Yesterday the EDA/City Fiberoptic Task Force met to plan their application for a technology grant from the Blandin Foundation. At the last City Council meeting, the council OK'd matching funds if the City is awarded the grant. The grant's purpose is to fund feasibility studies for deploying open networks (defined as those which "enable multiple, competitive retail providers to use the same network by purchasing access from a wholesale network owner and manager").
While the outcome of both the grant app and the study results are unknown, this is a very positive step for Northfield. Community Development Directory Brian O’Connell, who is not known to be particularly geeky, is a seasoned pro who "gets" why fiberoptic cables are significant for Northfield, and might be more accurately understood as infrastructure rather than as amenity. On a practical level, figures provided to the Task Force indicate that for many businesses in town, the cost for business-level high-speed internet is roughly 30% higher in Northfield for roughly 30% lower speeds/bandwidth compared to the metro area.
Obviously this puts Northfield's businesses at a competitive disadvantage if they rely on the internet for anything other than email and consumer web surfing.
For the long-term view, there are reams of data describing the woeful condition of US broadband compared to all other developed countries, and even many developing ones.
It’s not quite “fiber-to-Griff’s-condo”, but at least the City is moving.
I saw this utility tent across from the library last week and opened the flap. Inside was Steve Poole, one of the employees of the the St. Olaf Telephone Company. (Photo is hazy because I took it through a screened window.) Steve was working on the colleges’ fiber optic cable that runs right down Washington St., from Carleton on its way to St. Olaf. He said the Internet2 connection to the library was ready to be lit. They were just waiting for TPTB to give the go-ahead.
I asked him what he knew about Jaguar Communictions and their plans for FTTP as I’d heard a reliable rumor last week that homeowners in the Circle Lake area were being told that they’d be able to get fiber to their homes later this year. (Jaguar got a $4.6 million USDA Rural Development Loan last year to provide “…varying degrees of voice, data, and video broadband service to more than six thousand residential and business customers” in 8 southern MN counties, including Rice. More info here.) Steve said they’d be deploying it in both Dundas and Northfield soon but as far as he knew, it was strictly residential, whereas the St. Olaf Telephone Company was strictly business.
Now what we need is a Northfield blog/web page/site to keep track of all the fiber and ultra high-speed broadband developments in the area. Anyone? Anyone? Anyone?
I saw this article in the Sunday Strib: In a hurry for ultrafast Internet: Eagan sees radically accelerated access speeds as an economic development tool, and it’s looking for a company willing to provide it. And this quote:
We want to future-proof the city so economic development can continue 20 years down the road,” said Jim Moeller, a member of the city’s Technology Working Group, an advisory panel of the city’s top tech minds created to improve Eagan’s technology policy and improve its competitiveness.
We here at Locally Grown have been yapping about this for a year. Our Feb. 26 and April 28, 2006 podcasts were about it. We’ve blogged about fiber several times. The big public input forum on the Comprehensive Plan is this Tuesday, April 3, from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Northfield Armory (6th and Division Streets). Can everyone remember to put it on your small group butcher paper’s list of what’s needed, puhleeeeeease?
My colleagues, Tracy “Queen of the Dark Fiber” Davis and Griff “Ultra High-Speed to my Condo” Wigley, have been suggesting, loudly and vigorously, for sometime that the key to economic development in Northfield is high-speed internet access. Northfield has the potential for this high-tech utility they say, and we only need to harness the potential in order to lure the companies, and jobs, of the future to our community.
Based on an article in the March 7th Wall Street Journal, there might be another important feature in our potential utility infrastructure that we should harness in order to lure future economic development.
According to “One Tiny Town Becomes Internet Age Power Point”, Microsoft, Yahoo and Intuit are building new computer-data centers in Quincy, Washington. The quality of life of an area with unspoiled natural beauty is one attraction, as is the availability of reasonably priced housing, and the community, thanks to a state program, is making a $100 million investment in a fiber network that certainly is important to these businesses. However, the biggest draw was the two municipally owned dams that generate electricity for the town.
Now, Northfield is further from Seattle than Quincy, and the Cannon River is not quite the Columbia River, but would it be possible to generate sufficient energy to power a “micro business park” on the west side of downtown?
During this week’s show, Ross, Tracy and I touch on miscellaneous Northfield-related issues, including the fiber task force, the Comprehensive Plan, and school district class sizes at the elementary level.
We also got a phone call after the show ended, which just shocked us. (Click photo to enlarge.) Details on that news forthcoming.
Our home cable modem died over the weekend and when Robbie stopped at Charter’s office in Lakeville today to get it replaced, she was told that we could upgrade from 5 Mbps to 10 Mbps service for our internet connection. Better yet, especially for content producers like me, upload speeds double from 512 KB to 1.0 Mbps when you upgrade.
Did I upgrade? Is the bear Catholic? Does the Pope do it in the woods?
Of course, this is only 1/10th of the speed that I need, want and deserve since there is a fiber optic river of pure economic gold running through town.So let’s start the drumbeat for FTTx:
At this morning’s EDA meeting at City Hall, members had this item on their agenda (see page 6 of the packet pdf on the Sept. 28 meeting page): “The EDA will review the draft agenda and purpose of the fiber network task force meeting.” Carleton’s Joel Cooper was invited to the table to give an overview. And I was allowed to contribute a couple of comments. I reiterated the points I made in my Lack of fiber in Northfieldâ€™s economic diet blog post about this two weeks ago about “Attracting and retaining talent,” especially college students who’ve graduated; and the City of Burnsville’s push for fiber as a means of supporting/developing their medical technology industry. So I’m thrilled with this development and delighted that Locally Grown’s own Tracy Davis is leading the initial charge. You rock, Tracy!
We divert our topic a bit into our health, there’s this new Nutrisystem diet plan has become indeed popular in the country as it offers amazing weight loss results. It is purely a meal delivery program designed to offer weight loss solutions to people. They sold it in packages or individual, are nutrisystem foods sold in stores?
L to R in the photo (click to enlarge): Tracy Davis, Dixon Bond, Joel Cooper, Rick Estenson, Mark Moors, Galen Malecha, Deanna Kuennen.
I know that the City set up a Task Force to look into this, and other communication technologies topics. I’m wondering if anyone can update us on their progress.
I wonder, too. The City Council created a community media task force in May of 2005 and put Councillor Scott Davis in charge of it.
It was to have delivered its report by Oct. 31, 2005. See this blog post I wrote for N.org which includes the full text of the final motion.
We briefly mentioned on our Feb. 10 show that the task force had met once recently but I don’t remember any other discussion about it.
What have been all the reasons for the delay in the report? Have those reasons been documented and reported to the Council?
Who’s on the committee?
When and where does the task force meet?
Where on the City’s website are the minutes of the task force?
How much of the $20,000 budget has been spent and for what?
Is the task force suited to study the wi-fi infrastructure issues facing the city? Burnsville, Mpls, St. Paul and now Eden Prairie have all recently launched such task forces. The issues are complex and many. And it’s not just wifi. Wimax and FTTH/FTTP (fiber to the home/premises) need to be examined, too.
What’s the status of the roughly $500k that was sitting in the cable TV fund? The City’s new $60,000+ website was funded from it. I seem to remember that the Council authorized a temporary loan from that fund to pay for something else.
What’s the status of funding for NTV, the “non-profit organization operating the public, education, and government cable access“?