As someone who has long researched and followed developments in Burlington Telecom (BT), the city-owned triple-play full fiber-to-the-home network in Vermont, recent developments between BT and the Mayor's office have been deeply disappointing. For those who haven't heard, BT is in the middle of a major controversy -- and it is hard to tell just what is going on (for background prior to current problems, read my Burlington Telecom Case Study and Fact Sheet).
TMCNET interviews Jory Wolf - the CIO of Santa Monica's Information Systems Department - about their application for broadband stimulus funds. Santa Monica has long used its publicly owned network to expand broadband access in the community.
Following up on my previous post "Institutional Networks and Cherry Picking," I want to briefly note that the U.S. should reform how it funds Internet connections at schools and libraries.
Let me start with an assumption: we do not want to use federal taxes to support these local institutions except where most necessary. It strikes me that wherever possible, communities should take responsibility for their own community institutions.
With that in mind, the eRate program concerns me. Basically, eRate is a means for the federal government to aid local schools and libraries in affording broadband. I'm afraid that it indirectly encourages monopolistic service providers (mainly telephone incumbents) to overcharge for T-1 lines while removing any incentive for the school or library to invest in a better connection.
After reading an impressive article in the South Washington County Bulletin, I am convinced that most Americans now understand that broadband is essential infrastructure for communities. Don Davis' "Speedy Internet could boost rural Minnesota" is a lengthy and thorough discussion of why every community needs broadband connections.
He starts by noting the MN Broadband Task Force, which found that the state should make sure broadband access is ubiquitous in the coming years at minimum speeds considerably above what is available currently in most of Minnesota. What it lacked was a suggestion of how to get there.
Don delves into the Lake County solution:
A northeastern Minnesota county is doing just that and may have the answer, at least for those in the "second Minnesota."
Salisbury, a community in North Carolina building a city-owned full fiber-to-the-home network, has run into an unexpected difficulty: naming the new network.
To put it simply, all the good names are taken.
Mike Crowell, director of broadband services — he jokes that he is the director of BS — says the city can't find a name that it can both trademark and get a domain name for.
The story has some entertaining suggestions - but the reason I wanted to note the article is because it ends with this:
In coming weeks, the city will be purchasing and outfitting a marketing trailer, which it can send into neighborhoods and to community events to explain the new cable utility and get people excited about what's around the bend. The trailer will be plastered, of course, with the system's chosen name.
My friend, Geoff Daily at App-Rising.com, has questioned the wisdom of running fiber to all anchor institutions.
There's been a lot of buzz around the benefits and relative viability of wiring all community anchor institutions (schools, libraries, hospitals, etc.) with fiber as the way to get the best bang for the broadband buck. But recent conversations with my fiber-deploying friends have led me to worry that doing this could be a big mistake.
It looks like Palo Alto should move quickly on expanding its publicly owned fiber-based I-NET - as the city renegotiates the cable franchise with Comcast, the private cable company is trying to rip-off taxpayers with exorbitant prices for community anchor tenants.
California is one of several states to recently take negotiating power on cable television franchises away from communities and grant it to the state. Historically, communities negotiated a free or reduced rate for connectivity to schools, public safety buildings and other key community anchors in return for access to community Right-of-Way - an essential permission necessary to build a cable network.
I have just submitted comments from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance to both the the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) regarding suggestions for rules in round two (the last round) of the broadband stimulus programs -- the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP - administered by NTIA) and Broadband Initiatives Program (BIP - administered by RUS).
The two agencies previously posted a joint request for information [pdf] on lessons learned from the first round:
We are seeing increasing evidence that competition alone is not sufficient to keep prices low. Though some communities (Monticello, MN; Powell, WY) have seen major prices drops as a result of competition from a publicly owned network, other communities have seen only price freezes or more modest increases when compared to non-competitive areas.
In Lafayette, Cox has just raised prices despite the new competition in the community.
Despite the recession, we have seen Comcast, Qwest, and others continue to profit handily as people scrimp to continue connecting to the Internet. The best method of ensuring Internet access becomes or remains affordable is with a network that is directly accountable to the community - one that puts community needs ahead of profits.
The project adds redundancy in a rural area where telecommunications infrastructure tends to be ignored by the private sector.
“The broadband expansion fortifies the existing fiber route between BVU and Citizens as well as giving our area a redundant fiber-optic line to Northern Virginia, where bandwidth needs are increasing all the time. It is necessary to our region’s future and the survivability of our existing telecom network,” he [Virginia Delegate Terry Kilgore] noted.
BVU was the first municipal network in the U.S. providing the triple-play over a full fiber-to-the-home network.
Communities around Rutland in Vermont are moving forward with a planned universal full fiber-to-the-home network. Interestingly, this network has been spear-headed by the Rutland Redevelopment Authority, not a local City Hall.
Back in Tennessee, the Clarksville Fiber Network is running ahead of schedule.
Having reached the 6,000-customer mark, CDE Lightband's broadband service is slightly ahead of schedule in adding new subscribers, an official of the Clarksville utility said Wednesday — good news for a telecommunications division, which is still in its infancy.
As the FCC continues to formulate a National Broadband Plan, the Institute for Local Self-Reliance has submitted comments [pdf] about publicly owned networks in response to the Request for Comments #7: "Comment Sought on the Contribution of Federal, State, Tribal, and Local Government to Broadband." In our comments, we highlight the importance of publicly owned broadband networks by noting many success stories and offering details on networks from Chattanooga, Burlington, Monticello, and Powell, Wyoming. We also offer some comments about middle-mile networks and networks that connect core anchor institutions, like libraries and schools.
MuniNetworks.org is a project of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, a non-profit that has worked with communities to maximize their potential for 35 years. Today is "Give to the Max Day" - meaning that any contribution you can make to us will be matched by local foundations in Minnesota. Additionally, the foundations will generously cover transaction fees, ensuring your support will give us the most benefit.
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As we have noted previously, Longmont, Colorado, has seen a number of private companies attempt to offer Wi-Fi broadband and then go out of business. As Colorado preempts local authority by requiring a referendum by the city before it can offer services itself, Longmont recently had a vote to authorize telecommunications services. Voters defeated the option.
As is common in these referendums, voters were blanketed with reasons to vote against it as incumbents (Qwest and Comcast) spent $200,000 opposing competition whereas the city is prevented by law from advocating for a ballot measure.
Now the Wi-Fi network will be auctioned off in pieces because it cannot pay taxes.
Highland, a city in Illinois, has been recommended by the governor to receive a grant from the broadband stimulus program. Highland plans to build a full fiber-to-the-home network after first connecting the schools and public buildings (a phased approach that has worked well elsewhere). Stimulus funds would expedite the buildout that has already demonstrated strong community support.
Highland city voters passed — with 75 percent voting in favor — three referendums April 7 concerning the idea to bring fiber-optic cable connections to every home and business within the city. It will offer high-speed Internet service, telephone and cable TV.