Paul Venezia is one of the few who noted a recent Lessig presentation that discusses broadband policy. Larry Lessig's presentation offers an excellent short history of broadband and telecom history - from the beginning of AT&T to the National Broadband Plan. The video runs an hour, but should be essential viewing for anyone who wants to understand why the U.S. continues to fall behind international peers in broadband. Lessig's answer is that we have lost our independence. Large corporate interests dominate the federal government as well as the state legislatures, resulting in a government that too often bends to their will. Lessig's presentation covers the essential role of government in forcing AT&T to open the phone network (paving the way for fax machines, Sports Illustrated football phones, and eventually dial-up modems).
Lake Minnetonka Communication Commission -- a group representing a number of suburban communities located west of Minneapolis -- is seeking to build a community-owned FTTH network. LMCC has decided not to seek funds from the broadband stimulus programs and instead seek private funding (likely from a revenue bond offering).
Much like Lafayette in Louisiana, these communities mostly have access to broadband already, but it is slow and overpriced. They are motivated to build a faster network that responds to community needs.
I was briefly checking out the Open Internet Workshop when I got into a short tweet-argument with someone I did not know. Bear with me as I recount the discussion then explain why I think it worth delving into for a post. This person caught my attention by tweeting, "Which means the Net is already open, right?"
I responded, "Yes Internet is open. Trying to keep it that way. Idea that net neutrality is 'new' is absurd."
Shortly thereafter, I got a response that fits a standard script: "Then how about proving actual harm first? Burden of proof to hand Net to govt is on you guys."
I responded, "Comcast, RCN, Cox block applications ... why must we wait for you to break the Net further to fix it?"
The final response was that the market forces will solve the problem and my "examples are outdated."
Thanks to Catharine Rice, who tipped me off to FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn's presentation at the SEATOA Conference yesterday. SEATOA is a regional group of states from the southeast of the US that are part of NATOA. Commissioner Clyburn noted that the FCC and the National Broadband Plan oppose state preemption of local broadband networks.
Thus, the Plan recommends that Congress clarify that State and local governments should not be restricted from building their own broadband networks. I firmly believe that we need to leverage every resource at our disposal to deploy broadband to all Americans. If local officials have decided that a publicly-owned broadband network is the best way to meet their citizens’ needs, then my view is to help make that happen.
Susan Crawford recently posted "The Gentlemen's Agreement," noting that major cable companies have divided the national market and tend not to compete with each other (they actually help each other in some circumstances).
Though bad for everyone not named Comcast or Time Warner, this division is actually a historic accomplishment:
After focusing on the North Carolina battle at the Legislature (regarding whether cities should be allowed to choose to build their own broadband networks or if they should solely have to beg the private sector for investment), I wanted to check in on Salisbury, which is building a FTTH network.
Salisbury has persevered through many obstacles, including finding financing for the project in the midst of the worst economic downturn since the Depression. They will begin serving customers this August.
After choosing the name "Fibrant" as the name of the network, they have established a slick web presence at fibrant.com. The site has a a blog, but is rarely updated currently.
Time Warner continues to fight for monopoly protections in North Carolina with legislation to hamstring municipalities, preventing them from building the essential broadband infrastructure they need. While I was in Lafayette at FiberFete, the North Carolina Legislature was considering a bill to preempt local authority, essentially shutting down the prospect for any cable and broadband competition in the state.
David Pogue, a NY Times Tech columnist, recently wrote about a partnership between cable companies to share Wi-Fi access points:
I, a Cablevision customer, can now use all of Time Warner’s and Comcast’s hot spots in these three states. If you have Time Warner’s Road Runner service at home, you’re now welcome to hop onto Cablevision’s Optimum hot spots wherever you find them, or Comcast’s Xfinity hot spots. And so on. It’s as though all three companies have merged for the purpose of accommodating your Wi-Fi gadget, hugely multiplying the number of hot spots that are available to you.
The companies call this kind of partnership “the first of many.”
Now, I think this development is fantastic. It hits me where I live. It’s free. It’s fast and reliable. I love it.
FiberFête, a conference in Lafayette celebrating "our connected future," continues today. The press release is below for more information, but be sure to check out the agenda and tune into the FiberFête free Live Stream.
This is a terrific collection of folks dedicated to building next generation networks - and many people who have built impressive publicly owned networks are here. Additionally, we will be learning a lot about how Lafayette plans to use their network.
FiberFête Conference Launches Tuesday
Technology and Community Leaders to Dream up Possibilities for Our Most Wired Cities
Stop the Cap! sounded the alarm that North Carolina is once again considering a bill to prevent competition by effectively banning communities from building their own networks.
The Communities United for Broadband Facebook page notes:
The cable industry will be pushing a bill to stop communities from investing in fiber optic infrastructure on April 21st at 9:30am in Raleigh before the Revenue Laws Committee in room 544 of the Legislative Office Building found at 46 W. Lane St, Raleigh, NC.
From an article in the local paper about Lancaster, Pennsylvania's Google Gigabit Application:
Brogan said that if Lancaster is selected, it would not run afoul of the state Telecommunications Act. That law prohibits cities from establishing municipal broadband networks except if existing providers indicate they have no immediate plans to offer similar services.
She said the city already has a letter from Verizon clearing the way for the Google application.
Oh good, glad the city secured permission from one private company to ask a different private company to build infrastructure. In the words of Yakov Smirnoff, "What a Country!"
A quick reaction to the court decision that the FCC cannot currently prevent Comcast from telling subscribers where they can and cannot go on the Internet: This is what happens when private companies own infrastructure.
Jesse Harris interviews Todd Marriott, Executive Director of UTOPIA about the network, its relationships with the member cities, and their round two application for broadband stimulus funds.
Last week, I spoke with Jeff Pesek and Peter Fleck of Tech.mn about telecom and broadband in Minnesota. They have also created a timeline of important broadband events in recent MN history.
The folks in Salisbury, North Carolina, have picked a name for their new FTTH network, Fibrant. An article in the Salisbury Post notes that even though the network is not yet offering services, they are seeing some economic development opportunities.
"We've already had a couple of people who have moved to town because they knew it was coming," said Clark, who noted that a medical concierge company (virtual check-ups) has shown a lot of interest in Salisbury's fiber.
The article also goes into the many advantages of fiber-optics over last generation technologies.