Blog

DEC

05

The Holiday Season Brings More Great Broadband News From Kentucky

Lexington Mayor Jim Gray recently announced that the City has secured significant new fiber broadband investment and will soon be one of the country’s largest gigabit cities—with the potential for even faster speeds in the future. Over the past couple of years, CTC has been honored to work with Lexington on this effort—undertaking tasks from design engineering to financial modeling to discussions with potential investors—and we are thrilled to see the City’s vision and work pay off.

The City is on track to finalize a new cable franchise agreement with MetroNet, an Indiana-based cable and internet provider. MetroNet has agreed to spend between $70 and $100 million building a new fiber-to-the-premises network in Lexington.

Significantly, the agreement includes a robust build-out provision, ensuring that no part of the Lexington community is left out of the gigabit era. MetroNet has agreed to build out to 70 percent of the City in the first four years, with the remaining 30 percent to be added as the company achieves certain subscriber benchmarks. This outstanding agreement is testament to the City’s commitment to digital equity and to MetroNet’s willingness to bring fiber to everyone, rather than exclusively to the neighborhoods that offer the highest return on investment.

Mayor Gray’s announcement is also testament to the citizens of Lexington, who had clearly communicated to their elected officials their desire for better broadband services and more competition. Once MetroNet’s network is built, Lexington’s residents and businesses will enjoy more choice and dramatically better services, all offered over a robust fiber-to-the-premises infrastructure.

Our team here at CTC is proud to have worked with the City on this effort, and we see this successful outcome as a demonstration of how collaboration between the public and private sectors can lead to a better broadband future.

Our congratulations to Mayor Gray—and to his spectacular City team, led by Chief Innovation Officer Scott Shapiro and Chief Information Officer Aldona Valicenti.

Joanne Hovis
December 5, 2017

Published: Tuesday, December 5, 2017 by CTC Technology & Energy

OCT

20

Communications Workers of America Files CTC Expert Report with FCC

Are mobile broadband technologies a substitute for wired broadband? That question is at the heart of the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) assessment of whether Americans are well-served with broadband. To support its filing with the FCC, the Communications Workers of America (CWA) asked CTC to prepare an independent analysis of the issue. CTC’s report concluded that, in light of the technical and business restrictions inherent in existing mobile networks, mobile service cannot be considered an adequate alternative to robust wireline broadband. Rather, mobile and wireline have been—and will continue to be—essential, complementary services. Those Americans who have access to only one of them will face significant disadvantages relative to their peers.

Read the report, “Mobile Broadband Service Is Not an Adequate Substitute for Wireline,” here.

Published: Friday, October 20, 2017 by CTC Technology & Energy

OCT

18

City of San Francisco Considers an Innovative New Way to Deliver Ubiquitous, Open Fiber to its Residents and Businesses

We at CTC have had the honor of advising the City and County of San Francisco on broadband planning for a dozen years, and we’re proud that the City today released our new study on “Fiber for San Francisco” and is also, with the leadership of Mayor Ed Lee and Supervisor Mark Farrell, initiating an innovative procurement to select a private partner to finance, design, build, and operate a fiber network that would reach every home and business in San Francisco.

We’ve been working on this initiative since early 2017, with a project team that includes our friends at IMG Rebel, a creative and experienced financial advisory and P3 structuring firm that provided the perfect expertise to match our broadband engineering and business planning capabilities.

The City directed us to develop a delivery strategy for ubiquitous fiber-to-the-premises to every home and business in San Francisco that would be open, offering equal potential access to the network by multiple ISPs enable competition. The City directed that we consider the potential for (1) fully public, (2) fully private, or (3) public–private partnership (P3) arrangements for financing, designing, constructing, maintaining, and operating the network—with the policy goals of enabling equity, innovation, and local authority.

As part of this engagement, our engineers developed a technical design and cost estimate for deployment of a fiber network that would connect (on an open access basis) every home and business in San Francisco, and then we evaluated how such an infrastructure could be delivered.

