Fast, affordable Internet access for all.
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When a company processes 180,000 medical claims each year and prides itself on embracing high tech in medical care, access to fiber connectivity is a no-brainer. When a city like Tullahoma offers reliable, fast, and affordable services via their municipal fiber network minus the expense of a big city, it makes sense to bring the company to the town. EnableComp is joining need and solution while creating new jobs in Tullahoma, home of LightTUBe.
Attracted by the Light
EnableComp, headquartered in Franklin, Tennessee, now employs about 240 people who work for the company processing medical claims. Over the next five years, EnableComp will add 200 more positions, all in Tullahoma. They will invest an additional $1 million to develop an office facility.
According to Tullahoma Area Economic Development Corp executive director Thom Robinson, LightTUBe was “a key reason” for the company’s decision to expand in the city of about 19,000 people.
“This announcement continues the exciting growth that we are seeing in Tullahoma, and I want to thank EnableComp for their investment in our City. This project brings a diversity of economic growth to our area, and I know the strong development of our infrastructure, including our state-of-the-art Fiber Optic system has prepared us to welcome this company, as well as others that may follow."
EnableComp’s investment in Tullahoma is the latest in a string of economic development results that relate to LightTUBe. Before the city invested in the network, job growth in Tullahoma lagged behind the rest of the state, but within two years after the city began offering broadband, that statistic changed. Job growth in the city doubled Tennessee’s statewide rate.
In the Internet access industry, large corporations typically fight to maintain their positions as monopolies. Even if they have no intention of serving certain communities, big cable and telecom companies work to prevent others from gaining a foothold, fearful that they may someday lose subscribers. On the other hand, municipalities that operate publicly owned networks often encourage, mentor, and collaborate with neighboring communities to get people connected. Now, EPB Fiber Optics in Chattanooga is partnering with municipalities and cooperatives interested in offering Internet access.
Working Past Restrictions
Tennessee still prevents municipal power utilities from offering telecommunications services beyond their electric service areas, but state law won’t deter EPB Fiber Optics from doing what they can. Recently, EPB Vice President of Marketing J. Ed Marsten spoke with Telecompetitor. “We’re partnering with some other municipal and cooperative providers to help them get into the business,” Marston said. “We’ve seen a ton of interest.”
EPB Fiber Optics is offering a range of services to potential utility partners as a way to bring better connectivity to more Tennesseans. In addition to consulting services, the utility may be able to provide transport to an Internet point of presence (POP) and offers tech support. When municipalities or cooperatives work with EPB and use Chattanooga’s staff, they can cut operating costs and reduce the time it takes to begin offering services.
In Massachusetts, Westfield Gas+Electric (WG+E) offers similar services to the nearby rural towns that lack high-quality Internet access. Westfield’s Whip City Fiber, however, is not precluded from offering Internet access via local public infrastructure. Like EPB, WG+E also offers consulting services, if municipalities choose to operate their own networks.
Publicly Minded Moves…So Many
John Lester, General Manager of Clarksville Connected Utilities in Arkansas, was on our show several years ago to talk about his work in Chanute, Kansas. Since then, he’s moved on to Clarksville to bring the community's infrastructure up-to-date with fiber. In this interview, John brings along Brian Eisele, President and CEO of the Clarksville - Johnson County Chamber of Commerce, to offer additional perspective.
Clarksville began by introducing a supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system to their utilities. In only a few years, they’ve expanded to use the fiber optic infrastructure for improved connectivity for public facilities and businesses. They’re now focusing on a Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) project to offer fast, affordable, reliable connectivity to all premises in the city. John discusses the city’s investigation into the risks, rewards, and possible models as they worked with consultants to develop a plan. John also shares some of the possible plans for the future of Clarksville Connected Utilities and the surrounding area.
As a local entrepreneur and member of the community interested in driving economic development, Brian Eisele describes the ways the network impacts businesses and residents. He shares some of his own experiences along with other stories of growth related to the presence of the fiber network.
Read more about Clarksville’s network and the community.
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Thanks to Arne Huseby for the music. The song is Warm Duck Shuffle and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.
Ponca City, Oklahoma, is a small community of about 24,000 just 30 miles off of I-35. Although known for its history museums, Ponca City also has a rich history in its publicly owned network. The city was one of the pioneers of citywide Wi-Fi in the 2000s, and now they are embarking on a Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) project. Construction on the first phase of the network will be complete with customers online by mid-July. We spoke with David Williams, the Director of Technology Services, to learn more about Ponca City’s project.
