Lafayette eyes municipal broadband, EcoPass for November ballot

By Anthony Hahn
English: Ballot Box showing preferential voting

English: Ballot Box showing preferential voting (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Following its neighboring communities, Lafayette officials Tuesday will vote to refer several issues to the November ballot — including municipal broadband and an increase in property taxes to fund a citywide EcoPass.

Council members will also vote Tuesday to appoint one of the last seven candidates to fill an open council seat vacated by Tom Dowling.

When Boulder County officials asked residents earlier this year to consider a proposal that would raise property taxes to help fund free mass transit passes, a poll suggested that voters would most likely reject a ballot initiative. Now however, Lafayette officials are hoping that a similar program on a smaller scale will be better received this election cycle. Continue reading

Annette Meeks: Municipal broadband puts taxpayers’ dollars in jeopardy

Although I do not paint as dire picture as Annette Meeks on municipal broadband. There are still several cautionary tales out there that need to be seriously considered by localities when embarking on a municipal broadband project. Most of them have been failures due to poor planning and optimistic projections including the miscalculation of how their commercial competition will respond. In some cases there are no other alternatives than a city to offer their own services, but those are few and far between. There are many creative alternatives that municipalities can implement that increase broadband penetration and offer competition. Continue reading

Big choices ahead as Boulder pursues faster, cheaper broadband

I appreciate that the Daily Camera dedicated so many inches to this topic, but they missed the point that one of the options is that the city provides fiber access to other communications companies that will actually sell services to consumers and businesses. This open-access option is preferred because it allows for greater choice of services and price competition. Additionally it keeps the city out of business of delivering communications services which is fast moving.

Open-access reduces the risk to the city in this venture because it sells infrastructure that all communications providers require including CenturyLink and Comcast. EBP is always used as the poster child of a successful deployment but there are just as many municipal failures like UTOPIA. Even Longmont failed 3 other times in their broadband venture. Selling/leasing the infrastructure to deliver services is more likely to be financially successful for the city, and it will benefit consumers as well. CTC mentioned that there are several service providers willing to offer Internet, phone, and even video services to Boulder residents. I hope that the city makes the best decision and opts for an open-access network. Continue reading

DC Court Upholds FCC Open Internet Order


In a 2-1 decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has upheld the FCC‘s Open Internet Order, which was issued last March and challenged in court shortly thereafter. The full text of the decision – 184 pages’ worth – is available here.

In a statement, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said: “Today’s ruling is a victory for consumers and innovators who deserve unfettered access to the entire web, and it ensures the Internet remains a platform for unparalleled innovation, free expression and economic growth. After a decade of debate and legal battles, today’s ruling affirms the commission’s ability to enforce the strongest possible Internet protections – both on fixed and mobile networks – that will ensure the Internet remains open, now and in the future.”

FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai disagreed. In a statement, he said, in part: “I am deeply disappointed by the D.C. Circuit’s 2-1 decision upholding the FCC’s Internet regulations. For many of the reasons set forth in Judge Williams’ [presiding judge on the case in the DC Circuit] compelling dissent, I continue to believe that these regulations are unlawful, and I hope that the parties challenging them will continue the legal fight. The FCC’s regulations are unnecessary and counterproductive.” Continue reading

Municipal fiber network will let customers switch ISPs in seconds


Most cities and towns that build their own broadband networks do so to solve a single problem: that residents and businesses aren’t being adequately served by private cable companies and telcos.

But there’s more than one way to create a network and offer service, and the city of Ammon, Idaho, is deploying a model that’s worth examining. Ammon has built an open access network that lets multiple private ISPs offer service to customers over city-owned fiber. The wholesale model in itself isn’t unprecedented, but Ammon has also built a system in which residents will be able to sign up for an ISP—or switch ISPs if they are dissatisfied—almost instantly, just by visiting a city-operated website and without changing any equipment. Continue reading

Open Access

A key problem in improving Internet access has been ensuring residents and local businesses have high quality services. One means of ensuring high quality is via competition – if people can switch away from their Internet Service Provider, the ISP has an incentive to provide better services. However, the high cost of building networks is a barrier for new ISPs to enter the market – limiting the number of options for communities. Open access provides a solution: multiple providers sharing the same physical network.

Publicly owned, open access networks can create a vibrant and innovative market for telecommunications services. Municipalities build the physical infrastructure (fiber-optic lines, wireless access points, etc.) and independent Internet Service Providers (ISPs) operate in a competitive market using the same physical network. In this competitive marketplace, ISPs compete for customers and have incentives to innovate rather than simply locking out competitors with a de facto monopoly.  Continue reading

Commentary: Fiber network not a good deal for Westerly


Westerly’s Town Council is currently considering whether to enter into a contract with SIFI Networks of London to build a $30 million fiber optic network. SIFI is proposing to build the network and the town would lease-purchase it from the company at an annual cost of $1 million to $2.5 million over 30 years. SIFI has promised that a third-party internet service provider will sell broadband packages on the new network, sharing revenue with Westerly to cover the town’s lease cost. SIFI has “guaranteed” it. That guarantee is only backed by the word of the company — a company that hasn’t actually built a single mile of fiber anywhere in the United States. The town can supposedly back out of the contract at any time — but SIFI would then retain ownership of the network, and would be free to use it as they see fit without town involvement.

Steve Blum, a broadband consultant hired to study SIFI’s contract in another community, recently told The Westerly Sun that the town “should assume it will have to be subsidized by some other source, whether it’s a tax or a utility fee…They will not make enough money from operation of the system.” Even a cursory look at the numbers should raise a red flag. Using SIFI’s assumption of 36 percent penetration, the average monthly household bill would have to exceed $200 per month for the town’s revenue to cover the $1.5 million annual lease commitment. Continue reading