Scottsburg, Indiana wireless network saves the community

Without a single Powerpoint slide, Mayor Bill Graham of Scottsburg, Indiana delivered the most compelling presentation at the New America Foundation’s Pervasive Connectivity conference last April 16, 2004. Anyone who still believes that wireless networking is for spoiled urban geeks needs to hear his story.Without a single Powerpoint slide, Mayor Bill Graham of Scottsburg, Indiana delivered the most compelling presentation at the New America Foundation’s Pervasive Connectivity conference last April 16, 2004. Anyone who still believes that wireless networking is for spoiled urban geeks needs to hear his story.

Scottsburg, Indiana is a community of 6000 people, 29 miles (47 km) north of Louisville Kentucky. Scottsburg does not have wired broadband and the costs of deploying one are prohibitive. Just to give you an example, it costs $1300 per month to lease a T1 line in Scottsburg; in Louisville, it costs only $300 per month.

The town approached Verizon about bringing broadband to their community, but the latter told them that there were not enough residents to make it worth Verizon’s trouble. The town also talked to five different consultants who gave five different opinions about how to bring broadband to the community; the consultants were also charging huge amounts of money to manage the project.

In the end, the municipal council approached the town’s electric utility which informed them that they could set up a wireless network that would piggyback on the electric utility’s fiber network. Mayor Graham cited to Kentucky’s largest municipal utility (Owensboro Municipal Utilities) which spent $11 million to put fiber in the ground only to find out that the cost of building out the last mile is cost-prohibitive.

(Side note: Owensboro eventually chose to offer broadband wirelessly for one-third of the price charged by local cable and DSL providers. Within six months after launching the service, OMU Online has connected more than 700 customers with broadband access. Currently, it has a backlog of several hundred connections, and expects to have a total of 1,500 customers by the end of the year.)

Here’s what Mayor Graham had to say about how critical broadband is to their community. The local Chrysler repair shop employs mechanics that work off laptops and Chrysler told them that if they do not get fast, reliable Internet access, they would have to close the shop (losing 60 jobs). Homeworkers who do medical transcription work also told the mayor that they would have to move elsewhere if the town did not get high-speed Internet service.

Scottsburg was able to deploy a wireless broadband network within three months. It cost $385,000 and they have 100 customers in the first year of operation. They use Alvarion gear (which the Owensboro utility also uses for their wireless network). They charge $35 per month for 512 Kbps up/down and $200 per month for a T1 line. Mayor Graham estimates that the school system saves $6000 per month in telecommunications costs (an amount that could pay for another teacher).

Comments

  1. I represent Alvarion (and have been known as the “Chief Evangelist” for the unlicensed wireless broadband market). A few corrections. Actually, OMU has almost 2,000 customers now according to the latest from Phillip Coleman, the Director at OMU Online. When the much-loved “Mayor Bill” first consulted Phillip Coleman at OMU back late fall of 2002 OMU had 700 customers. OMU’s goal is 10,000, which they hope to reach in a few years. The pop. of Owensboro is roughly 50k, which should translate into about 20k households.

    Also, Scottsburg has over 400 (not 100) customers (as of the Pervasive Connectivity conference, where I also presented citing other cases). In other words, they have about 200 of the households so far (with a pop of 6,000, this assumes about 2,000 households).

  2. …er, in the closing sentence I intended to write, “In other words, they have about 20% of the households…” – Patrick

  3. Wendy Dant Chesser says:

    Anyone who has had the pleasure of working with Mayor Graham can confirm that his leadership and vision for the community he loves is the key to this success story. Congratulations to the Mayor and citizens of Scottsburg!

  4. I am one of the medical transcriptionists in Scottsburg and I absolutely LOVE this system, without it I would have had to either relocate or quit my job and I doubt it would have been the latter. Thanks to our wonderful mayor and the people of C3bb for such a wonderful job!!!

  5. I am looking for data in regards to the project plan for this implementation and any other data that wpould assist in better understanding how to install.

    Thank you

  6. I tried to get the broadband that Scottsburg offered and because I live down in a little valley and the installers could not see the pole from my house I was not able to get the broadband. I am stuck with dial up and there is nothing I can do about.

  7. c3bb customer says:

    Do to the infastructure used C3BB’s service cannot support any decent amount of traffic. I’ve had them cut off my service temporarily for uploading 3 files at once via AIM. Any program which runs as a server (and is able to get around their router which they will not allow you to open ports on, limiting program functionality) will knock out a portion of their network. They do not inform customers of any of these limitations of their network, until after they’ve shut off their service a couple of times. In short, if you need to make actual use of your internet connection their residential connection won’t support it. You’ll need a business setup.

  8. I am a resident of Scott county. I live in the country and I would love to have the service. I just cant afford the $350.00 they need to put up a utility pole so I can use the service. My sister & brother-in-law love it.

  9. alan wilder says:

    i used to live in scottsburg a long time ago when i was a boy back in the 80s and i think its great that they are moving with the times thought i would still love it to b a small town….. oh how i miss that town i grew up there and would love to move make when i get the chance alan
    lincoln nebraska

  10. It is now possible to get Broadband/dsl through Verizon, the local phone company, at 14.94 mo for the first year. There is a minimal charge for service set up but we have it now and are pretty happy with it. Sure beats dial-up. You can find it on Verizon website ( may be a promo for a short time) but if it is still going it is worth the check out.

