The incomparable Diane Rehm show on WAMU recently tackled the network neutrality ruling [listen to it there]. Guests included Cecilia Kang, Susan Crawford, and Jeffrey Eisenach from the American Enterprise Institute, a think tank famous for promoting what is best for massive, politically influencial firms. Jeff and I both took part in a debate about municipal networks a few years ago - watch here.
It is a good panel with numerous perspectives and back and forth. But I was surprised to hear Eisenach confirming a main argument Susan, myself, and many others have been making: that copper is insufficient. People like Eisenach are forever over-estimating what DSL can do, claiming that we don't need massive fiber investment.
But the conversation turns to Europe about 34 minutes into the interview and in explaining why he thinks Europe has fallen behind the U.S., he says "They are reliant on these 20th century copper networks which have real limits on the amount of speed that they can deliver."
Now, he was quoting in the previous paragraph, so he may claim that his recognition of copper limits was nothing more than a quote to someone else - but he quoted it quite approvingly. And most of us in the United States are stuck with that same technology as our only competitor to the local cable monopoly.
Make no mistake. We do need fiber networks, as even industry concedes in more and more cases - see Cox suddenly investing in FTTH - but we also need accountability. Just convincing big, unaccountable global corporations to invest in fiber won't improve our local economies as much as we need.
The National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors (NATOA) recently announced that its Community Broadband Projects of the Year Awards for 2023 will go to the Connexion network in Fort Collins, Colorado and TeamPharr.net in Pharr, Texas. Fort Collins is also a part of a municipal-owned communications partnership known as Northern Colorado Community Fiber, which received the Fiber Broadband Association Star Award for going “above and beyond what is expected in the advancement of Fiber-to-the-Home.”
Local electrical cooperatives say they’re making inroads on efforts to finally bring affordable gigabit fiber connections to long neglected portions of rural South Carolina. Dubbed Carolina Connect, the alliance has delivered broadband to more than 14 towns and cities, is currently in the process of bringing broadband to eight more.
Berthoud is the latest Colorado community to explore community broadband alternatives to expand public access to affordable fiber. Currently in the process of crafting a request for quote (RFQ), the city says it hopes to make its final determination by November and have a preliminary plan in place by the end of the year.
Launched in 1975, the member-owned Nushagak Electric & Telephone Cooperative, based in Dillingham, Alaska, offers locals broadband access through microwave towers. But the co-op, which also offers a electric, telephone, and cable TV service, says it’s on the cusp of new fiber deployments that should finally bring next-generation speeds to a chunk of the co-op’s members.
Officials in Loveland and Timnath, Colorado recently announced the ratification of an Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) that greenlight’s a plan to bring ubiquitous, affordable high-speed Internet access to yet another community in the Centennial State, as an increasing number of Colorado cities and towns embrace municipal broadband after years of frustration with the inadequate, high-priced service from the region’s monopoly incumbents.
Decorah, Iowa is moving forward on a long-percolating plan to expand the city’s core fiber ring to provide affordable broadband access to long-neglected residents and businesses. While the project has been discussed for years, local officials tell ISLR the project gained renewed momentum during peak COVID, and is creeping closer to launch. While contracts are still being finalized, the city hopes to spend somewhere around $12 to $15 million to deliver fiber to all 3,000 potential subscriber locations.