The First Salvo: My Letter to Mayor Corroon and the County Council

This is the first round of letters to County Mayor Peter Corroon and members of the County Council to urge them to put pressure on state lawmakers to change secion 10-18-105 of the Municipal Cable Television and Public Telecommunications Services Act. Feel free to copy/paste and mail your own letter. The more of us they hear from, the better!

Dear Mayor Corroon,

As an elected official, I’m sure you are familiar with UTOPIA, Utah’s municipal broadband agency. I’m sure you’re also familiar with the benefits of such a system including lower service prices, faster Internet speeds, and increased competition for Internet, telephone, and cable television services. Since UTOPIA was formed, the incumbent carriers such as Qwest and Comcast have been forced to expand and enhance their services in order to better compete. The UTOPIA project has provided great benefits to those it serves as well as putting Utah into the national technology news media.

Unfortunately, over 180,000 of your constituents cannot participate in this project. It’s not because of resistance from their city council, rejecting a tax proposal on their ballot, or even lawsuits from one of the incumbent telephone or cable companies. No, it is because the Municipal Cable Television and Public Telecommunications Services Act, the bill that authorizes municipal fiber networks such as UTOPIA, expressly forbids unincorporated areas of any county from participation under Section 10-18-105.

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Cable Monopolies Drive Up Prices, Drive Down Competition

Big surprise: cable companies leverage their monopoly status in local markets to increase prices at double-digit rates and keep competition from even getting started. Prescribing a solution to remove control from local communities, however, is very misguided. If Michigan took some cues from Utah, prices could be driven down by deploying a competitive municipal broadband network with multiple private providers. This removes the main barrier to entry for competitors: the infrastructure.

(See full article.) 

Santa Clara University to Host Municipal Broadband Symposium

It's not exactly in our neck of the woods, but worth mentioning. Santa Clara University is holding a conference on municipal broadband and is specifically inviting the underserved from Silicon Valley to help formulate public policy on broadband. This sounds like just the kind of thing we need in our neck of the woods to get UTOPIA available to the hundreds of thousands of Utahns living in areas not eligible to join.

(See press release. Warning: Unnecessary superlatives, hyperbolic statements.)

Rural Internet Access Shutout Caused by Telcos' Broken Promises

It's not surprising to read, but many in rural areas are shut out from high-speed Internet options since most telcos and cablecos refuse to expand there. Oh, they'll line up to the trough for the $2 billion rural telecommunications loan pool, but actually doing something with it is a different matter. Maybe these smaller counties need to take the lead and deploy their own broadband networks to make up for the shortcomings of their monopolistic phone companies.

(See full article.)

Support HR 5252!

HR 5252 includes provisions to encourage development of municipal broadband, ensure Net Neutrality, and update telecommunications laws to work with VoIP. This summary provides a breakdown of the bill and the great things it will accomplish. Let's write our legislators to encourage support of this bill so that companies like Qwest and SBC can no longer sue municipal broadband away.

Builders in Wisconsin Sue Over Municipal Broadband Requirements

A group of homebuilders in Wisconsin have sued the city they're building in for asking them to install dedicated conduit for their municipal broadband project. While they claim that it's requiring them to install a non-essential service, access to data over the Internet has rapidly become the one-stop shop for information. With telephone and television networks moving towards Internet-like structures, we will soon notice no difference between services: they'll all be on the same line.

Boo on the builders for raising a stink over some plastic pipes that cost just $250 per home yet increasing the value of those homes immensely.

(See full article.)

High-Speed Internet Brings Benefits to Rural Canadians

A private company in the far reaches of Nunavut, Canada is providing high-speed satellite Internet access to remote villages. The service has been bringing increased access to goods and services and the information is helping local businesses improve the way they operate. Of course, this comes at a price: $60 a month for the service, a large premium over fiber-based services like UTOPIA provides. There's also no competition for services. If UTOPIA expands to smaller communities like Vernal, Logan, and Moab, you could see the same benefits taking shape and a true expansion of broadband to rural areas.

(See full article.)