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Portland to pursue building municipal high-speed broadband network – The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram

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Like its neighbor to the south, Portland is seeking to build a municipal broadband network to offer affordable high-speed broadband to its residents and businesses.

The city last week issued a request for proposals to provide a fiber-optic connection from its buildings in downtown Portland to new municipal facilities off the peninsula on Canco Road. The city says the connection could serve as “phase one” for a municipal broadband network that would offer affordable high-speed broadband service to residents, similar to what South Portland, Sanford and Rockport announced within the last year.

Portland currently maintains a fiber optic network that connects municipal buildings, like fire stations and schools. It does not, however, provide service to any neighboring residential or commercial properties.

The expansion is necessary because the city is consolidating public works, fire, and recreation operations in two buildings off the peninsula on Canco Road not far from Cheverus High School. The consolidation will reduce the city’s presence in the Bayside neighborhood, which has been targeted for development.

“We’re very excited about the possibility that this project could bring with it an added bonus for a large portion of our residents and businesses,” Jon Jennings, Portland’s city manager, said in a statement. “Giving our citizens along this line a path to affordable high speed connectivity will spur economic development. There are several possible options for implementing this, and we look forward to exploring the costs and benefits of each.”

What Portland is proposing is similar to the plan South Portland announced last fall to build a 4-mile network of fiber, and a plan Sanford announced in September to help fund the building of a 32-mile municipal broadband network. Rockport has also built 1.6 miles of fiber.

Fletcher Kittredge, CEO of Biddeford-based Great Works Internet, or GWI, said Monday that his company is very interested in bidding for the Portland job. GWI won the bids in Rockport, South Portland and Sanford to build those municipal networks.

“I think it’s very innovative and creative for the city to do this,” Kittredge said. “They will potentially get a lot of bang for their buck.”

Two connection options

The city’s RFPs present two options. The first would simply connect the Canco Road facilities using the minimum amount of fiber, a less expensive project that would only serve the municipality’s immediate needs, the city’s purchasing manager Matthew Fitzgerald wrote in the RFP.

The more extensive second option is considered “phase one of an open access fiber network” for the city, Fitzgerald wrote. This option would connect the city’s downtown facilities with those on Canco Road, and build out enough fiber to offer high-speed service to residents and businesses along the route. Fitzgerald cites the broadband projects in South Portland and Rockport that have been able to offer Internet speeds of 1 gigabyte per second. It takes about 1 GB to upload or download 1,000 photos or watch four hours of streaming video.

Portland residents don’t have affordable access to higher- speed broadband, according to Jessica Grondin, a city spokeswoman. She said Monday that the city has discussed the possibility of supporting a municipal broadband network for some time and that this extension to Canco Road was an opportunity to start that process.

Grondin said the city prefers to pursue the second option.

“I think the reason there’s an option two is there’s a cost-benefit analysis that needs to be done,” said Grondin. “But if everything works out I think there’s a preference for option two.”

In option two, the city proposes a fiber route that departs the peninsula on Forest Avenue and extends all the way to Ocean Avenue, providing high-speed service to short lengths of streets like Fessenden and Woodford that stem off the route. The fiber would stretch down Ocean Avenue to Cheverus High School before turning northwest and running along a residential street like Gleckler or Read to connect to Canco Road. The city estimates this route would make high-speed service to approximately 838 residential properties and more than 350 commercial properties.

If those estimates are true, Portland would have the largest municipal broadband network in the state, according to Kittredge. He said it would be 10 times bigger than South Portland’s network and slightly larger than Sanford’s network, which GWI has recently finished the design work for.

“I think it’s an exciting project and I’m sure there will be a lot of bidders,” Kittredge said.

Unserved need for speed

Portland Mayor Michael Brennan addressed the need to increase broadband access during his State of the City address in January. At the time, Brennan said a broadband project in Portland would be challenging financially and logistically because the city is so developed, yet it is as important as building housing, roadways and bridges.

Brennan, who lost his re-election campaign in last week’s election, issued a statement Monday saying the broadband project proposed in the RFP is a “concrete step in the right direction.”

Maine has ranked close to the bottom on lists of broadband speeds by state, including a report based on Ookla NetMetrics data that said Maine ranks 49th out of the 50 states and a recent report from Akamai Technologies that puts Maine at 48th among U.S. states and far behind countries like Estonia and Macao.

Roughly 80 percent of Maine households are considered to be “unserved” by high-speed Internet service, according to the ConnectME Authority, which is responsible for expanding broadband access throughout Maine. Less than 15 percent of the state has access to upload and download speeds of 10 megabytes per second, according to the authority.

Phil Lindley, director of the ConnectME Authority, said “option two is very interesting” because of what it implies.

“Creating a fiber-based system is significant as it allows much higher, symmetrical bandwidth that is currently more important for businesses than residences,” Lindley said. “Symmetrical” service means upload speeds are the same as download speeds.

Lindley said this type of project requires a lot of forethought, and the small amount of information included in the RFP leaves many questions unanswered.

