Vinton Municipal Utilities (VMU) has reached an important milestone in their efforts to explore a municipal fiber utility.
At a special Board of Trustees meeting on August 16th, Vinton approved a motion to hire FARR Technologies to conduct engineering and design of the fiber network and to prepare plans and specifications to seek construction bids. The design work will be completed around December 1st and Vinton is hoping to get bids on the project in December and January.
88% of Vinton voters approved a municipal telecom referendum in November 2015. After FARR completed a feasibility study in 2017, VMU continued their due diligence by conducting a community-wide survey and issuing an RFI for possble partners. Those efforts reinforced the feasibility study's showing that a project in Vinton is feasible. The preliminary cost estimate for a GPON FTTH network in Vinton was $8.9 million.
:The Federal Communications Commission recently released an Order and Report on pole attachments that may have an impact on municipal electric and telecommunications utilities. Included in the order were "One Touch Make Ready" rules designed to allow quicker deployment of new telecommunications cables on existing poles.
The second action taken by the FCC is a Declatory Order to prohibit express and de facto moratoria imposed by state and local governments on applications and permits to deploy wireless or wireline telecommunications services and/or facilities. According to Jim Baller with Baller Stokes & Lide, PC,
"The wireless industry has mounted a major campaign in Congress, at the FCC, in state legislatures, and at the local level to clamp down on traditional state and local management of public rights of way and facilities. We’re doing our best to push back in each of these arenas, and we’ll keep you informed of significant developments. "
Consumer Reports has released the results of its 2018 survey on satisfaction with telecommunications companies. And incumbent providers in Iowa are all at the back of the pack.
When it comes to cable TV companies, Mediacom came in last out of 25 providers with a customer satisfaction rating of 57/100. And according to CR, this is not .unusual
Joining Spectrum and Optimum at the bottom of the ratings were CenturyLink, SuddenLink Communications, Atlantic Broadband, Frontier Communications, and Mediacom, a perennial last-place finisher. (emphasis added)
The news was a bit better for Mediacom in the ratings for internet providers...but not by much. In fact, all of the large incumbent ISP's with a presence in Iowa fell toward the bottom of the rankings.
At the top of the Consumer Reports ratings for internet service providers? SURPRISE...the nation's largest municipal provider!
Top-rated EPB, a municipal broadband service run as a public utility in Chattanooga, Tenn., was one of the few bright spots for internet service. It was the only company to receive a top mark for value. It also got top marks for speed and reliability.
Of course Iowa has a sizeable quantity of municipal providers, but none are large enough to s
show up in the CR rankings.
The fate of the Fox regional sports networks (RSN's) could have a big impact on cable TV operators nationwide.
One thing we do know: in order to smooth regulatory approval of its purchase of Fox, Disney has agreed to sell the 22 RSN's, home to 44 professional teams as well as countless college athletic contests. According to a report at Bloomberg, possible new owners could include both traditional broadcasting conglomerates such as Sinclair Broadcast Group (likely feeling a bit miffed by Tribune's recent rejection of their merger), a "new media" company such as YouTube (owned by Google) or Amazon, or a buyout firm of investors. Or, you could see some combination of new owners, including the potential for some professional teams to buy back their own RSN and run it themselves. This last option is apparently being explored by the Chicago Cubs when their agreement with NBC Sports Chicago expires.
A final unknown: the impact of carriage availability and costs for cable operators.
In March, a new organization was launched to help communities that are trying to bring better broadband to their citizens. It's not just about talk, it's about action.
The Community Broadband Action Network (CBAN) was established to provide a collaborative network and marketplace for communities, community-based broadband providers, and solutions providers. CBAN’s goal is to provide pathways for successful action by enabling communities to:
The Community Quandry
Many communities find themselves with broadband services that are not meeting their citizens' needs. Incumbent providers are too big or profit driven to address concerns over reliability, availability, speed, and other shortcomings. The challenge they face is how to improve broadband, which has become an absolute necessity for community growth and development in the 21st century.
Advocates and community leaders who want to solve this challenge are usually left to their own initiative to determine where to start and, once beginning the process, where to go next.
CBAN was founded by Curtis Dean, Todd Kielkopf, and Jon Anne Willow to assist these communities by:
CBAN offers free membership to communities and advocates seeking solutions for better broadband in their communities.
Communities and Providers - Natural Allies
Natural allies exist in today's broadband landscape...communities with broadband challenges and existing community-based broadband providers. Although the business models vary - from municipal utilities to independent telecommunications companies, cooperatives, and mutuals - they share the common focus of serving their communities to the best of their abilities.
