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Los Angeles Times Supports Local Authority
President Obama's recent appearance in Cedar Falls infused adrenaline into the debate about local authority for telecommunications decisions. As a result, some of the media outlets from large cities are now coming out in support of local authority. The Editorial Board of the LA Times published an opinion on January 21st supporting the notion of restoring local authority in states where laws prevent community decision making.
The Times recognizes that rural areas will benefit most from reversing these restrictions, that the restrictions need to be removed for us to compete globally, and that there are numerous municipal networks that are up to the challenge of improving connectivity. The LA Times also recognizes the value of public-private partnerships in New York and in other places where local government has forged productive relationships with the private sector.
Editors at the LA Times boil it down to one tenet:
Regardless, the decision about whether a local agency should get into the broadband business should be left to the people who bear the risk — local officials and the people who elect them.
Cap Times Weighs In on Mayoral Race, Muni Broadband, and Free Internet: We Need It!
The Madison Cap Times recently ran an editorial focusing on the surprising nature of mayoral races. We were also surprised - pleasantly so - to read the intention of the editorial board (emphasis ours):
The Capital Times will add its proposals to the mix, with a special focus on using emerging technologies to promote high-wage job creation and economic development. In particular, we'll advocate for the establishment of a municipal broadband system that can provide free high-speed Internet access to all Madisonians.
Madison is a great city that does plenty of things right. But it faces major challenges, some of its own making, some imposed by reactionary state government, some dictated by our complex times. A mayoral race is the pivot point at which to discuss those challenges and the proper responses to them.
The Cap Times editorial reminds us that local decision making about connectivity is rooted in our choice of local leaders. We encourage Madison voters and all other communities facing the ballot to press candidates to address the issue of fast, affordable, reliable connectivity. If your community doesn't have it, ask your candidates what they intend to do about it.
Madison's mayor Soglin has been a leader on this issue via the U.S. Conference of Mayors, where he wrote and worked to adopt a resolution that called for restoring local decision-making authority to local governments.
New Article on Economic Development and Fiber: "The Killer App for Local Fiber Networks"
Time and again, we share economic development stories from communities that have invested in fiber networks. A new article by Jim Baller, Joanne Hovis, and Ashley Stelfox from the Coalition for Local Internet Choice (CLIC) and Masha Zager from Broadband Communities magazine examines the meaning of economic development and the connection to fiber infrastructure.
Economists, advocates, and policymakers grapple with how to scientifically measure the link between the two but:
As Graham Richard, former mayor of Fort Wayne, Ind., observed, “From the point of view of retaining and gaining jobs, I can give you example after example [of the impact of broadband]. … What I don’t have is a long term, double-blind study that says it was just broadband.” But, “as a leader, sometimes you go with your gut.”
In addition to presenting examples from a number of communities such as Chattanooga, Lafayette, and Santa Monica, the article nicely summarizes key information from recent reports on links between broadband and real estate value, household income, and local economic growth.
As the authors note:
Communities increasingly recognize that fiber networks also provide critical benefits for education, public safety, health care, transportation, energy, environmental protection, urban revitalization, government service and much more. But only in revitalizing and modernizing local economies and creating meaningful, well-paying jobs do community leaders, businesses, institutions and residents consistently find common ground. In short, economic development and job creation can fairly be called the “killer app” for local fiber networks.
Worth reading and sharing!
Roanoke Valley Broadband Authority Issues RFP
The Roanoke Valley in Virginia has taken a deliberate pace on the road to improving local connectivity. On December 10th, the Roanoke Valley Broadband Authority (RVBA) released an RFP for proposals for an open access fiber optic network.
The RVBA is seeking a partner to build the network that will remain a publicly owned asset but will be managed by a private partner. According to the RFP, the City of Salem Electric Department has fiber in place that will be integrated into the the network. The RVBA has already invested in design, engineering, and permitting of 42 miles of a fiber network to jumpstart the process. Construction should begin this year.
