News

Posted January 28, 2010 by christopher

A video from Chelan shows the benefits of a publicly owned fiber-to-the-home network in a rural public utility district in Washington State. The network has literally saved lived with tele-medicine applications. Citizens also cite educational advantages and increased business opportunities thanks to this smart investment.

This video is no longer available.

Posted January 27, 2010 by christopher

This community of almost 10,000 near St. Louis has taken another step toward creating competition in broadband by investing in a publicly owned fiber network. In April of 2009, the community voted overwhelmingly (75%) yes to a question authorizing the network with revenue bonds that would be backed by electrical revenues from the city's public power company.

They have started the first phase (focusing mainly on businesses though some residences will be passed) by awarding bids for construction (the bids were below expectations - a slow economy is a good time for infrastructure investments due to the low prices). Though the project has spurred some debate, the majority remain in strong support, as demonstrated in a recent article about the project.

Posted January 26, 2010 by christopher

FiberNet Monticello put one of their advertisements on YouTube.

Posted January 25, 2010 by christopher

Looking for something to listen to? Jim Baller's interview with Scott Mace on IT Conversations provides insight into stimulus funding, background on publicly owned networks, and his work on a broadband plan for the U.S. It runs for 50 minutes, but nearly all of them are interesting if you care about broadband.

Posted January 19, 2010 by christopher

Seattle's new mayor continues to impress me as he makes good on his pledge to build a publicly owned fiber-optic network in the City. He has just met with the mayor of Tacoma to discuss lessons learned from the Tacoma Click! network.

We have previously discussed Click!, an HFC network run by Tacoma's public utility. Here are some additional benefits from the article:

Posted January 17, 2010 by christopher

Last month, the Daily Yonder offered a short history of Universal Service in telecommunications in the U.S. Due to the high costs of providing services in many areas of the country, private network owners have never demonstrated an interest in providing universal service, leading to various government initiatives to expand access to telecom networks.

One of the reasons we support publicly owned networks is because we strongly believe in universal service. Universal access to fast and affordable broadband is an important goal for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is its potential to democratize and enhance educational opportunities.

Posted January 14, 2010 by christopher

I caught an interesting article asking whether Dubuque, Iowa, should build a publicly owned broadband network. Iowa already has a number of publicly owned networks, mostly cable HFC networks, that serve communities.

The article starts with some history, noting that the small community of Hawarden, Iowa, was the first to build a public cable system in the state and had to defend its rights to do so in court.

The northwest Iowa community of about 2,500 people more than a decade ago built a $4 million cable system, only to be temporarily shut down by an Iowa Supreme Court injunction. Hawarden survived the court's order prohibiting municipalities from being in the telecommunications business, and in many respects blazed the trail for publicly run cable, Internet and phone service in Iowa.

Posted January 14, 2010 by christopher

While I was researching recent developments in the BVU OptiNet, I stumbled across a hilarious comment to a news post. I have tried to track down the original source but have not been able to find anything. I am going to reprint it here, assuming the author would appreciate it...

This was written by someone apparently fed up with all the claims about what is socialism and what isn't. I think it simply serves as a good reminder of the role government plays in our lives -- often transparently.

Posted January 11, 2010 by christopher

The FCC asked for comments on its plans to make rules to protect the open Internet [pdf] from companies that may exert more control over the sites you want to visit in order to boost their profits.

Free Press made the video below to encourage people to comment before the deadline. Though we believe Network Neutrality provisions would be unnecessary with policies that encouraged public ownership and open access, the reality of networks today dictates rules that do not allow Comcast or AT&T to turn the Internet into the wasteland of FM radio today.

SavetheInternet.com makes it easy to comment if you don't have a lot of experience with FCC notices.

Photo used under Creative Commons license from AdamWillis.

Posted January 7, 2010 by christopher

Ars Technica has published an op-ed I wrote after we published our interactive municipal broadband preemption map.

Community-owned broadband is one way to bring fiber to smaller markets, but many states restrict the practice. Researcher Christopher Mitchell argues that it's time for a bit more Roosevelt-style localism in US broadband.

Posted January 4, 2010 by christopher

Over the holiday break, I was visiting family in central Minnesota where they rely on dial-up for getting on the Internet. Translation: They are not on the Internet. Though I have previously said this, my experiences reminded me that nothing I do on the Internet on a daily basis is possible to do over dialup. I use gmail for my email - the delays in reading messages are intolerable and render email painful. Checking news sites is right out - they load up with all kinds of images and rich media advertisements. There is no "surfing" because it takes minutes to load a page - more like running through water than surfing over it. When I visit other family south of the metro area, I can use slow DSL - the best connection available there (at a price greater than what I pay in Saint Paul for a far faster connection) and the difference is notable - particularly when I try to send a large file to someone.

Posted December 23, 2009 by christopher

Listen to this 1 hour podcast from Free UTOPIA that discusses recent progress in Brigham City, notes that Orem City is saving some $50,000/month from telecom expenses thanks to UTOPIA, and recaps some of the early history of the UTOPIA project. Most of the discussion is an interview with triple-play UTOPIA provider Prime Time Communications.

Posted December 22, 2009 by christopher

After campaigning on building a publicly owned fiber-to-the-home network in Seattle, Mayor McGinn has decided to maintain leadership at the Department of Information Technology. Department head Bill Schrier will stay on, continuing his work that lays the groundwork for a community-owned network.

He said he expects the city to apply for federal stimulus money in the first part of the year to move toward that goal. In addition to improving broadband access in homes, the initiative could help Seattle City Light implement smart-grid infrastructure, and improve public safety communications.

Another article further notes their shared ambition:

Posted December 17, 2009 by christopher

Highland, Illinois, having overwhelmingly approved a referendum in April, 2009 to own and operate a fiber-to-the-premises system, has continued to examine the potential for a publicly owned fiber-to-the-home network. Most of the local government is supportive but one councilmember is vehemently opposed, leading to a ""boom or bust?" article in the local paper.

Interestingly, the city had a significant outage in 2008 due to a fiber cut outside of town.

The new redundancy brought by fiber that would mean a decrease in the chances for a repeat of the winter 2008 when a third-party contractor working to put up a communications tower for AmerenIP cut a fiber optic cable near Maryville, knocking out phone service, most cellular services and Internet service in Highland for nearly seven hours, Latham [city manager] said.

Posted December 15, 2009 by christopher

The Jackson Energy Authority (JEA) network now has over 16,000 subscribers and offers speeds up to 100 Mbps for local businesses and 25 Mbps for standard residential users.

Jackson is considered one of the most technologically advanced cities in the U.S. We have four competitors in the market with AT&T, Bell South, Charter and JEA. We computed that over $8 million to $9 million has been saved by residents in this city when compared to other cities of its size because of the competition.

These are the kind of hard-to-quantify savings that too often go unnoticed in discussions about the value of publicly owned broadband projects. What is the value of competition? How much economic development has occurred directly from the JEA network and indirectly from the lower prices and greater investments that result from competition?

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