Catharine Rice gave a terrific presentation detailing the ways Time Warner has responded to the municipally-owned Greenlight fiber-to-the-home network: raising the rates on everyone around them and cutting great deals to Wilson residents. I saw the presentation on the Save NC Broadband blog which also has a link to her slides - make sure you follow along with the slides. She details how Time Warner has raised rates in towns around Wilson while lowering their prices and offering better broadband speeds in Wilson. Once again, we see that a community building their own network has a variety of benefits: a superior modern network that is community owned, lower prices on the last-generation network from the incumbent, and some investment from the incumbent. Now the question is whether Wilson's residents will be smart enough to support the publicly owned network in the face of Time Warner's low low prices - a recognizing that a few short years of low prices (for low quality) are not worth abandoning the publicly owned network and the benefits it has created in the community.
Tag: "north carolina"
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.
This is a great marketing method - particularly if the trailer has computers showing what is possible with the new network in direct comparison to existing offers. Wilson's Greenlight Network also used this approach and reported that it was very successful.
South Carolina was unique in being the only state where the public controlled the spectrum available for WiMax and could have built a state-wide broadband network. Instead, they chose to sell it off to the private sector for a pittance.
Despite state-created barriers to publicly owned broadband networks in South Carolina, the town of Hartsville is studying the feasibility of a city-owned network. The new Mayor is supporting this initiative:
Pennington spoke about a proposed broadband initiative he is pushing that would enable the city to create a fiber optic network and offer broadband services such as high speed internet, cable television and digital telephone service to city residents and businesses.
Hartsville City Council has approved funding up to $5,000 to pay for a feasibility study into the prospect of such an initiative. Officials are...
Consider the rapid response of a locally-owned and operated network when the local Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) in rural Mitchell County, N.C. recently needed an Internet link on a mountaintop tower to test and operate its emergency service. Utilizing the local Mountain Area Information Network (MAIN), the ARES volunteers had a secure network connection the same day of their request. “We would still be waiting for an answer” from the non-local phone company, said ARES volunteer Bob Rodgers.
Craig Settles recently wrote "Debunking Myths about Government-Run Broadband" to defend publicly owned networks (the title is unfortunate as many networks are publicly owned but not necessarily run directly by the government). Nonetheless, he tackles several false claims commonly levied against public networks and offers an entertaining rebuff to those rascally incumbents down in North Carolina that keep trying to buy legislation to protect themselves from competition:
Time Warner tried to get a bill passed in the state legislature this year to prevent cities from offering broadband service. They claimed community networks create an un-fair playing field. Personally, if I ran a bezillion dollar company and a small town of 48,000 with no prior technology business expertise built a network 10 times faster than my best offering, I’d be embarrassed to be associated with the bill. If incumbents want to level the playing field, maybe they should outsource their engineering operations to Wilson.
He revealed an upcoming list of ten smart broadband communities that has since been published here. This is a mixture of communities that have taken action to improve broadband - a variety of models and community types.
Without detracting from this list, I want to note that some networks are missing important context. For instance, Wilson NC, lists an unimpressive number of subscribers currently, but the network is still being built and many who want to subscribe are not yet able to subscribe. Additionally, it would be nice to see the prices offered for each speed tier -- many of these networks keep higher speed tiers much more affordable than do traditional carriers. That said, many kudos to Craig for putting this list out there (he will be putting similar lists up in the near future).
While on the subject of impressive community networks, NATOA has announced its community broadband awards. I am excited to see the city of Monticello recognized for its courage in responding to shady incumbent-led attacks and frivolous lawsuits --...Read more
Folks in the Isle of Wight County in Virginia are looking to Wilson, NC, (which runs its own FTTH network called Greenlight) for inspiration as Charter will not expand broadband access locally. Interestingly, industry-backed Connected Nation would not consider these people to be unserved because they could buy wireless broadband cards that offer slow speeds at expensive prices and are still often capped at a monthly transfer of 5 Gigabytes ... which is to say not really a broadband option.
