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Highlands is a small community of less than 1,000 residents located in the Nantahala National Forest in the Appalachian Mountains. Along the western tip of the state, Highlands faces the same problem as many other rural communities - poor connectivity. In order to bring high-quality Internet access to residents and businesses, Highlands has implemented a plan to deploy city-owned Internet network infrastructure.
A Connected Escape Up In The Mountains
Highland entertains a large number of summer tourists who flock to its high altitude to escape summer heat and humidity. Summer visitors can fill the city’s six square miles and surrounding area with up to 20,000 people. The city operates a municipal electric utility along with water, sewer, and garbage pick up.
To round off the list of offered services and bring better connectivity to the community, Highlands created the Altitude Community Broadband. In January, the Town Board authorized to borrow $40,000 from its General Fund and $210,000 from its Electric Enterprise Fund to deploy and launch the new service. The loan will be repaid with revenue from the new service.
The town has long-term plans to offer both Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) and fixed wireless service to residents and businesses in the downtown area. Fiber is already available in limited areas within Highlands proper; pricing is available on a case-by-case basis. The landscape is rugged, so residents outside of the city may not be able to transition to FTTH, reported a December HighlandsInfo Newspaper, but the fixed wireless access is still an affordable and workable option in a place considered a poor investment by large providers.
Residential options for Altitude Wireless Internet Access are:
Two new Requests for Information (RFI) were recently released in Palo Alto, California, and Pikeville, Kentucky.
Pikeville is open to both public ownership and Gigabit service via privately owned infrastructure. This community of approximately 7,000 residents wants Fiber-to-the-Premises (FTTP) for businesses, community anchor institutions, municipal facilities, and residents. The regional Appalachian Mountain community, with many jobs lost due to the shrinking coal industry, is turning to connectivity as a way to spur economic development.
Pikeville’s RFI describes how service from existing providers is expensive and "sporadic." This RFI calls for a partner that will help the community develop an open access, affordable, financially sustainable network. In drafting the RFI, Pikeville’s officials made sure to note that low-income residents will not be left behind; bringing this asset to disadvantaged residents is a priority.
The city is the county seat of Pike County and home to a number of colleges as well as several large healthcare facilities. City, county, and federal government facilities are also located in Pikeville and need better connectivity. In 2015, the city obtained a $5 million grant for technology-based training and degree programs for residents in the area. A $1 million grant supplied funding for a Broadband Technology Center in Pikeville. Now the city needs fast, affordable, reliable Internet network infrastructure to complement the Center and to move the local workforce toward more information based industries.
- Letter of Intent Due: May 23, 2016
- Questions Due: May 25, 2016
- Final RFI Submissions Due: June 3, 2016
The city’s website has more information and details.
Palo Alto, California
Palo Alto is a Silicon Valley city of 67,000 residents; daytime workers coming into the community swell the population to approximately 125,000. Incumbents include Comcast and AT&T who have intimated they might be interested in bringing fiber to the city, but have yet to act. Community leaders are exploring all options with this RFI.
Cumberland and the Allegany Board of Education are collaborating to improve educational, municipal, and business connectivity in the city's downtown area, reports GovTech.
The district's 23 schools are all connected, but the Maintenance and Facilities Warehouse is not yet connected. The location of the facility and the proposed fiber route will create an ideal opportunity to install fiber in a commercial corridor where ISPs can tap into the infrastructure, notes Cumberland's economic development coordinator Shawn Hershberger:
“It will expand upon the solid resources we already have and make us more competitive for future economic development projects,” said Hershberger
The project will cost approximately $220,000. Half of the funding will come from a federal Appalachian Regional Commission grant. The school board and the city will split the remaining cost.
The city will connect its public service buildings and provide splice points for ISPs, who will be responsible for the cost to connect the last mile to the customer.
“Providing additional options for high-speed Internet service in Allegany County can only be a positive move for economic development and growth. The downtown area specifically will benefit from competitive pricing available to private entities with reliable and redundant high-speed service,” said [Chief Information Officer for the school board Nil] Grove.
“It helps us toward the jobs we are trying to compete for and helps us keep the jobs we have here now,” said Hershberger.
Mount Rogers, Virginia, has the distinction of being the highest elevation in the state. Located in Grayson County, the town is in the
southeastern southwestern part of the state, high in the Appalachian Mountains. Needless to say, the region is challenged geographically when it comes to getting their residents and businesses connected to the Internet. Nearby communities include the Town of Galax and Carroll County. A large portion of the area was unserved or undeserved.
Growing out of these three entities and the Blue Ridge Crossroads Economic Development Authority (BRCEDA), the Wired Road Authority is expanding access for local business and residents, many of whom are still on dial-up. A recently completed phase involved renovation of Grant's 100 year old Grange Hall, a radio tower, a fiber link from the tower to the Garnge Hall, and a new computer lab. The second phase of the project will bring FTTH connections to 100 homes in Grant.
Scarlett McGrady, Director of the Grant Community Computing Center, tells us that the Wired Road Authority owns the network and that customers purchase services from private sector providers on the open access network. Right now, Internet and VoIP is available with plans for HD Television, telehealth services, security services, and backup services.
Funding for the project comes from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development, the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification Commission, the Appalachian Regional Commission, the Carroll County Public Schools, the Crossroads Institute, and the governments of Carroll County, Grayson County and the City of Galax.