Public version of broadband report released

By Hank Lohmeyer


An 81-page public version of the 120-page plan for Region 10's middle mile fiberoptic network has been released.

The report was authored by NEO Fiber, Inc., a digital consultantcy headquartered in Carbondale.

Delta County is planning to set up a question and answer session later this month to explain the next steps.

Titled "Region 10 Broadband Blueprint," the document holds out prospects for a middle mile fiberoptic network that will eventually offer lower cost gigabit-speed (Gbps) Internet access to up to 224 anchor institutions in the region.

In the opening executive summary of the report (one of six sections covered in the 81-page document) cost figures are addressed.

"Currently anchor tenants and service providers are paying $6,000 - $15,000 per month for 1 Gbps. The network could be built in such a way to reduce the monthly access fees and to share in the costs of these monthly fees by aggregating usage over the regional network. Targeted pricing for 1 Gbps service after the network has been implemented is $1,200 to $1,500 per month, a dramatic 75 to 90 percent less than what is currently being charged."

Additional financial data is presented a bit further on.

"The conservative financial model shows positive earnings with a five-year ramp-up serving 80 percent of the targeted 224 anchor institutions and providing Internet access to existing ISPs (Internet service providers). Current pricing of $30 to $50 per Mbps (million bits per second) would be dramatically reduced to $1.87 to $2.25 per Mbps with ample room for mark-up for the ISPs. ISPs could then extend this network to serve the other businesses and residents in the communities. This potential and additional revenue is not currently reflected in the financial model.

"Currently the anchor institutions do not ever or rarely subscribe to Gigabit-type services as these services are presently unaffordable. Gbps Internet service pricing currently ranges between $6,000 to $15,000 per month. If the anchor institutions were connected on the Region 10 network and the aggregation of demand for Gigabit-type services were enabled, the anchor institutions would be able to receive pricing targeted at $1,800 to $2,200 per month, a dramatic improvement towards the affordability of abundant broadband."

A long discussion of ownership models for the middle mile network is included.

"It is (NEO Fiber's) recommendation for Region 10 to submit the grant application to DOLA, own the network and enter into memorandums of understanding with the various member organizations that will support and provide additional funding for this grant application. Region 10 can then enter into agreements with service providers to provide services to the end users. Region 10 can also outsource various functions for operations of the network, such as network monitoring, maintenance of the network, truck rolls and repair services and perhaps even customer service functions."

Sections of the report in addition to the executive summary include the following: Benefits of advanced communication broadband networks like the one envisaged in the report; service delivery models; technology plan for network layout; operational considerations, revenue projections, operating expenses, financial plan; and collaboration and aggregation of demand and associated cost savings/benefits.

The final section of the report titled "Priorities, plans, recommendations and next steps" lays out the following nine-step procedure for implementation of the blueprint plan:

1. Apply for grant funding through DOLA for Phase 1, Delta and Montrose counties. (Completed.)

2. Apply for grant funding through DOLA for Phase 2, Gunnison, Ouray, Hinsdale and San Miguel counties.

3. Consider opting out of SB-152 for all or as many communities within the region as possible. Opting out of SB-152 will allow for more options to further serve the end users within the communities. This project is currently able to meet the needs of the government users and quasi-government use. The project can currently allow ISPs to use this network to expand further into the community. However, opting out of SB-152 will allow this network to be leveraged even further to build to end users, whether this is done by the ISPs or by Region 10 or by Region 10 members.

4. Implement network build-friendly policies in all of the communities. This includes dig-once policies, abandoned conduit and fiber ordinances and simplified permitting and pole attachment policies.

5. Acquire access to licensed wireless spectrum. Wireless connectivity can serve as an interim solution where building fiber is not yet possible or feasible. If licensed spectrum can be acquired, the throughput and performance attributes are much more favorable than unlicensed spectrum. As stated earlier, line of sight may not be needed with licensed spectrum and distances supported with licensed spectrum may be greater than with unlicensed spectrum. Wireless equipment could be placed on poles or on buildings to support a wireless overlay network. This network could be used to provide wireless capabilities to outlying areas within a county to within communities to provide Internet access. This network could also serve the mobile, portable, tourist and public safety applications for users. This could be done in partnership with the existing wireless providers in each of the communities or could be done independently.

6. Document placement of conduit, fiber facilities. As this network and any other assets are built, acquired or discovered, document the location of these assets in a GIS-based system. Continue to document these assets are they are leveraged and built out further either by Region 10 and its members or by the service providers, power companies and other infrastructure companies.

7. Continue to perfect easements for commercial and broadband purposes.

8. Continue to work with Tri-State, DMEA, San Miguel Power, WAPA (Western Area Power Authority), EagleNet and other infrastructure owners in regards to swapping fiber, leasing dark fiber and IRUs (indefeisable rights of use), joint builds and sharing of resources for future builds.

9. Engage in outsourcing various functions of network operations. Requests for proposals can be written and sent out to companies.