Fiberhood Commission Workshop Report

Fiberhood Commission Workshop Report

by Mason PUD 3 on

July 05, 2017

PUD 3 commissioners are considering a plan to expand the PUD's fiber optic network to unserved neighborhoods in Mason County.

Details of the proposed “Fiberhood” Program were presented to commissioners at a public workshop on June 30. This program is the culmination of many years of research, testing, discussion, and pilot projects.

FIBER OPTIC NETWORK HISTORY

PUD 3 operates a fiber optic network for the benefit of its electricity distribution system. 

Working with its internet service providers, PUD 3 has connected homes, neighborhoods and businesses to its network. The demand for faster speeds, higher capacity circuits, and rural access to broadband services in Mason County continues to grow. Customers have reported that they have been unsuccessful in their attempts to encourage large regional and national private communications companies to expand their network to rural communities. As broadband becomes an essential utility, a similar movement to the Rural Electrification of the 1930’s is occurring.

In 2015, over 800 Mason County residents attended the PUD 3 Broadband Expo. Their message was clear: they wanted service to be expanded to more neighborhoods; they didn’t want to have to keep waiting; and they were willing to pay for it. The PUD 3 Telecommunications department has a list of over 3,000 customers who have expressed interest in connecting to the PUD 3 fiber optic network when/if it becomes available in their area.

In order to quantify and substantiate this message, in the winter of 2016-17, PUD 3 conducted an independent, scientifically valid survey, along with an informal online survey. The results confirmed that Mason County residents have the need for fast, dependable internet services, at an affordable price.

FIBERHOOD PROGRAM OVERVIEW

PUD 3 staff have been working hard to find a fair and equitable way to bring high speed broadband to residents throughout the county. A proposed Fiberhood Construction Adder is a creative and responsible way to make this happen.

In a nutshell, here’s how it works:

  • Fiberhood customers will pay $25 per month for 12 years, which is included in the bill issued by the customer’s internet service provider.

  • This fee is in addition to the price for internet service. It covers the cost of the physical connection to the network.

  • Only active users in successfully established Fiberhoods will pay the construction adder, not all PUD 3 customers.

  • Money collected by the customer’s Internet Service Provider is passed along to PUD 3. These funds go into a special account, established by the PUD to pay for future Fiberhood construction.

The process begins by identifying potential Fiberhoods.

What elements make for a successful extension of broadband to the Fiberhood?

  1. It should be easy to reach, having overhead power or existing fiber conduits.

  2. It has close proximity to existing PUD facilities, such as a hut or fiber backbone.

  3. It is unserved or underserved by other broadband providers. Unserved is pretty easy, there’s nothing there. An underserved area has speeds that do not meet federal standards for broadband.

  4. It has proven customer commitment. Are enough customers willing to commit to connect to the fiber optic network to ensure cost recovery?

PUD 3 prioritizes building Fiberhoods based on a guaranteed level of customer commitment to obtain service from the new fiber network. PUD would then build the network and connect customers’ homes and businesses. Cost recovery is estimated to be 12 years. As a public utility, it is PUD 3’s intent to recover costs, not create a profit.

GIG SPEEDS AVAILABLE

PUD 3 is excited to exclusively offer GIG service to all its fiber consumers, including in new Fiberhoods, for $35/month. Previously, there were two speed offerings: 100 Mbps for $25/month and 1,000 Mbps (1 GIG) for $45/month.

The fiber optic cables used in PUD 3’s network provide near limitless speeds. Therefore, it makes sense to offer the highest bandwidth possible.

Bandwidth - a term used to describe how much information (or data) can be transmitted over a connection. It is usually quantified as megabits per second.

With 100 Mbps you can access the internet and have phone service. With 1,000 Mbps, or GIG speeds, you can add services like high definition television, security cameras, and many more activities while connecting multiple devices all at once- all while not compromising speed. That means less buffering, less lagging, and less waiting.

The more devices you have operating in a home or business, the more bandwidth you need. Each connected device uses a slice of your bandwidth. When many devices are connected at once it significantly reduces your speed. This is where the GIG service comes in!

Having GIG service means everyone in the house can enjoy super-fast speeds to do things they need to do in the modern world such as homework, email, research, working from home, playing video games, watching high-definition television, streaming music and movies, and even talking on the phone.

SUMMARY

High Speed Broadband is not a luxury. Many activities such as telecommuting, online schooling, and cottage industries are the new norm, especially in our rural county. Affordable broadband is a building block for healthy communities. PUD 3 wants to be able to help our community to thrive and compete in the today’s economy. Providing GIG service to customers that have no other access to broadband, at an affordable rate is a way we can do that.