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Berthoud, Colorado, population 11,717, is the latest Colorado community to explore community broadband alternatives to expand public access to affordable fiber. Currently in the process of crafting a request for quote (RFQ), the city tells ILSR it hopes to make its final determination by November and have a preliminary plan in place by the end of the year.
Originally, Berthoud had planned on forming a coalition with three neighboring Colorado towns (Johnstown, Mead and Milliken) in a bid to expand access. That plan involved striking a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Lincoln, Nebraska based Allo Communications, to deliver fiber to every address within three years.
But city leaders say the original plan wasn’t meant to be.
“The four communities did not strike a deal with Allo,” Berthoud Business Development Manager Walt Elish told ILSR. “We could not come to terms. Since then, we have looked at other options, including a town-owned network.”
As with many towns and counties, the high cost of a municipally owned broadband network has the city examining different options, including a potential public private partnership (PPP) with existing providers. PPPs are increasingly common but can have their downsides, including less municipal control over pricing or the potential trajectory of the finished network.
Decorah, Iowa is moving forward on a long-percolating plan to expand the city’s core fiber ring to provide affordable broadband access to long-neglected residents and businesses.
While the project has been discussed for years, local officials tell ISLR the project gained renewed momentum during peak COVID, and is creeping closer to launch.
Contracts are still being finalized as the city hopes to spend somewhere around $12 to $15 million to deliver fiber to all 3,000 potential subscriber locations. The full project would take about three years to deliver fiber to all 7,740 city residents, with the first subscribers potentially coming online this fall.
“Decorah has been in pursuit of fiber to the premises for the last 8 to 9 plus years and we finally have broken through some of our challenges on how to get to the finish line,” Chopper Albert, Decorah IT Director told ISLR.
According to Albert, Decorah’s recent progress is thanks in part to new City Manager Travis Goedken, who has long advocated for expanding the city’s existing fiber network to drive affordable fiber access citywide.
New City Management Team Pushes Forward
Since 2013 the city has owned an 11-mile core fiber network, dubbed the Decorah MetroNet. MetroNet was born out of frustration after a major flood in 2008 across much of Iowa resulted in prolonged communications network outages.
MetroNet (not to be confused with the Indiana-based ISP that goes by the same name) currently provides access to Luther College and 18 additional government buildings and anchor institutions.
The city of Dublin, Ohio has struck a public private partnership with altafiber (formerly known as Cincinnati Bell) to build a new citywide fiber network city leaders hope will finally deliver the kind of affordable, next-generation broadband access Dublin’s 50,000 residents have long been clamoring for.
In 2022 the city issued a request for proposal (RFP) looking for a partner on a citywide network build. At a June 26 meeting, the Dublin city council voted unanimously to select altafiber from a roster of seven potential applicants.
According to the arrangement, construction of the city network is expected to begin in Spring of 2024, with every premise in Dublin passed by a 10 gigabit per second (Gbps) capable network within three years. A select number of undetermined customers are expected to be brought online sometime in the latter part of next year, officials tell ILSR.
A city press release notes that altafiber will invest $35 million in the fiber network, as well as potentially providing the infrastructure necessary to help the city support either public Wi-Fi initiatives or a City Innovation Center. The city says it will pay about $6 million to bury the necessary fiber infrastructure citywide.
Just as the BEAD program becomes a major driving force in the ongoing broadband-ification of America, hundreds of local network builders, operators, thought-leaders, and policy-makers will descend on Denver, Colorado for Mountain Connect 2023 early next month.
Themed this year as “Collaborate, Integrate, Innovate,” the agenda is packed with plenty of BEAD-centered panels but also offers a buffet of other focused forums that will cover emerging technologies, local network case studies, and larger community development concerns.
Spots for the conference, which will be held August 7-9 at the Denver Sheraton, are filling up fast. But, would-be attendees can still register here.
As with the previous eight annual Mountain Connect conferences, this year’s three-day conference in the Mile High City will bring together a veritable who’s-who of people working in the trenches of a national effort to bring high-speed Internet access to the tens of millions unserved and underserved households and businesses across the U.S.
Among the conference participants will be representatives from 15 state broadband offices, which accounts for more than $15 of the $42.5 billion in BEAD funds that will be allocated by states in the form of competitive state grants.
Today, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) announced how it will allocate $42.5 billion in BEAD funds to all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and five territories.
At an “Investing in America” event today at the White House, President Biden noted that this “biggest investment in high-speed Internet ever” was noteworthy “because for today’s economy to work for everyone, Internet access is just as important as electricity was, or water or other basic services.”
And in a press statement, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communication and Information Alan Davidson, who is overseeing the NTIA program, added: “This is a watershed moment for millions of people across America who lack access to a high-speed Internet connection. Access to Internet service is necessary for work, education, healthcare, and more. States can now plan their Internet access grant programs with confidence and engage with communities to ensure this money is spent where it is most needed.”
Our initial reaction is as follows:
"The BEAD allocations amount to the largest ever single federal investment to deploy needed Internet infrastructure across the United States. The question now is: how many states will maximize the moment and be inclusive of municipal broadband, public-private partnerships, and community-driven initiatives vs. those states who will simply dole out the funds to the big monopoly providers and hope for the best?”
