Many publicly owned community fiber networks offer symmetrical connections - allowing subscribers to both upload and download content at the same speeds. This approach treats the subscriber as both a producer and consumer of content (one of the reasons I generally avoid calling a subscriber a "customer" or "user").
Nearly all private network offerings are asymmetrical - DSL and cable are more less subject to constraints that encourage asymmetry, but in the case of fiber, one might assume that private companies are generally more interested in selling content to subscribers rather than encouraging them to create their own.
These companies have generally argued that symmetrical connections are just not necessary because most people are inherently more interested in downloading content than uploading - and note that on existing networks, people tend to download more than they upload.
However, the aggregate data of some 7,000 users on a fast, symmetrical network in Europe suggests that when subscribers have the opportunity, their upload usage balances the downstream usage.
We should continue pushing for increased upstream capacity from providers - especially providers that have to listen to their community. As for absentee-owned companies only interested in profits, well, good luck.
Which brings me to the flu. One would rationally expect that when a profit-maximizing company builds a telecommunications network, it will make different trade-offs when it comes to redundancy and spare capacity. Planning for high-impact, low probability events is not as high on the priority list of a company looking out first for shareholder interests. On the other hand, communities are more likely to be concerned.
Suburban community Lakeville in Minnesota, has been significantly motivated in its attempts to improve fast broadband access by a recognition that an epidemic or pandemic would leave the community paralyzed and its networks unable to cope with a many telecommuters. DSL and cable networks cannot handle a sudden surge in usage.
To some, this appears to be a surprise though the recent GAO Report rightly notes that full fiber networks are less susceptible to falling apart when they are needed most.
The above are just two reasons we need a full fiber infrastructure available to all Americans -- or at least those already reach by electricity and telephone. We know the private sector is not interested or even properly incented to build the networks we need, so it is long past time to focus on true solutions -- encouraging public ownership (structures that ensure the public interest is preserved) from coops to non-profits to muni networks.
Fort Worth, Texas, has struck a $7.5 million, 34-year contract with Dallas-based Sprocket Networks to construct a new 300-mile fiber optic backbone to shore up city municipal communications needs, expand affordable access to marginalized neighborhoods, and boost local economic development. City officials say construction crews are expected to begin work sometime in the next three to six months, with the full network construction expected to cost $65 million and take three years to complete.
Blue River, Colorado is the latest Colorado municipality to explore building its own broadband network with an eye on affordable access. The town is part of a trend that’s only accelerated since the state eliminated industry-backed state level protections restricting community-owned broadband networks. Town leaders recently hired the consulting firm, NEO Connect, to explore the possibility of building a town-wide fiber network.
Pikeville, Kentucky officials, after almost a decade of fighting with Internet Service Provider (ISP) Optimum about service so consistently poor that the city finally sued the provider, are working on an alternative: a partnership that will see the local government build new citywide fiber infrastructure and lease it to an operating partner. The city formalized a public-private partnership with Inter Mountain Cable, a private local company, which will build the network and get exclusive rights to operate it for 15 years, with the city retaining ownership.
Last week, Pulse Fiber officials announced that construction of its community-owned broadband network is now complete with every household and business in this city of 77,000 now having access to affordable gig-speed service. The $110 million construction project, which began in earnest only four years ago, is the largest capital project in the city’s history, reaching the finish line on time and on budget, city officials said.
CVFiber continues to make progress in deploying affordable fiber to long-neglected rural areas in Vermont. In late 2022 CVFiber broke ground on an ambitious plan to build a 1,200-mile fiber-optic network to bring affordable gigabit broadband access to 6,000 rural Vermont addresses with its first customers having been connected in the central Vermont town of Calais.
In 2021 West Springfield, Massachusetts announced it would be partnering with Westfield Gas and Electric, a publicly owned utility, to deliver its residents symmetrical gigabit fiber service. But efforts to launch the project have been on hold thanks to ongoing delays by Verizon and Eversource to prepare local utility poles for fiber attachment.