After years of advocacy by residents and careful study, a community-owned fiber network in Vinton, Iowa is finally moving forward.
On March 12th, the Vinton Municipal Electric Utility Board of Trustees, which also serves as the governing board for the communications utility authorized by voters in late 2015, voted 5-0 to approve bids totalling approximately $6.5 million for the FTTP project. Overall bids came in just under the original engineer's estimates.
Nearly 40 Vinton citizens attended the Board meeting, despite a winter storm that raged outside and closed major roads into and out of town. There were lots of smiling faces when the Board's unanimous vote was cast, followed quickly by excited determination to get started on all of the many tasks needed to bring the network online by the end of 2019 or early 2020.
The bids were accepted contingent to final financing details, which are expected to be wrapped up over the next several weeks. Central Cable Contractors will be the lead contractor for the outside plant. Construction is expected to begin in early summer, with the goal to have most of the feeder & distribution network completed by the end of year.
Feasibility studies have been completed, engineering and design has been conducted, and bids have been received. Now the only thing standing between the citizens of Vinton, Iowa and a community-owned fiber network is action by the Vinton Municipal Electric Utility Board of Trustees.
The VMEU Board meets February 12th to decide whether to accept bids on the nearly $9 million FTTH project. Engineering firm FARR Technologies (a CBAN member) developed the outside plant design in late fall and early winter, and bids were let in January. The low bids came in around $200 thousand below the engineer's estimate, with additional savings possible if VMEU accepts a later completion date.
The VMEU Board established an advisory committee to help with the process. That group has recommended that the bids be accepted so the project can move forward this spring and summer.
Baller Stokes & Lide, the Washington-based legal firm that provides support to many community broadband providers across the nation, has issued its annual compliance memos to provide regulatory guidance for small providers.
One of the biggest headaches for cable operators - and their customers - is dealing with TV stations to negotiate retransmission consent. Signals that are free to receive with an antenna cost cable operators up to $5.00 per subscriber per month to place on their systems. Cable companies - particularly small, independent operators - have almost no leverage in these negotiations. In many cases where communities are up to 100 miles from the TV broadcast towers, the only way for consumers to watch these channels is through their cable operators. And as nationwide experience with temporary blackouts has shown, customers react angrily to losing their access to NBC, CBS, ABC, FOX, and other broadcast networks.
The result: cable operators are forced to pay what the broadcasters demand, meaning cable bills that are $15-20 higher than they would be without the broadcasters and their networks demands.
An east coast-based non-profit organization called Locast is hoping to shake up that paradigm by serving as a "digital translator station" that is effectively allowed under US copyright laws.
This article in the New York Times does a great job of outlining the issues involved and the Locast team's motivations for launching the service. Locast is hoping to continue expanding coverage beyond the major markets they serve now, while at the same time keeping an eye on the potential for lawsuits aimed at shutting them down.
Registration is now open for the 8th Annual Municipal Broadband Conference! The event is March 13 & 14, 2019 at the Holiday Inn and Suites, 4800 Merle Hay Road in Des Moines - the same location as last year.
The conference is presented by the Iowa Association of Municipal Utilities. Again this year, Power & Tel is the Presenting Sponsor of the gathering.
The Conference is filled with educational workshop sessions and networking opportunities for communities that are operating their own broadband networks.
A highlight of the conference is the Vendor Show and Reception, featuring companies that provide vital products, services, and support to broadband operators.
IAMU member registration is $130.00 for the first participant and $100.00 for each additional person. The non-IAMU members fee is $180.00 for the first person, $150.00 each for additional persons. Registration is online at www.iamu.org/events
For a PDF of the conference flyer, CLICK HERE. The topics for the workshop sessions will be determined over the next few weeks.
Customer Service Roadshow
By popular demand, this year's broadband conference includes a day-long customer service training! Pivot Group, a nationally-acclaimed training and marketing company, will lead the Customer Service Boot Camp on March 13th from 9am to 5pm. The Boot Camp will include the following topics:
Participation in the Customer Service Roadshow is open to any broadband provider, municipal or otherwise. The cost for the Customer Service Road Show is just $50 in addition to registration in the Broadband Conference!
Register online at www.iamu.org/events. If you are an IAMU member you will need to login with your credentials to receive member pricing. If you have an issue with your member credentials, contact Josh Trout at IAMU, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Infrastructure innovation: A new idea for a partnership could bring better broadband to Chesterfield
The Fiber Broadband Association is offering a certification for fiber network operators to use as a tool to promote their networks and the communities they serve.
To be eligible for All-Fiber Certification, network operators must be a member of the Fiber Broadband Association and must have marketed fiber networks to 90% or more of customers, delivered either through PON or Active Ethernet, and exhibited a high-level strategic commitment to all-fiber deployment. If a network operator member has not marketed 90%, but has marketed to at least 70% of customers, they are eligible for a Fiber Certification.
Membership in the Fiber Broadband Association is a prerequisite to receiving the certification. For more information about the certification and membership, CLICK HERE.
In what seems almost like an annual rite of passage, a bill has been introduced in the Iowa Legislature to sell the Iowa Communications Network (ICN).
Senate File 8, introduced by Senator Brad Zaun (R-Urbandale) is similar to one passed several years ago. Eventually, then Governor Terry Branstad rejected the bids submitted by Iowa Network Services (now Aureon) because he didn't feel the bids adequately reflected the value of the network to Iowans.
The ICN has been a political football ever since its establishment and construction in the 1990's. The desire by some lawmakers to dispose of the state-owned network was reinforced a year ago when former executive director Rick Lumbard was accused of misusing $380,000 worth of taxpayer dollars over a period of 3 years.
Broadband Bytes News
Presented by the Community Broadband Action Network and curated by Curtis Dean.