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public private partnerships
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Golden, Colorado has struck a new right-of-way agreement with Google Fiber that should expedite the competitive delivery of affordable fiber to the city of 20,000.
The deal gives Google Fiber non-exclusive access to public right-of-way to build a commercial broadband network, though it delivers no guarantee of uniform access across the entire city.
In a memo to the Golden City Council, Chief Innovation and Technology Officer Jiles McCoy said the city’s new agreement “would act as a template for any future companies wishing to build broadband services in the Golden right of way.”
The move comes after years of discussion in the city as to how to improve local broadband competition, reduce prices, and expand affordable access.
In 2016, Golden residents voted to opt out of a now defunct state law, ghost written by regional broadband monopolies, restricting the construction and operation of community owned and operated broadband networks. Last year Colorado leaders finally eliminated the law completely, opening the door to greater expansion of community-owned networks.
In 2019 the city completed a feasibility study showing that the construction of a full city-owned fiber network would cost $37 million. Instead of tackling the entire project at once, advisers recommended the city proceed in phases, beginning with the construction of a $3.8 million, 10.5 mile fiber ring connecting key community anchor institutions.
Boulder, Colorado officials have issued a new request for proposal (RFP) seeking partners for their ongoing quest to deliver affordable fiber to the city of 104,000.
According to an announcement by Boulder leaders, the city is offering potential partners a long-term lease of city-owned dark-fiber backbone infrastructure and a right of way agreement for the construction and operation of a network delivering Internet service offering 1 Gbps or more to all Boulder homes and businesses. Responses are due by March 1.
When we last checked in with Boulder in April of last year, the city was putting the finishing touches on a $20 million, 65-mile dark fiber backbone, funded by the competitive sale of its 2018 Broadband Taxable Certificates of Participation (COPs). The competitive sale was used to ensure that Boulder could get the lowest interest rates possible in financing the construction of the backbone.
While the process was technically started back in 2018, and then delayed by the pandemic, city officials remained committed to moving the project forward.
“What we are trying to do in Boulder – if we can find the right partner or partners – is about creating more competition; increase the competitive marketplace locally,” project manager and independent consultant Tim Scott told ILSR last year.
Like so many U.S. communities, Boulder sees limited competition between the local cable company (Comcast) and the local phone company (Centurylink/Lumen) resulting in slow speeds, spotty coverage, high prices, and substandard customer service.
Windstream Communications and local nonprofit electrical cooperative Colquitt Electric Membership Corp are partnering on a $32.5 million fiber deployment that will bring fiber optic broadband to 17,000 homes and businesses in Colquitt County, Georgia.
Once completed sometime next year, the partnership should help deliver last-mile fiber access to roughly 70% of Colquitt County residents, many of which either have no current broadband access, or have long been stuck on sluggish, expensive, and dated digital subscriber line (DSL).
Windstream will maintain ownership of the finished network and provide residential service under its Kinetic brand, while Colquitt EMC will utilize the network to help maintain and support the company’s existing electrical grid.
Kinetic will use $21.4 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) grants to fund the network build, while providing $11.1 million of its own funds to cover any cost overruns. The company says it has already laid 180 miles of cable of an expected 440 miles total county wide.
“Colquitt EMC has been an instrumental part in the delivery of fiber in its service area,” Kinetic Georgia operations President Michael Foor said in a prepared statement. “We are grateful for its willingness to support these efforts.”
As ILSR has long noted, PPPs can be a decidedly mixed bag. They can be good for municipalities unable or unwilling to handle the logistics or cost of a major deployment alone. At the same time, locals don’t have much or any control over the trajectory of the finished network, including pricing that can quickly creep out of the range of affordability.
Newark, New Jersey (pop. 307k) has been operating a dark fiber network for more than a decade. In recent years, the city has expanded its efforts to leverage those assets in an incremental effort to improve connectivity and competition for local business and residents, while also building out a robust Wi-Fi network. The goal: build a portfolio of approaches to connect the last twenty percent of the city that doesn't have access today.
