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Redding, California, Looks to Local Opinions About Publicly Owned Network
As Redding, California, aims to bring better connectivity to businesses and residents, they're looking to locals for advice on how to move forward.
As we reported in April, community leaders voted to proceed with a pilot project in their downtown area. Economic development in the downtown area drove the plan, but reducing the cost of Internet access through a publicly owned network and the availability of a more reliable, faster service generated force behind the project.
In April, the city council decided to explore possibilities and now they're interested in finding out the public's interest in a citywide network for residents. The Vice Mayor, City Manager, and staff from Redding held a public meeting in late November to share information with locals about possibilities.
"Fiber is an essential element of the future and its economy," Tippin said. "Vice Council Macaulay brought this forward to council and we agreed that we should study this so we've hired consultants and we've been doing a study - looking into cost, what elements should be required and whether it would be beneficial from a community standpoint."
In order to determine the public's feelings on whether they agree Tippin, the city is asking Redding residents to complete a simple online survey. The survey is six questions about perceived value, current options, and respondents' likelihood of supporting a municipal fiber optic network project.
An Existing Advantage
Tupper Lake, New York, Surveys Community for Broadband Future
Located in the far north of New York State and with only around 3,700 residents, Tupper Lake can enjoy the Adirondacks and natural beauty. Spectrum Cable and Verizon offer services in the community, but community leaders are exploring better options. The only way to begin is at the beginning, of course, and their Broadband Committee recently launched a survey for residents and business owners.
According to the Adirondack Daily Enterprise:
The survey will be mailed out to around 120 businesses already near the Development Authority of the North Country’s existing fiber optic line, and residents can fill it out online by visiting tupperlakeny.gov and clicking the “take the survey here” link before Dec. 31.
The 11-question survey is described as an “exploratory first step” in fiber optic expansion. DANC has already brought fiber optic internet access to Tupper Lake schools, the Wild Center nature museum and the Municipal Park, so the initial lines are already in the ground.
The committee includes volunteers from local businesses, government, and community development organizations.
Fiber optic infrastructure from schools and other community anchor institutions have served as the foundation on which other communities have expanded networks to businesses, municipal facilities, and households. The federal E-rate Program provides funding to schools for telecommunications expenses, including infrastructure deployment, and is based on the percentage of students in a district that qualify for the free and reduced lunch program.
Places such as Ottawa and Chanute in Kansas both developed fiber optic networks for economic development with school fiber as an important foundation. Chanute decide this past summer to extend its publicly owned fiber infrastrucutre to two residential neighborhoods in order to develop a pilot Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) pilot project.
Quincy Getting Serious About Municipal Fiber in Massachusetts
Quincy, Massachusetts, recently let the public know that they're serious about encouraging local Internet access competition through public investment. At an October 21st press conference, Mayor Thomas Koch and City Council Member Ian Cain announced that the largest city in Norfolk County will begin gathering data on local interest in a municipal Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network.
The Choice That Isn't a Choice
With Comcast as the only option for broadband Internet access, leaders such as Cain feel that it's time to encourage competition. DSL is available, but the average speed in the Quincy area is slower than 10 Megabits per second (Mbps) download. Upload speeds are likely around 1 Mbps -- hardly the kind of connectivity a community of 94,000 want to boast about.
Limited fiber for commercial subscribers has been deployed in the city, but without more options, Quincy faces a disadvantage as communities around them invest in better connectivity. The Mayor, Cain, and other local leaders have economic development on their minds when considering the initiative. Cain told press conference attendees, "This is a way to really have Quincy stand out in a way that other cities and towns aren't really looking at. This is a way to put us up front," as a way to attract more businesses.
Cain noted that comments from constituents regarding poor Internet access in Quincy have come to his office for the past five years. In 2018, the city council adopted Cain's resolution to investigate the possibility of publicly owned Internet network infrastructure. Residents have also taken their complaints to the Mayor. At the press conference, Koch said:
“I hear constantly from people about lack of competition – some related to cable, some related to slowness of access to get onto the network. This is something we’re very serious about looking at.”
Oakland, Maine, Surveying Community's Connectivity
Oakland, Maine, has asked the community to complete a survey in order to obtain a better picture of local connectivity. The town of about 6,300 people is investigating ways to expand how they use their existing publicly owned fiber optic system.
With an area of 28.17 square miles, Oakland is similar to other rural communities. The town, however, has a small fiber optic system and community leaders are researching how they can get the most from that resource to improve Internet access. Back in 2007, Oakland received a federal grant, which allowed the town to deploy fiber to select governmental buildings at the edge of Oakland’s downtown; the fiber is not connected to businesses or residences.
