Study Shows Benefits of Public Owning Infrastructure

A study by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance argues that public ownership of telecommunications infrastructure is a major boon to taxpayers and municipalities. Among the benefits are increased competition, improved local revenues, lower end-user prices, true Net Neutrality, universal access, and economic development. It seems the only losers are the incumbents who've been used to gouging us while shutting out competition. No tears shed there.

(See full article.)

Qwest Biding Its Time on Fiber

Don't count on Qwest to roll out universal fiber services anytime soon. Qwest has decided to take its time with FTTH projects, preferring to only roll them out to popular master planned developments as opposed to wide-spread deployment. Given that they've only recently solicited bids for a major fiber project, I'd say that most or all of the original UTOPIA cities will be built out before Qwest has fiber anywhere but the Daybreak community in South Jordan. I guess they're not serious about competing internationally or providing us with the high-speed services we demand.

The big irony here is that Qwest got towns like South Jordan and Sandy to not join UTOPIA because they promised next-generation services in those towns Real Soon Now(TM). I guess we can chalk up a few more broken promises from this RBOC.

(See full article.)

US Broadband Still Low in Fiber

Several news stories have come out recently showing Japan, Korea, and China not only with more broadband deployments than the US, but faster growth as well. This is in spite of efforts by large providers like Verizon and AT&T to roll out new fiber projects like FIOS and U-Verse. Japan now tops 7 million fiber users and is having to upgrade backbones to over 40Gbit/s to maintain speed with 100Gbit/s on the horizon. The short of it is that our nation's telecommunications companies don't seem to have the will or vision to compete with other industrialized nations and maintain our edge, preferring to compete only with each other at our expense. Even when the service is semi-competitive on speed or features, the prices are significantly higher than what Koreans and Japanese enjoy. Now more than ever, we need market-leading fiber projects like UTOPIA to even the international scorecard.

(See full articles here, here, and here as well as more on U-Verse and information on SureWest pushing a 100% fiber network instead of a fiber/coax hybrid.)

iProvo Fires Back

Provo took the Reason Foundation to task on its assertion that iProvo is a financial sinkhole, showing that their report was ill-founded and premature. Not only does the city defend loans from the electric fund to make bond payments, but it also shows that the demand for the kind of service that iProvo provides is robust, scoring an average of 60 new subscribers every week with a market penetration of 25% of the available customers.

(See full articles here, here, and here.)

Qwest Planning Major FTTH Project?

Qwest has apparently started soliciting bids for new fiber equipment for a new major project, quite possibly a new fiber network designed to compete with projects like UTOPIA. They've already been trying out fiber in the South Jordan subdivision of Daybreak, and this would be a major escalation likely designed to try going head-to-head with UTOPIA and iProvo. The municipal projects, however, have a very large lead on deployment. Qwest will be left playing catch-up for years, especially since UTOPIA can flip a switch to up the bandwidth. Does Qwest have a chance? With their history of high prices and poor service, this seems like a case of too little, too late.

(See full article.)

Lawrence Lessig Talks Muni Fiber

Lawrence Lessig, a long time technology pundit, writes in Wired this month about how he was wrong to think that regulation would solve the monopoly problem with Microsoft. He continues that train of thought by proposing that maybe Net Neutrality can be saved not by regulations, but by more open networks like municipal fiber projects. And yet, somehow, he fails to mention UTOPIA, the biggest muni fiber project in the country? I have to wonder where his head's at on that one. It's a good read about how this shift in telecommunications will fix the problems of telco monopolies, just as has been done with Microsoft.

(See full article.)

UTOPIA Enters Phase 2

UTOPIA is now starting construction on Phase 2 of the project while putting the finishing touches on the Phase 1 construction. Phase 2 will be utilizing federal grants for rural broadband, so folks in Brigham City and Tremonton can look forward to the high-speed service Real Soon Now(TM). Once construction is complete in the 11 pledging cities, the remaining three member cities, who have yet to pledge funds for the project, may get the network built from revenues in the other towns.

(See full article.)

Provo Mayor Rebuts Report

Provo Mayor Lewis Billings wrote an op-ed in the Provo Daily Herald rebutting the Reason Foundation's report slamming iProvo. His conclusion? They're gaming a project in its infancy, calling it a failure before it has even really gotten off of the ground. He points out that construction only recently finished and that the degree of success it's had in just three years in enviable. Mayor Billings also points out that there are still areas of Provo not served by DSL or cable and that prices on both of those services have dropped significantly throughout the city.

It's very curious how the Reason Foundation could slam the project when it's in its early phases while not seeking any input from city officials. Good job, Mayor, for standing up for your city and exposing how sloppy this paper is.

(See full op-ed.) 

Think Tank Slams iProvo, Municipal Broadband

The Reason Foundation, a libertarian think tank from California, has released two studies recent slamming iProvo specifically and municipal broadband in general. They make a solid case that city-run WiFi networks (as with all WiFi networks) face rapid obsolescence that a city probably can't keep up with. However, they go well off the mark by including fiber projects in their slams, paying little heed to the long-term viability of these networks and the obvious benefits to the city to have such networks available for their use.

The slams on iProvo are particularly ill-founded. Yes, iProvo was hamstrung by a bad initial choice in a broadband provider. Yes, they've had three years of losses as a result. What we have to ask, however, is if a private company that built the network would have closed up shop after only three years. In the pursuit of their obvious agenda, they have placed the bar for success much higher for iProvo than any reasonable person would for a private enterprise. Once iProvo meets their target for subscribers within the next two years, it should start breaking even.

When we take a closer look at the figures, we see that residents of Provo are paying about $12.40 per resident per year for the losses. For a family of five, you're at $62 a year, or around $5 a month. If they switch either their Internet or TV service to iProvo, they are saving more than that every single month. As more subscribers come on, that difference drops even more. While it sounds impressive to quote big numbers, these "Reason" Foundation nitwits have also been horrendously dishonest.

In short, iProvo is a winning proposition for residents of Provo, it's a winning proposition for true telecommunications competition, and it's a hearty stab into the heart of the over-charging and under-delivering incumbent providers that we've all been saddled with. Having a $1.24M loss in a year is a drop in the bucket compared to what the telcos have been overcharging us for over a decade. It's a small price to lay the groundwork of a truly competitive space for communications services.

Let's hope these obvious industry shills will learn to keep their dishonesty to themselves and stop defending the industry that ripped us off for over $200B since 1996.

(See articles here, here, here, here, and here.)