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Osage, Iowa: Sun And Speed Projects Ahead
Iowans in the small town of Osage have been able to obtain cable Internet access from the community’s municipal utility since 2001. The community is about to take the next step; Osage Municipal Utility (OMU) is acquiring a fiber-optic backbone from a private provider. The purchase will get them started on what will eventually be a Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) upgrade.
Serving Osage For More Than 125 Years
Osage, the Mitchell County seat, is home to about 3,600 people and located in north central Iowa. The electric utility began as Osage Electric Light, Heat and Power Company in 1890. After several ownership changes, the municipality became the owner in 1941. In 1959, the utility began supplying natural gas and in 2001, the utility added a communications system. In addition to Internet access, OMU also began offering cable TV and telephone service.
OMU is also developing a Voluntary Community Solar Program in which customers can purchase units of Solar Array capacity and in return they receive a production-related credit on their monthly utility bill.
Another Local Tool
Josh Byrnes, general manager of OMU, described the backbone as “another tool in the economic toolbox.” He noted that the line will create opportunities for people outside of OMU’s service area that live along the backbone to potentially obtain service from private providers.
In addition to providing FTTH to customers in the future, Byrnes noted that OMU will also be bringing much needed redundancy in the area. Incumbent Omnitel Communications is the sole provider of fiber-optic services in Mitchell County. OMU will offer fiber in Mitchell, one of the towns in the county where Omnitel has no fiber presence.
“We are simply getting connectivity to Osage and build out from there. There are going to definitely be opportunities for savings to our rate payers long term. Even more important is the dependability of services moving forward. It’s hard to put a price on that.”
Manchester, CT, Releases RFI For FTTP: Responses Due Dec. 6th
Manchester, Connecticut, was the first city in the state to build its own fiber-optic Institutional Network (I-Net). Now, the community has issued a Request for Information (RFI) for Fiber-to-the-Premises (FTTP) of Homes and Businesses. Responses are due by December 6, 2016.
Much To "Gain"
The community took advantage of the “Municipal Gain” Law, which guarantees space on utility poles and conduit to house its I-Net. A private provider took the town to court over the law, which came to a successful resolution in the early 2000s.
As we reported last summer, the Office of Consumer Counsel (OCC) and the State Broadband Office (SBO) sought clarification on the state statute. The question is whether or not the space reserved on utility poles in municipal Rights-of-Way (ROW) can be used for municipal fiber-optic network deployment. While the question seems simple on its face, implementing it has raised a number of questions from pole owners and municipalities. The OCC and SBO filed a petition last summer with the Public Utility Regulatory Agency (PURA) asking for clarification.
Manchester is located in the center of the state just ten miles east of Hartford. The town’s population is approximately 58,000 residents and there are 22,000 parcels in Manchester on its 250 miles of city streets. While it has roots in textiles and the silk industry, it is now home to a number of large shopping outlets and plazas. The community also has a co-working space in the downtown area, Axis901, for entrepreneurs and small businesses.
Having experienced the benefits of its I-Net, Manchester wants to expand those benefits to businesses and residents, so is exploring the possibilities. According to the RFI:
The Town is interested in a vendor’s perspective of the positive economic development value of their proposal. Toward this end, information on a Responder's offering will likely result in a dialog with the Town's Board of Director's Broadband Economic Development Subcommittee.
Conway, AR, About To Increase Highest Tier Offering
Conway, Arkansas, has been offering Internet access for approximately 20 years; in December, it will begin offering Gigabit (1,000 Megabits per second) download connectivity to the community. Conway's highest tier Internet access will cost $94.95 per month. According to Conway Corp.'s announcement, the utility will use a 32-channel cable modem to deliver the faster download speeds via the current infrastructure. Upload speeds will be 50 Mbps.
In a statement, reproduced in Multichannel News, CEO Richard Arnold said:
“Internet usage has grown and will continue to as cloud-based products and services become more prevalent. Gigabit download speeds seem a luxury today, but may be tomorrow’s necessity.”
Between 1995 and 1997, the utility completed a citywide cable rebuild in which they used both fiber and coaxial cable. The $5.6 million project allowed them to offer Internet access to Conway subscribers. As an early adopter of municipal Internet access, Conway’s move toward Gig connectivity makes sense:
“For several years, we have been on a strategic path toward gigabit service,” said chief technology officer Jason Hansen in a statement. “With this initiative, Conway Corp is embracing its position as an Internet technology leader.”