The First Phase
The first phase of the new FTTH network is a small section of the city, a 1 mile by 1.5 mile rectangle bounded by Bradley Avenue, Highland Avenue, 14th Street, and Union Street where the city is primarily deploying aerially on poles. The entire city is only about 20 square miles and the entire network for the city will eventually be a mix of underground and overhead deployment, matching the municipal electric network infrastructure.
The engineering estimate for the first phase puts the cost at approximately $3.5 million. The city estimated how many people will sign up for service (the take rate) very conservatively and is on track to meet its target number.
Williams said they chose to focus exclusively on Internet service and will have no data caps or subscriber contracts. There will be an activation fee with two payment options: a one-time payment of $200 or $10 per month for 24 months.
Residents can choose from three speed tiers — all are symmetrical:
- 50 Mbps for $60 per month
- 100 Mbps for $100 per month
- 1 Gbps for $250 per month
Service for businesses will also be available; rates are available on a case-by-case basis.
Update 7/23/20: Loveland Pulse has finalized its broadband tiers, and the prices below are no longer relevant. Find updated pricing for residential Internet subscriptions on the Pulse website.
While Loveland’s proximity to Rocky Mountain National Park might be the lifeblood of this “Gateway to the Rockies,” the Colorado city is finding a new heartbeat with its planned broadband network, Pulse.
Loveland (pop. 76,700) announced the name and branding of its new Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network at a launch event on May 30, the Denver Post reports. As part of the Loveland Water and Power department, Pulse will connect the city’s residents and businesses with fast, reliable, affordable Internet access. At the event, City Councilmember John Fogle said, “Bringing broadband to our community is one of the biggest decisions City Council and city staff have made in the history of Loveland.”
Loveland Looks at Broadband
The name Pulse may be new, but Loveland’s planned fiber network has been six years in the making.
Loveland took its first major step towards municipal connectivity in 2015 when 82 percent of voters chose to opt out of Colorado Senate Bill 152, which prevents local governments from investing in broadband infrastructure. Then in the fall of 2018, after working with a consultant on a feasibility study, Loveland City Council decided to move forward with a municipal broadband network. Councilors had originally planned to pose the question to city residents in a special ballot, but with the community’s overwhelming support of the 2015 referendum in mind, they chose to proceed without the public vote.
Named the Intelligent Community of the Year by the Intelligent Communities Forum in 2012, Riverside, California has continued to work toward broadband expansion, digital inclusion and take full advantage of their fiber optic infrastructure. To offer more options for commercial and institutional entities in the community, the city council approved a dark fiber leasing program to be operated and maintained by Riverside Public Utilities (RPU). Officially launched in 2018, the program makes the city’s 120-mile dark fiber network available for Internet service providers (ISPs), wireless operators, and mobile carriers to lease and provide service to industrial and commercial customers.
Becoming an Innovation Hub
Riverside’s growing reputation as a smart city has helped turn the community into a hub for start up companies, especially in the technology industry. Located just east of Los Angeles, Riverside was ranked as 19th on MSN Money’s list of the best cities in the U.S. to grow a business and several large companies, such as SolarMax, have recently located there.
While the fiber network was originally constructed for running the operational facilities of power and water, the city had the foresight to finance and construct fiber to every city facility. With the new leasing program, this original network is now an essential backbone for providing the city’s businesses and industries with the high-speed service they need to compete with surrounding communities.
Open for Business
Clarksville, Arkansas, began their journey toward better local connectivity to enhance electric utility efficiencies. Four years after making the choice to deploy fiber, the town has chosen to use that fiber to offer Internet access to the community. Gigabit connectivity is on the way to every premise in Clarksville.
Kicking it Off
On June 1st, about 400 people gathered for an event to celebrate three achievements for Clarksville: a new high school campus, re-branding of the municipal utilities, and a fiber splicing to kick-off their upcoming citywide Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) deployment. They enjoyed free food, tours of the new facility, and learned more about the new infrastructure that will bring fast, affordable, reliable connectivity to residents and businesses. John Lester, General Manager of Clarksville Connected Utilities, told us about the event and the new project.
