Update: Thanks to Mark Turner (@mtdotnet) for tape-delayed tweets updating what happened. He has reported: "Senator Joe Sam Queen objects to third reading of S.1209! It remains on the calendar!" This can still be stopped in the Senate. End Update
Update 2: Thanks to Senator Queen for his crucial objection, delaying passage today. His motivation for opposing this bill so strongly? His communities have been ignored by the private sector:
"They’re just frustrated that it’s not getting done by the cable companies, the network companies, whoever’s doing it. They’re just cherrypicking and leaving off so many of our citizens, and that’s just unacceptable."
Update: Once, again, the committee has pushed the bill back... now to Wednesday afternoon. One wonders how normal people with jobs are supposed to follow legislation live when they have no certainty when a specific subject will be discussed. End Update.
After a short-lived victory last week, Time Warner's bill (to prevent communities from building broadband networks that would compete with them) will apparently be considered today. Once again, we refer you to Jay Ovittore at Stop the Cap! for more direct information on who you can contact in the state to register opposition to this monopoly protection act.
It has been a year now that MuniNetworks.org has been live. For those who only read the feed, we have updated the logo on top of the site to make it more attractive. When we launched the site, we threw the theme together quickly and focused on getting good content. Now we are improving the look and feel, as befitting the great content we have collected.
We are also on Twitter with an account just focusing on Community Networks - you can follow @communitynets to stay up to date on our news and work.
As it has been a year, I wanted remind readers that we are always interested in ideas for improving the site, so please feel free to email us ( firstname.lastname@example.org ) with any thoughts.
Bill Schrier, Seattle's Chief Technology Officer (informally, Chief Geek), recently explored the ways in which limited competition in broadband has kept prices too high for many Americans and suggests high prices should be a cause for concern on the level of network neutrality. He is right not only in noting the problem, but noting that there is no solution to it forthcoming from the states or feds.
However, communities can take control of broadband prices by building their own networks. Not only can they guarantee lower rates, they effectively force lower rates from incumbents (and often increased investment) by merely increasing local competition.
Due to limits in law and FCC policy, building a network is really the only power of local governments to ensure the community has the broadband access it needs to succeed.
Update: Apparently the bill was pulled from the Committee today. No word yet of what the next step is.
The Senate Finance Committee of the North Carolina Legislature will vote today on a bill to create more barriers for publicly owned networks, essentially preventing competition for communities throughout the state - a great boon to Time Warner and AT&T who are pushing the bill. The meeting is in Room 544 LOB and the vote will occur sometime after 1:00.
Stop the Cap! has a good list of people you can call about this bill as well as a discussion why it is poor policy.
Progressive States Action sent out an alert about the legislation with the following information that they have graciously allowed me to repost here:
According to the local paper, Johnson City, Tennessee, continues to discuss whether its public power utility should build a FTTH network.
As with so many other communities that have only "high speed" cable and DSL options, people are recognizing the importance of broadband on economic development. Local Business leader, Joe Grandy, is the focus of this article:
“Economic development is part of what we’re charged at the Power Board with accomplishing. If the current (broadband) infrastructure is not sufficient to allow economic development to grow this market, something needs to change.”
If the private sector either isn’t willing or isn’t able to create adequate infrastructure, Grandy said, “then an entity such as the Power Board may need to.”
The latest attack on publicly owned broadband networks in North Carolina now has an official name - S1209: No Nonvoted Local Debt For Competing System and will apparently be debated in committee next week.
This bill is meant to stomp out any competition from community-owned broadband networks - the only real threat to Time Warner and other absentee-owned incumbent operators in the state. Not only would this bill create high hurdles for communities that want to build broadband networks, it also could prevent existing networks from upgrading or expanding. The community-owned networks in Wilson and Salisbury are the most advanced broadband networks in the state.
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The nation's newest open access network opened for business this week - Palm Coast FiberNET in Florida. This network is intended to serve businesses and is not currently a FTTH build. The network uses the City of Palm Coast's fiber assets:
The City of Palm Coast is making its high performance fiber network available for business and commercial use in Palm Coast. The goal of this effort is to create business opportunities for private sector service providers, lower the cost of telecom and broadband for local businesses, and to help attract new businesses and job opportunities to the City. Broadband connections to businesses will provide Internet access, a wider variety of telephone, videoconferencing, and other business class services.
Connected Nation and the utter lack of accurate maps depicting broadband options and metrics in this country reminded me of possibly my favorite comedian. George Carlin had a great routine about airlines and the safety speech given by flight attendants. In it, he has a throw-away line that continues to rattle around my head:
The safety lecture continues...
"In the unlikely event…"
This is a very suspect phrase! Especially, coming as it does, from an industry that is willing to lie about arrival and departure times!
After reading Larry Press' account of ordering DSL from Verizon, I couldn't help but wish George Carlin were still with us and also a giant broadband geek.
Larry Press' account on dealing with Verizon should be read in full, but this is what got me thinking:
The Chelan Public Utility District in Washington began its county-wide fiber-optic network build. They have since passed some 80% of the county but are temporarily pausing expansion efforts. Chelan is a rural county and the network is not expected to break even for quite some time.
In Washington, state law limits the powers of public utility districts to offer broadband. As with communities in Utah, these public sector entities are forced to operate an open access network and are unable to offer services directly. While the open access model is a great one for some communities (and one we encourage when the numbers work), it can be difficult to implement depending on local circumstances.
UTOPIA, the open access FTTH network in several cities of Utah, has been seeking some $20 million to continue adding new subscribers to the network. The cities involved seem to be on board, committing to the funding following recent successes.
Mayor Mike Winder, of West Valley City - one of the UTOPIA cities, makes the case for digging deeper to lend money to the network:
UTOPIA's good news is that since June 2008, it's added over 3,500 new customers and reached about 10,000 subscribers, the number of service providers on the network has grown from three to 12, and national voices — from Google to the New York Times — are trumpeting the virtues of an open-fiber network.
Australia is planning to build a nationwide open access network that will be owned by the public. Ars Technica recently covered their progress - Australia has released a consultant report on the proposed network.
If the major incumbent, Telstra, works with the government on the network, the costs will be lower. But Australia will not let Telstra dictate the terms of their relationship:
But it's clear that the new network won't be held hostage to Telstra's demands. The consultants conclude that, in the absence of an agreement, [the fiber network] should proceed to build both its access network and its backhaul unilaterally." [src: Ars Technica]
"My issue is that cities should not be competing with private enterprise." - Senator Hoyle of North Carolina
Given this Senator's opposition to the public sector competing with the private sector, I assume he is fighting just as hard to shut down the libraries (or have Borders and Barnes and Noble neglected to donate enough to his candidacy?), as well as the schools (there are private schools), and the police (security guards are readily available on the private market). This is not merely a snarky attack on someone with whom I disagree, but a nod to the very serious problem that these massive companies can push their protectionist legislation everywhere.