- Broadband Toolkit
In 2019, the time has long passed since broadband access was optional. The internet has grown out of its luxury status and is now a bedrock ingredient for resilient communities. Fast, affordable, reliable broadband is essential to the long-term success of a community and to the health and happiness of its residents.
Cities, towns, and counties have an extraordinary amount of resources that can be leveraged to encourage investment in broadband infrastructure and ultimately lead to greater connectivity. While there is no one connectivity model that works for every community, there are common threads that run through the diverse array of successful projects. This toolkit is a compilation of those practices and the first-stop resource for any community seeking strategies and solutions to connect its residents.
A common element that appears in many cities’ success stories is having a dedicated staff member leading the effort. Having a staff member in a leadership role who is passionate about connectivity in your community is a prerequisite for any successful broadband project.
This role can take on a variety of titles, from Chief Technology Officer to IT Director to Broadband Manager. The formal title is less important than the employee’s ability to clearly articulate why the community wants and needs better broadband. An important duty of this project leader is to help inform elected officials in your community about a broadband project’s goals, the value it will bring to the community – such as remote work opportunities, new jobs, economic development, and improved public safety, healthcare, education, and transportation – and project details, such as the build timeline and who exactly will be getting service.
Next Century Cities’ guide to hiring a broadband manager identifies traits that many successful project leaders share, including:
- Interpersonal and communication skills
- Flexibility and problem-solving skills
- A big-picture outlook
- A passion for broadband
- Out-of-the-box thinking
Community interest in and support of high-speed internet is imperative when attempting to attract investment and competition, and is critical to the long-term sustainability of local projects. Hosting events, engaging the community in conversation, and maintaining high transparency can bolster constituent engagement.
Charlotte, North Carolina began a grassroots campaign called Charlotte Hearts Gigabit when Google Fiber announced that they were considering expanding to the city. Community members were concerned that there wasn’t enough citizen interest in high-speed internet, so Charlotte Hearts Gigabit was formed to begin a conversation in the hopes that it would help attract Google.
Charlotte Hearts Gigabit engaged citizens by talking about how gigabit internet would positively impact individuals and the community. The group discussed specific use cases and hosted in-person events and hands-on demonstrations of applications and technology powered by high-speed internet.
Not only did Google Fiber decide to invest in Charlotte, but AT&T announced plans to offer fiber service in the city, and Time Warner Cable increased its speeds. The robust community interest in high-speed internet encouraged investment in the city and eventually led to a more competitive local market. The initiative has since expanded into a statewide effort – NC Hearts Gigabit – to attract, support, and champion the universal availability of broadband in North Carolina.
Fort Collins, Colorado’s Broadband Core Team led an investigation into broadband solutions for the city following a need identified during a Budgeting for Outcomes (BFO) outreach effort in 2014. The Team explored a number of solutions and developed four options which they brought to citizens for preference. When the city decided to pursue a municipal broadband network, Fort Collins saw a citizen-led effort to educate the local electorate. Colin Garfield, the campaign lead for Fort Collins Citizens’ Broadband Committee, noted that keeping the community consistently informed can make a big difference for engagement.
Even if a project isn’t yet underway, maintaining transparency through consistent updates helps maintain interest and trust. For example, Larimer County, Colorado created a newsletter to share updates about broadband projects. While Fort Collins was considering building a network, the city launched an interactive map on which residents could drop pins where they wanted fiber built, in addition to a broadband project website that could be visited for updates and information. The city also hosted several public outreach sessions to engage citizens.
A grassroots group was also formed in Fort Collins to keep the momentum going. The group Broadband & Beers is a self-described “independent, public outreach group founded… to inform residents and educate decision-makers about bringing municipal gigabit internet service to communities across the country.” The group hosted frequent events at breweries to talk about the city’s path to municipal broadband, and also led a social media campaign that organically reached tens of thousands of voters.
Once leadership is established and the community has been engaged in the conversation, community leaders need to think deliberately about what problem they are hoping to solve with broadband access. It is best to approach investing in broadband with end goals in mind from the start, so leadership should define the problem statement by asking, “What are the pain points that might be mitigated if high-speed internet was available?”
