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Schrier Stays in Seattle, Fiber Network to Follow?
He said he expects the city to apply for federal stimulus money in the first part of the year to move toward that goal. In addition to improving broadband access in homes, the initiative could help Seattle City Light implement smart-grid infrastructure, and improve public safety communications.Another article further notes their shared ambition:
"Mayor-elect McGinn ran on a platform of bringing fiber to every home and business in Seattle, something I've advocated for several years," Schrier commented.No post discussing broadband in Seattle is complete without a reference to Glenn Fleishman - who both wrote another story discussing the situation and then patiently responds to many comments in the thread below it. Discussing Tacoma's publicly owned Click! network, he notes that Tacoma's investment benefited everyone:
Click being built actually helped what has become Qwest and Comcast: by creating a market and making it feasible for professionals who need high-speed Internet access in Tacoma to live there, Click spurred the two incumbents to improve their networks, compete, and gain new revenue. Comcast actually thanked Tacoma Power publicly years ago; not sure it would today, but it was seen as a big boost for the viability of competitive broadband.Photo used under creative commons license from flickr.
Highland Illinois - Deliberating a Network
The new redundancy brought by fiber that would mean a decrease in the chances for a repeat of the winter 2008 when a third-party contractor working to put up a communications tower for AmerenIP cut a fiber optic cable near Maryville, knocking out phone service, most cellular services and Internet service in Highland for nearly seven hours, Latham [city manager] said.Worried about the future, Latham then spoke with the incumbent provider:
“There was another one for a short span six weeks after that and I spoke with a Verizon official if there were any plans to come in a build a tieback to create redundancy and they said no. The city is fighting for the best interests of this community.”Whether Highland can get broadband stimulus funding in round 2 or not, they are on the right path for ensuring their community is ready for the future.
Tacoma Raises Prices for Cable Subscribers
Click’s low-income and senior customers will continue to receive a 20 percent discount, Anderson added.The reason for the price increase is not to generate profits for absentee shareholders, but due to an increase in programming costs:
Click officials said the primary driver behind the proposed customer rate increases is newly imposed “retransmission” fees by local broadcasters. In all, Click faces about $750,000 of the new fees in 2009 and 2010, Wykstrom said. Facing declining advertising revenues and increased costs caused by the recent change to all-digital formats, local broadcasters required the payments when negotiating new agreements with Click, officials said. In the past, local broadcasts were provided free of charge to Click. “They basically held us hostage,” said Diane Lachel, Click’s government and community relations manager.
Lafayette and Incumbent Responses to New Networks
“Cox froze the cable rates in Lafayette, and they didn’t freeze the rates in other areas,” said Terry Huval, director of LUS, a municipally owned utility company which fought major incumbent opposition before building an FTTH network in Lafayette and starting to offer service earlier this year. “We figured our citizens saved over $3 million in cable rates even before we could offer them service.”I have yet to see a cable company leave a market or reduce investment following the introduction of a public competitor. The opposite tends to happen - they increase investment and often drop prices or leave them lower than in surrounding, non-competitive areas. Often, the rates are not really advertised but if you call from the competitive area, they will offer a better deal:
Trae [no-glossary]Russell[/no-glossary], communications manager for EATEL, the local telephone franchise in Ascension, La., and some surrounding communities, had seen the same thing happen in his area, when EATEL started offering FTTH-based services in 2006. In fact, EATEL went so far as to take out an ad in the Lafayette newspaper, alerting cable customers there to the discounts that Ascension customers were getting and forecasting similar lower rates in Lafayette once the LUS network was in the works. “It was an incredibly bold move on our part,” Russell said. “Cox came in with an incredibly aggressive promotion for TV service with every bell and whistle you could imagine. We couldn’t figure out how they could even make money on it. So we took out an ad in the Lafayette newspaper that basically said, ‘Hey Lafayette, look at the great prices you are going to get from Cox.’ Cox was not amused.”This is also a lesson for those who want to build a public network. Don't expect to win just because you have a better service and you offer lower prices from what was available before a competing network is built. The incumbent has often already paid off its network.
Chattanooga Launches Nations Largest Public Full Fiber Network
Prices and Options
All broadband speeds are symmetrical; prices by month
|15 Mbps and basic phone||$68.83|
|15 Mbps / basic phone / basic cable||$92.97|
|15 Mbps/ phone & 120 min long distance / 77 Channels||$117.24|
Caveats: an extra $5.99 a month for HD Capability on the TV, but even the basic phone package comes with caller ID and 3-way calling
Seattle Mayoral Candidate Sees Public Fiber as Essential
But is the fact that people can “only” get slow Internet connections enough to float $450 million in bonds, however financed? McGinn says that there are two separate reasons to push for universal availability. “Access to the Internet is access to the economy, access to the community, in some cases access to democracy, access to issues,” he says. But it’s also about the bottom line: “It’s an essential [piece of] infrastructure to compete in a world economy.”Fleishman also notes a concern frequently cited by incumbent carriers who don't want a public network to compete against:
There have been many concerns raised about public entities, especially those with regulatory power over competitors–such as Seattle’s cable franchise board that controls access to public rights of way and facilities–entering the broadband market. But most of those concerns imply that the market will solve the problem. However, with no requirement for building out service to all customers, or having the same level of service available, an efficient market won’t provide universal coverage.In my experience, this is a theoretical fear. Typically, when a community decides to build its own network, the incumbents [no-glossary]rush[/no-glossary] to upgrade their infrastructure (often after denying that they thought there was a need for faster services in the area). If local governments were abusing their authority over the right of way, you can bet there would have been lawsuits filed - these incumbents have sued over everything else. I do not know of a single successful lawsuit against a local government for what would be a violation of law. Getting back to the interview, they discuss both Lafayette, Louisiana:
The reason for the fight wasn’t about the right to 500 channels, about low prices, or about the city wanting a piece of the action.