Charter will not expand their cable networks because
Charter requires that an area have a density of at least 30 rooftops per square mile in order to offer service, which leaves large swaths of the county, especially southern and western areas, without access.
Sounds like a good opportunity to investigate a publicly owned network.
- Lafayette's groundbreaking network is exciting the folks at Governing.com - they say, "The Future of the Internet is in Lafayette, Louisiana."
Ellen Perlman hints are future coverage of the network as well:
To put it in perspective, that's 10 times faster than already very fast Internet. And more than 100 times faster than the Internet "starter" plan that, for example, Verizon is offering. Basically, Lafayette will have a city Intranet, the way universities and technology companies do. So residents will have a very fast connection within the city-parish "campus." Critics wonder why residents need such speeds and why the city had to build its own network. An August story in Governing will get into detail about that.
- Green Party Candidate for the Syracuse City Council speaks out on the need for a publicly owned fiber network in the city:
Hundreds of US cities have municipal ownership of their broadband utilities and their customers pay 30% less on average for cable TV, internet, and phone. Time Warner’s cable franchise is up for renewal. Now is the time to municipalize our broadband utility for (1) lower fees, (2) community control of available channels (from Democracy Now to the NFL Network), (3) quality Public Access, Education, and Government (PEG) programming, (4) universal access to high-speed internet, and (5) up-to-date public access video and web-based media creation centers. Every Syracuse should have first-class, affordable access to internet, cable, and phone communications. The Syracuse economy needs first-rate affordable broadband to progress. The profits now exported to Time-Warner can stay in the community for our own benefit through municipal cable.
Advocates for such a fiber network in Syracuse have a website loaded with resources.
- Will wireline-based telephone companies need a bailout in coming years? This is an interesting analysis that suggests the public may end up financing these networks one way or another... The argument goes like this - as people increasingly get rid of that landline, these companies still...
Fiona's Morgan's 2008 article on Greenlight in Wilson, North Carolina. The article comprehensively covers why Wilson chose to do it and the issues involved with a community choosing to build its own network.
The Buchans have better Internet access than you do, wherever you live in the Triangle, thanks to the $28 million fiber-to-the-home network the city of Wilson is installing to every address in its city limits. That network powers Greenlight, Wilson's fiber-optic-based Internet, television and phone service. Like its water, sewer and electricity, the city now provides high-speed Internet as another public utility.
Yet there's one major difference: speed. Greenlight's Internet starts at 10 Megabits per second and goes up to 100, a speed common in nations such as Japan and South Korea, yet rare in the United States. Time Warner's residential Road Runner service offers no higher than 10 Mbps in much of the state. In Wilson, however, the company recently upped its top-tier speed to 15 Mbps "because of the competitive environment," a Time Warner spokesperson said.
This article wraps up the 2009 efforts of private companies to pass what some have termed the Incumbent Protection Act - an effort by private companies to use the State Legislature to prevent communities from building the fast broadband networks in which the private companies themselves refuse to invest.
N.C. House Bill 1252 and Senate Bill 1004 would have placed a number of financial restrictions on local governments that seek to offer Internet and other telecom services, in the name of "leveling the playing field" between governments, which can borrow money more cheaply than private companies can, and private cable and telephone companies that offer similar services. The bill would have required municipal services to tack on to customer fees equal to the difference in the amount it would cost a private company to provide the service, and prohibited governments from "cross-subsidizing" the launch or operation of a system, a practice common in private industry.
Critics say municipal services already face rigorous financial scrutiny and that towns and cities go into the broadband business only when private industry chooses not to upgrade or build out infrastructure to increase the availability and quality of service. The bill could have effectively made North Carolina's local governments ineligible for federal stimulus money designated to stimulate the construction of broadband networks.
Fortunately, the fight is likely over for this year.
When the bill went before the House Public Utilities Committee May 6, more than 100 citizens, lobbyists, elected officials and members of the press attended. Supporters of the bill, rallied by the Americans for Prosperity, sponsors of the tax day "tea parties," wore red shirts to show their support. Opponents wore yellow stickers that said "Save NC Broadband."