Community-based providers can benefit from working with the "have not" communities that are striving for solutions. These collaborative efforts can take many forms, including joint ownership, joint operations, wholesale relationships, and others.
CBAN offers free membership to community-based providers who are interested in partnering or collaborating with communities that are looking for better broadband.
Vendors - Connecting The Dots
At some point in the process of evaluating their options for better broadband, communities will need services from the experts that provide consulting services, construction, technology, software, and other needed resources. That's where CBAN's Vendor Membership enters the picture.
Companies who provide these services are always trying to identify where their next opportunity will be coming from. Not knowing where communities are in their process means that these solutions providers unnecessarily spend time and efforts contacting community leaders who are not in a position to work with them.
CBAN's Vendor Membership allows these companies to become part of an ecosystem that will help grow their business in the municipal market.
Questions about CBAN? Give me a call or drop an email!
It's been a crazy summer for your humble author of Broadband Bytes.
I'm not complaining, it's a GOOD kind of crazy. Between providing assistance for several municipal broadband projects and helping launch the Community Broadband Action Network, I've been neglecting my Broadband Bytes duties, and for that I apologize.
However, it's a new month, so its time to get back on the broadband bike and pedal into the future!
The Dubuque City Council continues to talk about possible next steps toward municipal broadband in the northeast Iowa city of 58,000.
Last night the council discussed whether to add broadband to the list of topics to be addressed during their annual planning session in August. A local citizen group, "Campaign for DBQ Municipal Internet" has been working for several months to convince the City to study the issue more closely. They advocate for a feasibility study to consider the costs and benefits of a community-owned fiber optic network that would reach every home and business.
Dubuque has been working for the past several years with private partners to expand fiber connectivity in the city. A network of city-owned conduit has been accessed by private partners to connect in some areas, but has primarily served businesses. The Campaign for DBQ Municipal Internet says better broadband is needed community wide, and says the repeal of net neutrality is a primary driver for their efforts.
To learn more about yesterday's meeting, CLICK HERE to watch TV coverage from KCRG-TV.
Several Iowa communities continue to make progress toward the creation of community-owned fiber broadband networks. Vinton, New Hampton, Charles City, Decorah, Adel, and Pella are all at various stages along the spectrum.
Farthest along in the process are Vinton, New Hampton, and Charles City. All three have conducted feasibility studies that showed a municipal fiber network was viable, and all three are now headed toward hiring an engineering firm for design engineering and to begin th e process of developing financing options. It is possible that all three communities will break ground on networks in 2019.
Decorah, whose feasbility study was widely panned for its conclusions and analysis, is working to develop a modified financial model and conduct a more detailed measurement of community interest in the project. As you may have heard, a recent effort to municipalize the electric utility in Decorah failed at the ballot by a mere 4 votes, allowing the community to focus its attention on better broadband.
Adair, whose referendum received unanimous approval in March 2017, is continuing efforts to build a fiber network in partnership with Casey Mutual Telephone. Next steps for Adair include development of a business plan and financing options, along with an agreement with Casey Mutual.
Pella's referendum was approved by a resounding 93% of voters last month. Their next steps include market research and development of a business plan.
For operators utilizing one of the variations of the DOCSIS cable modem platform to provide internet service, you'll want to participate in the next training provided by the Iowa Heartland Chapter of the SCTE.
All Things DOCSIS will be led by two expert instructors from Cisco - Benjamin Brodfuehrer and Russ Widener. They will cover all current iterations of DOCSIS being used in the field today, including 2.0, 3.0, and 3.1.
The training will be held on Wednesday, June 6th and Thursday, June 7th. The live presentation on Wednesday the 6th will be held at the IAMU Office and Training Complex in Ankeny, with remote sites being hosted by Cedar Falls Utilities and Algona Municipal Utilities for the morning session. On Thursday the 7th the training will be repeated (morning and afternoon sessions) at Kirkwood Community College in Hiawatha.
Complete details on the training and signup information is available at www.iowaheartlandscte.org/events--training.html
Loras Herrig, the long-time city administrator in Bellevue, Iowa who guided the development of a fiber-to-the-home network, has resigned. Herrig's resignation was submitted on May 12th. He had been out of the office for several weeks with health issues and cited health concerns as the primary reason for leaving.
“It was just time,” Herrig said. “I’ve had some health issues. And I had a long discussion with my family and we decided it was the right time to move on.” -Loras Herrig, as quoted in the Dubuque Telegraph-Herald
The newspaper article about Herrig's resignation also referenced some issues between Herrig and some recently elected city council members as another reason for his departure.
CLICK HERE for the article in the Telegraph-Herald.
Broadband Bytes News
Presented by the Community Broadband Action Network and curated by Curtis Dean.