My point is simply that I’m not sure a purely municipal broadband is the panacea we all hope for. In some cases it may be better to stick with the devil you know vs the horribly slow, beaurctatic devil you don’t.
I hope that over time we find a municipal model that works well and serves residents with cutting edge broadband. Until then I’ll continue to attempt to vote these clowns out.
I have never seen "panacea" used by anyone except those opposed to any public infrastructure, and while you sound like you're speaking in all good faith and I appreciate that I still have trouble seeing this as something other then a strawman. Of course governments can have issues too. Public roads can have potholes. Bridges have not been kept up. Public parks aren't always maintained to the extent they're supposed to be. Etc etc. But at the same time there are plenty of good cases to show it can be done very well too, and the massive failures of privatized infrastructure are also in ample evidence. Fundamentally natural monopolies and basic floor level services for society (taking into account not just existing people but future generations and flexibility value to the nation overall) aren't great fits for a market. Some things really do make sense as an area of government.
Corruption is simply something that has to be fought, period, but we do have the tools to do so more easily at the local government level then for more widely distributed private entities. And whatever else the fact is that privatized information infrastructure simply has not worked overall. There will absolutely be cases of mismanagement and corruption in public information infrastructure should it become widespread, there will be fierce fights and politics and so forth same as with roads and everything else. That however doesn't make it worse then the alternatives, and long term in America at least citizens get the government they deserve.
This is a good point; seems like an isolated demand for rigor. The bar we should be aiming to be above is "better than Comcast", which is a quite low standard.
> Corruption is simply something that has to be fought, period, but we do have the tools to do so more easily at the local government level then for more widely distributed private entities.
I like this way of putting it. At the local scope, you aren't fighting well-paid lobbyists; you just have to persuade a majority of people in your area, and that's a much more tractable problem.
The only problem here is that people tend to care less about local politics (turnout is lower, information flow is harder, etc.) which does add challenges.
Is it really? Compared to what? If the government-run train I use to get to work were as reliable as the Comcast service I've had in the past, I'd be so so happy. I'd cry with happiness.
Where do people live that they think Comcast is as bad as it gets in terms of infrastructure service. I assume these folks don't take BART or Metro to work.
While I don't love Comcast, their uptime and consistency for me has been excellent for me over the last decade and their value-for-money acceptable-. I would not have the automatic expectation that municipal broadband would be "better" in any meaningful way, despite the ire that many have for Comcast.
"The bar is better than Comcast" invites comparisons to other local government systems, IMO.
 - Though it's a huge waste of time for both sides for me to call up every two years to threaten to cancel and negotiate the re-addition of the (reasonable) promotional rate to my account.
The fact that you find Comcast quality or price reasonable is further evidence that market-based outcomes for internet service in the US are not efficient.
The western part of the state seemingly does not have the population density to attract this kind of investment. Comcast here is the monopoly provider of what we consider modern service, and AFAIK engages in their standard monopolistic playbook of throttling, caps, and continual billing shenanigans. Verizon is the ILEC, and could easily upgrade the DSL infrastructure for higher speeds and slowly build out fiber where it makes sense. But they don't because they see no profit in competing!
The worst part is that when Comcast steps up their game to compete with Whip City Fiber, Comcast will then spin those upgrades as an example of how municipal fiber was unnecessary. This has happened pretty much everywhere a city has gotten fed up with an incumbent monopoly and built out municipal infrastructure. And that is my main point - if one is a actual proponent of free markets, then one should support a second player entering the game and creating competition.
In this situation, the main thing municipalities are bringing to the table is the investment capital - investment which the quasi-governmental "private" telecommunications industry has refused to make themselves. Municipal services do not prevent private companies from entering the market - they merely preclude the private companies from receiving the juicy public subsidies that they've become accustomed to for building out their "private" infrastructure.
If you need more evidence that in this case the market does not lead to desirable outcomes, Verizon charges a monthly 5$ fee to NOT list your phone number (this is for the phone number you are required to sign up for in order to get internet service).
Sorry about your Internet choices - I was speaking based on friends in Arlington and Newton. It sounds like the market has failed you too, and it was not correct to chalk it all up to population density. RCN's upload speed sucks compared to my fiber here, so maybe that's some consolation?
Have you investigated whether any CLECs offer better DSL connections over that Verizon (Nynex, really) copper? IIRC, if you go to Megapath's website and check their business options (which I think involves a follow up phone call), they will send you a spreadsheet of all services available at your premises, which can be informative.
