Fast, affordable Internet access for all.
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Colorado Springs, Colorado and its city-owned utility have begun construction on the second phase of a promising open access fiber optic network that should bring affordable fiber broadband to the city of half a million residents.
Construction of the network by Springs Utilities began in the first region in September 2022, shortly after the city-owned utility struck a 25-year lease agreement with Ting to be the network anchor tenant. Once completed, the network aims to deliver multi-gigabit service to roughly 200,000 homes, businesses, and city anchor institutions.
Local residents can pre-order service via the Ting website, but the company has yet to announce pricing or service tiers for its Colorado Springs deployment.
Brian Wortinger, Manager of fiber optics and telecommunications for Springs Utilities, told ILSR that the first phase of deployment passed 21,000 homes in the first fiber hut reason.
“Take rate is not a consideration for us, as we will lease 100 percent of the addresses to our anchor tenant, Ting Internet,” Wortinger said when asked about subscriber interest. “Their degree of success in obtaining customers has no impact on the revenues that we will generate through our dark fiber lease with them or any other tenant.”
The first phase of the network construction began in September of 2022, resulting in 225 new fiber route miles between I-25 and North Powers Boulevard. The second phase of the deployment began in June, and is focusing on the Rockrimmon neighborhood in Northwest Colorado Springs across I-25.
Overall, project managers say they are only slightly behind their original projected schedule.
For the past four consecutive years, community owned and/or operated broadband infrastructure has proven to be a key ingredient in the makings of some of the fastest Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in the nation.
As was the case last year, PCMag’s recently released Top 10 list of “The Fastest ISPs of 2022” feature operators that are either municipal broadband networks or use city-owned fiber or conduit to deliver service across whole or parts of their footprint (with the exception of this year’s ninth-place finisher). Another way of saying that is: not one of 10 fastest networks in the nation are owned or operated by the major national ISPs, many of whom have embarked on an aggressive lobbying campaign to misinform public officials in particular and the public in general on the viability and successes of municipal broadband and local partnerships.
After ranking the major ISPs in their own slower category, PCMag turns to “talk about real speed.”
For that, you don’t go to the big guys … Higher speeds are found in smaller, localized ISPs.
Need for Speed? Look to Local ISPs and Munis
After PCMag compiled a year’s worth of speed tests to analyze which ISPs offer the fastest download and upload speeds, Sonic – a California-based independent ISP – came out on top this year, having “posted the highest number we have ever seen in our test results. Because the uploads this company offers are, on average, eclipsing download speeds—by a lot.”
Catapulting to the top of this year’s list (from 10th place last year), Sonic is a privately-owned company that uses publicly owned conduit in Brentwood, California.
Back in January, Colorado Springs Utilities (CSU) announced it was going to begin building a city-wide, open access fiber network owned, and that Ting would be its first anchor tenant. Construction of the network is expected to begin in the third quarter of this year, with a target completion date of 2028 (originally planned for fifteen years). The network will provide multi-gigabit service to roughly 200,000 homes as well as city businesses and anchor institutions. It’s still early in the process, but projections at the moment have the utility spending $45 million to $100 million a year for the next six years to complete the project. The first phase will see 225 new fiber route miles laid.
CSU Has Long Used Fiber
For thirty years CSU has built fiber across Colorado’s second-largest city. CSU’s dramatic expansion of this existing network directly benefits the utility by reducing overall costs, improving infrastructure monitoring, and boosting overall utility network resiliency. And it all will come with no rate increases to CSU electric customers.
But the company’s decision to lease access to this fiber expansion also directly aids the local community by lowering consumer utility costs, and delivering universal, affordable, high-speed Internet access. It’s a significant boon to Colorado’s second largest city that’s now an attractive, high-tech growth market.
Join Us Thursday, February 3rd at 5pm ET, for a Reality Check: Scaling Networks in 2022 - Episode 32 of the Connect This! Show
Join Us Thursday, February 3rd at 5pm ET, For A Reality Check: Scaling Networks in 2022 - Episode 31 of the Connect This! Show.
