South Mississippi cities deserve better than government broadband

Coastal map of the U.S. state of Mississippi, ...

Coastal map of the U.S. state of Mississippi, showing major towns and cities in the 3 coastal counties: Hancock, Harrison, and Jackson County. Also shown are Cat Island, West Ship Island, East Ship Island, Horn Island and Petit Bois Island.The locations of towns, roads and offshore islands are based on NOAA and NASA maps. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

BY DAVID WILLIAMS

Mississippi will receive $1.5 billion as part of its settlement from the British Petroleum oil spill. A new plan proposes to use a significant portion of that settlement to build a government-owned broadband “fiber ring” connecting several South Mississippi cities including Biloxi, Gulfport and D’Iberville. Biloxi Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich said the total cost of the network, which officials hope will eventually encompass 12 cities and three counties, could top $100 million.

While broadband service is an important tool for students, business owners, job seekers, public safety and health care professionals, spending the BP settlement money on a network owned and managed by the cities is a waste of public funds and puts taxpayers on the hook for future financial exposure. And it is hard to imagine that residents in Biloxi will tolerate the delays the Fiber Ring installation will cause in the current infrastructure projects on the Point. Continue reading

Financing Public-Private Fiber Networks Becoming a Reality, Say Experts at Broadband Communities Summit

AUSTIN, April 27, 2015 – Raising funds to build high-speed internet infrastructure through municipal debt financing is finally becoming a reality, according to a panel of financiers and broadband builders speaking earlier this month here at the Broadband Communities Summit.

Members of the panel, “Municipal Debt Financing and Public-Private Partnerships,” surveyed the landscape of typical municipal bond financing — traditionally used to build transportation infrastructure — and discussed how it applies in the broadband space. Continue reading

5 Ways to Avoid Muni Market Mayhem

A little more than a year after the first signs of mayhem in the municipal bond markets, issuers are still defaulting, and investors are still worried. And while investing professionals would say that in this climate, it’s best to leave your bond research to the experts, that’s not the only way: A little diligence, a free afternoon and an Internet connection is enough to start separating the risky munis from the stable ones.

The goal – to build a portfolio of municipal bonds that reduces risk and supplies steady tax-exempt income – is still possible, says financial advisor Dennis Gibb, president of Sweetwater Investments, an investment advisory firm in Redmond, Wash. By picking issuers whose finances and politics you can track thoroughly, like your local or state government, and investing in bonds backed by recession-proof, essential services, it’s possible to avoid potential blow-ups and ride out the current muni mess. It’s far from easy, says Matt Fabian, research director of Municipal Market Advisors, “but in some cases you can figure things out.”

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How To Finance a Community Broadband Network When Incumbents Fight Back

By Craig Settles

Image representing GigaOm as depicted in Crunc...
Image via CrunchBase

Municipal broadband networks may the fastest way for smaller communities — and those in areas without much competition — to bring better broadband to their businesses and residents. These networks aren’t generally popular with incumbent communications providers, which have a history of suing to stop them. However, their tactics have changed.

In 2005, the main goal of large incumbent telcos and cable companies was to try for an outright ban on municipal networks. As the public vigorously fought back, incumbents switched to creative assaults on communities’ ability to find or use money to pay for networks. Eighteen states have restrictive muni network legislation (see map) that makes building a community-owned network impossible or difficult, especially when it comes to funding them.

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