proposal in August, 2013 to also blanket the city in free Wi-fi. Blumenfield's website states the city has 3,500 existing wireless hotspots.
Engadget reports that the City Council unanimously approved the proposal to move forward with the plan at a November 5th meeting. A Request for Proposals will be issued in the coming months for the fiber and free wireless network:
We recently learned about Aztec, New Mexico's, free downtown Wi-Fi so we decided to contact Wallace Begay, the IT Director, to find out more. This desert community of about 6,600 people not only offers the free service, but uses its fiber to serve government, schools, and even four-legged residents.
Begay tells us that in 1998 the city and school system coordinated to install the original fiber and the entities share ownership. The school wanted better, affordable connectivity for students while the city wanted economic development opportunities. Community leaders used E-rate funding and a Gates Foundation grant to construct the original fiber aerial route.
The town provides water, wastewater, and electric services through municipal utilities with its SCADA system. The public library and all ten Aztec Municipal School facilities connect to the fiber network. Municipal government facilities also use the network.
Even though the city is a co-owner, it took several years for municipal offices to get on the fiber network. Aztec City Council originally decided to install the fiber network as a way to bring in revenue by leasing dark fiber, not as a way to connect offices. When Begay started at the city in 2001, administrative offices still used dial-up connections. Twenty dial-up accounts (and the crawling speeds associated with them) added up to $500 each month.
At the time, Qwest (not CenturyLink) was the provider in Aztec and could only offer microwave or copper connections. Connecting 13 facilities at 1.4 Mbps would have cost the city $1,200 each month. Begay used $500 from the electrical enterprise fund to purchase equipment and pay for tech labor to move municipal offices on to the existing network. The city electrical enterprise fund pays for expansions and updates. The network is now about 12 miles.
San Jose launched its new, publicly owned, downtown free Wi-Fi on March 14th. This is the community's third attempt at bringing a successful free service to downtown and city officials have made much ado about the new "Wickedly Fast Wi-Fi Network." The city teamed up with SmartWAVE Technologies and Ruckus Wireless to design and install the $94,000 network. Ongoing costs are estimated at $22,000 per year.
From the press release, reprinted in PR Newswire:
"Utilizing our Smart Wi-Fi technology, this Wickedly Fast Wi-Fi Network offers the fastest public Wi-Fi service in the country, and we’re proud to be a part of enabling that,” said Selina Lo, president and CEO of Ruckus Wireless. “On a smartphone, a user will be able to experience speeds of anywhere from two to three Megabits per second. This is easily three to four times faster than any other public network service,” Lo concludes. “There’s a huge, growing demand around the country, and the world, for more reliable public and managed Wi-Fi services to satisfy an exploding population of users now armed with multiple smart mobile devices, and where better to help satisfy that demand than starting with the Capital of Silicon Valley.”
The network will also speed up parking transactions in the City's downtown parking system and support downtown city government facilities.
In a KTVU report, Vijay Sammetta, Chief INformation Officer for San Jose described the new Wi-fi:
"Typically we see municipal a thousand or two-thousand miles per hour in layman's terms," said Vijay Sammeta, San Jose's Chief Information Officer. "We're upping that ante up to 10,000 miles per hour."
Update: The Wall Street Jounal has also just covered the recent proliferation of community owned Wi-Fi networks.
The Southern Maryland Independent reports the Charles County Technology Council brought together local innovators in technology and environmental sustainability on September 10. The event featured the county's public service innovations in the field as well as showcasing electric vehicles and solar energy technologies. In addition, the newspaper noted the Charles County Public Library's (CCPL) downtown wireless network, in partnership with the town of La Plata, has been expanded with 15 wireless access points and exceeds 1,000 users per month. The Library has also upgraded its public workstations to lower wattage computers, reducing both energy usage and heat output.
For over a year, the La Plata downtown wireless zone is available free to the general public. The wifi project began in 2008 when the CCPL applied for an Innovation Grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Though La Plata budgeted a matching $50,000, the grant was turned down but the partnership between the Town and Library continued. In 2010, the Library agreed to assume administrative and technical maintenance while the Town used its budgeted funds to deploy equipment. CCPL provides T1 backbone to wireless routers purchased from San Francisco-based Meraki. Private owners agree to lend rooftop space for nodes at no cost. In September 2010, the system went online and later expanded to include much of Downtown back to the Town Hall. Last June, the system hit a milestone 1,000 unique users--La Plata's population is about 8,700. The Town now looks to continue expanding the availability but also to move into utilities and municipal services. [More information found in their powerpoint.]