What we found is that private broadband investment is resulting in new broadband competition in unevenly distributed ways across San Francisco. AT&T is upgrading its network to fiber in certain areas, but not, to our knowledge, on a ubiquitous basis. Comcast has recently upgraded its residential service footprint with DOCSIS 3.1 electronics that will allow speeds of up to a gigabit in the downstream direction, but this network still relies on coaxial cable for distribution and the gigabit service is priced in excess of $150 per month. On the competitive side of the industry, a new class of competitors including Sonic, Webpass, and Monkeybrains is making important investments in fiber and other technologies in some San Francisco neighborhoods, but these new networks are available only in certain areas and to certain buildings or consumers. In addition, none of the incumbent or competitive providers in San Francisco operates its network on an open basis, allowing its competitors to reach consumers over its infrastructure.

We therefore concluded that the private sector is not currently poised to deliver the City’s stated goals of ubiquitous, open, fiber-based service throughout San Francisco.

A purely public network could meet goals for ubiquity and openness, but the City has raised a number of areas of concern, including internal capacity to build and operate a new utility; public finance challenges in light of the many important project vying for public financing, and the substantial risks of proceeding on a purely public basis. Indeed, in a purely public model, the City would meet its policy goals but would assume all project risk, including construction, operations, performance, customer service, demand and market considerations, and technology change. A parallel set of concerns relates to public sector capacity and interest in building, maintaining, and operating a communications utility, including the particular challenge of operating a communications network in an area of the country where hiring professionals in that field is most competitive.

As an innovative alternative, we evaluated the potential of P3 delivery. This mechanism enables the City to own the core infrastructure and use it to achieve policy goals such as competition and equity—at the same time as shifting some risk to the private sector and leveraging private sector delivery capabilities. In a formal P3 structure, a selected private partner takes responsibility for some combination of design, construction, financing, operations, and maintenance, at least partially funded or guaranteed by the public partner over the period of the concession.

Formal P3s have emerged in the broadband sector in other parts of the world where infrastructure is more frequently delivered through a P3 than in the United States. In the past few years, a range of creative broadband P3 structures has started to evolve in the United States. The nature of these P3s range from public sector facilitation of private broadband investment (through process, regulation, and economic development incentives) to public deployment of infrastructure for use by the private sector.

What is novel about the Fiber for San Francisco Initiative is that it contemplates application of the “classic” P3 structure to a broadband network that would reach 100 percent of the homes and businesses in the community.

Our report includes extensive technical, business, and financial analysis of how a P3 delivery mechanism could be structured to meet the City’s goals. For more (much more), download our report here.

We welcome your comments or questions—feel free to reach out to us at info@CTCnet.us. I hope to hear from you.

Joanne Hovis

October 18, 2017

Published: Wednesday, October 18, 2017 by CTC Technology & Energy

APR

25

City of Seattle Releases Plan for Facilitating Equitable Access to Wireless Broadband Services

The City of Seattle has released its Plan for Facilitating Equitable Access to Wireless Broadband Services.

This report represents a strategic approach for deploying Wi-Fi and other wireless technologies as a tool for addressing Seattle’s digital equity and digital inclusion needs. The plan balances the City’s two key project goals: The need to serve the public by filling broadband gaps (due to lack of availability or affordability), and the need to deploy services through a financially sustainable business model.

Read the report in its entirety here.

Published: Tuesday, April 25, 2017 by CTC Technology & Energy

APR

14

A Technical Guide to Dig Once Policies

Our latest white paper, A Technical Guide to Dig Once Policies, is a discussion of technical considerations regarding dig once conduit, a comprehensive process for developing dig once policies, and examples of dig once policies across the country. Read it here.

For more information on the benefits of dig once policies, see CTC’s Gigabit Communities

A Technical Guide to Dig Once Policies

During his campaign, President Trump vowed to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure, with a plan to spend more than $500 billion fixing the country’s aging roads and highways. This type of investment could also provide an opportunity for local and state governments seeking to increase the deployment of broadband networks.

While internet service providers are often trying to reach new consumers, the process of installing fiber networks can be prohibitively expensive and time-consuming. Local and state governments can ease the process by adopting a “dig once” policy, which requires public and private excavators to coordinate with local government on the installation of extra fiber or conduit whenever ground will be broken in the public right-of-way (PROW).

“Dig once” policies were identified as a best practice for local governments by the Obama administration’s Broadband Opportunity Council as a means of enhancing competition in the broadband market.[1] The Council noted an important truth: “While sound national policies and programs are important, most decisions on broadband investment are made by Local governments in partnership with the private sector, guided by State law.”

