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.

A community group based in North Baltimore has attracted more than 900 people and nearly $17,000 in donations to a crowdsourced campaign, the Baltimore Broadband Coalition. Backers aim to demonstrate untapped demand for companies that might invest in a fiber network for Baltimore, possibly alongside city officials who have spent the past two years exploring options and expect to share their findings by year’s end.

Networks made of fiber-optic cable are capable of carrying significantly more information at faster speeds than traditional copper-wire networks. Fiber broadband can deliver speeds of as much as a gigabit per second. The fastest speed Comcast lists on its website for Baltimore customers is 150 megabits per second, though a spokeswoman said it offers 505 megabits per second.

While the campaign doesn’t offer any guarantee of new Internet service options, organizers said they hope it will help draw attention to the region’s “digital divide” and eventually spur investment in fiber here.

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About Mark Milliman

Mark Milliman is a Principal Consultant at Inphotonics Research driving the adoption and assisting local governments to plan, build, operate, and lease access open-access municipal broadband networks. Additionally, he works with entrepreneurs and venture capitalists to increase the value of their intellectual capital through the creation of strategic product plans and execution of innovative marketing strategies. With more than 22 years of experience in the telecommunications industry that began at AT&T Bell Laboratories, Mark has built fiber, cable, and wireless networks around the world to deliver voice, video, and data services. His thorough knowledge of all aspects of service delivery from content creation to the design, operation, and management of the network is utilized by carriers and equipment manufacturers. Mark conceived and developed one of the industry's first multi-service provisioning platform and is multiple patent holder. He is active in the IEEE as a senior member. Mark received his B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Iowa State University and M.S. in Electrical Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University.
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