Community leaders should strive to meet the principle of “Build With, Not For.” This philosophy puts community residents first, and strives to meet the actual needs of residents, as opposed to the needs that leaders assume exist. In order to successfully “build with,” leaders must build trust in the communities that they aim to serve. The Internet Society offers additional recommendations for supporting networks that empower communities.
Common community concerns include, but are not limited to:
- Residents can’t sell their homes
- Students can’t complete homework
- Young people are leaving the community and not returning
- Grandparents can’t Skype with grandchildren
- There are limited options to age in place
- Telehealth applications are not available
- There is limited communication available for public safety personnel
- Local businesses are leaving and new ones are not locating in the community
Asset mappingAsset mapping is when a municipality collects data on the public and private infrastructure assets scattered across the community. Assets can include fiber, conduit, towers, and more. Does the city have dark or lit fiber? Available conduit? Rooftops? Tower access? Right-of-way across bridges or railroads? Where is it located and what are the options for sharing, leasing, or using those assets to support broadband expansion?When evaluating options for broadband, the city of Missoula, Montana contracted a third party to compile a map of all privately-owned fiber assets within the city. That map showed that there was a significant amount of fiber already in the ground in Missoula – much of which wasn’t being used to its full potential – and the city was able to strategize and build partnerships accordingly.The city of Boston, Massachusetts created a publicly available map that displays the location of “shadow conduit” – conduit put in the ground alongside a primary construction project, as per the city’s Joint Build Ordinance – and city-owned conduit that could be utilized by public or private projects.Tools like VETRO FiberMap and ESRI GIS can help communities manage infrastructure mapping and can support planning, budgeting, design, construction, sales, and more.
Measuring DemandThe community needs an accurate reading of the level of demand from residents and businesses for broadband before they can responsibly take on a new project. Consider:
- Who in your community is online?
- Who wants to be online and is not?
- Who needs better bandwidth?
- Is cost preventing residents from connecting?
- Is sufficient bandwidth available to meet the needs of residents, large and small businesses, and anchor institutions such as schools, libraries, and healthcare organizations?
Dig OnceA “Dig Once” policy encourages the placement of fiber or conduit in the ground any time the road is dug up for a public works project.Because construction costs represent the most expensive line item in a broadband deployment budget, as opposed to the fiber and conduit itself, a Dig Once policy is a common sense method of reducing the cost of communications infrastructure deployment. Proactive placement of conduit can be estimated to save anywhere from $30,000 to $100,000 per mile compared to the costs of revisiting streets and digging them up again. A report by consulting firm CTC Technology & Energy estimated that the cost of a provider or locality pulling fiber in existing conduit is 10 percent of the cost of underground construction without the conduit.By lowering cost of deployment, Dig Once breaks down barriers of entry for new market entrants, creating a competitive marketplace that ultimately can result in more options, lower prices, and higher quality of service for consumers. Dig Once can also greatly reduce strain on a community by minimizing traffic, noise, and safety concerns of constant construction work.Santa Monica, California adopted a Public Right-of-Way Ordinance 20 years ago that regulates the time, place, and manner of installations in the right-of-way. The city coordinates fiber and conduit installation with other internal city capital infrastructure projects. This practice reduces the cost substantially and bundles funding for projects that otherwise would not have been approved. The city leases fiber cable to private ISPs, creating competition for consumers, and uses its fiber network to connect commercial buildings, affordable housing, city buildings, and to provide free Wi-Fi in the public parks and transit corridors.
Simplified permitting practicesComplex permitting processes can discourage investment. Confusing bureaucratic application systems and unpredictable waiting periods for approvals can discourage vendors and slow down investment in your community. Communities that simplify and streamline this process provide vendors with this needed predictability and can encourage investment. This preparation is especially important as vendors seek to deploy more and more small cells. Next-generation networks will require many small cells for every one macro cell tower relied upon by current wireless networks, and cities across the country are already grappling with an influx of permits.Creating a set of pre-approved small cell designs can greatly simplify this process. The city of Huntington Beach, California worked with providers to create four pre-approved designs for small cells. The city’s Sustainability Manager, Antonia Graham, describes the benefit:
“These designs are now integrated into our permitting process, so if carriers’ deployments fit one of the four standards, they are free to follow a streamlined, over-the-counter application process to receive permits from the city. As we developed these design standards we had a few carriers push back with their own ideas, and we actually ended up incorporating their designs into our permitting process. Collaborating with carriers to develop these designs was integral to ensuring that the permitting process would work for not only the city, but the providers as well.”
