Fast, affordable Internet access for all.
Content tagged with "new england"
A recent in-depth article from the Keene Sentinel updates us on the status of New Hampshire's HB 286, which would expand bonding authority for local governments. New Hampshire law currently restricts bonding authority for Internet infrastructure to towns with no access to the Internet, but nearly all communities have at least some slow broadband access in a few pockets of town. We have been tracking this bill, most recently four months ago just before it overwhelmingly passed the house. Unfortunately, the bill does not give many options to local governments. It settles to only allow bonding when the local government is not providing retail services, a business model that has only worked well when local governments have expanded very slowly. That said, New Hampshire already has a promising open access network called FastRoads that would allow nearby towns to connect and access the four service providers already using it. Connecting to an already-operating open access network is a much better prospect than having to start one from scratch, particularly in areas with low population density. Nonetheless, we continue to find it counter-productive for state legislatures to limit how local governments can invest in essential infrastructure. We know of no good policy reason for doing so - these limitations are a result of the lobbying power of a few cable and telephone companies that want to preserve scarcity to ensure high profit margins. Kaitlin Mulhere's article, "Broadband access could be improved in NH through new bill," demonstrates the need for better networks in the granite state and notes that Fast Roads is starting to meet those needs in the areas it operates.
The OpenCape Network launched about eight months ago to bring better middle mile connectivity to Cape Cod. Reporter Sean Gonsalves explored other possibilities for the 350-mile infrastructure in a recent Cape Cod Online article.
Gonsalves spoke with OpenCape CEO Dan Vorthems. The network was funded with $32 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) grants and approximately $8 million in funds from the state, county, and private-sector partner CapeNet. It brings connectivity to 91 community anchor institutions from Provincetown as far west as Providence and Brockton. The idea for the network began with Cape Cod Community College and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. Today, OpenCape is a non-profit with Board members from healthcare, higher education, public education, government, and the private sector.
Gonsalves and Vorthems touched on the high hopes for economic development that accompanied the network deployment. When the project began, the dream was to turn Cape Cod into a "Silicon Sandbar." The network is still in its infancy, but new jobs in the area are retail, service, and tourist related rather than high-tech. Residents of Cape Cod were hoping the network would bring better paying positions to meet the high cost of living in the area.
Gonsalves takes it one step further and proposes using the network for last mile connections:
Getting the Cape's big data users online opens up all sorts of possibilities. But [what] I wanted to know is when the Cape would get to the point where residential users could access this Internet autobahn capable of reaching speeds of a gigabit per second.
We first reported on Leverett in the spring of 2012. Leverett, a small town of 2,000, also attracted Susan Crawford's attention. Crawford and Robyn Mohr recently wrote a case study on the community's efforts to build its own fiber network. The Berkman Center for Internet & Society released the paper on December 16, 2013.
Readers will remember that Leverett, tired of being dismissed by large providers, decided to build a FTTH network to each home in town. Construction of the network, funded by a modest tax increase, is now underway.
The report, Bringing Municipal High-Speed Internet Access to Leverett, Massachusetts offers these main findings, as reported on Crawford's blog:
LeverettNet is a last-mile fiber to the home network that will be operated by a publicly controlled Municipal Light Plant entity. The MLP will operate independently of Leverett’s political infrastructure, but will be required by state law to charge subscribers no more than the cost of providing service.
The network will connect every household in Leverett. Although every residence and business will be linked to LeverettNet, individual homeowners will have the discretion to decide whether to subscribe.
LeverettNet was planned to take advantage of MassBroadband 123, a publicly funded fiber network recently built to connect towns (but not individual homes and businesses) in Massachusetts.
Long-term leadership, planning, and community engagement by Leverett’s public officials prompted the citizens of Leverett to approve a modest property tax increase in return for the long-term benefits of a FTTH network.
Burlington has seen ups and downs over the past few years but a new chapter is about to begin. The non-profit U.S. Ignite and the City are partnering to create BTV Ignite. The initiative will develop a gigabit community infrastructure and the applications that use it. With help from U.S. Ignite, Burlington will join the growing list of gigabit communities.
An advisory committee is fueling interest in the project. Mayor Miro Weinberger describes the effort as a way to develop a tech friendly local economy and increase access for individuals and institutions. A recent Government Technology article quoted the Mayor:
“We believe we’re well on our way to being the first city in the country that provides gigabit access to every student from kindergarten through college and even graduate school here in Burlington,” Weinberger said.
The City and its partner have developed five critical steps based on consultation with Kansas City, Chattanooga, and other gigabit communities:
1. Develop Structure to Foster Applications-Driven Energy
Much like the KC Digital Drive in Kansas City, [Executive Director of U.S. Ignite Bill] Wallace said the mayor’s advisory committee must play a key role in helping drive development.
