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South Hampton Roads Issues RFP for Regional Open Access Fiber Ring
Hampton Roads, a metropolitan region bordering the Chesapeake Bay in southeastern Virginia, is known for its 17th century historical sites, shipyards crowded with naval aircraft carriers, and mile-long bridge tunnels. Home to 1.7 million Virginians, Hampton Roads is now looking to broaden avenues for economic development by leveraging existing transatlantic subsea broadband cables to transform the region into a technology-forward digital port. That’s why regional officials recently issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) seeking one or more private partner(s) to construct a regionally-owned 100-mile, open access fiber ring.
Private partners interested in responding to the RFP [pdf] must do so by August 24, 2021. Potential partners can decide to offer some or all of the project functions, choosing to: design, build, finance, operate, and/or maintain the regional fiber ring. (See instructions on how to respond to the RFP, as well as details on the selection process, under Section IV on Page 7.)
Five of the nine cities that make up the region colloquially referred to as “the 757” - Chesapeake, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Suffolk, and Virginia Beach - banded together to improve local fiber connectivity in 2018, forming the Southside Network Authority (the Authority).
According to the Authority's RFP, the project was undertaken to resolve the broadband issues faced by the cities, including:
a need for more and more affordable internal connectivity for governmental operations
equity and affordability concerns in general as compared to similar metropolitan areas
a perceived lack of responsiveness by incumbent providers to the needs of the business community and economic development prospects
a relative lack of broadband infrastructure by comparison to comparable metropolitan areas
and concerns about the security and scalability of existing, privately-owned regional networks
Fort Dodge Sets Municipal Broadband Plans in Motion, Promises to Invest Millions
Fort Dodge City Council is moving forward with a plan for a long-awaited municipal telecommunications utility project, adopting several resolutions Monday night that will allow the city to enter into a future loan agreement of up to $40 million for a fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) project.
“We need to get this up and running as fast as possible,” Councilman Dave Flattery said at the meeting.
The city currently depends largely on Mediacom and Frontier for broadband Internet access, both of which are among the lowest rated service providers by the American Consumer Satisfaction Survey.
Along with the future loan agreement, the council passed a resolution setting a timeline for bids on its Request for Quotes for the fiber network procurement materials. Proposals are due August 13th.
The council agreed to continue working with HR Green - an engineering firm that helps both private and public entities with a variety of engineering projects, including broadband, across the country - on the design and construction plans for the network.
The city will pay HRGreen $1.7 million spread over three phases of the project for its services, with hopes to start construction on the fiber-to-the-home project by the summer of 2022.
The meeting also included the proposed rates for potential services, starting at 100 Megabits per second (Mbps) symmetrical for $75/month and 1 Gigabit per second (Gbps) symmetrical for $95/month for residential services. Businesses that sign up for symmetrical service from one of three tiers: 100 Mbps for $100/month, 250 Mbps for $250/month, and 1 Gbps for $500/month.
Waukegan, Illinois Broadband Task Force Issues RFP for Public-Private Partnership
Less than six months after its creation and a year after the city of Waukegan, Illinois (pop. 89,000) began exploring options to improve connectivity in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, a Request for Proposals (RFP) has been issued by the Waukegan Broadband Task Force in search of qualified applicants to assist in the creation of a broadband master plan. Applications are due June 30th, 2021.
Waukegan is situated about halfway between Chicago and Milwaukee, along the west coast of Lake Michigan. A 2020 initial broadband assessment showed challenges related to price, devices, digital skills for remote learning, and a lack of coordination to get income-qualified residents onto incumbent ISP's low-income plans. The city is served by a patchwork of ISPs, including cable from Comcast, DSL from AT&T and TDS, and fixed wireless from Rise Broadband with starting prices on plans ranging from $30/month to $60/month.
The Task Force website outlines the group's goals and stakes for the community:
There are few cities with the opportunities that exist within Waukegan. However, to truly become a ‘City of Progress’ , Waukegan must take the critical steps necessary to achieve its great potential. While 2020 brought challenges to communities around the globe, it also presented opportunities for innovation, collaboration, change and growth. The Waukegan Community Broadband Taskforce is an open, collective impact inititative of committed community stakeholders for all residents, businesses, institutions interested in working together to create a path to the future.
The RFP calls for solutions addressing access, adoption and utilization, sustainable funding, and communication and community engagement with a particular focus on remote learning, telehealth, and economic development.
The steering committee for the task force is made up of a collection of local nonprofits, the public library, the community center, city officials, and the school district. Funding for the master plan will come from private contributions.
Applicants can direct questions to email@example.com by 5pm on June 6th, with full RFPs due by June 30th.
