Gigabites: Farm Towns Find Fiber

Old Macdonald had a gigabit.

Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video

August 12, 2016

4 Min Read
Gigabites: Farm Towns Find Fiber

Another week, another gigabit news roundup. In today's edition of Gigabites, rural towns in Minnesota start construction on a new fiber network, the FCC loses its municipal broadband fight in court, Ting Internet reports on the state of its early gigabit deployments and more.

  • Gigabit cities are growing more common, but gigabit farm towns are far more rare. Which is why the start of construction on RS Fiber 's network in Minnesota is noteworthy.

    RS Fiber is a collective made up of several towns in rural Minnesota fed up with their existing broadband options. Seven years ago, the small region of Winthrop started the process of seeking new Internet alternatives. Winthrop partnered with more than two dozen of its neighboring municipalities, and together the towns pursued some creative funding strategies for a new network deployment project. As a cooperative, they've raised about $16 million through local government bonds, according to Public Radio International. Local banks have put up the rest of the money with the assurance that government partners will take most of the risk if business model projections don't work out.

    The RS Fiber project still has a long road ahead. The plan is to cover more than 6,000 rural households in Minnesota with broadband service, but RS Fiber doesn't expect to finish its network build-out until 2021. When the network is completed, the cooperative will offer Internet service with speeds up to a gigabit per second.

For more gigabit coverage and insights, check out our dedicated Gigabit/Broadband content channel here on Light Reading.

  • It was a difficult week for municipal broadband elsewhere in the US. The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit shot down an order by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that sought to allow muni broadband providers in North Carolina and Tennessee to expand their gigabit service availability to nearby towns despite state prohibitions against such moves. Private ISPs have fought tooth and nail to prevent municipal broadband expansion, and the courts have now lent their support. (See Is Wheeler's FCC Legacy Now in Doubt?)

    The FCC originally ruled on municipal broadband in North Carolina and Tennessee back in 2015 at the same time that it passed the Open Internet order. The US Appeals Court for the DC Circuit upheld the so-called net neutrality rule in June. That decision is now likely headed to the US Supreme Court. (See FCC Clears Way for Muni Network Expansion and FCC Wins Key Net Neutrality Ruling.)

    • Ting Internet, owned by Tucows , had a positive quarter on the gigabit broadband front. In a recent earnings call, the company reported that demand jumped in its Charlottesville, Virginia market, and that Ting has been able to fulfill all new service requests. Things were slightly less rosy in Westminster, Maryland, where Ting has seen a fiber shortage of late, but the company remains optimistic that the shortage is temporary. Ting is looking at several additional cities for potential future network deployments, including Boulder, Colorado, where the company has already publicly submitted a proposal.

    • WideOpenWest Holdings LLC (WOW) got into the gigabit game this week with news that it plans to launch gigabit service in five US markets before the end of the year. The Internet provider will rely primarily on DOCSIS 3.1 technology for gigabit delivery, but will deploy fiber to the home in one market in Michigan. (See WOW Preps for Gig Service Too and WOW Launches Gig Service in 5 Markets.)

    • And finally, Google Fiber Inc. drew attention this week for its further investigation into fixed wireless broadband technology. The company has put some of its fiber deployments on hold while it explores possible wireless network alternatives. In an FCC filing, Google Fiber revealed that it plans to test new wireless broadband tech in 24 markets, using spectrum between 3.4Ghz and 3.8GHz. (See Google Fiber May Go Wireless in the Valley – Report and Google Looks to Test 3.5GHz Broadband Radios.)

      — Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, Light Reading

About the Author(s)

Mari Silbey

Senior Editor, Cable/Video

Mari Silbey is a senior editor covering broadband infrastructure, video delivery, smart cities and all things cable. Previously, she worked independently for nearly a decade, contributing to trade publications, authoring custom research reports and consulting for a variety of corporate and association clients. Among her storied (and sometimes dubious) achievements, Mari launched the corporate blog for Motorola's Home division way back in 2007, ran a content development program for Limelight Networks and did her best to entertain the video nerd masses as a long-time columnist for the media blog Zatz Not Funny. She is based in Washington, D.C.

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