‘Fiber to the home’ comes to rural Rice County. Whither the City’s open network feasibility study?

Jaguar Communications installer

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.


  1. Tracy Davis said:

    I’m supposed to know something since I’m on the Fiberoptic Task Force or whatever it’s called, but I’ve been, shall we say, busy with other things lately. I believe we’re still waiting for the result of the feasibility study. Meanwhile, Jaguar is doing its thing, Northfield Wi-Fi is now offering WiMax, and the usual suspects (Qwest, Charter et al) are offering their standard globally uncompetitive bandwidth.

    I’m looking forward to the information from Jaguar about what real-world speed they’re actually offering.

    January 16, 2008
  2. Curt Benson said:

    Tracy, we are getting download speeds of 5 mb, uploads of 1 mb. Greater speed is available at greater cost. Jaguar’s website is not at all helpful in figuring out one’s options.

    On an ironic note, fiber to my house in the woods, where I live like the Unabomber, is available because Jaguar got a $4.6 million dollar subsidized loan from the Department of Agriculture. It is rather pleasing to be on the eating end of this government feed trough.


    January 16, 2008
  3. Curt Benson said:

    Bruce, why is Dundas going to get FTTP from Jaguar? Why not Northfield also?

    January 16, 2008
  4. BruceWMorlan said:

    Curt asked why Dundas and not Northfield? I am not sure if Northfield is not included, but Dundas aggressively opened talks with Jaguar and negotiated service as part of the agreement that let them run fiber through town on its way west. we are just a poor country village compared to the mighty metro of Northfield I guess, so we qualified as an under-served city.

    January 16, 2008
  5. John McCarthy said:

    Bruce, and others, as I said at an breakfast meeting last fall when Mayor Marks was discussing Dundas, we don’t have the resources or the time to study, we just have to do it.

    January 17, 2008
  6. Nick Benson said:

    Revealing “the bunker” to the whole town… not a wise move Dad!

    I’m still amazed that house has electricity and running water, much less a fiber connection. Next thing you know, Circle Lake will be 50 feet deep and full of crystal clear water.

    January 18, 2008
  7. Curt Benson said:

    Shit, I’m going to have to replace the bunker with a petting zoo, “an EVIL petting zoo”….

    January 18, 2008
  8. Nate Lyon said:


    Just out of curiosity, what are you paying for the 5mbps down/1mbps up?

    January 21, 2008
  9. Curt Benson said:

    Nate, phone service, tv and internet are all bundled into one package price. I don’t think you can break out the price for only the internet. For about $130/month, we get phone service, a ton of tv channels and internet.

    January 22, 2008
  10. Nate Lyon said:

    How are the speeds just out of curiosity? I haven’t heard much about the internet side of things.

    January 22, 2008
  11. Holly Cairns said:

    Nate, you’re the Wifi guy, aren’t you? How is that going? Are you able to establish a coverage map, yet?

    We live north of town in a valley– but maybe far enough into the valley so we can receive your signal. Our current ISP is slow during the day (compared to the weekends and at night). Much less speed than advertised. Driving me crazy. Add phone troubles (same company) to that and I’m sick of the whole thing…

    January 23, 2008
  12. Nate Lyon said:


    Yes, I’m told I’m the WiFi Guy. 🙂 I had a coverage map, but we took it down because A) it was really hard to keep it up to date and B) I really didn’t like the look and feel of it. I wanted a more interactive map, but it just wasn’t working. Not to mention, I never want anyone to look at the map and say “oh I don’t fall within coverage, so I won’t call”. We always love to get out to potential customer’s homes to run tests because that gives us the best idea of where we stand in a particular area in terms of signal and data throughput.

    We don’t like to advertise this, but our signal goes 20 miles. 99.9% of the time it’s never an issue of distance; it’s more an issue of “what’s between your home and my towers”. I’d love to get out to your home and at least complete a site survey for you. That will tell us what we are getting in terms of signal quality and data throughput. My last install was for a customer North of town, actually not even in town. He and his family lived in Farmington, well not “in” Farmington but the out skirts. You should get over to http://www.northfieldwifi.com, give me a call or shoot me an email (nate.lyon@northfieldwifi.com) and lets get a site survey scheduled for you.

    I’d love to get you on the network, I know you’d love the service.

    Hope to hear from you soon.


    January 26, 2008
  13. Holly Cairns said:

    Nate, thanks for coming out here.

    Now, let’s see– my current company promises, and we pay for, 500 something kbps (yes, we’re cheap). It’s at 80 kbps during the day sometimes, and if we split using the router, it’s at 40 something. Geez! At night it’s at 500 something. And then in the day, it’s back down between 200 something and 80 something. Rats. I just can’t stand it…

    I can’t believe the wimax that’s going on in Northfield. What a bravo company, Nate. Customer service is outstanding. I wonder if I’ll be stuck in my contract with my current company and then I won’t be able to get what you offer…

    January 26, 2008
  14. Nate Lyon said:


    Well, first thing is first. If you’re serious about making the switch, I’ll need to come out to your home and complete a site survey. The survey only takes about 15 minutes or so. At that point we’ll know if you can get service. If you can, then it’s more or less a matter of getting out of your current contract.

