The City of Benicia is working with Lit San Leandro LLC (LSL) to bring a gigabit-class fiber network to the Benicia Industrial Park and the adjacent Arsenal area. That’s the top line from a status report I gave to the Benicia City Council this evening.
Benicia issued a request for proposals last year, asking interested service providers to submit ideas for delivering industrial and commercial-grade broadband service. Among the resources the City put on the table was $750,000. The most attractive proposal – for a full fiber network – was submitted by LSL. Since then, both the City and LSL have been working on solving key challenges, such as how to connect the local network to long haul fiber and Tier 1 data centers.
LSL identified several potential solutions, and is working on more detailed plans. Parallel to that, the City and LSL will be negotiating a formal contract, which will be brought back to the City Council for approval, likely in the next two or three months. After that, LSL can begin construction.
The preliminary network design includes a loop through the central core of the Benicia Industrial Park, with spurs serving the Arsenal area just to the south and the periphery of the park.
I helped the City develop the RFP, evaluate the proposals and get to the point where a tentative agreement is in place with LSL. The work was based on a report I did last year for the City, which looked at alternatives for meeting the broadband needs of current BIP tenants and businesses that might be considering moving there.
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.
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.
Creating a central source of information about broadband assets to help network planning.
Coordinating civil construction/public works projects – sometimes called open trench or dig once policies – so opportunities to put fiber in the ground are maximised.
Setting up centralised, on-line civil construction permit application processes.
Requiring the installation of broadband wiring and other infrastructure in new and remodelled buildings.
Establishing rules to allow any given Internet service provider to access pretty much anyone else’s facilities, including in-building wiring, local access lines and long haul networks.
The proposed new regulations go to the European Council and parliament for what is likely to be lengthy consideration. If something like this proposal eventually passes, it will bring a large degree of harmony and simplicity to European broadband infrastructure deployment efforts.
Eric Sloan talks about lighting up Los Angeles communities.
A community-based WiFi project in the Manchester area of Los Angeles was one of the highlights of the first day of regional broadband consortia meetings organized in Sacramento by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). Eric Sloan, director of technology for Manchester Community Technologies, described how his organization created free, community WiFi access by working with local businesses.
“It is a business initiative to get people to adopt and use broadband,” Sloan said. Working with the Los Angeles County Regional Broadband Consortium, his organization provides WiFi hot spot equipment to local businesses willing to share Internet bandwidth. MCT manages the network, monitoring performance and usage. The businesses generate additional foot traffic and benefit from online promotion via the system.
Sloan said they’ve signed up 65 businesses for the program and serve 1,500 people a month, with an expectation that figure will triple over the next three years.
Today’s meeting featured a keynote speech by Pat Kennedy, the founder of OSIsoft and the man behind the Lit San Leandro project. He encouraged regional consortia to look for ways to leverage existing assets, such as publicly owned conduit, to build fiber networks. “If the conduit is in place it’s not hugely expensive to put fiber in the ground”, he told the group.
The rest of the afternoon was devoted to sharing ideas amongst the consortia. Rachel Audino from the San Joaquin Valley and Brent Smith from the Gold Country regions described successfully financing broadband projects. Connie Stewart from the Redwood Coast and Peter Koht from the Central Coast addressed developing local policies that encourage broadband development. Alicia and Larry Ortega from One Million NIU in Los Angeles and Nancy Martin from the Central Coast talked about broadband adoption programs.
The program was moderated by Ana Maria Johnson from the CPUC, Linda Best from the East Bay Broadband Consortium and Tara Thronson from the Connected Capitol region, which is also the host consortium for the event. It continues tomorrow.
“It’s a wonderful thing that San Leandro is doing here, and OSIsoft and Lit San Leandro,” said Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Julius Genachowski. “You join a small but important number of communities that share your vision.”
He was delivering a keynote speech at an event last Wednesday celebrating Lit San Leandro and the partnership with the City of San Leandro that made it possible. The video from that event has been posted. You can watch the entire program here. His speech is right here:.
Fiber optic infrastructure and wireless spectrum is the way to win “the global bandwidth race” that Genachowski thinks will determine the economic winners and losers of the future. He said there’s been a big change in the percentage of the country that has access to networks that offer service of at least 100 Mbps, growing from 20% to 80% in the past four years.
“We need the U.S. to have a critical mass of business and residential subscribers for super fast Internet, one gigabit Internet,” he said. “One gig or multi-gig networks will lead to innovation that we can’t even imagine. If we build fast networks innovation will come.”
He urged local communities to adopt best broadband practices, such as “dig once” policies, where fiber optic lines are installed any time a trench is dug, for water or electric lines or any other reason. No surprise, San Leandro is already on track to do that.
“This is a model for the country,” Genachowski told San Leandro leaders. “It’s so rewarding to me personally to see what we saw here today.”
