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Broadband prospect out; county considers ‘Plan B’

FTS Fiber of Monkton, Md., last year proposed to build a 129-mile fiber optic network that would reach the far corners of Fauquier.

The Cedar Run District supervisor had hoped that by now construction would begin on a fiber optic network to extend broadband internet service throughout rural Fauquier.

But the county’s only prospect to build that system[1] — Maryland-based Freedom Telecom Services Inc.[2], doing business as FTS Fiber — last fall underwent a “restructuring” that cast doubt on its ability to get the job done, Supervisor Rick Gerhardt said. The company’s reorganization involved the resignation of CEO Brett Hill and the December sale of the fiber optic network — worth an estimated £20 million — it built for Kent County, Md. Because no other company submitted a proposal to build Fauquier’s fiber network, the board of supervisors Thursday probably will cancel the project.

And because of uncertainty about FTS, the board plans to withdraw its acceptance[3] of the company’s proposal to construct a 129-mile fiber optic cable network here. Those decisions represent a big setback for Mr. Gerhardt, who with the county staff has spent almost two years studying how to provide broadband to Fauquier’s “unserved and underserved” areas.

But the freshman supervisor believes his “Plan B,” which would involve cash incentives to wireless providers, might soon make broadband available to more Fauquier residents. Mr. Gerhardt first grew concerned about FTS late last year.

“I started seeing things that were being said, articles from Kent County, etcetera,” he explained. The Kent County News[4] on Sept.

26 reported that some citizens said construction of the network there had stopped and that “rumors are that FTS is bankrupt and that employees are being asked to return equipment.” Construction resumed, but FTS sold the incomplete 110-mile network to Kent FOS, a startup company.

FTS Chief Commercial Officer Adam Noll and Mr. Hill, the company’s former CEO, failed to return phone messages seeking comment. Dee-Anna Sobczak, chief executive of Kent FOS, declined to discuss details of her company’s deal to buy the Kent County network.

Calling the FTS turn of events a “kick in the teeth” and “a gut punch,” Mr. Gerhardt said: “I thought we were on the right track here. This was a pretty big disappointment for me.”

Mr. Gerhardt, Supervisor Mary Leigh McDaniel (Marshall) and Deputy County Administrator Katie Heritage in January 2017 visited Kent County to hear about the broadband network FTS would build there. They came away impressed.

“We were very encouraged,” Mr. Gerhardt recalled. “It was a great concept, and it was working.” Kent County’s system represented a model he believed FTS could replicate in Fauquier.

Under FTS’s proposal, the company would run 129 miles of fiber optic cable throughout Fauquier — from Goldvein to Upperville and Remington to Catlett. > Document at bottom of story The network would have connected schools, libraries, fire/rescue stations and other public buildings directly to the cable.

FTS would have sold network access to “last-mile” providers to serve homes and businesses throughout Fauquier. The county’s capital improvements plan includes £20 million to build a countywide fiber optic network — money that would be spent, as needed, on a system generating enough revenue to cover Fauquier’s investment. But because of doubts about the FTS proposal, lack of response from companies willing to build the network and Fauquier’s fiscal 2019 budget demands, all or some of the £20 million reserved for broadband might get pulled from the county’s construction plan, Mr.

Gerhardt said. “I just don’t know when it all shakes out whether the other board members are going to have the stomach to make that type of investment, given what we’re looking from a budgetary perspective this go round,” he added. Fauquier’s broadband consultant, Design Nine Inc. of Blacksburg in 2016 estimated it could cost £19.7 million to build a network to serve almost the entire county.

To restart the process, somehow attracting companies that would install a fiber optic network, would take too long and again might prove fruitless, Mr. Gerhardt said. “We spent a year looking at this infrastructure, only to come to this conclusion, based on things completely out of our control,” he said. “What our constituents want right now — particularly those constituents who are in unserved and underserved areas — they want broadband.”

He believes “the quickest way” to accomplish that would be to “incentivize” wireless internet service providers using existing fiber, telecommunication towers and other technology to make “the last-mile” broadband connections to homes and businesses. “We gotta go to ‘Plan B’,” Mr. Gerhardt said of that approach.

The Herndon-based Center for Innovative Technology has agreed to help the county create such a plan, which should be completed in six to eight weeks, Mr. Gerhardt said. “I fully expect it to look something like: ‘We have this pot of money we’re willing to throw at you as a subsidy . . . .

Give us a proposal on what you can do and how many people it’s going to affect’.” That “pot of money” would include county and Warrenton-based PATH Foundation funds, said Mr. Gerhardt, who serves on the nonprofit’s board.

