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 4 0 | 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 Mont Belvieu Lights the Way for Texas Texas law discouraged municipalities from providing broadband – until last year, when the city of Mont Belvieu obtained a court ruling that clarified its authority to finance, build and operate fiber networks and provide internet service. By Lisa Gonzalez / Institute for Local Self-Reliance I n Texas, publicly owned networks aren't common. State law limits the types of services municipalities can offer, which has discouraged local communities from investing in fiber infrastructure. Mont Belvieu, located about 30 miles east of Houston, believed it had the local authority to offer FTTH to the community, as it did for electricity and water. To establish its right to offer internet access, this small town of around 8,000 people took the bull by the horns and went to court. Its decision to take the matter to the bench may have opened the door for other underserved Texas towns. Mont Belvieu has always dealt with a patchwork of providers that don't compete with one another. With fewer subscribers than in urban areas and no competitive pressure, there was no reason for incumbents to upgrade services. Residents have complained about slow DSL download speeds of 1.5 Mbps and cable internet download speeds topping out at 5 Mbps. Some premises could not obtain any internet access from incumbent ISPs, which told residents that their networks were saturated and they were not willing to make the necessary investments to serve more subscribers. Mont Belvieu, a center of the oil and natural gas industry, has grown quickly in recent years. Community leaders wanted to encourage that growth; they knew, however, that poor connectivity could jeopardize the town's upward mobility. Developers had plans for new subdivisions, but ISPs didn't want to deploy infrastructure to the new areas, which left residents dependent on mobile hotspots. So community leaders began to investigate the possibility of a municipal FTTH network. A NEED FOR SPEED A 2016 feasibility study survey indicated that 60 percent of residents and 79 percent of businesses weren't getting the internet access they needed. Ninety percent of residents and 100 percent of business respondents stated that they believed high-speed internet access was as essential as electricity and water. Clearly, the public appetite for better connectivity was intense. Community leaders decided the best course of action was to invest in publicly owned infrastructure and create a publicly owned FTTH network operator to serve the entire community. Mont Belvieu would offer gigabit internet access directly to the community. To fund the deployment of the fiber infrastructure, Mont Belvieu decided to issue certificates of obligation (COs). Under Texas law, COs backed by property taxes or other local revenue allow local governments to borrow to fund public projects without voter approval. ey can be issued for up to 40-year terms. Even though no referendum is required, city officials

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