Create a digital inclusion planSeveral cities have developed very specific digital inclusion plans that help to guide decision-making and measure progress. Examples include plans from Austin, Texas, Kansas City, Missouri, Charlotte, North Carolina, and Louisville, Kentucky.
Provide digital inclusion grants programs and funding opportunitiesMore and more cities are finding ways to incentivize local organizations to provide digital inclusion programming and to support the expansion of existing programs. One of the first in the country to do so was Seattle. Others include Austin, Boston, and Charlotte.An emerging model involves the city using pole attachment fees to support digital inclusion efforts. San Jose has been at the forefront of this effort and has an interesting plan in place where the pole attachment fees are dedicated to a Digital Inclusion Program Fund.
Use your convening powerMunicipalities have the unique opportunity to bring together city staff, residents, community organizations, nonprofits, schools and universities, libraries, faith-based communities, and others. Such convenings can provide an opportunity to hear directly from those who are impacted by lack of access and can lead to collaborative problem solving, shared ownership of the solution, and a plan to intervene.For example, in Boston and Chattanooga, the cities participated in finding a solution that would include a wide swath of city and community support. In response to their convenings, they have each implemented a project called Tech Goes Home. These projects provide a device, training, and support to find low-cost home access. Training takes place in community anchor institutions across the city, with a wide range of trainers and learners participating.
Small cellsAt the time of writing, 21 states have passed or are currently considering legislation that limit municipalities’ control over small cell deployment. For example, a Florida law passed in 2017 caps all annual collocation rates at $150 per utility pole.In September 2018, the Federal Communications Commission passed an Order that significantly limits the ability of local governments to negotiate in the public interest around small cell agreements. Notably, the Order creates a “safe harbor” for application and use fees of the public rights-of-way, and puts the burden on municipalities to demonstrate cost if they wish to charge higher fees.Laws and policies such as these limit municipalities’ ability to negotiate in order to create agreements with providers that are mutually beneficial. In June 2018, San Jose, California created agreements with AT&T, Mobilitie, and Verizon to deploy more than 4,000+ small cells throughout the city where lease rates are reduced as carriers commit to larger deployments across the city, incenting comprehensive, large-scale investment. The agreement with AT&T and Verizon involves roughly $10 million to be paid over the span of a 15-year lease agreement, as well as an additional $1 million contribution each to the city’s Digital Inclusion Program Fund. A key element of the project was the negotiation that AT&T and Verizon would deploy the small cells ubiquitously throughout all of San Jose, regardless of the differing income levels of each neighborhood. Over ten years, an estimated $20-24 million will be generated for the Digital Inclusion Program Fund from the leasing of city-owned streetlights.
Municipal networksMunicipal networks are built as a municipal effort and are owned by local governments. These networks take many forms, from modest networks serving a few businesses to networks that are available at every address across a community. Some are run by the city and others are managed by an ISP under contract. More than 500 communities have invested in municipal networks networks using a variety of models to achieve a variety of public policy goals, from creating a better business climate to digital inclusion to lowering prices for residents. Examples include Chattanooga, Tennessee; Wilson, North Carolina; and Sandy, Oregon.
Public-private partnershipsMunicipalities and private companies can collaborate to share the risks and rewards of a network investment. Public-private partnerships can take many forms and can divide responsibility and roles between municipalities and vendors in a variety of ways. Public-private partnerships offer an alternative to an entirely government-owned and operated municipal network. The city of Westminster, Maryland has a very successful public-private partnership with private provider Ting.
Financing modelsSome financing options to consider:
- Public municipal bond offering: A local government or utility issues revenue bonds that are secured by the revenue source from the broadband buildout. Note that these bonds do not need to be sold in traditional $5000 denominations. These bonds are sold to investors, including local residents. Examples include Fort Collins, Colorado and Longmont, Colorado.
