Fast, affordable Internet access for all.
That may be why a key document requested for review — BT’s financial pro forma and foundation of its current business model — can only be viewed in Leopold’s office. Councilors are forbidden from taking notes or taking it home to read.Nonetheless, BT has been a great success in many ways. As noted in several of the citizen forums in Burlington since this controversy began, the BT services have proven far more reliable to everyone and the speeds offered by BT to local businesses (unmatched by Comcast and FairPoint locally) have resulted in new businesses moving to town and expansion by existing businesses. Further, the city-owned network has saved millions for the city since it replaced the leased lines Burlington used to rely on. The schools and city buildings have far greater access to bandwidth at a fraction of the cost, improving educational opportunities and making city services more efficient. We are organizing our resources on BT currently and will launch a page that includes much more information about the situation. For all that it has done right, BT also offers many lessons for other communities that want to build a next-generation network. In particular, municipally-owned networks must be balanced with an appropriate amount of both freedom and oversight from the City government. That the City Council cannot gain access to key documents and explanations is frustrating. Just as public power agencies are regularly audited, city-owned communications networks need oversight. However, as telecom is a fast-paced world, the network must have the freedom to act quickly on contracts and be able to hire salespeople based on commission, for instance. Communities developing a governance structure for their network should pay attention to Burlington. Map courtesy of Wikimedia commons