Broadband Communities

MAR-APR 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 2 4 | 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 | M A R C H / A P R I L 2 0 1 8 Lincoln Steps Into the Future Even if a community can't build its own network, it can take steps to get great broadband for its citizens. By Masha Zager / Broadband Communities T he broadband project in Lincoln, Nebraska, started the way so many broadband projects start: with complaints by the business community. Companies were leaving the city or declining to move there, citing a lack of broadband choices. e local chamber of commerce, responding to the alarms its members raised, implored the mayor, Chris Beutler, to take action. A Nebraska statute prevented the city of Lincoln from building and operating its own network, so the mayor's options were limited. (ough the prohibition isn't absolute for all Nebraska cities, there are no municipal networks anywhere in Nebraska.) However, he continued to meet with the chamber of commerce and brainstorm about possible solutions. THE CONDUIT GRID In 2011, when the city was planning a large downtown redevelopment project, a city engineer named Virendra Singh proposed placing 5 miles of conduit under the new streets. Installing the conduit would be fairly inexpensive because the streets were under construction; once the conduit was in place, ISPs could install fiber at relatively low cost to serve the downtown business community. e city decided to go ahead with the plan, investing $700,000 from a fund Beutler established for infrastructure improvements to drive economic development and job creation. When David Young was hired in 2012 as the fiber infrastructure and right-of-way manager, he took responsibility for making the conduit an engine of economic growth. Over the next three years, Young signed up five ISPs to lease conduit space and serve businesses. e first was NebraskaLink, a middle-mile carrier owned by a consortium of Nebraska telephone companies, which had won a stimulus grant to connect a number of community anchor institutions, including the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. CenturyLink, Unite Private Networks, Windstream and Level 3 soon followed. For the first time, the business community – at least the larger businesses in the downtown core – had a competitive market for connectivity. At the same time, Young worked on expanding the conduit. Singh, who died in 2013, had been quietly installing conduit to connect traffic cabinets throughout the city since 1978. Over time, aware that the conduit would eventually be needed for other purposes, he had specified larger and larger pipes. Much of this turned out to be usable for running fiber to businesses, though it wasn't well mapped and wasn't connected. With the help of the private partners and city staffers who had worked with Singh, Young's office created a conduit map of the downtown area and began to connect the disparate conduits into a grid. In addition to reclaiming and connecting Singh's conduit, Young looked for other city infrastructure to which conduit could be attached, such as bridges and abandoned water lines. And as arterial roads were repaired, the city added new conduit. Within a few years, the 5 miles of conduit had grown to 300. Today, there are about 450 miles of conduit.

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