2. Create the Most Robust Infrastructure
Wallace said this will be particularly necessary for schools, businesses and libraries.
3. Embrace Technology Through Community Events and Hackathons
By setting up a continuous stream of events like community hackathons, digital sandboxes and a hacker homes network similar to one developed in Kansas City, the city will be able to focus more on app development for specific capabilities, like cybersecurity or the development of complex systems.
4. Share Practices With Other Cities to Deploy Networks
This could also mean sharing practices on how to generate applications.
5. Tap into Federal Resources
Wallace said looking to federally funded resources like the National Science Foundation will be important when building out the infrastructure and developing applications.
New Hampshire FastRoads will soon be working with Vermont's Sovernet to bring access to southern New Hampshire. According to the Brattleboro Reformer, Sovernet is ready to begin offering data and voice service as soon as the fiber infrastructure is complete.
"It's really exciting because while we do some business in New Hampshire we have not been able to do anything to the extent that we will be able to do on this fiber network," said Sovernet Vice President of Sale and Marketing Peter Stolley. "Needs over the Internet are constantly evolving and this gives us a virtually unlimited amount of speed to get to people."
Sovernet managed a similar project to New Hampshire Fastroads in Vermont, but in Vermont Sovernet installed and manages the fiber network.
FastRoads' open access model will provide infrastructure on which independent ISPs will offer service to community anchor institutions, businesses, and residents in underserved areas. The $7.6 million project is about 98% finished after a year-long installation period. New Hampshire Community Development Finance Authority, Monadnock Economic Development Authority and 42 towns in New Hampshire comprise the FastRoads collaborative effort.
Carole Monroe, New Hampshire FastRoads Executive Director told the Reformer:
"This project was done to reach the most rural and least served communities in this part of the state," Monroe said. "Up to now there has been no way to bring fiber to these homes and this is a great opportunity to get them that big broadband. We think that as more people come on board it will entice growth and allow us to expand our footprint to reach more businesses and homes."
We spoke with Monroe in Episode #36 of the Broadband Bits podcast. She shared a history of the challenges facing the collaborative and how the network was already bringing benefits to the community, even before launch.
Winchester, Massachusetts, recently offered voters the chance to create a special fund earmarked for school and government technology infrastructure. The question came during the special election to fill an empty Senate seat vacated by Secretary of State John Kerry. The technology fund proposal, to be funded by taxpayers, did not pass but offers an interesting approach for communities seeking to ensure community anchor institutions have the connections they need.
Wicked Local Winchester reported on the "technology stabilization fund:"
Under the proposal, the fund would receive $350,000 from taxpayers in fiscal year 2014. That figure would increase by 2.5 percent each year. Each Winchester household would pay approximately $50 in taxes into the fund in the fiscal year that begins July 1, according to the proposal.
The fund cannot be used for any end-user devices, including computers, laptops or classroom technology like smartboards. Instead, the fund will cover upgrading and maintaining the town and school computer network.
Opposed community members criticized a lack of detailed plans for the fund and challenged whether it would save public dollars. In the days before the vote, some council members publicly questioned the need for technology improvements.
The proposal failed 54 percent to 46 percent on June 25th. Wicked Local Winchester noted that several voters they met at the polls did not know about the proposal before the election. Support seemed strong from those voting yes:
“I think if we’re going to have an excellent school system, we need the technology to support it,” resident Anne Poskitt said after voting at the Jenks Center.
Resident Patricia Shea expressed similar sentiments after voting at the Lynch School, saying that she feels strongly about the importance of technology because she has three children who attended Winchester schools.
“If this is what we have to do to [improve technology], I support it,” she said.
Also from Wicked Local:
Burlington Telecom may be headed for some changes. Due to the mismanagement of the prior Burlington Mayor Administration, the network took on an unsustainable amount of debt and damaged its reputation. Some of the plans to make the network sustainable again involve privatizing it. Unfortunately, as we have seen with public power privatizations, such an action typically results in worse services and higher prices due to the loss of local control.
Operating under the name Keep Our Telecom Local, a group of local residents and business leaders want to ensure BT remains owned by the community by turning it into a cooperative. At a December 13 public meeting, the group of about 50 volunteers gathered and talked strategy. According to a Burlington Free Press article on the meeting, attendees broke into smaller groups to discuss specific issues and plans.
The next step will be efforts to increase publicity for the movement and the creation of a business plan. Currently, a committee is forming to determine the best way to file for a Vermont Certificate of Public Good. Another committee is looking into formation of a board of directors.
Most municipal networks do not have to contend with the problems that have plagued Burlington Telecom. But even with all of the problems faced by this publicly owned network, the community still sees great value in rescuing it rather than abandoning it. The Burlington community appreciates the incredible value of keeping their broadband resource local. From the article:
Don Schramm, one of the organizers of tentatively named Green Mountain Broadband Fiber, said it makes sense to pursue a Third Way.
