May 5, 2020 – As internet connectivity grows increasingly essential, fiber optics may prove to be a better option than wireless internet connection, the Institute for Local Self Reliance’s Christopher Mitchell said Tuesday at a webinar hosted by the nonprofit Merit Network.
Mitchell, who directs the Community Broadband Networks initiative, praised the Federal Communications Commission’s recent decision to open the 6 GHz band for unlicensed Wi-Fi use, calling it “one of the best decisions any FCC has ever made.”
However, he highlighted several problems with wireless connections in rural areas, such as bandwidth caps and limited coverage for those living on the edge of a signal. “There’s just a real challenge with wireless,” he said.
About a year ago, the FCC found that providers were significantly overestimating their coverage in the maps they provided to the commission, Mitchell said, adding that “these technologies are simply not good enough to be a replacement yet.”
Mitchell also claimed that much of the promise of 5G has been overhyped.
“When you talk about 5G, there’s a sense that all of the world’s problems are about to be solved by 5G,” Mitchell said. “I don’t think that’s true.”
Much of the marketing surrounding 5G is focused on offering very high capacity connections over short distances, he explained, but this is not being rolled out nearly as fast as the advertising would make it appear.
The rollout of 5G will not necessarily lead to widespread affordable access, Mitchell said, but it will be “a decent bridge or a part of a bridge to get it to a point where everyone has high quality connectivity.”
Mitchell highlighted fiber optic connections as the gold standard, saying that “if we had unlimited money, everyone would have this immediately.”
People often underestimate how many people in rural areas already have access to fiber optic networks, in part due to the work of local cooperatives and community focused networks, he said.
“There are some predictions that if the next FCC auction goes well, we will see fiber optics almost entirely across Arkansas, Missouri, large swaths of Mississippi. It is not true that we can’t bring fiber optics across the country,” Mitchell said. “The question is, what programs are we going to use and how are we going to do this?”
A common argument in the debate over wireless verses fiber optics is that “we should be just figuring out how to get everyone a Chevy before we get some people a Cadillac,” he said.
But what this argument misses is the cost of operations over time, which is much higher for wireless than fiber optic infrastructure in spite of the latter’s high initial cost.
“This is something that you’ll find people who are very enthusiastic about wireless will disagree with me on…but I believe we will have high quality connections [and] continue to see fiber optics expanding in rural areas,” he said.
Mitchell also talked favorably about the open access business model, which is most commonly used for fiber networks. One such network, UTOPIA Fiber in Utah, dealt with a series of financial struggles before becoming successful.
“You may hear people making overheated claims about failures,” Mitchell said. “When you’re talking about technology that has a life of multiple decades, what can be a failure in five years can be a real success in 10.”
Morgan City Fiber Swap Model Catching On
A small city in Utah has some of the country’s highest speeds using a unique model of fiber sharing.
MORGAN CITY, UT, July 28, 2022 – Utah’s Department of Transportation is leading a new model of fiberoptic sharing that enabled a rural Utah community to receive 10 Gigabits per second download and upload speeds, said experts at a Broadband Breakfast Live Online Wednesday.
UDOT owns fiber optic networks along interstate highways to connect traffic cameras, road signs, weather stations and other sensors to its traffic operation center and provide instantaneous traffic updates.
But UDOT also partners with local providers to access each other’s’ fiber lines, which allows for traffic operations and broadband service to expand across the state.
Morgan City is one such community that has benefited from this unique partnership. UTOPIA Fiber, the largest operational open-access network in the United States, partnered with UDOT to reach the rural town of Morgan on the east side of the Wasatch front and provide 10G symmetric speed to its residents.
“Morgan city has the fastest broadband speeds in the country,” said Roger Timmerman, executive director at UTOPIA Fiber. “This is the national leader – tied with other communities – that offers 10G residential service.”
Lynne Yocom, fiber optics manager at UDOT, estimated that one third of the company’s infrastructure was self-built, with the other two thirds built by partner companies. Many states are now mimicking what is now known as the “Utah model,” said Yocom, including Maryland, Florida, Georgia, and Colorado.
UTOPIA Fiber is a sponsor of Broadband Breakfast.
