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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.
Christopher is visiting Brussels, Belgium this week to present at a conference organized by the Swedish Association of Local Authorities (SALAR) and Stokab (The City of Stockholm IT infrastructure company). The seminar, "Maximizing Fibre Infrastructure Investment in Europe," is scheduled for Wednesday from 2 - 6 p.m. local time - that's 8 a.m. - noon EST in the U.S.
The event will be livestreamed on the Bambuser channel and we will also make a link available to the archive after the event.
According to the seminar announcement, main discussion will focus on:
How should the telecom market be structured in order to encourage service-based competition and innovation?
How can municipalities and regions engage in fibre deployment without risking to harm competition and making private companies less willing to invest?
Does the interest for investments in broadband and OTT services increase if it is possible to get access to fibre by municipalities and regions, not providing services themselves?
Chris will lecture on fiber rollouts in the U.S. He will be joined by a list of industry and research leaders, including:
- Benoit Felton: Chief Research Officer, Diffraction Analysis
- Jonas Malmlund: Partner, Consulting, Deloitte AB
- Crister Mattsson: Senior Advisor, Acreo Swedish ACT
- Anthony Whelan: Director, Electronic Communications, Networks and Services, DG Connect, European Commission
- Gunnar Hokmark: Vice President EPP, European Parliament
The event will be at the Radisson Blu EU Hotel in Brussels.
For more about the event and details on each presentation, take a moment to view the announcement below.
Opelika Power Services (OPS) began offering FTTH services to the community in mid-October, reports the Opelika-Auburn News, and demand is intense. Anticipation has been high since construction began in 2010. Dave Horton, OPS Director, told the News:
“We had a line of customers waiting at 7 a.m., and we don’t open until 8.”
“The calendar is full,” [Communications Manager June] Owens said. “We’re booked through November and into December. ... We’re trying to do about 20 (installations) a day.”
At this time, OPS serves most single-family properties. There are a few apartment complexes and mobile homes that were built after fiber was planted that also have service.
Regular readers will recall that Charter launched an astroturf campaign in Opelika when it announced it was interested in a network for smart-grid and connectivity purposeds. Fortunately, the voters in Opelika were savvy and interested in taking ownership of a fiber network.
At this early stage, the network already connects approximately 30 small businesses, reports Area Development Online. OPS has extended the network to the Northeast Opelika Industrial Park and the Fox Run Business Park.
In addition to spearheading the project, Mayor Gary Fuller is starring in OPS' newest funny video, "The Ball Pit":
OPS has also developed other testimonial videos from residential and business customers, each focusing on a different element of the service.
Volunteers in Shutesbury will fan out this weekend to perform a "pole inventory blitz" reports the GazetteNet.com. The town of approximately 1,800 people sits near Leverett and faces many of the same difficulties with connectivity.
Shutesbury and Leverett were working together a few years ago hoping to develop a solution to bring infrastructure to both communities. The two communities approached Verizon and Comcast asking for better connectivity, but their requests led to nothing. Eventually, Leverett became frustrated and broke out on their own. They are now deploying their own fiber network.
One of the first steps in determining the feasibility and costs to deploy a fiber network is accurately evaluating assets. Many local communities do not have an up-to-date inventory of utility poles or what entities own those poles. In Lake County, Minnesota, Frontier Communications asserted ownership of utility poles in the town of Two Harbors after fiber had been strung on those poles. Unfortunately, the county's records had not been revisited in some time and Frontier was able to produce records put ownership in question. The project was significantly delayed; planners eventually moved more fiber underground to avoid many of those poles. Pole inventories and due diligence, as in Shutesbury, help avoid delays and unanticipated cost increases. (Read all about Lake County's project in our recent report, All Hands on Deck: Minnesota Local Government Models For Exanding Fiber Internet Access)
On October 8th, Chris visited the Emerald City to present his thoughts on a municipal network in Seattle. He was a guest of the Seattle Citizens' Telecommunications and Technology Advisory Board at their Broadband Education Public Forum, cosponsored by Brown Paper Tickets.
