Tag: "begging"

Posted January 27, 2011 by christopher

For years, I have heard Graham Richards, former mayor of Fort Wayne Indiana, brag about this "beg, borrow, buy, build" [pdf] philosophy as Mayor.  I am not insulting him -- his brash style is quite likable, but it is bragging.  He was somewhat of a celebrity among the broadband folks because he both understood the importance of broadband and had convinced Verizon to roll out FiOS in Fort Wayne when they had no plans to.  His philosophy is to first beg, then borrow, then buy, and finally build the network if necessary -- a similar approach of many local governments.  This is also often the path of least resistance (which, Utah Phillips reminds us, is what makes the river crooked).  

Graham is a terrific guy and a great evangelist for broadband (though he never jumped into a frozen Lake Superior) -- but we have long argued that his priorities were wrong in the long term.  Not owning the network means the network is unlikely to care about what the community needs.  Unfortunately, our philosophy has proven prescient.

When we last discussed Frontier's radical price increases for the FiOS subscribers they bought from Verizon, we failed to note that Fort Wayne was one of the transferred communities.  They begged for the network and they have no voice in how it is run.  So when Frontier jacks up its FiOS prices and glibly encourages people to drop their high quality FiOS cable for lesser quality DirectTV (with a long contract), the folks in Fort Wayne have little choice but to shrug their shoulders.

Serfs may occasion upon a good Lord of the Manor, but mostly they didn't.  Ownership of essential infrastructure offers long term benefits.

Photo used under Creative Commons, courtesy of Jenn Raynes

Posted June 24, 2010 by christopher

The private sector is not going to expand broadband to everyone. Some places simply do not offer enough promise of profit.

This story out of Wisconsin, "Residents Beg for Broadband" not only reinforces this truth, it looks at what happens when people depend on the private sector to control essential infrastructure.

Some Berry residents may have to move if they can't get high-speed Internet access, according to town officials, because their employers require them to have the service for working from home.

"Parents have told us their children are at a disadvantage by not having high-speed connections," Town Chairman Anthony Varda wrote in a recent letter to TDS Telecommunications, the town's Madison-based telephone provider.

"It is critical to the success of rural students, people working from home, and residents serving on nonprofit boards, committees and local government," wrote Varda, an attorney with DeWitt, Ross & Stevens.

Their property values are going down because few people want to live someplace without fast and reliable access to the Internet.

To cap it off, Wisconsin is one of 18 states with laws to discourage communities from building their own networks. TDS puts on an act about how difficult it is to tell these people that they aren't getting broadband ... but if they were to build it themselves, I wonder if TDS would sue them like it did Monticello.

In asking the state PUC to require TDS to expand, the residents are taking a unique approach. I can't really see it working under the modern rules.

It long past time we realize the limits of the private sector: The private sector is simply not suited to solve all problems. Matters of infrastructure are best served by entities that put community needs before profits.

(Image: Liberty rotunda mosaic at Wisconsin State Capitol, Madison, Wisconsin, a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial No-Derivative-Works (2.0) image from photophiend's photostream)

Posted July 24, 2009 by christopher

A recent editorial in the Boston Globe caught my attention - Fiber-optic nerve. It seems that Boston is tired of waiting for private companies to build modern broadband networks in the city.

The editorial suggests that as Verizon has started building its FTTH FiOS in New York City, D.C., and some of the Boston suburbs, it may be a withholding the network from Boston due to the Mayor's efforts to change a state law that has exempted telecom companies from paying a number of taxes. Verizon denies any connection. From the editorial:

Menino is right to insist that telecommunication companies pay their fair share of taxes. In Boston, the exemption shifts more than $5 million a year onto the property tax bills of homeowners, say city officials. But tensions between Verizon and the mayor can be costly in many ways. City cable providers Comcast and RCN, for example, don’t offer the speedier fiber-optic connections into customers’ homes available from Verizon in 98 Massachusetts cities and towns. The new and faster broadband speeds - both downstream and upstream - offered by Verizon to Internet customers therefore remain beyond the reach of Bostonians, as do FiOS-related incentives on products such as mini netbooks and camcorders. Cable and Internet competition is alive and well in the suburbs, but flat in Boston.

Verizon has previously threatened to withhold its investments in states that do not sufficiently deregulate -- after turning its back on the New England region by offloading its customers on the totally unprepared Fairpoint company, Verizon pushed franchise "reform" in Massachusetts. Franchise "reform" is when states agree to preempt local communities that selfishly want to regulate the quality of service offered by providers - things like requiring some local channels and thresholds for customer service. As Karl Bode noted in the link above:

While these bills are promoted as a magic elixir that will bring competition and lower TV prices to a region, when people go back to investigate whether these bills actually helped anybody (which is amusingly rare), data indicates that TV prices increased anyway and consumers got the short end of the stick. State lawmakers are usually no match...

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