Broadband Communities

SEP 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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ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT 2 6 | 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 | A U G U S T / S E P T E M B E R 2 0 1 8 networks, including Digital 395, a BTOP-funded project in Nevada and California, and then became interested in last-mile projects that could take advantage of backhaul from Digital 395. Inyo served businesses, cell towers, schools and other large customers in the area. OntarioNet was its first residential FTTH project, though it now provides services in several other towns. Nick Keeler, president and chief operating officer of Inyo, says the company tried to simplify its residential product line by offering only a single tier of internet service: symmetrical gigabit, with no contract required. (It also offers voice and video services.) He explains, "It's simpler to administer, and customers love the idea. There's one product, one dollar amount, not multiple service plans." The same plan is now in effect in the other FTTH communities Inyo serves. Keeler says customers are happy with the OntarioNet service, and churn is very low. He sees OntarioNet as more of a draw for home buyers than Bartlett does, saying, "People tell us they moved to the area because they could get decent internet service." Inyo is prepared for the advent of competition on the network in 2020, though Keeler hasn't heard of much interest from potential competitors. Adding providers, should any want to join the network, will be fairly simple. A new provider could use the existing drops to the houses, and the change would be made at the software level. Traffic on the network would be segregated through virtual LANs. Inyo has a "great partnership" with the city, Keeler says. Asked what advice he can give other potential private partners for city-owned broadband, he says the biggest challenge is that cities "don't move as fast as private entities because they have rules and regulations to protect public money. … Keep that in mind, and you won't get frustrated." OntarioNet is a valuable asset for the city, Keeler adds. "It made a big change in the market and forced the local competitors to step up their game. Hopefully that means better and faster services for everybody. That's good for the community." ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT Ontario's economic development agency doesn't miss a chance to tout OntarioNet to businesses seeking to move to the area. It markets the network online, in social media, in print publications, through special events, door to door and by word of mouth. The effort seems to be working. Bradley Gates, business operations director of the economic development agency, calls the network "one more reason why a business should call Ontario home," in addition to the city's many other advantages. Gates says, "The need for access to fast, reliable and quality internet connectivity has never been greater. OntarioNet offers gigabit per second internet speeds at an affordable price for business. This service gives Ontario companies an edge when speed matters. OntarioNet is still in its infancy, with additional business customers subscribing each month, but initial feedback is extremely positive. … Anecdotally, both new and existing businesses are telling us how important this service is, and that they appreciate the investments being made by the city council to bring OntarioNet to the community." The city's ability to bring fiber services to its own facilities also enables projects that boost economic development. For example, in August, the Ontario library opened the Lightspeed Makerspace, where residents can create 3D objects and digital art and use virtual reality. The opening- night celebration featured a 3D printer and laser cutter creating a blue T-Rex. The makerspace, open free of charge to anyone with a library card, is intended to develop innovative thinkers in the community. On a larger scale, the city connected its convention center and 10,000-seat arena, two of its primary assets, almost as soon as OntarioNet was lit. These facilities, each of which has about 1 million visitors per year, had struggled with inadequate broadband service. Now, they have a total of 2 Gbps dedicated bandwidth (soon to be increased to 4 Gbps) for a much lower cost than they paid previously. Michael Krouse, president and CEO of the Greater Ontario Convention & Visitors Bureau (GOCVB), which operates the convention center and arena, says guest usage is now separated from the GOCVB's business operations, which enables high quality of service for both groups. The servers that operate functions such as parking and food service are now all cloud- based, which means the GOCVB no longer has to store and maintain large equipment in protected, air-conditioned rooms. Cloud-based servers are more economical, reliable and accessible than on-premises servers, Krouse says. When the OntarioNet connection was installed, the GOCVB upgraded its Wi-Fi service so guests reliably receive 100 Mbps speeds. "If they're in the arena, they want to film the event," Krouse explains. "Now they can stay connected while they stream video." When signing up for Wi-Fi, guests can opt to receive discount coupons for food-service items in the arena or communications about additional events in the arena. The GOCVB now has a marketing database of half a million email addresses. Krouse says the improved connectivity at the convention center and arena keeps the city in the running for booking many large events. "It's a minimum expectation now," he says. "We're keeping up with the changing technology demands of existing and new customers." And the booming attendance at the convention center means more business for the city's 60 hotels, which are seeing higher occupancy and higher room rates. What does OntarioNet mean for the city of Ontario? Nate Rosenberg, vice president of business strategy for The Broadband Group, sums it up this way: "The city of Ontario is leading California by investing in fiber, the infrastructure of the 21st-century economy. It is a testament to the city's vision and leadership that others are now following in its path." v Masha Zager is the editor of Broad B and Communities . You can reach her at masha@bbcmag.com.

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