Community Anchor Institutions Served by Government and Non-Profit Fiber Networks

The SHLB Coalition developed Connecting Anchor Institutions: A Broadband Action Plan to provide ideas and actionable policy recommendations for government leaders at the federal, state, and local levels to address the broadband needs of anchor institutions. The ten policy papers highlight connectivity gaps and explain why broadband access is vital to communities nationwide. In the coming weeks, the Benton Foundation will be highlighting each of the Action Plan policy papers. The following is an excerpt of the sixth paper. Later this month, we’ll be looking at government funding of networks. To read the complete Broadband Action Plan, visit

Community Anchor Institutions Served by Government and Non-Profit Fiber Networks


State and local governments have been providing anchor institutions with high-speed data connections using fiber-optic networks for several decades. Indeed, tens of thousands of schools, libraries, community centers, and public health and safety providers obtain their broadband connectivity from local government and state non-profit networks, including state research and education networks. Policymakers should strongly consider developing or augmenting their municipal or statewide governmental or non-profit networks to ensure that their anchor institutions have the highest-quality broadband connectivity, to establish a foundation for economic growth, and to meet fundamental societal needs.
Government and non-profit anchor networks generally do not require short-term profits and, in most cases, can focus on long-term and community-based goals. These networks enable anchors to benefit from high bandwidth and reliability at reasonable per-unit pricing. These networks also benefit the private sector; many anchor networks lease excess capacity to and from commercial providers. While some criticize municipal broadband providers that serve residential customers, there are very few objections to networks that focus on serving anchor institutions.

Addressing the Unmet Needs of Government Agencies and Anchor Institutions

Anchor institutions often cannot afford to purchase high-capacity circuits from the private sector; rather, anchors simply cap their bandwidth and choose not to deploy applications that require high bandwidth. In other cases, high bandwidth capacity is just not available to anchor institutions at any price because the commercial carriers have not deployed the required infrastructure in that region.

Fiber-Based Networks Offer Affordable Scaling as Needs Grow

Fiber-optic networks have a useful life of decades because the capacity can be upgraded simply by changing the electronics at the end of the fiber. These networks are capable of supporting greater speeds and bandwidths as anchor institution needs and applications grow. Anchor networks commonly upgrade any one of their backbone fiber pairs to hundreds of gigabits per second – which is often faster than available commercial service offerings. Further, government and non-profit anchor networks often offer increases in capacity at little or no increase in recurring costs to the anchor because of how they typically structure their cost recovery models. Cost savings from aggregating traffic from multiple users sharing the
same network are passed along in the form of lower prices to all users, including the anchor institutions.

The Efficiencies of Shared Construction

Many of the government anchor networks in operation were built through the economically-efficient mechanism of shared construction, in which agencies and organizations agree to build cooperatively and simultaneously.

A Platform for Last Mile Deployment to Homes and Businesses

Local government and non-profit anchor networks often realize yet another key efficiency – these networks also can serve as an open platform for last mile deployment, both public and private. By their nature, most government networks to anchor institutions will reach deep into neighborhoods that house schools, libraries, public health offices, and government facilities such as water towers and fire stations. Many localities then lease excess capacity to private sector providers to enable service provision and last-mile build-out in the neighborhoods. This trend is fast accelerating as hundreds of localities make available spare fiber optic capacity to private carriers at rates designed to catalyze new private sector investment and opportunity.(1)

Strategies to Finance Government Anchor Networks

There are several strategies local and state governments have used to finance anchor networks. Where there is sufficient leeway in the general fund, governments can appropriate funds to cover the necessary initial capital expenditure, either on a one-time or multi-year basis. If there is not sufficient leeway in the general fund, a number of municipalities have used general obligation bonds, revenue bonds, or certificates of participation to finance the network build-out.

While these financing strategies do come at a cost, the lack of a high-capacity anchor network can pose a greater threat to the community’s long-term financial situation. Government agencies’ and anchor institutions’ demand for bandwidth will continue to grow in the coming years. Failing to invest in high-capacity broadband can impede the community’s economic growth.

