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Highlands, North Carolina, Issues RFP for Community Network Administrator
From the mountains of western North Carolina, the Town of Highlands has issued a request for proposals (RFP) in search of a network administrator for its Fiber-to-the-Home and fixed wireless network, Altitude Community Broadband.
The town began the network in 2015, after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) struck down a state law that prevented local governments from building broadband networks. However, the FCC ruling was later overturned by a federal court, and now the city is on the hunt for a private partner to lease and operate its network.
Proposals are due Friday, September 4 at 3 p.m. eastern time.
Altitude’s Highs and Lows
Highlands has a year-round population of only about 1,000 people, but the town and surrounding area balloon in size to nearly 20,000 during the summer when seasonal residents and tourists flock to the region for the cool mountain climate and outdoor recreation opportunities.
The community founded Altitude in 2015, when the state restriction on municipal broadband was briefly overturned by the FCC before being reinstated by a federal court. The North Carolina law in question, HB 129, places various requirements and limitations on cities that want to invest in broadband, with the effect of basically prohibiting municipal networks in the state. For an in-depth look at HB 129, listen to Community Broadband Bits episode 412. (It’s a two-parter!)
Shelby, Ohio, Seeks Consultants for Feasibility Study, Proposals Due Dec. 20
Shelby, a community of about 9,300 people located in north central Ohio, has recently released a Request for Proposals (RFP) for a Broadband Needs Assessment and Feasibility Study. The municipality is exploring new ways to improve local connectivity. Proposals are due December 20th.
Incumbents Spectrum Cable and CenturyLink offer services in the community, but as we've seen in other places, lack of affordability, slow speeds, and poor customer service encourage interest in publicly owned options. According to the RFP, Internet service provider Everstream owns fiber optic assets in Shelby and operates a fiber hub within a facility owned by the city. Everstream provides Internet access to the city and community leaders have approached Everstream about expanding the network to businesses and residents. Shelby wants to explore all possibilities, however, so decided to commission a feasibility study. From the RFP:
The City considers a modern digital infrastructure to be a critical component of a competitive city of the future and wishes to ensure that it is well positioned to meet the current and future needs of its residents, businesses and anchor institutions.
This project will result in the production of a Feasibility Study containing a residential needs assessment, business needs assessment, and deployment cost estimates. The desired outcome of this planning effort is to provide a tool for the City to establish if Shelby residents and businesses want this service, determine a successful deployment strategy and the associated cost to implement fiber to the premises (“FTTP”) within the City, and assess whether such project will be sufficiently supported by customer rates to justify the investment in this infrastructure.
Shelby is looking for a firm that will provide a feasibility study that includes:
Needs assessment: In addition to examining the current needs for residents and businesses, the consultants will develop projections of potential broadband services with Everstream or other service providers. The firm selected should examine regional efforts in addition to local options.
Okanogan County Broadband Action Team Seeks Consultant for Strategic Planning in Washington
Okanogan County and the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation are working together in central Washington to bring last mile broadband connectivity to the region. The partners have created the Broadband Action Team (BAT) and are working step by step to develop fast, affordable, reliable Internet access for about 42,000 people in the area. They recently released a Request for Proposals (RFP) as they search for a firm to help develop a County and Tribal Broadband Strategic Plan. Proposals are due November 26th, 2019.
In the Face of Difficulties
Okanogan County and the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation have contended with significant challenges. According to the RFP:
Much of Okanogan County, including the Colville Reservation within Okanogan County, is plagued with high unemployment, excessive poverty, and an absence of quality of life amenities that have proven to be undesirable to most residents and insurmountable barriers to 21st century economic and community development. Okanogan County and the Colville Confederated Tribes are historically and economically a distressed area. Historically, the surrounding areas within Okanogan County have been dependent on a resource-based economy. Community and economic resources have decreased dramatically as a substantial as the Omak Mill, closed. Many individuals have struggled to find work elsewhere and have either had to move, find government work, or start their own business.
Like many other communities that have decided it’s time to diversify their economy, leaders have determined that improving connectivity is necessary for economic development. Other livability issues, such as public safety, educational opportunities, and distance learning will improve in the region with the Internet access that people now lack.
Both parties also believe that this project will help strengthen their ability to jointly collect data regarding other infrastructure needs in the area. The county and the tribe want to pursue planning for other projects and work together.
Methow Valley Broadband Action Team Seeks Planning Proposals for Better Broadband in Central Washington
In central Washington, the Methow Valley, Okanogan County, and the Colville Confederated Tribes Broadband Action Teams (BAT) are teaming up to improve connectivity and shrink the digital divide across the Methow Valley. As part of the process the BAT has released a Request for Proposals (RFP) for technical assessment and technical implementation planning to help them meet their goals. Deadline for proposals is September 30th, but the BAT has indicated that they will grant an extension upon request.