With the construction of its 65-mile dark fiber backbone nearly complete, city officials in Boulder, Colorado are now ready to move into the next phase of their plan: test the waters for a partnership with private or nonprofit Internet service providers (ISPs) to build out a citywide fiber network to deliver last mile service to the city’s 104,000 residents and businesses.
Last week, the city issued a Request for Information (RFI) “to gauge the interest of for-profit and nonprofit entities in forming a public–private partnership (PPP) with the city to make Gigabit per second-class bandwidth available to all Boulder homes and businesses.”
“As we prepare for further City Council discussion on a future community broadband operating model, it is imperative that we understand the market potential for a PPP (public-private partnership) to meet the city’s goals related to connectivity. We look forward to responses that consider a variety of business models to share technological and operational responsibilities and financial risk with the city in innovative ways,” Innovation and Technology Deputy Director Mike Giansanti said in a press statement when the RFI was issued.
The city is looking for a partner or partners that will come to table with new ideas, create competition, and either fully fund or share costs.
Having prioritized a city-wide fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) build, city officials have identified two main goals: serve the growing demand for “affordable, reliable, and sophisticated broadband technology; and support a thriving business environment.”
Responses to the RFI are due by May 19 at 4 pm MDT.
City officials say they will consider a range of construction and operation designs as well as a variety of ownership models as the City Council will likely vote on the path forward and the execution of a contract sometime this year.
Lewis County, Washington and the Lewis County Public Utility District (PUD) are making progress with their plan to deploy an open access fiber network that should dramatically boost broadband competition—and lower prices—county wide by 2026.
In November 2019, Lewis County PUD received a $50,000 grant from the Community Economic Revitalization Board (CERB) to study the county’s broadband shortcomings and determine whether taking direct action to address them made sense. In early 2020, the PUD formed the Lewis County Broadband Action Team (BAT) to further study community needs.
Those inquiries found what most U.S. communities know too well: concentrated monopolization had left county residents overpaying for substandard, expensive, and spotty broadband access unsuitable for modern living.
In response, the Lewis County PUD announced in 2021 it would be building an 134-mile-long fiber backbone and open access fiber network for around $104 million. Around $23.5 million of that total will be paid for by a recently awarded grant by the Washington State Department of Commerce, itself made possible by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).
Back in January, Colorado Springs Utilities (CSU) announced it was going to begin building a city-wide, open access fiber network owned, and that Ting would be its first anchor tenant. Construction of the network is expected to begin in the third quarter of this year, with a target completion date of 2028 (originally planned for fifteen years). The network will provide multi-gigabit service to roughly 200,000 homes as well as city businesses and anchor institutions. It’s still early in the process, but projections at the moment have the utility spending $45 million to $100 million a year for the next six years to complete the project. The first phase will see 225 new fiber route miles laid.
CSU Has Long Used Fiber
For thirty years CSU has built fiber across Colorado’s second-largest city. CSU’s dramatic expansion of this existing network directly benefits the utility by reducing overall costs, improving infrastructure monitoring, and boosting overall utility network resiliency. And it all will come with no rate increases to CSU electric customers.
But the company’s decision to lease access to this fiber expansion also directly aids the local community by lowering consumer utility costs, and delivering universal, affordable, high-speed Internet access. It’s a significant boon to Colorado’s second largest city that’s now an attractive, high-tech growth market.
From New York City to Newfield in Upstate New York, local officials in the Empire State have kicked off projects to connect the unconnected to high-speed Internet service.
The biggest of those projects is underway in New York City as Mayor Bill de Blasio recently delivered an early Christmas present for city dwellers who want to see a term-limit set on the digital divide in the Big Apple.
America’s most populous metropolis (est. pop. 8.6 million) is investing $157 million to build publicly owned, open access broadband infrastructure that will lay the groundwork local officials say will enable high-speed wireless Internet access for up to 1.6 million city residents over the next 36 months.
Even as the city is on track to bring free or low-cost Internet service to 40,000 residents living in 18 New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) developments by the end of the year, this latest initiative aims to expand the city’s existing fiber infrastructure while drawing on minority and women-owned Internet Service Providers to help deliver “fast, reliable, and affordable connectivity options to an additional 70,000 NYCHA residents and 150,000 residents in the surrounding communities by early 2022,” the Mayor’s Office explained in a press release announcing the initiative.
“Broadband isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity,” de Blasio said. “We are closing the digital divide and bringing our city into the 21st century by reaching communities most in need.”
New York City Chief Technology Officer John Paul Farmer characterized the effort as evidence that city officials are “transforming the broadband marketplace.”
No matter your zip code, every New Yorker deserves an equal opportunity to participate in building our shared future. The New York City Internet Master Plan has enabled the Big Apple’s unprecedented progress in promoting digital equity and making that idealistic vision a practical reality. New York City’s bold new approach delivers cross-sector partnerships, incorporates cutting-edge technologies, upgrades performance, and ensures affordability for residents and businesses.
Mobilizing ‘NYC Internet Master Plan’