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Leaders in Lancaster, California, Authorize Resolution to Allow City to Move on Muni, Other Utilities
At a Lancaster City Council meeting on May 14th, community leaders voted unanimously to take a step toward establishing several municipal utilities, including a publicly owned fiber optic network.
Good Experiences with Their Public Utility
Lancaster Choice Energy (LCE) is the city’s municipal electric utility, but in the future may be one of several publicly owned utilities. LCE has a Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) program, which allows individual users within the community to join together for purchasing power and gives them more control over matters such as the source of their energy. Lancaster wants to become a net-zero city and is exploring a range of approaches to reach that goal.
The community also underwent traffic signal upgrades like many other California communities and has installed additional fiber as the city has started to implement Smart City initiatives. At the city council meeting, City Manager Jason Caudle noted that using the fiber optic assets to develop a community network was a strong possibility.
In an article in the Antelope Valley Press published prior to the meeting, Caudle also noted that they plan other uses for the fiber, “As part of our smart cities effort, we’ve installed fiber-optic networks already throughout our city, and then we’re looking at putting our streetlights into Wi-Fi hotspots as well as 5G networks,” he said.
In his report to the council, Caudle wrote:
The establishment of a municipal utility is the next step in continuing to ensure that citizens and businesses are provided with utility services that meet the current and future needs of the community. As a municipal utility, Lancaster will have the opportunity to utilize advanced technology, provide utility services at rates and charges that are fair and reasonable, provide high quality customer service, and provide alternatives to existing providers of utility services similar to what the City achieved through the development of the City’s CCA.
Central Ohio Community Investing in 100 Gig Fiber Network for City Connections, Economic Development
Hilliard, Ohio (pop. 36,000), is moving forward with plans to deploy a carrier neutral dark fiber network after city council approved funds for the project last month. The 25-mile fiber network will connect government buildings and businesses in the Columbus suburb and will be capable of speeds up to 100 Gigabits per second, reports Columbus Business First. Officials hope that improving Hilliard’s broadband infrastructure will help the community attract and retain businesses, encourage local economic development, and reduce municipal connectivity costs.
During the first phase of the project, Hilliard will run fiber to municipal buildings and local businesses. The carrier neutral network will connect to the Metro Data Center in nearby Dublin, Ohio (home to DubLINK), giving the city government and businesses access to a wide selection of providers, who will have the ability to lease fiber from the city. In the future, the network could expand to serve other entities, such as local schools. The city does not plan to connect residents.
The total cost of the network’s initial phase is $3.17 million; to fund the fiber rollout, Hilliard City Council set aside $2.9 million in January as part of the city’s capital improvements budget. This included a $1.25 million loan from the Franklin County Infrastructure Bank, which has also invested in two similar projects, including Grove City. Hilliard Economic Development Director David Meadows said that the remainder of the funding comes from a conduit and traffic signal project that was approved in the city’s 2018 budget.
Economic Benefits for the City
On October 24, the Aurora, Illinois, City Council Finance Committee approved a $40,000 grant to OnLight Aurora to extend the city’s fiber optic network to River Street Plaza area commercial properties.
The City of Light And Dark Fiber
OnLight Aurora is the nonprofit ISP that leases publicly owned fiber optic infrastructure to serve the city’s municipal government, community anchor institutions (CAIs), two data centers (Bytegrid and CyrusOne) and local businesses.
Prior to OnLight Aurora’s network, the city’s previous network was a patchwork of varying speeds and capabilities. The network was old, unreliable for government employees, and expensive. In 2005-2006, city leaders estimated that Aurora was paying nearly $500,000 a year for leased line expenses to telecommunications providers. Now, the city of Aurora saves approximately $485,000 each year by utilizing their municipal fiber optic infrastructure.
Santa Clarita, California, and Larimer County, Colorado, are the next communities considering connetivity options; both are ready to begin broadband feasibility studies.
Exploring Options in Santa Clarita
Santa Clarita, California, is located within Los Angeles County just 45 minutes north of the city of Los Angeles. The city is the third-largest in the county, with a population of 213,000 residents covering 62 square miles. The city already uses a fiber network for public safety and economic development, but want to investigate how to take their investment to the next level.
According to the city’s September 2017 press release, Santa Clarita has contracted with a consulting firm to conduct their broadband feasibility study. First, they will evaluate the effectiveness of existing broadband infrastructure for businesses and community anchor institutions (CAIs). Second, they will survey community representatives, institutions, and businesses to understand their specific broadband needs, identify challenges, and propose solutions to improve access.
