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Spurning Google Fiber, Portland Suburb of Lake Oswego Pushes Toward Broadband Partnership

LAKE OSWEGO, Oregon, October 14, 2015 – This suburb of Portland, a potential candidate for Google Fiber’s Gigabit-speed internet service, has said it isn’t willing to wait around for the search engine giant.

At a city council meeting here on Tuesday night, elected officials in this city of 37,000 listened, questioned and debated between two proposed public-private partnerships that would result in the construction of Gigabit-speed fiber-optic infrastructure.

City Council Meeting in Lake Oswego, Oregon

Instead of sitting and waiting for Google, the city council members appeared inclined to move forward on a public-private project with city involvement.

“There was a great buzz and excitement when Google announced” the possibility that it would come to Portland, said Councilmember Jon Gustafson during the session — but the city hasn’t wasn’t seen any action since that time.

Last year, Google announced possible expansion to Portland and five suburbs, including Lake Oswego. The company has made commitment, however.

“Google is still at the vapor stage,” added Chip Larouche, chief technology officer for the city. Speaking at the Tuesday meeting, he said that Google is “talking about how ‘we might make you a promise.'”

Instead, City Manager Scott Lazenby said that in June Lake Oswego put out a Request for Proposals to build their own Gigabit Network. The city received two responses from private companies, and one from the City’s own Public Works Department.

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LAKE OSWEGO, Oregon, October 14, 2015 – This suburb of Portland, a potential candidate for Google Fiber’s Gigabit-speed internet service, has said it isn’t willing to wait around for the search engine giant.

At a city council meeting here on Tuesday night, elected officials in this city of 37,000 listened, questioned and debated between two proposed public-private partnerships that would result in the construction of Gigabit-speed fiber-optic infrastructure.

City Council Meeting in Lake Oswego, Oregon

City Council Meeting in Lake Oswego, Oregon

Instead of sitting and waiting for Google, the city council members appeared inclined to move forward on a public-private project with city involvement.

“There was a great buzz and excitement when Google announced” the possibility that it would come to Portland, said Councilmember Jon Gustafson during the session — but the city hasn’t wasn’t seen any action since that time.

Last year, Google announced possible expansion to Portland and five suburbs, including Lake Oswego. The company has made commitment, however.

“Google is still at the vapor stage,” added Chip Larouche, chief technology officer for the city. Speaking at the Tuesday meeting, he said that Google is “talking about how ‘we might make you a promise.'”

Instead, City Manager Scott Lazenby said that in June Lake Oswego put out a Request for Proposals to build their own Gigabit Network. The city received two responses from private companies, and one from the City’s own Public Works Department.

The City requested a comparative response from Public Works to price-check the private companies’ proposals. In an interview, Lazenby said that city staff began to lean toward a public-private partnership “once we saw that the private partners’ costs were not more expensive.”

Tuesday’s meeting was called to review the report about the two leading proposals that were released earlier this month on the city’s web site.

Each of the companies’ proposals take a public-private approach. One was from consortium led by the Oregon-based Sunstone Business Finance, and the other is from British-based SiFi Networks.

If selected, the winning bidder would finance, build and operate a fiber network for the city. It would serve every home and business in Lake Oswego. The city would make annual “lease” payments to cover costs of building and running the network. And after a period of 20 or 30 years, ownership of the fiber network would revert to the City.

Such public-private proposals for last-mile fiber networks are being considered much more frequently by cities across the country. One year-old non-profit group, Next Century Cities, provides information and support to cities that are seeking to consider such partnerships — or the steps necessary to build their own municipal networks.

At Tuesday’s meeting by the Lake Oswego City Council, Chris Mitchell of the Institute for Local Self Reliance offered advice to elected officials on the “hard decision” that they need to make to bring advanced networks to their towns.

Chris Mitchell, Institute for Local Self Reliance and Next Century Cities

Chris Mitchell, Institute for Local Self Reliance and Next Century Cities

“Option one, you don’t do anything, and Google doesn’t do anything and the incumbents don’t, either,” said Mitchell, who is also affiliated with Next Century Cities. “Speeds stay the same, with small upgrades, and it is more expensive over time. This is not an attractive option.”

“Option two, you do something and take on some risk, and the response from the other providers is to cut prices and invest in higher speeds. You have to struggle to make your investment whole because now, you are not fighting against incumbents with high prices and slow speeds.”

But, said Mitchell, this Hobson’s choice provides an opportunity for forward-looking cities.

Because they are not as concerned as private companies about their return on investment, but are more focused on the benefits of better broadband, such cities can succeed by making investments — as long as they can stomach the risk.

Public-private partnership such as those offered by Sunstone and SiFi Networks can help cities mitigate these risks, he said. Referring to the experience being assembled among more than the 115 cities that make up Next Century Cities, Mitchell said that “we are seeing a lot of different approaches.”

Most cities find that fiber-built networks can succeed, over time, so long as between 30 and 35 percent of households migrate to the new network, he said. The nearby town of Sandy recently built its own network, he said, and is enjoying such success.

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Council members reviewed the relative advantages of the proposals from Sunstone and SiFi Networks.

The staff report released by the city is recommending Sunstone over SiFi Networks on the basis of a lower cost over the life of the broadband project.

This is principally due to the fact that SiFi Networks’ proposal would finance the construction of the network over 30 years, while Sunstone’s proposal financed it over 19 years.

Other differences between the companies include SiFi Networks’ proposal for underground construction versus Sunstone’s proposal for aerial construction. Additionally, said Larouche, Sunstone is proposing putting more of its telecommunications equipment within a central office location. By contrast, he said, SiFi Networks would use fiber cabinets in the city’s rights of way to locate the bulk of its telecom equipment.

Although the council took no action on Tuesday, Lazenby said that a vote to begin negotiating with the selected entity would be put on the council’s agenda for its meeting on Tuesday, October 20.

 

Drew Clark is the Chairman of the Broadband Breakfast Club. He tracks the development of Gigabit Networks, broadband usage, the universal service fund and wireless policy @BroadbandCensus. He is also Of Counsel with the firm of Best Best & Krieger LLP, with offices in California and Washington, DC. He works with cities, special districts and private companies on planning, financing and coordinating efforts of the many partners necessary to construct broadband infrastructure and deploy “Smart City” applications. You can find him on LinkedIN and Twitter. The articles and posts on BroadbandBreakfast.com and affiliated social media are not legal advice or legal services, do not constitute the creation of an attorney-client privilege, and represent the views of their respective authors.

Breakfast Media LLC CEO Drew Clark is a nationally respected U.S. telecommunications attorney. An early advocate of better broadband, better lives, he founded the Broadband Census crowdsourcing campaign for better broadband data in 2008. That effort became the Broadband Breakfast media community. As Editor and Publisher, Clark presides over news coverage focused on digital infrastructure investment, broadband’s impact, and Big Tech. Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, Clark served as head of the Partnership for a Connected Illinois, a state broadband initiative. Now, in light of the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, attorney Clark helps fiber-based and wireless clients secure funding, identify markets, broker infrastructure and operate in the public right of way. He also helps fixed wireless providers obtain spectrum licenses from the Federal Communications Commission. The articles and posts on Broadband Breakfast and affiliated social media, including the BroadbandCensus Twitter feed, are not legal advice or legal services, do not constitute the creation of an attorney-client privilege, and represent the views of their respective authors.

Expert Opinion

Pierre Trudeau: Life in the Trenches, or Lessons Learned Deploying Broadband in MDUs

Behind every great wireless network, is an even greater wired network.

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The author of this Expert Opinion is Pierre Trudeau, president and CTO of Positron Access Solutions.

Imagine community-wide Wi-Fi an industry standard in multi-dwelling environments. This is possible through the deployment of G.hn technology.

G.hn, an International Telecommunications Union (ITU-T) standard, is an access technology for operators looking to simplify their access network with an “Ethernet-like” technology. 

With G.hn, operators deliver advanced services, such as gigabit high-speed residential internet and 4K internet protocol television without the high capital and operational expenses associated with a fiber retrofit. Each G.hn subscriber port supports up to 1.7 Gbps of dynamically allocated bandwidth for near-symmetrical gigabit services. This enables providers to deliver a gigabit internet service to each apartment inside a multi-dwelling unit or a multi-tenant unit without the cost, complexity and delays associated with in-building fiber installation.

