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President Barack Obama Hails Cedar Falls as US Leading Broadband City

Last week, President Barack Obama visited the Cedar Valley to highlight the City of Cedar Falls and Cedar Falls Utilities(CFU) as a leader in providing broadband service to the community.  The national and international media coverage of the President has shown a spotlight on the Cedar Falls and the Cedar Valley.  The Alliance & Chamber congratulates the city and CFU for this pioneering work. We also recognize the efforts of other providers to bring high speed service to the entire Cedar Valley. Read the recent blog post by CFU General Manager Jim Krieg.

President Barack Obama’s visit last week was a proud and memorable day for Cedar Falls, and most certainly for CFU. It was an honor to extend Cedar Falls’ hospitality to our President, and to be held up as an example of community broadband success.

Because of the President’s visit, people from all over the place are asking about the secret sauce. What is it that makes community broadband successful in Cedar Falls?

The answer is in the name: community. In 1994, no provider offered high speed internet service in Cedar Falls, and the phone and cable companies then serving the town had no plans to upgrade their networks any time soon. Unwilling to wait, citizens led the charge to pass a referendum that founded our community broadband service and tasked CFU with designing, building and running it.

It was a bold move and not without risk. On Wednesday the President called it visionary and ahead of its time. The referendum ballot included a $3 million bond to fund construction costs. That bond was repaid over time as our business grew.

In fact, the business boomed. The same people who voted to form CFU’s Communications Utility made it a smashing success by signing up as customers. Because of that, community broadband in Cedar Falls is fully self-supporting as a fee-for-service business.

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CEDAR FALLS NAMED 2014 GOOGLE eCITY for IOWA

On October 15, Cedar Falls was named the 2014 eCity of Iowa.  The eCity Awards recognize the strongest online business community in each state – the digital capitals of America. These cities’ businesses are embracing the web to find new customers, connect with existing clients and fuel their local economies. Cedar Falls joins the ranks of America’s leading cities in the digital economy.  Google  recognized the city’s innovative businesses by holding a community celebration with Sen. Chuck Grassley, Mayor Jon Crews and other community representatives on Wednesday, on Main St. in Cedar Falls.

Senator Grassley presented the award to Mayor Crews, who credited the citizens of Cedar Falls for passing the community broadband referendum 20 years ago this month, and credited CFU will building and continuously updating the community’s broadband infrastructure.

Local partners include:

  • City of Cedar Falls
  • Cedar Falls Utilities
  • Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber
  • Business and Community Services at UNI
  • Small Business Development Center at UNI

 

 

 

Broadband Access Topic of Summit

Broadband Access Topic of Summit 

In June, Alliance & Chamber Director of Business Services, Nate Clayberg attended the annual Connect Iowa Broadband Summit.  The conference was attended by community and school administrators, economic developers, communications industry executives, representatives from John Deere and Gov. Terry Branstad.

Data was presented at the conference that shows the main barriers for broadband adoption by Iowans are perceived lack of relevance, cost, and digital literacy.  In the survey 31% of those surveyed did not see relevance to being connected by broadband, and a third of those were rural residents of the state.  Cost was most relevant to low income families with children, and the minority population saw digital literacy as their biggest barrier to adopting broadband access. It was noted that 113,000 school-age children in Iowa still do not have broadband access at home.

John Deere Manager of Spectrum Advocacy Mark Lewellen gave the keynote presentation at the conference to show the importance of wireless broadband networks expansion in rural areas for the next level of farming in the U.S.  John Deere equipment currently comes with data modems installed as standard equipment, but he notes that feature is not as valuable if it cannot connect to a network.  He said with the growing demand for more food, fuel and feed to support a growing global population, efficiencies in agriculture production are a must to support this demand.  Deere’s FarmSight technology system is being designed to help farmers become more productive and profitable with precision agriculture techniques, but connecting to mobile broadband is key to making the system run effectively for their customers.  Watch “The Future of Farming is in Sight” 

The increased broadband demand in our rural areas, especially mobile access, will be a great driver to help our rural areas sustain and possibly grow population and businesses that require digital connection to the world for business and personal access.  This plays especially well for the rural school districts, many of which are offering one to one digital learning with tablets and laptops for students to use at school and at home.  Howard-Winneshiek School District Superintendent John Carver presented to the conference on how the school is using technology to connect across their 462 square mile district, the second largest in the state.  But he faces challenges in his smaller rural communities that have limited access for not only their school buildings but the homes of their students as well.  It makes it challenging for students to complete assignments with a weaker broadband infrastructure in those areas. Carver discussed a couple interesting requests he has to the state education department in regards to their one to one digital access. Can they eliminate snow days by having teachers connect with students on those days that personnel and pupils cannot make it to their school buildings? And why is there a state law against mobile broadband hotspots on school buses? A feature that would help Howard-Winn students that spend time on buses commuting from home to school. He is awaiting a response to these questions as it relates to an ever changing digital world.

