Join us for our April edition of Lunch and Learn, and help us spread the word!
Technology Challenges for Rural Broadband
Thursday, April 29, 2021
CLICK HERE to register
Session Description: Fiber networks are the most future-proof broadband infrastructure we know of, but they are expensive to build and sometimes they aren’t feasible. That’s why businesses that rely on broadband connectivity and internet providers need to get creative. In this Lunch and Learn we’ll talk with Chuck Pauk, IT director for Landus Cooperative, about the steps they’ve taken to connect their facilities to each other and the internet. And CBAN Provider Member Ryan Malek with Router12 Networks will discuss his company’s strategy for reaching rural homes and businesses.
Personal observations from CBAN Co-Founder Curtis Dean.
When Metronet first began their rapid expansion into cities in the Midwest (and later, seemingly, everywhere), I had a lot of questions about just HOW they were going to do it. For example, when they announced that they were planning to build FTTP to approximately 90% of Ames, Iowa (heading off growing momentum for a possible municipal project there), the price tag they mentioned publicly -$20 to $30 million - seemed low for a city with over 22,000 households. My concern was that they were going to have to cut major corners to build a network so inexpensively. To say the least, I was skeptical.
I also did a bit of research into Metronet projects in other cities, and my fears seemed to be justified as problems during the construction phase were reported. Lack of communication and shoddy restoration seemed to be common complaints.
Then Metronet announced further expansion into my own neck of the woods - the suburbs of Des Moines, Iowa. Urbandale, Johnston, Ankeny, Clive. And yes - my own sleepy 'burb of Grimes.
The interesting thing about Grimes is that it's already a hodgepodge of providers and technology. Mediacom has their DOCSIS 3.1 cable plant throughout the rapidly growing town of 14,000 (nearly double its 2010 Census count). CenturyLink is the incumbent telephone company and offers mostly DSL service of varying capabilities. On the high-growth areas of north Grimes, Mi-Fiber began building FTTP a few years ago.
And in my own humble neighborhood on the south side of Grimes? Well, the homes here were all built around 2014, and so when CenturyLink extended service, they put in fiber. That's one of the primary attractions I have for the area, and I've been a CenturyLink gigabit customer since I move here a few years ago. So when Metronet announced intentions to come to Grimes, I though they would bypass areas like mine that already had fiber.
Soon after the snow had melted, I got a letter in the mail from Metronet announcing that they were going to begin construction soon in my area. Surely that was just a mass mailer to all Grimes homes, I thought. Then a week later, a bright green postcard arrived with similar messaging. Were they REALLY going to overbuild another fiber provider?
I went online and entered my address on the Metronet site and, indeed, it told me that fiber was coming. I filled out a no-commitment form saying I was interested in services. I have been happy with my CenturyLink service, but one of their limitation is that they only offer two tiers: 100 Mbps and 1 Gig. 100 Mbps is less that I would like to have, and 1 Gig is more than I really need, but I chose the larger package anyway. Metronet's service tiers are 100 Mbps, 200 Mbps, 500 Mbps, and 1 Gig. If I switch, I might choose the 200 or 500 package to save a little money.
One morning in early April I noticed a cute little yard sign in front of my house saying tha construction was underway. (By the way, I'm totally stealing this idea for the next new fiber project I'm involved with!). A few days later, boring crews began moving into my neighborhood from the south. Last week, it was my turn to be a first hand witness to Metronet's construction. Here are a few snapshots of their work in my neighborhood and around my house.
And I have to say, I have been impressed. While I had concerns about them cutting corners, the work they did in back of my house was clean. The entire feeder network running in the ROW was bored in. They used underground vaults rather than above-ground pedestals like Mediacom and CenturyLink. They did an excellent job of restoration. Watching their boring crews, they even maneuvered large plates to cover the ground where their boring rig's treads were going to prevent ruts. They installed two ducts with their boring, one orange and one blue. Now all I need now is a drop!
I will be curious to see how they install drops in my area. For example, at my house they will have to go under a chain link fence, so I am assuming they will bore the drop in. Will they use vibratory trenching where they can or bore everything? Stay tuned.
We hope you'll join us for our May Lunch and Learn as we turn our focus to Wisconsin's ONLY municipal fiber network in Reedsburg.
Reedsburg Utility Commission (RUC), a new CBAN Provider Member, has delivered electricity and water to its southeast Wisconsin community of 9,200 residents since 1894. In 2003, the RUC began deploying fiber-to-the-home services under the RUC LightSpeed brand, and now serve not only Reedsburg but surrounding rural areas.
