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The City Council of the city of Commerce is considering using its existing fiber resources to offer connectivity to local businesses. At a November 3rd work session, Council members reviewed the plan and, according to the Main Street News, members voiced support for the idea.
“We’ve been actively working on this for months,” [City Manager Pete] Pyrzenski told the council. “We’ve been counseled on, we’ve talked through the options… this is a pretty viable utility for Commerce.”
“We are ready to pull the fiber,” Pyrzenski declared. “Our role is to supply the fiber. We’re not going to get into cable TV, not going to get into telephone, just high-speed Internet.”
“Businesses have been looking for an alternative,” noted Mayor Clark Hill.
Windstream now serves the community of 6,500 but there have been significant complaints and there are no other options in this north Georgia town.
The city will need to invest $70,000 for equipment and legal fees. The network plan will use an existing line and will run additional fiber to expand the reach to more commercial customers. At this point, the city estimates a 5 - 10 year payback but that period may be reduced if local businesses respond positively. The city will fund the deployment with an interdepartmental loan from their municipal electric utility. Commerce also owns a municipal gas utility.
One of the earliest and largest community fiber-to-the-home networks in the nation is about to get an upgrade. Jackson Energy Authority (JEA), a public utility in Western Tennessee, has announced that all 18,000 of its subscribers will be able to receive symmetrical gigabit services within three years, with the first upgraded connections expected to come online in early 2015. The pricing for a gigabit connection is not yet finalized, but will be under $100 per month according to Senior VP of Telecommunications Ben Lovin.
JEA built out its FTTH network way back in 2003, when DSL was still considered fast and iPods and cellphones were just beginning to find their way into most people’s pockets. At a cost of $54 million, the network was funded mostly through revenue bonds. It has offered triple play services (voice, internet, and television) for ten years, achieving take rates of up to 70%.
Because of the age of its equipment, to enable the gigabit upgrade JEA will have to replace the optical network terminal (ONT) at each premises - the point where the network fiber connects to the actual house or building. JEA will also have to replace some of the network equipment in its central offices. The total cost is expected to fall between $8-10 million. Unlike the original network build out in 2003, however, the upgrade will be funded through regular cash flow and will not require borrowing.
JEA provides all utility services under one umbrella in the city of Jackson: water, heat, electricity, and telecommunications. Its investment in ubiquitous fiber has allowed it to implement smart grid technology, managing outages and power flows more securely and efficiently.
Jackson, Tennessee is also a member of Next Century Cities, the collaborative effort between communities and elected leaders across the country to share informational resources and promote fast, affordable, and reliable Internet access.
Chanute's City Commission passed a motion this month to fund its planned FTTH project with revenue bonds, bringing the entire community closer to fast, affordable, reliable connectivity, reports the Chanute Tribune.
In addition to authorizing a plan to secure $18.9 million in revenue bonds, the motion also included funds for a pre-deployment baseline analysis focused on economic development and funds to hire an attorney. The bonds include debt service reserve funds and additional funding to make early interest payments. The plan determines the city will pay off the investment in a little over 14 years, based on a 45 percent take rate.
The Kansas Corporation Commission (KCC) must approve the plan. The KCC is a state regulatory body with a variety of responsibilities, including regulating telecommunications utility rates. The KCC also handles rates for electricity, natural gas, and liquid pipeline services. They handle safety issues, licensing, energy conservation, etc. If the KCC does approve the plan, the bonds can be secured without a public vote unless the city receives any petitions. Chanute still plans on providing residential gig service for $40 per month.
According to the Tribune, 62 percent of 1,030 returned surveys indicated yes or maybe as to whether or not they would be interested in signing up for high-speed service at home or at work; 38 percent said no. City officials are optimistic that the project will blossom even beyond those figures:
“I think once it starts rolling out, a lot of people will see what type of services they’re getting through the city,” [Mayor Greg] Woodyard said, “and they’ll get those bundle packages and we’ll be able to offer them a better product than they’re currently getting at a cheaper price. I think more people will sign up for it in that point in time.”
