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.
CBAN has done a bit of a shuffle on our planned March Lunch and Learn. The previous topic, "A New Approach to Feasibility", is being postponed until later this year to make way for a new topic - the new federal Emergency Broadband Benefit Program.
Wednesday, March 17, 2021
CLICK HERE to register
Congress created the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program as part of its latest COVID-19 relief bill. Under the program, qualifying American households will be eligible for a monthly subsidy toward their broadband internet service. However, in order for them to take advantage of the discounted service, their internet provider will need to participate in the program.
In this Lunch and Learn, we'll take a look at the program from several prospectives. How do internet providers participate in the program? How do consumers benefit? And what does this mean for the future of making broadband internet more affordable for more Americans. Join us to learn more!
CBAN's Lunch and Learn for March, "A New Approach to Feasibility", is being postponed to later this year. A new topic and a new date have been put in place for March. See above for more details!
A bipartisan group of United States Senators say that the FCC's definition of broadband is out of date, and are advocating for a major increase in the threshhold.
In 2015, the FCC created a definition of "broadband" as internet service with a minimum advertised download speed of 25 megabits per second (Mbps) and an upload speed of at least 3 Mbps. Since 2015, a LOT has changed. Average residential data usage has skyrocketed. Consumers have been steadily shifting their entertainment consumption from linear cable TV to streaming services. Many of those streaming services did not even exist when the definition was set.
The group of senators - 2 Democrats, a Republican, and an Independent- sent a letter to the FCC earlier this month calling for them to increase the broadband definition to 100 Mbps for both download and upload speeds. As described in an article at The Verge:
“Going forward, we should make every effort to spend limited federal dollars on broadband networks capable of providing sufficient download and upload speeds and quality,” Sens. Michael Bennet (D-CO), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Angus King (I-ME), and Rob Portman (R-OH) wrote to the FCC and other agencies. “There is no reason federal funding to rural areas should not support the type of speeds used by households in typical well-served urban and suburban areas.”
Many in the industry now see 100x100 internet speeds as the defacto standard for a baseline internet service. New fiber networks being built by both public and private providers rarely offer a lower tier than 100x100. State lawmakers are increasingly using 100x100 as a requirement for state grant programs. And even in areas where lower speeds are offered, more and more consumers are choosing to upgrade because they are finding that lower speeds - especially at the FCC standard - are just not cutting it.
While increasing the broadband definition seems like a no-brainer, it's that upload speed increase that may cause the most heartburn among internet providers. While fiber networks are, by their very nature, capable of symmetrical download and upload speeds, it's a bigger technical challenge for other platforms such as cable, DSL, and fixed wireless. A change in the definition this large could open up vast new areas to funding streams that aren't currently eligible. It's likely the senators' suggestion will meet with a major pushback from incumbent operators.
Mason City, Iowa is being added to a growing list of medium-sized Midwestern communities who are expansion targets of Indiana-based MetroNet. As reported by KIMT-TV, the Mason City City Council last night (3/2/21) unanimously approved a letter agreement with MetroNet to bring FTTH to "at least 85%" of the homes and businesses in Mason City.
Mason City is the latest of 90 communities in nine states targeted by MetroNet, including several in Iowa. MetroNet has projects under construction in Davenport, Bettendorf, Ames, Nevada, and LeClaire in Iowa. It has announced plans to begin work in 2021 in the Des Moines suburbs of Johnston and Urbandale as well as portions of other communities in the metro area.
MetroNet's intention to pass most, but not all, premises in Mason City is not unusual. The company usually does not commit to ubiquitous coverage, citing economics. For example, in Johnston the company has stated it will pass 90% of the city's premises, and City leaders are researching how to serve the ones left behind.
We hope you can join us for next edition of CBAN's Lunch and Learn on Wednesday, March 10th at Noon CST!
CBAN's Todd Kielkopf and Curtis Dean are excited to welcome Ken Demlow of HR Green for this session where we'll talk about a new approach for communities to take on feasibility studies. This new approach gives communities that are exploring a municipal broadband project more flexibility and control over the process.
Lunch and Learn is free to all so we hope you can join the discussion. CLICK HERE to register for the Zoom webinar and we'll see you on the 10th!
Elon Musk is not only promising to expand coverage of his Starlink satellite-based internet service, but he's teasing even better performance for later this year.
Musk used Twitter to communicate new expectations from Starlink, which continues to add satellites to its current fleet of 1,200 birds in low Earth orbit. On February 22nd, Musk said that by the end of the year, it will be able to increase its speed to 300 Mbps (double today's speeds) and drop latency to around 20 ms. Musk also talked about the company's plans to densify coverage to hit more of the globe. However, Musk continues to emphasize that Starlink's best application is in areas with low to medium population density.
Over 10,000 customers are now using Starlink. The service costs $99 a month, plus an initial equipment investment of $500. It's taking pre-orders in parts of the US, Canada, and the UK.
When the coronavirus pandemic forced many Americans to work and learn (and, really, do everything) from home last year, the amount of internet data the average household consumed began to rise rapidly. That rise has continued and, despite the hope of an end to the pandemic, appears destined to continue.
OpenVault, a company that collects subscribers' usage behaviors and puts them into data sets confirms what most industry analysts believed to be true. Their latest report, covering the 4th quarter of 2020, found that per-subscriber average data usage rose to 482.6 GB per month, a 40% increase over the same quarter in 2019 and a 26% increase over the 3rd quarter of 2020.
Not only are Americans using more data, but more Americans are going online. Internet subscriptions rose 6.5% in the last three months of 2020. For more on the OpenVault report, check out this article at Fierce Telecom.
Will average data usage drop once we the pandemic has come to an end and lives return to some version of normal? Possibly, but it's also possible that a full year in quarantine may have permanently reset some of life's routines. While almost everyone agrees that our children's education is best conducted in schools and not in living rooms, there may be a significant number of workers, driven home by the pandemic, that remain in some mix of remote work. Also, a year at home has likely enlightened some Americans to what they were missing online, creating new appetites for home entertainment that remain after the masks are put into storage. It will be very interesting to see OpenVault's reports a year or two from now to see what the trends were.
Lunch & Learn
Emergency Broadband Benefit Program
Wednesday, March 17, 2021
CLICK HERE to register
Broadband Bytes News
Presented by the Community Broadband Action Network and curated by Curtis Dean.