Conway Corp’s Internet rates also include:
- Basic : 6 Mbps download / 1 Mbps upload - $36.95 per month
- Broadband 25 : 25 Mbps / 3 Mbps - $41.95 per month
- Broadband 50 : 50 Mbps / 5 Mbps - $51.95 per month
- Broadband 100 : 100 Mbps / 10 Mbps - $84.95 per month
Conway is county seat to Faulkner County, located in the center of the state and through its utility system, Conway Corp., provides electric, water, wastewater, Internet access, cable TV, and telephone services to the community of 65,000. Conway is considered a suburb of Little Rock, but many of the residents don't commute out of the city for work as there are a number of large employers in Conway.
New Look At MuniNetworks.org!
After months of planning, we’re excited to launch our new website design!
We still have daily news, a huge cache of resources, and the information you need to learn about community networks. We’ve updated our look and organized so everything is even more accessible. As you explore you may even find some information you never knew we had available at our former site.
Our search capability is not yet up and running and we don't yet have all our podcasts imported to the new site. We encourage you to explore and let us know what you think about the site so far. You can share your thoughts at email@example.com.
Enjoy and thanks for your continued support!
Colorado Conversation: New ILSR Podcast!
In early November, voters in 26 additional Colorado communities chose to opt out of SB 152. The state’s restrictive law took away local telecommunications authority in 2005. The results in many of the towns and counties were overwhelming majorities - loud and clear in favor of local authority. Now, 95 local communities across the state have reclaimed local authority.
We covered the election results in detail on MuniNetworks.org and what those results say about local communities’ desire for better connectivity. We spoke with local community leaders. As part of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance’s Building Local Power podcast, episode #5, Christopher and I also discussed what those results say about the desire to make connectivity choices at the local level.
In addition to Colorado, we also talked about local publicly owned networks in other parts of the nation and how they are changing the expectations for Internet users in urban and rural America.
We also discussed the general election results that brought Donald Trump to the presidency, specifically noting the impact that his ascension brings to local communities’ ability to provide Internet connectivity to their residents. We pondered the implications of a Trump presidency on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance’s mission of working across partisan lines in local communities.
We invite you to check out episode 5 of the Building Local Power podcast and check out other episodes, all highlighting the work we do at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.
Alford, MA, Releases RFP: Deadline Dec. 21
Alford, Massachusetts, located along the western border of Massachusetts, recently released a Request for Proposals (RFP) for fiber optic network design and contractors; the community wants to deploy a Fiber-to-the-Premises (FTTP) network. Deadline for proposals is December 21, 2016.
A Long Journey To Now
Alford is home to approximately 500 residents and has pursued better connectivity since the early 2000s, when it first approached the incumbents. As is often the case, national providers continued to pass by Alford over the years leaving them with old, unreliable technology. During 2012 and 2013, the community took the necessary steps and voted to create a Municipal Light Plant (MLP), the entity that manages publicly owned networks in Massachusetts. Since then, they have formed a broadband committee, conducted surveys of local interest and requirements, and examined financial models.
In 2015, the town approved a measure to borrow $1.6 million to cover the expenses to deploy a FTTP network. The Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI), the state agency tasked with administering more than $71 million in federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) and state funds, informed the MLP Board that the town will receive approximately $290,000 in grants funds.
The Alford MLP’s November update reports that the community has made significant progress on make-ready work to prepare utility poles:
The MLP has now come to an agreement with Verizon and National Grid about the extent of “make-ready” work required to prepare the poles to accept fiber. In the next few weeks the MLP will make payments to the utilities, clearing the way for the work to begin. The MLP has no control over the timing of the work, which will probably begin around year- end and which can take up to six months to complete.
Short Policy Report on Munis and Education From ECS
Digital learning initiatives for K-12 grades and online coursework for college programs both require high-speed connectivity in school and at home. Policymakers cannot overlook this issue when discussing municipal networks.
The Education Commission of the States addressed connectivity in the classroom and at home in a short policy report, entitled Inhibiting Connection: State policy impacting expansion of municipal broadband networks in September 2016.
Inside the Report
Co-authors Lauren Sisneros and Brian Sponsler provide an overview of how municipal network issues intersect with state education goals. The paper covers the major arguments for and against municipal networks as well as current state laws restricting those networks:
"As state education policymakers explore options to support postsecondary access and success, they may be well served to consider their states’ policy addressing municipal broadband networks."