- Private municipal bond offering: A local government or utility issues revenue bonds, or other debt instruments, that are sold privately, often to high net worth individuals or institutions, and would not be available for purchase by local investors. Ammon, Idaho is an example.
- Direct loan/private loan (debt financing): A good example of this is when a bank provides a short-term loan to get the network off the ground. A loan like this could cover initial construction costs and then the community could find another financing solution if needed to continue. Examples include Downeast Economist Development, Maine and Reedsburg, Wisconsin.
- Internal loans: A department within the local government loans another department the necessary capital for building the network. Many states regulate the minimum interest rate and requirements for such a loan. Chattanooga, Tennessee is an example.
- Private equity financing: A third party investor provides the startup capital and then owns the network for an agreed-upon period of time before giving the community a buy-back option. Examples include Monmouth, Independence and Dallas, Oregon.
- Avoided costs: A local government redirects existing funds used to lease connections from an existing provider to build and operate its own network, often resulting in faster connections at lower prices. If payback is longer than one year, bonds may be issued and repaid with the budget that had been used to lease lines. This approach is most common with smaller networks built incrementally, not citywide projects. Examples include Santa Monica, California and Ammon’s LID 1.
Consider your community’s prioritiesThinking through your municipality’s priorities prior to meeting with a potential partner can help ensure you end up with an agreement that reflects community needs and desires. It’s important to have a good handle on what aspects of a project you want firmly in your wheelhouse, and which you’re comfortable with or enthusiastic to outsource. Various partnership models entail different levels of risk and reward for a community, and local governments should be prepared to assess their own risk tolerance before creating a partnership.For example, the city of Westminster, Maryland knew that while they needed improved internet access for residents, they weren’t up for taking on the role of a municipal broadband provider. On the other hand, they did want to make sure that any infrastructure that was invested in would be publicly owned. The city ended up finding its perfect partner in private company Ting, and developed a plan together that suited both parties’ strengths and priorities.
Designate a point personIt is often helpful to appoint one municipal employee to act specifically as a point person between the community and its partners. This can streamline information sharing and help eliminate crossed wires between various contacts and the siloing of departments. Implementing this practice early on, during the RFP stage, shows investors that your municipality is easy to work with and would be an effective partner.In Kansas City, Missouri, Assistant City Manager Rick Usher served as the main point of contact for Google Fiber. He wrote about the importance of communication and collaboration between the city and its partner in a piece for Government Technology:
- Take rates. How many households and businesses have gotten online?
- Diversity of institutions on the network. Are the benefits of connectivity reaching all corners of your community?
- Financial stability. Is the network’s business model sustainable based on take rates and returns on investment? This calculation will take different variables into consideration based on the type of project. For example, a municipal network breaking even can be considered a net positive, because the public investment will have brought additional tangible and intangible benefits to the community.
- New businesses. Have new companies chosen to set up shop in your community? Are existing businesses taking advantage of new opportunities?
- Mutually beneficial partnerships. Have partnerships been formed with stakeholders that maximize benefits and mitigate risk for all parties?
- Engaged community. Is the community involved in and supportive of the project? Does the project work to serve true community needs?
Manage expectationsAcknowledge from the onset that the project itself will likely change significantly throughout its course, and be sure to adjust expectations accordingly.
Maintain communicationMaintaining open communication with stakeholders and the public throughout the course of the project is key to its success.
- Understand how broadband access would impact your community
- Talk with your local elected leadership about the importance of investing in broadband access
Build a community movement
- Use the convening power of the city, town, or county to bring together stakeholder groups for conversation, information sharing, and brainstorming
- Consider the anchor institutions, community groups, and local businesses that could help involve residents in a discussion about broadband
- Identify individuals who are trusted members of their community (faith-based leaders, activists, nonprofit staff, etc). Seek their advice and keep them well informed of the process and progress.
