Broadband Communities

AUG-SEP 2016

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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12 | BROADBAND COMMUNITIES | | AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2016 COMMUNITY BROADBAND Cities Take the Lead Whether building their own fiber networks or partnering with the private sector, cities are becoming more proactive in ensuring better broadband for residents and businesses. By Masha Zager / Broadband Communities B roadband Communities' count of public and public-private fiber-to- the-premises network projects in the United States now stands at 178, an 8 percent increase over last year's count of 165. Of the new networks, some are pilot deployments and others are more comprehensive. Many more communities are actively exploring the possibility of building fiber to homes or businesses. Some initiatives will fizzle out, and others will hit speed bumps – for example, the Massachusetts coalition WiredWest, which I described last year as "very close to pushing the 'go' button," was required by the state funding agency to revise its plan and is still in limbo. Still other initiatives will become moot if they spur incumbent providers to upgrade their existing networks. However, I expect a number of new municipal and public- private network projects to launch in the next year. At the same time, some communities are considering either exiting the broadband business or bringing in private partners. Crosslake Communications, the municipal provider in Crosslake, Minnesota, was sold to a consortium of local telephone cooperatives in August 2016. BVU Authority of Bristol, Virginia, is in negotiations to sell its fiber optic network, OptiNet, to Sunset Digital Communications. Tacoma, Washington, is considering leasing its Click! Network (which is mostly HFC but offers some fiber connections for businesses) to a private operator. ough some cities have sold or even shut down their networks because they did a poor job building, managing or marketing them, that is not the only reason to do so. A city may build a network because no other operator will make the investment and be happy to sell the asset if a private investor does appear on the scene. Crosslake, for example, sold its profitable network for about two and one-half times the outstanding debt. e network needed to be upgraded and expanded, and it appears that the city (which has fewer than 2,000 permanent residents) preferred a private party to make that investment. e majority of community fiber networks appear to be self-sustaining or profitable. Many continue to expand or add new types of customers and services. Often, a municipal fiber network begins in one community and expands by popular demand into neighboring communities, though in some cases, expansions requested by residents have been quashed by state legislatures. Well-run community fiber networks are instrumental in attracting new businesses and retaining existing businesses in their communities. e most common rationale for building community networks is to provide businesses with affordable fiber connections; in fact, many networks are built or extended to accommodate specific requests by local businesses. e articles in this section give several examples of this phenomenon. However, community fiber networks do not lead automatically to economic development. Where they have succeeded in doing so, network operators understand what businesses are looking for (price-performance, redundancy,

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