Broadband Communities

MAR-APR 2017

BROADBAND COMMUNITIES is the leading source of information on digital and broadband technologies for buildings and communities. Our editorial aims to accelerate the deployment of Fiber-To-The-Home and Fiber-To-The-Premises.

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MARCH/APRIL 2017 | | BROADBAND COMMUNITIES | 45 but when communities without electric utilities look for models that may be replicable, those examples aren't helpful. Our municipalities embarked on fiber builds without the advantages of an electric utility, and each took a different approach. Together, they provide a manageable set of examples that muncipalities without utilities can study. Ammon, Idaho; Sandy, Oregon; and Westminster, Maryland, have several characteristics in common. Foremost, each community was frustrated with the inadequacies of the status quo for broadband services, and each determined to solve that problem on its own. All three projects had very strong public and political support. e importance of this cannot be overemphasized. Fiber networks are expensive, complicated and difficult to build. No matter how carefully municipalities plan, they will encounter unforeseen problems. A motivated voter base and elected officials determined to see the project through to successful conclusion, no matter the bumps along the road, are critical to success. All three projects used an incremental build approach to minimize financial risk, and all three used some form of demand identification and aggregation as part of initial and expansion planning. All three projects also started by connecting business customers. GETTING STARTED Sandy started reselling DSL to local subscribers in 2001 and then gradually migrated to wireless, creating a municipal ISP utility called SandyNet. Eventually, city officials realized the wireless service wasn't going to meet the needs of many residents, so they began exploring, then investing in, fiber infrastructure. In 2012, they took down $7.5 million in new debt to finance a major expansion. e take rate for the network is meeting the city's expectations, and it recently added a tax increment financing district to build out another business area. e pricing and service levels have garnered praise and prompted price cutting by the incumbents, which provide services in separate, parallel infrastructures. Ten years ago, Ammon started researching how it could improve broadband access in its community. City officials applied for federal broadband stimulus money in 2009 but were unsuccessful, so they began to look at bootstrapping their project with only local resources. ey started by connecting city buildings after receiving extremely high quotes from incumbent providers for private circuits. Cost avoidance alone justified the initial expenditures, and the internal network expanded gradually, always including extra fiber strands for future growth. In 2012, Ammon began offering service to business customers in the downtown area with great success. at service was expanded in 2016 to residential customers, but with a twist: e software-defined networking technology provided by EntryPoint allows multiple providers, sharing the same infrastructure, to sell services to customers. Retail service providers are responsible for obtaining their own backhaul, and the city provides the retailers with access to customers through its services portal. Once connected to the network, subscribers can compare service offerings, select one and subscribe. Service is provisioned automatically without a service call to the location. Fiber construction and expansion is now funded solely through fees paid by subscribers. Westminster had the same problem as the other two cities – a lack of interest from incumbents to provide better services – and the same concerns about the long-term impact on economic health of being a broadband backwater. Unlike the other two cities, Westminster had no interest or ability, for a variety of political, economic and operational reasons, to develop a municipal telecom utility as Sandy had or a citywide municipal network as Ammon had. ere was also no realistic prospect for an outsider such as Google to build out a citywide fiber network. After several years of research, RFIs, feasibility studies and business model 877-588-1649 | Economic Development Conference Series Atlanta, GA • October 2017 GET READY

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