- Brainstorm methods of communication that make sense for your municipality and your community (for example: an email newsletter, Facebook page, mailings, etc)
- Create a communications plan that is consistent, transparent, and inclusive
Evaluate the current circumstance
- Map all municipally-owned fiber, conduit, and towers and create a simple system to allow you to share with relevant parties
- Develop policies and a contract template to simplify leasing these assets
- Ascertain the level of service offered by current service providers. Is it sufficient to meet the needs of businesses, anchor institutions, and residents? Are residents able to afford the cost of the existing service?
- Evaluate if there are private assets that could be leveraged to support better service to residents
Establish policies and procedures to support investment
- Consider your municipality’s priorities when it comes to small cell design
- Consider municipal districts in which you might want specified designs, such as historic, oceanfront, or theater districts
- Evaluate your municipality’s structural assets
- Identify or create a system for mapping those assets throughout the community (see asset mapping)
Prioritize digital inclusion
- Consider who in your community is unconnected and why
- Make a list of organizations and anchor institutions that work with unconnected populations. How might they be able to help?
- Convene a group of leaders – community members, business, faith-based, school, library, nonprofit, housing authority, and other interested parties – to brainstorm collaborative solutions
- Create a digital inclusion master plan that includes action steps and goals
- Learn about the options for low-cost access in your community
- Work with trusted anchor institutions, advocacy groups, and nonprofits to alert low-income residents about options for low-cost access
Advocate for local control
- Join Next Century Cities
- Join the Coalition for Local Internet Choice
- Connect with your state’s municipal league
- Research existing or pending laws and policies that could limit your local control:
- SmartWorks Partners’ guide to state restrictions on small cell deployments
- Baller Stokes & Lide, PC’s guide to state restrictions on community broadband services
- Pew Charitable Trusts’ State Broadband Policy Explorer
- Community Broadband Networks’ map of state restrictions on community broadband networks
- Next Century Cities’ state-by-state guide to pole attachments
Explore connectivity options
- Consider your community’s priorities when it comes to ownership and risk. What aspects of a network do you prefer to keep in-house, and what aspects do you prefer to outsource?
Explore financing options
- Bring your community’s Finance Director or CFO into a project as early as possible
- Explore available financing mechanisms early in a project’s life
- Gauge your community members’ appetite for public investment
- Determine if anchor institutions in your community are already receiving grants or loans from federal broadband programs
- Determine your community’s and anchor institutions’ eligibility for existing federal and state programs
Be a clear collaborator
- Establish your community’s priorities in a partnership. On what are you willing to compromise? What is non-negotiable?
- Create a system for smooth communication; selecting a one person contact within city hall can make the process simpler for the partner and therefore less likely to create confusion
- Research similar or complementary initiatives within other municipal departments or at the state level
- Hold a community listening session to receive feedback about the project and explore ways in which it could improve
- Maintain a communications strategy that keeps the public informed through all stages of the project
This glossary was developed in partnership with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance
5G, or fifth generation, is the next iteration of cell phone networks. 5G service will be faster and have lower latency than 4G LTE, and will require densely deployed “small cells” rather than the macro cell towers commonly used for 4G. Because many 5G small cells must be deployed closely together in order to create the network, the technology is best suited to densely populated cities. Industry-wide 5G technology standards are still being finalized, and it is not clear when 5G service will be commercially available.
Flagship community institutions, including but not limited to: schools, health care centers, and libraries. Anchor institutions are sometimes connected to fiber even when fiber service is not commercially available in the community. Because of this, they can act as a connection to the internet backbone.
Internet connections have two components – a downstream and upstream. When the two speeds are not comparable, the connection is termed asymmetric. Typically, phone and cable companies offer much slower upload speeds than download, in part because the Internet tended to be a download-centric system in the 90’s and early 00’s. However, users increasingly need faster upstream connections to take full advantage of modern applications.
A general term for the segment of a network between the core and the edge. An example: the connection from a community network hub in a small town to a carrier hotel where it connects to the Internet backbone.
The rate at which the network can transmit information across it. Generally, higher bandwidth is desirable. The amount of bandwidth available to you can determine whether you download a photo in 2 seconds or 2 minutes.