Dig once policies have many benefits, including:

  • Protecting newly and recently paved roads and sidewalks
  • Enhancing the uniformity of construction
  • Ensuring efficient, non-duplicative placement of infrastructure in the PROW
  • Reducing overall costs of all underground work in the PROW, both utility- and telecommunications-related, for public and private parties
  • Facilitating private communications network deployment by reducing construction costs
  • Leveraging construction by third-party entities for the deployment of a public communications network, or deployment of conduit that can be made available to other entities

While dig once policies are beneficial, they are not a one-size-fits-all policy prescriptive. To develop “best practices” guidance for local governments, we surveyed the approaches adopted or proposed by jurisdictions across the country. In the process, we interviewed representatives of cities and other government entities that have adopted such policies, and reviewed the treatment of costs in dig once scenarios.

Based on our survey and our own experience, we identified three general approaches:

  1. Some communities require an excavator applying for a permit in the PROW to notify utilities and other relevant entities about the project and invite their participation.
  2. Localities with a “shadow conduit” installation policy require the excavator to install excess conduit for future use; depending on the policy, the excavator or the jurisdiction may then lease that excess capacity.
  3. Other localities undertake a longer-term process, coordinating multi-year plans with excavators.

We recommend that localities consider the following steps in developing an ordinance or policy:

  • Prioritize projects suitable for additional construction, based on a scoring mechanism
  • Develop a refined estimate of the incremental costs during the design stage
  • Develop a standard engineering specification for dig-once conduit
  • Develop a procedure to systematically track and manage the construction and to create a repository of existing infrastructure

For state and local governments and the public, the advantages of dig once policies are significant and easily understood. But, while fiber and conduit materials are relatively inexpensive, dig once construction is still costly—so many factors should be taken into consideration to ensure dig once policies are implemented in a cost-effective and useful way. Communication between local government and the companies that would potentially use the conduit is critically important. Localities should also establish a system to track its planned, ongoing, and completed construction.

Read the paper in its entirety here.


[1] “Broadband Opportunity Council Report and Recommendations,” U.S. Department of Commerce and U.S. Department of Agriculture, August 20, 2015, https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/broadband_opportunity_council_report_final.pdf (accessed July 26, 2016). See also: “Executive Order on Accelerating Broadband Infrastructure Development,” Federal Highway Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation, May 5, 2016, http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/policy/otps/exeorder.cfm (accessed July 26, 2016).
Published: Friday, April 14, 2017 by CTC Technology & Energy

APR

12

Producing Value through Effective Governance

CTC just published a new paper on the steps community broadband network operators can take to develop an effective governance process to maximize value to the community.

Operating a community broadband network entails complex technical, financial, and strategic business considerations—and those decisions are all made within a governance framework.

Effective governance enables a locality to organize its decision-making to produce the greatest value. While value is measured in terms unique to that community, the key to good governance is that the network’s value will reflect the community’s needs. For example, a local government might construct a broadband network to lower the cost of its internal communications services, promote economic development, or serve local schools and libraries. In each of those scenarios, the locality’s governance should ensure that the network delivers on its stated goals.

In this brief white paper, we describe a high-level approach to adapting a governance process to support identified needs and produce effective value. This approach includes:

Identifying key goals and objectives

As a project unfolds and stakeholders and needs are identified, goals and objectives are often added and shaped in the context of what is realistically achievable with available resources.

Identifying key stakeholders

While a more comprehensive stakeholder analysis needs to be completed as a project’s objectives and operational model are fleshed out, the initial core goals and objectives point to natural leaders, advocates, and stakeholders who need to be active participants in the project.

Focusing on needs and value

Periodic re-checks help to keep your governance development aligned with the issues that matter to your community—and to ensure that you have the right stakeholders engaged in the right roles.

Identifying strengths and weaknesses

What changes need to be made in terms of organization and staffing to effectively manage operations?

Developing an appropriate organizational structure

Strengths and weaknesses are always relative to something—some idea of what the network should deliver, and to what extent the necessary pieces for delivery exist.

Managing strategic governance

Identify roles of stakeholders depending on whether the stakeholder represents a service provider, service partner, or client; and what resources and information the stakeholder brings to the table.

