News

Posted October 25, 2010 by christopher

Fibrant has decided to offer premium adult content to subscribers that choose to receive it. Salisbury's approach and response offer a window into the benefits and responsibilities inherent in building a triple-play network that offers services directly.

As a gesture to those who are publicly opposed to such content being available, the channel listings do not show up to the subscriber by default -- which is to say that you cannot even see the scrambled channel unless you take action to tell Fibrant you would like the option of purchasing adult content.

The reason for offering the adult content? Much like the reason most community networks get involved in television at all: it helps pay the bills. The margins on premium content are high and competitors also offer these options locally.

Posted October 21, 2010 by christopher

The next time you hear someone claiming that the reason US Internet is slower than international peers is because of our vast landmass with low population density, encourage them to listen to "America the Slow" on American Public Media's Marketplace Tech Report.

The title of this post comes from an anecdote in the middle of the story in which a person in NYC (the most dense area of our country) is hosting friends from France and they turn to him and say "I thought you said you had Internet?" in response for what passes as broadband there. I'm sure they laughed for hours if they found out what the host was paying for it.

Our sad state of broadband is not an inevitability of geography but a failure of policy that puts private companies first and community needs second.

Posted October 20, 2010 by christopher

On the heals of our recent post discussing false incumbent claims about Salisbury's Fibrant community fiber network, I wanted to put up another piece looking at some of the problems that have delayed the network launch. The Salisbury Post's "Fibrant launch delayed" article (by Emily Ford) offers a good recap.

We have yet to work with a community that has not experienced similar bumps in the road as Salisbury. Unexpected problems are guaranteed and schedules will almost certainly be pushed back, it is a fact of life in building an important and complicated network.

Posted October 19, 2010 by christopher

DC-Net, the muni-owned and operated fiber network connecting hundreds of community institutions (schools, libraries, local government buildings), is expanding in scope and mission following three broadband stimulus awards.

But first, to introduce DC-Net, I am excerpting a few paragraphs from my comprehensive report on community networks - Breaking the Broadband Monopoly: How Communities Are Building the Networks They Need."

In 2007, DC-NET began with service to 135 sites, a number that has more than doubled to 280, including 140 school buildings alone. The network also provides connectivity for libraries, public hospitals, community centers, and some Wi-Fi networks.

Posted October 18, 2010 by christopher

As Salisbury prepares to officially launch its publicly owned FTTH network offering triple-play services, it offers lessons for other communities that want to follow in its footsteps. As we wrote a month ago, Fibrant has candidly admitted it cannot win a price war with incumbents. Companies like Time Warner Cable have a tremendous scale advantage, which allows them to price below cost in Salisbury because the large profits from all the non-competitive markets nearby can subsidize temporary losses.

Posted October 15, 2010 by christopher

In all the talk of the need for competition in broadband (or in the mobile space), there is remarkably little attention paid to the difficulties in actually creating competition. A common refrain from the self-interested industry titans (and their many paid flacks) is: "keep the government out of it and let the market decide."

Unfortunately, an unregulated market in telecom tends toward consolidation at best, monopolization at worse. Practicioners of Chicago economics may dispute this, but their theories occur in reality about as frequently as unicorn observations. In our regulatory environment, big incumbents have nearly all the advantages, allowing them to use their advantages of scale to maintain market power (most notably the ability to use cross-subsidization from non-competitive markets to maintain predatory pricing wherever they face even the threat of competition).

Posted October 7, 2010 by christopher

Advocates for community broadband networks in urban areas that already have cable and DSL options are often asked why the community needs something better. Aside from the many benefits in terms of reliability and symmetrical offers, we do need faster connections. Those who doubt that may want to remind themselves of a great list of very smart people underestimating technology.

1876 “The telephone has too many shortcomings…the device is inherently of no value to us.” Western Union

1897 "Radio has no future" Lord Kelvin, President, Royal Society

1899 "Everything that can be invented has already been invented.”Director, U.S. Patent Office

1927 “Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?” H.M. Warner, Warner Brothers

1936 “Television won’t matter in your lifetime or mine.” Rex Lambert, Editor, Radio Tim

Posted October 6, 2010 by christopher

In Virginia, Danville's open access all-fiber network, nDanville, currently serves only businesses and large clients. In the early summer, Danville Utilities decided to recommend expanding the network to between 2,000 and 3,000 residential homes with a 10 year, $2.5 million loan.