Wednesday, July 27, 2022, 12 Noon ET – Bringing Broadband to Rural America: A Case Study in Morgan, Utah
Bringing broadband to a rural community like Morgan City, Utah, is never an easy task. But in 2019, Morgan, a community on the least-populated side of the Wasatch Mountains without even a stoplight, found itself on the wrong side of the digital divide. Into the mix stepped UTOPIA Fiber, an open access network in Utah primarily serving the more populous communities on the west side of the Wasatch front. Following up on a Broadband Communities 2019 article telling the story of UTOPIA Fiber’s buildout to Morgan City, this Broadband Breakfast Live session will examine the impact of bringing broadband to this rural community. Join us at 12 Noon ET.
- Steve Gale, Mayor, Morgan City, Utah
- Lynne Yocom, Fiber Optics Manager, Utah Department of Transportation
- Roger Timmerman, Executive Director, UTOPIA Fiber
- Warren Woodward, Director of Broadband Service, XMission Internet
- Drew Clark (moderator), Editor and Publisher, Broadband Breakfast
- From UTOPIA Fiber: A Model Open Access Network, Broadband Communities, November-December 2019
- The rural community of Morgan, Utah, is where UTOPIA Fiber’s vision for gradual community-by-community network expansion is most fully realized.A rural community without even a stoplight, Morgan is on the least-populated side of the Wasatch Mountains. It was left in the lurch when Comcast left town and stopped providing service. (CenturyLink’s DSL was unreliable.) But with a municipal power system, Morgan felt comfortable managing lines and poles. The community began exploring options to bring a new broadband provider to town.“The more we researched it, the more comfortable we felt about it,” says Ty Bailey, Morgan city manager. “More than economic development, this is just basic service” that the city needs to offer if no one else will. UTOPIA Fiber’s willingness to bring the open-access model to Morgan became “a really good solution for us.”
- As with any fiber-to-the-home network, UTOPIA Fiber’s costs are a mixture of one-time infrastructure costs and ongoing costs for backhaul transport, network operation and internet services. People associated with the UTOPIA Fiber network speak of the 30 percent penetration rate as an important threshold for profitability, even in rural communities such as Morgan….
- “We are thrilled to bring UTOPIA Fiber to our growing community,” said Morgan City’s mayor. “Our residents and businesses have been in dire need of better, faster and more reliable options for internet, and UTOPIA Fiber will be providing the best possible solution for our city.”
Steve Gale began his position as Mayor of Morgan City in January 2022. He attended high school in Morgan and married his high school sweetheart. He is thrilled that his family has also made their homes in Morgan and are close by. He is very patriotic and loves the “Red, White and Blue.”
As the fiber optics manager for the Utah Department of Transportation, Lynne Yocom manages the he communications to traffic devices such as traffic signals, cameras, variable message signs and anything else that needs connectivity to the system. The system is a closed network of just under a thousand miles of fiber optic cable. She work with telecommunication companies to expand the UDOT network through fiber-optic trades.
Roger Timmerman has been serving as UTOPIA Fiber’s Executive Director since 2016 and has been a technology management professional in telecommunications and information technology for over 15 years. Roger has been designing and building networks throughout his career in various roles including Vice President of Engineering for Vivint Wireless, CTO for UTOPIA Fiber, Network Engineer for iProvo, and Network Product Manager for Brigham Young University. Roger earned his Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees in Information Technology from Brigham Young University.
Warren Woodward is the Director of Broadband Service at XMission LC, the first Salt Lake City based Internet Service Provider and established in 1993. XMission is recognized as being the largest service provider on the UTOPIA Fiber network, a continually expanding municipal fiber project that spans 19 cities in Utah across the western United States.
Drew Clark is the Editor and Publisher of BroadbandBreakfast.com and a nationally-respected telecommunications attorney. Drew brings experts and practitioners together to advance the benefits provided by broadband. Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, he served as head of a State Broadband Initiative, the Partnership for a Connected Illinois. He is also the President of the Rural Telecommunications Congress.
As with all Broadband Breakfast Live Online events, the FREE webcasts will take place at 12 Noon ET on Wednesday.
Anticipating Launch, Yellowstone Fiber to Seek Federal Funds for Rural Broadband
With service beginning in late September, non-profit fiber ISP aims to serve rural Gallatin County
BOZEMAN, Montana, July 27, 2022 – Officials at the non-profit internet entity Yellowstone Fiber announced Thursday that they would pursue federal broadband funding to expand network construction in rural areas of its footprint in Montana.