In this episode of the Connect This! Show, co-hosts Christopher and Travis Carter (USI Fiber) are joined by Monica Webb (Ting) and Robert Boyle (Planet Networks) to talk about the realities of expanding network infrastructure in 2022.
The panel will dig into supply chain issues, challenges faced in scaling up, and what type of partnerships help grow networks quickly.
In an April press release, SiFi Networks announced that they will be developing a privately funded open access Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network in Fullerton, California. The project will serve the city of approximately 140,000 people, with ISPs using the SiFi fiber network to compete for subscribers.
SiFi approached Fullerton in 2013 after the city’s bid to bring Google Fiber to town didn’t succeed. City leaders were interested in the prospect of bringing a FTTH network to the community as an economic development tool and, after bringing the proposal to the city council, decided they wanted to work with SiFi. The project aligned with several aspects of the community’s Fullerton Plan, a revitalization and economic development master plan.
As part of the discussions, SiFi informed Fullerton that they would wait to begin construction until after 25-year Right-of-Way (ROW) permits were granted and the company had obtained lease agreements from ISPs who wanted to offer Internet access via the network. As part of the arrangement, SiFi planned to pass every premise, regardless of what type, by the end of 2021. In January 2014, the Fullerton City Council authorized the City Manager to enter into a Negotiation Agreement (NA) with SiFi Networks. Since that time, both parties have been working to fulfill the necessary steps to move ahead with construction.
Now that funding is in place, ISPs have committed, and permits are prepared, both parties are ready to begin the project.
SiFi will use a microtrenching method to install most of the conduit and will begin with what they call the “pilot phase” located in the southwest corner of the city. SiFi will take the opportunity to refine installation and delivery techniques, allowing the company to more efficiently deploy in the remaining zones around the city. Microtrenching is one of the tools SiFi uses as part of their FOCUS system of deployment.
Project Development and Funding
In early April while Christopher was at the 2019 Broadband Communities Summit in Austin, he recorded a series of interviews for the podcast. We’ve been sharing them over the past two months. This week we’re presenting his conversation with Director of Market Development and Government Affairs Monica Webb and Vice President for Networks Adam Eisner from Ting.
In addition to giving us a quick history about the Canadian company that provides Internet access, mobile phone service, and other services, Monica and Adam describe how the company’s culture that focuses on customers has been a driving force behind their success. Christopher asks Monica and Adam about the different models that Ting is using in its efforts to bring high-quality connectivity to places like Westminster, Maryland; Sandpoint, Idaho; and now Fullerton, California. Our guests describe how the company’s startup culture, emphasis on branding and marketing, and hyper local approach has assisted them with becoming and integral part of different communities and in developing unique partnerships.
Monica and Adam also share some of the lessons they’ve learned in working with municipalities. While places vary widely in character, there are some actions every local community can take that help expedite deployment, especially with regard to preparation of permitting processes and related matters. The sooner a network is constructed and launched, the sooner local residents and businesses are enjoying high-speed Internet access.
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.
When communities deploy Internet access infrastructure, they use their investment to reduce costs for telecommunications, improve local connectivity, and encourage economic development. In Westminster, they’re also using their fiber optic network to boost local high school students’ tech skills in a fun and creative way. The community is using publicly owned fiber optic “magic” to multiply their youth’s opportunities.
Setting the Scene
The world has experienced a devastating disaster. Communications systems are down. Your ragtag band of survivors has been hiding from the zombies for several months now. After finding a generator and some computer parts inside an abandoned building, your group decides to use the pieces to create a working computer and try to establish contact with the other scattered survivors. But will you be able to do it before the zombies reach you …?
Or at least that’s the setting for the first ever Project e-Reboot competition, hosted by the Mid-Atlantic Gigabit Innovation Collaboratory (MAGIC) and e-End. Teams of students were tasked with rebuilding a functioning computer from old components in a hypothetical post-apocalyptic scenario. The challenge was held at e-End’s electronics recycling facility in Frederick, Maryland, in cooperation with MAGIC, a nonprofit organization based one county over in Westminster.
