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Hudson Oaks, Texas, will be deploying infrastructure this summer in order to bring high-quality connectivity to businesses and residents. At a recent city council meeting, community leaders authorized the project to allow the town of about 1,700 people to be the first to offer gigabit connectivity in Parker County.
Working With A Local Provider
The city will own the infrastructure and recently entered into a partnership with local Internet Service Provider (ISP) NextLink to offer service via the fiber-optic network. NextLink is headquartered in Weatherford, about five miles from Hudson Oaks. Fort Worth is about 25 miles due east of Hudson Oaks.
According to the Weatherford Democrat, properties within city limits will be served by the new fiber service that will be funded with public investment. On the city’s Facebook page, residents asked questions and city administrator Patrick Lawler addressed them:
“The city of Hudson Oaks cannot by state law spend funds outside the city limits unless expressly given the authority such as we have with water. Fiber does not qualify for this exclusion. NextLink, however, may expand the service at their discretion. In order to prepare for that possibility we have placed additional fiber strands for future expansion.”
Earlier this month, the city authorized the issuance and sale of $1.54 million combination tax and revenue certificate of obligation to help fund the project.
Prices for Internet access should run around $50 - 60 per month for 50 Mbps and $150 per month for gigabit connectivity. Construction on the network should start this July.
The Grapevine-Colleyville Independent School District (GCSID) will lower their telecommunications costs and improve Internet service through an agreement with the City of Colleyville to build Internet infrastructure to K-12 schools. The City of Grapevine will serve as the construction contractor for the project.
High Cost Of Incumbent Services
GCISD leased lines from AT&T for $200,000 per year in order to obtain 1 gigabit connectivity. When they needed upgrades for the school district's Wide Area Network (WAN) at the two high schools and the main Network Operations Center (NOC), prices increased. After the upgrades, GCISD’s annual costs went up to $300,000 and school officials expected prices to continue to rise. When GCSID needed to increase the capacity of their WAN and NOC circuits, estimates for the upgrade came in at $1.85 million per year.
Rather than continue to pay such high costs, GCSID has entered into an interlocal agreement with Grapevine and Colleyville to jointly construct the network. The new solution will offer them a minimum 10 gigabit capacity for lower long term costs.
“By partnering with the City, the district is able to save more than 50 percent on installation of the new fiber optic cables. Additionally, since the City is enabling the district to own our own fiber, we will no longer be reliant on a third-party provider for monthly service and maintenance."
The $5 million network will stretch over 57 miles and is financially supported by the City of Grapevine, the City of Colleyville, and GCISD. The project will be completed within five years and the school district expects a return on its $3 million investment in three to five years. Grapevine and GCISD has dedicated Tax Incremental Financing (TIF) dollars to the project, and each party is responsible for financing infrastructure on their property. Grapevine's role as contractor reduces the cost of the project significantly.
Plans for a fiber-optic middle mile network to serve the Brazos Valley in Texas are firming up and the project should be up and running within two years, reports KBTX from Bryan and College Station. The network will also have a fixed wireless complement.
The $22 million network backbone, funded through the FCC’s Healthcare Connect Fund and the Brazos Valley Council of Governments (BVCOG), will first connect healthcare providers such as hospitals, schools nurses, and jail clinics.
According to the April 2015 Network Plan from the Brazos Valley Council of Governments, 62 percent of the population in the proposed service area live in rural areas with poor access to quality healthcare. Twenty percent of residents in the region are 60 years of age or older. Texas A&M School of Public Health, one of the partners in the project, completed a study that indicated high percentages of chronic conditions in residents in the region. In 8 of 12 of those measures, the results were worse than the national average. In some cases, the rates were twice as high as national averages.Local leaders plan to next add libraries, workforce centers, schools, and a number of other local government facilities. "If our schools are spending a disproportionate amount of their funds on just providing the minimum of internet, that's not right. We can fix that," said Michael Parks, Executive Director of the Brazos Valley Council of Governments.
