I was in Duluth this weekend for the MN Voices Online Unconference (I blogged it here) and had the opportunity to meet Danna MacKenzie, the Cook County information systems director in Grand Marais. She was featured in a Strib article a couple of weeks ago about MN communities who are “lining up for part of the $7.2 billion in federal recovery money designated for broadband projects.” Northfield is about to follow suit, as at Monday’s Council meeting, Northfield’s IT Director Melissa Reeder will ask the Council to appoint a workgroup to pursue a federal stimulus grant application for a Fiber to the Premise (FTTP) project. (continued)
The City of Northfield’s fiber consultant has finished surveying residents on their current use of cable, phone, and internet services (PDF of the questions asked). (See our podcast with City IT director Melissa Reeder back in Nov.) Melissa told me yesterday that she expects the consultant to report back to the City Council in late March. In the meantime, here’s a small straw poll on the level of satisfaction with area broadband ISPs. Then discuss!
It was a full house for last night’s Fiber Optic Feasibility Study open house at Northfield City Hall. Melissa Reeder, IT director for the City of Northfield, hosted the meeting, with the presentation by Doug Dawson, the fiber feasibility consultant from CCG Consulting.
See Melissa’s comments on the meeting. I’ve closed comments on this blog post in favor of continuing the conversation there.
See the album of 11 photos (including photos of flip charts) or this slideshow:
We spent the first half of this week’s show discussing the flood of charges from area prosecutors aimed at 1) a group of eight alleged heroin dealers; 2) Mayor Lee Lansing, and 3) Victor Summa.
The rest of the show was devoted to the upcoming Fiber Optic Feasibility Study and the City’s Nov. 6 open house on the subject. Our guest: Melissa Reeder, IT director for the City of Northfield.
From the press release (PDF):
The November 6 open house will provide an informative, interactive opportunity for residents to learn more about fiber optics; what the technology can do for an individual, family, business or community; alternative methods of financing the infrastructure; and ownership and service provider scenarios.
In today’s Star Tribune, there is an article about the City of Monticello’s efforts to make itself one of the most wired communities in the country. Apparently, the effort has been complicated by a lawsuit.
According to the city’s attorney, when Monticello asked TDS Telecom to provide fiber-optic connections to every home and business in the community as a means of stimulating economic development and increasing the quality of life, the company refused. The city then held a referendum in which about 75 percent of the voters approved spending $25 million in revenue bonds to create a city-owned system.
TDS filed its lawsuit the day before the revenue bonds were to be issued. The company claims that it was willing to work with the city, but couldn’t come to terms. The lawsuit contends that municipalities shouldn’t be allowed to use revenue bonds to create fiber-optic infrastructure.
There have been several conversations, by both public and private entities, in Northfield over the past few years about making Northfield one of the most wired communities in the world. If I recall correctly, then Council and EDA member Dixon Bond suggested that it could be considered like any other utility, and provided publicly or privately.
It appears, at least to me, that no group stepped up to provide leadership in the effort. Perhaps now we’ll have to wait for the lawsuit to be settled.
We started yammering about the need for Northfield to belly up to the fiber optic bar back in April of 2006 on podcast #15. Since then, we’ve blogged it many times (do a LoGroNo fiber search), often in frustration.
But now, the City of Northfield has issued an Request for Proposal (RFP) for a Fiber to the Premise Feasibility Study (PDF). City IT Director Melissa Reeder is leading the charge. Background info in the April Nfld News: Study evaluates expanding city’s fiber optic network.
Big questions: who should build it, who should own it, and how will it be paid for.
I know the answers but I’m not telling.
Another week, another road trip.
Economic Development Manager Charlene Coulombe-Fiore and the EDA facilitated a field trip to Chaska, MN to talk with their City Administrator and other staff in charge of planning and development. Riding in a Care-Tenders van packed to maximum capacity were EDA members Rick Estenson, Dave Van Wylen, Victor Summa, Marty Benson; City Councilors Jim Pokorney and Scott Davis; Planning Commission members Ron Griffith and myself; and City staff Brian O’Connell, Joel Walinski, Charlene Coulombe-Fiore plus Kathy Felbrugge from the Northfield Chamber. Charlene prepared a comparison of the two communities, based on demographic and economic data, for our review before the trip.
There are many similarities between Northfield and Chaska in terms of size, history, relationship to the metro area, and other factors, as the above comparison demonstrates. There are significant differences, too, but I was interested in having the discussion because Chaska has managed to keep a consistent vision and approach to both planning and economic development for more than a decade, and it shows.
Continue reading Learning From Other Communities
My buddy Curt Benson, owner of Fab Lab, is among the lucky people who now have FTTH/FTTP: communications fiber to the home/premises.
He sent me this picture of an installer named Charlie from Jaguar Communications wiring up his no longer ‘secret underground bunker’ last week at his house on Circle Lake. He’s getting the whole package: phone, TV, and internet access. I blogged about local fiber infrasructure and Jaguar Communications last August and April.
In September, the Northfield News ran a story, City gets grant to study fiber optics, about the City of Northfield receiving a $25K matching grant from the Blandin Foundation “to conduct what Information Technology Director Melissa Reeder termed an open network feasibility study… A request for bids will likely go out this fall and take four to six weeks to return.”
Anyone have an update? A search on the city’s web site for the word ‘fiber’ turns up nothing, and I couldn’t find anything on the EDA portion of the site.
Northfield residents and businesses are lucky to have a multiplicity of choices for getting broadband access to the internet.
- Cable (Charter)
- DSL (Qwest and via several ISPs, eg, Local Link)
- Microwave, fiber, DSL, etc (St. Olaf Telephone Company)
- Wireless (Clearwave and NorthfieldWiFi)
We’d been using Charter at home for a few years but I wanted faster upload speeds at an affordable rate. So when we were getting ready to move, I ordered the 6.0 MBps down/3.0 MBps up basic residential service from NorthfieldWiFi ($49.99/mo). When Peter Seebach (who purchased our house) heard about the faster options, he also ordered it. I took the photos below a few weeks ago as we were getting ready to move. Click to enlarge.
Nate Lyon is the owner of NorthfieldWiFi. He and his wife Tabitha Lyon (both on ladder in left photo) moved to town a couple years ago when she was transferred to the local Target store. They bought a house (we’re now neighbors across the pond) and Nate started his business. He now has hundreds of residential and business customers.
The photos above show how unobtrusive the installation is. A small dish on the roof, a black cable tucked out of sight whenever possible, a small ‘modem’ inside the premise.
What the photos don’t show is the great service. The installation on our former house was tricky since the roof is high and steep. In a mixup with Peter over the meaning of the phrase “install in Griff’s office,” Nate cheerfully did a complete reinstall a week later to move the location of the cable coming into the house from the second floor to the first floor. And on the townhouse where we’re living, a squirrel chewed through the cable in the first week and he did a rerouting/repair of our connection. Through it all, he’s been extremely quick to respond via both phone and email. No full disclosure needed, as he’s not a blogger (yet!) and hasn’t told me of any IPO planned.