Do you not see any difference between vigorous competition among profit-seeking companies, where mis-steps can cause loss of profits, loss of jobs, and ultimately bankruptcy and competition between a company with risk on the line versus a municipality that doesn't have to take on any of those same risks?
We're talking about areas where there has been no competition, and the incumbent has already succumbed to the same exact lethargic rent-seeking that people ascribe to municipal services.
Also it appears you seem to be thinking that "municipal fiber" means there are employees at City Hall with a blank check from the general fund. WG&E is a separate corporate body, overseen by the City of Westfield. I would guess they will be doing operations for Charlemont et al, but Charlemont will be free to choose a different operating contractor in the future.
So what we're really talking about is the ownership of the built-out infrastructure, which government has traditionally been paying for anyway - this story is about Charlemont not giving $500k to Comcast! The idea that the government should pay to build out infrastructure to be owned by a private company isn't the "free market" - it's textbook corruption!
For context - I am libertarian, and I recognize that there is no difference between government and a de facto monopoly that one is forced to patronize. In fact, the latter is a great way of describing the former. If you want to make a philosophical argument that government has no business subsidizing communications infrastructure at all, I won't argue. But that is generally not the point of contention around "municipal broadband".
How does that compare to your area? What measure(s) of quality of residential service should I consider?
Doesn't mean that Comcast isn't crap though.
ISPs are closer to rail than say water. Most municipalities get along fine with water systems built a century ago. But broadband networks require active maintenance and continual upgrades. Rail technology moves incredibly slowly--D.C.'s system featured automated train control when it was built in the 1970s. But the government couldn't even keep that system working so they had to turn it off. I have zero faith these same people could keep up with upgrading switches, routers, etc.
I struggle to think of anything they do have in common. Capital cost, operating cost, speed of innovation, the average American's interest in the level of service provided, the possibility for competition, the practicality of parallel infrastructures... does rail/water have anything in common with an Internet connection?
Clearly you know very little about physical infrastructure other than its translation into $.
The problem is that in many cases, the common folk in a town have to pay at least somewhat for the municipal broadband even if they do not use it; so it'd better be worth using.
I can understand municipal cable conduits and such, since they are somewhat analogous to the roads; but when your municipal government is actively excluding competition (Comcast in this case, if the title is anything to go by), they had better make sure they municipal cars on those roads are good; because if you don't like them, your only recourse is generally to leave town.
To satisfy the "better than Comcast" requirement, generally speaking the only thing you need to do is stop excluding their competitors. Comcast is actually pretty reasonable in competitive markets; but when a satellite internet company needs specific permission to operate in your county, that's something you can fix right now, with no investment, and immediately gain some competitiveness in your ISP market.
Just anecdotally, there are Whip City Fiber signs up all over (you get a discount if you let them put one on your lawn with installation). We're long past the days where Internet access is desired by only a subset of the population. I think $70/mo is a little above what "everybody" wants to pay. I am hoping after the initial financials have settled, they will offer a lower tier.
> actively excluding competition (Comcast in this case, if the title is anything to go by)
If you read the article, what Charlemont rejected was the town paying Comcast for a build out. That's a significant point that's glossed over in most of these public vs private debates - with low population density, private communications companies do not nobly invest their own money, but get the government to pay for the infrastructure that they end up owning.
Is that what's happening here? Comcast bid "$462,123 plus interest" and the city decided that they would rather build themselves. Doesn't sound like they are being excluded. Am I missing something here?
> Comcast is actually pretty reasonable in competitive markets;
The problem as I see it is that most of the US (particularly rural areas) are not competitive, and the costs of entry typically prohibit new entrants from providing service. There are massive fixed costs involved in building a new cable/internet service. Elsewhere (e.g. the UK) this is at least partially avoided by having the ex-state-owned telcos provide mandatory unbundling of last-mile service.
Perhaps state-provided conduits would unlock more competition though; I haven't seen any analysis of that option (would be interested if you know of any).
Keep in mind here that this was the Comcast model, as well. The town was going to pay to expand the infrastructure, then Comcast was going to use it.
I take your overall point, though, about encouraging competition among service providers. Unfortunately, this is something that in many places cannot be accomplished at the local level, as Comcast (along with other large providers) have been lobbying and colluding at state and regional levels to prevent competitors from entering the market. Municipal broadband, for some localities, may be the only effective solution available.
It's just in one case, the money is ceded to a private corporation.
> And whatever else the fact is that privatized information infrastructure simply has not worked overall.
