Vinton Municipal Communications Utility (VMCU) has chosen key operational partners as it moves forward with plans to build a fiber-to-the-home network beginning this summer.
The VMCU Board of Trustees directed staff to proceed with Vinton becoming part of the joint municipal IPTV headend at Cedar Falls for video. They also directed staff to finalize an agreement with ImOn Communications in Cedar Rapids for wholesale telephone switching, internet bandwidth and transport, and wholesale billing services.
Vinton will also be working with ImOn in another areas that is unique between an Iowa municipal telecom system and a private company. Under the planned agreement, VMCU will hire ImOn to handle the utility's technical operations for the first five years after the project is substantially completed. ImOn technicians will take care of day-to-day operations, including service calls and installations, as well as data center operations and engineering. At the end of the agreement, those technical operations would transition to VMCU using their own technicians.
Once they've signed the 28E agreement, Vinton will become the fifth co-owner of the IPTV headend that resides at Cedar Falls. Besides Cedar Falls Utilities, other owners include Waverly Utilities, the City of Bellevue, and Indianola Municipal Utilities.
VMCU will also be working with WIN Technologies (Wisconsin Independent Networks) for wholesale internet bandwidth to serve as redundancy for the bandwidth from ImOn.
Meteorologists and other scientists are sounding the alarm: the rush to deploy 5G wireless networks could set the clock back on weather forecasting by decades.
As this article at Wired details, the problem is that some of the frequencies the FCC is considering auctioning off for 5G spectrum is very close to frequencies used by important satellite-based tools that measure rain and snow, temperature, and the presence of clouds and ice in the atmosphere. That data is used in weather forecasting models that have become increasingly sophisticated and accurate over the years.
Dr. Neil Jacobs, acting chief of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), testified before a Congressional committee on the potential impact. As quoted in Digital Trends:
“If you look back in time to see when our forecast skill was roughly 30% less than it was today, it’s somewhere around 1980,” he said. In terms of practical impact, “this would result in the reduction of hurricane track forecast lead time by roughly two to three days.” -- Dr. Neil Jacobs, NOAA
The FCC and NOAA are trying to work out a compromise that would allow for expansion of 5G without reducing the effectiveness of weather forecasting tools.
The Community Broadband Action Network picked up two new members since the beginning of May.
The Beaver Island Association in Beaver Island, Michigan is our newest COMMUNITY MEMBER. Beaver Island is a small community on an island in northern Lake Michgan, about 36 miles from the mainland. With over 500 year-round residents, the Association is looking for ways to improve broadband connectivity.
Our newest Provider Member is Rocket Broadband, which offers mobile broadband services in remote areas and as a backup internet source for businesses with critical connectivity needs. Rocket Broadband is a division of R&D Industries based in Milford, Iowa.
Welcome to these new CBAN members, and we encourage all our members to spread the word about CBAN membership!
The municipal broadband provider in Beresford, South Dakota says it will rebuild its copper network to fiber optics. As pointed out in the Sioux Falls Argus Leader, Beresford Municipal Telephone leaders announced this week that they will embark on a $5 million project to rebuild their existing DSL-based facilities to fiber.
Beresford, a town of approximately 2,000 in southeast South Dakota, has been operating a city-owned telephone company for more than 90 years according to their website.
Indiana-based MetroNet Fiber is beginning construction of a fiber-to-the-home network in Rochester, MN, bringing a new competitive choice for the southeast Minnesota city.
MetroNet has been on an aggressive growth curve in the Midwest. They began work on a fiber network in Davenport and Bettendorf, Iowa earlier this spring and purchased a company that provides service in Lansing, Michigan and other areas.
Meanwhile, work by MetroNet in Batavia, Illinois was recently put on hold after issues during construction caused city officials to halt permits.
The City of Adair, IA is one of six entities awarded funding under the first round of the Iowa Broadband Grants Program announced at the end of April. The Adair project was awarded $138,900 from the total program allocation of $1.3 Million.
Adair is planning to build a municipal fiber network in the western Iowa community of 781 and partner with neighboring Casey Mutual Telephone to provide internet, cable TV, and telephone services. The Iowa Broadband Grant will offset approximately 15% of the overall cost of the fiber project, which community leaders hope to begin building later this year.
Other applicants to receive funding under the grant program were BTC Inc., Chariton Valley Planning & Development Council, Heartland Telecommunications, Sully Telephone Association, and WTC Communications. The Iowa Legislature recently appropriated an additional $5 million for the Iowa Broadband Grant Program, which is part of the Connect Every Iowan program.