Amid Ghost Towns in northern Texas, a local telephone cooperative looks to bring next-generation technology to rural communities. In August 2015, Brazos Communications, based out of Olney, Texas, announced its plans to build a fiber network throughout its sparsely populated service area.
A year later, in August 2016, the project is well underway. Brazos Communications has completed construction in two of the more populous towns (Archer City and Olney) and has begun installing fiber in the community of Newcastle.
The Fiber Project
Brazos Communications keeps locals apprised of the details of the project through their blog on BrazosNet.com and their social media accounts. The telephone cooperative’s service area covers many small communities, the largest of which is Olney with about 3,000 people.
Previously, the communities only had access to the slow DSL network through Brazos Communications' old network. Last year, the cooperative realized it was time for a forward-looking change. They began to replace the DSL with a new fiber network to offer better, more reliable high-speed services.
And this summer, Brazos Communications teamed up with ice cream truck Pop’s Homemade Ice Cream to celebrate the successful completion of construction in Archer City. As Archer County News reported, residents could learn about the new fiber plans while eating delicious, cool ice cream. Brazos offers symmetric service (the same upload and download speed) ranging from 10 Mbps for $59.95 to 100 Mbps for $199.95.
At a recent City Council meeting, New Braunfels council members approved $57,000 in funding for Phase II of a study to explore the feasibility of constructing a city-owned fiber network. The city's Industrial Development Corporation (4B Board), which helps guide the city's economic development initiatives, previously recommended moving on to this next phase of the project.
Because state laws in Texas prevent municipalities from offering retail telecommunications services, New Braunfels must advance carefully. The city is proceeding with the consultant's recommendation to pursue a public-private partnership (PPP) for the proposed network. With this second phase of the study, the consultant will help the city release a Request for Proposals (RFP) to solicit interest from would-be private Internet Service Providers (ISP) for the city-owned network.
Clarification from Christopher Mitchell: In Texas, the term telecommunications does not include Internet service. Communities cannot offer telephone service but are able to offer Internet only type services.
Some Findings from Phase I of the Feasibility Study
At a February 4B Board meeting, the New Braunfels Assistant City Manager Kristi Aday noted that the proposed network would cost the city somewhere in the range of $3 - $5 million. A major factor in determining the cost of the network, she said, is whether to use underground fiber for the network or to go with an aerial approach, using poles owned by New Braunfels Utilities.
Every day, community leaders are working to overcome barriers to developing Internet networks. On Monday, April 4, 2016, Chris took part in the Coalition for Local Internet Choice (CLIC) pre-conference panel on Public Perspectives to Partnerships at the Broadband Communities Summit in Austin, Texas. Chris was joined by Gabriel Garcia, Bill Vallee, Jon Gant, and Drew Clark. The panel was moderated by Catherine Rice.
The group discussed strategies, business models, and lessons learned when building a successful public-private partnership (PPP).
Public Perspectives on Partnerships: Lessons Learned and Best Practices
Catharine Rice – Project Director, CLIC
Bill Vallee – Office of Consumer Counsel, State of Connecticut, New Britain, CT
Jon Gant – Director, UC2B
Christopher Mitchell – Community Networks Director, ILSR
Gabriel Garcia – Director, Senior Counsel, General Counsel, Legal Services, CPS Energy, San Antonio, TX
Drew Clark – Chairman and Publisher, BroadbandBreakfast.com
Are you going to the Austin Broadband Communities Conference this spring? If you plan on attending the April 5 - 7 event, you may want to head out one day early so you can check out the Coalition for Local Internet Choice (CLIC) Preconference Day event on April 4.
From the CLIC email invite:
CLIC's pre-conference day will focus on how communities can facilitate the development of local gigabit networks. Our interactive panel of experts will share best practices and how successful community-led networks have responded to various fiber deployment hurdles, including political, legal, financial, market or resource barriers. You will be able to meet in-person and hear from the public officials who are facilitating, and the private companies who are engaged in and seeking, local public-private broadband partnerships.
