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Gigabit Communities: How Local Governments Can Facilitate Private Investment in New Gigabit Networks

Local governments have long pioneered efforts to expand broadband availability and competition; for more than a decade, they have tested public projects and public–private partnerships to deliver new broadband to their citizens. As they look to the future, communities can choose to build their own broadband networks or can work toward new partnerships with private broadband deployers. Among the models for partnership is one in which a community works to facilitate new private investment in gigabit-speed networks by optimizing available assets and processes at key touch-points in the construction cycle.

Our analysis is based on our work since 1996 assisting states and localities to plan, design, and build broadband networks. Based on that experience, we recently wrote a detailed analysis of these strategies (see our Gigabit Communities page) and below, we summarize some of the steps communities can take in such a partnership.

But we caution that these strategies are merely one side of a successful equation—and if there is not another side to the public-private partnership, local government efforts are unlikely to bear fruit. Indeed, unless the private partner is truly committed to building gigabit-capable networks, these strategies may serve merely to transfer some costs of doing business from an incumbent phone or cable company to the public.

Simply stated, the key ingredient for public-private partnership in gigabit deployment is true partnership between a locality and a willing and able private partner—one that is committed to building next-generation infrastructure rather than simply reducing costs on existing, inadequate legacy networks.

In brief summary, some of the strategies localities can undertake in partnership with private broadband deployers fall into three general categories:

      1. Facilitating access to key assets such as fiber, conduit, utility poles, and real estate
      2. Making available useful information
      3. Streamlining and publicizing essential local processes

These categories are described briefly here, with representative examples. Extensive additional examples, case studies, and engineering analysis are included in our full report.


One of the biggest challenges in bringing better broadband access to more people is the cost of building the networks. New network deployments benefit from quick access to existing fiber optics, utility poles, underground cable conduit, and real estate where equipment can be located. These assets reduce the provider’s construction costs (or the locality’s, in the event the infrastructure is for a public project). The local community can take steps to make existing assets available—and lessen the time and effort required to use them. Access to dark fiber, underground conduit, and real estate all time and cost saving strategies communities can use to help expedite construction.

In our view, access to fiber and conduit is the single most powerful tool a locality can use to incent construction of new fiber networks. The most important recommendations we have ever given our clients is to build conduit and fiber whenever the opportunity presents itself—those assets can support local governments’ own internal networks and, if sufficiently robust and extensive, can serve as the core for private deployment of new gigabit networks.

There are a range of strategies for building fiber/conduit assets locally, many of them very cost-effective if planned comprehensively. For example, the locality can require “dig-once” practices, in which both public and private entities build their fiber/conduit when other projects are underway—building fiber when the streets are already undergoing construction for other reasons makes for more efficient network construction. At the same time, the community benefits by reducing traffic disruptions from construction and protecting roads and sidewalks from life-shortening cuts.

Another critical need in broadband deployment is access to utility poles. Optimally, the network builder needs a swift “make-ready” process to prepare the poles for new fiber. In most communities, the poles are owned by phone and electric companies, which control both fees and time frames for new fiber attachments. Localities, however, can encourage private pole owners to consolidate attachments; reserve pole space; and undertake other steps that may reduce make-ready time and costs—thereby reducing the average cost of aerial fiber construction.

A further challenge is entry into a building or development. Localities can require by code—or incentive—that developers build additional pathways from the public rights-of-way to an in-building demarcation as well as internal, standards-compliant building cabling or cable pathways.



Most localities already devote considerable resources to data collection. Some data sets already have on hand can be made available to network deployers. With this information, it becomes easier, faster, and cheaper to plan large-scale broadband construction projects. Similarly, by making available data regarding their existing fiber and conduit, localities can enable providers to lease public fiber and conduit as part of their network designs.

Existing Geographic Information Systems—advanced mapping systems with high-resolution detail—can serve new purposes that weren’t previously contemplated. For example, GIS data on buildings, streets, utilities, zoning, and a host of other layers can be enormously helpful to construction project managers as they examine options and determines what assets are needed to plan and to build.