  • The Cedar Valley is leading the way in broad accessibility and acceptance. In February of 2014, Governor Branstad recognized Black Hawk County as the fourth community to become a Certified Connected Community in the state and 20th in the nation.
  • In May of 2014 Cedar Falls Utilities (CFU) announced 1-Gig service to every home and every business in the city making Cedar Falls Iowa’s first ‘Gigabit City.’ Mediacom also provides gigabit fiber accessible to the entire Cedar Valley Region.
  •  Learn more at  www.connectiowa.org

Cedar Falls Schools Making the World Their Classroom

Cedar Falls Schools Making the World Their Classroom

CEDAR FALLS, IA  The countdown is on for launching a project to expand classroom learning across town and across the globe for K-12 students at the Cedar Falls Community Schools.

Beginning in January, the schools’ digital learning initiative will put web-connected notebook computers in the hands of every high school student, opening up access to learning tools and experiences outside the classroom walls. For grades 3-6, one notebook will be available for every two students, and pre-K through grade 2 students will share iPads on a three-to-one basis. Notebooks will be distributed to all  junior high students at the beginning of the 2014 fall semester.

Plans to take digital learning tools to the next level as a “one-to-one” school have been in the works for about two years. Cedar Falls teachers, administrators, technical staff, school board members and parents have all been part of the planning effort through the District Technology Committee.

“Truly, the most important thing is that we aren’t doing this for the sake of having more technology in the classroom,” said Dr. Andy Pattee, Superintendent of Schools. “We are undertaking this very large initiative to help students learn and showcase their learning at greater levels, by providing much more access to tools for that than we’ve had in the past.”

“A lot of work by many, many people has been done over the past couple of years to be sure that we’re doing this the right way, focused on student learning and student achievement, with all the professional development behind it for our staff to insure that it’s implemented with fidelity in the classroom,” Pattee said.

At each school building, a team of teachers is offering peer training to help everyone get familiar with the new tools so they can be used effectively for better student outcomes.

The school’s technology staff have worked over the past three years to improve the district’s internal network and beef up wireless access points at every building to get ready for increased web traffic during the school day.

 

“Up to now, a lot of work has been done behind the scenes,” said district Information and Technology Services Supervisor Shane Paige. “In January we’ll start rolling out Chromebooks for every student at the high school, and within 10 months our integration will be complete at every building throughout the district.”

Paige explained that the Chromebook laptops the District is deploying are easily interchangeable between students. That’s because software applications and document storage are “in the cloud” and tied to the student’s unique user identity, rather than on the hardware.

A key piece of preparation is happening this week, as the Cedar Falls School District switches its primary internet connection to gigabit service from Cedar Falls Utilities (CFU).

“Early in the planning, we knew that if we were going to get the benefits of a cloud-based system, we had to have a rock-solid internet connection,” Paige said. “That’s really why we’re making the move to CFU, for the reliability and the local support that we can call on if we need it.”

The school system operates its wide area network over fiber optic cable that CFU installed several years ago at no cost to the district. The schools will maintain a back-up internet connection through the Iowa Communications Network, or ICN.

“Serving the schools in this way is a perfect example of why we upgraded our entire system to fiber-to-the-premises,” said CFU Network Manager Rob Houlihan. “It’s meant to be a community asset that supports innovation in business, in education and in local government in Cedar Falls.”

Earlier this year CFU completed a city-wide upgrade of its communications network, bringing a fiber optic connection to every home and business in Cedar Falls. In May, CFU added service plans at one gigabit per second to its full range of internet products for home and business users.

How will connecting students to the world change learning outcomes?

“Really the possibilities are endless when you focus on student learning and enable that with technology,” says Pattee. “The world is shrinking, and we all know that. Now, with technology we can open it up for collaboration that happens across town or across the world, and give students a broader range of classroom learning experiences that can happen instantaneously and seamlessly. That’s exciting for our teachers and our students.”

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CEDAR FALLS IS IOWA’S FIRST GIGABIT CITY

“CFU now offers  1-Gig service to every home and every business in the city making Cedar Falls Iowa’s first  ‘Gigabit City.’ There are fewer than 50, 1-Gig cities in the nation. Of those that claim 1-Gig service, most only deliver it to a small area of the city or a certain class of customer. CFU offers true, city wide, 1-Gig to everyone.

