Connect with us


Powered by Utility Fiber, Public-Private Partners in Springfield, Missouri, Now Offer Gigabit Services to Residents



Screenshot of panelists from the webinar

October 12, 2020 — How should one go about building a gigabit city? Act quickly, be strategic and work in partnership with the private sector.

That was the conclusion of panelists speaking about a fiber internet build in Springfield, Missouri, included as part of the Broadband Communities Virtual Summit in September.

The webinar session detailed the benefits of a data-driven, digital approach to fiber builds six months into the project. In it, panelists representing the public and private sectors said that in addition to being innovative and strategic in their approach to building fiber infrastructure, city leaders were early.

In 1991, Springfield established a city-led telecommunications strategy, empowering the municipality’s utility department to offer telecommunications services to county buildings, city buildings, and school districts.

This telecommunications strategic plan clearly stated that the city should sell excess fiber capacity wherever feasible.

Since then, the town has expanded its fiber infrastructure services. It offered gigabit fiber service in 2007 and expanded to 10 gigabit per second (Gbps) upload and download service in 2010. As of 2015, the city had built close to 600 miles of fiber throughout Springfield.

Jeff Bertholdi, director of SpringNet, said that in 2016, changes in conversations around broadband included talk at the Federal Communications Commission and Congress about the economic benefits fiber-to-the-home infrastructure offers.

Researching public-private partnerships, including the ‘utility lease’ model

The city began to research the ‘utility lease’ model, after Huntsville, Alabama, adopted that approach with Google Fiber. That made Springfield think harder about the future of their project. “The city utility felt it was time to review its priorities a bit,” said Bertholdi.

SpringNet, the municipally-owned utility, hired the Broadband Group consulting firm to expand their fiber project to Springfield residents. The companies broke ground on the FTTH project in 2020.

Today, Springfield fiber is regarded as a utility. Broadband is “just another service our utility provides alongside electric, water, gas, and transit,” said Bertholdi.

Officials for SpringNet said that building infrastructure is their strong suit. It is building the fiber-to-the-premise network. Meanwhile, the Broadband Group and Biarri Networks, Render Networks, and BHC Rhodes manage the rest of what the project entails.

All units involved cooperate and converse. That was key to getting the project off the ground, said Render Networks CEO Sam Pratt.

The businesses are aiming to continue Springfield’s theme of innovation, leasing throughout, modeling and constructing the network.

According to Pratt, geospatial technology and digital tablets are helping track the progress of the construction project, to ensure timeliness.

“Six months into the project, we’ve transitioned past the training phase, and the project is on schedule,” said Pratt. The businesses have plans to kick off a large marketing campaign to the public in a month or two, and will ultimately bring gigabit services to all of Springfield residents and businesses in the next two years.

The session was moderated by Heather Gold, CEO of HBG Strategies.

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

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.



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.

Continue Reading


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.



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.

Continue Reading


COVID Funds Ensuring NTIA Broadband Infrastructure Funding Adequate: Conexon Executive

‘The way you close the digital divide is you build fiber to every single rural home,’ Jonathan Chambers said.



Photo of Jonathan Chambers, partner at Conexon

WASHINGTON, October 17, 2022 – Millions of dollars from the American Rescue Plan Act, which are currently being deployed by states to extend broadband networks, is helping ensure that new broadband money allocated from the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act will be sufficient to extend fiber to all homes in America, said a telecom executive on a Fiber Broadband Association web event Wednesday.

Since many states are using ARPA funding to deploy new networks, fewer than ten million locations will “be left for BEAD after ARPA,” said Jonathan Chambers, partner at rural internet service provider co-op Conexon, referring to the $42.5 billion Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment program of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

Since the American Rescue Plan became law in March 2021, federal programs – including the Capital Projects Fund and the Emergency Connectivity Program – and state governments have put tens of billions of ARPA-appropriated dollars towards broadband various projects.

Chambers, whose company builds fiber networks and works primarily with rural electric cooperatives, said he wants to refute the arguments of fiber skeptics by going “to the hardest-to-serve, poorest places in the country and demonstrate you can build fiber there,” saying the company is working to build a fiber network to every home and business in East Carrol Parish, Louisiana.

An argument against fiber builds in rural areas has been the expense required to do so.

The BEAD program will dispense block grants to the states based on relative need. States will issue subgrants for broadband infrastructure and other projects. Pro-fiber advocates like Chambers and FBA President Gary Bolton support using these funds primarily for fiber deployments.

“The way you close the digital divide is you build fiber to every single rural home,” Chambers said.

Continue Reading

Signup for Broadband Breakfast

Get twice-weekly Breakfast Media news alerts.
* = required field

Broadband Breakfast Research Partner