As with any large-scale project, smooth processes enhance broadband deployment. At the same time, localities have to balance the needs of broadband providers with the public cost of the processes necessary to support them and with other priorities that clamor for the same resources. Unlike a private sector partner, a locality cannot focus its internal processes and efforts on one single end goal; local governments are responsible for impacts throughout their communities that do not concern the broadband industry.

One way to balance these competing interests is to make processes standard and easily identifiable. Such strategies enable localities to facilitate broadband projects without sacrificing their ability to simultaneously attend to other projects and priorities. For example, timelines can be determined based on local needs, publicized, and then met. Whether a community commits to review permit applications within three days or 10 days or 20 days, that commitment can be publicized and then consistently met. Transparency about processes and timelines enables broadband companies to expeditiously plan and deploy networks, and enables localities to manage the costs and burdens of the processes necessary to meet broadband providers’ needs. Government and provider stakeholders can cooperatively plan before construction so as to understand respective schedules and needs, and so that the provider can plan to stage its work around known and predictable local processes.

Our full, detailed report on this topic can be found here. The report was prepared with sponsorship from Google, but the content represents our independent view and we are solely responsible for the analysis. Our thanks to Google for the support that enabled us to write this report, which we hope will serve to advance gigabit network deployment, a cause we consider fundamental to the national interest and to the interests of our local communities.

Joanne Hovis, President
Andrew Afflerbach, Ph.D, PE, CEO

Published: Thursday, January 23, 2014 by CTC Technology & Energy



10 Key Network Attributes to be Tested in the IP Transition

The current public switched telephone network (PSTN) provides a reliable voice connection to nearly every American. Considering how important those connections are, the move by communications carriers to replace circuit-switched technology with IP technology in their wire centers raises some important issues. The option of using IP technology in the telephone network is not a new idea, but the idea of IP technology replacing circuit-switched technology in the PSTN is—and may be subjected to numerous complications.  Some factors to consider are whether the IP interface can deliver the same call quality, call completions, and availability we have become accustomed to when we pick up the receiver.

Will an IP telephone network give the same access to 9-1-1? Is an IP telephone network vulnerable to cyberattacks? Will the service remain functional through environmental disasters?

To identify potential problems in switching to an IP network, CTC Technology & Energy proposes that the FCC should require testing before carriers are permitted to shift technologies. Specifically, we have identified 10 network attributes that should be tested:

    1. Network capacity
    2. Call quality
    3. Device interoperability
    4. Service to the deaf and disabled
    5. System availability
    6. PSAP and 9-1-1
    7. Cybersecurity
    8. Call persistence
    9. Call functionality
    10. Wireline Coverage

Furthermore, if these attributes are subject to testing, who should be involved – the FCC, the carriers, or an independent third party? Another possible solution is to have public safety, public health, and our state and local governments be involved.  Our IP Transition report addresses these needs, indicates the testing required, and identifies key players to be involved for a successful rollout.  While CTC Technology & Energy does not have a financial stake in the situation, we offer our proposal for the benefit of the public.

…read the full report here.

Published: Tuesday, January 14, 2014 by CTC Technology & Energy



City of Seattle and CTC Technology & Energy Release Report on Future of Cable Broadband

A new report prepared by CTC Technology & Energy for the City of Seattle analyzes the current state of cable broadband technology. The report, titled “The State of the Art and Evolution of Cable Television and Broadband Technology,” documents the need for cable systems to upgrade their network capabilities if they are to keep pace with growing demands, including access to video content, Voice Over IP, and providing wireless carriers with backhaul capacity.

Cable, which utilizes both fiber optic and coaxial components, is the dominant home and business broadband technology in the United States, and represents the main future of broadband for most homes and businesses. New applications and network uses are placing increased demands on the existing commercial cable infrastructure in many communities. This need for growth poses a number of challenges, in part due to the demands of streaming video sites, which provide an alternative source of programming content to the cable operators’ own video services.

