Rural Telcom De-regulation — Prompts Competition from Space

Doug Dawson has an excellent post in Pots and Pans on the impact regulators had on the lack of rural broadband.

Rural America should never have been deregulated. Shame on every regulator in every state that voted to deregulate the big telcos in rural America. Shame on every regulator that allowed companies like Verizon palm off their rural copper to companies like Frontier – a company that cannot succeed, almost by definition.

In rural America the telcos have a physical network monopoly and the regulators should have found ways to support rural copper rather than letting the telcos walk away from it. We know this can be done by looking at the different approaches taken by the smaller independent telephone companies. These small companies took care of their copper and most have now taken the next step to upgrade to fiber to be ready for the next century.

The full post is HERE.

Doug writes: “The big telcos started abandoning rural America as much as thirty years ago. They’ve stopped maintaining copper and have not voluntarily made any investments in rural America for a long time. There was a burst of rural construction recently when the FCC gave them $11 billion to improve rural broadband to 10/1 Mbps – but that doesn’t seem to be drawing many rural subscribers.”

The launch of the low earth-orbiting satellite broadband networks by SpaceX, OneWeb, and Amazon are going to provide rural users alternatives to the poor service and slow speeds offered by the telcos. The LEO ISPs are promising “fiber-like services” to rural customers starting in 2020, with full service by 2021.

One of the challenges will be the start-up costs, which are forecast to be in the $300 to 500 dollar range. The monthly fee of those services is presently an unknown but is expected to be competitive with existing fiber services.

SpaceX is expecting a high demand for their “fiber-like services” from space. They have requested permission to launch up to 42,000 Starlink satellites, 12,000 that are already approved plus 30,000 more to meet the expected global demand. This YouTube video has some details and attractive graphics:

https://youtu.be/z93a9OUJfOA

This Island Town Is Building a Public Broadband Network. Is It a Model for Bridging Digital Divide?

GeekWire has the details:

Anacortes, Wash., is a picturesque town on Fidalgo Island, 90 minutes north of Seattle. Best known for its marina, it’s a popular spot for travelers to stop on their way to the San Juan Islands. But there’s something else special about this place: its municipal government, which represents a population of about 15,000 people, is about to become a high-speed internet provider.

In a few weeks, Anacortes will join a growing cohort of cities, dissatisfied enough with the private sector, that have decided to offer internet service as a public utility.

Advocates for so-called municipal broadband say the internet is as vital to daily life as electricity or clean water — and they want to see it provided in the same way. Anacortes and other municipal broadband pioneers will provide a test case and, if successful, could be a model for bridging a widening digital divide between urban and rural communities.

Establishing a municipal broadband network is no small challenge, judging from Seattle’s repeated attempts. The city’s partnership with Cincinnati-based Gigabit Squared, promising to bring gigabit Internet to thousands of residents, crumbled in 2013 after the company failed to raise enough money to implement a high-speed Internet network using the city’s dormant dark fiber network.

Further progress has stalled since 2015, when the Seattle City Council voted down a $5 million proposal to begin developing a municipal broadband network.

Officials in Anacortes have spent the past few years researching how to become an internet provider, creating a plan, and building the infrastructure necessary. This month, the city plans to pilot service in three areas. If all goes well, they will expand the service area with the goal of providing internet to the entire community by 2023.

Continue reading HERE.

 

OneWeb Brings Fiber-Like Internet for the Arctic in 2020

SpaceDaily has the Details:

A global network, OneWeb’s Arctic service will be deployed significantly earlier and provide 200 times more capacity than planned systems. Substantial services will start towards the end of 2020, with full 24-hour coverage being provided by early 2021, supplying unprecedented blanket coverage to every part of the Arctic Circle.
OneWeb, whose goal is to connect everyone everywhere, today announced the details of its Arctic high-speed, low-latency internet service. OneWeb will deliver 375 Gbps of capacity above the 60th parallel North. With service starting in 2020, there will be enough capacity to give fiber-like connectivity to hundreds of thousands of homes, planes, and boats, connecting millions across the Arctic.

The dense, flexible coverage of OneWeb’s polar-orbiting satellites coupled with its high-speed service and low latency capabilities will provide a superior connectivity experience to the 48% of the Arctic currently without broadband coverage. In fact, OneWeb most recently proved its system’s capabilities through HD video streaming tests last month with its first six satellites that showcased extreme low latencies under 40 milliseconds and high speed services.

A global network, OneWeb’s Arctic service will be deployed significantly earlier and provide 200 times more capacity than planned systems. Substantial services will start towards the end of 2020, with full 24-hour coverage being provided by early 2021, supplying unprecedented blanket coverage to every part of the Arctic Circle.

Continue reading HERE.

 

Heidi Hall: Federal, State Support Needed for Rural Broadband in Areas Like Nevada County

The pull quote from the Hall Other Voices:

This simply won’t get done without some financial help from the state and federal government, revived regulations that require larger companies to provide a better standard of service …

The full article is HERE.

My comment on Hall’s Other Voices:

Other communities are not waiting for state and federal government grants to build rural broadband networks. They consider broadband as critical infrastructure, just like city water, sewer, power, and transportation. They float bonds, build the fiber network, and then charge a connection fee just like they would a new water service connection, and then a monthly user fee.

One example can be found HERE.