"Worked" compared to what? The U.S. is in the top 10 for average connection speeds: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_Internet_.... It is far ahead of France, Germany, the U.K., Italy, and Spain (which is 70%+ of the EU population). That's all the result of private infrastructure.
> Of course governments can have issues too.
This is a huge understatement. Our roads are full of potholes. Amtrak is never on time. WMATA is on fire. New York spends 5-7x as much money to build a mile of subway as London or Paris. Our water infrastructure is poisoning children with lead. That's our public infrastructure.
I travel to Germany and Japan for business, and when I come home, it's not broadband that I'm steamed about. Our broadband is fine (better than Germany, worse than Japan), especially here on the east coast. But our public, government-run infrastructure is total shit in comparison. After riding Japanese trains around, I get on the D.C. Metro and it makes me actively mad.
To me, the correct premise seems to be exactly the opposite of the one you're applying. U.S. state and local governments are so completely awful at building and maintaining infrastructure, that even a private monopoly with no competition is preferable to a government-run system.
It's worth noting that many of those wonderful trains in Japan are are actually privately owned though:
But I agree with your points.
But infrastructure isn’t more “left” in Europe, and it’s often more “right.” The Danish telecom operator owns all the copper and almost all the cable and is a fully private company. And Denmark got rid of its telecom regulator recently. The Danish rail operator is a for-profit government owned company that is in the process of being privatized. Deutsche Bahn is organized as a for-profit company. (The Japanese rail operators are all for-profit companies.) Stockholm’s dark fiber provider is organized as a for-profit company. Whereas De Blasio has turned fiber in NYC into a social justice issue, the Stockholm fiber provider built out its network based on demand and revenue generation (e.g. businesses first), and charged high initial hookup fees (approaching $1,000). The British commuter rail system is run by private companies. While London’s subway is run by the city, it pays for itself with fares (while half the costs of the New York subway come from the government). Nobody in Europe has anything like our Universal Service Fund, which shifts billions of dollars a year from urban areas to rural areas. It goes on and on. Europe was late to the deregulation game, but ran with it in the 1990s and 2000s.
Case study: the U.K. The U.K.'s telecom infrastructure is almost entirely owned by a single private, for-profit company: BT. British telecom law imposes an open access requirement, requiring BT to lease access to competitors. However, because British regulators are sane, these leases are made at rates that leave BT with similar profit margins to Comcast. BT, unsurprisingly, has invested in upgrading its copper network. The U.S. had a similar requirement for DSL, but the FCC set the rates so low (at cost) that it basically killed investment in the copper network.
The idea of the government owning and running rail, power, or telecom infrastructure these days is solidly left of center compared to Europe.
Expecting great rail, road, or internet service without paying high taxes and strong government involvement hasn’t worked out. Nothing in your post contradicts that.
In many cases, public funding was even required to put in place the core infrastructure and conditions for privately operated companies to succeed. That’s certainly the case for high speed rail in Germany.
All of the examples in my post are ones where "high taxes" aren't used to pay for infrastructure, or where "government involvement" is limited because infrastructure is managed by for-profit corporations. Stockholm doesn't have pervasive fiber because of "high taxes" (tax dollars were not used to build the network) or "strong government involvement" (while Stokab is owned by the city, it is a for-profit corporation and the city does not control its rate and expansion plans). Denmark's telecom system, likewise, is owned by a private company, was not built with public money, and is loosely regulated (Denmark got rid of its telecom regulator recently). Japan's railways (owned by private companies which mostly run at a profit), and London's subway (which breaks even through fare revenue) are examples of great infrastructure that are not the result of "high taxes" and "strong government involvement."
It's fair to point out that European systems aren't completely privatized and often receive subsidies. There is a spectrum. But the U.S. is generally on the left-side of that spectrum. U.S. passenger rail is almost entirely government-owned, government-run, and heavily subsidized. New York receives half its budget from taxpayer funding, for example.
Europe tends to be further right on the spectrum. For example, in the U.K. a government agency owns most of the track, but private Train Operating Companies own the trains and provide service. And London's subway system receives all its funding from fares. You see high levels of privatization in the U.K., Germany, Netherlands, Denmark, etc. You also see multi-national competition--half of train operating companies in the U.K. are foreign firms; Deutsche Bahn subsidiaries operate passenger rail service in the Netherlands, etc. Can you imagine NY MTA opening up its network to competing operators from Europe? Now, European systems receive subsidies, for sure. But Deutsche Bahn at least runs an operating profit. U.S. rail operators universally rely on tax dollars just to meet their operating expenses (and rely on the government for all of their capital expenses).