  11. Brad Clark says:

    There is one aspect in this discussion that no one has yet mentioned: the effects of BPL on amateur radio. The majority of the American population has no idea of the function of Ham radio. When natural diaster strikes and the usual modes of communication of disrupted, we convey all information to relevant emergency requests, including (but not limited to) power outages, health & welfare needs (food & water). We are in close contact to the National weather service, the American Red Cross,
    FEMA, as well as state and local emergency services.
    We are an ‘when all else fails’ media. Ham radio station are self-contained, capable of communicating around the world on antennas located on our property and battery/solar power. We also get and send messages to your loved ones in the Armed Forces via the Military Amateur Radio Service (MARS) which has been in service for over 50 years.
    Unfortunately, broadband-over-power line service (BPL) severely disrupts our ability to communicate by interjecting a tremendous amount of spurious emissions (noise) on the bands that we normally operate within. If we can’t communicate, everyone suffers. This could mean lack of medical care, food, water, and an expediant means to rebuilding after a disaster.
    Personally, I don’t understand the ‘need for speed’ on an internet connection. I have a 46.6 bps dial-up connection, and am very happy with my service. I’ve played with high speed connections on other computers before, and while I acknowledge it’s convienence, it’s NOT necessary for effective information gathering.
    There is legislation before Congress as we speak, presented by the American Amateur Relay League (ARRL) that plans to make this form of internet delivery illegal. Our lobby has been extremely sucessful in several states, and will eventually make changing law nation-wide.
    I live close to Scottsburg, Indiana and am dismayed by their disregard to their ‘greed-for-speed’. If enough
    local communities in proximity to Scottsburg acquire
    BPL, in the event of a devastating emergency, it will lead to their downfall. Just ask anyone that lived through Hurricane Katrina and the tsunami last year, and they will tell you where the reliable communications came from: amateur radio.

    Brad Clark
    W9BAG
    Columbus, Indiana

  12. The scottsburg service is not BPL, they need utility poles to mount the receives. At my home they decided to mount it on out television antenna which messed up the service on several stations.

  13. David Maples says:

    I live in Corydon and run an Internet based business. The only affordable HSI was through the local REMC. They have canceled their contract with their provider, leaving us only the cable company. Its good to know that other towns elected officials are being forward thinking and taking an active role in moving the community forward. If I could, I would move my business to Scottsburg.

  14. Larry Johson says:

    OK i Do not know when this was all posted but insight cable has hasd hight speed internet for the last 2 years in scottsburg speeds up tp 4000kbs and for around 40 dollars a month . now the wirless service is great for thouse who canot get cable which is about i am thinking around 1/4 of the residents which is small the cith of scottsburg and the mayor have used the citys main rescorces for the wirless project they are using funds from the electric company as many people might not know this .the whole idea of wirless internet in scottsburg was a great idea but it is to limited in thare bandwith they started out with over 30000 dollars nd they monitor what to are downloading i think this is wrong scottsburg wants to cater to its big buisness and to the peaple that have money

  15. I’ve had them cut off my service temporarily for uploading 3 files at once via AIM. Any program which runs as a server (and is able to get around their router which they will not allow you to open ports on, limiting program functionality) will knock out a portion of their network. They do not inform customers of any of these limitations of their network, until after they’ve shut off their service a couple of times.

  16. Kerry Lewis King says:

    I will be moving to Scottsburg in the spring. I will hopefully be telecommuting (working vitually) for my office here in Massachusetts. I hope to GOD the internet service in Scottsburg is up with the times, or it looks like I will have to look for an insurance underwriting job in Louisville. I would much rather work virtually for my current job as I love it. Any area’s I should avoid looking at when I start looking at real estate. Don’t want to be stuck somewhere that can’t get service…

  17. I live in Vienna & I can only get dial up. We don’t have the new phone lines to get verizons high speed. Where I live there are too many trees around me so I can’t even get the service with one of their huge poles to get the signal like my sister was able to do. Insight isn’t available.. I have checked every possible option, so it’s dial up for me. I called back since it had been a couple of years & when I told the lady that they had told me the first time that they couldn’t get a signal, she said “Well, the trees have grown so you still won’t be able to get it”. My mom has left several messages for them to call her back to see if she can get the service, but no one will return her call. She calls during business hours.

  18. Shaun Ludwick says:

    I have had C3bb service for quite a while and have had quite a few problems. I have had to call and get them to re-set their system every few months when the service gets so slow it’s unbearable. As soon as they “reset something on their end” it works as it should for a week or two(maybe) then starts to gradually get slower again. Recently they came out and fitted a newer style of antenna that seemed to help for a while but started doing the same thing. Now service speed seems to depend on the day. Some days it works fine, other days it takes 30 minutes just to check my e-mail. The people at the office and tech support are nice but the overall service is horrible because of the unpredictability.

    I am actively looking for a new internet service provider that I can afford but my location makes it difficult to find anything else. Doing any work at home is difficult at best.

    My 2 cents…..If insight is available where you are I would NOT recommend this wireless service.