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Two Fiber Networks Collaborate: Aim to Bridge Digital Divide in Georgia
In October, the North Georgia Network (NGN) cooperative announced the formation of a new partnership with Georgia Public Web (GPW), a pairing that will conjoin two large fiber optic networks that together cover most of the State of Georgia. The newly announced partnership will enable the two organizations to more effectively confront their shared mission to improve broadband access across the state. Paul Belk, president and CEO of NGN, expressed his enthusiasm for the new partnership:
GPW is a great company for NGN to work with, as we have similar goals to serve communities challenged with ‘the digital divide.’ The companies are great links to each other because GPW serves most of the state with the exception of NGN’s footprint. Together we create a complete solution.
Two Networks Become One
This partnership connects GPW’s nearly 3,500 mile fiber optic network that stretches across most of the state to NGN’s 1,600 mile network. As Mr. Belk noted, a look at NGN’s network map shows that it covers one of the few remaining service areas in Georgia that GPW’s massive network map does not reach.
Madison, Wisconsin Pilot: Fiber In The Fall
Four low-income neighborhoods in Madison will soon have access to fast, reliable, affordable Internet access, thanks to a municipal fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) pilot program.
Fast, Affordable, Reliable...Soon!
According to a recent Cap Times article, installation will begin in the spring of 2016; community leaders anticipate the network will start serving residents in the fall. The cost of the pilot is estimated at $512,000. The original plan was to offer the pilot in two areas, but in the City Council recently approved an amendment to the city budget to cover the cost of expanding the pilot. Funds for the construction will come from the city's capital budget.
When the city first released its RFP, it received 3 proposals. Ultimately, the city selection committee chose the only FTTH proposal over two wireless proposals, citing reliability and speed as determining factors. Local Internet service provider ResTech will build the network, which will be owned by the city. Residential subscribers will have access to a minimum 10 Megabits per second (Mbps) download and 10 Mbps upload (symmetrical) service for $9.99 per month. There will be no data caps.
Testing the Waters
The Cap Times reports that the results of the pilot will determine the next steps for the city, population 243,000, which has flirted with the idea of a citywide municipal network in the past:
In conjunction with the pilot, Madison will be pursuing a feasibility study and cost-benefit analysis to determine whether to expand the Internet service to other parts of the city in the future.
The city is working with Columbia Telecommunications Corporation for the feasibility study component as a parallel track to the pilot.
The pilot will be two years, and [Chief Information Officer Paul] Kronberger said they hope to have enough data to do the cost-benefit analysis after about one year of operation.
“Crazy Fast” Connectivity Expands in Westminster, Maryland
Gigabit Internet access will soon be reaching more residents in Westminster. The high-speed municipal fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) network in Maryland will soon add more than 2,000 new homes to the network map.
The Incredible Expanding Network
The network is a product of a public-private partnership with telecommunications company Ting. The expansion provides more evidence of the continuing success of the network in this city of just under 19,000 people about 35 miles northwest of Baltimore.
The network was originally planned as a pilot project confined to small, select areas of Westminster, but high demand prompted community leaders to broaden the reach of the project. Eventually, Westminster budgeted for citywide infrastructure.
City Manager of the Ting project, Valerie Bortz, recently said of the network "we are super busy and happy with our progress.” In October 2015, the city released an RFP calling for bids from contractors to provide maintenance on the expanding network - more proof of the city's commitment to ensure the network’s growth and success.
More Money, More Fiber
Fairlawn, Ohio Pursuing Design Plan for Muni Broadband Utility
Fairlawn, Ohio this fall took a “huge step forward” toward launching its own high-speed municipal broadband utility.
The City Council recently approved hiring a consultant to design and establish the business model for building “FairlawnGig,” a municipal broadband network. At completion, the city envisions the new utility will provide the community with comprehensive Wi-Fi connectivity and Fiber-To-The-Home (FTTH) service for businesses and residents.
Faster Internet speeds
“It will be a fiber network that will give one gig (i.e. gigabit per second or Gbps) of service, which is 1,000 times what people have right now,” City Deputy Service Director Ernie Staten said in an Akron.com news report. He added:
That’s a huge step forward for the City of Fairlawn. The future of TV, phone and Internet is to stream them all through the Internet. To do that with the current systems that we have is very difficult, but one gig of service would allow residents to stream as many videos as they want and to work from home as well as they possibly can.
