Tag: "rates"

Posted September 14, 2018 by lgonzalez

People in Wyoming, Minnesota, gathered together on September 12th to bend the ear of officials from the state’s Public Utilities Commission (PUC). Ann Treacy from the Blandin Foundation attended the meeting and recorded most of the conversation from the 100 or so frustrated and fed-up folks. The meeting was one of five organized by the PUC after a record number of complaints by incumbent telephone and Internet access provider Frontier.

A Shared Reality

It’s safe to say that “frustration” was the star of the night, as everyone who spoke mentioned how it had consumed their experience with Internet access from Frontier. People who spoke at the meeting included those who worked from home, business owners, parents with families whose kids needed Internet access for homework, and retired folks who just wanted to enjoy a quiet evening streaming a movie.

Most of the people who spoke at the meeting said that they needed to run mobile hotspots or had given up on Frontier’s DSL service and now rely solely on hot spots to avoid the frustration of dealing with terrible service. Several people at the meeting don’t have the option of mobile hotspots because there’s no cell coverage where they live.

In addition to horribly unreliable connectivity, where the only consistency is dropped service, people expressed anger about overpaying for Internet access that was down far too often — even for weeks at a time. When they were able to get online, many people who spoke at the meeting reports horrifically slow speeds and feel they are being “ripped off” because they never reach the “up to” speed that they pay for each month. Once woman has documented her line’s performance and the fastest download speed she has reached is .96 Megabits per second (Mbps); the slowest is .05 Mbps. This same person has had limited success in cajoling Frontier to temporarily lower her bill since 2012.

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Posted September 10, 2018 by Katie Kienbaum

If you’re looking to move to a community with a relaxing, rural lifestyle and quality Internet access, then Lyndon Township in Michigan may have just jumped to the top of your list. Now that the community has chosen an ISP to serve the community via its publicly owned infrastructure and established the cost of service, they're eager to start deployment.

Lyndon Township Board recently approved rates for their forthcoming fiber network, setting the price of symmetrical 1 Gigabit per second (Gbps) Internet speeds at a reasonable $69.95 per month. This is a nice reward for the township’s residents, who last year approved a tax increase to fund the construction of the network. The affordable residential gig brings Lyndon Township into the same price range as communities such as Lafayette, Louisiana; Westfield, Massachusetts; and Longmont, Colorado.

Local Support Founds, and Funds, the Network

Though only a 20-minute drive from the University of Michigan, a world class research institution, Lyndon Township residents are mostly stuck with expensive, slow, and unreliable satellite Internet service. Around 80 percent of the community doesn’t currently have access to broadband, which the FCC defines as a minimum of 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) download speed and 3 Mbps upload speed.

When attempts to get existing Internet service providers to expand into the community failed, the township decided to build its own Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network. To fund the approximately $7 million network, residents approved a millage increase in 2017, with 66 percent of voters in support. The millage amounts to a property tax increase of $2.91 per $1,000 of taxable...

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Posted August 31, 2018 by lgonzalez

Consumer Reports (CR) has once again gone straight to the source to collect opinions on subscribers’ experiences with their Internet access, telephone, and pay TV services. Unsurprisingly, a vast majority of respondents to their survey of 176,000 people expressed dissatisfaction with the large national providers. Once again, municipal network Chattanooga EPB Fiber walked away as the only Internet service provider to receive top marks for value, speed, and reliability.

This isn’t the first time the Tennessee publicly owned network appeared at or near the top of the list in a customer satisfaction survey. In addition to consistent high scores on CR surveys, EPB Fiber has also earned kudos from J. D. Power.

After Chattanooga EPB Fiber, Google Fiber was the only private sector ISP to garner a positive rating from subscribers. Google Fiber also obtained a favorable score for value.

Bigger is Better (Not!)

The most recent survey from CR also underscored what many Internet access, pay TV, and telephone subscribers keep expressing year after year — that they despise the big, corporate behemoth providers. When it comes to Internet access, smaller cable ISPs fared a little better, but only Armstrong Cable Company, serving communities in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and four other states, received an “overall satisfaction” rating.

RCN, Hawaiian Telecom, and Grande Communications also did better than the large ISPs, including Comcast, Spectrum, and Cox Communications.

Hiding Fees in the Bundles

According to a CR article on their survey and analysis of the results, approximately 75 percent of subscribers answering the survey needed to bundle TV, Internet access, and telephone to obtain what they thought was the best deal. Subscribers reported that, even though they had to continually haggle for acceptable pricing, they still felt overcharged.

One of the most prominent areas of complaint from subscribers who answered the survey, dealt with hidden fees, unexplained increased, and confusing bills....

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Posted July 31, 2018 by lgonzalez

In recent years AT&T and Verizon, the nation’s two largest telco Internet providers, have eliminated their cheaper rate tiers for low and mid-speed Internet access, except at the very slowest levels. Each company now charges essentially identical monthly prices – $63-$65 a month after first year discounts have ended – for home wireline broadband connections at almost any speed up to 100/100 Mbps fiber service.

