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 Fiber for Fairlawn Fairlawn, Ohio, built an FTTH network for economic development. Now it's joining forces with the Medina County Fiber Network to expand its reach and become more financially viable. By Lisa Gonzalez / Institute for Local Self-Reliance I n 2015, community leaders in Fairlawn, a town of 7,500 people in northeastern Ohio, announced they would take the necessary steps to bring high-quality internet access to the community. At the time, a typical connection in Fairlawn measured around 15 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload. According to Ernie Staten, deputy director of the Fairlawn Public Service Department, community leaders knew they needed fast, affordable, reliable connectivity if the Akron suburb were to remain competitive. Fairlawn's business community felt the pain of poor connectivity most. On a typical workday, the population increases to 40,000, and cable and DSL networks couldn't handle the demand. Nor were ISPs willing to make investments to solve the problem. Other communities in the Akron-Fairlawn-Bath Joint Economic Development District (JEDD) dealt with the same issue. Rather than wait for improved services, the city began to look into publicly owned options. A consultant hired to perform a feasibility study and recommend a business model envisioned a public-private partnership, and at first, city leaders expected to pursue that model. Within a few months, however, both the city and the public sector partner it had selected decided it was in the best interest of Fairlawn for the city to run the network. It decided to pursue a publicly owned and operated FTTH network for households and businesses, along with a fixed wireless complement for public spaces. Community leaders planned to expand the network, FairlawnGig, beyond the city and across the JEDD to improve connectivity throughout the region. e expansion plan would allow the network to grow, helping to ensure its financial viability. To fund the $10 million project, Fairlawn decided to use revenue bonds. It established symmetrical gigabit connectivity for residential subscribers at $75 per month. (Residential telephone service is available for $25 per month per line.) Rates can increase only with the approval of the city council. BUSINESS CONNECTIONS In mid-2016, before the network began offering service, Staten and his team accelerated the deployment schedule so they could connect two Fairlawn hotels in time for the Republican National Convention. Because the event was scheduled to occur in Cleveland, about 30 minutes north, and attendees needed lodging with high-quality internet access, FairlawnGig connected two Hiltons filled with RNC delegates. By the end of the year, the network was connecting businesses throughout the community. Commercial subscribers praised FairlawnGig's speed and reliability. Even though the project is relatively young, economic development returns are already stacking up. Eighteen new businesses have transferred to the city and credited the network as the main attraction. Staten says most are small businesses, such as law firms, engineering

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