Municipal networks gain ground

Telephony Online, an industry news site, has a straightforward story, Municipal networks gain ground, focused on why municipal telecommunications networks are gaining so much traction.

The article reports both sides of the article but it is clear where the author’s sympathy lies. That technical writers are starting to show their impatience with industry hype is not as significant, perhaps, as the IEEE’s making an open declaration for municipal broadband. But it may prove as practically important. Those who understand the technology and the business are moving toward an unambiguous endorsement of allowing the people to do for themselves what the corporations are unwilling or unable to do.

From the article:

Verizon Chairman and CEO Ivan Seidenberg last week was outspoken in his opposition to cities and towns building their own Wi-Fi networks for broadband Internet access, telling the San Francisco Chronicle that city plans to build networks “could be one of the dumbest ideas I’ve ever heard.”

But backers of municipal networks are fighting hard against such claims and are increasingly winning the support of a high-tech community worried that Asia and now much of Western Europe is pulling ahead of the U.S. not only in broadband penetration rates but also in quality and cost of service.

“We’re a joke compared to Europe and most of Asia,” said economist John Rutledge, the author of last summer’s U.S. Chamber of Commerce report on the need for telecom regulatory reform. “In the U.S., most people think of broadband as a cable modem — that’s like turtle mail in Japan and Korea,” where broadband services typically run at 20 Mb/s and higher at costs similar to what U.S. consumers pay for 3 Mb/s service, he added….

Companies such as Intel and members of the High Tech Broadband Coalition — an alliance of industry associations representing hardware and software vendors — are now speaking out in favor of municipally owned broadband networks and encouraging states not to pass provisions that restrict or prevent cities and towns from building networks when incumbent service providers will not.

In response to the criticism that municipalities are just plain incompentent, the writer reports:

Such thinking ignores the track record of U.S. municipal networks today, according to a coalition of consumer groups, media organizations and municipal broadband advocates who claim a campaign of disinformation by incumbent carriers had created the false perception that municipal networks drive out competition and that they often become financial disasters, causing massive losses to taxpayers.


“They are consistently saying things that are untrue,” said Moline, at a Washington press conference in early April. “They are making stuff up. The principal reason why local governments are offering broadband is to do economic development, pure and simple.”


The momentum against such measures, like the one passed in Pennsylvania in late 2004 and others on track in Florida and Texas, may now be shifting in favor of cities and towns that say they need broadband networks to survive economically. While a number of states have considered bills this year to restrict or prohibit municipally owned communications networks, none have been passed yet this year.

It’s not just in Lafayette where we’ve come together in an amazing fashion to defend our right to do for ourselves what the corporations won’t do for us. (When was the last time you saw the Dems and Repubs agree on anything like this?) You can feel the momentum moving in the direction of the light across the country.

1 thought on “Municipal networks gain ground”

  1. John: please print the rest of the story:

    Many municipalities that start out to build their own networks ultimately do conclude “that they don’t want to get into this business,” Baller said. “Local government officials are a lot wiser than people give them credit for being. They have to live in these communities. And they conduct an open process — everyone participates, including the incumbents.”

    Some cities are mitigating technology risks by turning to companies such as Dynamic City, which designs, builds and operates fiber-optic networks for cities, including the UTOPIA project under construction in multiple locations in Utah.

    “We are building open service provider networks as a public/private partnership,” says Ben Gould, chief marketing officer for Dynamic City, “and we have built into that the ability to upgrade the technology every three years as needed.”

    Tim Supple