We've reported here in Broadband Bytes about the Taxpayer Protection Alliance (TPA) and their recent stepped-up efforts to cast doubts about municipal broadband in Iowa. The Koch Brothers-backed organization has also been active in several other states, including Michigan. Last week, the Community Broadband Action Network (CBAN, publishers of Broadband Bytes) published an editorial designed to set the record straight.
The opinion piece, "Municipal Fiber is Good For Communities", was published in the May 10th print edition of the Traverse City Record Eagle and is available online. In the article, CBAN Co-Founders Jon Anne Willow (who lives in Traverse City) and Curtis Dean countered claims by TPA that the type of municipal fiber network being considered by Traverse City Light & Power is a risky venture. We've provided the full text of the CBAN opinion piece below.
Municipal fiber is good for communities
Traverse City Light & Power (TCL&P) is planning to bring its already-extensive fiber network directly to all homes and businesses in Traverse City, with the aim of providing the highest possible speeds and the most accountable and reliable service available — at competitive prices. While not inexpensive, the cost is greatly reduced because most of the required fiber optic cable is already in place. It will be funded by the ratepayers who sign up for service.
TCL&P is well-positioned financially to make this happen and will not begin installation until it has an approved plan and goals for revenue, costs and growth — including an exit strategy if the program doesn’t live up to its promise within a proscribed timeline. This information is publicly available on the TCL&P website, mostly via board meeting notes and FAQs.
TCL&P is a dark money target
Unfortunately, a group funded in part by the Koch brothers’ dark money network is targeting TCL&P in yet another attempt to push its anti-municipal broadband agenda in Michigan and across the nation.
The Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) follows a familiar playbook in all its campaigns. In it, the term “taxpayers” is used inaccurately to stir up opposition — in this case to public broadband — even when those projects, like TCL&P’s, are funded entirely without tax-based debt.
Another trick, specifically in reference to broadband, is to suggest that fiber technology is on the verge of becoming obsolete with the entrance of 5G.
As it turns out, 5G will need fiber — deep and lots of it — to overcome its short-range signal challenges. The technology is unlikely to proliferate on a massive scale unless it finds a ride on a solid backbone. Ironically, that backbone is fiber.
Traverse City is uniquely positioned for broadband success
Fortunately, Traverse City isn’t a community deprived of reliable Internet access, unlike at least 19 million Americans, according to the FCC’s latest report.
Nor is it beholden to its profitability profile in the eyes of commercial providers, who often limit services and charge higher rates in markets where potential subscriber density and/or household income is deemed too low for discounted rates and premium service plans.
Instead, Traverse City’s citizens are the beneficiaries of a responsible and responsive public utility that works for its owners — the ratepayers.
With most of the required fiber already in place and a strong financial history that’s kept rates low and allowed for this investment — with zero tax-based debt — there may never have been a community as shovel-ready for city-wide fiber as Traverse City, Michigan.
Get the facts
The next TCL&P meeting is May 14 at 5:15 p.m. in the City Commission Chambers at 400 Boardman Ave. If you have questions or concerns, this is the time to voice them. A vote to discuss and possibly approve the project is on the agenda and there will be public comment.
Hope to see you there.
Reports last week the CenturyLink, one of the nation's largest incumbent telephone companies, is examining the future of its consumer business has investors spooked and industry analysts polishing their crystal balls.
During a first quarter earnings call with investors last week, CenturyLink CEO Jeff Storey reported that the company has enlisted advisors to assist the company in a strategic review of the company’s consumer business. "Let me be clear, we’re early in what I expect to be a lengthy and complex process,” said Story, who also noted that the company will not be altering operations or changing its investment plans during the review.
CenturyLink has seen declining revenue from consumer services - telephone and broadband services to residential and small business customers - over the past several years, which revenues from enterprise and wholesale operations. It's unclear whether CenturyLink might look to spin-off its consumer services and sell to another operator, but the situation bears watching, especially in areas where CenturyLink is one of the few (if only) choices for consumer broadband access.
Provided by Independence Light & Power, Telecommunications
This summer, Independence Light & Power, Telecommunications will continue to invest back into the community by expanding the Fiber to the Home (FTTH) project to parts of the NE side of town (from Malone Creek east to 17 Street NE) and the Terrace Drive area.
FTTH refers to the installation and use of fiber-optic cables to carry digital information directly to homes. These cables are made up of hundreds of fibers, which are long thin strands of pure glass about the diameter of human hair.
Both the Terrace Drive area and part of the NE side of town will join the recently converted Jackson Green, Pine Drive, Spruce Drive and Cardinal Court areas as an all new fiber system, bringing faster and more reliable service to customers.
