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Municipal broadband has been under steady attack nationwide by incumbent broadband providers like Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon. They contend that networks built by cities and counties that also offer subscription options for residents amount to unfair competition. They won this fight in North and South Carolina, but, following more coverage of the issue, fights in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Georgia have been harder to win.Ars Technica's Timothy Lee also covered the bill, including common pro and con arguments. But he gets something that many other reporters don't notice,
Moreover, limiting which parts of town a municipal fiber network can serve might make it impossible for that town to cost-effectively reach under-served sections with broadband service. It's often more cost-effective to deploy fiber to an entire town than to deploy fiber selectively to only certain parts of town. The neighborhoods being served by an incumbent are likely to be the wealthiest and densest parts of town.
It’s harder to profit from the investment in broadband infrastructure in rural areas where fewer residents live further apart. Among poorer residents, broadband – and even newspaper subscriptions – tend to be luxuries for job seekers or people who are still trying to rebuild homes damaged by Hurricane Katrina nearly seven years ago. The Picayune’s decision to print only three days a week means fewer newspapers will get passed around local barber shops, beauty salons, cafes and convenience stores — places where many people who don’t have broadband access at home often go to exchange information about what’s happening in their neighborhoods.Access to the Internet becomes more important every day but our policymakers continue to rely on some of the most hated corporations in the nation (with good reason) to deliver it. And they continue to fail. Communities should continue investigating how they can take greater responsibility for solving their problems locally.
"We always work with customers to meet their needs and budget."The cable company, right? Well, that is Time Warner Cable's claim in the above Salisbury Post article. Later in the article, a local business owner expressed a different sentiment: "Time Warner has the worst customer service I have ever dealt with." The business owner goes on:
“Fibrant may have these same kind of issues, however I can actually go to the source to deal personally with someone who is vested in the community, not spend two hours on the phone and never solve the problem as I do with TWC,” he said. “Even if pricing is higher, I would make the change.
"If you're a cable TV customer or an Internet customer of any company in our footprint, you pay between 35% and 49% less than if you are not in our footprint," said Diane R. Lachel, Click! Network's Government and Community Relations Manager. "That's really significant. That's what the Telecom Act of 1996 was all about. That's the kind of competition Congress intended."Other communities aspiring for successful networks should study the approach of Marketing and Business Operations Manager Mitch Robinson. Click! has embraced local content - something every community should do to differentiate itself from absentee-owned incumbents.
One Robinson innovation was the localization of video-on-demand (VOD). The inspiration for this product was the lack of Tacoma community news from the TV stations based in Seattle, about 30 miles northeast of Click!'s headquarters. Tacoma tends to make the local TV news mostly when the news is bad. In response, Click! decided to build relationships with a multitude of local nonprofits to create a steady inventory of VOD segments exclusively available to Click! viewers. One VOD service, called Safe Streets, shows how to energize a neighborhood by curbing gang activity, setting up block watches, cleaning up derelict properties, and scrubbing away unsightly graffiti. Click! also has exclusive VOD rights with The Grand Cinema, a local independent movie theater that also sponsors local film festivals. Through the Click!
Other conflicts can arise as well. For example, in 2007, when Wilson was developing its Greenlight service, the town tripled its rate for using municipal utility poles from $5 to $15 a year. That raised the pole fee for Time Warner Cable from $82,000 to $246,000 a year, but Time Warner is still paying the old rate while it negotiates with town officials over the issue. Before 2007, Wilson’s pole fee had stayed the same since 1975. The attachment fee increase was not related to Greenlight. The old fee schedule was outdated. By comparison, the cable company’s standard rates have doubled since 1997. “When the regulator becomes your competitor, it’s not a good situation,” said Marcus Trathen, a lawyer for the cable lobby. Wilson and other cities regulate only the pole attachments. The cable and telecom companies are regulated by the State of NC. The local regulation of cable services ended in 2007 after intense lobbying from the cable/telecom companies.The main issue is to make sure false claims are corrected at every opportunity. These networks and local policies around pole attachments are greek to most people. Any false claim without a response (and some that are responded to) will be believed by many in the community.