Because every state is poised to receive a minimum of $100 million to expand broadband infrastructure under the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, officials at Yellowstone Fiber believe they are well-suited to obtain funding to connect homes, businesses, farms, and ranches to high-speed fiber internet in the sections of the Montana’s Gallatin County north of Bozeman.
Although Yellowstone Fiber is just going live with its first customers in September – and began offering pre-sales in late July – the new fiber entity believes that the availability of funding through the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program of IIJA offers a unique opportunity.
As with all states, Montana will receive a minimum of $100 million to expand high-speed broadband infrastructure to the nearly one-third of state residents who currently lack access.
Speaking about the impending launch of services on Yellowstone Fiber, CEO Greg Metzger said, “This is an important milestone for Yellowstone Fiber and we’re enormously excited to announce we’ll have the network live in a matter of weeks.”
“For decades, people in rural Montana have been limited by slow and expensive internet service and empty promises by cable providers. Today’s announcement signals we’re serious about connecting rural Gallatin County to high-speed fiber and the limitless possibilities that it brings,” he said.
Yellowstone Fiber is building an open access network, which means that Yellowstone builds, owns, and operates the fiber infrastructure, then leases space on its high-speed fiber to service providers, including Blackfoot Communications, Skynet Communications, Global Net, TCT and XMission.
In an interview, Metzger touted the role that open access networks play in enabling free market competition, including better prices, service, and reliability.
Metzger, an entrepreneur who previously manufactured plastic deposit bags for banks, sold that business and bought a furniture company in Montana.
Although he said he would rather be playing golf, when he stumbled across a new funding mechanism, he decided to create a non-profit entity designed to serve his community with fiber optic network services.
Yellowstone Fiber was formerly Bozeman Fiber, and was created in 2015 as an economic development initiative to address the lack of true high-speed broadband in Gallatin County, Montana.
A group was formed including the City of Bozeman, Gallatin County, the Bozeman School District and business leaders and funded by eight banks with a Community Reinvestment Act-designated loan.
This $4,000,000 was used to create a fiber ring connecting anchor tenants including the city, county and the school district, and also servicing the Cannery district and downtown Bozeman.
Anchor operations began in the fall of 2016, and commercial operations in February 2017. In 2020, the network formed an operational partnership with Utah-based UTOPIA Fiber to bring fiber-to-the-home services to every address in Gallatin County.
Arizona City Council Approves Fiber Licensing Agreements
The city aims to connect all homes and businesses to fiber.
MESA, Arizona, July 12, 2022 – Mesa City Council unanimously approved license agreements with fiber optic providers to bring high-speed internet access to every premise in the city, according to a press release Tuesday.
The vote authorizes Google Fiber, SiFi Networks, Ubiquity and Wyyerd Fiber to begin the permitting process to build fiber network facilities within the city’s rights of way. The vote will also work toward Mesa’s long-standing goal of bringing network connectivity to all 264,000 city premises covering 2,470 street miles.
“Reliable high-speed internet is not a luxury – it’s an essential utility like water or electricity. In the way the world operates today, no one can afford to be disconnected,” said Mayor John Giles in a statement. “These partnerships are bringing us closer to our goals of getting fiber to every home and business, increasing affordable connectivity for residents and future-proofing our city.”
Mesa, according to the press release, sent out a national request for information to learn about companies that can install and operate fiber networks across its city. The agreements approved by the city council are a direct result of the response generated by the RFI, the city said.
“Those who lack connectivity are at a disadvantage. I am proud to have voted to bring more internet options to more places in Mesa and help remove connectivity barriers in our City,” said David Luna, District 5 councilmember and member of the National League of Cities information technology and communications committee, in the release.
“A connected city is a thriving city and fiber optic is the gold standard for high-speed internet.”
- States are Making Their Own Broadband Maps to Challenge the FCC’s Data
- Doug Lodder: How to Prevent the Economic Climate from Worsening the Digital Divide
- Affordable Connectivity Outreach Program, Amazon’s SpaceX Satellite Concerns, Axios Acquired
- National Broadband Plan Legislation Introduced in Senate
- FCC Should Not Increase Rural Program Obligations in Light of New Federal Funding: Meeting Notes
- Craig Settles: If You Can’t Give Away Free Internet, Consider Telehealth
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