I was fortunate enough to be invited as one of the opening speakers. My assignment was to give some background on efforts in the Bay Area and around California to develop our economy by developing broadband infrastructure:
Here in the Bay Area, we are surrounded by the fattest Internet pipes on the planet. We have the world’s greatest concentration of innovative, high technology – revolutionary – talent, companies and jobs.
But we’re just getting started.
Most communities in the Bay Area, most companies and people, can’t touch those fat broadband pipes yet. That’s how it was here, in San Leandro, when the Lit San Leandro project began two years ago. The main lines of the Internet run right through the middle of town. But there was no local access, no onramp here.
Businesses struggled to get any kind of Internet access, affordable or not. Upgrading broadband infrastructure in older commercial and industrial districts is not a priority for incumbent service providers.
One of those businesses was OSIsoft. They’re here today to tell their own story, so I won’t spoil it. But Pat Kennedy saw a solution and worked with the City of San Leandro to implement it. Pat and the Lit San Leandro team made it happen. The City, though, deserves a lot of credit too. The business development team recognized the opportunity and worked across departments and with the City Council to find ways to say yes to it.
That’s the key. Recognizing the opportunity and embracing it. Part of that job is making sure that everyone’s interests are acknowledged and protected. It’s also to move ahead without getting bogged down in the process and move ahead with a clear view of the benefits for all. And that’s what the City of San Leandro did.
Thanks to some far-sighted work by legislators in Sacramento – more of that gets done than commonly recognized – the California Public Utilities Commission created a network of regional broadband consortia across the state. In just a year, those community based groups, groups that pull together public agencies, educational institutions, non-profits and private companies with capital to invest, those groups have generated dozens of new broadband projects.
The East Bay Broadband Consortium is one example. I recently worked with them to assess connectivity in this region. We developed a grading system and came up with a city by city and county by county report card. Two things stood out.
First, in most communities, businesses need help to get the broadband speed and quality at the affordable prices that our centers of high tech excellence take for granted. Whether it’s finding incentives for incumbent carriers to upgrade existing facilities, or partnering with entrepreneurs to build new gigabit fiber networks, or even dipping a toe into the municipal broadband business, cities have a vital role to play and valuable resources to offer. Not the least of which is leadership. As we have here in San Leandro.
Second, the cities with the highest grades are the ones with the deepest history of competition between telecommunications service providers. Central Contra Costa County cities scored A’s and B’s because they have three carriers that compete with each other in a number of ways, including investing in new fiber optic lines, putting private capital into upgraded broadband infrastructure.
Here in Alameda County, the cities with the highest grades are Berkeley and the City of Alameda. A private company, Sonic, has invested in building competitive broadband facilities in Berkeley. In Alameda, the city took the lead, built its own system, spurred fierce competition and stepped out of the business when the time was ripe. The infrastructure that was built by the city and its competitors is still there, still serving the residents of Alameda, still providing homes and businesses with some of the best Internet service available in the East Bay.
Other cities have followed their lead. The City of Benicia is working to turn what was a major twentieth century industrial park into a twenty first century job engine by bringing in better broadband infrastructure. In Oakland, there’s an ongoing effort to bridge the divide between businesses and homes that have superior Internet access and those that don’t.
It’s no coincidence that the best and cheapest broadband access in the Bay Area is in Palo Alto and Santa Clara. As new industries – a new economy – grew, those cities built municipal fiber optic networks. As businesses have grown and created jobs, local fiber optic networks have grown to serve them. Resulting in even more business and more jobs. We’re starting to see the same here in San Leandro. And that’s just the beginning.
Chairman Genachowski, for gigabit cities, the future is right here.
The Chinese government is adopting a policy that’s been urged here in the U.S. Starting in April, Beijing will require new homes that are built within reach of an Internet backbone to be connected directly by fiber.
It’s one of the policies we looked at when we did an economic development-related study for the City of San Leandro. That particular study was focused on improving commercial and industrial broadband availability, but we looked at the same basic policy question: should broadband be treated like any other essential utility, and be subject to the same sort of minimum requirements when new construction or major remodeling is done?
The answer was an emphatic yes.
Broadband facilities and service availability should be included as criteria when reviewing private sector development plans, much in the same way that the City currently considers electrical and water provisioning.
We recommended giving consideration to:
Standards or requirements for fiber connections to existing networks.
Placement of empty conduit to support future network connections.
Design and scale of telecommunication service entry points, vaults and closets.
Access opportunities for competitive providers.
Conduits and cabling for internal networks.
Accommodation of future internal and external upgrades.
Fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) systems can be very expensive to build, often prohibitively so, when existing homes are involved. But putting in the primary infrastructure adds little or anything to the cost of a new home. Most of the expensive is involved with installing conduit, which has to go in anyway. Adding fiber to the mix doesn’t affect the cost much. With copper prices continuing to rise, it could even save money.
