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September 26, 2017

Proposed fiber optic plan would cover most of county

Monkton, Md.-based Freedom Telecom Services Inc. proposes building a 129-mile network of “dark” — or private, dedicated — fiber optic cable that would reach Fauquier’s extremities. It would connect 39 public buildings directly to the network and make access available to “last-mile” providers for service to remote homes and businesses that lack broadband.
I love where we are right now. We haven’t made any decision. It’s a Virginia public-private process from here on out. I think at the end of the day, we’ll get a very good project.
— Board of supervisors Chairman Rick Gerhardt (Cedar Run District)
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Editor
A Maryland company has proposed construction of a 129-mile fiber optic cable network to provide broadband service to rural areas of Fauquier County.

The county supervisors last week voted, 4-0, to accept the preliminary, conceptual plan from Freedom Telecom Services Inc., doing business as FTS Fiber.

Founded in 2015, the Monkton, Md., firm would run dedicated fiber optic cable throughout Fauquier — from Goldvein to Upperville and Remington to Catlett — according to its 253-page proposal.

It would connect schools, libraries, fire/rescue stations and other public buildings directly to the fiber network.

Submitted under Virginia’s Public Private Education and Infrastructure Act, the proposal must compete with any bid that another firm might offer in the next 45 days. After review, county officials plan to select a contractor with which to negotiate a final contract.

Financial details of the FTS proposal remain secret, redacted from the public version of its submission, under provisions of state law.

> FTS proposal at bottom of story

Fauquier’s board of supervisors has committed to invest up to $20 million in a rural broadband solution.

“I love where we are right now,” board Chairman Rick Gerhardt (Cedar Run District) said last week. “We haven’t made any decision. It’s a Virginia public-private process from here on out.

“I think at the end of the day, we’ll get a very good project.”

FTS recently built a similar network of 110 miles for rural Kent County on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

Under the county plan, Fauquier’s new broadband authority — with the supervisors as its board of directors — would provide capital to build the fiber optic backbone. The selected network company would sell access to “last mile” providers that serve homeowners and businesses. The authority would share revenue, used to repay the county’s investment.

Center District Supervisor Chris Granger said he didn’t want Warrenton and the surrounding area, which has the county’s best internet service options, to get left out.

“I worry this could put my district at a competitive disadvantage,” Mr. Granger said. “There’s not fiber like this in town.”

But, Mr. Gerhardt predicted that building a county fiber network would improve options in already-served areas, including Warrenton. Comcast and Verizon would face new competition, which should benefit consumers throughout the county, he added.

“I expect any final offer to provide fiber to homes in Warrenton and other areas,” even though the plan calls for extending broadband to remote areas as its primary focus, Mr. Gerhardt said.

The FTS plan calls for installing fiber optic cable underground and on utility poles in four phases:

• May/June 2018 — From Goldvein to Bealeton and Catlett, connecting 15 public sites, including parks, schools, fire/rescue stations, libraries and trash/recycling centers.

• February 2019 — From Bealeton to Remington and Warrenton, New Baltimore and Vint Hill, connecting 11 public sites.

• November/December 2019 — Warrenton west along Route 211 to the Rappahannock River, and Warrenton north to Marshall, The Plains and New Baltimore, connecting seven public sites.

• October 2020 — Marshall to Orlean along Route 688, and Marshall to Linden, Rectortown and Upperville, connecting six public sites.

The FTS proposal presumably would make it practical for wireless service providers to reach more than 90 percent of the county with broadband.

Wi4ME LLC of McLean also made a proposal to provide rural broadband in Fauqiuer.

“The other company is basically a startup,” Supervisor Chris Butler (Lee) said. “The move to FTS seems best to me.”

Mr. Gerhardt, who has led the county’s broadband effort, said improving service — particularly in rural areas — remains one of the board’s top priorities.

“Our ultimate goal is to engage with a proposer who is willing to build a revenue-producing infrastructure that provides needed connectivity to county assets, facilitates last mile solutions and offers ROI (return on investment) for the county through revenue sharing and economic expansion,” he said last Thursday, reading from a prepared statement.

“I’d like to emphasize, once again, that this board has no intention of spending $20 million to merely provide broadband for only 10,000 households,” Mr. Gerhardt said. “That notion is simply false. We see this is a substantial project with multiple wins for individual households, commercial businesses and the county as a whole.”

FTS founder and CEO failed to return phone messages seeking comment about his company and its proposal for Fauquier.

Supervisor Holder Trumbo (Scott) missed last Thursday’s special meeting.

> Guest column: County broadband initiative “closer to completion”

FTS Fiber - Fauquier County Proposal Final - Public Copy_Redacted by Fauquier Now on Scribd

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Jim Griffin · September 29, 2017 at 5:17 pm
Addressing the last two comments:

BJ: agreed, the county should keep an eye on the federal and state public policy agenda to find ways to supplement our resources.