At the other end of the spectrum, many Asian rail systems receive few subsidies, and are mostly responsible for their own capital expenses. Japan, Hong Kong, and Singapore systems are operated (and often owned) by private companies, and run a significant profit.
Why not use the power of government to create a competitive market that would allow new ISPs to enter the market? Like making a modest investment in common conduits into neighborhoods that all ISPs can wire through?
I wonder if there's something simple we're missing for a way to stop public spending that goes to corruption/waste.
As anyone who has ever spent any time working in the private sector will tell you:
Absolutely. Large companies routinely piss millions, and billions of dollars away on ego projects, inter-department fighting, building things that are counterproductive to the company's goals, bloating their bureaucracy, and other corporate politics bullshit.
Not to mention that any income that's left is skimmed off the end, by shareholders. I get that they want a profit on their investment, but from the customer's perspective, dividend payments are a great example of waste.
sure, lots of big companies have problems with waste. Keeping things lean, focused and uncorrupted gets hard with size and higher hierarchies. But if the incentives are there it is somewhat easier for a private enterprise to avoid waste in all its forms.
>I wonder if there's something simple we're missing for a way to stop public spending that goes to corruption/waste.
Yes, accountability and informed voters. Why is a major who hired her cousin as city manager (even if it was at market rate) still in office?
Bringing reporting to the 21 century with easy to digest dashboards how various metrics of the city changed over the last 12 years or so would also help. The data is mostly there, it's just very time consuming to consume.
Why is a major who
hired her cousin as
city manager (...)
still in office?
This isn't to say open town meetings are perfect. There is a definite skewing towards retired people without kids in who shows up in many towns in MA. In this case, ~160 or 1,300 residents voted, so hardly the whole town. But if you care about an issue, you have far more of a voice than you do in cities run by mayors and city councils. For instance, Boston residents literally had no voice in the city's negotiations with Verizon about FiOS and didn't even hear about it until they jointly announced their deal.
I live one town over from Charlemont and as a now 20-year New England transplant I've grown to love town meeting. Everyone's voice is heard and you can make a real difference with just a simple speech. I was able to help defeat some ordinance language against WISPs at last years town meeting that another resident with "electromagnetic hypersensitivity" had tried to get passed.
Boston residents got a taste of what it's like for the rest of the state when the Boston/Cambridge area runs the show.
Elected officials care and respond to votes and the smaller the area of control, the easier it is to get your voice heard.
I wish competition would be enforced rather than this all-or-nothing approach.
>Elected officials care and respond to votes and the smaller the area of control, the easier it is to get your voice heard...
I think either you haven't lived in such a town, or small towns in Wisconsin, where I'm from, are atypical in this regard. Not sure which, since I've never personally lived in any small town outside of Wisconsin.
In my experience, bronco21016 is right to be suspicious of local government. But again, YMMV. Different places may have different dynamics.
I've lived in small and smallish towns in four states and pay attention to local politics because I was raised to do that.
Local culture is the dominant term in the equation by a mile. How effective and efficient government is a reflection of how effective and efficient people (some of whom make up the government) expect it to be. A "highly competent" government from New Jersey would have people talking about tar and feathers in Maine.
Within a given state it seems like government effectiveness is inversely correlated with population and wealth. The more money you have the easier it is to justify pissing some of it away on boondoggle projects. The more people you have the less accountability there is.
Another thing I've noticed is that in the smaller government states the middle class poor don't hate the state government as much because it doesn't affect them as much or as often.
I don’t mean to sound bleak. I live in a small town. In general public works does a fine job. I’m not sure I’d trust them to make the right decision on and rollout broadband.
This would be more like the dial-up days, where the line to connect to the network is fairly independent from who provides the service.
In a lot of small towns around here they require that two ISPs provide coverage, so there is actual competition and we get great service fairly cheaply.
(And for the record, I'm all for real competition in these markets. Let Comcast and the municipality battle it out. May the best provider win.)
It's a lot easier to rid yourself of corruption at this level than it is at a corporate or a federal level.
Can we do this? How could we put this together? More generally, is he qualified? How do we tell?
Given recent events, this seems like it might actually be an appropriate idea to pursue.
The people who installed it raved about how they preferred working for the town instead of Comcast.
Service was exceptional.
I have never heard of it referred to as a "panacea." What it is is an alternative and some competition.