This policy of upward “tier flattening” raises the cost of Internet access for urban and rural AT&T and Verizon customers who only have access to the oldest, slowest legacy infrastructure.

Affordability is the greatest barrier to increased home broadband subscriptions. In the United States, broadband is becoming faster for some households and more expensive for others.

This report from the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) takes a detailed look at tier flattening from AT&T and Verizon, digging into monthly rates that users pay and the types of services they obtain from each company. The authors put the numbers side by side and show that those purchasing what used to be the most economical Internet access service are now simply paying higher rates for slow service.

Download the report to see the comparisons and the authors' analysis.

Posted February 8, 2018 by lgonzalez

In a series of decisions, Loveland, Colorado’s City Council voted earlier this week to take the next step toward developing a municipal broadband network. In addition to allocating funds to develop a business plan, city leadership established an advisory board, accepted task force recommendations, and voted to amended current code to allow the electric utility to handle communications activities.

No Public Vote

The council addressed whether or not to ask voters to approve efforts to establish a municipal broadband network, even though the issue was not part of the agenda. City staff drafted an amendment during the meeting to require a vote, but after prolonged discussion City Council members voted 5-4 against including it.

Last fall, the city of Fort Collins needed to bring the issue before voters in order to amend their charter so community leaders could move forward with a municipal network. After spending more than $900,000 through a bogus citizens group to try to stop the measure, Comcast was unable to persuade Fort Collins to defeat it. Nevertheless, most of Loveland’s council members don’t want a repeat of the expensive hassle in Fort Collins.

Councilman John Fogle said that, prior to the Fort Collins election, he supported the idea of a vote on the issue, but he feels different now. "It's not an even playing field when incumbent industries will spend $900,000 at the drop of the hat to perpetuate ... a monopoly," he said at the February 6th Council meeting.

Other council members who voiced opposition to a vote said that they’ve heard from constituents since 2015, when the city voted to opt out of the state’s restrictive SB 152. Since then, residents have contacted them to express their support to move the project forward. "I'm tired of being beaten," said Councilor Rich Ball, "...

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Posted January 18, 2018 by lgonzalez

The FCC collects data from Internet Service Providers that reflects census blocks where they offer service to at least one premise. Currently, the Commission does not collect information about rates subscribers pay. A new report from the Berkman Klein Center dives into prices subscribers pay and also looks at trends from national companies as well as local publicly owned networks. The report, Community-Owned Fiber Networks: Value Leaders in America, supports what we’ve always found — that publicly owned networks offer the best all around value for the communities that make the investment. Download the report.

In the Abstract, authors David Talbot, Kira Hessekiel, and Danielle Kehl describe their approach:

We collected advertised prices for residential data plans offered by 40 community-owned (typically municipally owned) Internet service providers (ISPs) that offer fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) service. We then identified the least-expensive service that meets the federal definition of broadband—at least 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload—and compared advertised prices to those of private competitors in the same markets. We found that most community-owned FTTH networks charged less and offered prices that were clear and unchanging, whereas private ISPs typically charged initial low promotional or “teaser” rates that later sharply rose, usually after 12 months. We were able to make comparisons in 27 communities. We found that in 23 cases, the community-owned FTTH providers’ pricing was lower when averaged over four years. (Using a three year-average changed this fraction to 22 out of 27.) In the other 13 communities, comparisons were not possible, either because the private providers’ website terms of service deterred or prohibited data collection or because no competitor offered service that qualified as broadband. We also made the incidental finding that Comcast offered different prices and terms for the same service in different regions.

The report offers frank visual comparisons of the authors’ findings. Most of the comparisons show big national providers advertising offering service in the markets, but there are a few...

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Posted January 16, 2018 by lgonzalez

Now that they have removed the weight of Colorado’s restrictive SB 152, Greeley is looking forward to future solutions to poor Internet access. In a recent letter to the local Tribune, resident Richard Reilly offered three reasons why Greeley should develop a plan to move toward municipal broadband.

Reilly’s points are:

First and foremost, net neutrality must be at the heart of a municipal broadband. As the big Internet Service Providers start to throttle specific websites that compete or offer tiered packages, Greeley must commit itself to net neutrality. One price for full Internet access. Period.

Secondly, speed needs to be a priority. Comcast and the other ISPs have received billions of dollars to build the infrastructure for gigabit speeds. If Greeley can commit to the infrastructure to offer gigabit speeds, other ISPs will struggle to survive in our city — and good riddance.

Thirdly, customer service is key.

Already On Track

Reilly’s suggestion follows the community’s decision last summer to fund a feasibility study. At the time, they expressed a hope that the study might encourage incumbents to offer better rates and services. In addition to better connectivity for the general public, Greeley’s Family and Recreation Center’s poor Internet access interfered with bookings. When the City Council decided to fund the study, they cited economic development as a key factor in finding ways to improve local connectivity.

Local Commitment

Since the City Council’s decision to fund the feasibility study, the FCC has repealed network neutrality protections and is considering lowering the speed definitions of broadband. Reilly writes that Greeley needs to engage in local action:

Greeley is in a unique position to protect its residents from a rogue administration. Despite the fact that a vast majority of Republicans, Democrats and independents support net neutrality rules, the FCC rolled back the regulations meant to protect the freedom to information in this country.

