GWI Blog

Welcome to the GWI blog regarding telecommunications policy, rural broadband, and economic development in Maine and New England.

A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Fiber Network Construction

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2014 has proven to be a year of increasing interest in high speed fiber networks.  At GWI, we’ve built and started providing service on a small town-owned broadband network in Rockport, and begun construction on a similar fiber-to-the-premise broadband network in South Portland.  We’ve also connected hundreds of businesses to ultra-fast Internet using the Three Ring Binder and other fiber networks. All this heightened interest made me think that perhaps some of our readers might enjoy a behind the scenes look at how these networks get built.   Today’s post lays out network construction as a fairly straightforward 10 step process.  The reality, of course, is quite a bit more complicated with many twists and turns. Step 1. Start the planning process with well-defined goals.  Before you launch into a design for a network, you need to understand your goals. Is your primary goal to serve and attract businesses or homeowners?  … Continue reading

Ready to cut the cord? 5 steps to ditching cable TV

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Every day more Americans “cut the cord,” ditching cable or satellite to watch TV by other methods. Some are motivated to cut the ballooning costs of pay TV.  Others want to take control over how they watch video and avoid paying for channels they never watch or bundles of services they don’t need. In fact, according to this Wall Street Journal article, 19% of American homes are “cable free,” relying on broadcast, high-speed Internet and streaming TV. With a broadband connection and streaming media device, you can watch TV online for a lower cost  than cable or satellite. The decision to ditch cable or satellite for online TV is a matter of preference and your viewing habits. If you must watch shows when they air, cutting the cord is probably not an option – yet! Some major networks have begun exploring subscription streams, so virtually all content could be available online within a year or … Continue reading

FCC Proposal and the future of Internet video services

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For as long as cable television has been delivering a variety of viewing options into our homes, cable customers have expressed their frustration with having to pay for channels they are not watching. The idea of à la carte cable options has long been a dream for cable customers and a nightmare for cable companies that have held a tight grip on this content for decades. Last month, the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) took the first step in opening access to cable programs and local television, which would make it easier for Internet video services to gain access to this programming. This step is similar to one taken by Congress in 1992 that gave the satellite television industry access to this programming, with the goal being to create healthier competition within the marketplace. By opening up access to this content to Internet video services, opportunities for specialized multi-channel packages arise, … Continue reading

Fiber Drive: GWI Teams Hit the Street to Talk Fast Fiber

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The first kernel of our gigabit fiber to the home network in South Portland was created when South Portland’s IT Director Chris Dumais wrote an RFP for a network he needed to connect city buildings and asked that bidders connect homes and businesses along the way. We’re very excited to make this network available to South Portland residents, but the first phase of the network is really small and we need to connect customers really early in order for the service to be cost effective for people.  In fact, we can only connect a couple of hundred homes in a city of 20,000 and we need to sign as many as we can up by the end of the year if we want to install their service for free. This presents a really interesting problem for our team.  In a day when no one reads advertisements mailed to them, how do … Continue reading

Debunking 5 Common Objections to Municipal Broadband

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There is much excitement about the recent announcements by Rockport and South Portland that the two cities will be deploying 1 gigabit per second municipal broadband networks to homes. Not surprisingly, there is also anger and frustration from certain quarters – most especially the incumbent ISP’s who have little to gain and much to lose from the market entry of a competing network.  These large corporations have successfully employed a number of arguments to slow the tide of competition, successfully getting state laws passed against municipal broadband networks in 20 states. It’s only a matter of time before similar resistance pops up in Maine, so I thought it would be worthwhile to review the most common arguments against municipal broadband networks and check their validity. In doing so, we can be better prepared for the public debate that’s sure to come. There are five objections to municipal broadband that come … Continue reading

Maine Towns Lead the U.S. in Next-Generation Broadband

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If you follow next-generation broadband communications at all, you’re familiar with places like Kansas City, Chattanooga and San Antonio.  These were some of the first cities in our country to get gigabit speeds into homes either with the help of Google Fiber or through direct municipal investment.  These cities are part of a group gathering on Monday to discuss next-generation broadband availability that includes tech industry hubs like Boston, Massachusetts, Palo Alto, California and Santa Monica, California. It makes sense that these communities would gather together as part of a relatively exclusive list of just 31 communities from all around the country to be founding members of Next Century Cities – a bipartisan, city-to-city organization dedicated to ensuring the availability of next-generation broadband for all communities. Two names on that list that might surprise you are Rockport and South Portland, Maine. Small as the founding group is, Next Century Cities … Continue reading

The Power of “What If?” – Municipal Fiber to the Home

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Our first phase of building municipal fiber to the home in South Portland started, not as the economic development issue it eventually became, but as a basic IT requirement.  Chris Dumais, the City’s IT Director was faced with increasing costs for the dark fiber network that connects key city buildings, and he figured one up-front payment to lease a new network for many years would save money over the long term.  He put out an RFP, and he accomplished his goal. If the story had stopped there, it would have been a win for the city but it wouldn’t have been the statewide news story it became.  The story didn’t stop there.  Instead, Chris asked himself some powerful questions.  He shared those questions with those in attendance at the press conference on September 22nd: “What if we were able to provide a faster internet to businesses along our fiber route?” … Continue reading

3 Issues Before the FCC That Could Change the Internet

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This week Fletcher and I attended the Community Fiber Networks conference in Springfield, Massachusetts.  Community leaders throughout New England came together there to talk about the impact of better broadband to community development, share experiences in deploying networks, and discuss important policy issues around broadband deployments. During a panel discussion yesterday, FCC Special Counsel for External Affairs Gigi Sohn made a remarkable statement that I shared on Twitter: @GigiBSohnFCC “The next six months are going to be the most important months in the history of #telecommunications policy.” — Trevor Jones (@trevorjones71) September 18, 2014 Perhaps she was exaggerating for effect, but there are certainly some momentous topics being discussed at the FCC now that could shape the future of the Internet. Is the current FCC docket really that important? It wasn’t until I stopped to consider Ms. Sohn’s remark that I really appreciated just how sweeping the topics under consideration … Continue reading

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