In announcing plans for the project, earlier this year, the city said its goal is to:
...[O]ffer competitive fixed residential and business broadband services with speeds of 30 Mbps up and 30 Mbps down, and unique mobile Wi-Fi services with high-speed secure connections of 20 Mbps to smartphones and tablets throughout Fairlawn.
Besides the city of Fairlawn, a community of about 7,500 residents, the new municipal broadband utility would also include the Akron-Fairlawn-Bath Joint Economic Development District. The geographic area includes the communities of Akron and Bath in the new broadband utility service area. In Ohio, joint economic development districts are a vehicle to encourage communities to partner on infrastructure improvements, such as water and sewer service, without annexation.
When the Fairlawn fiber network is completed, services up to 1 Gbps will be possible.
Public-private partnership planned
NC Partners: Fiber Will Give Region A Green Light to A Gig
The Tri-Gig High Speed Broadband Initiative, an effort by communities and universities within Greensboro's Piedmont Triad Region, recently announced plans to release an RFP in an effort to improve regional connectivity.
According to the News & Record, the partners are searching for a partner equipped to develop, operate, and provide Internet services over a new open access network. Hemant Desai, Chief Information Officer for Guilford County, hopes the project will spur innovative ideas from the private sector:
The goal of this project is not to restrict but enhance the deployment. Let them come back to us and say, ‘Here’s what we’ll provide you if you provide this to us.’
The project is a joint effort of the City of Greensboro, Guilford County, the City of High Point, the City of Burlington, North Carolina A&T State University, the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, and the Piedmont Triad Regional Council. Collectively, these entities have a population of nearly 700,000 people.
A Strong Foundation
A network of this scope and scale was not envisioned by Greensboro officials when they spent $24 million to build a fiber-based communication system several years ago. At that time, the goal was to update the communication infrastructure for the city’s traffic signal equipment. In 2008 Greensboro began building its award-winning Intelligent Traffic System (ITS) comprised of 120 miles of fiber optic cables and other essential modern traffic technologies. Guilford County, High Point, Burlington, UNC-Greensboro, and North Carolina A&T all have similar traffic systems.
An ITS provides significant public safety benefits over traditional traffic communication systems. For example, the system in Greensboro controls over 450 intersections and enables sensors to turn traffic lights green for fast-moving emergency vehicles, making the roads safer for everyone while facilitating faster attention to crisis situations.
Using Existing Dark Fiber
Falmouth Saves With Cape Cod I-Net
Out on Cape Cod, municipal networks are taking hold. Public buildings throughout the town of Falmouth, Massachusetts, experience great connectivity and the town saves $160,000 each year with its own Institutional network (I-Net).
The Falmouth Area Network, maintained by CapeNet, connects 17 buildings throughout the town for a total of $3,000 each month ($2,500 from the school; $500 from the town). Were the town to go through a private provider, it would cost $1,000 for each building every month or $17,000 per month. By saving $14,000 each month, Falmouth's annual savings add up to approximately $160,000 a year. That’s a lot of money to be reinvested in the community of 31,000.
Falmouth Area Network intends to reach even more institutional buildings in the next few years. The 17 that are connected now are the libraries, the schools, the town hall, the police stations, the fire stations, the harbormaster’s office, and a senior center. Soon the Gus Canty Community Center will also gain a connection. At the Annual Town Meeting last week, the town approved the Capital Improvement Plan which included $80,000 to upgrade the network, including hooking up the community center. There are also plans to add a new wastewater treatment plan to the network in 2017.
The Role of OpenCape
Small City Fights Comcast Over Institutional Network
Reports have recently surfaced from The Detroit News and Patch.com that a town in Michigan is now fighting Comcast over who owns their network.
Fifteen years ago, West Bloomfield, Michigan, population about 65,000, wanted an Institutional Network (I-Net) to connect all the important services, like emergency response, police, fire, and water, with a dedicated high-speed network. The town entered into a franchise agreement in order to share the construction costs with the incumbent cable company, which at the time was MediaOne. According to the township, MediaOne offered to contribute $400,000 to the cost of construction as part of that agreement.
The agreement was transferred to Comcast in 2000; Comcast acquired MediaOne in 2002. MediaOne and successor Comcast have provided "free high-speed bandwidth transport as well as interconnectivity" during the life of the network claims Comcast in a letter submitted to the court. The cable giant also describes the practice as a "benefit not provided by Comcast's competitors" and wants it to stop. The franchise agreement expired on October 1 but was renewed until 2025.
