Chattanooga's publicly owned EPBFi advanced broadband network has produced a series of testimonials from people that have switched to their services from the national incumbent providers. We recently wrote about the importance of documenting these stories and wanted to again highlight some of the videos they have produced and released.
Time and time again, we hear that the community fiber network delivers faster speeds, lower prices, higher reliability, and much, much better customer service.
Chattanooga, with the nation's fastest citywide broadband network, offers lessons to many other communities who have built or are building their own networks. Chattanooga is regarded as one of the most successful muni networks in terms of a smooth operation with good advertising and a great back office approach.
They are documenting (with video) the stories of both residents and businesses that have switched to their services from incumbents like AT&T and Comcast (two of the most powerful companies in the US). Below, we include two of our favorites in the series.
This should be an extremely effective form of advertising for community networks -- harnessing the enthusiasm and local attributes of the network. Making these videos available on sharing sites like Vimeo or YouTube allows supporters to embed them in their blogs and share with friends and family.
Quite frankly, these testimonials are not hard to do (hire a local videographer that has experience with lighting and recording good sound) and should be one of the first approaches used by community networks to spread the word. If local thought leaders and small business owners can participate, so much the better.
The good folks at Public Knowledge have released a report (with a fun video, embedded below) appropriately titled, "4G + Data Caps = Magic Beans." These are the fraudulent version of magic beans - don't expect any beanstalks to data clouds.
The 4G offered by major wireless carriers (with the notable exception of Sprint) is a waste of money because it comes with strict data caps. These data caps actively discourage the types of activities that 4G enables. Activities that are made possible by 4G, such as watching movies or uploading video to the internet, are made impossible by the data caps. As a result most users will avoid taking advantage of these new services out of fear of incurring large overage fees. That makes capped 4G little more than a bait and switch, like being sold a handful of magic beans.
I have been disturbed by statements from a number of policymakers and elected officials suggesting they believe the future of connectivity in rural America is wireless, specifically 4G because it is better than the horrible DSL that is mostly the only "broadband" connection available in much of rural America.
President Obama has suggested that investing in 4G wireless will spur economic development in northern Michigan. Not hardly. What are small businesses going to use the last 29 days of the month after they exceed their data caps?
People in Wired West have told me that those in charge of broadband in Massachusetts have at times been dismissive of their project to bring affordable, fast, and reliable broadband to everyone in their towns because the state would prefer to pretend that cheaper wireless solutions will accomplish the same goal.
4G wireless is not the solution to connecting rural America. It could be an interim solution while we build real broadband out to those areas, but it is insufficient as a solution in and of itself due to the many very real limitations of the technology and the business model of those controlling the spectrum necessary to access to it.
But then the Department of Justice filed suit to prevent it. What does that mean and what is next? Public Knowledge tells us below. In the meantime, Sprint has also filed suit under the Clayton Act to separately oppose the takeover.
Why do we care here at Community Broadband Networks? Because the biggest companies - AT&T, Comcast, Verizon, CenturyLink, etc. - have tremendous market power that allows them a disturbing amount of power over the future of access to the Internet and as they become even larger, the prospects of any community building a network in their territory becomes more bleak.
Santa Monica's approach to building community owned broadband that puts the community first has been wildly successful. They have not focused on providing residential connections, and likely will not in the future, focusing instead on meeting their municipal needs and businesses to spur economic development.
They can deliver up to 10Gbps to businesses that need it and they have connectivity throughout the City for whatever projects they choose to pursue. This includes free Wi-Fi in parks, controlling traffic signaling (prioritizing mass transit, for instance), and smart parking applications. On top of all that, their investments have saved more than a million dollars that would have been wasted on slower, less reliable connections provided by leased lines.
In the matter of controlling traffic signals, Santa Monica wants all intersections with fiber-optics.
Arizona Avenue, the Mid-City area and the city's office district will all be getting makeovers if the City Council approves two contracts that will connect 40 signalized intersections to City Hall's centralized traffic control system.
The work represents the fourth phase in a five-phase effort to connect all of Santa Monica's intersections using fiber optic cables. Some signals will need to be fully replaced, while others can get by on smaller upgrades, according to the staff report.
Don't miss this hour long interview between Craig Settles and Jory Wolf, the brains behind Santa Monica's success.
The TonkaConnect project of the Lake Minnetonka Cable Commission, comprising many suburbs west of Minneapolis, is going to pause after some of the city councilmembers of communities within the project were unsupportive.
“I think [the LMCC executive committee] realized that if a municipal fiber network is ever going to be built, the cities need a considerable amount of time spent in educating and understanding the significance of building such a system,” said a memo from Sally Koenecke, LMCC executive director.
The $81 million proposal sought to provide 25,000 households in communities from the 17 member cities with Internet, phone and cable fiber optic services.
I have occasionally offered technical advice to this ambitious project and have watched as Mediacom and other incumbent providers spread rumors and lies to disrupt it. These companies will stop at nothing to preserve the limited competition they rely upon to maintain their market power.
“I’m personally against spending any money on the fiber optic project,” said Orono mayor Lili McMillan. “What I want to do is send a message. I don’t feel government should be in this.”
To be clear, if Lili McMillan doesn't want the government to build a next-generation network, they will have to continue relying on Mediacom cable and slow, unreliable DSL services. Their choice. Their incumbents do not have the capacity or interest to build a next-generation network themselves but they do have the capacity and interest to prevent any other party from doing so.
Unfortunately I think that having interest if the price is low enough might not be enough to motivate a community through the perils of community supported fiber. But I always remember the folks in Monticello saying that each set back in winning over the residents just made them stronger in the end. They were talking about the super majority...
Our mantra is that communities need fast, affordable, and reliable access to the Internet. We imply universal access, but another key word should be ubiquitous. As new applications are integrated into our modern life, particularly those related to health care, dead zones could actually endanger our health!
Before communities were building broadband networks, many had local radio stations. Now most radio stations are owned by massive companies far from the community -- but this is a key moment for expanding local, low-power radio. Watch this video to learn more and how you can help.
An excellent satirical look at those who believe government is the root of all problems. Modern society has many problems that cannot be solved by individuals acting autonomously -- we need to work together to solve them. "Government" is one of the key entities we use to work together to solve problems.
But that doesn't mean we can't use humor to illustrate the very serious impact of more consolidation in the mobile market! Check out four short commercials prepared by Free Press and vote on your favorite. Our favorites are below.