Independence Light & Power, Telecommunications’ crews have recently started the FTTH conversion work in the NE side of town and plan to be finished by late fall. Beginning in May, West Union Trenching will be in the Terrace Drive area installing new duct work to each home. Once the duct work is installed, utility crews will be scheduling appointments to convert customers over to the new fiber optic system.
FTTH replaces the aging infrastructure that phone and cable companies previously installed in
neighborhoods. Fiber has a higher bandwidth capacity and can easily transmit applications like telephone, cable and internet with plenty of capacity left over for other applications in the future.
“As the demand for internet service continues to grow, it is important that we make this investment in our community. These projects will ensure our customers have the resources necessary to provide them with the network capacity to support both current and future needs,” said Josh Vandenburg, Telecom Manager.
“As your hometown provider, we are excited to bring you this next generation of communications technology. It is all part of our commitment to provide exceptional customer service to our customers. FTTH offers many advantages to residential and business customers alike and prepares everyone to enjoy an even greater selection of communications options in the future,” added Kevin Sidles, utility General Manager.
If you have questions or would like to know more information about these projects , please call (319) 332-0100 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit www.indytel.com for updates on the FTTH projects.
A group funded by the Koch Brothers dark money network has hired a former member of the Iowa House of Representative to push their anti-municipal broadband agenda in Iowa.
Last week Chip Baltimore, the new Senior Fellow at the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) attended a meeting of the Vinton Municipal Utilities Board of Trustees. During a public hearing on VMU’s plans to issue electric revenue bonds for their portion of a planned fiber-to-the-premise network in Vinton, Baltimore told the Board that they were risking electric ratepayers money by investing in the network. It’s not the first time that Baltimore has used his new position to attack the Vinton project. In a letter addressed to the VMU Board in February, he claimed that “Vinton is spending 75% more on a per location basis for its network than the median cost for comparable municipal fiber networks.” That same letter also criticized other municipal projects, including Muscatine Power & Water.
Ever since the TPA hired Baltimore, whose term in the Iowa House expired at the end of 2018, they have been firing off letters and making public records requests in other Iowa communities with pending fiber projects, including New Hampton and Charles City. Certainly having boots on the ground in Iowa gives TPA a golden opportunity to attack municipal broadband here, but similar attacks, including letters to the editor of local newspapers, have been happening in other states.
It’s nothing new for TPA to target municipal broadband. As Wired Magazine outlined in a December 2017 article:
“The connection between the TPA and the Koch brothers emerged from investigative reporting by ProPublica and others. This work has revealed that the Taxpayers Protection Alliance is a front advocacy group, part of a network of dark-money organizations supported in part by the Koch brothers. (The funding seems not to come from the Koch family directly but instead is funneled through other Koch-funded groups.) TPA’s most recent IRS filing shows it received about half a million dollars in contributions in 2016, but the sources of these contributions are blacked out. Tax-exempt organizations are not required to disclose the names of their donors publicly. David Williams, TPA’s president, told the Louisville Courier-Journal earlier this year that the group receives funding from “a lot of different sources," including groups affiliated with the Koch brothers.” -- Wired Magazine, 12/16/17
TPA is also the creator of the laughably flawed “Broadband Boondoggles” map supposedly showing “failed” taxpayer-funded networks. Indeed, the use of “taxpayer” is one of the tricks TPA and other dark money groups use in an attempt to rile up opposition to networks – even when projects are funded entirely without tax-based debt. Their boondoggle map appears to be broken as of this writing, but when BroadbandBytes accessed it last year it had this special nugget of misinformation:
Don't let the facts get in the way of a bad ideological argument.
It’s also nothing new that municipal broadband is being attacked in general. Occasionally these anti-municipal groups, usually funded by special interests with a stake in reducing competition or with anti-government slant, fund reports and issue white papers outlining the supposed pitfalls of municipal networks. The Institute for Local Self Reliance has done an excellent job countering these false claims. CLICK HERE to access their “Correcting Community Fiber Fallacies” page.
And it’s all quite reminiscent of the attacks that municipals faced during most of the 2000’s as incumbent providers formed front groups such as the “Project Taxpayer Protection Committee” and “Citizens for Common Sense Solutions” fought against municipal broadband referendums. Remember gems like these from the 2005 Opportunity Iowa wave of referenda? This one was a direct mail piece sent out by the Project Taxpayer Protection Committee in the fall of 2005.
There’s always a risk that tactics like this, including the new wave of false information being boosted by the Taxpayers Protection Alliance, might give local decision makers pause. That’s why its important to continue countering these false claims whenever – and wherever – they occur.
Broadband Bytes News
Presented by the Community Broadband Action Network and curated by Curtis Dean.