Cumberland County, Maine Issues RFP Exploring Regional Approach to Improve Internet Access
Numerous towns located in a region of southeastern Maine dubbed “Paddler’s Paradise” by outdoor adventurers and watersports fans are exploring more collaborative ways to improve local Internet connectivity. The Greater Portland Council of Governments (GPCOG) recently issued a request for proposal [pdf] on behalf of several towns located in the Sebago Lakes region of Cumberland County, Maine. Proposals are due May 31st.
GPCOG, in partnership with Cumberland County, the Community Concepts Finance Corporation, and the Northern Forest Center, is seeking technical assistance to coordinate a regional, multi-town approach to better broadband.
Upon embarking on individual, citywide approaches to improve Internet access, the towns of Bridgton, Denmark, Fryeburg, Harrison, Naples, Raymond, Sebago and Standish recognized that a regional approach would improve efficiency and speed efforts.
(See chart, right, which details the preliminary, planning stages that have been completed by communities, and which they have yet to address.)
The coalition is interested in selecting one or more broadband consultants to coordinate the individualized approaches of each of the towns. Consultants will be tasked with combining and building upon the assets of each to develop a regional proposal for a faster and more coordinated buildout of networks.
Read the full RFP here [pdf].
Goals of the Proposal
NYC Internet Master Plan Offers Strategy for Metro Cities Confronting Broadband Monopolies
The pandemic exacerbated extreme economic, racial, and social disparities that have long characterized New York City neighborhoods. When the pandemic hit, the "City That Never Sleeps" experienced the worst single-year job decline since the 1930s, with communities of color bearing the brunt of the disease itself in addition to the rising levels of unemployment, lack of affordable housing, and food insecurity it brought on.
Aiming to alleviate these deeply-entrenched challenges, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio formed the Taskforce on Racial Inclusion and Equity last April to survey community organizations in NYC districts most severely impacted by COVID-19. As that work got underway, taskforce co-chair Deputy Mayor Phil Thompson kept hearing a resounding call for access to the Internet. Three months into the pandemic, de Blasio reported that 18 percent of all New Yorkers, more than 1.5 million city residents, had neither a home or a mobile connection, mainly due to issues of affordability.
In response to the public outcry, Mayor de Blasio set to work enacting New York City’s Internet Master Plan, starting with a $157 million initiative which will direct public and private investment to fund broadband infrastructure and expand low-cost or no-cost Internet access to 600,00 New Yorkers, including 200,000 city residents living in public housing, within 18 months.
Vermont House Backs $150 Million Broadband Plan
A bill dedicating $150 million of anticipated federal funding to create a new state broadband office to coordinate and accelerate the expansion of high-speed Internet access throughout Vermont passed the State House of Representatives last week with overwhelming bipartisan support.
On March 24th, the Vermont House approved H.B. 360 by a vote of 145-1, backing the creation of the Vermont Community Broadband Authority. If the bill becomes law it would help fund and organize the deployment of broadband infrastructure between Vermont’s nine Communications Union Districts (CUDs) and their potential partners, which include electric distribution utilities, nonprofit organizations, the federal government, and private Internet Service Providers (ISPs).
The bill was introduced in the state Senate last Friday, and discussed for the first time in the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday.
Enabled by a 2015 law, CUDs are local governmental bodies consisting of two or more towns joined together to build communications infrastructure. They were established to create innovative solutions to build broadband networks and provide a combination of Fiber-to-the-Home and fixed wireless Internet connectivity in their respective territories across Vermont, especially in areas where incumbent ISPs fail to provide adequate service.
Vermont’s CUDs, which have called for federal funding assistance since the onset of the pandemic, are ideally positioned to distribute funds in a way that will provide reliable and high-performance Internet access to every nook-and-cranny of the state. Vermont’s active CUDs have already constructed deep pockets of fiber.
Whether or not the CUDs will be able to reach the state’s goal of delivering universal 100/100 Megabits per second (Mbps) Internet service by 2024 now rests in the hands of Vermont’s Senate, Congress, and the Biden Administration as state and federal lawmakers wrestle with how to best expand access to broadband.
DV Fiber Issues Request for Proposals To Bring Fiber to 20 Towns in Southern Vermont
DVFiber, a Communications Union District in southern Vermont representing 20 towns looking to build a Fiber-to-the-Premises (FTTP) network to more than 10,000 unserved and underserved households in the region, has issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) in search of private sector groups interested in a public-private partnership agreement.
The CUD envisions completing all connections by 2024 in two or three phases, with major progress made in the first year. The RFP provides detailed information on member towns for respondents, identifies possible funding identified by its Governing Board, and sets expectations for the resulting network. It sets a deadline for responses of March 26th, 2021.
“We are laser-focused on securing affordable, equitable high-speed Internet in our communities,” DVFiber Chair Ann Manwaring said in October of 2020. “The COVID pandemic has clarified this vital need, for education, for healthcare, for business. We are grateful for the support we have earned to date.”