“They already have £100,000 in their budget for broadband for 2018,” said Mr. Gerhardt, chairman of the county’s broadband authority. “Along with them, we’re going to try to come up with a solution, financially anyway. “I can assume they will follow our lead.

I’ve had conversations that clearly lead me to believe that.” “If the county proposes a cost-sharing, dollar-for-dollar match approach to funding that would incentivize providers to improve broadband services for local residents, we would look at such a proposal very favorably,” PATH Foundation Communications Director Amy Petty wrote in an email. Internet access “is important” to health, education, “home businesses” and telecommuters, Ms.

Petty added. “Like our county government, the PATH Foundation is committed to helping with this major countywide infrastructure need.” An incentive plan would include “controls” over money given to companies selected to provide wireless service, Mr. Gerhardt said.

“Obviously, we’re not going to just say, ‘Here’s a £500,000 check. Do what you want with it.’ There will be controls put in place whereby we know exactly how it’s being spent and that it is in fact being spent.” He wants the county to advertise the project for competitive bids by April.

“My goal is sometime before the end” the first quarter this year, “which is a bold goal.” When could wireless companies chosen to participate in an incentive project begin providing additional broadband internet service? “That’s a question for them, not for me,” Mr.

Gerhardt replied. Ultimately, he considers a fiber optic cable network critical to Fauquier’s future. But, “frankly, at this point, who knows what we’ll do with the infrastructure,” Mr.

Gerhardt said. “In my personal opinion, you still need the infrastructure to support commerce in this county, to bring additional commerce in this county — whether it’s data centers, whether its cell towers, whether its wireless internet service providers.”

References

  1. ^ only prospect to build that system (www.fauquiernow.com)
  2. ^ Freedom Telecom Services Inc. (www.ftsfiber.com)
  3. ^ withdraw its acceptance (agenda.fauquiercounty.gov)
  4. ^ Kent County News (www.pressreader.com)

Inside Universal Music’s awesome studios in Johannesburg

South Africa has a rich music scene, which boasts impressive artists, shows, and venues. An integral aspect of putting together a good track is a high-quality, controlled environment – such as Universal Music South Africa’s studios in Rosebank, Johannesburg. MyBroadband was lucky enough to visit the studios recently and sit in on a recording session with singer-songwriter Dominic Neill.

Neill is a local artist who appeared on Idols SA, starred in the hit song Love You Still[1] with DJ Kent, and released the album Out of My League[2]. We also spoke to studio engineer Donovan Leon about the impressive technology and design behind the studio. From high-end analogue workstations to full live stages, Universal Music South Africa is packed with great tech and devices.


Studio control rooms

The studio comprises neighbouring recording and control rooms, connected via a sophisticated cable routing system.

This allows a studio engineer to control the sound from any of the recording rooms in the studio. The studio control rooms feature digital and analogue workstations, along with powerful desktop machines for audio processing and instruments for production work. Inside Universal Music’s awesome studios in Johannesburg

Inside Universal Music’s awesome studios in Johannesburg Inside Universal Music’s awesome studios in Johannesburg Inside Universal Music’s awesome studios in Johannesburg

Inside Universal Music’s awesome studios in Johannesburg Inside Universal Music’s awesome studios in Johannesburg Inside Universal Music’s awesome studios in Johannesburg

Inside Universal Music’s awesome studios in Johannesburg Inside Universal Music’s awesome studios in Johannesburg Inside Universal Music’s awesome studios in Johannesburg

Inside Universal Music’s awesome studios in Johannesburg


Recording rooms

The studio’s recording rooms feature soundproofed walls and elevated floors to minimise vibrations and acoustic interference. The padded wall segments operate on hinges with wooden panels on the other side, allowing a studio engineer to tweak the acoustics of the room and produce the desired recording environment. Microphones and other recording hardware can also be swapped out, depending on the needs of the artist in session.

Inside Universal Music’s awesome studios in Johannesburg Inside Universal Music’s awesome studios in Johannesburg Inside Universal Music’s awesome studios in Johannesburg

Inside Universal Music’s awesome studios in Johannesburg


Recording

Neill was in session at Universal Studios and allowed us to sit in on the recording process. Inside Universal Music’s awesome studios in Johannesburg Inside Universal Music’s awesome studios in Johannesburg

Inside Universal Music’s awesome studios in Johannesburg

Inside Universal Music’s awesome studios in Johannesburg

Inside Universal Music’s awesome studios in Johannesburg


Now read: Inside the biggest music and tech store in Africa – Photos[3]

References

  1. ^ Love You Still (youtu.be)
  2. ^ Out of My League (play.google.com)
  3. ^ Inside the biggest music and tech store in Africa – Photos (mybroadband.co.za)

Proposed fiber optic plan would cover most of county

Monkton, Md.-based Freedom Telecom Services Inc. proposes building a 129-mile network of “dark” — or private, dedicated — fiber optic cable that would reach Fauquier’s extremities. It would connect 39 public buildings directly to the network and make access available to “last-mile” providers for service to remote homes and businesses that lack broadband.