Methow Valley boasts its scenic treasures, including the North Cascades National Park and the Columbia River. Tourists visit the region for hiking, mountain biking, cross-country skiing, and vibrant arts scene. Like other similarly situated communities where natural beauty is an important feature, high-quality Internet access is difficult to come by.
According to the RFP:
Many residents of the Methow Valley live below the poverty line and have limited access to affordable, high-speed Internet services. This lack of access has impacts on education, economic growth and viability, emergency services, and quality of life. Simply put, this area lacks reliable wide-spread broadband access necessary to overcome these challenges.
In September, the Washington State Department of Commerce's Community Revitalization Board awarded a $50,000 grant to the BAT and the Twisp Public Development Authority (PDA) to dig deeper into the need for broadband service in the Methow Valley. Okanogan County provided a match of $16,667 to secure the state grant. The funding has allowed the BAT to move forward on this project.
Read more in the TwispPDA Methow Valley Position Paper [PDF] here.
In 2018, the BAT began working toward better connectivity by creating a work plan, seeking out stakeholders, and obtaining community input. This year, they wish to expand on their planning process and conduct a technical assessment. In order to complete this phase of the plan, the BAT wants a consultant who will:
Spring Hill, Kansas, Seeks FTTP Deployment Partner
Spring Hill, Kansas, recently released a Request for Proposal (RFP) as they search for a partner to help them develop gigabit connectivity throughout the community. Deadline for responses is September 30, 2019.
Gigabit Fiber the Best Bet
The city received the results of a feasibility study in early 2018 and consultants recommended some policy changes to encourage a broadband friendly environment. CTC Energy and Technology also noted that a fixed wireless system was not a cost-effective way to provide ubiquitous connectivity to the community. The firm suggested that Spring Hill consider dark fiber infrastructure and a public-private partnership.
In 2017, Spring Hill also distributed an informal survey to residents and businesses. The results revealed that, even though the community is considered part of the Kansas City metropolitan area, there are pockets where people have no Internet access. Other issues include problem neighborhoods where speeds are slow and businesses have no access to fiber. In these areas, local establishments are paying high rates for unreliable, marginally faster speeds.
Community leaders in Spring Hill consider broadband an essential utility that should connect every premise. As part of their vision, they “intend to empower our residents and local businesses to be network economy producers— not just consumers of network information and data services.”
What Spring Hill Seeks
The partner the city chooses should be prepared for a long term relationship and should be ready to help Spring Hill achieve three goals of the project:
Cleveland Heights, Ohio, Releases RFP for Broadband Needs Assessment and Feasibility Study
When we last shared news from Cleveland Heights, Ohio, community leaders were beginning to discuss the possibilities of a community network. Over the past 15 months, people in the city of around 46,000 have become committed to the idea of choosing the most effective path. Recently, Cleveland Heights released a Request for Proposals (RFP) for Broadband Needs Assessment and Feasibility Study. Responses are due September 13, 2019.
Looking at Options
As in other communities, Cleveland Heights wants to know what options they have and the advantages and disadvantages that accompany each. In order to obtain a complete picture of how best to approach the gigabit network they want for the community, city leadership wants the firm they hire to provide a range of information, including:
- Needs Assessment
- Infrastructure and Deployment Recommendations
- Governance and Ownership Strategy
- Funding Sources
- Business and Financial Expectations
In addition to determining the current need for broadband in the community, Cleveland Heights wants to understand how they can prepare for future demands. Community leaders are interested in hearing multiple strategies for deployment and technology options and want to ensure that both businesses and residents benefit from the investment. Cleveland Heights also wants the firm they hire to provide information on funding sources that include local, state, and federal opportunities.
City decision makers want detailed analysis about potential models for a publicly owned community network and expect detailed evaluation for review. They’re also interested in learning about how a public-private partnership might work in the community. Cleveland Heights wants the consultants they hire to determine how best to engage the community in the process, educate them on potential pitfalls, and find ways to eliminate the local digital divide.
Cleveland Heights Residents Want a Muni
Falmouth Issues Feasibility Study RFP, Responses Due August 12
The community of Falmouth, Massachusetts, continues to march forward with their plans to find a way to bring better connectivity to the coastal town. Falmouth Economic Development & Industrial Corporation (EDIC) recently issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) for a feasibility study for a community network. Proposals are due August 12, 2019.
The RFP follows a June 4th meeting attended by about 80 people and a vote from the EDIC a week later to commit $50,000 toward the study. The meeting allowed people in the community to obtain information about the pros and cons of municipal networks and explore the possibilities for Falmouth.
Executive Director of the EDIC F. Michael DiGiano provided some important facts about the community and the vision for Falmouth:
Falmouth is a coastal community located on Cape Cod in Massachusetts, with a year population of 32,000 and a summer population of more than 105,000. The Town is home to several world-class scientific research organizations, including the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, the Marine Biological Laboratory, and research centers for NOAA and USGS.
