Broadband Communities

OCT 2017

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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18 | BROADBAND COMMUNITIES | | OCTOBER 2017 COMMUNITY BROADBAND A Record Increase In Municipal Fiber Broadband Broad B and Communities ' 2017 census of municipal and public-private fiber networks now shows 216 active projects – and many more in preliminary stages. 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 216. is is a 21 percent jump over last year's count of 178 and the largest increase in any year. In fact, municipal fiber optic network projects are progressing so rapidly that, by now, there may be several more municipal networks than are listed here. Fifteen of the new networks are in Western Massachusetts, where the state government promised several years ago to help fund last- mile networks in unserved and partially served towns. e original plan was for the unserved towns to build a fiber network through a coalition called WiredWest; however, the state rejected WiredWest's plan and, after considerable delay and confusion, allocated the funds to the towns separately. Fifteen of the towns are building municipal fiber networks on their own (some may hire WiredWest as a network operator); others are using their funding to subsidize builds by private network operators, including Comcast and Charter. Some towns are still considering their options. A few networks that appeared on last year's list do not reappear this year. Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, sold its network to TDS, which was in a better position to finance the network's expansion. In addition, several projects that never materialized were removed from the list. Other networks, though still listed here, are up for sale in whole or in part. For example, BVU Authority of Bristol, Virginia, is about to sell its fiber optic network, OptiNet, to Sunset Digital Communications. Burlington, Vermont, is sorting through bids received for Burlington Telecom (though it expects to retain part ownership of the network). Lake Connections in Lake County, Minnesota, is trying to find a purchaser. ough some cities, including the three just mentioned, seek to sell their networks because they failed to build, manage or market them effectively, that is not the only reason to do so. Localities sometimes build networks because no other operator will make the investment and are happy to sell these assets if private investors appear on the scene. Ted Chase, chairman of the Sun Prairie Utilities Commission, explains the sale of its telecom network in this way: "By transitioning our network to TDS, more households and businesses will have access to fiber internet at no risk to the utility." As in prior years, the majority of community fiber networks appear to be self-sustaining or profitable. Despite the controversy attached to a few of them, most are not controversial in any way – rather, they are sources of civic pride. Many continue to expand or add new types of customers and services. (For three examples, see "Slow and Steady Wins the Fiber Race," p. 32.) Often, a municipal fiber network begins in one community and expands by popular demand into neighboring communities, though in some

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