Fast, affordable Internet access for all.
"We've already had a couple of people who have moved to town because they knew it was coming," said Clark, who noted that a medical concierge company (virtual check-ups) has shown a lot of interest in Salisbury's fiber.The article also goes into the many advantages of fiber-optics over last generation technologies.
My Comcast exit was very easy. Step one: Make appointment to have EPB Fiber service installed. Step two: Put all Comcast receivers and remotes in a box and hand it through the "teller" window at the Comcast office. Step 3: Ask for a receipt from the nice lady to whom I handed the box. Step 4: Receive my Comcast credit balance check in the mail and open it while watching TV on the EPBFI system. I never even had to speak to a Comcast phone rep in India.A previous round of letters discussed several of the ways the publicly owned network is superior to Comcast, though one customer complained that EPB Fiber was too expensive, compared to Comcast's introductory and temporary rates (incumbents like Comcast typically negotiate rates in response to competition without advertising the reduced rate - so customers who are willing to haggle over the phone may find cheaper prices from a private company willing to lose money to deny customers to competition). One reader noted how fast the local, publicly owned network installed the network.
I left shortly after that call [ordering service] and returned a couple of hours later from grocery shopping. EPB contractors had already been to my home and installed the boxes on the side of the house. Yes, super fast service. The day the installers came to complete the inside installation, they were on time, courteous and knew just what needed to be done to complete the install. One of the men even told me of a problem with my A/C heating unit duct work underneath my home which needed to be looked about soon. The men cleaned all the areas they worked in, made sure all my services worked correctly and asked if I had any questions they could answer before they left. Both men did a fantastic job and worked quickly to complete the work.
A public fight over fiber meant the public knew more about fiber. Durel said the cable and telecom incumbents “were their own worst enemy. The more controversy they made out of this, the more they educated people.” The local newspaper covered the legal battle fairly, Durel said, and most people understood what they’d get from the new network by the time it launched.I think this is a good insight - communities should not shrink from incumbent attacks but use them as an opportunity to educate. In the case of Lafayette, a few people formed a group that strategized on how to respond to incumbent attacks. This is one of the reasons these projects need champions - people who are willing to put lots of time and energy into the effort as a major priority. We have frequently noted the benefits of competition -- incumbents lower prices and often invest more in their networks following a community network. Durel notes additional community benefits:
Incumbents step up. After the network started being built, incumbents have kept rate increases low, while donating more to the local community. “I can tell you: some of the providers here are doing more for the community than they have ever ever done for this community: not a little [no-glossary]bit[/no-glossary], but millions of dollars, for our university, for various nonprofits and things like that,” Durel said.In an unrelated post, Central District News discusses the City's plans for an open access network, putting them in context with Seattle's history:
This wouldn't be the first time that Seattle had decided that the city could step in and provide what private industry was failing at.
Bowcut gave his budget report and said SFCN had over $400 thousand in retained earnings. "We are not going under."He also added that they built the network at a time when private providers refused to invest in the community. Hat tip to FreeUTOPIA for noting these stories.
Inherent in democracy, in the First Amendment, and in free markets, is a central concept: we have no idea what these things will produce. We only know that they are the means-- they are the how-- to produce an endless supply of very important & valuable things. The Internet has proven to be the same, it produces a continuous stream of innovative, valuable things. It should be obvious that building the most advanced community Intranet will attract a lot of innovative people to our city, and encourage our own people to be innovative, as well.To the extent we require these networks to produce profits, they will not be the "how" of the new economy. Infrastructure rarely pays for itself directly, but pays for itself many times over indirectly. He also has a response to those who fear the public should not compete with the private:
But what if, instead of public vs. private fiberoptic lines early in the 21st century, you find yourself in the early 18th century, and the question is building state-owned roads and bridges that will decrease the profitability of privately-held services? What if you live in the early 19th century, and the question is building public libraries that will compete with for-profit bookstores? What if it is the early 20th century, and the question is creating public schools that will pull students from private institutions?Well done, Joe! Another article from the same paper interviews Director of Utilities for Lafayette, Terry Huval. This is a guy that understands the value of publicly owned fiber networks:
In addition, we will launch a digital divide product that will provide Internet accessibility in homes where there are no computers, and no Internet services today. All of this is just the tip of the iceberg. There is much more to come, and much of those are things that I don't even envision myself.
“It’s at least a three times reduction in cost,” Niemann said of leasing fiber from the city, versus contracting with a commercial provider. “And oftentimes, if you go with a commercial provider, you have construction costs.”The city would like to expand the network, both to bring competition to the DSL/cable duopoly, and to invest in smart grid applications for its public power utility. Unfortunately, they have to win a referendum per Colorado's incumbent-protection law. The incumbents are more than willing to spend hundreds of thousands against any such measure, knowing they would lose far more in profits if they had to deal with competition in the community.
And the fibre brought jobs. In 2007 both Northrop Grumman, a big American defence contractor, and CGI, an international IT consultancy, said they would hire between them 700 technicians, consultants and call-operators at offices in nearby Lebanon, Virginia, part of BVU’s fibre backbone. Both cited the area’s universities and low cost of living, but neither would have come without BVU’s investment, which Northrop calls absolutely critical.The article asks a common question but answers it exceedingly well:
Should cities be in the business of providing fast internet access? It depends on whether the internet is an investment or a product. BVU could not afford to maintain its fibre backbone without selling the internet to consumers. And it could not build a subscriber base without offering cable television and a telephone line as well; households these days expect a single price for all three services.Most communities would rather not have to get involved with selling services like cable television, but such services are generally a necessity to cash-flow the network. So, as they did before with electricity, they do what they must to keep the community strong and competitive.
Although LUS is not releasing the exact number of customers who have signed up for fiber services, Huval said it is "many thousands" and that a higher-than-expected number are signing up for all three services at once.Networks succeed financially when they generate high amounts of revenue per user - ARPU in industry terms. Because the fixed costs are so high to connect users, the low revenues generated by only a single service (like telephone) may take many years to pay off the connection expense. The schools are also making use of the network:
Besides serving residences, LUS Fiber is also being offered to businesses throughout the city, and the wholesale numbers have been at or above expected, Huval said. All Lafayette Parish public schools also are connected to the system, and the technology was used for a partnership among Carencro High School, LITE, Louisiana Public Broadcasting and a San Francisco, Calif. school system, during which students were able to teleconference and collaborate with each other.
City officials have targeted May 31 as the completion date for fiber-optic cable installation, with the network going citywide by Aug. 1.As with several other publicly owned networks, they will be promoting the network with a mobile trailer that will demonstrate the technology to people at block parties and other gatherings around the community.
The mobile trailer will feature computer stations and a living room setting featuring everything the city's fiber-optic cable service offers. "We can roll it into neighborhoods, have small block parties and have people see what a difference it provides," said Mike Crowell, the city's broadband services director.