Saturday morning, residents of Yellow Springs gather in the Morgan Building next to the high school to talk about a municipal fiber optic network. The Miami Valley Educational Computer Association (MVECA) is hosting a Fiber Forum from 9am to 1pm followed by lunch and small group roundtable discussions.
9am We begin with a welcome by Tim Barhorst. Barhorst is the lead coordinator of the local citizens’ group that organized today’s forum. The group YS Community Fiber came together in 2014 to advocate for local infrastructure improvements that would bring high speed, affordable internet to the village’s businesses and residents. Specifically, the group advocates for the installation of a high capacity fiber optic network around the village to replace copper and cable as the main conduit for telephone, television, and internet services. This installation would improve access to an essential utility and offer a tasty carrot to tempt new businesses to the village.
The members of YS Community Fiber discovered their common interest on group bulletin boards on Facebook. When I posted a question to an open group: “What would it take to get municipal broadband?”, the answer I got was “It’s easier than you’d think.” The first big reason is that Yellow Springs owns its electrical service utility and, with that utility, many of the telephone polls in the village. Thus, it has control of conduits necessary to propagate a fiber network. Another big reason is MVECA, the morning’s host. MVECA is a datacenter which means it is a telecommunication hub. It receives signals from multiple providers and funnels managed services and data to customers. When a village is close to a datacenter, the municipality has ready access to the high speed telecommunication backbone. It’s like being right off the exit of a major highway; only this super highway buses the ones and zeros of digital messages instead of trucks and cars.