    If you want to shoot me an email we could talk off line. If I knew your current address, that would tell me a lot actually. Who knows maybe I already have a customer in your area. If I do, then it should be a no brainer in us being able to get you service.

    I look forward to hearing from you.


    January 26, 2008
  15. Holly Cairns said:

    Nate, you’ve already been here. 7344 307th street west. 🙂

    I can’t believe we pay for what we do… I’m working on screenshots and speedtest.net proof so I can either have my own provider get with it, or so I can switch to your service. I just can’t take 80 kbps anymore.

    January 26, 2008
  16. Nate Lyon said:

    Awha! It’s all coming together now. Yes you are correct, I did do your site survey already. You were not home at the time. You’ll have to forgive me, I’m a face kind of guy. If I don’t see you, it’s hard me to put a name with a face with a location.

    Yes, we can easily get you service. I’m not sure how hard it will be to get out of your contract. I’m guessing the company your with will try and come out to resolve the issue, but I’m not sure they’ll be able to do anything since it sounds like a service provider bandwidth issue.

    Let me know. I’d love to get you on the NorthfieldWiFi Network! 🙂

    January 26, 2008
  17. Griff Wigley said:

    In today’s Nfld News, reporter Suzy Rook has this story: Sorting out fiber optic possibilities.

    Reeder proposed to the council a Fiber Optic Feasibility Task Force on Monday, suggesting that the group could quickly determine a scope for the planned study. The task force is expected to convene early next month and meet weekly for six weeks. At the end of those sessions, the task force will have a proposal ready to go out for bid. It’s Reeder’s hope that the study will be completed by August.

    So if I understand this right, the Fiberoptic Task Force (referenced by Tracy in comment #2 above) which has been meeting for the past year or so is now recommending the formation of a new Fiber Optic Feasibility Task Force which will in turn create a proposal so that a consulting group can be hired who will conduct a Open Network Feasibility Study.

    Rook’s Sept 5 article in the Nfld News:

    The feasibility study, which may not get under way until after the first of the year, will consider the city’s existing fiber optic inventory and how it’s being used… A request for bids will likely go out this fall and take four to six weeks to return.

    We got the $25,000 matching grant in August, 2007.  And now it’s projected that it’ll be August 2008 before we even have the results of the study?

    This makes no f’ing sense.


    February 16, 2008
  18. Kurt Larson said:

    Just had Nate from Nfld. Wi-Fi out to the house for an install.
    Great service and so far a great connection.
    I tested the download speed by listening to music…..No rebuffering of the stream at 128 kbs. So for me,,,,its great.
    Its also great to know its a local person, with a local business. A rare option for this type of need.

    February 19, 2008
  19. Nick Benson said:

    If anyone’s curious about the actual infrastructure of getting fiber at your home, I snooped around my parent’s place and noticed a few things…

    The item being pointed to in the included picture is the powersupply/UPS for the fiber box outside.

    The fiber connection runs into a box mounted outside. The box has fiber running in with two phonelines and one network cable running out. Once inside, all of the infrastructure is pretty standard – the phone system looks like it was patched into the existing phone infrastructure, the TV and internet both come from standard cat 5 ethernet cable.

    The provided TV tuners were Amino AmiNET110’s, which boot off of the network and don’t rely on DHCP. From what I’ve read they’re somewhat hackable, although I suspect the provider has cripled them a bit. IPTV is streamed in the MPEG2 format. Changing channels takes some time (it’s not instant like with normal broadcast, cable, or satellite), which I believe is due to the fact that you’re streaming, so a moment is needed to request the stream, buffer, etc. The programming guide is similar to what you’d expect from digital calbe or satellite, but much, much slower. I think the TV service has a long way to go.

    The internet worked as you would expect, I was able to get about 3,000 kbps from the two bandwidth testing services that I tried. The ISP provided a generic switch and helped setup a Linksys WAP that was purchased seperately. The internet connetion relies on PPPoE, which was setup on the WAP which also took care of DHCP.

    I heard some complaints about the phone system, although I didn’t play with it too much – Dad (Curt) will have to fill in those details.

    So, for those of you who think fiber’s some magic bullet, the implimentation from Jaguar leaves a little to be desired. The interenet was great, but the TV and phone have a little ways to go before they’ll meet all expectations.

    February 19, 2008
  20. Nate is also bringing a fiber-optic cable into Next Level Cafe in 302 Division Street.

    February 20, 2008
  21. Nate Lyon said:

    Next Level Cafe is NorthfieldWiFi’s most recent customer. We hooked them up yesterday. They went with our 6.0 mbps down / 3.0 mbps upload plan. To be more clear, we did not run fibre into the premise, we ran Cat6.

    February 20, 2008

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