Broadband Communities

NOV-DEC 2018

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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COMMUNITY BROADBAND | B R O A D B A N D C O M M U N I T I E S | w w w. b r o a d b a n d c o m m u n i t i e s . c o m | N O V E M B E R / D E C E M B E R 2 0 1 8 Communities Join Forces For Broadband Regional efforts to develop broadband infrastructure are becoming more common. Recent examples include collaborations between two towns in Maine, two counties in Virginia and two public entities in Skagit County, Washington. By Lisa Gonzalez / Institute for Local Self-Reliance B uilding a publicly owned network to serve a small town or village can be daunting and costly. When local communities band together, however, they can take advantage of economies of scale. In addition to reducing per-household deployment costs, they find that funding may be easier to obtain, ISPs are more interested in delivering services via their infrastructure and incumbents may improve existing services and rates. DOWNEAST BROADBAND UTILITY Calais and Baileyville are two small towns at the eastern tip of Maine, on the New Brunswick border. Many of the approximately 4,500 residents are aging; young people find little reason to stay or relocate there, especially because internet access is so poor. Most residents rely on slow DSL from Consolidated Communications (formerly FairPoint), and a few have access to cable from Spectrum (formerly Time Warner Cable). Expensive, unreliable satellite service is also an option, and there's some limited fixed wireless coverage. Economic development suffers because, although fiber optic connectivity is available to a few larger businesses, rates are high. Small and mid-size establishments typically can't afford the high fees for fiber connections. Community leaders recognize that new industries and young families need a reason to come to the area to keep the towns from disappearing. e two communities are collaborating to create the Downeast Broadband Utility. e dark fiber network will belong to the regional utility, a nonprofit corporation formed for public benefit. Recent changes in state law vastly reduced the cost of pole attachments and make-ready work and expanded communities' ability to create regional broadband utilities. Both residents and businesses expressed intense interest in connecting, and they plan to work with small, local ISPs that wish to deliver services via the infrastructure. Four private ISPs have expressed an interest in delivering services via the DBU network. e 87-mile fiber network will serve both communities. Calais and Baileyville investigated federal grants and loans, but the application process was long, and they faced competition from other communities that had even fewer options for internet access. e towns recognized that the odds were stacked against them. Local banks that needed better connectivity and saw the promise of the investment offered to provide loans for the project. DBU has a two-year line of credit at 1.99 percent interest for $2.9 million, with all principal payments deferred for two years. e costs will cover construction of the network and the central offices. When construction is complete in two years, DBU will renegotiate the amount due into a 20-year loan. Baileyville and Calais hired a marketing firm to help stave off any attacks from incumbents

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