I fail to see how having another option where there is now none could ever be worse than "sticking with the devil you know." Look at what either the arrival or even the threat of Google fiber has done is some cable monopoly areas.
No, the answer is to elect better politicians, like AOC, resigning yourself to a corporation is a TERRIBLE idea!
I'm not sure what others think, but I think it's probably better for the community that comments be in English unless there is a compelling reason for them to be in another language. But I am a native English speaker, so maybe this is just motivated reasoning on my part?
We have some towns on the eastern shore of MD that did municipal cable, back when that was the state of the art. Those systems are lagging far behind Comcast now because nobody wants to raise rates to generate cash for upgrades.
Municipal fiber is a solution to a problem created by the municipalities. The municipalities suppress competition by using their authority over TV regulation to impose build-out requirements. You can’t enter as a competitor without building out to a whole city. No MVPs or niche products.
There's also more free-market ways to accomplish the same thing. Stockholm, for example, has quasi-municipal dark fiber. The network was built by a company created by the city for that purpose. While the city owns the company, the city does not run the company, fund it, or control its business strategy (prices, deployment). The company built the fiber network using private capital, charging customers up-front for a hookup, and expanding the network over more than a decade based on demand and revenue potential (e.g. businesses first), rather than politics.
I mean, just do a traceroute and see how many hops there are before you get to a peering node. In a municipal system, that's all infrastructure that the government has to pay to upgrade.
Most carrier equipment operates below layer 3, and so is invisible to traceroute. But since you referenced it:
traceroute to 22.214.171.124 (126.96.36.199), 30 hops max, 60 byte packets
1 188.8.131.52 (184.108.40.206) 4.120 ms 4.267 ms 4.427 ms
2 172.17.1.85 (172.17.1.85) 4.021 ms 4.077 ms 4.100 ms
3 h252.63.131.40.static.ip.windstream.net (220.127.116.11) 10.661 ms 10.613 ms 10.600 ms
Half joking: is it because the government gave Verizon billions of dollars?
It seems like the best solution would be to do both. Have a municipal network that serves everybody so that you don't need build out requirements for anyone else, then stop having them.
Then if the municipal network is not providing competitive price/performance in a particular area, other small providers can spring up. Meanwhile if you're in a farmhouse in the countryside, your options will be slower and more expensive than someone in a skyscraper in the city, but you'll still be guaranteed to at least have one.
The trouble with subsidies is, what happens if there is nothing to subsidize? In sufficiently rural areas there may be zero existing providers, and still be zero providers even if you offer a modest subsidy. But if you offer a large subsidy then the costs quickly get out of control as less rural areas that needed some but not that much end up claiming more subsidy than was actually necessary, and regulatory capture encourages the government to shovel more public money to private providers.
You also have trouble with suburban areas that can justify fiber but not twice. If there is only going to be one provider with no competition, better the municipality than Comcast.
In a small town, there may just not be anyone with the necessary knowledge and expertise. You can't vote for someone who doesn't exist.
1. find a similar town that has good municipal internet
2. ask them who did it for them
3. hire those people
If everybody knows they are ignorant, you're probably OK. The big problem is in the towns where people think they have the expertise but don't.
Charlemont has studied the issue for years and are working with an organization that took the time over years to test out municipal fiber in the own community by creating "fiberhoods" and now is covering 70% of Westfield.
> without the misaligned incentives of the big corporate companies
There's plenty of misaligned incentives at any Nth level of government. They're just more diverse. Some are political instead of financial.
So maybe we change that mindset, rayiner.
The what network?
Your comment is reasonable in the abstract, but I'm sorry to say that in the specific context it's ridiculous. There is little functional difference between a municipal network that has trouble convincing residents to spring for an upgrade, and a company that will never see a profit in it.
Except that municipal network is currently offering 1Gb/1Gb with a possible future difficulty, while the Verizon network is offering 3Mb/384kb and hasn't been touched since it was deployed two decades ago.
That way we once again can have competition like during the time DSL was popular (telcos were required to lease their wires, that's why there was so much choice of ISP for anyone who remembers early 2000)
Some people try to push the "value adds" line, like IPTV and phone service, but I don't see any reason those should be tied to your base internet service. Those arguments smell like the old cable company days, when everything had to be a "bundle".
Negotiating peering, providing customer support, buying routers and modems, maintaining equipment, et cetera isn't a core competency of most municipalities. If municipal broadband scales, we'll likely replace the ISPs with broadband servicing companies. Explicitly privatizing those operations makes it more transparent, while releasing every single municipality from having to acquire a niche skillset.
