Having completed a municipal broadband utility feasibility study last year, the Vinton Communications Utility (VCU) is moving forward with its broadband plans by issuing an RFI for potential partnerships.
For the past several weeks, a working group consisting of Vinton Utility board members and interested community members have been meeting to develop a plan to move beyond the feasibility study toward the implementation of a community fiber network. The RFI is part of that effort and is designed to identify entities that potentially partner with VCU.
"Vinton Communications Utility (VCU) is seeking to gauge the interest of capable entities to contract or otherwise partner with the utility to provide cost-competitive, reliable, high-capacity, gigabit speed broadband (Required Services) to all Vinton residents, businesses, and anchor institutions through an area-wide fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) network or similarly performing technology.
Voters in Vinton approved the creation of a broadband utility in November 2015 by 88% after two previous efforts failed to gather a majority. Last year, FARR Technologies conducted a feasibility study that estimated the cost of a fiber-to-the-premise network in Vinton at $8.9 million.
To read the VCU Request for Information, CLICK HERE.
A group of Democrats in the US House of Representatives are promoting a bill to prevent states from passing anti-municipal broadband laws.
The Community Broadband Act is similar to past efforts to block such laws, often promoted by large telecommunications carriers such as Comcast and AT&T who fear competition from municipal networks. The last such effort, promoted by US Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) stalled in committee in 2016.
For more on the Community Broadband Act, CLICK HERE to read an article at The Hill.
The Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) recently released new standards for television broadcast signals that has the potential to significantly enhance over-the-air content - and to create headaches for video operators required to carry those signals
The ATSC 3.0 protocol will allow broadcasters to transmit 4K and HDR signals, but will rely on the internet for additional content and enhancements. To discuss the impact that the adoption of ATSC 3.0 will have on video operators, Robert Schaeffer of Technology Planners will be making a presentation at the IAMU Broadband Conference on March 21-22, 2018 in Des Moines.
"ATSC 3.0 - What You Need To Know" will help small operators prepare for the eventual adoption of ATSC 3.0 by broadcasters they carry.
The exact time and date of the session has not been set. Keep reading Broadband Bytes for more information about this and all the other great sessions planned for the 2018 Broadband Conference!
The IAMU Broadband Conference, entering its 7th edition, has always enjoyed tremendous support from vendors that provide products and solutions for IAMU members. 2018 will certainly be no exception, and we'd like to extend a huge THANK YOU to the sponsors that have already come on board for 2018!
Presenting Sponsor: Power & Tel
There's a reason why Power & Tel is one of the top end-to-end providers of communications products and inventory management solutions in Iowa: outstanding support and service. They have a fantastic team of account managers and professionals that serve IAMU members, including IAMU Broadband Committee Ex-Officio Member Mike Brems. We appreciate all that Power & Tel does to support IAMU members and the Broadband Conference!
Gold Sponsor: Calix
More Iowa municipals have chosen Calix for their fiber-to-the-home platform than any other provider. Calix a leading provider of fiber access platforms and cloud services. Municipalities and utilities worldwide leverage Calix fiber access expertise to become the broadband service provider of choice to their subscribers. Visit www.calix.com/powerofbroadband
for more information.
In addition to our conference sponsors above, the following companies have signed on as exhibiting vendors!
It's time to register for the 2018 edition of the IAMU Broadband Conference!
This year's dates are March 21 and 22, 2018 at the Holiday Inn and Suites on Merle Hay Road in Des Moines (same location as last two years). Once again we're planning a two-day event full of networking and learning opportunities for municipal broadband providers (and vendors who can provide services and solutions to them) from across Iowa and the Midwest.
The agenda is still being developed, but here are some of the possible workshop topics we are exploring for 2018. As always, we'd love YOUR ideas on other sessions that you might find valuable!
To register (either to attend or to participate as a vendor) go to www.iamu.org and click the "Events" tab at the top of the screen. Upcoming IAMU events are listed in chronological order, so scroll down to the Broadband Conference and click to get started.
If you are an IAMU member (utility or associate member), you'll need to log in so you get the member rate.
1. The NCTC helped, but not as much as we'd like. You can't fault the NCTC for digging in and trying to create master agreements with broadcast ownership groups. And indeed they did end up being successful with one of the smaller groups (Quincy Broadcasting) and the biggest (Sinclair). But it was naive to expect that the NCTC would serve as the savior of small operators in this case. The TV stations simply have TOO MUCH LEVERAGE in negotiations, whether it be with NCTC or with individual operators. The primary upside of the NCTC master deals may very well be the fact that those charges will show up on the NCTC bill and require a bit less paperwork at the local level. One thing the NCTC was able to secure that does have real value; negotiated discounts for out-of-DMA signals if the operator carries the in-DMA affiliate of the same network. That made it a bit easier to justify continuing to carry multiple same-network signals.
2. It ain't going to get any easier without help. It seems there are only two things that can stop the spiraling increases we're seeing in retransmission consent costs: dropping stations or federal intervention. One of the systems I worked with this year decided to drop the out-of-market FOX station to save money. Yet despite kicking their costs to the curb, overall RTC fees still went up 9% because of the stations they DID keep. Dropping marginal stations can only alleviate the upward pressure so much. If you're paying $4.00 a sub at the end of this 3-year election period, they'll ask for $6.00 or more in 2021. You'd have to drop multiple signals just to keep those fee increases in single digits. The rate increases you do have to pass along to customers will just make it easier for they to justify cutting the cord. Can we expect regulatory relief from Washington, D.C. in the next three years? That seems unlikely given the new FCC leadership's close relationship with the industry and their overall "hands off" approach to regulation. Perhaps the best thing that could happen is congressional intervention, but in the toxic political environment we have today, that seems like a heavy lift. Personally, a law that allows operators to offer customers a cable product that does NOT include broadcast stations might solve our problems but the broadcaster lobby would never allow that to happen.
3. We need to keep educating our customers about how the system works. It's not uncommon for cable operators to talk to their customers about retransmission consent fees in the months leading up to the end of a cycle. It seems to me that consistent messaging and education efforts for the two and a half years before that are needed to try to shift some of the blame from our shoulders to the TV stations and networks.
When the Federal Communications Commission decided to repeal net neutrality at their December meeting, the reactions went along the lines that you might expect. For small ISP's and especially municipals, net neutrality didn't really affect how they treated customers' data but was seen as more of a regulatory/paperwork burden. There seems to be little appetite among community-based providers to start engaging in the types of behaviors that net neutrality supporters are concerned about.
On immediate impact of the repeal that I've noticed is an explosion of interest among community activists in several communities in Iowa and elsewhere in building municipal networks. During one 4-hour period in late December, I was engaged in Facebook conversations with people in several different communities - Ames, Dubuque, Davenport, Rock Island, IL, West Des Moines, Pleasant Hill - who reached out to me about what they could do to promote municipal broadband in their towns. One of their main reasons for doing so was concerns that the end of net neutrality would mean the end of the Internet as they know it, and the hope that building a municipal network would insulate them from some of those effects.
This net neutrality wave of interest comes on the heels of other recent community interest and action across Iowa. Examples:
It could be an interesting 2018 for new municipal networks across the nation.
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