“Keeping our telecom locally owned means that the jobs stay here, the money spent stays here, the profit stays here — and most importantly, the control stays here,” Schramm said. “We will have a broadband cooperative responsible to our community needs, not the profit wants of out-of-state owners.”
We brought you news of Leverett, Massachusetts and their decision this spring to pursue a municipal fiber optic network. In April, voters approved a measure to develop the initiative, and this past weekend took the last step toward building the network. The town of 1,851, voted to raise their taxes to pay for a fiber-to-the-home network. The result was a resounding 462 for and 90 against.
The GazetteNET.com covered the story:
"We're expecting everyone in Leverett to have access to this network by 2014," said Peter d'Errico, a member of the town's Select Board and a leading supporter of the municipal fiber-optic system."
"This was clearly a mandate to proceed," said d'Errico. "There was vigorous discussion at every stage of the process and it's a sign that community is ready to take charge of its own services."
The Proposition 2 1/2 debt exclusion override ended in an 83.5% vote to support the project. The result satisfies the 2/3 majority requirement for a planned tax increase, as required by state law.
A little more than 39% of the town's eligible voters cast ballots. According to the assistant town clerk, D'Ann Kelty who monitors voter activity, the turn out was large for a single issue election.
The funding strategy is a 20-year bond measure and is expected to increase property taxes by 6%. Supporters note that a 6% hike in property taxes is less than what households will save in telephone and internet bills. They will be paying less for something far better than they now receive. According to residents, telephone service has been spotty for years, due to old copper wires that have not been replaced by providers. In a recent GazetteNET article before the vote:
We want to let you know about an upcoming one-day workshop that looks to be a good opportunity to learn more about FTTH networks. "Lighting Up New England" will be June 13 in Westford, Massachusetts, at the Westford Regency. The workshop will be hosted by the Fiber-to-the-Home Council and is part of the 2012 NEFC FiberFest.
Here are specifics from the announcement:
Fiber, Fiber Everywhere - a discussion panel covering the latest technologies that require more fiber to operate effectively - including fiber for wind farms, solar energy and for greater wireless reach using fiber to the antennae and to the cell tower.
Monica Webb, Executive Committee Chair, from WiredWest will be speaking about working with state and local organizations in Massachusetts as they build their own fiber optic networks. We have been seeing impressive results from the work of WiredWest and their group of 40 communities. Also speaking will be leaders from the FTTH Council, the American Cable Association, and analysts with expertise in FTTH and the fiber optic broadband industry. From the 2012 NEFC FiberFest website:
There will be a special focus on the trends in FTTH technology and equipment, as well as a focus on what network operators are doing to leverage fiber to the home into their strategies for success in the telecommunications market. This workshop is an outstanding learning opportunity for anyone who is interested in next-generation broadband -telecom service providers, consulting network engineers, manufacturers of optical access equipment, or anyone else who wants to get the inside scoop from the front lines of the all-fiber revolution.
You can register for the workshop here and visiting the exhibit area free.
Not long ago, we told you about Leverett, Massachusetts, the small town of 1,851, that has been discussing the possibility of building a community network. Residents and businesses currently use a combination of satellite, dial-up, DSL, and wireless, and about 6% of the population has no Internet access at all. People are tired of lost opportunities in a town strategically situated near several colleges. The town just approved the proposal to invest in a municipal network.
Last Saturday, April 28th, the measure to build the network was approved at Leverett's Annual Town Meeting. The needed two-thirds vote came easily, with 306-33 in favor, at the packed meeting at the Leverett Elementary School auditorium. Enthusiasm and expectations are high. From a Fran Ryan article in the Gazettenet.com:
For many, the lack of adequate Internet access has created problems with work, school and even the ability to sell their homes.
"Right now we have hopeless telephone service, useless cellphone service, and no internet service," said resident Raymond Bradley. "This will completely change our lives,"
The current plan is to borrow $3.6 million to create a fiber-optic network that will connect every home and provide triple play services across town. As you may recall from our earlier article, Internet access is only part of the problem - Leverett has had longstanding difficulties with telephone service due to decaying infrastructure. The situation is so bad, the State Department of Communications ordered Verizon to make repairs in over 100 towns in western Massachusetts. With this vote, however, Leverett has decided to take control of its own fate.
Leverett received a $40,000.00 planning grant from the Massachussetts Broadband Institute and benefited from the expertise and efforts of the Wired West group. Leverett's last mile project will connect with MBI's middle mile project.
According to the Leverett Broadband Committee, the investment will pay off rather quickly. This from an April 18th Ben Storrow GazetteNet.com article: