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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.

Drew Clark is the Editor and Publisher of BroadbandBreakfast.com and a nationally-respected telecommunications attorney. He has closely tracked the trends in and mechanics of digital infrastructure for 20 years, and has helped fiber-based and fixed wireless providers navigate coverage, identify markets, broker infrastructure, and operate in the public right of way. He brings experts and practitioners together to advance the benefits provided by broadband. 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.

Fiber

Yellowstone Fiber Launches $65M Fiber Project with UTOPIA in Gallatin County, Montana

This will be the “first true gigabit city in the state of Montana,” said Bozeman’s director of economic development.

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Screenshot of Bozeman Deputy Mayor Terry Cunningham in 2018

BOZEMAN, MONTANA, January 27, 2022 – Non-profit Yellowstone Fiber, in partnership with telecom Utopia Fiber, launched Thursday a $65-million high-speed fiber internet project in Gallatin County, Montana.

The open access model, which allows other telecoms to ride on the infrastructure to encourage competition, will mean “affordable access and service provider choice,” Brit Fontenot, Bozeman’s director of economic development and community relations, said during a Thursday press conference announcing the launch. Bozeman is a city in Gallatin County.

Yellowstone and Utopia, a sponsor of Broadband Breakfast, partnered back in September on the build, which is expected to bring speeds of 100 Gigabits per second download for businesses and 10 Gbps download for all 22,000 homes, businesses and government buildings in Bozeman, a Thursday press release said, adding the three-year construction project will begin this spring.

This will be the “first true gigabit city in the state of Montana,” said Fontenot.

The choice of Bozeman and Gallatin County was a deliberate one, said Bozeman Deputy Mayor Terry Cunningham. Gallatin County has created “25 percent of all new jobs in Montana in the past decade,” in addition to being responsible for “30 percent of all population growth” of Montana, said Cunningham, adding there are “clean, data-driven companies…coming to Bozeman.”

The project is also expected to go beyond the initial $65 million. Utopia Fiber Executive Director Roger Timmerman said at the press conference that some phases can start sooner as additional grants and funds are made available. The project proponents noted that the funds will come from private, not taxpayer, sources.

The announcement comes just days after the state hired location analytics company Lightbox to build a statewide broadband map. The state is listed on data platform BroadbandNow as the worst state for broadband coverage and access, despite Federal Communications Commission mapping data that report 99 percent of Gallatin County having broadband access, the Thursday press release noted.

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Expert Opinion

Tony Thakur: Bandwidth Consumption, 5G and Rural Coverage Will Drive Fiber in 2022

In the coming year, fiber-optic infrastructure will needed to manage and offer increases in bandwidth capacity.

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The author of this Expert Opinion is Tony Thakur, chief technology officer of Great Plains Communications

All indications show that we will continue to consume more and more bandwidth in support of our connected online lifestyles.

Without a doubt, the recent move to the hybrid work/learning model and the need to be constantly connected has increased internet usage. And, as video streaming, e-gaming and video conferencing grow in popularity, the drive for more bandwidth will rise.

To deliver much-needed high speed internet service to support these applications, more Fiber will be required to homes and businesses. Fiber infrastructure is capable of delivering huge bandwidth amounts at needed speeds and will be deployed throughout long haul, metro and last mile networks.

Here’s a look at what’s important to telecom networks, some of the drivers behind the rising trend to fiber, and why fiber is here to stay.

What is behind the rising trend to fiber?

There are several drivers, including:

Bandwidth-consuming applications. When multiple devices are running multiple applications simultaneously, bandwidth is quickly used up and buffering and lag can occur. Thus, networks will need to add more and more bandwidth. The FCC Household Broadband Guide cites rough guidelines for broadband speeds needed for various activities.  We can expect to see increases of speed from gigabit to terabit in the future.

5G deployments. This is another area where there is significant growth. Ultra-fast networks like 5G will require large bandwidth connectivity from the towers to the Switching Center. Fiber has become the standard for backhaul networks. We will continue to see more fiber deployed as 5G grows.

Rural coverage.  Fiber has been widely deployed in the metro areas and for long haul networks. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act signed into law November  15, 2021 includes $65 billion in funding for broadband deployment to improve internet services for rural areas, low-income families and tribal communities. With more focus on providing high speed internet, there will be more and more fiber deployments in the access or last mile across the country. This trend is likely to continue over the next three to five years, especially in the rural areas where access to the internet is limited to dated technologies and delivery methods. We will see more and more fiber to the home deployments as well.

Fiber technologies to be aware of

Here are some fiber technologies that not only facilitate the additional bandwidth, they simplify processes, enable automation and provide new capabilities:

GPON or Gigabit Ethernet passive optical network uses a single fiber with a point-to-multipoint architecture for the last mile to deliver higher speeds to homes and businesses. GPON was introduced several years ago, with downstream capacity of 2.5 G and upstream of 1.2 G. The newer version, XGS PON, provides additional capability with 10 G symmetrical speeds. Most deployments going forward will employ XGS PON to enable higher bandwidth and speeds.

SD-WAN or software-defined wide-area network technology has been widely adopted in the telecom industry today. Customers can obtain the security, improved performance and diversity from their premise to the cloud and other locations, leveraging multiple circuits. That connectivity can be internet, Ethernet or wireless. The technology also includes orchestration capability that simplifies the operational process. This will continue to be adapted as the workforce shifts to Hybrid remote work environments with more apps and data in the cloud.

SDN or software-defined networking is another technology used for cloud connectivity and other Ethernet-based services.  The network is connected to data centers and cloud providers to enable “on-line” type services. For example, the SDN network allows for demand-type services. Bandwidth can increase or decrease in minutes via a portal and customers pay for what they use versus the traditional monthly recurring circuit cost model.

Growing cloud connectivity

More and more organizations continue moving to and using cloud connectivity to access their applications and data that reside in cloud platforms such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, Google, Oracle, IBM, SAP, Nutanix, Salesforce, Alibaba and others. Improved performance, faster access, and more flexibility to access tools and data are merely a few of the benefits.

While some rely on the internet to reach the cloud, there are drawbacks such as latency, limited bandwidth and less than top-level security. A direct connection to cloud platforms via fiber is more secure, faster and more reliable, thus improving performance for applications and workloads.

The private cloud or data center requires significant investment to build and operate. A cloud connect via fiber enables easy access to applications anywhere in the cloud, from any location. Data can be stored at multiple locations around the world, providing better flexibility.

Staying power

Technology trends come and go. Remember when people relied on dial-up internet access and carried flip phones, Blackberries or pagers? Yet we sometimes overlook the complexity that goes into deploying new technologies. It is not only about the cool technologies themselves, but so much more. Innovation depends upon talented people who can implement services such as cloud.  Truly, it is the people that make the difference in how we successfully adapt to new technologies.

Tony Thakur is the chief technology officer of Great Plains Communications where he guides the company’s technology vision and focuses on expanding and enhancing its robust fiber network. He has over two decades of experience in C-level and senior executive roles in the telecommunications industry. Tony graduated with a Master of Science in Engineering Management from the Florida Institute of Technology, Melbourne, Florida and a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from the University of Texas, Arlington, Texas. 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

UTOPIA Fiber Pushes into Southern Utah

The expansion will bring fiber-to-the-home to residents of two additional Utahn cities.

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Roger Timmerman, executive director of UTOPIA Fiber

WASHINGTON, January 6, 2022 – Community-owned fiber optic network UTOPIA Fiber announced in a press release Wednesday that it will implement fiber-to-the-home service in the Utah cities of Cedar Hills and Santa Clara.

The expansion into Washington County’s Santa Clara marks UTOPIA Fiber’s first expansion into southern Utah.

“We’re really excited to continue our momentum in Utah County and to venture into southern Utah where Santa Clara will become the first all-fiber city in Washington County,” said Roger Timmerman, executive director of UTOPIA Fiber.

This move marks UTOPIA’s 18th and 19th city expansions and comes with a $12 million price tag. Just last month, UTOPIA completed its network in Payson City, Utah. The telecom provides business services in 50 cities.

In all its serviced cities, UTOPIA offers residential speeds of up to 10 Gigabits per second and business speeds of up to 100 Gigabits per second – both the fastest respective speeds offered in the U.S. In total, the network provides fiber availability to more than 130,000 businesses and residences across its 50 serviced communities.

In its press release, UTOPIA promoted its expansion by citing research showing that residential and commercial property values increase when they are served by a fiber network. It added that its open access model, which allows infrastructure sharing with other providers, “protects a net-neutral internet without throttling, paid prioritization, or other provider interference.”

UTOPIA Fiber is a Broadband Breakfast Sponsor.

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