The Cedar Valley is well on its way to becoming Gigabit Valley! With CFU’s product in place, undoubtedly 1-Gig will soon be offered by providers in Waterloo and other Cedar Valley cities. The Cedar Valley is the place for tech led industry, business and services to grow bigger and stronger. We have the fiber to prove it!”  – Steve Dust, CEO Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber.

More information can be found at www.CFU.net

The following is CFU’s May 28th announcement

CFU launches state’s fastest internet service

CEDAR FALLS IS IOWA’S FIRST GIGABIT CITY

CEDAR FALLS, IA Cedar Falls Utilities (CFU) launches internet service at 1 gigabit per second (GBPS) today, making Cedar Falls the first and only Iowa community on the nation’s short list of gigabit cities.

CFU’s gigabit service is available now at any Cedar Falls business or home. The service is delivered through CFU’s city-wide fiber optic network, completed earlier this year. About 400 rural Cedar Falls properties also have access to the service.

“We can turn up a customer’s gigabit service on the same day they ask for it, if not the same hour,” said CFU General Manager Jim Krieg. “The facilities are already in place, so we can activate the service remotely from our network operations center.”

Cedar Falls Community Services Manager Robert Seymour says the “gigabit city” label will put Cedar Falls on the map for a broader list of business prospects.

“This is a great tool for promoting Cedar Falls as a place to locate or expand a business,” says Seymour. “It’s an important part of the complete infrastructure package we bring to the table, and it means we can compete with the best broadband communities anywhere in the country.”

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CFU’s high-speed internet service dates back to 1996, years before similar service became available in most of Iowa. “Back then, a 10 megabit connection easily met the needs of a high-demand business user,” Krieg recalls. “The service we’re launching today is 100 times as fast.”

“One of the biggest changes we’ve seen is the transformation of broadband access from an innovation back in the ‘90s, to a convenience that people want, to an essential service for businesses and families,” Krieg said. “Today customers are looking for more than speed. They demand the highest reliability for their broadband connections, just as they do for electric or water or gas service.”

To meet that need, CFU designed its city-wide network and external internet connections with diverse fiber paths and back-up capacity. “Our network is set up to maintain service to customers even when something breaks,” says Network Manager Rob Houlihan. “Say there’s a fiber cut between here and Chicago that takes one of our upstream providers out of service. Our other transport paths and bandwidth sources handle the traffic, without disruption for the customers.”

Krieg notes that CFU serves more than 600 businesses and 11,000 home internet customers today, and most will not immediately upgrade to gigabit service. “With this launch, we’re upgrading our top business tier customers from 200 MBPS to gigabit service at the same price,” he said.

Bandwidth demand from CFU’s internet customers has grown rapidly, and more than doubled in 2012. “Experience shows that when we deliver more bandwidth, customers find innovative ways to use it,” Krieg says. “We expect demand for gigabit service to start small, but grow fast.”

CFU continues to offer a range of home and business internet plans, starting at $30/month. Speeds and pricing for all of CFU’s broadband services are online at www.cfu.net/internet.

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Cedar Falls Utilities provides broadband communications, electricity, water and natural gas services to homes and businesses in Cedar Falls, Iowa, population 39,000. The Utilities are owned by the City of Cedar Falls and operated for public benefit under the governance of a citizen Board of Trustees. The Municipal Communications Utility was formed in 1994 by a citizen referendum, and launched internet and television services in January, 1996.

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Media resources: Visit CFU’s online newsroom for video news release, broadcast quality video clips, still images, logos and sidebar copy.

About CFU

Cedar Falls Utilities provides internet, electricity, water, natural gas and cable television services to homes and businesses in Cedar Falls, Iowa, population 39,000. Electric and broadband services are also provided to an 85-square-mile area of rural Cedar Falls. The rural service area is located mostly in Black Hawk County, Iowa, with limited overlap to adjacent Grundy and Butler Counties.

Internet and video services are provided through the Municipal Communications Utility, founded by citizen referendum in 1994. In 1996 the Utility was among nation’s first providers of high speed internet service. In 2013, CFU completed a three-year network upgrade, bringing a fiber optic connection to every Cedar Falls home and business.

CFU’s combination of reliable and economical broadband, electricity, natural gas and water services gives growing and relocating companies a single source for essential services that are immediately available and ready for business.

CFU’s business units are the Cedar Falls Municipal Communications, Electric, Gas and Water Utilities. All four entities are owned by the City of Cedar Falls and operated for public benefit under the governance of a citizen Board of Trustees

Be part of something greater - The Cedar Valley of Iowa

The Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber is a regional economic community development corporation working to increase economic vitality and wealth in the Waterloo / Cedar Falls area and surrounding economic region. The Alliance & Chamber has approximately 800 members that represents over 40,000 employees