It could be argued that they don't even provide this adequately in areas where they are a market monopoly.
My local government provides far better customer support. When there is an issue or grievance, there is a place to file it and someone will always respond. As an added bonus, they don't try to sell me additional services every 5 minutes.
> It could be argued that they don't even provide this adequately in areas where they are a market monopoly.
It's almost as if being a monopoly means you don't have to invest in cost centers like customer support...
Really though this is pretty much the core problem. High costs + build-out requirements mean monopolies are granted, whether explicitly or not.
Municipal last mile means the hardest part is done once, and then any ISP is free to compete -- which they can do based on offering the best support, fastest peering, etc. The cost of entering the market is reduced to getting set up in the PoP(s).
Publicly-owned infrastructure rented to private provider-maintainers is a proven model. It isn't a fire-and-forget solution. But by dividing power between the municipality and private operator, it provides a rudimentary balance. Remember, we got here because municipalities gave ISPs local monopolies. I don't get why we suddenly believe they'll now be totally competent and benevolent.
I strongly disagree. Have you ever been to Germany? All the infrastructure we have in the U.S. is shit compared to Germany. The roads, the trains, etc. The one bit of infrastructure in the U.S. that isn't shit in comparison is broadband.
As a Swiss New Yorker, I get where you're coming from. It doesn't lightly occur to me that our subways were almost entirely built by private companies. (With heap loads of public funding, albeit.) We have ISP competition in New York, which is how we get superior service. That isn't the case in much of America; letting municipalities be that competition is, to me, better than letting Comcast et al retain their monopolies.
Blanket statements like this are pointless. I lived in Austin for a few years and had multiple fiber ISPs to choose from and was able to get 1 gbps for $70/mo.
IPv6, support for static IPs, etc all depend on much more than the wire. I'm not confident municipalities have any motivation to do more than the bare minimum when it comes to managing all of this stuff beyond the physical infrastructure.
The issue is city, users, ISPs can't afford to have a separate wire per ISP per house. It's extremely expensive and wasteful, because most of the time most houses will use at most a single ISP.
What I'm saying is that city should be responsible for providing the physical connectivity, think of it like roads. It would be crazy to think that every store, office etc would have to build their own roads to every house.
All what's needed is a fiber between your house and POP. What's plugged in on both ends is up to ISP. The city only needs to worry that fiber is there and it works. Same as the city needs to worry there is a road and it is usable. The city then can lease that fiber to ISP for a fee to cover the maintenance.
Off topic: I don't want to ISP to do QoS for me so if we could chose between different ISPs I would shop for ones that don't do it. I know better which traffic is more important to me than my ISP.
Even if laying fiber would cost $0, it is still not a good idea to do it. The way things are currently if there are 10 competitors one would have 10 have then fiber cables go to their house, or every time one would change an ISP you will have to wait for new wire to be laid, potentially coordinating with neighbors, if it would have to go through their property.
Most people will only need a single fiber.
This model is used in data centers where a single company is selected by the owner of the building and they are responsible for all the wiring (it would be very expensive and a lot of redundant wiring if multiple companies could do that), but selecting an ISP is a matter of just using a short patch panel in exchange room. You can easily switch ISPs or use several of them.
Currently when ISPs own the last mile they are only motivated to have speed that's marginally faster (typically DSL) and cheaper (typically wireless). There's no motivation to improve especially after FCC killed net neutrality, since slow speed can actually make them money by prioritizing traffic.
If last mile is separate, ISPs always will be motivated to be fastest and cheapest because the customer can easily switch between them.
The last mile is primarily responsible for laying fiber cable and do repairs if it is broken. If they won't do their job, both ISP and users won't be happy and they might end up being replaced by someone else.
BTW: this is how it was with DSL. Title II has this provision, and telco companies were required to lease their lines to ISPs at a "reasonable fee" which was up to FCC to decide (this was so they wouldn't charge ridiculous prices to kill their competitors).
When Title II was reinstated, Wheeler actually excluded this provision, that's why nothing changed in terms of monopoly.
Public telcomms were the norm in most of the world (sans US) until the 80s-90s. It wasn't good.
What an ISP is is customer support & infrastructure. These sorts of ideas make ISPs less infrastructure, more customer facing services.
Btw, this is not some untested theory. It's been done a bunch of times. Work's well enough, done right.
competitive market > govt control > uncompetitive market
to be more realistic, there's overlap at the ends of these - you can find some local govts that outperformed competitive markets and some uncompetitive markets that outperform local govts, but on average, the above generalization works.
