Fast, affordable Internet access for all.
Fiber to the Home
Inherent in democracy, in the First Amendment, and in free markets, is a central concept: we have no idea what these things will produce. We only know that they are the means-- they are the how-- to produce an endless supply of very important & valuable things. The Internet has proven to be the same, it produces a continuous stream of innovative, valuable things. It should be obvious that building the most advanced community Intranet will attract a lot of innovative people to our city, and encourage our own people to be innovative, as well.To the extent we require these networks to produce profits, they will not be the "how" of the new economy. Infrastructure rarely pays for itself directly, but pays for itself many times over indirectly. He also has a response to those who fear the public should not compete with the private:
But what if, instead of public vs. private fiberoptic lines early in the 21st century, you find yourself in the early 18th century, and the question is building state-owned roads and bridges that will decrease the profitability of privately-held services? What if you live in the early 19th century, and the question is building public libraries that will compete with for-profit bookstores? What if it is the early 20th century, and the question is creating public schools that will pull students from private institutions?Well done, Joe! Another article from the same paper interviews Director of Utilities for Lafayette, Terry Huval. This is a guy that understands the value of publicly owned fiber networks:
In addition, we will launch a digital divide product that will provide Internet accessibility in homes where there are no computers, and no Internet services today. All of this is just the tip of the iceberg. There is much more to come, and much of those are things that I don't even envision myself.
And the fibre brought jobs. In 2007 both Northrop Grumman, a big American defence contractor, and CGI, an international IT consultancy, said they would hire between them 700 technicians, consultants and call-operators at offices in nearby Lebanon, Virginia, part of BVU’s fibre backbone. Both cited the area’s universities and low cost of living, but neither would have come without BVU’s investment, which Northrop calls absolutely critical.The article asks a common question but answers it exceedingly well:
Should cities be in the business of providing fast internet access? It depends on whether the internet is an investment or a product. BVU could not afford to maintain its fibre backbone without selling the internet to consumers. And it could not build a subscriber base without offering cable television and a telephone line as well; households these days expect a single price for all three services.Most communities would rather not have to get involved with selling services like cable television, but such services are generally a necessity to cash-flow the network. So, as they did before with electricity, they do what they must to keep the community strong and competitive.
Although LUS is not releasing the exact number of customers who have signed up for fiber services, Huval said it is "many thousands" and that a higher-than-expected number are signing up for all three services at once.Networks succeed financially when they generate high amounts of revenue per user - ARPU in industry terms. Because the fixed costs are so high to connect users, the low revenues generated by only a single service (like telephone) may take many years to pay off the connection expense. The schools are also making use of the network:
Besides serving residences, LUS Fiber is also being offered to businesses throughout the city, and the wholesale numbers have been at or above expected, Huval said. All Lafayette Parish public schools also are connected to the system, and the technology was used for a partnership among Carencro High School, LITE, Louisiana Public Broadcasting and a San Francisco, Calif. school system, during which students were able to teleconference and collaborate with each other.
City officials have targeted May 31 as the completion date for fiber-optic cable installation, with the network going citywide by Aug. 1.As with several other publicly owned networks, they will be promoting the network with a mobile trailer that will demonstrate the technology to people at block parties and other gatherings around the community.
The mobile trailer will feature computer stations and a living room setting featuring everything the city's fiber-optic cable service offers. "We can roll it into neighborhoods, have small block parties and have people see what a difference it provides," said Mike Crowell, the city's broadband services director.
The summary indicated that total funding costs have decreased from $11,615,791 in December 2008 to $10,663,410 in December 2009. Shaw estimates that operating income would make the system financially feasible after the third year and could enable the city to pay off its debt in 15 years vs. 16 years as had been predicted two years ago.A press release from Uptown Services, a broadband consulting company provided some history:
They originally hired Uptown in 2004 to complete a broadband feasibility study. The results of that study were promising, but the City chose to wait for the economics to improve as the technology matured and costs came down over time. Uptown completed a refresh of the original study in 2008. The case had improved, but the City wanted to fine tune the cost estimates through the completion of an actual system design prior to making any final decisions on a City wide deployment. Uptown was selected in 2009 through an RFP process from a slate of qualified proposals to complete this design.Judging from the local site explaining the networks, they really understand the power of publicly owned broadband. The FAQ include this gem:
Remember this critical point: The incumbents look for a profit and answer to their shareholders, while the City of Dover looks for the betterment of the community and answers to its citizens.They city has Verizon and Comcast as incumbents respectively. I suspect Dover is one the thousands of communities Verizon is trying to dump on Frontier Communications rather than invest in smaller communities. The stumbling block currently appears to be deciding how to finance the proposed network.
Catharine Rice gave a terrific presentation detailing the ways Time Warner has responded to the municipally-owned Greenlight fiber-to-the-home network: raising the rates on everyone around them and cutting great deals to Wilson residents. I saw the presentation on the Save NC Broadband blog which also has a link to her slides - make sure you follow along with the slides. She details how Time Warner has raised rates in towns around Wilson while lowering their prices and offering better broadband speeds in Wilson. Once again, we see that a community building their own network has a variety of benefits: a superior modern network that is community owned, lower prices on the last-generation network from the incumbent, and some investment from the incumbent. Now the question is whether Wilson's residents will be smart enough to support the publicly owned network in the face of Time Warner's low low prices - a recognizing that a few short years of low prices (for low quality) are not worth abandoning the publicly owned network and the benefits it has created in the community.
Cable pricing in the Raleigh-Durham-Cary NC Market from City of Wilson, NC on Vimeo.