They also highlight our Community Networks Initiative as a resource for policymakers to access fact sheets, case studies, and videos.
Read the entire policy report on the Education Commission of the States' website.
For more information on connectivity in schools in general, check out our Institutional Networks page.
Bozeman Fiber Breaks Through Phase One
Downtown Bozeman businesses can expect fast, affordable, reliable connectivity via the Bozeman Fiber network within the coming weeks, reports the Bozeman Daily Chronicle. Phase one is now complete.
Businesses Up Next
Bozeman City offices, Gallatin County offices, and local public schools are already connected to the open access network, which is owned and operated by the nonprofit entity Bozeman Fiber. There are already three Internet Service Providers (ISPs) operating on the community network but local officials do not expect residents to have Fiber-To-The-Home (FTTH) Internet access just yet:
“Within a few hundred feet of where the fiber currently is will be available day one of commercial operations,” said Anthony Cochenour, president of the board of Bozeman Fiber. “As far as expanding the network and running under our own steam, (we want to) get business first, fill the coffers, then in years two and three make a bigger push into residential areas.”
Connecting to businesses first allows a community to test the waters, locate potential problems, and create interest in a community-based initiative. With the revenue generated by commercial customers and infrastructure deployed strategically throughout the community, it’s easier to expand to residential areas.
Standing On Its Own
In Bozeman, the $3.85 million in funding for the project came from local banks, so local officials feel especially compelled to create a self-sustaining and stable project. “While setting up Bozeman Fiber was important for economic development, we wanted it to be an agency that stands on its own. Bozeman Fiber is running its own show,” said [Bozeman economic development specialist David] Fine.
The Bozeman Fiber nonprofit plans to connect a local hospital in the near future and add another line west of town. They also hope to eventually host up to ten ISPs by the end of the year, increasing choice for consumers in the future.
Community Fiber Network Diversifying Economy in Louisiana
Acadiana, the southern region of Louisiana, is seeing a resurgence of industry thanks in large part to it publicly owned fast, affordable, reliable network. Years ago, the city of Lafayette, Louisiana, built the LUS Fiber network to connect homes and business.
Now, LUS Fiber is helping to diversify Acadiana’s economy, which once almost exclusively relied on the oil industry. Fiber networks offer much potential for economic development.
“The State of Business” in the Silicon Bayou
The October-November issue of the Acadiana Profile at MyNewOrleans.com ran an article on the changing landscape of Acadiana’s businesses. Author Kimberly Singletary provides an overview of three growing industries: technology, manufacturing, and healthcare. All three need access to reliable, high-speed connections.
Singletary spoke with One Acadiana, an economic development organization in Lafayette:
“We’ve had a long history of innovation in IT and software,” says Jason El Koubi, CEO of One Acadiana. “But it's still very much an emerging field.”
Due to what El Koubi describes as “almost a grassroots movement in cultivating IT over the years,” the Acadiana region enjoys a robust offering of internet services resulting in a competitive, cheap and extremely fast LUS Fiber network.
LUS Fiber offers affordable, high-speed connectivity to several software developers that have made Acadiana their new home. The network offers speeds of up to 2 Gigabits (2,000 Megabits per second). In 2014, LUS Fiber attracted three companies, bringing almost 1,000 jobs to the “Silicon Bayou.” Another company, Waitr, an Uber-like food delivery service, is planning to add an operations center to Lafayette, which will bring another 100 jobs to the community.
More Than Tech: Industries Need Connectivity
Madison Starts Muni Fiber Effort, Considers Citywide Effort - Community Broadband Bits Podcast 227
The second-largest city in Wisconsin and the home of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, is pursuing a path-breaking municipal Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) strategy. They have already started by deploying fiber to several low-income neighborhoods and working with local ISP ResTech to offer services.
Madison CIO Paul Kronberger joins us for Community Broadband Bits episode 227 to discuss their plan. We start by discussing how they decided to deploy FTTH as a digital divide strategy. Like more and more of the communities considering this approach, Madison does not have a municipal electric utility.
We also discuss how Madison plans to deal with the state law that limits municipal fiber network investments and why Madison has decided to work with a private provider even though the city will retain ownership of the network. Read more of Madison coverage here.
This show is 18 minutes long and can be played on this page or via Apple Podcasts or the tool of your choice using this feed.
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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 mojo monkeys for the music, licensed using Creative Commons. The song is "Bodacious."