Over 500 communities across the nation are served by community networks. Details here: https://muninetworks.org/communitymap

What prevents Nevada County from treating broadband as critical infrastructure? A middle-mile fiber network snakes its way through the County, passing numerous clusters of homes and business.

While $250,000 is a start, millions are required to close the last mile with fiber spurs and wireless distribution to homes and business. It is time for the County to treat broadband as critical infrastructure like hundreds of other communities have and more planning to take the plunge. Details here https://muninetworks.org/communitymap

Government award grants to well-defined projects with a high probability of success. Where are those Nevada County projects? The ROI driven corporations are not going to build out rural broadband networks. Nevada County needs to take action now and build the critical infrastructure to connect homes and business to the existing VAST fiber network.

[Edited for blog post]

Davis: Council Approves Fiber-Optic Network Deal With Astound Broadband

By Edward Booth Enterprise correspondent

The Davis City Council voted on Tuesday to lease city conduit to Astound Broadband LLC in exchange for fiber-optic services.

The agreement, set to last for 30 years, requires Astound — also known as Wave Broadband — to bring fiber-optic cable into the city and provide a high-speed network in Davis using existing city conduit. Astound will also expand the network to Yolo County buildings, specific city buildings and well/pump sites, and a connection to UC Davis.

Astound will be responsible for maintaining the network while the city retains control of the conduit. The estimated cost of building the network runs to about $1.4 to $1.5 million, according to a staff report.

Continue reading HERE

Nevada County Supervisors Approves Last-mile Broadband Grant

YubaNet has some details:

At Tuesday’s July 23rd Board of Supervisors meeting, the Board unanimously approved a contract with the Sierra Business Council (SBC) for the administration of the Last-Mile Broadband Grant program, a grant for the development and expansion of Broadband in Nevada County. The grant will be funded by what the County receives for transient occupancy tax (TOT), a tourism-related tax charged to travelers when they rent accommodations for less than 30 days.

[ . . . ]

“The $225,000 Last-Mile Broadband Grant is a pilot program to leverage County funds to support the development of Last-Mile Broadband infrastructure in the unincorporated areas of the County to promote economic development. Last-Mile refers to connecting the enduser or customer’s home or business to a local network provider. The development of Last-Mile transmission networks is the most cost prohibitive component of broadband expansion in Nevada County.

[ . . . ]

It is a 2019 Board Priority to support job-enhancing economic development with an emphasis on creating infrastructure and community partnerships with organizations such as SBC. During the meeting, the Board approved a total of $250,000 investment into economic development and broadband. Of that funding, $25,000 going towards SBC’s administration of the pilot grant program and $225,000 that will be available for the grant.

The full report is HERE.
It will be interesting to see how the Sierra Business Council leverages this one time grant of $225,000. The last mile is like apple pie, as everyone supports it. However, fiber to the home is bloody expensive, like Google and Verizon found out and shut down their fiber to the home programs as too costly.

Fiber to the home is expensive costing between $1200 to $1500 per household, excluding any electronics needed to make the connection. That is the cost per connection when the fiber is in the street, in rural neighborhoods, the driveways can be quarter of a mile long. The primary cost component is labor to dig the trenches and lay the fiber. Or, hang the fiber on existing poles, which introduces another cost, rent for the use the poles which belong to other companies.

An alternative approach is to use wireless technology for the last mile connection. Wireless technology was used by the Beckville Network to tap the VAST middle mile network. The estimate network cost for ten homes was $10,000. That is $1,000 per connection. More here. As it turns out, the tall trees are limiting the expansion of the network to cover more of the neighborhood, requiring major network upgrades and more cost. The final cost per home is still unknown.

The Sierra Business Council was preparing a Broadband Strategic Plan for Nevada County to be published in August according to Peter Brown, the project developer. It will be interesting to see how symbiotic the Strategic Plan and the Nevada County Economic Development Grant are.

It is not clear how SBC should spend the broadband economic development grant, nor what the success criteria will be? How will citizens know the $225,000 resulted in economic development? How many last-mile connections, and at what cost? And, what wireless technology will best serve the community, as there are last-mile technologies in the market that cannot provide, the FCC minimum speeds of 25 Mbps down and 3 Mbps up.

Many of these questions could be answered when the Nevada County Broadband Strategic Plan is published. Stay Tuned.

Race Communications Leases Nevada County Land for Bright Fiber Project

After holding a Community Town Hall in January on the fiber network down highway 174, Race Communications has started to move forward on the project. The Union has more details HERE.

There are almost 2,000 homes in the service area along Highway 174. In a January town hall officials said the project’s completion was set for May 2020.

If you live along SR-174 what are your thoughts?  Ready to sign up?

More DIY Fiber Served Networks in Western Nevada County?

By Russ Steele

I described the Beckville Network HERE, an innovate way to access the VAST Fiber network which twists and winds through Western Nevada County’s rural neighborhoods. Does this fiber network come close to your area?  See the map.

VAST in NC

One essential item NOT on the map is the splice points, where a point-of-presence could easily be established by VAST for access to the fiber.

I am working on a map with more details, but one of the first items to add should be the potential access points.

Ten years ago I  used my GPS to find all the AT&T DSL Remote Terminals by following the fiber cable and then recording the location using the GPS for plotting on a digital map.  If interested in starting a network, drive the route and spot the splice point vaults.  Wish I had a photo to show you what to look for. 

Any interest in developing a plan for your neighborhood?  Leave a comment with contact information.