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Bath MP Ben Howlett ‘pleased’ at increased broadband coverage across Bath

MP Ben Howlett has welcomed the news that in Bath there is now 94.6% coverage for superfast broadband, thanks to the Government’s Superfast Broadband Programme.

Bath MP Ben Howlett 'pleased' At Increased Broadband Coverage Across Bath

Bath MP Ben Howlett 'pleased' At Increased Broadband Coverage Across Bath

The Government recently provided an update on superfast broadband across the country, revealing superfast broadband is now available to 92% of premises nationally, of which 4.3 million have got their availability thanks to the Government’s Superfast Broadband Programme. Speaking about broadband progress, Matt Hancock the Minister for Digital and Culture, said: “This is great progress, but we recognise that there is more to be done to deliver the connectivity Britain needs and consumers need.

“Digital infrastructure is critical to the future of our economy and we are working hard to ensure high-speed, high-quality broadband is rolled out to every home and business in the country.”

Commenting on the provision of broadband in Bath, Ben said: “I am pleased to see that progress has been made on broadband provision across the city.

“I am continually lobbying the Government on behalf of residents for improved broadband speeds in Bath and whilst it is encouraging to see that more houses are getting fast broadband, it is welcome that the Government recognise that more needs to be done.

“It is estimated that by December 2017 97.6% of premises across the city will have superfast broadband. I will be continuing to push the Government for increased investment and resources so that 100% of homes and businesses can benefit from the ease superfast broadband brings.”

Areas which have newly available superfast broadband coverage include Walcot Street, Chatham Row, Cleveland Place, Walmsley Terrace, Frankley Buildings and Claremont Buildings.

NMU program expands broadband access in Upper Peninsula

MARQUETTE — A Northern Michigan University effort to provide broadband internet access in rural communities across the Upper Peninsula has gained momentum thanks to a $6.5 million Investment Fund Award from the Michigan Strategic Fund. The funds will be used to accelerate the University’s Educational Access Network project, said Gavin Leach, NMU vice president for finance and administration. The ultimate goal, Leach said, is to extend high-speed educational broadband access throughout the Upper Peninsula, with a special emphasis on school districts in smaller communities. Leach said the MSF award will be used to equip 64 cities and townships for broadband service over the next two years.

“This award enables Northern to build the network much more quickly because the funds are available up front to purchase the equipment needed for the large number of sites,” Leach said. “If we would have had to do it ourselves it would have taken more time, because we would have to build it out — collect some dollars to cover that cost and put the next in.”

Leach said expansion of the EAN would not be possible without the cooperation of municipalities across the Upper Peninsula.

“We’re trying to address the areas that have interest and need,” Leach said. NMU’s EAN is scheduled to be operational in Escanaba within a week, Leach said. The university has also reached or is finalizing agreements with Watersmeet, Crystal Falls, Chatham and Eben, he said. Those were communities that approached NMU about the program, he said.

Crystal Falls, in particular, already had “good fiber” available near a tower to easily connect the system, he said. Water towers have proven helpful in other communities as a high point for mounting equipment, he said.

“It’s a great example of universities and communities working collaboratively for the benefit of creating an educated citizenry through access to broadband.”

In Dickinson County, Leach said he expects such rural schools as the North Dickinson County District could be connected as early as this summer. Every K-12 district in the U.P. should eventually have broadband through this system or another provider if they so choose. When operational, the system also should allow families even as far as 9 miles from the site to subscribe for use from home, rather than need to be in school or at a “hot spot,” he said.

While terrain may prevent some more remote households from receiving a signal, equipment will be set up to target where most people live, Leach said. In some past cases, they have used Google maps to pinpoint locations and design a workable set up that should greatly expand the reach of broadband in the U.P.

“Our goal is to reach as many people as possible,” Leach said, adding, “we get pretty creative” in setting up equipment for maximum service. If routed through a school, those using the system likely would face some limitations on use, since the main aim is to provide access to educational and training programs. It is not designed for business, he said.

Still, it should significant boost the speed and availability of information on the internet to these areas, Leach said. According to an NMU press release, the university will contribute $3.2 million in matching funds to the project. NMU will return a percentage of net proceeds back to the Michigan Strategic Fund to gradually repay the investment as it recovers its costs by selling subscriptions to the EAN, Leach said.

Leach said extra cost is incurred in areas where high structures don’t already exist.

“We’ll have to build them,” Leach said. “The right equipment in the right place is a critical aspect to building a strong, reliable network.”

“In the Upper Peninsula and beyond, many rural households continue to either lack broadband entirely or the minimal speeds required for educational use.”