A Maryland company has proposed construction of a 129-mile fiber optic cable network to provide broadband service to rural areas of Fauquier County.

The county supervisors last week voted, 4-0, to accept the preliminary, conceptual plan from Freedom Telecom Services Inc., doing business as FTS Fiber1. Founded in 2015, the Monkton, Md., firm would run dedicated fiber optic cable2 throughout Fauquier — from Goldvein to Upperville and Remington to Catlett — according to its 253-page proposal. It would connect schools, libraries, fire/rescue stations and other public buildings directly to the fiber network. Submitted under Virginia’s Public Private Education and Infrastructure Act, the proposal must compete with any bid that another firm might offer in the next 45 days. After review, county officials plan to select a contractor with which to negotiate a final contract. Financial details of the FTS proposal remain secret, redacted from the public version of its submission, under provisions of state law. > FTS proposal at bottom of story

Fauquier’s board of supervisors has committed to invest up to $20 million in a rural broadband solution. “I love where we are right now,” board Chairman Rick Gerhardt (Cedar Run District) said last week. “We haven’t made any decision. It’s a Virginia public-private process from here on out.

“I think at the end of the day, we’ll get a very good project.” FTS recently built a similar network of 110 miles3 for rural Kent County on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Under the county plan, Fauquier’s new broadband authority — with the supervisors as its board of directors — would provide capital to build the fiber optic backbone.

The selected network company would sell access to “last mile” providers that serve homeowners and businesses. The authority would share revenue, used to repay the county’s investment. Center District Supervisor Chris Granger said he didn’t want Warrenton and the surrounding area, which has the county’s best internet service options, to get left out.

“I worry this could put my district at a competitive disadvantage,” Mr. Granger said. “There’s not fiber like this in town.” But, Mr. Gerhardt predicted that building a county fiber network would improve options in already-served areas, including Warrenton. Comcast and Verizon would face new competition, which should benefit consumers throughout the county, he added. “I expect any final offer to provide fiber to homes in Warrenton and other areas,” even though the plan calls for extending broadband to remote areas as its primary focus, Mr. Gerhardt said. The FTS plan calls for installing fiber optic cable underground and on utility poles in four phases: o May/June 2018 — From Goldvein to Bealeton and Catlett, connecting 15 public sites, including parks, schools, fire/rescue stations, libraries and trash/recycling centers.

o February 2019 — From Bealeton to Remington and Warrenton, New Baltimore and Vint Hill, connecting 11 public sites. o November/December 2019 — Warrenton west along Route 211 to the Rappahannock River, and Warrenton north to Marshall, The Plains and New Baltimore, connecting seven public sites. o October 2020 — Marshall to Orlean along Route 688, and Marshall to Linden, Rectortown and Upperville, connecting six public sites. The FTS proposal presumably would make it practical for wireless service providers to reach more than 90 percent of the county with broadband. Wi4ME LLC of McLean also made a proposal to provide rural broadband in Fauqiuer. “The other company is basically a startup,” Supervisor Chris Butler (Lee) said. “The move to FTS seems best to me.”

Mr. Gerhardt, who has led the county’s broadband effort, said improving service — particularly in rural areas — remains one of the board’s top priorities. “Our ultimate goal is to engage with a proposer who is willing to build a revenue-producing infrastructure that provides needed connectivity to county assets, facilitates last mile solutions and offers ROI (return on investment) for the county through revenue sharing and economic expansion,” he said last Thursday, reading from a prepared statement.

“I’d like to emphasize, once again, that this board has no intention of spending $20 million to merely provide broadband for only 10,000 households,” Mr. Gerhardt said. “That notion is simply false. We see this is a substantial project with multiple wins for individual households, commercial businesses and the county as a whole.”

FTS founder and CEO failed to return phone messages seeking comment about his company and its proposal for Fauquier. Supervisor Holder Trumbo (Scott) missed last Thursday’s special meeting.

FTS Fiber – Fauquier County Proposal Final – Public Copy_Redacted4 by Fauquier Now5 on Scribd

References

  1. ^ FTS Fiber (www.ftsfiber.com)
  2. ^ fiber optic cable (www.lifewire.com)
  3. ^ similar network of 110 miles (fiber.kentcounty.com)
  4. ^ View FTS Fiber – Fauquier County Proposal Final – Public Copy_Redacted on Scribd (www.scribd.com)
  5. ^ View Fauquier Now’s profile on Scribd (www.scribd.com)