This week on the podcast, Christopher is joined by Aaron Meyerson, Chief Innovation Economy Officer and Director of Broadband, and Anthony Avent, Technical Operations for City of Newark, to talk about the project. From reinvigorating the city's infrastructure with a new public-private partnership, to connecting almost a hundred large business locations, to enabling innovative smart-city applications to fight heat and pollution, to supporting more than 7,200 active Wi-Fi users every day, Newark isn't just sitting around waiting for someone to help solve local challenges. They're stepping up to the plate and tackling them themselves.
This show is 28 minutes long and can be played on this page or using the podcast app of your choice with this feed.
We want your feedback and suggestions for the show: please e-mail us or leave a comment below.
Thanks to Arne Huseby for the music. The song is Warm Duck Shuffle and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.
A plan in Jamestown, New York to deploy affordable fiber to every last city resident has received welcome support from state leaders, even though deployment details remain murky and network construction remains well over the horizon.
In 2021, Jamestown officials told ILSR they were working with Entrypoint Networks on a $25 million fiber network for the city of 28,000. The city hopes to deliver fiber in conjunction with the Jamestown Board of Public Utilities, leaning heavily on the federal Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) to ensure low cost access to marginalized and low income communities.
The city’s plans got a needed attention boost last month when Empire State Development – tasked with boosting economic development across New York State – gave a nod to Jamestown’s efforts in the organization’s five-year development plan.
The plan, among other things, will shape how the state utilizes $664 million in federal subsidies made possible by the Broadband Equity Access and Deployment (BEAD) Program and the 2021 infrastructure bill. While Jamestown may qualify for BEAD funding, how much the city’s project could receive remains undetermined.
Both the Sagamore Bridge and Railroad Bridge that span opposite ends of the Cape Cod Canal carry the kind of traffic that terrifies Comcast and Verizon.
The 576 count fiber-optic strand strung across the Railroad Bridge in Buzzards Bay – and the 864 strand that crosses the Sagamore Bridge – belongs to OpenCape, an open-access “middle mile” network ushering the gold-standard of Internet connectivity into parts of each of the Cape’s 15 towns.
It’s an extension of OpenCape’s fiber network, lashed to utility poles in dozens of communities across southeastern Massachusetts, all of which connect the region to the nation’s Internet backbone/long haul network.
Middle mile networks are a key part of the Internet’s connective tissue that dramatically lowers the cost for Internet service providers (ISPs) to deploy “last mile” connections to individual homes and businesses.
Thanks to a federal grant courtesy of the American Recovery and ReInvestment Act, the nonprofit fiber network was established in 2009 and since then has been providing Internet connectivity to most of the region’s anchor institutions – hospitals, public safety facilities, numerous libraries, schools, banks, and dozens of other enterprise clients with big data needs such as the Marine Biological Laboratory and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Falmouth.
Over the past several years OpenCape has deployed fiber deeper into the region, expanding the network from an initial 350 miles to 650 miles of fiber today, serving a growing number of Main Street businesses across the Cape.
Fort Worth, Texas, (est pop. 956,000) has struck a $7.5 million, 34-year contract with Dallas-based Sprocket Networks to construct a new 300-mile fiber optic backbone to shore up city municipal communications needs, expand affordable access to marginalized neighborhoods, and boost local economic development.
City officials say construction crews are expected to begin work sometime in the next three to six months, with the full network construction expected to cost $65 million and take three years to complete.
Services will first be made available to nine target neighborhoods (including Las Vegas Trail, Como, Marine Creek, Stop Six, Rosemont and Ash Crescent) on a rolling basis. Sprocket Networks will own the finished fiber network.
“This partnership was entered into with Sprocket with the hopes of eventually getting to universal service in Fort Worth,” Fort Worth IT Solutions director Kevin Gunn told ILSR in a phone interview. “We want the gold standard fiber optic connectivity: 100 megabits symmetric and up available at every doorstep, whether that's a senior family, multifamily or commercial.”