Leach said the goal is to have more than 50 course offerings in two years for lifelong learners. EAN access is included in tuition for students in NMU’s associate, bachelor’s and master’s degree programs. Community members who take personal and professional development courses pay $34.95 per month for full access to the campus network, with no data caps or reduced speeds. K-12, college and university partners get full access to NMU LTE at school and home for $19.95 per month, with an optional speed upgrade for an additional $5 per month. Access for all requires a one-time purchase of an NMU LTE mobile hot spot, an indoor stationary receiver or a mountable indoor/outdoor receiver.

Houghton and several municipalities in Marquette County currently have access to the EAN, which Leach said provides broadband internet speeds ranging from 10 megabits per second to 30 megabits per second, depending on the system and several other factors. NMU President Fritz Erickson said he expects NMU’s effort to build the EAN and NMU LTE across the U.P. over the next two years could be a national model for providing internet access.

“Michigan and the U.P. can lead the way,” Erickson said.

Rep. John Kivela, D-Marquette, applauded the award in a statement on Tuesday.

“The economic value of high-speed broadband can’t be underestimated,” Kivela said. “The availability of high-speed broadband will help us keep our talented youth here in the U.P. It will also give others who have wanted to live and work here the opportunity to do that.”

The Michigan Strategic Fund is administered by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. For more information on NMU’s Educational Access Initiative, go to nmu.edu/EAN. Lisa Bowers can be reached at 906-486-4401 or lbowers@miningjournal.net.

Daily News Managing Editor Betsy Bloom also contributed to this story.

City Council Must Oppose Municipal Broadband System

Does Savannah need a government-owned broadband network? Should the city be in charge of selling internet service directly to residents? Would a government network bring more jobs to Savannah, or lower the price of internet service? The city council and city officials currently are working with a group of consultants, Magellan Advisors, to determine the answers to those questions. While the city has spent tens of thousands of dollars on its contract with this firm, the answers to all of these questions are obvious: no.

In fact, a municipal broadband system is more likely to harm city taxpayers and internet service consumers than help. Let’s first consider the question of need. Only 6,000 residents in Chatham County, out of about 280,000, do not have access to wired internet of any sort. About 90 percent of Savannah residents can choose from two or more wired internet service providers . The city’s current residential providers offer speeds up to 105 mbps, and its 12 business providers offer speeds that are generally between 100 mbps and one gigabit.

Private providers also are making big new investments here. Last year, Hargray Communications announced a plan to offer one gigabit speeds to Lowcountry customers. In March, Comcast announced its intention to offer 10-gigabit speeds to city businesses. Last month, AT&T said it also will begin offering superfast capacity. Next, let’s look at whether a city should provide service directly to customers. Or, is it wise? To determine that, the city council must ask itself whether it wants to go down the path of Marietta, which ran its own internet company several years ago but was forced to sell that network at a loss when it failed to turn a profit year after year.

Marietta’s mayor eventually admitted the city never should have become an ISP. There are government ISPs that do make a profit every year, but they are rare. Chattanooga’s government-run system is often touted as a model, but the city received more than $100 million from the federal government to get its system started. The council also must consider the opportunity costs. If they vote to fund a government broadband system, how will they pay for it? Will other programs be cut? Sales tax revenues are already declining, and the city is struggling to find the money to pay for basic services like upgrades for Metro Police at a time when we’re also on pace to have more murders this year than last.

Residents deserve a detailed accounting of how our leaders would finance a network, including how they would cover the type of annual losses from which Marietta’s system suffered. Finally, let’s consider whether a city-owned network is a good proposition from economic development and consumer perspectives. The Phoenix Center for Advanced Legal and Economic Public Policy Studies and the New York Law School Advanced Communications Law and Policy Institute have studied whether municipal networks are an economic boon and whether they help reduce the prices internet service consumers pay. Both have concluded that they do not. Additionally, they have argued that government networks actually may reduce competition because municipal providers receive significant subsidies that drastically tilt the playing field in the government’s favor.

Magellan, which is based out of Colorado, says it has “helped” more than 200 cities across the United States decide how to address their broadband needs. For Savannah, the firm will create “a state of broadband report and study” and “work cooperatively” with city officials to create “to examine the financial feasibility of creating an enhanced and more extensive broadband network …”

We know the state of broadband here, and we know the costs municipal networks have imposed on taxpayers in other cities. It’s time the city council tell Magellan no. Stephen Plunk is a Savannah native and graduate of UGA. He is currently the Executive Secretary of the Chatham County Republican Party and was recently appointed to the Savannah Development & Renewal Board.