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City moving ahead with $24K study on how to improve broadband service in Lawrence; city agrees on contract with nonprofit to provide Internet service to City Hall; AT&T launches 4G network in Lawrence


I know when you think of technology news, the first place you think to turn is Town Talk. After all, what other local journalist has an Apex 100 computer with a five and quarter-inch floppy drive in his basement? And indeed I do have some technology news to deliver today. Here’s a look at some recent developments I’ve noticed at City Hall.

• City commissioners still seem pretty intent on perhaps shaking up the city’s broadband market. Commissioners this week did give approval for a $24,000 consulting contract with CTC Technology and Energy to study ways to improve the community’s broadband service.

If you remember, the City Commission is interested in seeing if there are ways to capitalize off the several miles of fiber optic cable and conduit that the city owns. The city uses that fiber optic cable to connect city buildings and also to run the city’s traffic signal system, but it could be put to use for general broadband purposes as well.

This new study will look at ways to do that. But I get the sense it won’t stop there. The city memo describing the scope of the study says it will look at ways to “encourage better Internet/broadband services and prices for Lawrence residents and businesses.”

CTC, based out of Maryland, specializes in helping communities do that. It has been working a similar project with the University of Illinois in Urbana and Champaign, and it also was recently hired by the state of Kansas to conduct a statewide broadband analysis.

In a letter to commissioners, CTC officials said the company looks for ways to “enhance economic development and increase broadband competition by lowering barriers to entry for private sector providers.” Obviously, there are private sector providers in Lawrence today, so it will be interesting to see how they react to this. The study is expected to be completed in about six weeks.

• Indeed, it does appear the city is learning more about the pricing of Internet service all the time. Commissioners earlier this week approved a new contract with a new provider for the primary Internet connection for City Hall and other city offices.

After going through a bidding process, the city has agreed to drop its service with AT&T and switch over to service provided by the Lawrence-based nonprofit KanREN.

What the city found through the bid process is that the internet market has changed so much in the last several years that the city can now get internet service that is about five times faster than what it currently has for less money than what it has been paying.

For the past few years, the city has been paying AT&T about $25,200 per year for internet service that has a 20Mb bi-directional rating. With the city’s Internet usage growing, the city asked for a minimum of 100Mb bi-directional service, and ended up getting two bids less than what the city has been paying for the slower service.

KanREN had the low bid at $22,800 per year. KanREN, which has its headquarters on Wakarusa Drive, is nonprofit Internet provider that has focused on serving educational institutions. It provides the ISP services for KU, K-State, the KU Medical Center, Johnson County Community College and many other educational institutions.

But now the nonprofit has received approval from its governing board to expand its offerings into the city and county government arena. My understanding is that Lawrence will be their first venture into that market. So, KanREN may be a Lawrence company worth watching.

The city did receive bids from Lawrence’s three other major players in the Internet service provider market. AT&T’s bid came in at $25,526 a year. Knology had a bid of $24,000 a year. Wicked Broadband, which previously was known as Community Wireless or Lawrence Freenet, came it at $47,988 per year. The city has an option to renew the service at the current price for two additional years.

• There is good news for fans of AT&T in Lawrence. The company has announced that it has activated its 4G LTE service in Lawrence. The company claims the new service is 10 times faster than the 3G service it has offered in the area.

AT&T has invested about $725 million in its Kansas networks as part of the upgrade. The company launched 4G LTE in Wichita in July and in Kansas City in November 2011.

Probably not coincidentally, the company is in the process of opening a new wireless phone store at 33rd and Iowa streets in the new commercial building in the Walmart parking lot.


Hooligan_016 5 years, 2 months ago

I want some of that sweet sweet gigabit fiber. MmmmMMmmm.

Jay_Bird 5 years, 2 months ago

How about making this a Douglas County wide priority?

I live 3 miles from city limits and 1/2 mile from the last cable drop on my road and have to suffer with dial-up internet at something less than 56kbps.

To add insult to this I do not have reliable cell coverage, and the cable company wants $20,000.00 to extend cable the 1/2 mile to my house.

Third world countries have better internet access then I have!

Jay_Bird 5 years, 2 months ago

Actually that is a bit offensive... The world of internet reliance has changed alot since we moved out of town 20 years ago! And it is a fact that there are many rural people not being served and not in a position to just up and move to get better service. It's not like we are the only home in a hundred miles, we are just 3 miles from town! The point of the comment is more about how infrastructure has not kept up with the pace of technology.

flyin_squirrel 5 years, 2 months ago

You need to look into other options. Three miles from the city, and no reliable cell coverage is not good. I would change providers, and then I would sign up for a wireless card with your cell carrier. It will run about $50 a month, but used the Cell Tower for internet, so you have no need for LAN connection. And it will form a wireless network at your house so more than one computer can be on at a time.

Jay_Bird 5 years, 2 months ago

Sprint, Verizon, and AT&T are all the same, low to no signal strength.

And even with a decent cell signal the way they structure data plans, a cell option for home internet service is not a cost justifiable option in todays data heavy internet use environment. Watch a couple movies, a few TV shows, and upload some full res pictures or movie clips a month and you will exceed most data plans.

David Klamet 5 years, 2 months ago

I live on the other side of Clinton Lake and get 2MBs via Knology. There are other companies that provide faster service.

It is wireless (WiMax) and not bad. Much better than dial-up. You should look at your options as I doubt you will get cable any time soon,

Not great, but much better than I expected when I moved out here.

Boston_Corbett 5 years, 2 months ago

When you chose to live in an "rural" area, you knew you deciding to live an area that did not have "urban" services.

Gabe Hoffman 5 years, 2 months ago

Hmmm, I thought they already had 4G or was their advertising misleading.....At least my Sprint LTE has been working for several months now.

Hooligan_016 5 years, 2 months ago

AT&T calls their HSPA+ network "4G" - basically 3.5G, slightly faster than 3G but not "real" LTE.

This is actual 4G LTE.

So yes, they are very misleading with their advertising, haha. Also, Sprint is a CDMA network and AT&T is GSM :D

someguy 5 years, 2 months ago

It will be a few years before any of us see real 4G. There are currently no US carriers that have production networks that meet the ITU standard for 4G (IMT-Advanced). LTE comes close, but only in lab environments. The 4G term used by US carriers is a marketing term and not a technical term.


Dave Greenbaum 5 years, 2 months ago

I have full confidence in our Kansas Legislature and the lobbyists at AT&T, Time Warner, Knology WOW etc to pass a law against municipal broadband like they are doing in Georgia. http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2013/02/georgia-bill-no-muni-broadband-in-areas-with-at-least-1-5mbps-service/

Sean Livingstone 5 years, 2 months ago

Ok, why are we studying something that has already been studied?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 2 months ago

Consumers in the US pay the among the highest prices for the slowest service of all the world's technologically developed countries.

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