NNT:

1. Broadband companies have one primary way to recover costs: Charging subscribers. Counties have broader incentives to deploy broadband infrastructure, some financial in nature, others more qualitative in nature, and some long-term incentives that do not figure into broadband companies' short-term incentives. Another important point: The search is for a for-profit company willing to partner with the county, one has already proposed to do so, more may make proposals.

2. Agreed, we will all want to see financials.

3. Agreed, it will be good to review prior experience for all the applicants.

4. My understanding is that there should evolve many options for many different types of "last mile" delivery, some wireless, some fiber, some copper, and so on. All at different prices and capabilities.

I will add this: My primary support for installing fiber infrastructure for the county and its many locations, which include schools, first responders, health needs, etc., is based on the importance of the county itself possessing such infrastructure for use by the county in administering our government and its services.

Sharing bandwidth with citizens is not the primary reason I support the idea. I support it primarily because it is smart government and companies typically do the same thing: Connect their facilities, preferably with fiber.

In 2017, why pay Verizon for phone service? Especially calls within your own network. Why pay monopoly providers for data connections? Television service? Security/video/AV connections? Conferencing? And so on.

It is terrific that the hubs established can support wholesale backhaul for residential service. A big plus that drives more competition and options, but primarily we should do this because it is good for Fauquier County. To the contrary of your point, Sheriff Mosier's opinion is important because it suggests he will put it to good use. Data networks are very valuable to police, emergency services, disaster response and more.

BJ · September 29, 2017 at 2:06 pm
Why don't we wait to see if this pans out.....before signing on the dotted line for a contract with this provider.

The Democratic Party is making high-speed Internet access a new plank in its economic agenda as it tries to regain trust among middle-class Americans in the country's heartland.

Democratic lawmakers are calling for $40 billion in new federal funding for infrastructure projects for rural and tribal areas and other regions, whose access to fast, affordable broadband has lagged behind that of dense, urban areas. The proposal, unveiled Thursday, would have Internet providers compete for the right to build out the networks. Also local governments and cooperatives would be eligible for funding, according to a party white paper on the matter.
nonewtaxes · September 29, 2017 at 12:32 pm

just asking for the basis of your opinion jim. I'll give you the basis of mine.

1. For profit companies who invest in broadband for a living won't invest in the county because the geography and demographics prohibit a positive return.

2. I don't know the financials. Cant get on board if the financials aren't positive.

3. I'd like to see the audited financials of the system set up in Kent County.

4. What would be the monthly cost and for what level of service?


Its irrelevant that you agree with the sheriff.
Jim Griffin · September 29, 2017 at 9:19 am
Your insults mean nothing until you attach a name to your otherwise anonymous comments. We have no idea if you are even a citizen of our county nor your self-interest in commenting.

My point is that the proposal does not cost $800 yr per household. It is in fact one-fifth that amount, and is intended as an infrastructure investment, not a spend.

Not trying to sell anything other than my opinion that this is a good idea, an opinion I share with the Sheriff and many others who publicly attach their name.
nonewtaxes · September 29, 2017 at 8:49 am
You sound like a used car salesman. Not how much will it cost but what your monthly payment will be.

Cost is not the issue, value is. Show me the numbers. What is the MD history. Are they happy. Are they making $$

Where are the financials????

nonewtaxes · September 29, 2017 at 8:45 am
Show me the numbers. I don't want to be dissuaded nor persuaded. I want to make up my own mind or is that too much to demand?

I say it's not an investment if it doesn't generate a return. It's a broadband tax.

How does this system compare to what is available? What is the return at the margin?

Jim Griffin · September 28, 2017 at 1:43 pm
What is the origin of this fake claim of spending $800 per year per household?

It's simply not true. At most, the discussion is over authority to invest into infrastructure at most $800 per household over five yrs ($20 million divided over 23,000 households over 5 yrs = approx $170 yr or $14 mos), after which the investment authority ends.

Because this is an investment into wholesale infrastructure, there is expectation of return, at least break even, which turns the commitment around, producing $14 month in revenue, or more.

So let's be clear: This is investment into infrastructure that will wholesale its backhaul to retail providers who will use the distributed hubs to carry data the "last mile" or whatever distance to homes and businesses.

No, it is not intended to provide digits for garbage. Landfills are intended -- like other county locations -- to serve as fiber hub locations,

It is intended, among other uses, to help Sheriff's deputies and police do their jobs, health providers to maintain connections to patients, financial transactions and commerce to flow while delivering retail bandwidth opportunities to businesses that want to serve county residences with more and better bandwidth opportunities.

Some of these will save county residents money, permitting them to cut the cord to cable companies, serving modern televisions with data-driven ala carte video instead of bundles costing hundreds of dollars a month.