The event will be open to all conference attendees and will start at 8:45 a.m. Some of the presentations include:
A Discussion of How Successful Community-Led Networks Have Responded to Barriers and Challenges
- Overcoming Legal and Political Barriers: Strategies to Advocate for Your Community’s Authority
- Overcoming Financial Barriers: Strategies to Identify and Use Funding Sources to Finance Networks from Build-outs to Upgrades
- Overcoming Market Barriers: Strategies to Maximize the Use and Benefits of the Network Once You Have It
- An Introductory Survey of Business Models and Legal Considerations in Building Broadband Public-Private Partnerships
- Private Perspectives on Partnerships: Meet the Private Sector Gigabit Partners
- Public Perspectives on Partnerships: Lessons Learned and Best Practices (Chris will speak on this topic)
For more information on speakers, you can review the full agenda here.
The 2016 Broadband Communities Summit will be held on April 5 - 7 in Austin, Texas. Participants can save $540 by registering early before November 30th. Register online and use the VIP Code: Austin2016 to get a special rate of $410.
The annual Summit is one of the premier broadband events each year. This year, the theme is Fiber: Catch The Wave! Check out the Summit main page for more about the agenda, speakers, and workshops. The event page will be updated as organizers solidify the agenda.
Don't delay! Register before Monday, November 30th!
Elected officials hope competition via city-owned fiber will give businesses and residents some connectivity headway in College Station, Texas.
The community will lease its city-owned fiber to local ISP, WireStar, in order to foster local competition. City Councilmember James Benham told KBTX that community leaders want high-speed connectivity for businesses and residents and want to create a competitive environment to encourage affordable prices. He described incumbent Suddenlink as "not always the best fit," pointing to the need for high-speed access in multi-family dwellings.
WireStar will begin by offering Internet access up to 1 gig download to businesses and large apartment complexes. Expansion to single-family homes will depend on the demand. WireStar is taking a similar approach as iTV3 in Urbana-Champaign - asking potential subscribers to sign up at their website and offering service in areas that show demand.
WireStar will pay more than $21,000 per year plus maintenance fees to lease the city's fiber; the partners have agreed to a 10-year agreement.
The city, located in the east central part of the state, is home to approximately 94,000 people and part of the Bryan-College Station metro where about 229,000 people live. College Station is home to A & M, along with laboratories for a number of research entities such as NASA, the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation and the Office of Naval Research.
Benham told KBTX:
"Competition is good for prices and for consumers and for businesses and for this case having multiple choices is good for them."
A feasibility study conducted by the Lubbock Power & Light (LP&L) Electric Utility Board this April discussed several potential benefits of installing a fiber optic cable in the City of Lubbock, Texas. Charles Dunn, a member of the Utility Board, proposed installing fiber optic cables alongside the city’s utility lines, which are currently being buried underground as part of a three-phase, $1.9 million downtown redevelopment initiative.
A fiber optic cable, Dunn contended, could increase Internet speeds hundredfold (from a max speed of around 10 Mbps to one above 1 Gbps), attract high tech companies to the city, and induce Texas Tech University students to stay in Lubbock after they graduate. In Lubbock, where Internet speeds run about 35 percent slower than they do in the rest of the state, a fiber network could be a boon for businesses and residents alike.
According to the April feasibility study, the fiber project might not even eclipse $100,000. LP&L would shoulder the costs of the project by drawing from its own budget. Both Dunn and LP&L director of electric utilities, David McCalla, believe that fiber would greatly benefit the community.
CEO of McDougal Companies, Marc McDougal, also argued in favor of the installation of the cable. From Fox 34 News:
Quite honestly, it would give us something that very few cities have... It would give us a huge advantage in another market to recruit businesses for downtown Lubbock.