Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 7, 2016

Municipal Broadband Primer Emphasizes the Practical

The New America Foundation and consulting firm CTC Technology & Energy released a report this morning that’s intended to be a primer on the options that local communities have for building public broadband networks. It looks at different models, broadband technologies, benefits and risks. “In light of the current debates about net neutrality and the potential Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger, it is more important than ever that communities begin to discuss local broadband options,” said Patrick Lucey, a public policy associate with the foundation’s Open Technology Institute, in a news release.

From the report:

Communities should consider three primary issues when first considering a public broadband project: 1) Control—who owns the network and decides how it operates, 2) Risk—the costs associated with developing and running the network balanced against the revenue it generates, and 3) Reward—the benefits achieved through successful implementation of the project. Achieving all three—the desired level of control, minimum risk, and maximum reward—is difficult.

Last week, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler mentioned municipal broadband in a speech at the National Cable & Telecommunications Association convention in Los Angeles. “I have said before that I believe the FCC has the power, and I intend to exercise that power, to pre-empt state laws that ban competition from community broadband,” he said.

  • Gandalf47

    In my community – Santa Barbara, CA, we have only one cable provider – Cox Communications, who has been the sole provider of, first – “Pay” TV via cable, back in the 70’s, as our city is in a geographical area that does not pick up clear antenna broadcasts due to the mountains on one side, and the ocean on the other. That was back when there were only “pay movies” available, and it cost $35 per month. Today, as everyone knows, Cox is now our “ISP”, which is more important than just providing movies before they got to TV or videotape (back then), since they are also our internet provider (used to be $19.99 – now $69.99 (just internet), albeit with faster speeds), and thus, has an inordinate control over the provision of content.

    I have been an advocate of our City providing free internet access for all citizens or visitors to the city, a’ la AT&T or Verizon – wirelessly. No routers, no modems, no “cable” company. This is commonplace in other parts of the world, and would be a huge draw for tourists and residents alike. Unfortunately, I think that Cox has not only gotten its “foot in the door” in the past 40 years, it LIVES here, now, and has an exclusive agreement, which includes revenues to the City. I would gladly pay some amount as an additional component of Property Tax, or a specific Broadband Tax as a resident of the City to be able to have unlimited and unfettered access to the internet all the time, with no “throttling” or inclusion of literally hundreds of channels for which I pay, and which I NEVER watch, nor ever will.

    With the recent announcement of the Comcast/Time Warner proposed merger, one can clearly see where this is going, and it is going to cost us, the consumers”through the nose”. The public perception (perhaps correctly so) is that without that coaxial cable provided by Cox, we will not be able to get the content we want/need. Less prosperous countries provide high speed internet for free to their citizens, and they seem happy. The only ones who will not be happy will be the large corporations who currently provide broadband services. I am sure that they are all big and rich enough to figure out how to diversify and still “make a buck” – just not unlimited barrels of money on the backs of average citizens, like they do, now.

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