Gunn told ILSR that the city’s initial payment of $7.5 million to Sprocket consists of $4.5 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds, and $3 million from the North Central Texas Council Of Governments, which has allocated some of its transportation budget to broadband improvements the agency will benefit from.
In response to COVID era broadband inequities, the city of Fort Worth last year expanded free Wi-Fi access to 40,000 largely underserved city residents. Gunn indicated that those connections will be slowly phased out as the city transitions to fiber.
Blue River, Colorado (est. pop. 882) is the latest Colorado municipality to explore building its own broadband network with an eye on affordable access. The town is part of a trend that’s only accelerated since the state eliminated industry-backed state level protections restricting community-owned broadband networks.
Just south of Breckenridge in the central part of the state, Blue River is nestled in one of the more rural parts of Summit County. Comcast (Xfinity) enjoys a broadband monopoly, resulting in spotty access, slow speeds, and high prices. Locals also routinely complain that cell phone service remains spotty in much of the mountainous area.
In response, town leaders recently hired the consulting firm, NEO Connect, to explore the possibility of building a town-wide fiber network. According to a feasibility study presented to the Blue River Board of Trustees by Mayor Toby Babich, the construction of a fiber network serving every town resident will cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $13 million.
While that “may seem out of reach,” Babich recently told the board, “we believe with the right funding and partnership we can move forward with this project.”
The estimates for network construction range somewhere between $7 million to $24 million, depending on how much underground trenching work is required.
Pikeville, Kentucky (pop. 7,300) sits about 150 miles southeast of Lexington, in the extreme eastern part of the state. Today, after almost a decade of fighting with Internet Service Provider (ISP) Optimum about service so consistently poor that the city finally sued the provider, it’s working on an alternative: a partnership that will see the local government build new citywide fiber infrastructure and lease it to an operating partner.
A Tale As Old As Time
Publicly available data shows that, historically, about two-thirds of the city of Pikeville can take Internet service from Inter Mountain Cable - a regional provider with about 25,000 subscribers across Kentucky, West Virginia, and Virginia. Likewise, Optimum (formerly Suddenlink) offers cable service to about the same number of households. AT&T’s DSL service covers a little more than a quarter of town. Those living in the northern half of the city generally have better service options than those living in the southern half.
The path the city of Pikeville has taken began almost 15 years ago. In 2009, the local government signed a new, 10-year franchise agreement with Suddenlink. But when Altice (originally a French telecommunications company) bought Suddenlink back in 2015 to build its portfolio here in the United States, things quickly took a turn for the worse.
The Otter Creek Communications Union District (CUD) has been awarded a $9.9 million grant by the Vermont Community Broadband Board (VCBB). It’s the latest effort by the state to use CUDs to deliver affordable fiber broadband access to the long-neglected rural corners of Vermont.
According to the CUD’s announcement, the funding will help deploy affordable fiber access to roughly 4,100 homes and businesses by 2025. The fiber deployment will be done in partnership with Consolidated Communications, which says it has deployed fiber to 110,000 Vermont homes and businesses since 2021.
The deployment should ultimately bring broadband access to 85 percent of homes and businesses in the Otter Creek CUD area, which covers 17 towns and one city in and near Rutland, Vermont in the southwestern part of the state as 2,300 of the locations targeted by this latest round of funding currently have no access to any broadband service whatsoever.
“We’re excited to work collaboratively with Consolidated to bring future-proof Internet to the 18 communities within our CUD,” Otter Creek CUD Chair Laura Black said in a statement. “This funding will put us well on our way to meeting the goal of universal service in the Rutland region, bringing all the opportunities that come with reliable, high-speed internet. The Otter Creek CUD board is proud to be on the way to bringing the broadband infrastructure this community needs to participate in the global economy.”