As educational partner to the Rural Broadband Council of the Utilities Telecom Council, CTC Technology & Energy today presented a full day of educational sessions regarding the new Rural Broadband Experiments program recently created by the FCC. At a seminar in Indianapolis presented to more than 100 representatives of rural electric cooperatives and other interested parties, CTC staff presented in-depth analyses. CTC president Joanne Hovis evaluated the funding opportunity; CEO Dr. Andrew Afflerbach described the technologies and associated costs for Fiber-to-the-Premises networks; and director of business planning Tom Asp gave a summary of considerations in market evaluation and broadband business planning. The presentation materials are available in the CTC website library.
Last month, we published our report for Google, in which we layout the fundaments in a “How-to” strategy guide for facilitating a Gigabit Community. Since, we have received great feedback from the community including tweets from the Head of Community Affairs for Google and other industry pundits whom are promoting our work. This month, we are proud of our report making the cover of Broadband Communities magazine which is also highlighting our report as the Editor’s Choice for the month.
Published: Thursday, February 6, 2014 by CTC Technology & Energy
Published: Friday, January 31, 2014 by CTC Technology & Energy
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:
- Facilitating access to key assets such as fiber, conduit, utility poles, and real estate
- Making available useful information
- 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.
STRATEGIES FOR ACCESS TO KEY ASSETS
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.
STRATEGIES FOR INFORMATION ACCESS
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.
STRATEGIES FOR PROCESS EFFICIENCY
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
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
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 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
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
The Town Council of Holly Springs, N.C. has given the green light for CTC Technology & Energy to begin work on the Town’s fiber optic network plans. CTC Technology & Energy will develop a business case for expanding the Town’s network capacity and offer specific strategies for fiber utilization. The town seeks to increase data communications and network redundancy among Town facilities, and opportunities for economic growth through dark fiber leasing to private carriers.
CTC Technology & Energy will develop a business case analysis, and subsequently a business model for the municipal network. The final report will explore the revenue potential of leasing dark fiber as well as cost savings opportunities associated with providing dark fiber connections to schools and libraries. The network would also enable the Town to tap into the statewide North Carolina Research and Education Network (NCREN), providing connections with schools, hospitals, and other municipalities across the state.
Published: Monday, March 25, 2013 by CTC Technology & Energy
The Colorado intergovernmental broadband cooperative EAGLE-Net has released CTC Technology & Energy’s 2012 study on the public middle-mile carrier. The report compares the EAGLE-Net approach with successful models in other states. CTC Technology & Energy’s analysis addresses the concerns expressed by some Colorado companies over EAGLE-Net’s scope of network construction. The report highlights various benefits of the EAGLE-Net network, including: substantial economic growth and job creation; unique intranet capabilities for public entities; and network expansion into unserved areas.
CTC Technology & Energy found EAGLE-Net’s practices to be in line with industry norms. The report states that the cooperative has followed best practices to “maximize win-win outcomes with existing providers.” In addition to concluding that EAGLE-Net has operated in a transparent and open manner that has been non-controversial elsewhere in the country, the report notes a number of key benefits conveyed by the network not otherwise addressed by private carriers. These include: rural network access; fiber-to-the-premises availability; last-mile fiber investment stimulation; and affordable and sustainable service to community anchor institutions.
The full report can be read here.