The base unit of information in computing. For our purposes, also the base unit of measuring network speeds. 1 bit is a single piece of information. Network speeds tend to be measured by bits per second – using kilo (1,000), mega (1,000,000), and giga (1,000,000,000). A bit is a part of byte, they are not synonyms. Bit is generally abbreviated with a lower case b.
A speed benchmark set and updated by the Federal Communications Commission. The benchmark was last updated in 2015 to define broadband as 25 mbps download speeds and 3 mbps upload speeds. “Broadband” is generally shorthand for quality internet service.
Broadband Technology Opportunities Program – established by the 2009 stimulus legislation, a program to disburse $4.7 billion to improve broadband access and literacy throughout the country.
The base unit for file storage. Comprised of 8 bits (just to confuse you – if you don’t like powers of 2, stay away from computer science). A 1MB (megabyte) file is made of 8 million bits. Bytes generally refer to the size of storage whereas bits are used frequently when discussing how rapidly files may be moved. Byte is generally abbreviated with a capital B.
cable modem system
Cable television companies have offered Internet access via their cable system for more than a decade. The network architecture uses a loop that connects each subscriber in a given neighborhood, meaning they all share one big connection to the Internet. Over time, needs have increased faster than capacity on these networks. Because the cable network shares the last mile connection among hundreds of subscribers, a few bandwidth hogs can slow everyone’s experience.
Some refer to the entire Internet as a cloud – the idea being that all the information is just out there and it does not matter where. More commonly now, cloud computing refers to services such as Amazon’s S3 where users pay a fee to store information on Amazon’s servers without ever really knowing the physical location. As we gain access to faster Internet connections (particularly on the upstream) cloud services may offer cheaper means of accomplishing tasks and more reliable back ups.
A reinforced tube through which cabling runs. Conduit is useful both to protect fiber-optic cables in the ground and because one can place the conduit underground when convenient and later “blow” or “pull” the fiber cabling through the conduit.
A non-profit, member-owned organization that provides a needed service. Members pay a small fee to join and have voting rights within the organization.
Customer Premises Equipment – typically describes the box on the side of a house that receives and sends the signal from the network, connecting the subscriber.
Unused fiber infrastructure that has not been “lit” with internet service. When someone is building a fiber network, the cost of adding more fiber than immediately required is negligible and the cost of having to add more fiber later is very high. Therefore, many include dark fiber in projects – fibers that can be leased to others or held in reserve for a future need.
A large group of networked computer servers typically used by organizations for the remote storage, processing, or distribution of large amounts of data.
The state of all members of a community having equal access and sufficient digital literacy to use communications technologies.
The actions required in order to achieve digital equity.
This is a technical specification that allows modern cable networks to offer two-way data transmissions. Every few years, the standards are improved to offer higher speeds. DOCSIS has historically offered much slower upstream and downstream but that is expected to change for very high speeds in both directions in the years after 2020.
Internet connections have two components – a downstream and upstream. Downstream refers to the rate at which the user’s computer can receive data from the Internet.
Digital Subscriber Line – or Internet access offered over the phone lines. DSL allows users to use the Internet at speeds greater than dial-up while also using the phone line for telephone conversations. DSL uses frequencies not used by human voices. Unfortunately, these frequencies degrade quickly over distance, meaning customers must live within a mile or even much closer to the central office to get the fastest speeds. In any event, upstream speeds over DSL tend to top out at 5 Mbps.
A situation in which two companies own all or nearly all of the market for a given type of product or service.
A system that uses glass (or plastic) to carry light which is used to transmit information. Typically, each side of the fiber is attached to a laser that send the light signals. When the connection reaches capacity, the lasers may be upgraded to send much more information along the same strand of fiber. This technology has been used for decades and will remain the dominant method of transmitting information for the foreseeable future.
Verizon was the first large carrier to build a FTTH network. This network is called FiOS.
A connectivity model that uses stationary wireless technology to bridge the “last mile” between the internet backbone and the subscriber.
A cable company wishing to provide television services in a community historically signed a franchise agreement with the municipal government. The agreement would specify what the community would receive from the cable company in return for access to rights of way (such as telephone poles). However, this arrangement has changed in many states, where states have preempted local control. Cities have not been permitted to offer exclusive franchises since 1992.