The goal for China is 40 million fiber connected homes by 2015. If we did that here in the U.S., more than one household out of three would have a fiber connection. A third of the country. It’s much smaller fraction in China – about ten percent – but no less impressive.
The City of San Leandro will fill in key gaps in broadband availability in industrial and commercial areas, thanks to a $2.1 million grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration. The press release is here.
As far as we can tell, this award is the first ever given by EDA for a community broadband project, with credit largely due to the City’s economic and business development staff. They worked closely with the EDA to develop the innovative framework required and to meet the stringent requirements of the program. Tellus Venture Associates assisted staff during the process.
The money comes from EDA’s Public Works Economic Development Assistance program. It will pay for 7.5 miles of conduit, which will be connected to the City’s existing infrastructure. The new conduit will make it possible for Lit San Leandro, a privately funded fiber optic system, to extend the reach of its 11 mile network to more than 18 miles. The work is expected to be completed within a year.
Lit San Leandro, the brainchild of Dr. Pat Kennedy, the CEO of San Leandro-based OSIsoft, offers dark fiber and lit broadband services up to 10 Gbps to businesses along the existing route. The City and Lit San Leandro are working in partnership, with the City leasing conduit to the venture.
Thanks to this project, San Leandro is home to the fastest library in California. The main library is connected to the Lit San Leandro network and has clocked speeds in excess of 300 Mbps. It can do even better – right now, the limitation comes from the ability of computers to handle high data speeds, not from the network itself.
The new conduit will largely complete the job of making 21st Century broadband available to San Leandro’s industrial land. The three areas targeted – Doolittle/Adams, Marina/Catalina, Alvarado/Teagarden – were identified in a study conducted by Tellus Venture Associates, which has served as a consultant to the City throughout the negotiation and implementation phases of the Lit San Leandro project.
The study resulted in the approval by the San Leandro City Council last month of a strategic plan for commercial and industrial broadband development. Other action items identified include bringing additional fiber and wireless access to Downtown San Leandro, offering business assistance grants for broadband projects and adopting broadband-friendly planning, public works and community development policies.
Learn more by watching the San Leandro “Get Connected!” video.
Seven action plan recommendations and an overall commercial broadband strategy were unanimously adopted last night by the San Leandro City Council. The goal is to bring new jobs, businesses and shoppers into the City’s industrial and commercial areas by developing better broadband infrastructure and availability, and encouraging companies and consumers to take advantage of it.
The strategic vision and specific recommendations were developed by Tellus Venture Associates, working closely with City staff. Businesspeople, major employers, property owners, school officials and the general public were involved throughout the process, participating in online surveys, workshops, one-on-one meetings and other events.
The action items approved last night for implementation are:
1. Formalize and promote existing broadband-friendly practices. 2. Make broadband a standard planning review criterion. 3. Adopt a comprehensive open trench policy. 4. Pursue opportunities for lateral connections to major fiber routes. 5. Support Lit San Leandro on a nondiscriminatory basis. 6. Develop WiFi hotspots in Downtown San Leandro. 7. Support business connections to broadband service.
The City Council immediately followed adoption of the plan with approval for the Broadband Connection Business Incentive Program, which provides local businesses with assistance in connecting to high speed Internet service. The City will continue work on a formal open trench policy and is pursuing grants to fund the construction of lateral fiber connections to Lit San Leandro and other major trunk lines.
Tellus Venture Associates has advised the City of San Leandro throughout its broadband planning process. In addition to developing the commercial broadband strategy adopted last night, Tellus Venture Associates represented the City in negotiating an agreement with Pat Kennedy, a local entrepreneur, for the construction of an 11-mile dark fiber route through the City’s commercial and industrial areas, leading to the launch of Lit San Leandro.
“As Google attempts to grab the headlines with its announcement tomorrow of a fiber initiative for Kansas City that will offer users connection speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second, Mayor Stephen Cassidy of San Leandro announced that San Leandro is staking its claim as the fastest city in the nation. San Leandro’s fiber loop, known as Lit San Leandro, became operational earlier this year, offering connection speeds of up to 10 gigabits per second. This is 2,000 times faster than the average U.S. connection and ten times faster than the Google fiber network planned for Kansas City. Moreover, the network will soon support ramping up the connectivity to 100 gigabits per second for businesses needing an even greater connection.”
Less than a year after the City Council approved the project, Lit San Leandro is delivering on its promise of providing fast, fiber optic broadband connections to local businesses.
More information about the partnership with Lit San Leandro is available here. Tellus Venture Associates assisted the City in negotiating and implementing the agreement with Lit San Leandro, and is currently completing a strategic commercial broadband plan for consideration by the city council.