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Utility Brings Gigabit to Oregon Town

Jason Meyers

Sandy, Ore., a small town about 25 miles east of Portland, has joined the growing ranks of communities across the US whose residents can get ultra-high-speed broadband from an entity that's neither a telco nor cable provider.

Sandy is a Gigabit City thanks to SandyNet Fiber , the fiber-to-the-home network operated by the City of Sandy's municipally owned utility. SandyNet is in the process of extending its four-year-old fiber network to pass all 4,000 of the community's homes, making symmetrical broadband offerings of both 100 Mbit/s and 1 Gbit/s available to all 10,000 city residents.

As with many smaller communities in the US, the muni utility is stepping in where commercial broadband providers haven't -- in Sandy's case, for more than 13 years. (See 1-Gig: Coming to a Small Town Near You and Are Utilities Really Gigabit Players?)

"We started out because we couldn't get a DSL line at city hall," says Joe Knapp, IT director for the City of Sandy and general manager of SandyNet. The utility first built a 900MHz wireless network, then WiFi, then a wireless mesh network to connect residents to broadband, he says. "That became so popular that we took about 40% of the market with wireless, but that was a hard thing to sustain."

The City of Sandy built a fiber network to connect municipal buildings about four years ago, so it decided to extend that to residents starting in May 2014. The first homes were connected by late September.

"We started to realize that a lot of communities are doing this," Knapp says. "It took three years of beating my head against the wall to finally get it to happen."

For the latest on urban network innovation, visit Light Reading's dedicated Gigabit Cities content channel. And watch for forthcoming details on Light Reading's Gigabit Cities Live event, to be held in May 2015 in Atlanta.

SandyNet is deploying Calix Inc. (NYSE: CALX)'s E7-2 Ethernet Service Access Platform and 844G GigaCenters, which use 802.11ac Wave 2 WiFi. SandyNet is offering voice and video in addition to ultra-high-speed broadband. The 100Mbit/s data package is $39.95 with no caps and restrictions, and the 1-Gig package is $59.95. SandyNet has connected 280 homes to date.

Despite the network's capability, Knapp doesn't really view SandyNet as a competitive broadband entity. "We're not good salesmen," Knapp says. "As a muni network, we view this as trying to benefit the community. I tell them to try the 100-Meg service first -- we're actually not pushing the gig that hard."

As for the economic development benefits of gigabit networks touted by many municipalities, Knapp says the utility's 100% underground fiber network means that connecting businesses is more complex and more expensive, but that Sandy is working on a solution.

"There's very little disturbance of concrete and asphalt in residential areas, but in a business installation, I can guarantee you I have to pull at least one sidewalk panel," he says. "It makes it tremendously more expensive. We're circling the wagons to see how we can get the service more affordable for smaller businesses."

— Jason Meyers, Senior Editor, Gigabit Cities/IoT, Light Reading

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User Rank: Moderator
1/7/2015 | 6:56:26 PM
Sounds great. Thanks for filling in the details. Have you published how many subs ?
User Rank: Light Beer
1/6/2015 | 7:47:54 PM
Re: Transit ?
We are very fortunate to be well connected for a small community. Largely in part to the CBX project that clackamas county did with a BTOP grant. We have diverse dark fiber paths out of Sandy that makes procuring transit very easy and affordable. Currently we have 4Gbps of aggregate transit on 3 ISPs and NWAX. We are working on upgrading several of those connections to 10Gbps. Also, we used a distributed splitter model on our outside plant infrastructure. This makes over subscription on the OLT ports less of a problem as we will rarely have 32 customers on a port as we would have to get 100% of the customers in a splitter serving area to reach that. So to answer your question, when we say Gigabit we mean gigabit.
User Rank: Light Sabre
1/6/2015 | 11:44:11 AM
Re: Transit ?

This is true even at the big providers and it starts way before you get to a Transit ISP.

The OLT itself will be oversubxcribed.  In the best case FiOS is oversubscribed physically by 7:1.  On top of that services can be oversubscribed on the PON itself (using DBA).  And all of this is in the upstream where oversubscription rates are lower.

But this is the whole point of the problem with the way we sell/price things and Net Neutrality.  The end access customer pays for the bit rate provisioned at the Access Point.  The service is Best Effort.  This means improvement in the mid-mile - metro - long haul are all free to the user.  This was fine with everyone while we were looking at web pages and reading email.  The usage rate of ports was extremely low.  Faster access sometimes lowered congestion as the pipes at the edge emptied quicker.  Now move on to streaming.  This type of constant connectivity raises the usage time of all the ports and thus starts raising the average bit rate per user dramatically.  

Why do you think we pay a whole lot less for a Broadband Connection than for a Leased Connection of the same Access Bit Rate?  It is not just lower equipment costs....its lower actual costs from oversubscription.



User Rank: Blogger
1/6/2015 | 10:07:51 AM
Re: Transit ?
That's interesting, and not something I have discussed with these smaller providers. I will circle back with them and see what I can find out. Thanks.
User Rank: Moderator
1/6/2015 | 9:41:21 AM
Re: Transit ?
The first question would be what access rate they are provisioning. Even if you have 1GigE dedicated (or shared on GPON as appears to be the case with the E7), you can set the access rate (XMbps). But my point was what is the total number of subs and what is their transit capacity. If their upstream ISP (aka transit service provider) is providing them 1Gbps for example and they are serving 10,000 customers even with a nice statistical distribution, what you've got is far less than 1Gbps.

I'm not even talking about Internet performance (which is out of most anyone's hands), I'm just talking about gross transit capacity as a ratio to subscribers. And unlike a large scale operate where some percentage of traffic will stay on-net (say Comcast, TWC, VZ, etc.), there is likely to be close to zero on-net traffic that doesn't go through a transit ISP in a smaller scale implementation such as described there.
User Rank: Blogger
1/5/2015 | 10:53:17 PM
Re: Transit ?
Sorry, I'm not really understanding your post. Are you saying you think customers are not really getting a gigabit?
User Rank: Moderator
1/5/2015 | 7:38:46 PM
Transit ?
Gotta wonder (out loud) just how much transit cap they have when they are selling a "Gigabit Ethernet" service in a small town. That's like saying folks have GigE to their desktop (when they do) at work, but they only have a DSL service with 5Mbps for access serving the whole office. A bit misleading ...
Mitch Wagner
Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
1/5/2015 | 6:03:46 PM
John Cougar Mellencamp would be pleased
Seems like if you want gigabit Ethernet you're better off living in a small town. 
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