The real pain is that all the incentives that make capitalism work well ALSO incentivize finding ways to break the market, so a competitive market won't stay competitive forever just by existing.
Certainly. If we consider "competitive market" under the same rubric that you proposed: "areas where occasional failure and/or occasional required provider changes are tolerable", it clearly fails that test. So we can probably say that ensuring a stable, competitive market may be a government's responsibility.
DSL competition never happened in the area under question. Covad (a CLEC) deployed gear in Springfield, but Westfield (40k people) was only ever served by Verizon.
I'm nervous about how thoughtlessly we're embracing public ISP ownership. Local governments are notoriously corrupt, in both politics and police. These referenda expand their power without rebalancing any checks or balances. We just happen to have something breathlessly more broken in the monopoly ISPs.
Going forward, it would be nice to see cities re-open their networks to private management. The city would continue to own the infrastructure. But subpoenas, et cetera would be served to the private operator.
Don't worry-- states like North Carolina have actually outlawed municipal broadband.
> Local governments are notoriously corrupt, in both politics and police.
There was municipal wireless in my town after the FCC overruled these state broadband bans, and before the the court ruled against the FCC. Symmetric speeds. Prices prorated according to what the actual speed was instead of the advertised speed. Pretty decent support.
I witnessed these symmetric speeds directly. I also talked directly to the town manager about the program as it was being implemented. The plan was public and presented at a town board meeting. If there was notorious corruption going on it still hasn't affect speed, pricing, or support response for their service.
Very curious to read your references about notorious corruption of local governments.
> But subpoenas, et cetera would be served to the private operator.
Which is exactly what my town has done to be in compliance with the court ruling allowing state-wide municipal broadban bans.
Same speeds. Same prices. Same support. Possibly even some of the same people, but I'd have to look it up to make sure.
What is the point you are trying to make?
Edit: Keep in mind I wrote "pretty decent support" against a baseline of what I think support ought to be in a first world country. If I measured against Comcast I'd call it "support so amazing it may make you cry."
My point is that's a terrible baseline to settle for. If our metric for "should we do it" is solely "is it better than Comcast," we've got a problem. My specific concern is around local police having expanded access to locals' internet activity.
Where were you when all of these private companies built-in backdoors for law enforcement anyways.
Even better, anything they found without a warrant would be thrown out, unlike if Comcast volunteers to give up data about you.
Municipality builds and owns the infrastructure; competitively leases it to private operators for fixed periods of time.
Me too. And I think municipal broadband is the right first step--I'm lobbying for it in New York. But as it scales, we'll move from competent municipalities to incompetent one to evil ones. I'd prefer we figure out the balance of power before Ferguson, Missouri rolls out municipal broadband. (Or before they turn into new Port Authorities and BARTs.)
By this token this describes basically all public infrastructure then. It's not like roads were built with the idea that only public employees would use them.
> then intentionally introducing inefficiencies
Compared to the inefficiency of having ISPs have to build multiple separate physical networks? This service can be provided to ISPs at zero cost if it really worries you.
> I'm guessing after customers pay more taxes and still have the same internet bill.
Well duh, internet is priced based on how much people value it, not how much it costs to provide. Even in a world where the infrastructure is publicly owned no ISP would dare kill the golden calf by significantly cutting prices. ISPs typically compete in the other direction by providing better service at a given price.
> public internet is a failure
This wouldn't be 'public internet' by any reasonable definition, this would be local loop unbundling. It provides the means for an ISP to enter the market without significant construction costs. Any promise that this will reduce prices or lead to better service is purely speculative.
This would be like NYC building a road exclusively for Uber and Lyft, who can then charge you whatever for access via their transport. NYC loses because it then becomes dependent on ride sharing companies to justify its investment, so these companies can negotiate leases toward zero with the constant threat of pulling out.
> ...internet is priced based on how much people value it...
Yes, and it should absolutely not be. It's literally a series of ~~tubes~~ low-voltage power lines.
> Any promise that this will reduce prices...
Which is why it's a terrible idea. Residents should not be footing the bill for infrastructure that exists to create an artificial marketplace of identical (or worse, artificially differentiated) services. Being an ISP is not mysticism and is easily achievable by local government precisely because the majority of being an ISP is owning the wires. It also gives residents the ability to democratically determine what their own priorities are and adjust local QoS based on their own needs.