To The Courts
Comcast and the town are now fighting over ownership of the infrastructure. With Comcast demanding new fees, the town is bringing a lawsuit. Comcast, however, maintains that it owns the I-Net that the town uses for all its important communications. The Detroit News reports that the township is coming out swinging:
Colorado's Unique Environment of Local Collaboration - Community Broadband Bits Episode 178
A few weeks back, Colorado voters overwhelmingly chose local authority and community networks over the status quo Internet connections. Approximately 50 local governments had referenda to reclaim authority lost under the anti-competition state law originally called SB 152 that CenturyLink's predecessor Qwest pushed into law in 2005.
This week, Virgil Turner and Audrey Danner join us to discuss what is happening in Colorado. Virgil is the Director of Innovation and Citizen Engagement in Montrose and last joined us for episode 95. Audrey Danner is the Executive Director of Craig Moffat Economic Development and co-chair of the Mountain Connect Broadband Development Conference. We previously discussed Mountain Connect in episode 105 and episode 137.
In our discussion, we cover a little bit of history around SB 152 and what happened with all the votes this past election day. We talk about some specific local plans of a few of the communities and why Colorado seems to have so many communities that are developing their own plans to improve Internet access for residents, anchor institutions, and local businesses. Over the course of this show, we also talked about Rio Blanco's approach, which we discussed previously in episode 158. We also discuss Steamboat Springs and previously covered that approach in episode 163.
This show is 24 minutes long and can be played on this page or via Apple Podcasts or the tool of your choice using this feed.
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, licensed using Creative Commons. The song is "Warm Duck Shuffle."
Social Media Muni Hotlists Now Available
Want instant updates on the world of community networks, broadband and Internet policy, or fiber-to-the-home? We have compiled several Twitter lists and a list of community networks' Facebook pages. Use these as resources to connect with advocates, to find new groups, or just to learn about community networks.
Subscribe to the lists of your choice on the left of each Twitter list. If you follow people, groups, or entities that you think we should add, let us know:
Check out this list if you want to get the low-down from local publicly-owned networks that tweet.
Learn from other advocates. This list can serve as a resource of advocacy groups, advocates, and people who just like to talk about community networks, local ownership, free Internet, the digital divide, etc.
Broadband Gov & Officials
Follow this list for government Twitter accounts and government officials tweeting about broadband and Internet policy - get the latest on what government is doing or what government officials are thinking.
To keep-up-to-date, here's a list of journalists, researchers, and writers. Subscribe to get the latest tweets about broadband, Internet, and technology issues.
For the really esoteric, learn about companies that work on topics related to fiber, broadband, and Internet issues in general.
If you have suggestions of people or organizations for these lists, message Hannah on Twitter at @HTrostle or send her an email at email@example.com.
Member Owned Networks Collaborate for Rural Georgia Libraries
A member-owned nonprofit network and a telecommunications cooperative are helping seven regional libraries in mountainous northeast Georgia improve services for patrons with fast, affordable, reliable connectivity.
Collaboration for Community
The North Georgia Network Cooperative (NGN), in partnership with member-owned Georgia Public Web (GPW), recently launched 100 Megabit per second (Mbps) symmetrical broadband access speeds in seven library facilities in the Northeast Georgia Regional Library system (NEGRLS). Upgrades in some of the locations were significant. At the Helen library campus, the facility switched from a 6 Mbps download DSL connection to the new service.
The new initiative also enables the complementary “NGN Connect” service which includes hosted Wi-Fi service and a VoIP telephone system at each location. The upgrade extends from the cooperative's role in the Education Exchange, Georgia's only regional 10 Gigabit per second (Gbps) private cloud for exclusive use by school systems launched last September.
Helping Rural Georgians Help Themselves
Donna Unger, director of member services for NGN, explained NGN’s mission for the project:
I've often heard libraries build communities, it's very fitting that we are here today celebrating the new 100 Mbps connection to the Northeast Georgia Regional Library System provided by NGN Connect. This is what we're about, NGN's foundation was built upon the communities in which we serve. It's becoming more critical for libraries, government, education and businesses alike to have reliable and affordable bandwidth to meet the daily demands of the ever-changing dynamics of today's digital world.
NEGRLS Director Delana L. Knight highlighted the initiative’s benefits:
Offering free access to this important resource is another way that our local public libraries are empowering our communities by providing support for job seekers, students, as well as almost limitless educational and entertainment opportunities for all citizens.