Catch up with broadband efforts across the US

Thanks to some easy links from the Baller Herbst email list I was able to track down updates for what’s going on with broadband efforts in various high profile communities across the country. Let me just say after perusing the playing field – it’s rough out there.

Chattanooga – Comcast files suit

Comcast of the South has asked the Hamilton County Chancery Court to stop the fiber-to-the-home project planned by the Chattanooga Electric Power Board. Last week the Tennessee Cable and Telecommunications Association tried to file suit in a neighboring County but the court said no go, since the TCTA were not the party that would be injured.

(Read more, read past blog posts on the Chattanooga project.)

New Orleans says goodbye to WiFi

Earthlink is shutting down its WiFi network in New Orleans. (The network was built soon after Katrina.) Apparently it tried to find a buyer, including asking the city to buy – but no one rose to the occasion. The network will be shut down on May 18. Subscribers will be offered other Earthlink broadband options.

It sounds as if Earthlink wants to get out of the municipal WiFi game entirely. They are currently transferring networks in Corpus Christi and Milpitas and are looking to find other arrangements for Philadelphia and Anaheim.

Utopia is falling on hard times

The Utopia and iProvo FTTH networks in Utah are running into problems with lower subscriber rates and revenue shortfalls. With less money coming in, the project wil have difficulty paying back bond payments.

Both networks are open networks, or as TCMNet put it, access wholesalers, and neither network has gotten enough retail partners, nor have the retailers done well enough to fatten either network’s revenue, either on the business or consumer sides of the business.”

(Read more, read some background)

Burlington Vermont hasn’t reached goals yet

Burlington’s city’s chief administrative officer, Jonathan Leopold, reports that Burlington Telecom will not be breaking even by June as earlier projected by previous general manager, Tim Nulty. (There seems to be some disagreements regarding the numbers and culpability here.) Revisions have been made to the business plan and the hope/plan is to compete with other providers to get the necessary subscribers and cut costs where necessarily to be solvent and eventually be in a position to pay back the $33 million it borrowed to build the system.

(Minnesota-based Christopher Mitchell was also recently mentioned in the same publication for his case study on Burlington Telecom for Institute for Local Self Reliance.

LA is going mobile – but not wireless

The Metro in LA has been studying options for providing WiFi to passengers on the Orange Line that runs through the San Fernando Valley and on the subway – but so far it’s a no go. The cost is too high and no providers have jumped at the opportunity.

The 10 Most Disruptive Technology Combinations

I just ran across my new favorite technology article (The 10 Most Disruptive Technology Combinations). In it the author talks about 10 great marriages of inventions that changed the digital landscape over the next 25 years.

I’ll give you the marriages – you’ll have to check out the article for the explanation (As you’ll see most of them assume or require broadband):

10. DVRs + Entertainment on Demand
9. YouTube + Cheap Digital Cameras and Camcorders
8. Open Source + Web Tools
7. MP3 + Napster
6. Blogs + Google Ads
5. Cheap Storage + Portable Memory
4. Cloud Computing + Always-On Devices
3. Broadband + Wireless Networks
2. The Web + The Graphical Browser
1. Cell Phones + Wireless Internet Access

FiberNet in Iron Range is back on track

Last month we reported that the project was at a crossroads. They were committed to moving forward, the method was undecided.

Well they are starting to move forward once again and have started by hiring Gary Fields (who has worked with Blandin in the past) and Tim Nulty (speaker from the Blandin Broadband Conference last fall).

Gary and Tim are going to make presentations to the 11 FiberNet communities to talk about their plans to develop a financial plan. If funded, the network would be operated jointly by the participating cities, would also offer high speed services (telephone, ultra high speed Internet, and video, including cable television) to customers in the participating communities.

Thus far the FiberNet Project has been funded primarily by the Blandin Foundation and Iron Range Resources. However, to move forward it looks as if the communities will be asked to lend 15,000 to the project to pay for completion of a bankable business plan.

For more information, visit the Timberjay article (Fibernet project takes a key step forward).

FiberNet Monticello April 2008 Update

Have you ever wanted to be a fly on the wall as a town funded, designed and implemented fiber into their community? Well thanks to Lynne Dahl-Flemming we got something even better – we’ve got the notes from the fly on the wall.

