City of Red Wing

Fiber-to-the-home becoming a reality in Red Wing

Thursday, April 28 2011 12:00 AM

On April 25, 2011, the city of Red Wing City Council approved a cable franchise agreement with Hiawatha Broadband Communications, Inc.  This is exciting news for Red Wing, as we become a community that offers business and residents fiber-to-the-home services.

What is Fiber to the Home?
Fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) is the delivery of a communications signal over optical fiber from the operator's switching equipment all the way to a home or business. The fiber system does not use copper, which is traditionally used for telephone wires and coaxial cable. FTTH is a relatively new and fast growing method of providing higher bandwidth to residents and businesses thereby enabling robust video, internet and voice services.        

Connecting homes directly to fiber optic cable enables improvements in the bandwidth available to consumers. Video on demand, Internet protocol television, home security and home health applications are a few examples of how fast, secure and reliable bandwidth will change how we use the internet.  Further, as cable modem and DSL providers are struggling to squeeze increments of higher bandwidth out of their technologies, ongoing improvements in fiber optic equipment are constantly increasing available bandwidth without changing the fiber. That's why fiber networks are said to be "future proof".

Who is Hiawatha Broadband Communications, Inc.?
Created  in 1997 as a successor to a not-for-profit education initiative called Luminet, Hiawatha Broadband Communications, Inc., (HBC) provides high-speed and dial-up internet connections, telephone, and cable television services to the greater Winona area, St. Charles, Wabasha, Lewiston, Rollingstone, and Stockton, Minnesota. The Wabasha build, completed in the fall of 2005, was among Minnesota's first fiber-to-the-home projects. Lewiston, Rollingstone, and Stockton are also FTTH communities.  Red Wing will now be added to the list of FTTH communities.

What is a cable franchise?
On January 20, 2011, HBC requested a cable franchise to provide cable television service in Red Wing.  The city of Red Wing then followed Minnesota State Statue 238 procedures to publish the notice of intent to franchise for two successive weeks and mailed copies of the Public Notice to HBC and Charter Cable Communications, Inc.  One of the stated purposes of the United States Cable Act is "to promote competition in cable communications and minimize unnecessary regulation that would impose an undue economic burden on cable systems."  Under the Cable Act, a franchising authority may award one or more franchises within its jurisdiction. 

What are the terms of the cable franchise?
The franchise term is 10 years and the service area outlined is the entire corporate limits of the City.  Customer service standards agreed upon in the agreement with HBC are as follows:

  • HBC will maintain a local office and comply with all FCC customer service standards - including telephone response time, installations, refunds, billing and office hours.

The access channel terms are: 

  • HBC will also offer three access channels.
  • Public access - channel 10
  • Educational access - channel 22
  • Government access - channel 6.

Fiber connections from the following locations to City Hall to facilitate live cablecast programming, controlled by the playback equipment at City Hall, will include:

  • Sheldon Theatre
  • Public Library
  • Tower View School at the Anderson Center for the Arts,
  • Colvill Courtyard
  • Central Park band shell
  • Twin Bluff Middle School
  • MN State College - Southeast Technical

Free fiber drops to city of Red Wing facilities:

Connecting city owned facilities back to network resources at City Hall has long been a goal of the city of Red Wing.  Leased T1 lines are expensive and limited in bandwidth, thus the city will realize a savings by eliminating them; while at the same time improve services to those facilities. File, mail, database and telephone servers are located at City Hall. With the connection of fiber optics to all city facilities, the city can implement remote monitoring of important water systems, install network security cameras and utilize fully the City telephone system.  City facilities include marinas, cemeteries, treatment plants and parks located throughout its 42 square miles.

Additional terms:

  • Emergency Alert Systems (EAS) consistent with Federal law.
  • Access support set as a per subscriber fee of $.50 per month.
  • Franchise fee in an annual amount equal to five percent of its annual gross revenues.
  • Build out period no longer than three years.

How does this impact Economic Development in Red Wing?
Myron White, Executive Director of the Red Wing Port Authority said, "All businesses, not just technology companies, can benefit from big broadband.  In the past few years we have learned a safe, reliable connection to the internet can be just as important to a business as the street coming to your building or your water and sewer hook-up."  White explains further, "This fiber optic technology in Red Wing will not only help our existing businesses grow and prosper, it will help to attract new businesses and new jobs to our community.  We must remember, the job that a sixth grader in the middle school will hold when he or she turns 25 probably does not exist today, but will undoubtedly require technology that will be based on fiber connections." 

Where will HBC be located and what services will they offer?
HBC has chosen the Merchants Bank building for its local office with the anticipation of customer service, sales and technical staff available to answer questions and assist with service offerings information.  Currently they are offering voice and data service to businesses, with residential service available as early as fall of 2011 in some areas.  A complete build out to the City is expected over a three-year period.  Gary Evans, CEO/President explains, "HBC is planning a multiple-faceted approach to interact and respond to questions or comments of Red Wing citizens".  He continues, "HBC is excited by the opportunity to provide fiber-to-the-home services in Red Wing." 

Laura Blair
Information Technology Director