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."
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