Seattle has sought better connectivity for some time and has tossed around the idea of a municipal network. Residents and businesses have expressed their concern and Seattlites are mobilizing. The Seattle Citizens' Telecommunications and Technology Advisory Board is in place to collect input from the community, research, and make recommendations to community leaders. They regularly host experts like Chris to educate the Seattle community as they look for ways to improve affordable access for residents and businesses.
Chris was there for a lunch time event and an evening session. The evening session, titled Exploring Municipal Broadband In Seattle with Chris Mitchell, is now archived and available to view on the Seattle Channel.
We want to thank both Brown Paper Tickets and CTTAB for the opportunity. In particular, Brown Paper Tickets deserves recognition for being a private company taking a leading roll in organizing for better Internet for everyone.
We were glad to see Gigi Sohn, Special Counsel for External Affairs in the Office of the Chairman of the FCC, discussing how community broadband projects are going to play an important role in expanding high quality Internet access.
The webcast comes courtesy of the Internet Society, which recorded this session at an event hosted by the newly formed Philadelphia Chapter of the Federal Communications Bar Association, co-chaired by Kevin Werbach, Walter Anderson and Brian Rankin.
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.”
People searching for better local connectivity contact us regularly, asking for information on how they can get the process started in their community. On Wednesday, November 5th from 3 p.m. - 4:30 p.m. CST, Chris Mitchell and Lisa Gonzalez will host an online unwebinar. "Ask Us Anything - An Open Talk About Muni Networks" will be an opportunity for anyone to join and ask questions or join the discussion.
Are you interested in starting a local initiative to improve connectivity? Are you looking for resources on where to begin? Are you interested in learning about other communities with similar concerns?
This event depends on audience participation, so come with your questions ready! We are counting on you to drive the conversation. Participation is free and you can register online.
We have no set agenda and this is our first attempt at this format - but our intention is to have a moderated discussion based on what people want to discuss. Based on the volume of interest in how to start a community owned network, we expect that to be a focus.
Two more Colorado communities will be deciding whether or not to reclaim local telecommunications authority this fall. Colorado State Bill 152 took away local authority in 2005 but voters in several areas of the state are taking it back. Readers will recall Centennial voters passed the measure 3:1 last fall and Montrose voters approved a similar measure in the spring.
Boulder is home to the Boulder Research and Administration Network (BRAN), a fiber network that currently serves the city, the University of Colorado, the U.S. Department of Commerce, and the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research. A conduit network is already in place and an I-Net connects dozens of municipal facilities. Community leaders decided last summer it made good sense to re-establish the authority needed to make the most of existing resources. The Daily Camera recently spoke with a ballot measure 2C supporter:
"This allows the city of Boulder to determine what to do with a resource that already exists and is already paid for," said Timothy O'Shea, a member of the Yes on 2C steering committee who has worked with Boulder start-ups.
"It will not be the City Council determining that we'll have municipalization of those services," O'Shea said. "Yes on 2C is not about that. It's about the beginning of a dialogue and getting out from under a state law that prevents us from innovating with our existing resources."
Boulder's ballot measure [PDF] reads:
Big changes are happening in Longmont as the LPC builds out its network expansion. In addition to new services and new pricing, LPC for residents has a new name - NextLight. At a recent city council meeting, LPC announced that a number of residents in south central Longmont will be able to enroll for NextLight services as soon as November 3rd.
Homeowners who sign up within the first three months that service is available in their area, will get 1 Gbps symmetrical service for about $50 per month or half the regular residential price. Those customers, considered Charter Members, will keep the introductory price as long as they keep their service and will take that rate to their new home while also reserving that rate for the home they leave. The Times Call reports:
And if a homeowner does not sign up in the first three months, they could still obtain a customer loyalty price after one year, knocking the regular price down from $100 a month to $60 a month.
The city will also offer a lesser speed of 25 megabits per second for both uploading and downloading for about $40 a month and that price is not discounted for charter members or 1-year-members.
At the meeting, LPC Director Thomas Roiniotis explained the reason for the new brand:
NextLight was named with Longmont's original municipal electricity utility that the city acquired in 1912 in mind.
"What we're saying is now, today, with the same type of community support, we're building a network that uses beams of light to transmit information," Roiniotis said Monday.