Anchor networks tend to have a relatively modest payback period, with the initial investment often being offset through avoided costs in roughly 3-10 years. This holds true even when bonds are used to finance the network build-out, taking into account the cost of servicing the debt.

Once constructed, there will also be ongoing operational costs associated with maintaining the network. Often, the network manager charges agencies and anchor institutions fees for their use of the network that are limited to the actual operational costs. Most networks have been able to reach financial self-sufficiency while charging agencies far less than a private carrier would charge for comparable services.

There is also growing interest among private financial institutions willing to invest in municipal networks. Local governments may be able to find alternative means of financing government anchor networks using private capital.

Addressing Criticism of Municipal Networks

Despite numerous examples of successful municipal networks providing broadband services on a wholesale or retail basis,(2) some critics argue that such networks unfairly compete with private industry and can pose a risk to taxpayers. While much of the criticism is unfounded and based on factual errors,10 these criticisms are largely irrelevant to anchor networks. Very few of the critics of municipal retail and wholesale networks argue against municipalities’ right to own and operate a network to meet their agencies’ internal needs. Commercial companies generally do not question anchor institution networks in part because these networks are analogous to private, corporate networks that are usually provisioned by commercial companies.


  1. The value of shared construction and open access and interconnection policies are also addressed in Promoting Competition for Broadband Servicesin this Action Plan.
  2. See, for example, Andrew Cohill, “Danville Transforms its Economy with Fiber,” Broadband Communities Magazine (November 2011); Jon Brodkin, “Where Broadband is a Utility, 100Mbps costs just $40 a month,” ars technica (August 4, 2015); Todd O’Boyle and Christopher Mitchell, Carolina’s Connected Community: Wilson Gives Greenlight to Fast Internet, Institute for Local Self-Reliance and Common Cause (December 2012)
Published: Wednesday, November 2, 2016 by CTC Technology & Energy



Kentucky Reaffirms Bipartisan Support of Public-Private Partnerships for State Broadband

Last Friday brought strong validation of bipartisan public-private partnerships in broadband when Gov. Matt Bevin and Congressman Hal Rogers affirmed their complete support for the KentuckyWired project. The Governor and Congressman announced that Governor Bevin, a Republican, will move forward with KentuckyWired as was planned by his predecessor, Democratic former-governor Steve Beshear.

KentuckyWired is a public-private partnership between the Commonwealth of Kentucky and private-sector broadband providers and financiers, with a goal of building more than 3,000 miles of fiber optic cable across the state.

This new fiber will connect more than 1,000 government and education sites while simultaneously offering cost-effective, open access to last-mile Internet Service Providers to enable them to reach new markets and build in the last mile.

We’ve written about this project as well as CTC’s involvement with it in the past. And you can read about some recognition KentuckyWired received when the Bond Buyer magazine called it the “Deal of the Year”.

Published: Wednesday, September 21, 2016 by CTC Technology & Energy



Urbana-Champaign Big Broadband Releases Request for Proposal for Private Partner for Network Expansion and Operation

Urbana-Champaign Big Broadband Not for Profit (UC2B NFP) has released a request for proposal (RFP) seeking a private partner to operate and expand the existing UC2B network, and deploy fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. The ideal partner will operate and expand the UC2B fiber network to make affordable Gigabit-class broadband service available throughout the Cities of Champaign and Urbana.

Go HERE to access the RFP.

Published: Monday, August 22, 2016 by CTC Technology & Energy



City of Madison, WI Releases CTC Report

The City of Madison released a report prepared by CTC exploring the potential for citywide fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) deployment. The report, and supplemental market research that CTC conducted, represent the City’s compliance with Wisconsin state law. The state statute requires any municipality that seeks to offer broadband services to conduct a cost-benefit analysis.

Read the full report here. Watch the City’s press conference here.