Fiber-to-the-home. As most telecommunications networks use fiber in some part of it, FTTH is used to specify those that use fiber to connect the subscriber. Some claim they have a fiber-optic network because they use fiber to the node even when they use phone lines or a cable network over the last mile. FTTH may be more expensive to install, but offers significant savings in terms of maintenance when compared to copper alternatives.
Fiber-to-the-Premise or Fiber-to-the-User are used somewhat interchangeably with FTTH to describe full fiber networks.
Gigabits per second – or one billion bits per second. 8 Gbps means that 8 billion bits are transferred each second. 1 Kbps (Kilobits)<1 Mbps (Megabits)<1 Gbps
Shorthand for 1 gbps (1,000 mbps) download speeds. More colloquially, a speed fast enough that any number of applications can use the network without creating congestion.
A plot of land that will soon become a residential development. Building a broadband network is cheap in greenfields because roads, sidewalks, lawns, and buildings are not yet impediments to running the necessary wires.
Hybrid Fiber-Coax – a network that combines some fiber-optic elements (typically from the head end to a node in the field) and coaxial cable (typically the loop that connects the node to subscribers).
Short for Institutional Network. This is the network a municipal government requires to carry out its duties. I-Net frequently refers specifically to a network built for city uses (connecting schools, for instance) by the cable company as part of the franchise agreement with the city. Cities are increasingly seeing the value of owning their own network.
Synonyms: Institutional Network
Internet of things/IoT
Reference to internet-connected devices — anything from laptops and smartphones to “smart” streetlights or thermostats.
Kilobits per second – a measure of speed. 8 Kbps means that 8 thousand bits are transferred each second. Using an 8 Kbps connection, it would take 1 second to transfer a 1 KB (Kilobyte) file – a text file, for instance. 1 Kbps<1 Mbps (Megabits)<1 Gbps (Gigabits)
Describes the final leg of a connection between a service provider and the customer. In DSL and cable systems, this is the most frequent bottleneck and the most expensive to resolve. The service provider may run a faster fiber-optic network into the neighborhood but deliver the last mile (which could be considerably less than a mile -“last” is the operative term) with a phone lines that cannot sustain fast speeds.
Synonyms: first mile
The amount of time it takes for a bit to move from point A to point B. In the words of Dr. Stuart Cheshire: “If you want to transfer a large file over your modem it might take several seconds, or even minutes. The less data you send, the less time it takes, but there’s a limit. No matter how small the amount of data, for any particular network device there’s always a minimum time that you can never beat. That’s called the latency of the device.”
Fiber infrastructure that is being used to provide internet service.
A cell used to provide cell network coverage to a large area (compared to small cells, which cover a smaller area). Often mounted on towers.
Megabits per second – a measure of speed. 8 Mbps means that 8 million bits are transferred each second. Using an 8 Mbps connection, it would take 1 second to transfer an 1 MB (Megabyte) file – a photo, for instance. Don’t get lost in the details – when it comes to Mbps, more is faster. 1 Kbps (Kilobits)<1 Mbps<1 Gbps (Gigabits)
Multiple dwelling unit – most frequently apartment buildings. MDUs can offer a challenge when building a FTTH network due to the need to negotiate with building owners and rewiring that may be necessary to bring fast speeds to each unit.
Middle mile is a term most often referring to the network connection between the last mile and greater Internet. For instance, in a rural area, the middle mile would likely connect the town’s network to a larger metropolitan area where it interconnects with major carriers.
A broadband network owned by a local government. These networks take many forms, from modest networks serving a few businesses to networks that are available at every address across a community. Some are run by the municipality and others are managed by an ISP under contract.
National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisers. NATOA is comprised of local government officials and employees that work on cable and broadband issues – from public access television to managing the community’s rights-of-way.
National Telecommunications and Information Administration – a division of the Department of Commerce in Washington, DC.
An arrangement in which the network is open to independent service providers to offer services. In many cases, the network owner only sells wholesale access to the service providers who offer all retail services (ie: triple play of internet, phone, tv). Open access provides much more competition from which potential subscribers can choose.