Johnson City, Tennessee, Considers Network
Lafayette Plans Faster Growth; US BB Embarrasses; Seattle Needs Volunteers
An article from the Lafayette Advertiser notes: LUS Fiber plans faster rollout. Community networks are frequently attacked by incumbent groups and private providers for failing to immediately turn a profit after launching a network (something we have addressed here). LUS Fiber wisely started slow and will now start to ramp up the number of customers as they progress further along the learning curve of running the fiber-optic network.
As LUS Fiber passes the six-month mark, officials are planning to significantly increase the number of customers and areas that receive television, telephone and Internet service.
The system launched in some areas of the city in February, and thus far, the rollout has been somewhat slower than many anticipated. Lafayette Utilities System Director Terry Huval said the process hasn't gone faster because of a desire to focus on providing high-quality customer service.
"This is a new business," Huval said. "I intentionally held back because I wanted to make sure that every attempt we made to serve a customer was the best we could deliver. Now, we can start really accelerating."
A commentary worth reading: American broadband infrastructure: A national embarrassment
Several months ago, I visited the Netherlands and had the rare opportunity to be personally embarrassed by our terrible broadband infrastructure. The Dutch were literally making fun of me. The fact that our country, with its vast resources and its illustrious history -- Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, Steve Jobs -- has such terrible internet service should be an outright national scandal.
nDanville Network Helps Police, Economic Development
Though Danville, Virginia, was hit hard by the simultaneously decline of tobacco and textile industries, the community has responded: Danville Utilities has been building a state of the art all fiber network. Like many communities, they built a backbone and connected the schools and government buildings first. They then started to connect businesses. This summer they will be rolling out a pilot project to connect a few thousand homes to their open services network. As they add more potential subscribers to the network, they will be more attractive to service providers. This should spur competition, increase innovation, reduce prices, and otherwise make the network more desirable to subscribers. Though the open access idea has been somewhat maligned following the troubles of UTOPIA (many of which had nothing to do with the wholesale model), the consulting firm Design Nine has helped both nDanville and The Wired Road move forward with a revised wholesale-only model. This approach may be gaining traction nationally depending on how the rules for the stimulus grants are written: Stimulating Broadband suggests broadband stimulus funding from USDA will favor "projects that will deliver end users a choice of more than one service provider." Back in Danville, the schools have much faster Internet access while shaving their telecom budgets. Other key features are listed on the network's site, including:
The nDanville Medical Network project has begun to connect a majority of doctor’s offices and medical clinics around the city. The network is already being used by the Danville Regional Medical Center to provide super high speed connectivity to satellite clinics and offices in Danville.
Last year, Last Mile featured an article on the network that includes some numbers, goals, and history of the project. Below is a video that discusses some of the benefits of the network.
A Study of the Economic and Community Benefits of Cedar Falls, Iowa's Municipal Telecommunications Network
Cedar Falls Utilities, the largest municipally owned four-service utility in Iowa, provides electric, natural gas, water and communications services to a community of over 36,000 people. The citizens of Cedar Falls have been and continue to be the driving force behind Cedar Falls Utilities. Because of citizen demand and involvement, what once began as an unreliable water supply from “Big Springs,” a small light plant built with discarded bricks and an outdated manufactured gas system, has grown into an organization that is recognized nation-wide in the utility industry for outstanding performance management and some of the most favorable utility rates in the country. Cedar Falls Utilities (CFU) is a strong supporter of economic development. Through the years, the Cedar Falls community has directly benefited by the operation of its municipally owned utilities through direct customer rate savings, free or special customer service programs and fund transfers to the City’s general fund. CFU has made great strides to further its commitment to economic development. In 1994, a new horizon was encouraged through visionary thinking. Considerable strategic planning and analysis preceded the decision to design, construct and operate a Broadband Fiber Optic Communications System. The Cedar Falls Board of Trustees spent approximately 24 months studying the technical and financial feasibility of constructing and operating such a network. Finally, on October 24, 1994, the Cedar Falls City Council adopted ordinance No. 2072 forming the country’s second Municipal Communications Utility and transferring authority to the Cedar Falls Utilities Board of Trustees.