In 2016, the city signed a dark fiber lease agreement with a Southern Californian telecommunications provider. The ten-year contract allowed the company to provide services via publicly owned fiber optic cable originally installed for traffic controls. The intent of the agreement is to improve high-speed Internet access for local businesses.
As the press release by the City of Santa Clarita suggests, the city is looking to further expand broadband services for residents and businesses, and to enhance its own municipal efficiencies.
Larimer County After The SB 152 Opt Out
Larimer County, Colorado, is located two hours north of Denver and is the the sixth largest county in the state by population. Most of the more than 300,000 residents live in the county's more densely populated communities of Fort Collins, Loveland, and Windsor.
OnLight Aurora, the nonprofit ISP serving Aurora, Illinois via publicly owned infrastructure, is bringing more companies to the second largest city in the state.
"One Of The Reasons We're Here"
Scientel Solutions, a wireless communications company with headquarters in Lombard, Illinois, is making a move to Aurora. The company plans to build its own 12,000 square foot office building and an accompanying warehouse in the community where they will be near a local data center.
The data Cyrus One data center was only one reason Scientel chose Aurora, according to the company’s attorney Richard Williams:
“In addition to being near Cyrus One, Williams told aldermen the company also was lured by OnLight Aurora, the city's fiber optic network.”
"Fiber was a big attraction to us," Williams said. "That's one of the reasons we're here."
Rather than continue to lease its Lombard location, the company has decided to invest in its own property. In addition to constructing the facilities, Scientel will erect a communications tower on its new site. Lombard is approximately 25 miles east of Aurora, closer to downtown Chicago.
Scientel will bring 30 Lombard employees to Aurora and hire 20 more employees to work at the new headquarters.
Back in 1995, city leadership decided to invest in publicly owned infrastructure to reduce telecommunications costs, upgrade to a faster network, and obtain the reliability they couldn’t get from incumbents. At the time, the city used patchwork of different connections and while some facilities obtained adequate connectivity, others in the more far-reaching areas of the community depended on old leased lines that weren’t up to task. Employees in some offices traveled to offices where connectivity was better in order to complete specific tasks that required better connections.
Oxnard, California, has already decided that they want fiber. Now community leaders just need a consultant to help them create a Fiber Master Plan. They city recently released a Request for Proposals (RFP); responses are due October 31st.
Community leaders address their decision to develop a Fiber Master Plan in the RFP. They want infrastructure that is future-proof, can offer gigabit connectivity, and can expand beyond initial purposes. They’ve done their homework and see that future applications demand higher capacity infrastructure. Oxnard intends to stay competitive.
The city has existing fiber as a result of a previous deployment to update transportation with California’s Intelligent Traffic System (ITS) in 2013. Three years later, they added more traffic signals, three municipal buildings, CCTV cameras, and a field gigabit hub.
The Fiber Master Plan will build off existing assets to improve economic development and pursue other “social benefits.” Oxnard wants to install public Wi-Fi, adopt Smart City applications, and explore ways to bridge the digital divide. They know that they can reduce telecommunications costs by eliminating leased lines with their own fiber network.
The Fiber Master Plan Project Goal:
The City’s goal in developing a Fiber Master Plan is to document a detailed, actionable plan to build a carrier-class, highly-available redundant fiber network that provides Oxnard anchor institutions, businesses and eventually key residential areas with high-speed Internet access, data and Smart City services, thereby improving the quality of life of our constituents, boosting economic development and enhancing the infrastructure of our City.
Open Minds In Oxnard
Community leaders aren’t limiting themselves to any particular model and want to hear what consultants suggest for their community. They have created a list of what they consider most appropriate models for their vision:
Public-Owned: Publicly (City) owned “middle mile” infrastructure with potential partnership opportunities for “last mile” connections
At one time, it’s hilly geography earned it the label “undevelopable” in the 1960s, but now the planned community of Mission Viejo, California, is home to approximately 97,000 people in Orange County. The city with the suburban feel is looking at ways to develop even further.
A Blank Slate
The city has recently commissioned a feasibility study to examine how this suburban community can improve its connectivity to boost economic development and improve municipal efficiencies.
According to the city’s website, they want to:
- Define the City’s strategic goals, objectives and roles of deployment for broadband network services;
- Develop an understanding of community-wide need for fiber-based broadband;
- Document fiber-based broadband demand in the City that leverages the City’s existing relationships with local businesses and stakeholder.