Published: Friday, August 12, 2016 by CTC Technology & Energy



City of Madison Releases CTC Report

The City of Madison released a report prepared by CTC exploring the potential for citywide fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) deployment. The report, and supplemental market research that CTC conducted, represent the City’s compliance with Wisconsin state law. The state statute requires any municipality that seeks to offer broadband services to conduct a cost-benefit analysis.

Read the full report here. Watch the City’s press conference here.

Published: by CTC Technology & Energy



CTC to Develop Strategic Plan for City of Baton Rouge and Parish of East Baton Rouge

The City of Baton Rouge has selected CTC Technology & Energy to develop a multifaceted strategic fiber plan. CTC’s analysts and engineers will evaluate the potential for a broadband public–private partnership, and conduct a “dig once” policy assessment to make recommendations around actionable policies in the region. Our E-rate specialists will evaluate and develop a strategy to deploy fiber to every library and K-12 school in Baton Rouge. Our team will conduct a needs assessment, evaluate the potential role of existing City assets in enabling broadband, and conduct engineering and cost estimation for potential network implementation. Our financial and business analysts will conduct business modeling and financial analysis, and evaluate potential public–private partnership opportunities.

Published: Wednesday, June 22, 2016 by CTC Technology & Energy



City of Seattle Selects CTC to Develop Wi-Fi Strategy

The City of Seattle has selected CTC Technology & Energy to develop a strategic plan that balances the City’s goals to fill broadband gaps in neighborhoods where gaps exist, and to develop a sustainable business model. CTC will engage various stakeholders and agencies on the City’s behalf, and conduct outreach to private sector entities—including Internet service providers and wireless carriers—through a request for information process. CTC’s engineers and analysts will evaluate the potential for public–private partnerships, examine the feasibility of using the City’s fiber to support Wi-Fi, and provide a high-level financial and technical approach to fill the City’s broadband gaps.

Published: Sunday, June 12, 2016 by CTC Technology & Energy



City of Apex, NC Contracts CTC for Advanced Metering Infrastructure Project

The City of Apex, NC has engaged CTC Technology & Energy to evaluate the benefits of fully deploying advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) for its electric and water utilities. The analysis will evaluate the City’s investments in AMI infrastructure and examine the benefits of full utility automation and to develop a strategy to meet the City’s needs. CTC’s engineers and analysts will assist the City to develop a strategic approach to integrate existing AMI infrastructure with a ubiquitous deployment to enable full utility automation.

Published: Monday, May 23, 2016 by CTC Technology & Energy



Palo Alto, CA Releases RFI for Private Partner for FTTP

The City of Palo Alto, California has released a request for information (RFI) to identify for-profit and nonprofit companies interested in partnering with the City to develop a citywide fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) network. The City aims to make Gigabit-class bandwidth available to all Palo Alto homes and businesses to improve the range and quality of available broadband and data transport services. The FTTP network will complement the City of Palo Alto Utilities (CPAU) existing dark fiber enterprise by expanding service beyond commercial customers to encompass the full range of users in Palo Alto.

Parties interested in accessing and responding to the RFI should do so through the City’s official bid posting system, PlanetBids.

Interested parties should go HERE to register with PlanetBids.

Please register under commodity code 83800 – Telecommunication Equipment, Accessories And Supplies and/or 92500 – Engineering Services, Professional. There is no cost to register and participate in City of Palo Alto solicitations.

Published: Monday, May 16, 2016 by CTC Technology & Energy



City of Pikeville, KY Issues RFI to Identify Private Partners for FTTP

The City of Pikeville, Kentucky has issued a request for information (RFI) to identify potential for-profit and non-profit entities interested in partnering with the City to develop a citywide fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) network. The City is committed to enhancing broadband availability for all its businesses, residents, and anchor institutions. The proposed partnership also considers neighboring Coal Run Village in its projected “service area,” and anticipates eventually serving other portions of Pike County.

Go HERE to view the full RFI.

Published: Friday, May 13, 2016 by CTC Technology & Energy