Broadband Communities

MAY-JUN 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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Page 25 of 82

MAY/JUNE 2017 | | BROADBAND COMMUNITIES | 19 start stringing fiber. If we just get the broadband, that's a win." Rio Blanco County, Colorado, recently launched its FTTH network. Blake Mobley, the county IT director, said the open-access network benefited service providers – they grew faster, hired more local staff, gained more customers and, of course, didn't have to invest their own capital. In addition, customers gained more choices. Mobley added, "One advantage of open access is that we could set aside half the data centers for the public anchor institutions to use. ey can back up their data in a different town. For us, open access means opening the network not just to the ISPs but also to the community. We've designed extra room on the towers for emergency services and added a zone for FirstNET." Bjorn Wannman of COS Systems, which develops software for managing open-access systems, noted that there are open-access systems throughout Sweden and that many service providers there operate in multiple cities. "My vision is that an ISP can be a local provider in each place," he said. One of those Swedish ISPs, before being bought out, was owned by Ventura Next; Robert Gure, sales manager for Ventura, noted that he now found it "strange to see three people pulling fiber into the same building" in countries where open access was not the norm. HOW MANY PROVIDERS? e number of providers on an open- access network tends to increase over time. Rio Blanco County has two providers (but may add more in the future if demand permits) and Bozeman Fiber has three; the KPUD backbone is used by about 15 providers. Roger Timmerman, CEO of UTOPIA, a Utah open-access network, said that UTOPIA – an early FTTH deployment – now has nine residential providers and 25 business providers and plans to expand into additional cities and counties that are not part of the network ownership group. Customers benefit from the competition, he said, and providers will benefit from the ability to sell their service in more cities, in the same way as the Swedish ISPs Wannman described. Cohill pointed out that if a small community wants video service, it might have to grant exclusive rights to an IPTV provider for a limited period. "Generally, you won't get competition in television unless there are several thousand homes passed," he said. e same applies to other specialized services beyond internet access and phone service. COOPERATION AMONG STATE AND LOCAL NETWORKS MERIT Network, a Michigan statewide research and education network, is obliged by the terms of its BTOP grant awards to provide open access – but it adopted open access as a guiding principle long before receiving those grants. Elwood Downing, vice president, explained, "In my 23 years at MERIT, I didn't realize till BTOP that we were doing open access." MERIT provides a wide variety of choices for access: long-term and short-term fiber leases, colocation, overlashing, 1 Gbps and 10 Gbps transport services, and Ethernet services up to 1 Gbps. Eleven for-profit entities, including two ILECs, purchase wholesale access from the network today. Allband Communications, a small telephone cooperative in an extremely rural area of Michigan, is one of many that depend on MERIT for backhaul. Ron Siegel, Allband's general manager, praised MERIT's competitive rates and especially its collaborative approach. He said, "MERIT has been critical for us. Originally we had 3 Mbps backhaul – two T1 lines – and then we tied into MERIT. Now, we're getting 100 Mbps symmetrical. We added the town of Mikado [as a CLEC territory] because we could get reasonable backhaul from MERIT, and we're helping other communities get started with broadband. I don't know what I'd be doing without MERIT's open access." e town of Holland, Michigan, operates an open-access fiber network on which six providers offer services – Proponents of open access shared their stories. State and local networks collaborate in Michigan. Continued on page 22

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