As deployed by Positron Access, G.hn is increasingly used by our partners to sustainably improve connectivity in multifamily communities. These partners offer in-depth analysis of cabling specifics and electrical as-built drawings of active properties to design a custom wiring solution to accommodate, rather than replace, each property’s unique, pre-existing infrastructure. 

Proven Benefits of Fiber Service Extension Applications

Our partners leverage their expertise of the Positron G.hn Access Multiplexer to enable MDU property management companies to offer lightning-quick, cost-effective, and dependable Gigabit internet speeds to their tenants in MDUs. Property management companies can then improve their service levels without the need for any building retrofit, which can be expensive and disruptive. Property management companies expand the services they deliver with an impressive ROI and minimal capital outlay.

The transformative nature of G.hn applications will make community-wide Wi-Fi an industry standard in multi-dwelling environments. With the broader installation of smart building systems including cameras, sensors, environmental controls, and asset tracking systems as crucial amenities for an improved resident experience, residents will come to view community Wi-Fi systems as another essential building asset. Owners that do not keep up with these developments will see the quality and capitalized value of their community suffer. 

The Process

Positron’s partners have developed a proven process to ensure a successful and sustainable deployment in existing brownfield properties.

In-Depth Site Surveys

The site survey process begins with a careful analysis of each property’s unique needs. Built from the ground up, the solution is designed to accommodate each property’s unique blueprints and connectivity requirements. Site surveys are extremely important to ensure systems are updated in the most economical way for each property’s connectivity requirements.

Minimal Interruption

The deployment process is aligned to complement, rather than disrupt, established occupancy turn processes. With little to no downtime, the installation enables property-wide connectivity, giving residents the opportunity to immediately connect to the internet, without reauthorizing as they move about the property.

Sustainable and scalable

Positron’s partners provide subscribers with an extensive support team, dedicated to each property’s continued development and operation, designing customized, future-proof solutions to ensure the network is both a sustainable and buildable foundation for upcoming technologies like Web 3.0, Wi-Fi 7 and 5G. G.hn technology is designed to be adapted and improved upon to grow in tandem with each property, working together to accommodate any future needs that may arise.

Lessons Learned

The installation of the GAM solution by Positron’s partners highlighted the importance of a careful pre-deployment site survey and this is applicable to coaxial and telephone wiring re-use with G.hn.

For MDUs where the telephone wiring will be re-used, the continuity of pairs currently used for VDSL2 or even telephone service, there is no additional validation required since G.hn is permissive and will operate without further pair qualification or grooming.  For unused pairs, it is important to perform a continuity test using the same tools and techniques used for the last 20 years for xDSL.  Bad pairs can then be identified and repaired as needed.

When re-using coaxial cabling, understanding how each room or apartment is connected is important.  Most MDUs are cabled with “home run” coaxial cabling to a common location where taps or splitters can be installed in a point to multipoint mode to reduce the connectivity cost of each subscriber.  Unlike CATV and DOCSIS, G.hn does not require coaxial amplifiers and fine tuning with attenuating taps.  If co-habitation with CATV is required, the G.hn signal shall be injected downstream of the CATV/DOCSIS amplifier with a simple 2:1 combiner device.  Otherwise, if migrating to IPTV or streaming, these amplifiers and attenuating taps shall be removed as they are no longer useful.

For some properties, the option of a comprehensive site survey is not always an option.  For instance, a property of about 450 doors no longer had up to date coaxial cabling diagrams.  In this case, rather than spending days “toning out” each coaxial drop with specialized equipment to document the coaxial infrastructure, we recommend installing the GAM devices in each wiring closet and pre-install the G.hn endpoint devices in each room or apartment and to record serial number of each device against the room or apartment number.  Using the endpoint auto-detection feature for each coaxial port of the GAM, it is then simple and efficient to use this information to fully document which door is served by each coaxial segment.

Overall, we learned that G.hn is robust and rather forgiving with regards to “less than stellar” existing wiring.  You can plan fiber extension by re-using the existing wiring in your building without too much concern about potential complexity, cost, or performance issues.