Rep. Ty Harrell, D-Wake, and Rep. Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenberg, addressed the mounting controversy by moving to send the bill to committee for further study.
Study committees are often where bills go to die. Harrell says he does not intend to let the measure die wants it to have "a thorough chewing-on."
Unfortunately, the private companies will almost certainly press the issue at every opportunity in the future as they...Read more
Fiona Morgan, a frequent writer at Indyweek in North Carolina, has weighed in with excellent coverage of the situation in North Carolina as the cable and telephone companies continue their attempts at stifling competition in the state. They are now using their non-profit arm, Connected Nation, to overstate existing services in the state.
According to a map made available online last week by the industry-backed nonprofit Connected Nation, broadband is available to 92 percent of North Carolina households. That number seems too high to some legislators and public interest advocates, who are concerned that overstating the amount of access will hurt the state's chances of receiving federal grants.
"You'll be pleased that over 90 percent of the households in North Carolina are now served by one or more broadband providers," Connected Nation representative Joe Mefford said during the unveiling of the map at the state legislature last week. "The maps also, by that, indicate that there's been a huge investment in broadband in this state already."
I have dealt with Connected Nation's maps here in Minnesota, and the technology is awful. In an age of Google Maps and impressive mashups, they produce clunky maps at sufficiently large file sizes that you need fast broadband to open them. I pity anyone trying to use their maps on a slow DSL connection. On top of that, they continue to classify cellular services (that often come with a very small monthly cap) as broadband in order to overstate how many people have access.
Fortunately, Fiona spoke to Craig Settles and he offers some great commentary.
Craig Settles, an Oakland, Calif.-based consultant on broadband technology, said the broadband stimulus has been hijacked by the telecommunications industry. "It started as a noble effort," he said, "but it's a complete and total travesty all around."
Each state must choose one mapping entity in order to be eligible for any of the broadband stimulus money. There is $350 million set aside specifically for mapping, to be divided between the states. That's too much money, Settles thinks, and the terms favor Connected Nation and the industry. "We're going to pay you millions of dollars to collect all this information, but you can't tell anybody what this information is? That is the most stupid-ass thing on the...
This article highlights three publicly owned networks that are expanding or building in the midst of a difficult economy - the Dumont Telephone Company in Iowa (a cooperative); Auburn, Indiana; and Greenlight in Wilson, North Carolina.
Dumont is facing the most difficult path:
Deploying rural and small-town fiber is always tough. Doing it without much hope of funding from outside is even tougher. But visionaries in these communities took the long view, planning to stretch out their builds over as much as seven years – longer if they have to. One community – Dumont, Iowa – is profiting from a world-class GPON build with fewer than two households passed per mile and precisely zero businesses to help foot the bill.
Auburn began building a municipal fiber network to keep some local employers in town - called Auburn Essential Services. As happens all over the United States, small towns lose businesses because the private sector is not able to provide the necessary networks. Built at first just to connect some local sites, the city later began to expand it:
In mid-2006 the city adopted a phased rollout plan for FTTP, where each phase would generate revenues that could be used to fund the next phase. The first phase, which includes the neighborhoods where most businesses are located, rolled out between April and December of this year.
The city’s marketing plan includes mailers, door hangers, advertising and even site visits to businesses. Existing technology was leveraged for back-office operations, and customers were given the option of receiving consolidated utility bills or separate bills for electricity and telecommunications.
Wilson, North Carolina, was also dealing with poor local networks that hampered economic development. Time Warner not only refused to build the necessary networks, it then refused to use a network the city offered to let them ride, and finally tried to prevent them by passing what was often called the "Incumbent Protection Act" in the state legislature. Fortunately, Time Warner was not able to prevent local competition and Wilson's network is currently being built. They used a rather unique financing plan:
Rather than issue general obligation bonds, Wilson obtained $31 million in private funding...