Report: My Meeting with the Utah Technology Commission

Tonight I attended a meeting of the Utah Technology Commission to speak on opening up UTOPIA. The presentation went well, and I think it helped bring the shortcomings of the current law into the minds of the Commission. I also walked away with more ideas on where to go next.

One of the great suggestions from Rep. Dougall, the committee chair, is to explore forming a cooperative within my township, White City, which could then contract with UTOPIA to bring the service here. One big barrier to that is being surrounded by Sandy, a city that isn't participating. This means that even if we formed a cooperative, Sandy would either need to become a UTOPIA member or give permission to run the lines through their city. It's a good idea, but my little slice of the county would have some trouble with it.

I'm also going to see about making presentations to various community councils, the county council, and even a few city councils. I've got a few contacts right now working on getting business leaders involved in voicing their concerns about the lack of UTOPIA availability as well. As we gain more voices, we'll see greater adoption and increased availability of services.

Do what you can to help out. Write your representatives in government. Talk to local business leaders. Attend hearings and meetings to voice your concerns. Enough of us together can get things changed. 

FTTH Council Supports Louisiana Municipal Fiber Effort in Court

The FTTH Council has filed a brief in favor of the Lafayette Utility Systems' efforts to deploy a municipal fiber network. The lawsuit was brought by a resident who claimed unfair government competition and has now been escalated to the state's Supreme Court. The lawsuit is built around a 2004 state law supposedly intended to strike a balance between the needs for municipal networks and level competition. I would be surprised to find Bellsouth smack-dab in the middle of that one.

(See press release.) 

Forget the Feds; Count on the County

There's an editorial on InterGovWorld.com that makes a good case for ditching the national approach to providing universal broadband service in favor of local municipal networks. Cited among the reasons are increased flexibility, better accountability, and self-reliance (i.e. not taxing citizens in one state to pay for improvements in another).

(See full article.)

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.

(See full article.)

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.

(See full article.)