Community group lobbying for fiber Internet investment in Baltimore

This is an all too familiar tale of a city embarking on a broadband venture where only the consultants make money (Sorry friends). Residents of the city want to see competition but turn to the government. When that fails they start a grassroots effort. Unfortunately any grassroots campaign will not be enough to even fund a neighborhood. I wish this coalition the best of luck but they need to use their funds to get someone that can try a novel approach to engage a public/private partnership to drive broadband competition.

Baltimore was among dozens of disappointed cities when Google announced it had picked Kansas City, Mo., for a high-speed fiber-optic data network in 2011, but officials vowed to continue fighting for fiber nonetheless.

Nearly four years later, some are disappointed by the lack of progress— and want to show that some of the fervor that wooed Google remains, waiting for new, affordable options for fast Internet service. Continue reading

America’s cities want gigabit broadband and they are not prepared to wait

English: Availability of 4 Mbps-Capable Broadb...

English: Availability of 4 Mbps-Capable Broadband Networks in the United States by County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yesterday evening saw the launch of Next Century Cities, a US bipartisan, city-to-city initiative dedicated to ensuring the availability of next-generation broadband Internet for all communities. The 32 cities involved and their elected leaders are collaborating as they recognise the importance of using gigabit-level Internet to attract new businesses and create jobs, improve health care and education, and generally give residents new opportunities.

During the launch in Santa Monica, the mayors of Lafayette, Louisiana, and Chattanooga, Tennessee – both of whom preside over community gigabit cities – spoke at length about the difficulties they had to overcome in order to reap the rewards of having city-wide ultra-high speed broadband available to all at affordable prices. Continue reading

S.F. Plans to Speed Up Installation of Fiber Optic Network

Trenching for a fiber optic installation in Wo...

Trenching for a fiber optic installation in Worcester, Massachusetts (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A plan that goes before San Francisco supervisors next week would speed up the installation of a fiber optic network in the city.

Under the proposal, the city’s Department of Technology would be required in many instances to make sure conduits for a fiber network are installed when trenches are dug for electrical or sewer work, according to a story in the San Francisco Examiner.

The goal, city officials say, is to expand the existing fiber network to provide a strong, quick wireless Internet service throughout the city.

Currently, San Francisco has 140 miles of fiber conduit that connects police stations, office buildings and public safety radio sites. The system provides free public WiFi along Market Street, in public buildings such as City Hall and in 32 public places where service was launched last week.

The “dig once” proposal was approved Monday by the supervisors’ Land Use and Economic Development Committee.

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Governor Brown signs community broadband bond financing bills into law

I am not convinced that the wording of this new law explicitly allows for the issue of bonds for broadband infrastructure. I do like the fact that California cities are changing road building practices and zoning to build broadband infrastructure. Also, I agree that fiber, ducts, right-of-ways, and other physical media components of a broadband network should be considered infrastructure. Governments know how to build long-term infrastructure projects for the most part which are too expensive for each service provider to do on their own. I wish more state and local governments would support policies allowing for the financing and building of broadband last-mile infrastructure.

Cities and other local agencies in California will be able to issue bonds to pay for building broadband infrastructure, thanks to two new laws approved by Governor Brown yesterday. Assembly bill 2292 and senate bill 628 expand the use of infrastructure financing districts (IFDs), on the one hand specifically allowing broadband to be included in old-style IFDs and creating a new kind, called enhanced infrastructure financing districts, on the other. In both cases, the bonds can be repaid by earmarking the incremental tax revenue that the project is expected to produce. Continue reading

How Come My ISP Won’t Increase Internet Speed and Lower My Bill, Like They Do in Sweden?

We Americans are getting addicted to our high-speed broadband connections. Unfortunately, they are often slower and more expensive than the Internet hook-ups you can grab in many other developed nations.

For example, my brother pays $40 a month for his 100-megabit broadband connection in Karlstad, Sweden. He can take his pick from 19 different service providers, all using a common last-mile infrastructure and competing on price and features. For $70 a month, he could upgrade to a full gigabit. Continue reading

Municipal Broadband: A Bad Deal For Taxpayers

Please read my accompanying blog article.

There has long been a heated debate over the merit of government-run broadband networks, of which there are currently over 100 operating in municipalities around the country. Proponents of government-owned broadband networks, such as Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Tom Wheeler, claim they introduce competition into the market, while critics point  them as an inappropriate use of tax dollars and an example of government improperly competing with the private sector.

The inherent problem with municipal broadband is that government entities are incapable of fairly competing in the free market, as they are taxpayer-backed and therefore able to charge less for a service than it actually costs. Private businesses cannot do this, as doing so would result in bankruptcy. Continue reading

Municipal Broadband From a Different Perspective

I’m going to step into it big time here and make a bold comment. We have too many politicians and lawyers trying involved in driving broadband services and not enough business people and engineers. Politicians and lawyers should be trying to facilitate the penetration of broadband services, not drive the business. We have technical solutions to these issues, but they have yet to really gain traction in the U.S. for the reasons I mentioned above.

Like too many issues in our society, this one seems to boils down to whether you believe in big or limited government. The big government types are perfectly willing to compete or eliminate commercial enterprises in the name of fairness or some other lofty goal. The truth is that they always have an ulterior motive. Municipal broadband enterprises are at best a 50/50 proposition, but those odds are not sufficient in my view when it comes to sticking taxpayers with the bill. Our Constitution says nothing about guaranteeing citizens the right to the Internet nor is it a public safety issue. Universal Service was a deal concocted by AT&T with the Federal Government to allow their monopoly to continue. When divestiture occurred, it was a holdover for the RBOC. 
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