As CCU has worked to update connectivity for the town of around 10,000, Lester and other leaders at the utility have recognized that it's also time for a re-branding. After more than 100 years, the Clarksville Light & Water municipal utility retired “The Waterdrip Guy” and adopted a new name and a new logo. In order to reflect the city’s transition to a more forward thinking and competitive attitude, they transitioned to Clarksville Connected Utilities (CCU); the utility Commission approved the change in March. Their new logo uses the utility locate colors.
From Light to Light-Speed
Beresford, South Dakota (pop. 2,000), has a long history of providing for itself. Located in the southeast corner of the state, Beresford operates its own electric utility as well as a municipal liquor store and golf course. For nearly 90 years, the city has also provided communications services to the community with the Beresford Municipal Telephone Company (BMTC), which currently offers DSL connectivity to residents and businesses.
In response to subscriber requests for faster speeds, BMTC recently decided to replace its old copper lines with a fully fiber optic network. The Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) upgrade will improve the network’s capacity and reliability, and city officials are optimistic about the potential benefits of better connectivity. “This is really a game changer for us,” said Beresford Mayor Nathan Anderson in a press release announcing the project.
Over the next year, BMTC will deploy 70 miles of fiber to replace its current network. The new FTTH network will be capable of gigabit speeds, which over ten times faster than what BMTC can offer now.
“Our copper infrastructure has supported our many services over the years,” explained BMTC General Manager Todd Hansen, “but fiber optic cable improves speed, provides stability and will increase bandwidth.”
City officials believe the new fiber network will help the community grow. “Fiber is really going to help us to recruit and retain people to come, live, work, play and spend in Beresford,” Mayor Anderson said. “It’s potentially going to open new opportunities not just for residents but also for businesses.”
Beresford plans to spend approximately $5 million building the new network. At a March city council meeting, council members decided to commit $2.5 million to the project. The city expects to finance the remaining costs by issuing bonds.
BMTC will start construction on the FTTH upgrade in the fall.
At their May 14th board meeting, the Traverse City Light & Power Board (TCLP) decided to move forward and begin contract negotiations with Fujitsu Network Communications to expand the city’s fiber optic network in order to begin serving residents as well as businesses.
A Careful Approach
The community of about 10,000 has taken a cautious approach as they’ve investigated the possible ways to improve Internet access in the community. TCLP and city leaders have thoroughly examined the pros and cons, which has allowed them to make decisions based on ample amounts of information.
Earlier this year, they hired Fujitsu to develop a potential business plan, along with a design and operations plan for a municipal network. In past years, the city issued an RFI for a partner to develop an open access network on which TCLP would offer services as an Internet access provider, and they’ve commissioned a feasibility study which examined leasing to a single provider or operating as a municipal Internet access network. TCLP has also discussed the possibility of working with an electric cooperative that operates the region. In the end, they decided to pursue a municipal fiber network.
Traverse City has operated its own downtown WiFi for more than a decade, so understands the value of Internet access to the economy, while folks who live there have come to appreciate access to connectivity.
Leaders in Lancaster, California, Authorize Resolution to Allow City to Move on Muni, Other Utilities
At a Lancaster City Council meeting on May 14th, community leaders voted unanimously to take a step toward establishing several municipal utilities, including a publicly owned fiber optic network.
Good Experiences with Their Public Utility
Lancaster Choice Energy (LCE) is the city’s municipal electric utility, but in the future may be one of several publicly owned utilities. LCE has a Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) program, which allows individual users within the community to join together for purchasing power and gives them more control over matters such as the source of their energy. Lancaster wants to become a net-zero city and is exploring a range of approaches to reach that goal.
The community also underwent traffic signal upgrades like many other California communities and has installed additional fiber as the city has started to implement Smart City initiatives. At the city council meeting, City Manager Jason Caudle noted that using the fiber optic assets to develop a community network was a strong possibility.
In an article in the Antelope Valley Press published prior to the meeting, Caudle also noted that they plan other uses for the fiber, “As part of our smart cities effort, we’ve installed fiber-optic networks already throughout our city, and then we’re looking at putting our streetlights into Wi-Fi hotspots as well as 5G networks,” he said.
In his report to the council, Caudle wrote:
The establishment of a municipal utility is the next step in continuing to ensure that citizens and businesses are provided with utility services that meet the current and future needs of the community. As a municipal utility, Lancaster will have the opportunity to utilize advanced technology, provide utility services at rates and charges that are fair and reasonable, provide high quality customer service, and provide alternatives to existing providers of utility services similar to what the City achieved through the development of the City’s CCA.