Start-up Promises WiFi Coverage in Exchange for Your Broadband

This is an interesting concept. A Spanish start-up, FON, wants to sell you a cheap wireless router in exchange for providing Internet access to other FON users and subscribers. You also get to use any FON hotspot for free as a bonus for providing service. Residents in San Francisco recently had a change to pick up a free one, even though the $5 price tag isn't a whole lot.

I like this concept of wireless. So many home users would be willing to sign up for it, and it means a cheap build-out and maintenance for the company (who is assuredly hoping to cash in on casual subscribers). There's no exclusive contracts, and presumably the service will be cheap since bandwidth is already paid for by the FON router's owner. In densely-packed areas or ones where homes are close to businesses, this could be a good model for providing universal wireless on the cheap. It kind of reminds me of the whole warchalking idea, but with less hassle.

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Incumbents May Retaliate Against Fiber Supporters

In a not so surprising story, a telecommunications consultant warned the city council of Wilson, NC that their support for municipal fiber projects could cost them their jobs. Catharine Rice told members of the council that they should fear a media blitz and retaliatory attack ads from the incumbent carriers, Time Warner Cable in particular. It cites the expected methods: astroturfing, direct mail, radio and TV ads, and even going to the state legislature to try and attack it from the top and get municipal networks outlawed.

They fight dirty because they have a lot to lose. Cable and phone companies are very cozy with charging exorbitant rates for inferior service and don't want their sham competition with each other to be brought to a hasty close. Here's to hoping that the city has the fortitude to weather the storm and go forward on the plan anyway.

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iProvo Doubles Subscribers

iProvo, Provo's version of UTOPIA, has managed to double subscribers in just one year. This bodes well for the municipal fiber project as it puts the finishing touches on wiring up every home and business in the town. They now report 7,700 subscribers, a large chunk of the residents of the city. The city anticipates reaching the break-even point on their project in less than a year, meaning profitability within about three years after construction started, quite a feat. Unsurprisingly, Qwest is claiming that the system is a financial disaster. Yeah, a financial disaster for their overpriced monopoly.

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Company Launched to Test WiFi Projects

A new company from Colorado has been launched with a mission to test the speed and quality of municipal WiFi networks. Uptown Services of Boulder offers a block-by-block verification that the expensive wireless network you just installed will live up to it's hype. It will be interesting to see how many of the WiFi networks fail to deliver as well as fiber can.

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Brothers in Arms

I've added a new category of links for other websites promoting the benefits of municipal fiber projects. So far, I have advocates from Palo Alta, CA; Lafayette, LA; and St. Charles, IL linked as well as the FTTH Council, an organization whose municipal and corporate members all provide fiber services to the home.

Know of someone I missed? Let me know so I can get them added. 

Clueless Think Tank Doesn't Get It

The Heartland Institute earns major jeers for calling municipal communications networks "a lesson in how governments waste taxpayer money." How little they get it! They don't understand that municipal communications networks lower costs, increase competition, raise speeds, and are an engine of economic development. I suppose we can't expect any better from an organization opposed to Net Neutrality and in support of state-wide cable franchising. Boo! Hiss! Throw the bum off the stage!

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Loma Linda Fiber Offers Great Payback

We already mentioned Loma Linda's venture into fiber optics. Now a blogger has crunched the numbers and shown that the project will be fully repaid within 10 years. This says nothing of the indirect economic benefits of such a system either. As much as the established players want to pull out the "boondogle" boogeyman, Loma Linda sets them straight.

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Jacksonville Fiber: A Threat to Incumbents?

Jacksonville, Florida has been building a large fiber ring to be used for city and other government services. The article, however, drops hints that the city might choose to do an FTTH project, something that would spook BellSouth and Comcast. Could Jacksonville's future hold high-speed broadband that blows DSL and cable out of the water? Let's hope so.

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Municipal Fiber Advocacy: Not Just for Utah

She's a stay-at-home mom and Illinois' loudest municipal fiber advocate. Meet Annie Collins, chairwoman of Fiber for our Future, the Illinois equivalent of FreeUTOPIA. She's gotten referendums on the ballot twice to get municipal fiber in her town, failing thanks to heavy spending by the incumbent providers SBC and (surprise) Comcast. Now she's making a run for County Clerk to bring more attention to her proposals.

Telcos beware: Utah isn't the only state willing to take on your monopoly.

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"Municipal" WiFi Spreading Fast

Riverside is the latest city to join almost 300 others in jumping onto the "Municipal" WiFi system. I put that in quotes because it's nothing more than adding another monopoly to the existing landscape, albeit one that will offer a freebie service with ads. It doesn't address concerns about telephone monopolies, and it doesn't address concerns about cable monopolies. It won't even offer top-rate speeds, staying at well under what most cable companies will offer. Though WiFi is ubiquitous in laptops right now, the 802.11 spec is starting to reach the end of its lifespan as the industry tries to push WiMax harder and harder. Boston, Atlanta, and even a small city in Israel are also jumping onto the WiFi bandwagon. Ten years from now, they will have wished that they had invested in fiber projects like UTOPIA.

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