- Assess the feasibility of using existing right of way, existing and new conduit pole lines and other assets to reduce the cost of FTTP deployments throughout the City;
- Determine the benefits that a fiber network would provide in terms of economic development, education, healthcare, municipal government and the quality of life of its constituents, residents and visitors;
- Determine how a fiber network could create added-value through economic efficiencies and cost reductions;
- Determine the most feasible options to gain consensus on the path forward to achieve the City’s goals.
Like a number of other communities, Mission Viejo has existing fiber within the city that was deployed some time ago for its Intelligent Transportation System (ITS). The community doesn’t own or operate municipal gas or electric utilities. Incumbent Internet access providers are Cox and AT&T.
Business A Priority
Local businesses have been complaining about poor connectivity for years. Back in 2015, one of the community’s two large retail shopping centers found that Cox Communications didn’t see investing in a connection worthwhile. Merchants at The Village shopping center had to depend on DSL and were understandably irked:
Residents and businesses in rural regions between Reno and Las Vegas recently learned that their odds at obtaining high-quality Internet access just went through the roof. A collaboration between county owned Churchill County Communications (CC Communications), the Valley Communications Association of Pahrump (VCA), and Switch technology company to deploy a middle mile fiber-optic backbone will open up a range of possibilities for rural communities along the U.S. Highway 95. The route runs north and south along Nevada's far west, passing through a number of small towns that are welcoming the new alliance.
A Backbone Running North And South
For the past 11 months, CC Communications and the VCA have been working to deploy more than 450 miles of fiber from north to south. Switch provided funding for the deployment to link its data centers in Las Vegas and the Tahoe-Reno area and will also provide funding for expansion to some rural communities. VCA will service the network in the south and Churchill will care for the north section.
Along the backbone, CC Communications and VCA will connect local communities. Beatty, in southern Nevada, plans to be the first use the new infrastructure and to deploy fiber in the community. The unincorporated community is home to about 1,000 people and is about 120 miles northwest of Las Vegas. According to Valley Electric Association, the rural electric cooperative that owns and operates VCA, they have plans to expand fiber throughout the Beatty community.
“With that backbone, you can link up any town anywhere near it,” said Michael Hengel, spokesman for the Valley Electric Association. “The first all-fiber community in Nevada will be Beatty.”
The federal government has awarded a $2.74 million grant to Hayward, California, to help fund the design and installation of conduit and fiber-optic network in the city’s industrial zone.
The grant, from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration, will enable Hayward (pop. 150,000) to install at least 11 miles of new conduit and fiber optic cable, the city said in a recent news release. Construction will begin in September 2017, and should be finished by the fall of 2019.
Paul Nguyen, city economic development specialist, told us, “The $2.7 million grant award is 50 percent of the total estimated project cost, roughly $5.4 million.” The city’s matching share of the project includes a $2.1 million in-kind contribution of the city's publicly-owned right-of-way property, $480,000 in general funds, and an additional $156,000 that has already been committed to the construction and installation of fiber-optic conduit in the Whitesell Street segment of the fiber loop.
Leveraging Existing Infrastructure
In its news release, Hayward officials said:
“The fiber optic network will leverage existing city-owned underground conduit and fiber optic cables used primarily for traffic communications and include new construction to complete a loop in the Industrial Technology and Innovation Corridor. This crescent-shaped corridor, located along Hayward’s western and southwestern city limit, is home to a wide range of businesses including manufacturers of food, pharmaceuticals, auto parts and electronics. The area is also becoming home to an increasing number of biotechnology and medical device makers.”
“Today, access to broadband Internet service is as vital to industry as electricity was a hundred years ago. This federal funding will help expand Hayward’s broadband infrastructure and enhance our community’s ability to attract new advanced industries. It will also provide our existing businesses with the tools they need be competitive in today’s high-speed, data-driven global economy.”
Fresno, California, is looking for one or more partners to bring Gigabit connectivity to the entire community. City leaders recently released a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) to send out the call for interested entities. Letters of interest are due on November 14th and statements of qualifications are due by November 30th.
Leaving No One Behind
According to the RFQ, the community is experiencing growth in the tech sector and want to support the tide by improving Internet infrastructure throughout the community. In addition to serving new businesses for economic development, the network will connect community anchor institutions such as schools, hospitals, and libraries.
As part of their goals, Fresno states explicitly that they want to ensure low-income families and individuals will be able to afford high-quality Internet access. In an article in the Fresno Bee, city leaders sate that they envision rates for some residents at around $10 per month for either a wired or fixed wireless connection.
Using Existing Assets