Woodyard also noted that Chanute is setting an example for other Kansans suffering from poor connectivity:
“A lot of other communities are looking at starting to do this, possibly,” Woodyard said. “We are the trendsetters for the state of Kansas. Everybody’s looking at us to see how we go through the process of doing the fiber project.”
On this week’s community broadband media roundup, we have more reverberations from Next Century Cities, a forward-thinking coalition of cities that promises real progress in establishing or restoring local authority for broadband networks. For the inside scoop on the launch, we suggest taking a look at Ann L. Kim’s Friday Q&A with Deb Socia, the executive director of the organization.
Here’s an excerpt:
Q: So when you say you work with cities that are either looking to get next generation broadband or already have it, what does that entail?
A: …We are working with elected officials and also employees, like CIOs and city managers and so forth, and the goal is to really help them figure out their pathway. This is pretty hard work and we recognize that there’s always a local context and so we don’t advocate any one way to do this work, but we help cities think about it.
So [are] you gonna work with an incumbent provider, are you gonna build your own, are you gonna work with a private non-profit? How are you gonna make it happen? What are the alternatives for you? And how can we best support you?
Multichannel’s Jeff Baumgartner covered the launch in Santa Monica as well. The bipartisan coalition offers members collaboration opportunities and support for those communities that face incumbent pressure when they announce plans to move forward with publicly-owned broadband programs. According to China Topix’s David Curry, neither Comcast nor Time Warner Cable have made announcements about gig networks, “with Time Warner Cable even go as far as saying "customers don't want 1Gbps Internet speeds", a statement ridiculed on the Web.”
Rest assured, there will be much more coverage on this organization’s work in the weeks to come.
If you have doubts that we can or will connect rural America with high quality Internet connections, listen to our show today. Alyssa Clemsen-Roberts, the Industry Affairs Manager at the Utilities Telecom Council, joins me to talk about how utilities are investing in the Internet connections that their communities need. Many of these utilities are providing great connections, meaning that some of the folks living in rural America have better -- faster and more affordable -- Internet access than residents of San Francisco and New York City.
We discuss the demand for better Internet access and the incredible take rates resulting from investment in some of the communities that rural electric cooperatives are serving. UTC has a been a strong ally of our efforts to prevent states from revoking local authority to build community networks. Within UTC, the Rural Broadband Council is an independent operating unit.
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 Waylon Thornton for the music, licensed using Creative Commons. The song is "Bronco Romp."
Boulder's City Council is considering November ballot question to restore local authority for municipal telecommunications services. The measure, if passed, will create an exemption to the 2005 Colorado law allowing Boulder to better use its existing fiber optic infrastructure.
Apparently, the Boulder community has a self-reliant streak. This is not the first time the Institute for Local Self-Reliance has reported on the community of 97,000. John Farrell, Director of the Democratic Energy initiative, has followed the grassroots campaign to establish a city-owned electric utility in Boulder.
The Daily Camera reports that City Council staff, in a memo to Members, recommend the community seek authority to make use of existing assets. The City owns an extensive network of conduit that it began developing in the 1990s. Boulder has aggressively expanded the network, leasing it to private partners and using the space for a fiber I-Net to connect over 50 municipal facilities.
The Boulder Research and Administration Network (BRAN) serves the City, the University of Colorado, the U.S. Department of Commerce, and the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research. Each of the four entities shared equally in funding the $1.2 million eleven mile network. Boulder is an administering partner for BRAN and hopes to capitalize on that relationship even further.
Approximately 10% of Boulder's residents have home-based businesses, reports City Council staff. The community ranks high in the concentration of software engineers, innovators, and scientists. Businesses with less than 100 employees comprise 97% of firms in Boulder. Local surveys indicate the business community is hungry for better services. From the Daily Camera article:
[Director of Information Technology Don] Ingle said the city has no concrete plans in place to pursue partners, but he believes there will be a lot of interest if Boulder can get the authority.