Currently, Spectrum Communications and Consolidated Communications offer cable and DSL Internet access to residences, but businesses have only one option -- Spectrum. According to Oakland Town Manager Gary Bowman, improving competition for economic development and better rates is a motivating factor:
"By taking advantage of our assets and expanding our current fiber optic infrastructure into the downtown district, we intend to attract additional Internet service providers into Oakland, with the long-term goal of servicing business owners with faster Internet and reducing their Internet costs.”
The Game Plan
Back in December of 2018, the Maine Community Foundation awarded $15,000 specifically for strategic implementation of broadband. Shortly after receiving the grant, on February 27th, 2019, the Oakland City Council voted unanimously to form the Oakland Broadband & Technology Committee (OBTC).
The Town Council appointed seven individuals on the committee and entrusted them with five main objectives:
Kaysville, Utah, Considering Broadband Utility
In Kaysville, Utah, the city is considering establishing a municipal fiber optic utility in the community of approximately 32,000 people. City leaders are considering the utility fee model, to enhance competition, inspire better rates, and encourage innovation in the community.
A Recurring Issue
The Salt Lake Tribune recently reviewed the plan in Kaysville, where the city council will soon vote whether or not to approve a $26 million bond in order to deploy a citywide publicly owned fiber optic network. Community leaders have determined that a Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network is essential infrastructure for Kaysville. Comcast and CenturyLink serve most of Kaysville; some areas near the city must rely on satellite Internet access. City leaders want to lower prices and improve services by creating an environment for increased competition.
“As I was doing door-to-door campaigning, this was an issue that came up again and again and again,” said Kaysville Mayor Katie Witt, who’s a proponent of the city’s plan to create a fiber optic network. “We need to look down the road and plan for the future and make sure that we have the critical infrastructure in our community.”
The city has reviewed possible options and, after "one of the most vetted and open projects that we’ve worked on," decided that the utility model is best suited for Kaysville, said Councilwoman Michelle Barber.
“That’s what took 18 months of looking at was finding out that there are options, there are a lot of different options and ways to go about this," [Barber] said. “And after evaluating them all, going through a really long process, seeing feasibility, financial models and what’s the best fit, we found this one which we believe to be the best fit for Kaysville.”
The Utility Fee Model
Kaysville plans to deploy an open access model, which will allow multiple Internet access companies to offer services through the fiber optic infrastructure owned by the community. They will use a utility fee to finance and maintain the infrastructure.
Consultants: Lakeland, Florida, Should Get Serious About Muni
Late in June, consultants hired by Lakeland, Florida, reported to city commissioners that the community is well situated to launch a broadband utility. Lakeland has drifted between options in recent years while making investments that ultimately have contributed to their current footing.
We last reported on the city’s activities in October 2016 when community leaders chose to seek out a private partner, issuing a Request for Proposals (RFP). Decision makers were intimidated at the thought of facing off against Charter Spectrum, citing the task of establishing a municipal network utility as too risky with aggressive incumbents willing to undercut prices.
Even though they were concerned with how a large monopoly cable company might react, commissioners agreed that Lakeland required high-quality Internet access in order to stay competitive. To set the stage for future improvement commissioners adopted several actions, including implementing a dig once policy, seeking allies among other local governments, and actively marketing their dark fiber network.
Darkness Reigns Supreme
The city's 330-mile fiber infrastructure currently serves the Polk County School District, local libraries, and public safety facilities. Like other communities that have existing fiber infrastructure, Lakeland began deploying their network in the mid-1990s to connect electric facilities. Seventy-five city facilities are on the network along with 220 traffic intersections, reducing pile-ups and pollution. Lakeland’s network also offers dark fiber connectivity to large companies and institutions, such as the Lakeland Regional Medical Center. In 2016, the network generated $4 million annually from leases.
Consultants envision the publicly owned dark fiber network as the basis for a Lakeland broadband utility. John Honker from Magellan Broadband told commissioners in June:
Study: Apartment Renters Consider High-Speed Internet Access a Must-Have; Nearly Half Would Pay More for Fiber
When a renter looks for their next apartment, each weighs various amenities according to their own needs. In a recent study released by BroadbandNow, for almost 39 percent of survey respondents high-speed Internet access came in as a “must-have” feature.
Cleaning and Connecting Most Important
The survey sought opinions from almost 5,800 apartment dwellers, who ranked high-speed Internet access on par with a dishwasher, but below an in-unit laundry. Covered parking, a fitness center, and access to a pool came in well below convenient laundry and fast connectivity.
Renters who already have access to fiber connections were more likely to choose high-quality Internet access as a “must have” according to the survey. Only about 7.5 percent of those who responded to the survey connect with fiber and most rely on fixed wireless, about 35 percent. Current fiber subscribers are also the most likely to feel that their Internet access speeds are “good” or “very good” — a whopping 75 percent.