It will save the county money, too. This same connectivity is today purchased by the county at significant cost for lower performance.

This is a good decision by the county. As a technologist, it is the bare minimum my clients do to stay current, let alone prepare for the future, and is essential for giving county residents and businesses the data options they need for modern life and citizenry.

The rules do not call for referenda over amounts of this size. Increasingly, referendum talk is proxy for no. If you're against it, just say so, but pretending it qualifies for a referendum is simply another untruth, just as is claiming satellite or Verizon offers under 3 mbps are rational alternatives for the average family.
Jim Griffin · September 28, 2017 at 12:02 am
Bringing fiber to every county-owned site -- including the landfills -- is very smart, not only to provide data to the site (which includes surveillance video for efficient remote security purposes), but primarily as a redistribution hub to homes and businesses in that area.

County-owned sites are widely distributed throughout the county. Connecting them as hubs is smart. Where else should the hubs go for redistribution to homes? Sites NOT owned by the county? That would be folly.

Full speed ahead. Sheriff Mosier spoke in favor of the fiber broadband plan and we can assume he has ample uses for it, too. This is good county governance.
jdobbins · September 27, 2017 at 3:29 pm
It is great you plan to bring broadband to the Goldvein area schools and trash collection sites. When are you going to bring it to the citizens who live in this area? Do we have to go to a trash recycling site to get access?
molly33 · September 27, 2017 at 9:19 am
An interesting excerpt from another Fauquier Now article:

"Virginia law requires campaign finance reporting — including disclosure of all contributions and expenditures of $100 or more — only in jurisdictions with at least 25,000 residents. Warrenton has a population of about 9,800, exempting town election candidates from campaign finance disclosures."
molly33 · September 27, 2017 at 9:09 am
"Financial details of the FTS proposal remain secret, redacted from the public version of its submission, under provisions of state law."

If this is going to cost $800 per household per year then this is not worth it - you can get broadband via satellite for less. Every resident has a right to vote on this and should NOT be left for the town council to decide - I also believe that ALL government/town expenditures should be open and transparent to the citizens so they know where/how the monies are spent, after all it is our money.
FauquierHome · September 27, 2017 at 8:57 am
Blaine Johnson, that HughesNet Gen5 is not a viable broadband solution. We need access to UNCAPPED data.
ret88 · September 27, 2017 at 12:46 am
...trash/recycling centers??? You mean the "convenience sites"? And the Corral Farm? The landfill? Something smells here and I don't mean the trash! Whatever for are we bringing fiber backbone to the trash dump sites? I can see it now...streaming movies while dumping your refuse in the local dumpster. WiFi hotspots at the dump so you don't have to go to Panera and waste $ that could be better used paying taxes! Boondoggle? That is about the best term possible for $20 million to connect only County facilities including the trash sites! Have we (or our duly elected and now Broadband expert supervisors) lost our minds? This is insanity...or an end run around proper procedures to wire all County locations under the guise of saving us poor citizens from having to figure out how to get broadband all by our incompetent selves....and then not even doing that! The rest of the sad story will be in about three years....I can't wait
Jim Griffin · September 26, 2017 at 9:02 pm
More choice, more competition, more valuable data infrastructure -- many thanks for the hard work that is going into this sometimes thankless task. It will have long-term benefits for everyone in Fauquier County.
Southcountyguy · September 26, 2017 at 3:11 pm
The map in this article only shows that fiber will be built along major transportation corridors that most likely already have some form of high speed connectivity just not fiber. Nowhere in this article do I see the solution to reaching the rural households on the secondary roads who mostly have NO broadband except for satellite. This does not address the problem for those of us who have either weak or NO Cell service, no cable, no DSL.
RGLJA · September 26, 2017 at 2:25 pm
Fauquier County has no business spending $20 million dollars on this boondoggle without a referendum. How many households in the county are willing to pay an extra $800 in taxes to pay for this fiber backbone which does not even include the last mile solution, the most difficult and expensive part of the problem? This $800 per household tax burden is just the tip of the iceberg of the real costs of providing broadband service to rural homes. Why do you think Comcast hasn't run fiber to all those locations already? They are in the business of providing broadband service, and they know fully that it's economically infeasible, yet our technology wizards on the Fauquier County Board of Supervisors think they can do better.... all they need is millions of your tax dollars. PUT IT TO A VOTE WITH A REFERENDUM!
BJ · September 26, 2017 at 11:17 am
HughesNet just launched a Gen 5 satellite, so we dropped our DISH internet, and went with them for the same price but 20GB versus 15 GB. The first 20 days they let you update all your devices without using any of your data. They waived the $99 installation fee and the $300 equipment fee based on our FICO. It is much faster, not perfect (weather will affect the signal), but immensely better. Blaine Johnson
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