Our guest will be Brett Schuppner, the RUC General Manager. He will discuss how LightSpeed came to exist, how it's grown, and why they are the only municipal broadband utility in his state.
The Reedsburg Story
Wednesday, May 12, 2021
CLICK HERE to register!
Communities in Nebraska will have access to fiber optics as part of the expansion plans of two companies.
CBAN Provider Member ALLO Communications announced their plans to build fiber in Wayne, Nebraska in February. That project is just the latest Nebraska build for ALLO, which has also been involved with several public-private partnerships like the one in Fort Morgan, Colorado (Ft. Morgan is a CBAN Community Member).
Great Plains Communications has announced that it will build fiber-to-the-home in Callaway, Creighton, Deshler, Gordon, North Bend, Red Cloud and Sutherland. The company will leverage a broadband grant from the state of Nebraska made possible with CARES Act funding for coronavirus relief.
The Federal Communications Commission is hoping to bring America's broadband maps into tighter focus. A new speed test app announced by the FCC is hoping to help with that effort.
The new app can be downloaded to both Android and iOS devices. The speed test data captured by the app will then be used to help the FCC determine where broadband is "truly available".
“To close the gap between digital haves and have nots, we are working to build a comprehensive, user-friendly dataset on broadband availability," she said. "Expanding the base of consumers who use the FCC Speed Test app will enable us to provide improved coverage information to the public and add to the measurement tools we’re developing to show where broadband is truly available throughout the United States.” - FCC Acting Chair Jessica Rosenworcel, as reported by NextTV
The collection of speed test data is a good tool in measuring DELIVERED speeds versus ADVERTISED speeds. Current broadband maps are primarily based on available speeds at the census block level as reported by internet providers. Gathering actual speeds in a more tightly defined geographical area helps develop more granular maps, which should help policy makers develop programs to address the biggest gaps.
One challenge for the FCC's new app: it's designed for mobile devices running Android and iOS. That means people will be taking the test from their smartphones and tablets, not a desktop computer. It is likely that much of the speed test data captured will be from cellular data, not landline carriers. Hopefully the FCC can parse the data collected in order to get an accurate picture.
As reported by CBAN Associate Member Institute for Local Self-Reliance, Washington Governor Jay Inslee has TWO bills to consider that make it easier for municipal broadband networks to be built in the state.
While both bills are better than the status quo, H.B. 1336 would be better for community broadband advocates. It gives public entities unrestricted authority to provide telecom and internet services to end users.
The other bill that passed (by a much wider margin), S.B. 5383, would allow public entities to provide service, but only in areas where incumbent ISP's aren't already offering 100 Mbps download speed and 20 Mbps upload speeds. That would severely limit WHERE community networks can be built.
The hope of community broadband advocates is that Governor Inslee will SIGN H.B. 1336 and veto S.B. 5383.
One of the few municipal broadband networks in Michigan has launched a project to rebuild its hybrid fiber-coax network to fiber-to-the-premise.
Like many municipals with legacy networks, leaders in Wyandotte (south of Detroit) examined several options to keep up with the growing demand for more bandwidth. And like most, the best path forward was to bring fiber all the way to every customer in the community of 25,000.
For more details on Wyandotte's plans, check out this article at Broadband Communities.
The Waterloo, Iowa City Council has authorized Magellan Advisors to begin work on the design of a partial fiber network that would serve city facilities. The design will cost $150,000 and will encompass 73 miles of underground fiber and conduit, focusing on connections to sanitary sewer and storm water pump stations. It's about 30% of what would be needed for a full fiber-to-the-home network.
The City hired Magellan last year to conduct a feasibility study for a municipal fiber network. That study, still in draft form, has not yet been released.
To read more about the Waterloo project, check out this article at the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier.
Eleven counties in central Iowa, in coordination with the Greater Des Moines Partnership, are conducting a broadband study to bring the region's broadband gaps into focus.
The primary focus of the first phase of the study is the Central Iowa Broadband Internet Survey. The online survey measures consumer satisfaction, identifies gaps in access, adoption, and affordability, and asks participants to take a speed test to measure delivered speeds. Historical speed test data is also being gathered to compare what consumers are experiencing to advertised speeds.
The survey is open through the end of April.
Broadband Bytes News
Presented by the Community Broadband Action Network and curated by Curtis Dean.