In November, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported:
The valley is often described as being caught in a “doughnut hole” for broadband service because it’s not a large enough area for the marketplace to drive creation of a truly high-speed network, but it’s too large to qualify for grants available to more rural locales.
The Times-Dispatch reports the estimated cost for the project is $4 million.
SandyNet Now Offering Gigabit FTTH in Oregon
Back in September, SandyNet announced that its FTTH gigabit network was officially up and running. The utility will continue to expand and eventually bring the network to all 4,000 households. Light Reading recently spoke with Joe Knapp, Sandy's IT Director and general manager of the broadband utility about the new offering. With a population of 10,000, Sandy is in Oregon between Portland and Mount Hood.
The network is completely underground. Sandy is one of many communities that have developed smart conduit policies, reducing the cost and preparing the environment for deployment over a period of years.
You can listen to our discussion with Knapp on Sandy's conduit policy in Episode 17 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. We also spoke with City Manager Scott Lazenby about Sandy's conduit policies during Episode 48.
Like many other communities we study, Sandy invested in connectivity out of necessity. Knapp told Light Reading:
"We started out because we couldn't get a DSL line at city hall," says Joe Knapp, IT director for the City of Sandy and general manager of SandyNet. The utility first built a 900MHz wireless network, then WiFi, then a wireless mesh network to connect residents to broadband, he says. "That became so popular that we took about 40% of the market with wireless, but that was a hard thing to sustain."
The journey to FTTH was not an easy one:
"We started to realize that a lot of communities are doing this," Knapp says. "It took three years of beating my head against the wall to finally get it to happen."
Gigabit speeds are something to boast about, but Knapp says SandyNet will not go to extremes to push them:
"As a muni network, we view this as trying to benefit the community. I tell them to try the 100-Meg service first -- we're actually not pushing the gig that hard."
FACT SHEET: Broadband That Works: Promoting Competition & Local Choice In Next-Generation Connectivity
In January 2015, President Barak Obama appeared in Cedar Falls, Iowa, to present his administration's plan to encourage local choice and competition through community networks. The President's strategy includes eliminating barriers to local telecom authority that now exist in 19 states.
The Broadband That Works: Promoting Competition & Local Choice In Next-Generation Connectivity fact sheet, released by the White House Office of the Press Secretary on the eve of the appearance, provides info on several communities served by munis and the benefits they have enjoyed. The fact sheet also outlines five steps the administrations proposes to improves access, adoption, and investment.
For more detailed information, download the accompanying report by the National Economic Council and Council of Economic Advisors.
Community-Based Broadband Solutions: The Benefits of Competition and Choice for Community Development and Highspeed Internet Access
Affordable, reliable access to high speed broadband is critical to U.S. economic growth and competitiveness. Upgrading to higher-speed broadband lets consumers use the Internet in new ways, increases the productivity of American individuals and businesses, and drives innovation throughout the digital ecosystem. As this report describes, while the private sector has made investments to dramatically expand broadband access in the U.S., challenges still remain. Many markets remain unserved or underserved. Others do not benefit from the kind of competition that drives down costs and improves quality. To help fill the void, hundreds of towns and cities around the country have developed their own locally-owned networks. This report describes the benefits of higher-speed broadband access, the current challenges facing the market, and the benefits of competition – including competition from community broadband networks. - Executive Summary
On January 13, 2015, President Barack Obama visited Cedar Falls, Iowa, to discuss his administration's plans to bring better connectivity to American residents and businesses. The centerpiece of his strategy involved removing state barriers to municipal networks and promoting local authority.
In tandem with that speech, the White House released this report. The report includes significant research from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, including community profiles, economic data, and the role if municipal networks in competition.
Communities included in the report are: Chattanooga; Lafayette, Louisiana; Wilson, North Carolina; Scott County, Minnesota; Leverett, Massachusetts; and the Choctaw National Tribal Area in Oklahoma.
