Tag Archives: loma linda

Local broadband policy models presented to central Sierra policy makers

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Like it or not, convincing an incumbent provider to invest in improving broadband infrastructure in your community means putting a better deal in front of them than they can get elsewhere. Both Google and AT&T have money to spend on fiber upgrades, but not very much, relatively speaking. So they’re issuing short lists of cities, and then sitting back and waiting to see what those candidates put on the table.

Two things top their wish lists: getting permits quicker and cheaper, and access to public right of ways and real estate. I talked about how local agencies can go about doing that at Thursday’s community broadband conference in Tuolumne City, organised by the Central Sierra Connect Broadband Consortium.

Examples include the broadband policy initiatives that are moving forward in Santa Cruz County, including “dig once” rules that encourage installation of conduit anytime road construction work is done and a simple, over the counter permit process. The man responsible for those changes, Aptos supervisor Zach Friend, also spoke at the meeting – more on that later – sharing lessons learned with a roomful of elected leaders and top administrators from several central Sierra cities and counties.

Loma Linda’s experience with mandatory fiber connections in newly built homes and Watsonville’s success in mapping broadband assets and using that data to build a network also figured in the presentation.

I closed by talking about counter examples, cases where poor policy has led to even poorer broadband access, particularly Google’s experience in Overland Park, Kansas and a look at why Piedmont – one of the most affluent cities in California – has the worst broadband infrastructure in Alameda County.

South Africa endorses best practices for broadband development policy

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South Africa’s goal is to bring a minimum of 5Mbps Internet access to half its population by 2016 and 90% by 2020, with 100% of school, medical and government sites getting at least 10 Mbps by then. To do it, the government is adopting essentially the same policy playbook as the European Union, Google, and Californian communities such as Santa Cruz, San Leandro and Loma Linda

  • Efficient permit granting: Responsible authorities will provide network operators with a clear, simple, transparent and efficient mechanism for granting permits for civil works.
  • Access to and use of existing physical networking infrastructure: [the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa] will enforce regulations requiring network operators’ obligations to meet all reasonable requests for access to infrastructure on a non-discriminatory basis to their physical infrastructure (such as ducts, conduits, manholes, cabinets, poles, masts, antennae, towers and other supporting constructions).
  • Coordination and exploiting synergies with other civil works: Transparency of information on and mechanisms for accessing on a reasonable basis existing and planned public infrastructure suitable for hosting high-speed internet such as electricity, water and sewage, transport infrastructures and high sites. Such sharing across different civil domains will also facilitate future smart cities and regions.
  • Transparency will assist in preventing accidental damage to water pipes or electricity and cables during construction of broadband infrastructure.
  • Coordination of civil works: Frameworks will be put in place facilitating coordination and cooperation of civil works amongst network operators.
  • In-building equipment:
    • All newly-constructed buildings and buildings undergoing major renovation will be equipped with facilities, such as ducting for fibre optic cabling, for high-speed-ready in-building physical infrastructure, up to the network termination points from 2015.
    • Every internet provider will have the right to terminate its network at a concentration point located inside or outside a building and will have the right to access any existing high-speed-ready in-building physical infrastructure on reasonable terms.

The full report – South Africa Connect: Creating Opportunities, Ensuring Inclusion; South Africa’s Broadband Policy – is interesting reading. The policy prescriptions for addressing the broadband needs of sprawling, densely packed townships and distant undeveloped rural communities are all but identical to those independently developed for European cities and Californian suburbs. Regardless of circumstance, there’s a growing international consensus that the basics of broadband development policy are universal.

FTTH lucrative for new home builders in Loma Linda, but too costly for city-financed retrofits

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The small southern California city of Loma Linda is a company town. Its major business is health care, with five major medical facilities and as many hospital beds as homes, they say with maybe a touch of exaggeration. The bandwidth consumed by the medical sector made building a municipal dark fiber network an economic development slam dunk for the city. It then successfully took the next step of selling Internet bandwidth to homes and businesses.

The financial side of extending fiber to homes, though, is mixed. There was a significant positive return on investment for developers, but the city has yet to make the business case for fronting the money needed to retrofit existing homes.

In 2004, fiber connections and structured wiring were required in any home newly built or significantly remodelled in the city. Since 2005, 600 new homes were built and all are connected to the muni fiber network, with half choosing to buy Internet bandwidth from the city. The service is pricy by current fiber-to-the-home standards: $30 per month for 5 Mbps service, going up to $100 for 15 Mbps.

The structured wiring and fiber connection added $3,000 to the cost of a new home, according to Konrad Bolowich, Loma Linda’s IT director and fiber guru, speaking at the Inland Empire Regional Broadband Consortium’s annual meeting in Riverside last week. He said that KB Homes built two essentially identical new developments, one in the city and one a few miles away. Wired Loma Linda homes sold for $10,000 to $12,000 more than the unwired, but otherwise identical, models nearby. On top of that, sales people were able to up-sell buyers into as much as $20,000 in electronic upgrades.

On the other hand, Bolowich said the city is still trying to come up with a cost effective solution for hooking up pre–2004 homes. A pilot project cost the city between $1,200 and $1,500 each for the 36 homes connected, too much to be paid back by the additional cash flow from those customers.

It’s an interesting case study, and supports the idea that 1. home builders and, presumably but not certainly, follow-on home owners can realise a substantial return on their investment in FTTH infrastructure and 2. small-scale FTTH operators, such as cities, cannot. Even with a 50% market share.

Turn the cost of residential connections into a profitable capital investment for homeowners, and move it from public operating budgets to private balance sheets. Simple enough when you’re talking to financially sophisticated real estate developers. It’ll be tougher – sometimes impossible – to make a legitimate financial case to individual homeowners. But it’s the best hope of finding a path to muni-scale FTTH success.