As Danville Utilities operates the network purely on a wholesale basis, it would not provide services directly. From an article leading up to the decision:

Posted October 5, 2010 by christopher

Tim Wu, a professor and long time champion of network neutrality, discusses why getting these policies right is so important.

Perhaps more interesting is the reaction from David Isenberg and Tim Wu's comment to that reaction.

The take-home lesson? Network neutrality is important, but is less of a permanent solution than networks that are structurally designed to work in the public interest rather than primarily manufacturing private profits.

This video is no longer available.

Posted October 4, 2010 by christopher

In an editorial for the October, 2010 issue, Scientific American explains "Why broadband service in the U.S. is so awful, and one step that could change it." This is an excellent shorthand explanation for the poor decisions of the FCC during the Bush Administration. Unfortunately, these decisions are being carried forward by the Obama Administration's FCC.

It was not always like this. A decade ago the U.S. ranked at or near the top of most studies of broadband price and performance. But that was before the FCC made a terrible mistake. In 2002 it reclassified broadband Internet service as an “information service” rather than a “telecommunications service.” In theory, this step implied that broadband was equivalent to a content provider (such as AOL or Yahoo!) and was not a means to communicate, such as a telephone line. In practice, it has stifled competition.

Posted October 2, 2010 by christopher

Missouri's Cass County, has received both a loan and grant from the broadband stimulus program run by the RUS in the Department of Agriculture.

The $26 million “Last Mile, Fiber-To-The-Home” network will be capable of providing service to 18 communities, nearly 12,000 households and 700 businesses within 625 square miles of mostly rural and underserved areas of the county.

The project, funded by an $18 million grant and $8 million in loans, also will connect schools to students and hospitals to patients.

Like the Cook County, MN, project, Cass County is working with Pulse Broadband to build an open access network.

Posted October 1, 2010 by christopher

Back in 1998, the Braintree Electric Light Department (Massachusetts) built an HFC network for remote monitoring of their electrical services. In 1999, they extended the network to become the first broadband provider in town.

With about 1,500 Internet customers solely from word-of-mouth advertising, BELD staff looked to expand the offerings from its HFC network. In 2000, a cable television plan and $3.5 million bond issue were approved at Town meeting. State-of-the-art digital cable service was launched before the end of that year, and by the end of 2001, BELD was serving 4,000 cable and nearly 3,000 Internet customers.

Posted September 30, 2010 by christopher

Sounds like the Scottsboro Electric Power Board is doing well. They offer fiber-optic services to businesses in addition to the cable services they offer to the general public.

Our Cable employees have also had a busy summer. We are experiencing a good bit of growth in business phone line installations and fiber optic data installations. Our phone partner Knology (based in West Point, Georgia) is doing a great job for us. Knology provides the telephone switching and long distance connections so we can concentrate on customer connections and customer service.

Knology seems to have partnered with a number of muni networks to offer telecom services.

Posted September 29, 2010 by christopher

On August 19, 2010, I was one of hundreds of people telling the Federal Communications Commission to do its job and regulate in the public interest. My comments focused on the benefits of publicly owned broadband networks and the need for the FCC to ensure states cannot preempt local governments from building networks.

My comments:

I’ll start with the obvious.

Private companies are self-interested. They act on behalf of their shareholders and they have a responsibility to put profits ahead of the public interest.

Posted September 28, 2010 by christopher

Lafayette's LUS Fiber network, after recently kicking off its ad campaign, has decided to offer 100Mbps residential connections after a number of requests from subscribers. The network previously offered a 100Mbps business service for $200 -- it seems they are now just allowing anyone to subscribe at that level and price.

As John notes at Lafayette Pro Fiber blog, this is the only tier for which residential plans come with the same price as business plans.

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