Retooling organizational structures as needed

The degree of organizational change necessary to support a fiber optic network can vary widely, and depends heavily on the phase of the project. Newer projects can involve drastic change, while those undertaken by mature organizations may only entail modest changes.

Developing key performance indicators

The industry standard is the balanced scorecard, which considers leading and lagging indicators from different perspectives, and ties those back to strategic objectives and goals. What makes most sense for your network should be something you continually discuss with your stakeholders.

Read the white paper in its entirety here.

Published: Wednesday, April 12, 2017 by CTC Technology & Energy

APR

03

Boston Releases RFP for Dark Fiber IRU to Upgrade Broadband Connectivity to Public School Facilities

The City of Boston is committed to closing the digital divide for its students—and to laying the foundation to meet the growing broadband needs of the 21st century. The City plans to accomplish this by connecting all City schools to BoNet, the fiber-based network operated by the City.

This City has issued an RFP for scalable dark fiber backbone infrastructure—primarily to upgrade broadband connectivity to Boston Public Schools (BPS) facilities. The City may also seek to bolster the existing BoNet infrastructure and provide future connectivity to Boston Housing Authority (BHA) facilities and critical public safety sites. Additionally, this expansion will help the City expand and improve public safety services across the City and expand opportunities to deploy “Wicked Free Wi-Fi” to a broader geography.

The City’s goal is to leverage as much existing infrastructure from private carriers by seeking an IRU of dark fiber to connect approximately 145 sites throughout the entire city. The term of the IRU shall be for 20 years, with two 5-year renewal terms.

The complete RFP and its accompanying documents can be accessed on the City’s Procurement Page.

Responses to the RFP are due June 6, 2017

Published: Monday, April 3, 2017 by CTC Technology & Energy

MAR

29

Town of Wake Forest, NC Releases Broadband FTTP RFI

The Town of Wake Forest, North Carolina has issued a Request for Information (RFI) to convey its interest in partnering with a sophisticated and motivated partner to bring fiber-based, Gigabit-class broadband service to the area. The successful Partner will deploy ubiquitous FTTP infrastructure and provide broadband internet service to residents, businesses, and community anchor institutions (CAIs) in the Town.

Responses to the RFI are due to the Town May 17, 2017.

Read the RFI here.

Published: Wednesday, March 29, 2017 by CTC Technology & Energy

MAR

27

How the Local Oversight Process Addresses the Concerns of the Public Sector in Small Cell Siting

Andrew Afflerbach, PhD, PE
CEO & Director of Engineering

As the FCC and many state legislatures consider interfering with local processes regarding wireless facilities siting, I recently prepared a report for the Smart Communities Siting Coalition, addressing wireless siting and the critical importance of local process from a technical standpoint.

Among other things, my report describes and illustrates “small cell” infrastructure and discusses how the local oversight process addresses the concerns of the public sector that wireless facilities not compromise public safety, traffic, people with disabilities, and other communications.

Accommodating permitting and other local government requirements in public rights-of-way is typically a relatively small part of the cost and time required for design and construction of outside plant for a communications network, with only marginal impact on broadband investment decisions. Indeed, local permitting processes and fees have negligible impact on the decision to deploy broadband in urban versus rural areas. In fact, in our experience, the permitting process and local government coordination can help and facilitate deployment. When it is done effectively, it protects the integrity of existing infrastructure and public safety, and provides certainty and predictability to wireless carriers and wireless infrastructure companies.

In my own experience and in the experience of my colleagues at CTC, the optimal way to facilitate and smooth the wireless siting process is for wireless companies to work with localities by filing complete, accurate, timely siting applications—and by collaborating with the localities in an efficient, mutually-beneficial process of pre-planning, specification development, and reasonable staging of the deployment. In city after city and county after county, we have found that localities are highly motivated to facilitate and incentivize broadband build-out, and are willing to use permitting and other processes to enable and smooth the deployment process as much as possible.

Numerous localities are currently involved in creative efforts to understand private sector needs and to develop ways to work collaboratively. The next generation of wireless broadband deployment can best be achieved if wireless companies undertake a similarly collaborative, constructive engagement with localities.

The report was submitted to the FCC in the Mobilitie docket (WT docket 16-421) by the Smart Communities Siting Coalition. It can be found here.

Read more about Dr. Afflerbach here

Published: Monday, March 27, 2017 by CTC Technology & Energy