Broadband Communities

AUG-SEP 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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44 | BROADBAND COMMUNITIES | | AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2014 COMMUNITY BROADBAND foreclosures and bank-owned properties [at the time the network was being built], but now more people are moving back in, and once they learn about the fber, they just want it." So far, the response has been excellent. Residents are happy with the service, and there are "nothing but good comments," Roiland says. Lake Connections is already bolstering the county's economy. One of the frst businesses in Two Harbors to be connected was Granite Gear, which depends heavily on communication with businesses in Chicago. Its broadband connection was so poor that staf had to do their work in the evenings when congestion was lower. Te company was planning to move to Duluth, but in the end it waited for Lake Connections. Now, Roiland says, it is "able to easily stream catalogs in a matter of minutes." Other businesses that depended on video streaming have also stayed because of the network. On a larger scale, the county government secured land for a data center and is now marketing it; it has already received expressions of interest from several potential users. Another important economic development strategy for areas dependent on tourism is to keep vacationers in place for longer periods. Many second-home owners and vacationers now say they intend to spend more time in Lake County and work from their vacation homes. Says Roiland, "If you can retain people who want to live here for the quality of life, it's a huge bonus." Champaign-Urbana, Ill. O ne of the most innovative and successful BTOP projects – and one of very few to include a fber-to-the-home component – was Urbana-Champaign Big Broadband (UC2B), a collaboration among the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the cities of Champaign and Urbana (known collectively by everyone except the university as Champaign-Urbana). UC2B's fber ring runs through the two cities, connecting 250 community anchor institutions – defned broadly to include everything from shelters for battered women to nature centers in city parks – and supporting two small FTTH projects in low- income neighborhoods. Uptake in the FTTH neighborhoods has been very enthusiastic, and about 1,000 households and 75 businesses are now connected. In addition, a few service providers lease UC2B fber strands to serve multifamily housing. For the most part, however, residents in Champaign-Urbana have had no direct access to UC2B's fber. Recently, UC2B took two important steps toward making all of Champaign- Urbana a gigabit fber community. First, the organization, which was formed as an intergovernmental consortium, restructured itself as a not- for-proft. Te cities and the university nominate the organization's directors, so UC2B remains in some sense a public entity. However, it now has the fexibility to operate a business without having to get two cities and a state agency to approve its every move. Te second step is even more signifcant: In May, UC2B stepped back from hands-on management of the network and formed a partnership with iTV-3, a subsidiary of the Family Video chain of video stores. iTV-3 now operates the UC2B network, manages existing wholesale fber leases and serves existing retail customers, both FTTH and anchor institutions. A COMMUNITYWIDE GIGABIT NETWORK iTV-3, a competitive overbuilder that deployed three other FTTH systems in Illinois, will itself lease strands of the UC2B backbone and use them as a base to build out fber to the home over several years. It plans to ofer gigabit services throughout Champaign- Urbana. As many overbuilders now do, it will follow a fberhood approach; it has committed to build FTTH in any neighborhood where 50 percent of potential customers subscribe, using a subscription process now available at Current FTTH customers will have the option of keeping their existing plans or upgrading to one of iTV-3's plans, which will include phone and video services in addition to Internet access. Tough iTV-3 will own the access network it builds, it agreed to operate that network on an open-access basis. After fve years, if any neighborhoods are not connected, iTV-3 will make unused ring fber available for competing companies to ofer service in them. Te UC2B nonproft board, in addition to overseeing the contract with iTV-3, will now turn its attention to leveraging the network for the beneft of the community. iTV-3 has agreed to fund UC2B's community beneft fund for fve years, and UC2B will administer those funds to promote digital literacy and digital inclusion. UC2B will also work to fnd additional funding sources to continue the program after the end of the fve-year period. "We are currently in the visionary stages of planning how best to use the funds," says Brandon Bowersox- Johnson, a tech executive who is the board chair of UC2B. One proposed project, he says, is to set up community labs – possibly in libraries – stafed by trainers who can teach digital literacy skills and help community members get low-cost computer equipment. Based on UC2B's success, Bowersox- Johnson encourages other communities to continue exploring their options for better broadband. He says, "Our incredibly complex collaboration never would have happened if so many of the entities hadn't sat down, studied the options and tried to give the community the best chance they could. It's shocking how far behind many communities in America are with regard to broadband speed and how many are missing out on fber optic Internet. We're happy to be a model."

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