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.)

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.)