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Bel Air, Maryland, Latest To Save With HMAN
Time to check in at Harford County, Maryland. When we last reported on the Harford Metro Area Network (HMAN) in July 2014, it had only been lit for a few months. Now, more than 100 public facilities are connected to the network and more are expected; the latest will be Bel Air, Maryland.
Saving With County Connections For VoIP
A recent GovTech article reported that the Board of Town Commissioners voted 4-0 to invest approximately $25,000 in a new VoIP system that will use HMAN for telephone service. The new system will serve 65 new phones and will include the software for the new system. Apparently, Bel Air sought cost estimates to replace their old traditional system with VoIP with a private provider and the estimates were more than $65,000 beyond what the city had budgeted for the project.
We often point to significant public savings when local government uses publicly owned infrastructure for Internet access, but switching from traditional phone service to VoIP via a muni can reduce communications costs even more. In places such as schools, government offices, and other administrative facilities where there are multiple lines, the budget for telephone service can be astronomical. VoIP eliminates leased lines and, because a fiber-optic network like HMAN is designed with redundancy in mind, users can expect reliable connections.
In addition to saving substantially, Bel Air’s new system will be compatible with the systems used by Harford County Government and the Department of Emergency Services.
GovTech Reports on Broadband Legislation in Five States
Broadband is a topic of interest in several state legislative chambers this session. In a recent Government Technology article, Brian Heaton focused on five states where community broadband is particularly contentious. In some cases, legislators want to expand opportunities while others seek to limit local authority.
We introduced you to the Kansas anti-competition bill in January. The bill was pulled back this year but could be back next year. When the business community learned about the potential effects of SB 304, they expressed their dismay. From the article:
Eleven companies and trade organizations – including Google – signed a letter opposing SB 304 as a “job-killer” that restricts communications services expansion in the U.S.
Minnesota's leaders introduced legislation to expand broadband. Efforts include financial investment earmarked for infrastructure:
Senate File 2056 – referred to as the Border-to-Border Infrastructure Program – would take $100 million from the state's general fund to be applied to broadband projects. A companion bill in the House, HF 2615 was also introduced.
As we reported, there is bipartisan support for the bill in the House, but the Senate and Governor have not prioritized SF 2056.
New Hampshire's legislature wants to open up bonding authority for local communities that need help:
GovTech Covers Famous Free Wi-Fi in Oklahoma
Ponca City's free Wi-Fi has attracted attention over the years. A recent article in Government Technology focuses on the free Wi-Fi service and reveals the secret behind Ponca City's jewel - their municipal fiber network.
From the article:
So what makes Ponca City’s wireless network a long-term success, and what suggestions do city officials have for other areas that want to replicate it?
It all starts with fiber, said Technology Services Director Craige Baird and City Manager Craig Stephenson. But fiber’s price tag stops many local governments in their tracks, especially when they want to do it in a year instead of building a network out slowly over a number of years.
As we reported earlier this year, Pona City's wireless is supported and funded by its fiber network. The community began the incremental installation in 1997, adding more each year; the network is now over 350 miles long. Revenue from commercial customers supply the funds for the wireless mesh network.
Residents can use the basic service for free and a modest investment optimizes their access:
While the network can be accessed by wireless-enabled devices throughout the city, residents can install a Wi-Fi modem in their house to receive a stronger signal indoors. The optional modem, called a Pepwave, costs about $150 and comes set up to connect to the free public network. The city got local computer stores to stock and support the devices, and in so doing, helped those businesses.
The service has also had wider reaching benefits:
During the recent recession, the $30 to $70 per month residents had previously paid to commercial Internet service providers stayed in Ponca City, helping “churn the economy,” Stephenson said.
In addition, Stephenson and Baird cited the network as a huge benefit to the schools and career technology center to help train and keep students in the area for economic development. Eighth-graders up through high school have electronic textbooks, laptops or notebooks, said Stephenson, “and that was only possible because everyone inside the city limits has Internet access.”
Alex Marshall Examines Electricty / Internet Parallels
“My answer has been, as it is tonight, to point out these plain principles,” Roosevelt told the crowd. “That where a community -- a city or county or a district -- is not satisfied with the service rendered or the rates charged by the private utility, it has the undeniable basic right, as one of its functions of government, one of its functions of home rule, to set up ... its own governmentally owned and operated service.”
While FDR was referring to electricity in 1932, he could easily be speaking about today's critical need for Internet connectivity. Fortunately for a growing number of people in our country, many local leaders share his sentiments and those communities are investing in community owned telecommunications networks.
Government Technology recently reposted a Governing article by Alex Marshall, a Senior Fellow at the Regional Plan Association in New York City. The Director of our Telecommunications work, Christopher Mitchell, tells me he just bought Alex's new book from a local bookstore and has put it at the top of his reading list: The Surprising Design of Market Economies.
Marshall sees fiber optic connectivity as the utility of today and tomorrow. He explores the question of who should provide access - public institutions or the private market? In his research, Marshall finds that many local communities are not waiting for an "official" answer to that question and are taking control of getting their citizens online.
Marshall spoke with Nick Braden from the American Public Power Association (APPA):