Tag: "wisconsin"

Posted October 27, 2010 by christopher

The University of Wisconsin System is involved in a broadband stimulus project to expand fast and affordable broadband access to key community institutions. Just as they have in similar projects around the country, massive companies like AT&T are trying to derail any potential competition to their services.

From the Cap Times, "Surf and turf: Telecom industry protests UW-Extension broadband plan:"

The angst is over nearly $30 million that was awarded to build more than 600 miles of fiber optic cable that will bring high-capacity broadband connections to a range of key public entities and health care providers in the four communities, each of which has indicated a desire for more reliable broadband service and, not coincidentally, has a UW campus. This project’s budget is nearly $43 million when one adds in funds contributed from groups that will benefit from the infrastructure upgrade in each community.

[T]hose backing the undertaking argue it will bring faster and more reliable Internet service to public safety agencies, health care providers, schools and community organizations in Platteville, Superior, Wausau and the Chippewa Valley (Eau Claire) area.

Private telecom companies (led by AT&T) are protesting the project with a rejoinder we commonly hear in these issues:

Bill Esbeck, the executive director of the Wisconsin State Telecommunications Association, argues the project will duplicate an existing network and take revenues out of the pockets of local Internet providers. The group is asking for a state review of the plan and is considering legal action, says Esbeck.

Interestingly, both sides are mostly right. The public safety, health care, and educational institutions will see faster, more reliable, and less expensive broadband. Private existing providers (mostly AT&T), will lose some revenues.

Of course, those lost revenues would have come from the tax base in the form of local governments having to greatly overpay for telecom services.

The fiscally responsible path for local governments is to build and own (perhaps operate if they wish) their own broadband networks rather than leasing overpriced services from carriers like AT&T. Not only does this cut...

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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 August 27, 2009 by christopher

Folks who are mostly interested in broadband are probably unfamiliar with video franchising laws. Many people still apparently believe that cable companies are able to get exclusive franchises from the city (granting them a monopoly on providing cable television). However, that is not true and has not been true for many years.

Most cable companies still have a de facto monopoly because it is extremely difficult to overbuild an existing cable company - the incumbent has most of the advantages and building a citywide network is extremely expensive. This is not a naturally competitive market; it is actually a natural monopoly.

However, most people want a choice in providers (something that goes beyond a single cable company and a satellite option or two depending on whether you rent/own and your geographic location. In talking with many local officials and the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisers (NATOA), it seems that almost every local government wants more competition in its community too.

This is where telephone and cable company lobbyists have stepped in - more successfully at the state level than at the federal level. They have convinced legislators that the barrier to more competition is local authority over the franchise (the rules a company agrees to in return for the right to use the community's Right-of-Way in deploying their network). These rules include red-line prohibition (you cannot refuse to serve poor neighborhoods), an affordable "basic" tier of service, local public access channels, broadband connections at public buildings, etc.

Some states have listened to the lobbyists and enacted statewide franchising - where local communities are stripped of the authority to manage their Right-of-Way and companies can offer video services anywhere in the state by getting a state franchise from the state government. Every year, we gather more data that this practice has hurt communities, raised prices, and barely spurred any competition. Most of the competition it is credited with spurring came from Verizon's FiOS deployments, which would have occurred regardless of state-wide franchise enactment.

This touches directly on broadband because the statewide franchises often give greater power to companies like Verizon to cherry-pick who gets next generation broadband. Wealthier neighborhoods will increasingly get access to faster...

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Posted June 30, 2009 by christopher

Broadband Property's Muni FTTH Snapshot for Reedsburg, Wisconsin, offers some details on one of the earliest muni fiber deployers. They started in 2002 and began offering services in 2003. The network is run by the public utility, Reedsburg Utility Commission.

They offer a 10 Mbps symmetrical connection for $49.95/month and a very low churn rate.

The economic impact has been significant:

In April 2007 Reedsburg businesses participated in a groundbreaking research project conducted through Reedsburg Utility Commission and the Fiber-to-the-Home Council. The survey, which had a 23 percent response rate, found that the speed, bandwidth, reliability, pricing and customer service provided by Reedsburg’s fiber optic network helped them make operations easier, increase efficiency and save time.

Most of RUC’s business fiber customers were using their broadband connections for research, document transfer, and purchasing. Other uses included banking, advertising, customer service, employee training, online sales and telework.

Six in ten Reedsburg business customers reported cost savings from fiber averaging more than $20,000 per year. Half said they were able to adopt new and more efficient processes, and 46 percent cited marketing benefits. Forty one organizations, or 10 percent of all the businesses in Reedsburg, reported that their sales had increased as a result of their fiber connections, and an overall net increase in employment of 19.8 percent was attributed to fiber.

Extrapolating from the sample, the estimated benefit to the community as a whole amounts to $1.85 million per year in additional sales and a net cost savings of $4.4 million per year.

Posted May 13, 2009 by christopher

In terms of fiber-enabled cost savings, 120 businesses in Bristol reported an average of $2,951 in savings per year, while, in Reedsburg, 33 cited annual cost savings averaging $20,682. Twenty Jackson businesses reported cost impacts due to fiber, with one large organization reporting a total of $3 million in savings. The other 19 Jackson respondents reported a net average cost increase of $3,150 per organization.

Posted May 13, 2009 by christopher

Another aspect of RUC’s community focus is the fact that it provides customers with two local TV channels, in contrast to Charter, which offers none. In the wake of a Wisconsin law that removed requirements that cable operators provide financial support for PEG (public, educational and government) access channels, Rice says RUC is working on plans to continue operating its local channels, to make them more attractive and, in doing so, to further differentiate its service from Charter’s in terms of being responsive to the local community.

Posted May 13, 2009 by christopher

One early indicator of such “public” value is the fact that RUC’s fiber network now connects Reedsurg’s schools with more bandwidth than they had before, and at a lower price. Before the network was available, schools were paying $650-$750 a month for T-1 service, which delivers only 1.5 Mbps of capacity. Today, RUC provides 100 Mbps links between school buildings at a cost below $500 per month.

Posted April 7, 2009 by christopher

The Municipal & Utility Guidebook to Bringing Broadband Fiber Optics to Your Community is a free, comprehensive guide to the economic and quality-of-life benefits of robust fiber infrastructure. It examines in detail four communities that have successfully deployed fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) services to their citizens and businesses. “This guidebook helps government leaders build a strong case for investing in FTTH infrastructure,“ said Alan Shark, Executive Director of PTI. “With thorough analysis, interviews and painstaking research, it sets forth strategies that, if followed, will help American communities whose broadband needs are not being met by current market dynamics to prosper in the information age.“

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