Many businesses and residents experience service problems with the current broadband system especially in summer months when the population triples. The purpose of the feasibility study is determine the viability of a locally owned broadband network that would offer reliable service for the needs of both residential and commercial customers throughout the year.
Comcast offers cable Internet access and DSL is available from Verizon in many areas of town, but neither coverage is ubiquitous. OpenCape maintains a presence in Falmouth, offering services to institutions, including schools and libraries, and to larger businesses. In a few areas of town, OpenCape has started offering residential and small business connectivity in mixed-use buildings. Falmouth hopes the presence of OpenCape fiber in the city will help implement a more cost effective and efficient deployment.
Falmouth Needs Answers
The community is looking for a firm that will:
Ferry County, Washington, Seeks Broadband Consultant, Responses Due July 12th
Ferry County, located in the eastern region of Washington and along the northern border, recently released a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for a Broadband Consultant. Responses are due July 12th, 2019.
Trees Abound, Broadband Absent
Much of Ferry County is home to the Colville National Forest and timber has been one of the main sources of the local economy. Like other areas where forests cover great swaths of the countryside, broadband is either expensive or has never been deployed. There are about 7,600 people living on Ferry County's 2,257 square miles.
In addition to timber, other resource-based industries have traditionally offered jobs to locals, but as those resources have depleted, employment opportunities have decreased. Without reliable broadband, many local residents have struggled to make ends meet.
The Colville Indian Reservation is located within Ferry County and controlled by the Colville Confederated Tribes. Like much of the rest of the county, the reservation faces economic distress; residents have faced the prospect of moving in order to find work. Lacking the same access to broadband, the Tribes have joined forces with the county to form the Ferry County and Colville Confederated Tribes Broadband Action Team (BAT).
The BAT formed in April 2018 and began reaching out to stakeholders such as Washington State University - Ferry County (WSU), Microsoft, and the State of Washington. They aim to boost economic development, improve educational opportunities, enhance telemedicine, and expand other initiatives through broadband that will improve the quality of life in Ferry County.
Obtaining an Expert
Microsoft’s Airband Initiative and Declaration Network Group are already involved in the process and the consultant will work with them on data collection and analysis. The Airband Initiative uses TV white spaces to deliver connectivity. Learn more about the initiative from Christopher's conversation with Public Knowledge's Harold Feld, episode 262 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast.
Culver City, California, Seeking Network Operator; Proposals Due June 27th
Last July, Culver City finished deploying their fiber optic backbone which they began developing in 2016. Now, the town of 40,000 people is looking for a firm to handle operation and maintenance, as well as marketing and development of the open access infrastructure, Culver Connect. They’ve issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) and responses are due June 27th.
Read the complete Proposal Instructions for Fiber Network Operations.
Economic Development, Education, Efficiency
Local businesses had expressed a need for better connectivity and in 2013, the city worked with CTC Technology & Energy to develop a preliminary design and business plan. With tech-focused employers, such as Apple and Sony Pictures, Culver City is located in the “heart of Silicon Beach.” Fast, affordable, reliable connectivity is critical to attract similar employers and retain the ones that have found a home in Culver City.
The city also developed the network to provide better connectivity to the Culver City Unified School District, serving approximately 6,500 students. Creating administrative efficiencies by connecting municipal facilities is an added benefit.
The city developed a three-ring, underground network; the interconnected rings ensure redundancy. Culver City leases two connections to carrier hotels One Wilshire in Los Angeles and Equinox in El Segundo. In addition to the existing 21.7-mile backbone, the city is in the process of working through plans to build laterals to multi-tenant commercial properties.
The Open Access Model
Culver City will maintain ownership of the infrastructure and would like to keep the open access model, but will consider other options from respondents. They specify in the RFP that they want to maintain dark fiber to lease to institutions and businesses.
Culver City is open to ideas and wants to hear more about innovative proposals that might be out there.
Maine’s "Youngest City" Issues RFP for Broadband Plan; Proposals Due April 26th
Over the past few years, many cities in the rural state of Maine have begun exploring ways to improve local connectivity. Following in their footsteps, Biddeford has recently released a Request for Proposals (RFP) to assess Internet access in the community and develop a Broadband Plan. The RFP specifically notes this plan should include information on increasing digital inclusion in the city. Proposals are due April 26th.
Background on Biddeford
Biddeford (pop. 21,000) lies 15 miles south of Portland along the coast of Maine. Throughout much of the city’s history, textile mills were a major part of the local economy. After the decline of the textile industry in the region, the city redeveloped many of the abandoned mills and made attempts to revitalize the downtown area, resulting in a robust arts and food scene that belies the city’s modest size. (Eater even named a Biddeford restaurant as one of the “18 Best New Restaurants in America.”) These efforts, as well as a lower cost of living, have helped attract younger people to the area, making Biddeford Maine’s "youngest city" with a median age of 35.