Partnering for Project e-Reboot
The mayor doesn’t usually show up at your house when you switch to a new Internet service provider, but for Erin and Isaac Herman of Centennial, Colorado, that’s exactly what happened. In early September, they became the first official Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) subscribers in Centennial when Internet service provider (ISP) Ting connected their home with fiber optic lines. An event held at their house brought together community members and local officials to celebrate the “lighting” of the fiber line, a culmination of years of hard work by the city to develop a publicly owned dark fiber network.
To provide Internet access, Ting leases strands of Centennial’s open access fiber network, constructing its own lines to connect homes and businesses to that backbone. The Herman family and other subscribers now have superior connectivity as a result of the investments made by both their local government and the private company.
Plans for households range from 5 Megabits per second for $19 per month to symmetrical gigabit speeds for $89 per month. Centennial residents can pre-order on Ting’s website.
Fifth “Ting Town” on the Map
Ting operates fiber networks in five U.S. cities. In addition to Centennial, Ting delivers fast, affordable, reliable connectivity to subscribers in Charlottesville, Virginia; Holly Springs, North Carolina; Sandpoint, Idaho; and Westminster, Maryland.
Ting Fiber has continued its expansion into two more U.S. metropolitan areas, lighting fiber up in a northern Idaho town and planting a flag in a city south of the research triangle in North Carolina. Residents of the region of greater Sandpoint, Idaho (a service area of nearly 10,000 residents), and Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina (population of around 25,000), will soon see the benefits of fiber Internet access with Ting’s Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) service.
In the spring of 2017, Sandpoint began leasing out part of its core dark fiber infrastructure to Ting. The Toronto-based ISP has been working on building out its fiber in the Idaho town since early April of this year, and just lit up its first customers (two small businesses) from a fiber expansion effort in downtown and central Sandpoint. Eventually Ting is planning on offering FTTH for residential and business access in Sandpoint, as well as Dover, Ponderay, and Kootenai, all in Bonner County.
Sandpoint worked on building out its own dark fiber network for around five years, with the intent of leasing its infrastructure out to ISPs. Crews installed two conduits, one to reserve for emergency communications that the city would retain, and one for an open access network for ISPs to utilize.
The city has already entered into one non-exclusive franchise agreement with Intermax, which provides fiber to commercial businesses, and has contracted out fiber builds with Fatbeam. Both companies are local to the northern Idaho region.
A Long Time Coming
At the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, we have been watching the latest developments with Burlington Telecom from afar but with extreme curiosity. We have watched a wonderful local movement grow to Keep Burlington Telecom Local and that fits entirely with our values.
Because of the challenges from BT's prior mismanagement and court settlement, Burlington's options are limited. The benefits of local ownership are tremendous - from being directly accountable for services to keeping more money in the community. But also the ability to correct problems as they arise. No management is perfect, but local ownership provides the most opportunity to ensure that the network will continue to serve the community, rather than a situation in which the community serves the network. We see the latter far too often in communities stuck with cable monopolies.
We salute those that have made Keep Burlington Telecom Local a viable option and we continue to hope that BT indeed remain local. But we are concerned that BT may not remain locally controlled.
In the event that the City Council decides to pick a non-local bidder, we want to offer some observations. We are an organization that shares localism as a strong value and has more than a decade of experience working on broadband policy to best benefit communities.
We have a long history with Ting (though no financial relationship) but less experience with Schurz Communications. Not only have we extensively documented Ting's partnership with Westminster, Maryland, to build a citywide fiber network, but many of us have been customers of Ting's parent Tucows in various ways.
In our experience, absentee ownership of broadband networks is concerning, in part, because of a tendency for such a company to cut back on customer service and network investments. Such actions can be financially lucrative in the short term but inconvenient when the owner of the company shops, worships, and/or mingles with those who bear the brunt of such disinvestment. Network owners from afar don't have to worry as much about upsetting their customers from declining standards.