The report also outlines President Obama's ancillary initiatives to encourage local projects and provides significant data from the ILSR Community Broadband Map.
Gigabit Muni Fiber Partnership: Westminster and Ting
Westminster's city council just voted unanimously to establish a partnership with Ting, reports the Carroll County Times. Known primarily as a mobile service provider, Ting wants to offer Internet services via the new municipal fiber optic network. Ting announced earlier this month that it would soon begin offering Internet service in Charlottesville, Virginia as well.
In their own announcement about the partnership, CTC Technology & Energy's Joanne Hovis described the arrangement:
The City will fund, own, and maintain the fiber; Ting will lease the fiber and provide all equipment and services. Ting will pay the City to use the fiber—reducing the City’s risk while enabling Ting to offer Gigabit Internet in Westminster without having to build a fiber network from scratch.
CTC has worked with Westminster since the beginning to analyze the community's situation, assets, and challenges.
We have watched Westminster's idea blossom into a pilot project and then go full bloom to a planned 60-mile network when demand dictated nothing less. The project has been community driven and community minded. It comes to no surprise to us that a straight shooting, consumer minded provider such as Ting would be the partner Westminster would choose.
Dr. Robert Wack, city council member and local project leader told the Times:
"From the very beginning, it was obvious that they [Ting] understood what we were trying to do," said Council President Robert Wack. "We got a lot of feedback from other responses that was questioning to flat-out skeptical."
Ting considers the arrangement an organic step for them. From the press release:
Hagerstown, Maryland Issues RFI for Gigabit Network
Hagerstown, population 40,000, recently released a Request for Information to field ideas to develop existing infrastructure for residents and local businesses.
According to the press release:
"The interest in our City and the potential shown for our market from industry professionals working with municipal broadband initiatives has been very promising. We look forward to moving ahead in collaboration with private partners to bring affordable technology to Hagerstown," says Mayor Dave Gysberts.
The RFI identifies five goals:
Goal 1: Create a 1 GB and/or greater fiber network in a targeted commercial corridor known as “City Center Hagerstown” to foster innovation, drive job creation, and stimulate economic growth
Goal 2: Establish free wireless networks in parks and public spaces across the City, with primary focus on the following areas: City Park, Pangborn Park, Hellane Park, Wheaton Park, and Fairgrounds Park.
Goal 3: Evaluate the opportunity to expand wired/wireless services to areas beyond our City Center urban core to include underserviced residential areas, business parks, and/or target commercial areas.
Goal 4: Provide connectivity opportunities from the proposed fiber paths for the existing City Police camera surveillance system including expansion into other developing areas of the City.
Goal 5: Establish a presence within the community in the form of co‐location facility and/or business branch office space in which to conduct business.
According to the RFI, the city is seeking entities that will finance the majority of the network themselves or identify sources of funding. View the full RFI on the city website.
In Ohio, Hudson Offers Broadband Survey
The city of Hudson in Northeast Ohio is considering ways to improve its broadband connectivity. As part of developing its “Broadband Needs Assessment and Business Plan,” the city has begun soliciting responses to a brief broadband survey. The goal is to get input from both residents and businesses to “examine the current state of the city's broadband services to identify ways the City can positively impact the delivery of broadband internet services in Hudson.”
We wrote about Hudson back in July, when they issued an RFP for their needs assessment and business plan. The current incumbent, Windstar, has left residents and businesses frustrated with slow speeds and poor customer service. The city already has an institutional network that connects some of its schools, utility and public safety facilities, and town hall. It hopes to be able to leverage and expand on those assets to further economic development and possibly provide home service at some point in the future. From the Hudson Hub Times:
"Our first step in this process is to assess the current broadband capacity and determine ways to help ensure we have access to the broadband and technology we need for Hudson to thrive," said City Manager Jane Howington. "We encourage Hudson residents to make their voices heard by taking the short residential survey on the city's website."
The survey, as well as a brief informational video from the city discussing some of the possible uses and value of fiber optic connections, is available here.