The report concludes that the only way to satisfy current and future increases in bandwidth demands is for cable operators to upgrade the IP data components of their systems, and by maintaining neutrality toward online video content. These upgrades, anticipated in the next five years and beyond, are necessary for cable providers to keep pace with other emerging technologies, such as fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP).

Published: Monday, October 21, 2013 by CTC Technology & Energy



CTC Technology & Energy Opens Western Satellite Offices

CTC Technology & Energy has opened several new offices in recent months to better serve clients in the Midwest, Southwest, and Rocky Mountain regions. The newest office, located in Boulder, Colorado, opened in September, and is under the supervision of Principal Analyst Bob Hunnicutt. Mr. Hunnicutt is a veteran of cable and wireless communications engineering and local government administration and leads CTC Technology & Energy’s tower siting team. CTC Technology & Energy also launched offices in Madison, Wisconsin and Santa Fe, New Mexico to support our growing family of state and local government clients in those regions.

Published: Thursday, October 3, 2013 by CTC Technology & Energy



Garrett County, Md. Seeking Private Partners for Wireless Network

Garrett County, Maryland has issued a Request for Information (RFI) for private partners interested in providing network services over a county-built wireless network. The network will reach some of the rural county’s most remote residents and businesses currently without high speed Internet service availability.

CTC Technology & Energy completed a comprehensive feasibility study for the County in 2012, and recommended pursuing a public network utilizing TV “White Spaces” to deploy wireless Internet service to unserved homes and businesses. White Space networks utilize vacant broadcast frequencies, more of which are available in communities like Garrett that are far from dense population centers. The technology has propagation characteristics superior to other wireless broadband technologies, and is particularly advantageous in mountainous regions where line of sight is often encumbered. The RFI embraces this recommendation, and encourages respondents to propose solutions that utilize TV White Space technology.

The County has identified six target areas that include approximately 2,873 homes and businesses. The initial phase of the network build will target a pilot region of about 200 end-users. The County plans to scale the pilot network strategy to ultimately serve the entire population of the target areas.

Letters of intent to respond to the RFI are due at 2:00PM (Eastern) on Friday, October 18, 2013. Final responses are due at 2:00PM on Friday, November 1, 2013.

The RFI is available for download at: http://www.garrettcounty.org/purchasing/current-bids.

Published: Thursday, September 26, 2013 by CTC Technology & Energy



Officials Announce Latest Regional Broadband Grant for Garrett County, MD

For the second time in two years, Garrett County, Maryland has received a $250,000 grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission for community broadband development. The grant, which will be matched dollar for dollar by the County, is the latest in a series of major steps the small county has taken toward solving the challenge of rural broadband access faced by many communities across the country.

“ARC support for broadband expansion is good news for Garrett County residents and businesses,” said Congressman John Delaney (MD-6), who announced the award on Friday. “In the early days of Western Maryland, roads, rails, and rivers connected our communities to the rest of the country. Much of today’s commerce and communication takes place online and high-speed, high-capacity, online access is as essential as a navigable river or a paved road once was. This is precisely the kind of communications infrastructure investment that I believe is essential to our region’s future economic health.”

The award will help Garrett County develop wireless network resources for homes and businesses in unserved pockets of a mountainous and sparsely populated region. In 2012, CTC Technology & Energy recommended that the County pursue a public network using “TV White Spaces,” a nascent broadband technology carried over vacant television frequencies. The County’s connectivity goals are within reach in large part due to the One Maryland Broadband Network, the state’s NTIA funded fiber project that has brought over 45 miles of fiber optic backbone cable to Garrett County.

The new TV White Space network will reach 800 homes in its initial phase. The County’s goal is for the network to reach upwards of 3,000 homes through additional funding and partnership opportunities in the coming years, connecting the remaining 2,200 residences by 2016.

CTC Technology & Energy and Garrett County continue to partner on developing deployment strategies and finding private partners to provide Internet service to users of the network.

Published: Monday, July 29, 2013 by CTC Technology & Energy



CTC Technology & Energy Report Makes Case for Government Fiber in Holly Springs, N.C.