Erwin, population 6,000, is planning a pilot project to bring fiber to downtown homes and businesses, reports local media. The project may be lit by November, serving approximately 1,200 premises.
According to the Johnson City Press, Erwin Utilities has already developed a plan to offer Internet and phone service:
The network would offer customers high-speed broadband Internet and telephone services. [Erwin Utilities General Manager Lee] Brown said the project would offer initial Internet of 100 Mbps with the future potential of providing up to 1 Gbps. Brown said a service such as the one Erwin Utilities intends to offer is typically only available in large metropolitan areas.
“Our beginning package is basically the equivalent of what the fastest speed available is currently,” he said.
Erwin Utilities will use the infrastructure for electric system demand response, meter reading, outage reporting, improved communications and operations of electric, wastewater and water equipment, and future load management. If customers are happy with the service in the pilot project area, Erwin Utilities hopes to deploy the technology throughout its entire service area.
Brown told the Press that the municipal utility began investigating the possibility of municipal broadband about 15 years ago, but until now the community could not afford the investment. Costs have gone down bringing the project to approximately $925,000.
The Erwin Utilities Board approved the plan but the Tennessee Comptroller needs to review it. Next the community will hold a public hearing then on to final approval by the Board of Mayor and Alderman.
The people of Huntsville recently decided to delve into the possibility of deploying a fiber network. According to AL.com, the City Council approved funding for a feasibility study to look at ways to better use existing fiber assets.
Huntsville, with 180,000 people is located in Madison County in the extreme north central region of the state. The county seat, known for generations as a cotton producer, later became known as "The Rocket City." In the 1950s, the U.S. army developed missiles at its facilities there, setting the stage for our space program.
A recent unscientific poll by AL.com revealed that a countywide high-speed network is a high priority for locals. The online poll suggested potential projects for the community; 40% of respondents ranked a network at the top of the list.
Huntsville Utilities offers electric, water, and gas services to the community. The municipal utility owns a small amount of fiber for its own data purposes. At this point, local leaders want the study to focus on the possibility of expanding that network to serve the business community.
Mayor Tommy Battle said it is crucial to take a serious look at citywide, high-speed, fiber-optic Internet service, whether it is provided by Huntsville Utilities or a private company. Dozens of U.S. cities are already wired for speed, including Chattanooga and Opelika.
Battle called high-speed fiber "the infrastructure of the future" and said it will eventually be as important as roads, water and sewer lines.
As the FCC considers its next move in the question of local telecommunications authority, a growing number of organizations are expressing their official support. The American Public Power Association (APPA) recently passed a resolution supporting the doctrine that local communities should not be precluded by states from investing in telecommunications infrastructure.
The APPA official resolution, approved by members on June 17, urges Congress, the FCC, and the Obama Administration to officially support the ability for public power utilities to provide advanced communications services. The resolution states:
That Congress should state in clear and unequivocal language that it supports the ability of local governments, including public power utilities, to provide advanced communications services that meet essential community needs and promote economic development and regional and global competitiveness.
Chanute City Commission decided on June 9th to take the next step to bring ftth to the community; Commissioners voted unanimously to pursue and finalize funding to deploy a municipal network.
The City's current fiber network provides connectivity to schools, hospitals, electric utility and municipal facilities, the local college, and several businesses. Chanute has worked since 1984 to incrementally grow its network with no borrowing or bonding. Plans to expand the publicly owned infrastructure to every property on the electric grid began to take shape last year.
At a work session in May, Director of Utilities Larry Gates presented several possible scenarios, associated costs, and a variety of payback periods. The favored scenario includes Internet only from the City, with video and voice to be offered by a third party via the network. Residential symmetrical gigabit service will range from $40 - $50 depending on whether or not the subscriber lives in the city limits. Commercial service will be $75 per month. Advanced metering infrastructure will also be an integral part of the network.
The Commission authorized the pursuit of up to $14 million to get the project rolling.