“The question is who will run the network, an ISP or telco as a contractor or the city? Many municipalities across the country are taking this step in response to a lack of competition, adequate service, high pricing. Portland needs to be sure of what their goals are and how this type of network works toward them,” Lindley said.

The bid deadline is Dec. 10. Money has not been appropriated yet for the project and any potential contract must meet with city council approval.

Sourced through Scoop.it from: www.pressherald.com

Portland begins the process of building fiber-optic Gigabit Networks, following other communities in greater Portland area.

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Broadband Breakfast is a decade-old news organization based in Washington that is building a community of interest around broadband policy and internet technology, with a particular focus on better broadband infrastructure, the politics of privacy and the regulation of social media. Learn more about Broadband Breakfast.

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Broadband's Impact

Broadband Breakfast on October 27, 2021 — When ‘Greenfield’ Fiber Meets ‘Brownfield’ Multiple Dwelling Units

What options do owners of, operators in, and tenants within MDUs have for better-quality broadband?

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Our Broadband Breakfast Live Online events take place on Wednesday at 12 Noon ET. You can watch the October 27, 2021, event on this page. You can also PARTICIPATE in the current Broadband Breakfast Live Online event. REGISTER HERE.

Wednesday, October 27, 2021, 12 Noon ET — “When Greenfield Fiber Meets Brownfield Multiple Dwelling Units”

Bringing fiber to the premises is sometimes only half the battle. For example, bringing fiber to an MDU may not mean that every tenant will get better-quality broadband. In the case of multiple dwelling units or multi-tenant housing, it isn’t easy to completely rewire an existing building with fiber-to-the-unit. Further, the Biden Administration and the Federal Communications Commission are pushing real estate owners to eliminate or minimize exclusive MDU broadband contacts. What options do the owners of, operators in, and tenants within MDUs have to enjoy both competitive and better-quality broadband?

Panelists:

  • Kevin Donnelly, Vice President, Government Affairs, Technology and Strategic Initiatives, National Multifamily Housing Council
  • Jenna Leventoff, Senior Policy Counsel, Public Knowledge
  • Pierre Trudeau, President and Chief Technology Officer, Positron Access
  • Other Guests have been invited
  • Drew Clark (moderator), Editor and Publisher of Broadband Breakfast

Kevin Donnelly is Vice President for Government Affairs, Technology and Strategic Initiatives at the National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC) and represents the interests of the multifamily industry before the federal government focusing on technology, connectivity, risk management and their intersection with housing policy. Kevin is a part of NMHC’s Innovation and Technology team and leads its Intelligent Buildings and Connectivity Committee.  Kevin has spent over 15 years in the public policy arena at leading real estate trade associations and on Capitol Hill. Kevin received his BA from Rutgers University and his Masters in Public Management from Johns Hopkins University.

Jenna Leventoff is a Senior Policy Counsel at Public Knowledge, where she focuses on broadband deployment and adoption. Prior to joining Public Knowledge, Jenna served as a Senior Policy Analyst for the Workforce Data Quality Campaign (WDQC) at the National Skills Coalition, where she led WDQC’s state policy advocacy and technical assistance efforts on state data system development and use. She also served as an Associate at Upturn, where she analyzed the civil rights implications of new technologies, and as Manager and Legal Counsel of the International Intellectual Property Institute, where she led the organization’s efforts to utilize intellectual property for international economic development. Jenna received her J.D, cum laude, and B.A from Case Western Reserve University.

Pierre Trudeau is President and Chief Technology Officer, Positron Access.

Drew ClarkEditor and Publisher of Broadband Breakfast, also serves as Of Counsel to The CommLaw Group. He has helped fiber-based and fixed wireless providers negotiate telecom leases and fiber IRUs, litigate to operate in the public right of way, and argue regulatory classifications before federal and state authorities. He has also worked with cities on structuring Public-Private Partnerships for better broadband access for their communities. Drew brings experts and practitioners together to advance the benefits provided by broadband. He is also the President of the Rural Telecommunications Congress.

WATCH HERE, or on YouTubeTwitter and Facebook

As with all Broadband Breakfast Live Online events, the FREE webcasts will take place at 12 Noon ET on Wednesday.

SUBSCRIBE to the Broadband Breakfast YouTube channel. That way, you will be notified when events go live. Watch on YouTubeTwitter and Facebook

See a complete list of upcoming and past Broadband Breakfast Live Online events.

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Education

National Non-Profit to Launch Joint Initiative to Close Broadband Affordability and Homework Gap

EducationSuperHighway is signing up partners and will launch November 4.

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Evan Marwell, founder and CEO of Education Super Highway.

WASHINGTON, October 18, 2021 – National non-profit Education Super Highway is set to launch a campaign next month that will work with internet service providers to identify students without broadband and expand programs that will help connect the unconnected.

On November 4, the No Home Left Offline initiative will launch to close the digital divide for 18 million American households that “have access to the Internet but can’t afford to connect,” according to a Monday press release.

The campaign will publish a detailed report with “crucial data insights into the broadband affordability gap and the opportunities that exist to close it,” use data to identify unconnected households and students, and launch broadband adoption and free apartment Wi-Fi programs in Washington D.C.

