It's still nearly two months until the 2017 IAMU Broadband Conference, but there's already a strong lineup of telecom equipment and solution providers signed up to display.
We'd like to extend a special THANK YOU to Power and Tel, which has agreed to sponsor one of our speakers, Brenda Clark Hamilton, who will be leading two workshop sessions on Wednesday, March 22nd. We appreciate Power and Tel's continued support of IAMU and its members!
As of today, here are the vendors that have committed to exhibit space (alphabetical order):
We are expecting around 40-45 vendors total for the conference this year. If you haven't registered to attend yet (or if your a vendor, registered for your exhibit space), please do so now at http://members.iamu.org/events/EventDetails.aspx?id=904876&group=
It's the biggest flurry on interest in new municipal broadband networks since the mid-2000's.
As 2017 begins, several Iowa communities are in various stages of evaluating whether or not to create a municipal fiber broadband network. Farthest along in the process is Vinton, which received 88% approval by voters in a November 2015 referendum. Farr Technologies of Mitchell, South Dakota has been hired to conduct a feasibility study in Vinton this winter and spring. Decorah has issued an RFP for a feasibility study, with the goal of hiring a firm and conducting their study before mid-summer. New Hampton and Maquoketa are preparing feasibility study RFP's following "Community Fiber Broadband Engagement and Education" projects (aka "pre-feasibility" in 2016. Charles City, which has also conducted a pre-feasibility study, will be considering its next steps over the next couple of months.
Just beginning the process is the western Iowa community of Adair. The community has scheduled a referendum for March 7th to ask voters for permission to establish a municipal telecommunications utility. City leaders are hoping to work with a neighboring telecom company, Casey Mutual Telephone, to bring broadband to the community. Adair's only provider options today are Windstream, wireless, and satellite as there is no cable provider in the town.
We're beginning to get some information about Mediacom's new gigabit internet service, aka "Gigasphere", that the company is launching across Iowa.
A new web page was recently created with some general information (but not pricing details) about the service: https://mediacomcable.com/products/internet/1gig
We do have some pricing information courtesy of a person who lives in an Iowa community who called and asked. They were told that the Gigabit service would be $139.00 per month ($147.27 with cable modem rental) and that their 500 MB service would be $119.00 per month ($127.27 with modem). The person who shared this information decided to order the 500 MB service and was told a pre-configured DOCSIS 3.1 modem would be shipped to him next week. He's going to report back on his experience.
Meanwhile, it appears that Medicom is increasing rates on all of its internet tiers. As this Des Moines Register story outlines, internet rates will go up $5.00 per month. Their lowest tier of service, now bumped up to 60 Mbps, will start at $54.99 a month.
It will be a full and informative agenda at this year's IAMU Broadband Conference, March 22nd and 23rd at the Holiday Inn & Suites in Des Moines.
While the exact schedule and agenda of workshop topics is still being developed, here are some of the highlights of confirmed sessions:
Customer Service/Marketing Sessions:
We are also planning a track of sessions for new municipal broadband providers, our Explorers Track, but those sessions have not yet been finalized.
Online registration is available on the IAMU website for both attendees and vendor displays.
If you are an IAMU member (utility, associate, or affiliate), be sure to sign in first to receive member pricing.
Spencer Municipal Utilities (your author's telecom alma mater) is preparing for a busy year in 2017 as they look to complete the final phase of their fiber-to-the-premise rebuild.
SMU started construction of a hybrid fiber-coax (HFC) network in 1999 and it was completed two years later. Like most of the first generation municipals in Iowa that used HFC, SMU's leadership came to realize that the best move to meet future growth needs was to reconstruct the network and take fiber all the way to the customer.
CLICK HERE to read an article in the Spencer Daily Reporter about the project.
The City of Decorah, whose residents approved a municipal telecom utility by a 93% to 7% margin in November 2015, is taking the next steps toward a community fiber broadband network.
On January 4th, Decorah issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) for a feasibility study for a fiber-to-the-home project. CLICK HERE to read the RFP on the City of Decorah website.
Decorah's move is part of an uptick of interest among Iowa communities in municipal fiber networks. Vinton is just beginning work on a feasibility study of its own (following their 88% yes vote in November 2015). Other communities that are exploring municipal broadband are New Hampton, Maquoketa, and Charles City.
Telecompetitor has an article about CenturyLink's plans for 2017 and beyond. Among the "revelations" in the article is their plan for increasing speeds to customers.
Another element of the CenturyLink broadband strategy is a network upgrade scheduled for completion in 2019. Upgrade plans focus on the company’s top 25 markets. In those markets, Ewing outlined speed targets as follows:
As the bold section shows, they plan go focus on their Top 25 markets for network upgrades. It's unclear if their Top 25 markets include and areas of Iowa (perhaps the Des Moines metro where the do have some FTTP deployed, including at the author's house), but it almost certainly doesn't include any of their smaller exchanges in Iowa.
As CenturyLink, Windstream, Frontier and other ILEC's continue to lag on network upgrades, and as Mediacom presses forward with their "Gigasphere" initiative, many Iowa communities are left with a situation where only ONE provider can provide 21st Century speeds...Mediacom. And monopolies rarely work to the consumer's benefit.
But Republican FCC Commissioners Say They Won't Enforce It
The Federal Communications Commission, as a creature of the federal government, has always been a political body. Appointed by the President of the United States, the five-member FCC can have no more than three members of a single political party, which means that the President always has an FCC with a 3-2 majority in his favor. Thus it has been for the past 8 years under President Obama that we have 3 Democratic commissioners and 2 Republican commissioners. And it was that particular FCC that, under the leadership of Chairman Tom Wheeler, has played a much more activist role than most commissions in recent memory.
Among the most hotly contested FCC rulings of Obama's term was the Open Internet Order issued by the FCC Open Internet order issued in 2015. Among other provisions, it required ISP's to disclose a number of characteristics about their service known as the "transparency rules". While the American Cable Association was successful in getting these transparency rules delayed for "small" ISP's (small meaning 100,000 customers), the Commission voted along party lines to not extend that exemption. So that means that the tranparency rules technically go into effect on January 17, 2017.
In December, the two sitting Republican FCC commissioners - Ajit Pai and Michael O’Rielly - confirmed that they have no intention of enforcing those rules in order to give Trump time to put the FCC in Republican hands.
“We want to assure you and your members (ACA and other trade associations) that we would not support any adverse actions against small business providers for supposed non-compliance with the ‘enhanced transparency’ rules after that date, and we will seek to revisit those particular requirements, and the Title II Net Neutrality proceeding more generally, as soon as possible.”
So its unclear whether spending the next two weeks on the tasks needed to meet the rules will be time well spent or not. You may decide to do it anyway in the spirt of openness with your customers, especially if your "label" will show that your services are better than the competitor.
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