Tag: "tim nulty"

Posted June 30, 2009 by christopher

The December 2008, issue of Broadband Properties features an article that offers advice to incoming President Obama regarding broadband policy. Some of the comments center around community networks. Tim Nulty makes three preliminary points:

  1. Wireless is a supplement, not a substitute
  2. Access to fiber networks is key to full participation in society
  3. Optical fiber is the most perfect natural monopoly ever invented

Building on these points, he says:

Points 1, 2 and 3 mean we have no choice but to put the government directly and unapologetically into the picture… just as we do with other basic public utilities such as water, police, education and fire protection. This runs directly counter to the recent policy, under which optical fiber systems have been steadily removed from regulation covering the key issues of universal coverage and common carriage (referred to these days as “network neutrality”). These same issues have been fought over in other arenas such as toll roads, the postal service, canals, railroads, airwaves and the telephone since the founding of the Republic. The issues are not new at all! Only the technology of optical networks is new.

I offered a number of priorities:

  1. No federal policy should preempt the right of communities to build their own networks
  2. The feds should prevent states from preempting community authority to build their own networks
  3. Feds should provide low-interest financing for public networks
  4. Feds should provide grants to networks that are open-access

Finally, Wes Rosenbalm, the President and CEO of Bristol Virginia Utilities offered a short piece explaining why barriers to publicly owned broadband must be lifted. To find these gems and more, read the article linked below.

Posted June 24, 2009 by christopher

NATOA, the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors, comprises many people who are in, and work on, community broadband networks. Whether they are dealing with cable-company owned I-Nets or citizen owned networks, one of their jobs is to make sure the community has the network it needs.

Starting this year, NATOA has made its publication, the NATOA Journal, available to everyone, not just members. This will be a great resource for community broadband information.

This issue has important articles - from an in-depth comparison of the physical properties of copper and fiber to less technical arguments by Tim Nulty and myself. Tim Nulty wrote "Fiber to the User as a Public Utility."

He advances a number of important arguments:

  • Universal - everyone should have access at affordable rates
  • Open Access - it must encourage competition, not stifle it
  • Future Proof - the technology must be built to last and meet needs currently unforeseen
  • Financial self sufficiency - this can be done and the political culture suggests it must be done

He then delves into the problems Burlington Telecom faced, how it resolved those problems, and some of the strengths of their approach. He also offers some details on his new project - East Central Vermont Community Fiber Network.

My "Community Owned Networks Benefit Everyone" makes the case that only publicly owned networks can offer true competition in the broadband market because private network owners will not open their networks to other providers. Facilities-based competition is a policy that encourages monopoly or duopoly throughout most of America.

However, I also argue that public ownership, and the accountability that comes with it, may be more important than competition in cases where the community chooses that model. As always, we stand up for the right of communities to choose their future and to take responsibility for their choices.

Other important articles in this issue discuss the...

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Posted June 11, 2009 by christopher

Tim Nulty offers a great vision and hope for the future of rural broadband networks. He discusses the long history of large telcos viciously attacking publicly owned networks and notes that FTTH is possible in nearly all rural areas in the U.S.

Among the advantages of public ownership, he notes the high quality of service, universal coverage, and the potential for common carriage or open access networks.

Our economy and society have evolved over the last 20 years to the point where universal availability of the most modern broadband communications is essential to fully participate in every aspect of our nation’s life. Without it, the promise of an equal chance to succeed is hollow. Our nation came to that conclusion two centuries ago when it created the national postal system, and in subsequent years with respect to roads, water, power and voice telephone. Now, it is coming to the same conclusion about the next level of communications: broadband connectivity. ...

[T]he main entrenched incumbents (both telephone and cable) are strongly reluctant to bring the latest technology to rural areas....focusing, instead, on cheaper but inferior “retrofits” to their legacy copper plant. The claimed reason is that it is not economically feasible to extend the latest technology to less “juicy” areas. In fact, this is not true. Based on the experience of a number of “non-incumbent” FTTH projects, it is clear that it is economic to bring universal FTTH to virtually any rural area that has a density of 12/13 homes per linear mile and all or most of whose plant is aerial. These characteristics cover the overwhelming majority of rural Americans.

Note: Nulty's piece appears on page 23 of the article linked to below. Preceding his piece is a poorly written piece riddled with the very sort of inaccuracies we started this site to correct. The article cites few examples and relies on worst-case, very low probability scenarios to scare the reader. Their discussion of the Utah networks suggests they are unaware of the most basic history of the project, and finally, their comparison of Burlington Telecom to Verizon is laughably simplistic and worthless.

Posted June 8, 2009 by christopher

In Burlington we were very clear about what we wanted to build. We wanted to build a road system -- an electronic public road system. Cities build public roads to be available to everybody on a non-discriminatory basis.

Cities are perfectly comfortable offering a public bus service as well, or a garbage service, not to mention fire and police services. There is no problem when these services use the public roads they build, and in some cases like garbage disposal and bus service, cities actually charge a fee.

Posted June 8, 2009 by christopher

This is not a new idea. The concept of common carriage is ancient in culture. It is deeply embedded in common law. It goes back almost two thousand years. Net neutrality is simply common carriage for the 21st century. It is the same idea we had in the 18th- century turnpikes. We fought it over canals. We fought it over railroads and we fought it over public roads when public roads were first beginning. To me, that's fundamental and it's a fundamental reason why the towns in Vermont wanted to do and do it as a public activity.

Posted June 8, 2009 by christopher

This is a transcription of the speech Nulty gave at the 2008 Broadband Properties Summit. Nulty describes the history of the Burlington efforts before and after he joined to build their fiber-to-the-home system. He talks about incumbent obstructionist efforts, the role of consultants, and the economical questions they considered before building.

He goes on to discuss why FTTH is practical in rural areas - and less expensive than most claim. Finally, he frankly discusses some of the tensions involved with running community networks when they are a city department (as opposed to a utility that may be at arm's length or a nonprofit).

Posted May 13, 2009 by christopher

[Tim] Nulty echoes comments from other muni-fiber pioneers in terms of their attitudes toward customer service. While private companies, he says, are inclined to spend the least they can on customer service without losing customers, the approach taken by BT is to "provide the best customer service you can afford." He says he would tell his staff, "if you can't solve [a customer's problem] on the phone, go fix it in their home."

Posted May 7, 2009 by christopher

I’m very familiar with many government owned telecom operations throughout the world, over many years, and across many different forms of government, and I can tell you that governments generally do not subsidize publicly owned telecommunications. They milk telecommunications - these systems generate a lot of revenue.

Posted April 30, 2009 by christopher

Benoit Felten of FiberEvolution.com interviews Tim Nulty (former GM of Burlington Telecom, currently working on massive rural FTTH network in Vermont) at the Freedom to Connect Conference. Covers many topics, especially the economics of FTTH and why the public sector should invest in these networks.

Other videos from this conference are available here.

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