Broadband Communities

MAY-JUN 2014

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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58 | BROADBAND COMMUNITIES | | MAY/JUNE 2014 SUMMIT COVERAGE "We decided to turn it up a notch to 1 Gbps." C Spire issued an RFI and received 33 responses, which it narrowed down to "nine towns that really got what we were trying to do." Construction was scheduled to begin in late April. According to Logan, the key elements of the C Spire approach – in addition to leveraging its fber backbone – are a fast-track (15-day) permitting process, preregistration by neighborhood (Logan stressed the importance of defning fberhoods in ways that make sociological sense) and requiring municipalities to have a single point of contact responsible for informing residents about the project and driving sign-ups through neighborhood broadband champions. "It's exciting to see cities get engaged and get behind these projects," Logan said. "Now we're moving at the speed of light!" Logan confrmed that C Spire expected to proft from the fber project "even if it takes a long time." He also said the company was trying to fnd ways to build FTTH in low-income neighborhoods. UTOPIA AND MACQUARIE CAPITAL A decade ago, a group of Utah cities launched UTOPIA as an multicity broadband network. UTOPIA has always had fnancial difculties – due in part to legal and political restrictions on its activities – and has never met its ambitious goals. Now a possible private partner has emerged: Macquarie Capital, an Australian frm that fnances and operates infrastructure globally. UTOPIA and Macquarie are currently in negotiations for Macquarie to take over building and operating UTOPIA in an unusual public-private arrangement. Duncan Ramage, senior vice president of Macquarie, explained that the parties were introduced by a third company that dealt with both of them and got into a conversation about how to "fx" UTOPIA. "Te options were to make it go dark, to sell it, to continue operating it without any new funding or to bring in private capital but retain ownership." Macquarie is now conducting a feasibility study of the fourth option, using a model it has developed for other asset classes. Te preliminary plan is for Macquarie to raise the remaining capital to build UTOPIA out fully to every household in the participating cities. Every household would be charged a monthly utility fee of between $15 and $25, for which it would receive basic service. Te utility fees would be used to pay Macquarie. Households could upgrade to higher- level services, which would be available from retail service providers. Te arrangement could be a winning solution for all concerned, Ramage said. Te UTOPIA cities could stop pouring money into the network. Residents of the cities would all have access to a gigabit network – or to basic broadband service for a very low fee. Macquarie could make a reasonable return at a low risk. ("Lenders have little appetite for volume risk," Ramage said.) And the retail service providers currently serving the network would have a larger pool of customers to compete for. v Corinne Hill, Executive Director, Chattanooga Public Library: With the library's gigabit connection, we can ofer the community access to technology that it's not possible for them to have at home. It may be digital literacy training, access to Wi-Fi or public PCs, or access to information about jobs or health or government services. In addition, we created a maker space where people can come and collaborate and make stuf. It has gigabit wireless, and we're beta testing new services there. We've ordered our frst drone! There are also three 3D printers – but that's old news. 3D printing is a basic service now. On the second foor we have a wonderland for kids where they can learn to make videos. The facility is stratifed not by age but by type of service. One of our small branches is turning into an Apple shop with a focus on youth. It has button makers and 3D printers. Things are happening so fast that we have to go by instinct – there just isn't enough data! Attendees at the Broadband Communities Summit BBC_May14.indd 58 5/29/14 9:18 AM

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