On Cape Cod, Falmouth Considers Adding Fiber to its Digital Diet
Cape Cod, a peninsula in southeastern Massachusetts that juts out into the Atlantic Ocean like a flexed arm, has long been known as a top summer vacation destination and upscale retirement haven going back to when JFK launched his Presidential campaign from his family’s Hyannisport homestead.
During the height of the summer tourist season the population swells to over a million people as visitors from all over the world come to enjoy its picturesque beaches as well as its trails, shops, and seafood. And while the region’s economy is reliant on tourism, the Cape is home to 250,000 year-round residents spread out across 1,306 square miles in 15 towns, many of whom would like to see the regional economy become more diversified, even if the decades-old vision of transforming it into the “silicon sandbar” remains a pipe dream.
What members of a fledgling citizens group in the town of Falmouth have in mind may not be as grandiose as a “silicon sandbar,” but this week they got evidence that their vision of building a municipal-owned Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network is no pipe dream.
Falmouth Feasibility Study
In the summer of 2019, David Isenberg – a longtime Falmouth resident, a former Bell Labs scientist, and Senior Advisor to the FCC’s National Broadband Plan – along with a handful of other residents formed the citizens group pushing for a FTTH network in Falmouth. They went before the town’s Economic Development and Industrial Corporation (EDIC) to lay out their vision. The group noted that Falmouth, the second-largest town on Cape Cod with a population of about 30,000 year-round residents, could do what 16 other Off-Cape Massachusetts towns have done – build a locally-controlled Internet access network. Then and there, Falmouth EDIC approved $50,000 for the study, concluding that “all sectors of Falmouth’s economy require reliable, high-speed Internet service.”
The results of the study conducted by CCG Consultants were released this week. The study found that more than 60% of residents and many businesses would subscribe, and that it would be financially feasible to build and operate the envisioned network.
The Ohio Valley Regional Development Commission is Hiring a Broadband Planning Coordinator
The Ohio Valley Regional Development Commission (OVRDC) has an ongoing RFP [pdf] to hire a Broadband Planning Coordinator to perform asset inventory, mapping, and an analysis of existing wireline and wireless network in a twelve-county region. It’s part of a $400,000 grant the commission received as part of CARES funding that will, in part, look for ways to expand and upgrade broadband connectivity options in support of manufacturing, telehealth, distance learning, and economic recovery in the region following the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.
John Hemmings, Executive Director of the Ohio Valley Regional Development Commission, said of the grant and position:
We are appreciative of the Economic Development Administration in assisting us with recovery efforts associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. For many years, OVRDC has been a champion of better broadband service in our region and throughout Appalachia and rural Ohio. COVID-19 put on display quite clearly the shortcomings and broadband issues we suffer from in our region. With this grant, we look forward to evaluating the impact of COVID-19 on our tourism sector. We are hopeful through this assistance we can advance efforts to remedy these situations in the OVRDC region.
Interested individuals and firms will work with existing stakeholders to provide a comprehensive look at the state of broadband and opportunities for expansion in support of the above efforts across Adams, Brown, Clermont, Fayette, Gallia, Highland, Jackson, Lawrence, Pike, Ross, Scioto and Vinton Counties. They cluster south of Columbus along the state’s southern border. The OVRDC “coordinates federal, state and local resources to encourage development and improve quality of life by offering technical assistance, planning and support for economic development, community development and transportation projects.”
Order in the Virtual Court: FairlawnGig Issues RFQ for Government Ring Expansion into Summit County, Ohio
Local governments have been creative in finding ways to conduct work remotely during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, conducting city council meetings via Zoom or congregating in football stadiums to vote on referendums. Soon, Summit County, Ohio and the city of Akron will be better equipped to do similar work. Both have passed council measures approving an agreement with the neighboring city of Fairlawn to expand the latter’s municipal network southeast, and create a fiber ring connecting county- and city-level criminal justice and public safety buildings. The Summit County Criminal Justice Technology Project, which will be complete by the end of the year, is designed to facilitate court proceedings and public safety work remotely in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
A Burnin' Ring of Fiber
FairlawnGig, the municipal network run by the city of the same name, has issued a Request for Qualifications to design and build the network extension it will then manage. The ring will consist of 20 miles of mostly 864-strand fiber (with some places getting 24-strand additions or upgrades) and the $6.5 million cost will be paid for by Summit County (the money is coming from CARES Act funds).
Summit County Executive Ilene said of the investment:
COVID-19 has forced us to rethink how government operates and delivers services. As we begin to adjust to life with the virus, we have to consider how to safely and efficiently meet the needs of our community. This project prioritizes both safety and efficiency.