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.

(See full article.) 

"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.

(See full article.) 

Caught in the Act: Telco's Broken Promises Spelled Out

This roundup at P2PNet gives us the breadcrumb trail leading to the telcos caught with their hands in the cookie jar. In less than a decade, they redefined broadband from 45Mbps to 200K, missed deadlines with no penalties, and grew their profit margins from 12% to over 30%. If this won't make you mad, nothing will.

(See full article.) 

WiMax Far From Ready

Reports from the latest WiMax World convention prove what most of us already knew: WiMax is a half-baked technology and nobody knows how long to leave it in the oven. Plenty of hucksters gave their pie-in-the-sky vision of high-speed wireless Internet wherever you go, but there's no finished products to back up the claims and a lot of doubt remains about interoperability. Will a WiMax device from Sprint play nice with Verizon? Nobody can answer that yet meaning just like with cell phones, you might have to chuck your product when changing providers.

Most reports place this Real Soon Now(TM) technology at a year out. Considering how many times we've heard that, I'm calling vaporware on this lemon.

(See full article.) 

US Broadband Penetration Still Lags

Japan, Korea, and now Denmark have higher rates of broadband penetration than the US with Japan starting to ramp up an ambitious fiber-to-the-premisis network to stay competitive. While the US share of the world broadband market increased to 36%, we'll be hurting for speed unless we all get onto the FTTP Express. Verizon has been rolling out their fiber system swiftly, but they have limited reach and the prices are still much higher than other countries. Even Slovenia has better Internet service.

It's a good thing Utah is ahead of the curve on fiber. UTOPIA currently accounts for a significant chunk of fiber users in the US and is bringing us the kinds of speeds and prices our European and Asian neighbors enjoy.

(See full article.)

Legislative Action: My Proposal to the Utah Technology Commission

I'm just starting on my journey to get the legislature to hear about the restrictions on UTOPIA, but there is already good progress. I've submitted some brief comments as a synopsis of why we need UTOPIA and why it is critical for us to expand it to unincorporated areas. Below are the comments I have submitted for the co-chairs of the Utah Technology Commission to review.

Continue reading

Setting the Wheels in Motion

I've decided to step things up a notch and really get the ball rolling on changing the state law prohibiting counties from participating in UTOPIA. Yesterday, I got a notice that the Utah Technology Commission will be meeting on October 19th at 8AM. This seemed like the proper venue to air my concerns about the current law, so I shot off an e-mail to the chair of the Commission, Rep. John Dougall.

I promptly got a reply back from him guiding me to the right person to talk to, so I'm seeing if I can't get a spot on the agenda of the next meeting (which, as I understand it, should be November 15th) so that I can make a short presentation. I'm crossing my fingers that I'll get a chance to do so.

American Fork Outsourcing Fiber Network

American Fork, which has been operating its own independent municipal broadband service since 2002, has agreed to lease and sell portions of its beleaugered AFConnect service to PacketFront Inc. The city will retain ownership of the fiber network but will place operations in the hands of the Swedish company with stipulations that they maintain the contracts with current vendors. It already sold a portion of the fiber capacity to UTOPIA back in December.

What does this mean for American Fork residents? PacketFront plans to drop $8M on upgrading the network to support phone and TV service, something the city couldn't find the funding to do. As opposed to sell off the network entirely, the city council chose to make a deal that lets them keep a vested interest in the network without having to shell out for the expensive upgrades.

This is an important lesson for cities who want to strike it out on their own. By opting out of UTOPIA, American Fork shrugged off the benefits of pooled risk and got stuck in a situation where they needed significant capital improvements to make the system profitable, but because it wasn't profitable, they didn't have the capital. It wasn't very forward thinking of the city to not roll out "triple play" service and now they have to pay the price for it.

(See full article.)

FTC Report Shows Many Benefits to Muni Broadband

Among the benefits are increased competition, lower prices, and higher efficiency. The only con it can come up with is a weak sauce possibility that municipalities would engage in anti-competitive behavior. That's amusing considering how long cable and telephone companies have been abusing their monopoly status. The article also cites that HR 5252 would have protected efforts to roll out municipal communications services had it not been stalled by the Net Neutrality debacle.

(See full article.)