To create a network that goes into competition with an incumbent provider.
Residences or businesses that have access to the network. As a ftth network is constructed, it will generally be built through a neighborhood before individual houses or businesses are connected via a drop cable (which is also a fiber-optic cable). When a house or businesses is”passed,”it means they are eligible to sign up for services (which may still require a technician to hook up the drop cable).
This is a type of network that allows computers to connect directly to each other rather than organizing them via hierarchical connections. This term is most often used to describe a type of file sharing that has greatly increased bandwidth usage and allow faster downloading of the same file from multiple computers. These networks are more difficult to surveil because traffic does not reliably pass through bottlenecks. Synonyms: p2p
PEG is an acronym for Public Access, Educational, and Government video programs. These are common programming options made available to the community by the cable company in return for access to the community’s rights of way.
A Point of Presence is an access point that provides a connection from one location to the rest of the Internet. ISPs have multiple PoPs within their networks.
A public-private partnership divides risks and responsibilities of an infrastructure project between public and private entities.
Rural Utilities Service – a branch of the US Department of Agriculture. RUS offers loans and grants to entities deploying broadband in rural areas in addition to supporting other utilities in rural regions.
Small cells provide wireless service via a connection to fiber optic networks. These units are much smaller and exist closer to the user — often attached to telephone poles and light posts — than macro cells (“cell towers”). Small cells already exist in many cities to provide 4G service.
Used generally to describe a community that uses IoT technologies and data to optimize quality of life.
Internet connections have two components – a downstream and upstream. When the two speeds are comparable, the connection is termed symmetric. Fiber-optic networks more readily offer symmetrical connections than DSL and cable, which are inherently asymmetrical. Ultimately, purely symmetrical connections are less important than connections which offer robust connections in both ways. However, modern asymmetrical connections via DSL and cable networks offer upload speeds that are too slow for a household to concurrently use modern applications.
A data circuit that transmits at 1.544 Mbps.
Synonyms: T-1, T.1
The number of subscribers to a service – typically expressed in a percentage of those taking the service divided by the total number of people who could take the service. If a community fiber network passes 10,000 people and 6,000 people subscribe, it has a take rate of 60%. When planning the network, it will be built to be profitable at or above a certain take rate as defined in the business plan. Generally, networks require a few years to achieve take rates due to the long time it takes to connect each customer.
Telephone company – a provider of telecommunications services such as voice (telephony) and data services. Also called common carriers or LECs (Local Exchange Carriers); ILECs are incumbent providers, like AT&T or Verizon.
Health care initiatives supported by a broadband connection. Telehealth applications are especially reliant on high-capacity, low-latency service. Goals include the ability to bring quality health care to those living far from hospitals or to elderly patients wishing to age in place.
This term refers to a variety of attempts to use modern technology to make it seem like a person in a remote location is in the room. The more bandwidth available, the more realistic the remote person will appear. Modern telepresence applications are impressive, using sophisticated algorithms with multiple video cameras and microphones to go far beyond video-telephone systems.
The three main services offered over these networks – television, phone services, and Internet access. Many people like to get all three from the same service provider on the same bill. Service providers frequently offer deals that will lower the cost on these packages. Typically, television breaks even or loses money whereas the service provider makes the most profits from phone and Internet access.
Internet connections have two components – a downstream and upstream. Upstream refers to the rate at which the user’s computer can send data to the Internet. DSL and cable networks frequently offer upload speeds at only 1/10 of the downstream speeds. This is one of the main reasons DSL and cable networks are insufficient for the modern Internet.
Universal Service Fund – a federal program with four programs: high cost (subsidizes the high cost of services in rural areas), low income (includes Lifeline and Link Up discounts to those in poverty), rural health care (reduced rates to rural health care providers to ensure they have access to similar services as urban counterparts), and schools and libraries (E-Rate subsidizes telecommunication services to schools and libraries).
A private company that sells broadband equipment, builds infrastructure, or provides broadband service.
This is a suite of protocols that allow wireless devices to exchange information using unlicensed frequencies. Equipment carrying the Wi-Fi brand is interoperable.