Approximately half of respondents said they would pay more for a place where they can access fiber. When considering rent, those who already have fiber, 35 present that said that they would be willing to pay an additional $50 per month in order to continue to use fiber for Internet access. About 17 percent of those who do not use a fiber connection, about 17 percent, said they would be willing to pay the extra $50 per month.
Landlords Take Note
Real estate experts have documented the benefits of fiber optic Internet access on both single-family homes and multi-dwelling units (MDUs). At the end of 2016, the FTTH Council (now the Fiber Broadband Association), created an infographic to help visualize the opportunity fiber creates for MDU landlords and building owners.
Based on research from RVA, LLC, American and Canadian renters are willing to pay $80 per month more on a $1,000 per month unit that has FTTH. Like the BroadbandNow research, RVA surveyed renters for their opinions.
Take This Survey, Help Direct Broadband Policy, and Get Free Coffee!
Coffee and broadband and Craig Settles of Gigabit Nation and cjspeaks.com — these three things go together naturally. Craig and the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) is asking for your opinions about the future of broadband. In appreciation for your time, you’ll receive a $5 Starbucks Card emailed directly to your computer or smartphone. The deadline is Friday, June 14th at 11:59 p.m. PT.
Share your thoughts and take the survey!
Word has it that several Senators want a better handle on the economic impact broadband in US. While this is a notable goal, how much weight will be given to community input? Lord knows we need locally-generated data to fight FCC’s regressive broadband policy-making.
Since the best source of knowledge of broadband’s impact on local economies are local economic development pros, I am surveying some of them nationwide. Int'l Economic Development Council (IEDC) has been my long-term partner, and ETI Software provided sponsorship.
This year’s short survey explores community broadband’s impact on business attraction, personal economic development, and low-income individuals becoming entrepreneurs. Can community broadband reduce the Homework Gap and what factors prevent broadband adoption?
What happens to local economies when broadband and telehealth together reverse hospital closings, reduce unnecessary visits to the ER, and increases mental health treatments?
Pass the word on to of your community’s econ dev pros, nonprofits, and local organizations dedicated to economic development. Encourage them to complete their survey today!
Btw, respondents get a Starbucks Card.
Highland, Illinois, Always Working for A Better Community Network Experience - Community Broadband Bits Podcast 354
As part of our series of interviews conducted during the 2019 Broadband Communities Summit in Austin, Texas, earlier in April, we’re sharing Christopher’s interview with Angela Imming. Angela is the Director of Technology and Innovation for the city of Highland, Illinois, home to Highland Communication Services (HCS).
HCS has been serving the community for almost 10 years now, and the city has had the opportunity to experience both victory and challenge. In this interview, Angela describes both. She talks about how, after losing some of the community thrill that often accompanies a relatively young project, HCS has reached out to their subscribers. In gathering community input, Angela and her team have been able to enhance the network’s success and reinvigorate local pride in the fiber optic network.
Angela and Christopher also discuss how HCS is using new tools, such as targeted social media campaigns, to increase take rates and attract people to the town of Highland. By combining business acumen and the community-centered approach, HCS is achieving the goals they’ve redefined for themselves and living up to the city’s tradition of innovation.
This show is 25 minutes long and can be played on this page or via Apple Podcasts or the tool of your choice using this feed.
We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.
Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index. See other podcasts from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance here.
Thanks to Arne Huseby for the music. The song is Warm Duck Shuffle and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.
Anacortes, Washington, Solidifies Plans for Better Connectivity With Muni Network
Last spring, we reported on Anacortes, Washington’s efforts to evaluate private sector partners to deliver high-quality connectivity via their publicly owned fiber optic infrastructure. After examining their financial position, the desires of the community, and considering the pros and cons, the community has decided to offer services directly to the public. The island community will start deployment in 2019 and plans to have the network completed within four years.
Director of Anacortes Administrative Services Emily Schuh reached out to us to let us know that the city will be expanding from their fiber back bone to serve businesses and households in the community and to update us on the project. She also wanted to let us know that Anacortes is actively recruiting for a Municipal Broadband Business Manager.
Anacortes (pop. approx. 17,000) lies off the coast of Washington on Fidalgo Island, connected to the mainland via two bridges and ferry. Regular readers of MuniNetworks.org will recognize Mount Vernon on the map, located east and operating a municipal open access network for decades. Comcast offers Internet access throughout Anacortes and DSL service is available from Frontier, but businesses and residents want access to more reliable connections and faster upload speeds, which are not forthcoming with the incumbent ISPs.