Silicon Valley, the heart of the US technology industry, is still unsure as to what it's going to do to provide municipal broadband. There's going to be a roundtable to figure out if it will be a true municipal broadband system or just another monopoly contract. Let's hope for the former.
The city of Loma Linda, a sleepy suburb of Los Angeles, has finished up a brand-new fiber optic network providing broadband services that the telecoms and cable companies just wouldn't go for. Now that they have this network in place, the city is finding all kinds of creative uses for it including distance learning classes at and from the local university, better monitoring of traffic lights, and staying connected to city employees in the field. It's more than Internet access: it's the new railroad.
After Salt Lake City Weekly suggested that the underserved township of Emigration Canyon could consider UTOPIA as one of their options, I wrote them in and set them straight on the restrictions imposed by state law. The letter was published in today's Salt Lake City Weekly.
Corpus Christi is about to finish the rollout of a municipal WiFi system that may fully demonstrate the benefits of municipal broadband. It's going to be used for everything from meter reading to communicating with traffic signals to, yes, Internet access. Since this is the first fully-functioning muni WiFi system and it has concrete governmental uses, it will be interesting to see how the city benefits.
Thanks to efforts from a few senators, the overhaul of the 1934 and 1996 telecommunications acts is dead in the water. While this would have been beneficial for municipal broadband, the potential negative effects on Net Neutrality would have been much worse. Let's hope the Net Neutrality sections get fixed up so that all of the good provisions of this bill can get through.
This is the first round of letters to County Mayor Peter Corroon and members of the County Council to urge them to put pressure on state lawmakers to change secion 10-18-105 of the Municipal Cable Television and Public Telecommunications Services Act. Feel free to copy/paste and mail your own letter. The more of us they hear from, the better!
Dear Mayor Corroon,
As an elected official, I’m sure you are familiar with UTOPIA, Utah’s municipal broadband agency. I’m sure you’re also familiar with the benefits of such a system including lower service prices, faster Internet speeds, and increased competition for Internet, telephone, and cable television services. Since UTOPIA was formed, the incumbent carriers such as Qwest and Comcast have been forced to expand and enhance their services in order to better compete. The UTOPIA project has provided great benefits to those it serves as well as putting Utah into the national technology news media.
Unfortunately, over 180,000 of your constituents cannot participate in this project. It’s not because of resistance from their city council, rejecting a tax proposal on their ballot, or even lawsuits from one of the incumbent telephone or cable companies. No, it is because the Municipal Cable Television and Public Telecommunications Services Act, the bill that authorizes municipal fiber networks such as UTOPIA, expressly forbids unincorporated areas of any county from participation under Section 10-18-105.
Big surprise: cable companies leverage their monopoly status in local markets to increase prices at double-digit rates and keep competition from even getting started. Prescribing a solution to remove control from local communities, however, is very misguided. If Michigan took some cues from Utah, prices could be driven down by deploying a competitive municipal broadband network with multiple private providers. This removes the main barrier to entry for competitors: the infrastructure.
(See full article.)
It's not exactly in our neck of the woods, but worth mentioning. Santa Clara University is holding a conference on municipal broadband and is specifically inviting the underserved from Silicon Valley to help formulate public policy on broadband. This sounds like just the kind of thing we need in our neck of the woods to get UTOPIA available to the hundreds of thousands of Utahns living in areas not eligible to join.
(See press release. Warning: Unnecessary superlatives, hyperbolic statements.)
This op-ed piece goes very in-depth on the negative consequences of not having a communications network that's up to snuff. Chicago has lost lots of jobs to more-wired cities like Charlotte, N.C., and Utah's tech-heavy economy could see similar results if we don't pony up for better broadband.
There's a great editorial from the Salt Lake City Weekly slamming Salt Lake City's decision to pull out of UTOPIA while ponying up a mountain of cash for a soccer stadium. Them's some seriously messed-up priorities.