A June report released by CTC Technology & Energy recommends that the Town of Holly Springs, North Carolina move ahead with plans to construct fiber optic broadband infrastructure to serve its public institutions. The Business Case for Government Fiber Optics in Holly Springs states that the return on investment of a Town-built fiber network would mitigate the capital costs of the project. “A Town-owned infrastructure,” the report states, “is the most cost effective approach for meeting internal Town networking needs in the long term.” Constructing a Town-owned fiber backbone would cost an estimated $1.3 to $1.5 million.

The Town, like many local governments, currently leases broadband infrastructure to serve its needs. Holly Springs will spend an estimated $159,000 per year for these leased services in the coming years; CTC Technology & Energy expects the Town to need to scale its network capacity to at least 1 Gbps circuits for its schools, libraries, and other facilities to keep pace with bandwidth demands. The cost of leased service will rise further with the planned construction of new police and recreational facilities. According to the report, if the Town invests in its own fiber, in the “worst case” scenario, the cost of financing this infrastructure would be comparable to continuing to pay for leased services. CTC Technology & Energy projects a cost savings between $922,000 and $1.1 million resulting from the Town building 1 Gbps circuits to each of its facilities.

The report goes on to recommend a strategy of building Town fiber toward private sector Internet providers, key businesses, and residential neighborhoods. In this way, the Town can encourage private sector providers to build last-mile networks, leasing fiber backbone from the Town, to directly connect homes and businesses. This strategy helps bring Holly Springs closer to the ultimate goal of encouraging fiber-to-the-premises technology to be built throughout the Town.

Published: Wednesday, June 19, 2013 by CTC Technology & Energy



Culver City, CA Taps CTC Technology & Energy for Fiber Optic Study

CTC Technology & Energy will conduct a feasibility study for Culver City, California to explore developing fiber optic network connections for economic development sites and other locations throughout the City. The study will evaluate the existing needs of City agencies and private businesses in target areas. CTC Technology & Energy will develop a system-level design and cost projection for the construction and operation of a City-owned fiber infrastructure. The report will include an analysis of various business models the City could pursue, including selling City-lit fiber directly to businesses, selling circuits to third-party service providers, and dark fiber leasing with neighboring municipalities.

Published: Tuesday, June 11, 2013 by CTC Technology & Energy



CTC Technology & Energy to Develop Broadband Plan for Kansas Hospital Association

CTC Technology & Energy is working with the Kansas Hospital Association (KHA) on plans to develop a high-speed network for the state’s healthcare community. KHA is a non-profit organization promoting the interests of community hospitals and other healthcare providers throughout Kansas.

CTC Technology & Energy kicked off the project by meeting with KHA staff and member organizations. Kansas hospitals and healthcare facilities, particularly in rural areas, are hungry for more bandwidth and service options as they migrate their systems away from old T-1 lines. CTC will develop a technical strategy, prepare a business case analysis, and submit a feasibility study and strategic recommendations for bringing high speed intranet and Internet service to KHA members.

KHA will release a Request for Information in the coming weeks to gauge interest from service providers interested in partnering with the Association.

Published: Monday, May 20, 2013 by CTC Technology & Energy



Lawrence, KS Releases CTC Technology & Energy Broadband Report

The City of Lawrence has released CTC Technology & Energy’s report on broadband within the City, titled “Enhancing Broadband in Lawrence: A Range of Strategic Options.” CTC Technology & Energy conducted an assessment of Lawrence’s current state of broadband availability and demand, and outlined thirteen different potential strategies to increase broadband access for the City’s residents and businesses.

Though home to a major research university and a vibrant local economy, Lawrence does not have the same level of broadband availability as other comparable communities, particularly with respect to fiber optic technology. Among the various broadband enhancement strategies discussed in the report are: further investment in municipal fiber projects; leasing of excess City fiber infrastructure; collaboration with partners such as Kansas University and Gig.U to attract further investment; and pursuing discussions with Google Fiber in neighboring Kansas City.

Published: Tuesday, May 7, 2013 by CTC Technology & Energy