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Posted January 10, 2018 by lgonzalez

The FCC collects data from Internet Service Providers that reflects census blocks where they offer service to at least one premise. Currently, the Commission does not collect information about rates subscribers pay. A new report from the Berkman Klein Center dives into prices subscribers pay and also looks at trends from national companies as well as local publicly owned networks. The report, Community-Owned Fiber Networks: Value Leaders in America, supports what we’ve always found — that publicly owned networks offer the best all around value for the communities that make the investment.

Download and read the full report here.

In the Abstract, authors David Talbot, Kira Hessekiel, and Danielle Kehl describe their approach:

We collected advertised prices for residential data plans offered by 40 community-owned (typically municipally owned) Internet service providers (ISPs) that offer fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) service. We then identified the least-expensive service that meets the federal definition of broadband—at least 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload—and compared advertised prices to those of private competitors in the same markets. We found that most community-owned FTTH networks charged less and offered prices that were clear and unchanging, whereas private ISPs typically charged initial low promotional or “teaser” rates that later sharply rose, usually after 12 months. We were able to make comparisons in 27 communities. We found that in 23 cases, the community-owned FTTH providers’ pricing was lower when averaged over four years. (Using a three year-average changed this fraction to 22 out of 27.) In the other 13 communities, comparisons were not possible, either because the private providers’ website terms of service deterred or prohibited data collection or because no competitor offered service that qualified as broadband. We also made the incidental finding that Comcast offered different prices and terms for the same service in different regions.

The report offers frank visual comparisons of the authors’ findings. Most of the comparisons show big national providers advertising offering service in the markets, but there are a few places where...

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Posted January 8, 2018 by lgonzalez

In the midst of price increase announcements from Comcast and others for 2018, gigabit subscribers in Longmont, Colorado, are enjoying a price decrease from their publicly owned network, NextLight.

Happy New Year

As of January 1st, standard residential gigabit Internet access rates dropped from $99.95 per month to $69.95 per month. According to Longmont Power and Communications (LPC), about 28 existing subscribers obtained gigabit speeds at the old rate; along with any new gigabit subscribers, the existing customers will receive the new rate.

In addition to this most recent price reduction, NextLight offers a loyalty bonus for subscribers who obtain service for 12 continuous months. Gigabit subscribers who qualify have rates reduced to $59.95 per month. Charter Members — residents who subscribe for services within three months that service is available within their area — are able to receive gigabit connectivity for $49.95 per month as long as they keep their services. Charter Member rates stay with the premise if they sell their home and take that rate with them to their new residence. NextLight subscribers can also sign up for 25 Mbps service for $39.95 per month.

All speeds are symmetrical so subscribers can take advantage of the robust upload speeds. Subscribers are better positioned to work from home and establish at-home businesses. With symmetrical connectivity, Longmont’s school children can take full advantage of web based home work programs and adults who want to pursue distance learning don’t have the hurdle of poor Internet access to handicap their goals.

Part Of The Success

In addition to affordable rates, NextLight offers promotions to increase sign-ups. Subscribers who successfully refer others will get one month of free service for each new subscriber. NextLight is extending the promotion to its Digital Voice service during the first three months in 2018.

"We're customer-based and customer-focused," Longmont Power and Communications General Manager Tom Roiniotis said in a statement.

"This is a further opportunity for residents who didn't sign up...

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Posted September 4, 2017 by lgonzalez

It’s been almost two years since 82 percent of Loveland voters chose to opt out of Colorado’s restrictive SB 152. Last fall, the community started working with a consultant on a feasibility study and now, residents and businesses are being asked to complete a second survey to gauge interest in the potential for connectivity offered by the city.

One Step At A Time

Loveland, a community of about 69,000 people in the southeast corner of the state, completed a survey last year, which revealed that 56 percent of residents and 37 percent of businesses feel incumbents are not meeting their connectivity needs. Affordability is a big factor for both sectors with lack of capacity and reliability following close behind. Residents reported they were also unhappy with customer service. Within both sets of respondents, a high percentage showed interest in obtaining service directly from the city or from a private provider working with the city.

This summer, the city released an RFP, hoping to elicit interest from the private sector for potential partners to help them develop a municipal fiber network. Read the full text of the RFP here.

Many premises in Loveland subscribe to cable from Comcast, which faces little or no competition from services other than DSL at much slower speeds. Resident Roger Ison wrote to the Reporter Herald recently encouraging residents and business owners to participate in the survey:

Comcast reaches enough Lovelanders to set the market price for high-speed service here. Competition and citywide access are inadequate because no other competitor has deployed a modern, high-performance network that reaches most potential subscribers.  

Ison pointed out one of the positive side effects of municipal Internet infrastructure - its influence on incumbent pricing. When competition comes into a community in the form of a publicly owned network, incumbents that may have been setting rates unchecked suddenly reexamine their prices. The same holds true for customer service. It isn’t only munis that offer locals a respite from inflated prices, any...

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