The voters of Hawarden, Iowa have spoken - one of Iowa's first municipal telecommunications utilities will remain in the hands of citizens.
A referendum was held yesterday to approve the sale of HiTec, the city telecommunications utility, to Premiere Communications of Sioux Center. Unofficial results released by the Sioux County Auditors Office show that just 39.3% of the voters approved of the sale, well short of the simple majority needed to move forward.
City leadership in Hawarden had soured on continuing to run HiTec which was among the first Iowa municipal telecoms and the first to provide telephone service. They even advocated for a change in state law that allowed them to obtain only one appraisal for the hybrid fiber-coaxial network.
The City had received two bids for the purchase, if authorized by voters. Long Lines, the company that Hawarden has used for an operating partner since its launch, bid $3.15 million for the network. Premiere, which already competes with HiTEC in Hawarden, bid $2.75 million.
Patty Anderson, the former Hawarden Telecommunications Manager during the 1990's, wrote an empassioned letter to the editor of the Hawarden Independent/Ireton Examiner in advance of the vote.
If HiTec is sold, you will never get it back. You will be left with one company to rely on forever. DON’T APPROVE THE SALE OF HITEC — VOTE NO SEPTEMBER 14! -- Patty Anderson, former HiTec Telecommunications Manager
Hawarden is not the only Iowa municipal facing the threat of dissolution. A small cadre of critics in Harlan are forcing a vote authorizing the sale of that community's municipal fiber-to-the-home network in November.
The Harlan ballot issue reads as follows: “Should the Board of Trustees of Harlan Municipal Utilities, City of Harlan, in the County of Shelby, State of Iowa, be authorized to discontinue and dispose of the municipally-owned communications utility by sale?” Even if that referendum receives the requisite 50% it does not mandate a sale, and HMU Board members have indicated no interest in removing the network from public ownership.
Three of Iowa's municipal telecommunications utilities were successful bidders in the latest round of funding from the Iowa Broadband Grant program. Awards totaling $97.5 million were announced by the Iowa OCIO office today.
Cedar Falls Utilities was the largest recipient of funds for a municipal utility. Approximately $2.34 million in grant funds will support the CFU fiber network buildout in rural areas west and north of Cedar Falls.
Manning Municipal Utilities will receive $2.2 million to build fiber-to-the-home in rural areas around Manning, which recently completed a fiber rebuild of its network in Manning.
Muscatine Power and Water's grant award of $550,000 will support FTTP in areas east of Muscatine.
Grant applications by Osage Municipal Utilities and Vinton Municipal Communications Utility did not receive funding. With one exception, every funded project was either an independent telecommunications cooperative/mutual or municipal utility.
Larger companies did not fare well in the process. Mediacom and Windstream's applications for fiber builds in several areas were passed over, along with fixed wireless proposals from Mediacom and AMG Technology.
CBAN member ALLO Communications, a major fiber overbuilder in Nebraska and Colorado, has announced its first project in the state of Arizona. ALLO will begin construction in Lake Havasu City, Arizona in 2022. The $50 million project will bring 10-gig capable service to the western Arizona city of 54,000. A popular vacation destination, the city sits on Lake Havasu, a reservoir on the Colorado River.
Tuesday, September 21, 2021
Live on the CBAN YouTube Page
The CBAN team will host a discussion with Christopher Ali, author of the upcoming book "Farm Fresh Broadband - The Politics of Rural Connectivity". Ali's book features an analysis of the failure of U.S. broadband policy to solve the rural-urban digital divide and offers proposals for a new national rural broadband plan. We look forward to visiting with Christopher and sharing his perspectives of how to bring better broadband to more Americans!
Providers who submitted 178 applications for funding under the latest round of the Iowa Broadband Grant Program are anxiously awaiting news from the Iowa OCIO office.
The latest round of funding, NOFA#006, has a budget of $97.5 million that was allocated by the Iowa Legislature to expand broadband access in rural Iowa. Nearly $300 million in applications were submitted by the July 28th deadline, meaning many providers will be disappointed when the winners are announced.
Under the original schedule of NOFA#006, that announcement was scheduled to be made on Friday, September 3rd, but the OCIO did specify that this date was "anticipated". Once announced, the OCIO will move forward quickly to execute grant agreements with the winning applicants.