Monticello received funding from Blandin Foundation as part of the Get Broadband program. After an amazing referendum vote for fiber last fall, they are moving ahead in all direction. Read on to hear how it’s going. I think this account will be particularly interesting to anyone who is in a position to consider fiber in their area… Continue reading

WiMAX Connecting Rural AZ and FL

Thanks to Bernadine Joselyn for the heads up on the recent article in CNN (Charles Street Partners Selects Nortel WiMAX to Bring Broadband to Rural America).

The headline says it all, Charles Street Partners(CSP) plans to use WiMAX technology from Nortel to bring wireless broadband to U.S. residents in rural areas of Arizona and Florida. The network will offer data and VoIP capabilities to about one million residents and businesses – some who haven’t had access to broadband before.

CSP has found that WiMax provided the lowest cost-per-megabit. It sounds as if CSP works with a number of local providers, so they act as an umbrella organization (parent company) of some sort  but that the last mile support will be provided by local entities. Nortel will provide an end-to-end, completely integrated WiMAX solution that provides operators with everything they need – from devices and applications to infrastructure and services.

Charles Street Partners has secured over $35M in loans to bring broadband to underserved rural markets in the U.S. from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development Community Connect Grant Program.

Community Broadband Resources Assists Clearwater MN

Clearwater is located between the Twin Cities and St. Cloud on I-94. Many people recognize Clearwater as the shortcut over to Highway 10 on our way “up north.” The Clearwater Economic Development Authority applied for and received a technical assistance grant through Blandin Foundation’s Community Broadband Resources Program. They requested assistance in assessing their community’s telecommunications environment as they are unsure if their current services are meeting the current and future needs of their community.

Our first meeting was used to draw up a short term effort to do some basic groundwork. We needed an understanding of the supply and demand for broadband services. First, surveys should be sent to the three known providers – Frontier Communications, US Cable and CitEscape Wireless to better understand their current infrastructure and service offerings. We also wanted to know their future plans. I took the lead on this task.

We also developed a plan to survey the businesses belonging to the commercial club to understand their current broadband usage and satisfaction with their telecommunications service offerings. The Clearwater EDA and staff took responsibility for this activity.

We just had our second meeting earlier this week. Representatives from Frontier and CitEscape joined us at the meeting for individual discussions and both community and provider representatives learned a lot. We found out that Frontier Communications has upgraded its backbone connection to Clearwater and that DSL customers will now be enjoying 6 Mb DSL speeds, up from 2 Mb which was great news to learn (our committee’s first win!). We also learned from Frontier that Clearwater is on a bit of a network dead end, which is not so great from an economic development standpoint. While committee members did not recall any outages, it is still not the best situation, especially for attracting tech-sensitive firms. Frontier was very interested in the community’s comprehensive plan and future business development plans and was anxious to coordinate infrastructure development. Finally, Frontier advised the group that Frontier’s new infrastructure development was primarily fiber to the home.

CitEscape talked about their ability to reach rural customers with broadband services from their towers in the area. Their ability to serve customers depends on line of sight technology, especially as the distance from the tower increases. Clearwater has two water towers and one of those has no current telecommunications facilities on it. It seemed like a great match. CitEscape will be providing the city with a map of the prospective service coverage if a radio was placed on the water tower. CitEscape’s services offer some advantages, like symmetric service and as an affordable redundant connection.

For a second meeting on the telecommunication’s topic, the day offered several opportunities for progress. Our next steps will be to meet with US Cable and to complete the survey of the business community.

If you are interested in bringing Community Broadband Resources to your community, go to www.blandinfoundation.org or send an email to bill@communitytechnologyadvisors.com

Senate Network Neutrality Hearing Recap from Benton

The Benton Foundation has done a great job of tracking Tuesday’s US Senate Meeting on the Future of the Internet.

The main topic was Net Neutrality. FCC Chairman Martin stands firm on the FCC’s responsibility to ensure that the public and full and unfettered access to the Internet to pursue legal activity. Senator Daniel Inouye (who introduced the Broadband Data Improvement Act) is optimistic about recent activity around Net Neutrality. People seem to be working together. And then lots of content providers came out in favor of Net Neutrality and the network providers came out against that barrier on their business plans.

The full story (from Benton) includes a link to Justine Batemen’s testimony (that would be Mallory Keaton to many of us).