Pierre Trudeau is the president and CTO of Positron Access Solutions and a seasoned Networking and Technology Executive with over 30 years of experience. Pierre founded Colubris Networks, a leader in advanced Wi-Fi solutions for Wireless ISP, Carriers and Enterprises in March 2000. He provided business and technology services to several companies until January 2013 when he joined Positron Access as its Chief Strategy Officer. This Expert Opinion is exclusive to Broadband Breakfast.

Broadband Breakfast accepts commentary from informed observers of the broadband scene. Please send pieces to commentary@breakfast.media. The views reflected in Expert Opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Broadband Breakfast and Breakfast Media LLC.

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Open Access

Financing Mechanisms for Community Broadband, Panel 3 at Digital Infrastructure Investment

Panel 3 video. Join the Broadband Breakfast Club to watch the full-length videos from Digital Infrastructure Investment.

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Video from Panel 3 at Digital Infrastructure Investment: Kim McKinley, Chief Marketing Officer, UTOPIA Fiber, Jeff Christensen, President & CEO, EntryPoint Networks, Jane Coffin, Chief Community Officer, Connect Humanity, Robert Wack, former Westminster Common Council President and leader of the Open Access Citywide Fiber Network Initiative, and moderated by Christopher Mitchell, Director, Community Broadband Networks, Institute for Local Self-Reliance

For a free article summarizing the event, see Communities Need Governance Seat on Broadband Builds, Conference Hears: Communities need to be involved in decision-making when it comes to broadband builds, Broadband Breakfast, November 17, 2022

Access Premium content for Broadband Breakfast Club members. Login to your account below. Or visit Broadband Breakfast Club to signup.

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Fiber

Fiber Providers Need to Go Beyond Speed for Differentiation, Consultant Says

40 percent are unsure of their home internet speeds, said Jonathan Chaplin of New Street Research.

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Photo of Jonathan Chaplin, managing partner at New Street Research

WASHINGTON, November 9, 2022 – Despite fiber’s fast broadband speeds, providers must innovate and offer other benefits – like content bundling – to maintain market share as customers increasingly make purchasing decisions based on non-speed factors, argued Jonathan Chaplin, managing partner at New Street Research, a telecommunications and technology research firm.

“Our message to the cable industry is: Stop marketing on speed, put everybody on the gigabit tier, and start differentiating on everything else,” Chaplin said at a Fiber Broadband Association event Wednesday.

Chaplin also urged fiber providers to prepare to enter the wireless market, saying that wireless and broadband will soon “converge into one marketplace.

“It’s not a major differentiator or driver of consumers’ decisions today, but you need to start working on this as a product category to be ready for it by the time it [is],” he added.

And raw speed won’t be enough to attract customers, Chaplin argued. Although consumers say speed and price are the two top factors when considering internet plans, he said, his research shows that 40 percent are unsure of their home internet speeds.

Typical speeds have greatly increased in recent years, and Chaplin said faster service provides no perceptible benefit to most customers once certain speeds are reached. According to his data, “Increases in speed (above 200 Mbps) really have no impact on the satisfaction of a household with their broadband provider.”

Fixed-wireless uptake shows speed isn’t always king

The rise of fixed-wireless providers, who usually don’t advertise on speed, further demonstrates that consumers are willing to make purchase decisions on other factors, Chaplin argued. In fact, his research shows that many new fixed-wireless customers did not make the switch due to speed complaints.

“If you’re in the fiber business, you’re in a strong position. You’ve got a product that wins in the market today, but you cannot afford to be complacent,” Chaplin said. “The battleground for consumers is going to shift and you need to be ready for shift when it comes,” he added.

The Federal Communications Commission is considering a proposal to mandate “broadband nutrition labels,” which proponents say would help consumers understand the details of their internet plans. Researchers at the TPRC 2022 conference in September suggested that such labels should include “interpretive” data to explain the real-world implications of technical metrics. TPRC speakers also echoed Chaplin’s claim increased speeds do not necessarily correlate with higher customer satisfaction rates.

Industry players differ on substantive policy points surrounding the proposal, however, including whether labels should be mandatorily included on month internet bills.

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