Several municipal utilities in Iowa were among the applicants.
CLICK HERE to see a map showing the proposed coverage areas for all of the applications.
The City of Fort Dodge is moving forward with plans for a $37 million fiber-to-the-home project. Construction on the network, which will make multi-gigabit internet service available to every home and business in Fort Dodge, will begin next summer.
A key milestone in the project was achieved in August when the City approved financing for the project. The City was committed to this being a local project and that was reflected by the strong community investment with local financial institutions. Bank Iowa (out of their Humboldt branch) is leading the loan syndicate for the $33.355 million capital expenditure loan to be used for network construction and equipment. That syndicate is joined by participation from United Bank of Iowa (Fort Dodge branch), Green State Credit Union (Fort Dodge), First State Bank (Fort Dodge), Great Western Bank (Fort Dodge), Security Savings Bank (Gowrie) and Cedar Rapids Bank & Trust. Peoples Credit Union (out of their Fort Dodge branch) is financing an additional $3.480 million in working capital to launch utility operations.
The support of seven local participating lenders, including both lead institutions, demonstrates the strong institutional support of the City’s planned project and an indication of the City staff and Council’s detailed business planning efforts to date.
With financing arranged, final engineering and design work is now underway. HR Green, the Cedar Rapids, Iowa-based engineering firm who conducted high-level design work as part of the City’s feasibility study, will prepare the plans, specifications, and bidding documents.
The City is separately procuring bids for materials that will be needed on the project, such as fiber cables, conduits, and other items. Contracts for those materials will be awarded this September.
The goal is for the construction project to go to bid in late spring of 2022 with construction beginning in the summer. Construction of the network will take until the end of 2024 to be completed, but some customers could be hooked up as soon as mid-2023. Once completed, the mostly underground fiber network will pass every home and business in the Fort Dodge city limits.
CBAN is excited to announce the return of the CBAN Community Broadband Summit! The Summit is a half-day exploration of better broadband for communities and rural areas. CBAN members of all classifications can benefit from participating in the Summit!
Registration and Networking
Welcome (Curtis Dean, CBAN)
The State of Community Broadband in America
Speakers: Christopher Mitchell and Dozmen Lee, Institute for Local Self-Reliance
The Institute for Local Self-Reliance has served as a key advocate for community-owned broadband for over a decade. During this session, Chris Mitchell and Doz Lee from ILSR will discuss the current state of community broadband in the nation, including where barriers to public networks have recently been lifted and where such barriers still hold back deployment of better broadband.
2:00pm – 2:15pm
Grab a snack and visit with your fellow CBAN members and stop by our associate member tables.
2:15pm – 3:00pm
Community Spotlight: How Fort Dodge, Iowa Got Across the Finish Line
Moderator: Jon Anne Willow
Panelists: Ryan Maehl, City of Fort Dodge; Todd Kielkopf, Kielkopf Advisory Services; Ken Demlow, HR Green; Michael Maloney, DA Davidson
In August, Fort Dodge, Iowa finalized financing for a $38 Million fiber-to-the-home project after two years of studies, planning, and a successful referendum. Fort Dodge will be one of just two municipal broadband utilities in Iowa in a non-municipal electric utility town. In this session, panelists will discuss the challenges of putting the project together and what lessons other communities can learn from Fort Dodge’s journey.
3:00pm – 3:15pm
3:15pm – 4:45pm
Attendees will break into groups and make the rounds to different topic tables to discuss various aspects of better broadband. After spending approximately 25 minutes at each table everyone will rotate to a different table.
4:45pm – 5:00pm
Happy Hour with Networking and Associate Member Tables
The CBAN Summit is FREE for all CBAN Members to attend, but pre-registration is required.
Not a CBAN Member yet? Sign up at https://broadbandaction.com/join-cban/
CBAN membership is free for Community Members, Provider Members. Associate membership (for vendors who sell broadband professional services and products) dues are based on a sliding scale according to company size and will be prorated to the end of 2021. Details are available on the membership page (see link above).
Associate Members can reserve an option tabletop display for $250. Tabletops are limited. Tabletop reservation is made using the registration form.
Lunch & Learn
June 16, 2021
State Broadband Grant Programs
Broadband Bytes News
Presented by the Community Broadband Action Network and curated by Curtis Dean.