The non-profit and ISPs will share information confidentially to identify students without broadband at home and “enable states and school districts to purchase Internet service for families through sponsored service agreements,” the website said.

The initiative will run on five principles: identify student need, have ISPs create sponsored service offerings for school districts or other entities, set eligibility standards, minimize the amount of information necessary to sign up families, and protect privacy.

The non-profit said 82 percent of Washington D.C.’s total unconnected households – a total of just over 100,000 people – have access to the internet but can’t afford to connect.

“This ‘broadband affordability gap’ keeps 47 million Americans offline, is present in every state, and disproportionately impacts low-income, Black, and Latinx communities,” the release said. “Without high-speed Internet access at home, families in Washington DC can’t send their children to school, work remotely, or access healthcare, job training, the social safety net, or critical government services.”

Over 120 regional and national carriers have signed up for the initiative.

The initiative is another in a national effort to close the “homework gap.” The Federal Communications Commission is connected schools, libraries and students using money from the Emergency Connectivity Fund, which is subsidizing devices and connections. It has received $5 billion in requested funds in just round one.

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Broadband's Impact

Steve Lacoff: A New Standard for the ‘Cloudification’ of Communications Services

The cloudification of communications services makes it easy to include voice, data, SMS, and video within any existing service.

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The author of this Expert Opinion is Steve Lacoff, general manager of Avalara for communications

The line of demarcation between what has traditionally been considered a telecommunications service was once very clear. It was tangible – there were wires, end points, towers, switches, facilities. Essentially, there was infrastructure required to relay voice or data from point A to point B.

Today that line is fuzzy, if not invisible. The legacy infrastructure remains, but an industry of cloud-based services that don’t require the physical connections has exploded. Voice, data, SMS, and video conferencing can now be conveniently delivered OTT. Enabled by simple API integrations, businesses can embed just one of these services or a complete communications platform-as-a-service (CPaaS) into an app, service, or product.

Cloudification is a game changer

This “cloudification” of communications services makes it easy to include voice, data, SMS, and video within any existing application, product, or service. These are essential components for many business models.

Consider these services we have come to rely on in our daily lives: food or grocery delivery, ride services, and business and personal communications. These require multiple methods of communication with shoppers, drivers, co-workers, watch party groups, and external business partners.

The exciting news is there is no end in sight. Use cases will continue to evolve and growth will continue to skyrocket. The scale cloud delivery accommodates is massive. These untethered, easy to embed communications services are a critical differentiator for both business-to-business and business-to-consumer buyers, and the lifeblood of the businesses providing both the end user subscriptions and the APIs.

In fact, one industry juggernaut saw H1 YoY video application service demand grow nearly 600% in 2020.

Not surprisingly, as business demand for these services increases smaller CPaaS players continue to enter the market to quickly snag market share. According to a recent IDC study, “the global market revenue for CPaaS reached $5.9bn in 2020, up from $4.26bn in 2019, and is expected to reach $17.71bn by 2024.”

Merger and acquisition activity is aligned with this hockey stick growth forecast. Large telcos, SaaS providers, and even other CPaaS providers are all on the hunt. Whether they want to add additional features to punch up their products or eliminate the competition in a very tight, nuanced market, the end game is clear – as the market expands, the players will ultimately contract leaving only the most competitive offerings.

Don’t let communications tax take you by surprise

One of the least understood risks when adding cloud-based voice, data, SMS, or video conferencing to an existing product or service is new eligibility for and exposure to the complex world of communications taxation. Making mistakes can get costly very quickly.

Here are some of the key pitfalls to keep an eye on:

  • Expanded nexus: Understanding communications tax nexus is different – and exceptionally more complicated – than sales tax. There are approximately 60,000 federal, state, local, and special taxing jurisdictions, each with uniquely complex rules that tend to change at their own pace. Rules are very different for each service.
  • More complex calculations: The more communications services you provide via API, the more complicated communications taxes will be. Each feature can be taxed at different rates in each individual jurisdiction, or the whole bundle can be taxed at one rate. It’s critical to monitor monthly to avoid audit issues.
  • Maintaining overall compliance: Just as tax rates and rules need to be maintained, so must tax and regulatory filing forms in each jurisdiction. Some of these are very long and require significant detail.  They must be filed in a timely, accurate cadence to avoid additional audit risk.

Bottom line: Don’t assume, be prepared! As these communications services become more pervasive a larger swath of technology providers will find themselves liable for communications tax. The more your business falls behind, the more it can cost you.

It pays to be proactive and prepared. Tax and legal advisory experts can help determine your level of risk, and tax and compliance software providers can help you keep up with changing rules and regulations. Don’t underestimate the ongoing value of networking with peers who are either struggling to answer the same questions or have already overcome the hurdles you’re facing today.

Steve Lacoff is General Manager of Avalara for Communications. With a focus on data, VoIP, and video streaming, Steve has spent 15 years in various product and marketing leadership roles in communications and technology industries, including Disney’s streaming services and Comcast technology solutions. Steve now drives business strategy on today’s changing industry landscape and associated tax impacts. This piece 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 expressed in Expert Opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Broadband Breakfast and Breakfast Media LLC.

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