My local community owning my roads, sidewalks, water, sewer (storm AND human waste), fire hydrant infrastructure, as well as fire and police services has worked out a-ok. And while I take issue with Florida politics, EVERYTHING is open records. If my local police are corrupt and obtaining data illegally from my muni ISP, I can involve my state's attorney or other legal oversight bodies.
So! The overreaching issue isn't "this is about local internet infra", it's about local governance and self-reliance, which I find it difficult to argue against. Concentrated power corrupts, distributed power empowers.
Obligatory Muni/Startup ISP links: https://muninetworks.org/communitymap | https://startyourownisp.com/
As evil as Comcast is, their scale and need to operate in markets across all political/cultural spectrum makes me more confident that they won’t be messing with my browsing for petty reasons—they just want my wallet.
If Billy Bob the municipal broadband administrator is “sharing his list of fags” with his hillbilly friends, you can FOIA logs, emails, records, and come after the city for their transgression. You can vote local government representatives out of office. If Comcast does this, you have no recourse (and they would even be within their right to sell this data to the highest bidder).
Private operators are far more "notoriously corrupt" than local government. At large scale, government representation starts to break down and the will of the majority can become distorted. But at a local level, this is absolutely the better alternative to private ownership of what should be considered a fundamental human right.
And yet on the whole they are probably still far less corrupt and corrosive than monopolistic ISPs such Comcast, Verizon and Time Warner(or whatever their calling themselves these days.)
I would argue they are more accessible and accountable as well.
Cable companies were originally granted charters or franchise agreements in the 1970s and 1980s in the US. At that time cable companies were very much local and regional. Also at that time television was delivered over the air and the monopoly was Ma Bell. Twenty years of consolidation happened at the national level. The victims of this hyper-consolidation were local.
Furthermore these municipal franchise agreements given to cable companies/ISPs are generally non-exclusive which is why there are some areas that actually have a duopoly instead of just a monopoly.
Municipalities will generally grant right away access to other interested parties which is why some places have both Verizon and Comcast or Comcast and Uverse etc. In fact the franchise fees collected by municipalities are a great source of revenue. I don't think there's a city in the US that isn't interested in collecting more money.
NYC recently sued Verizon for failing to fulfill its obligations of providing full coverage(and an alternative to the incumbent) to residents of the city. So no local governments are not to blame for the corrosive and corrupt culture of these ISPs. Certainly not in any appreciable manner.
You could think of a system by which multiple ISPs could sell service over the same city-owned infrastructure, but there's no real benefit to that. (And I say this as someone living in a country where that essentially happens.)
I mean I suppose you could ask the people that voted for it.
>The solution should be raising competitiveness of the market.
Networks like internet providership are notoriously hard to get competitive markets in. Even removing the regulatory barriers to entry there are still natural barriers to entry (high start up cost) and huge returns to scale. The natural state of this market is monopoly or oligopoly.
But even beyond this, this is raising the competitiveness of the market. Internet has become so integrated into the fabric of modern life that many feel compelled to purchase it from the one or maybe two providers in their area. That lowers competitiveness. Demonstrating that municipalities have ways of 'opting out' should force Comcast and other providers to compete with the hypothetical 'public ISP' that citizens can always vote in.
I would personally believe that if there are issues with quality of service or price or whatnot, this governance style allows for a much better opportunity of addressing issues. Versus being run by a very large monopoly that honestly may not care that much about the ongoing needs of a 1200 population town (read: small revenue source) in the future.
A competitive environment would be better if possible, but failing that, I personally would take a municipal broadband system with a good degree of accountability built into the town governance over an oligopoly.
I do hope they realize that if they want to do everything themselves, they'll still need transport links to the nearest major IX point, and IP transit upstreams. I don't know of many small towns, sub 5000 population, that have successfully become their own "real" ISP (ARIN AS, their own IP space, presence at an ix with a bgp speaking router, all of the typical ISP back-end operational support software). In addition to all of the costs of being a wholly facilities based ISP at layer 1 in the OSI model.
Another way to do it is for the town to simply build dark fiber, and rent it to interested ISPs. Or to build a layer 2 gpon transport network and do nothing at L3, and no individual customer service, and let different ISPs compete for business with the town running the gpon OLTs only.
But they are also electrical grid operators and share common expenses for lineman crews, bucket trucks, etc between power and fiber. A town of 1300 people is in a very different position.
I'd also note that about 10% of the people in the town participated in the vote and the final vote was fairly close. Hopefully it works out because options aren't great if you can't get Verizon or Comcast in much of the Northeast. (My dad in Maine has about a 0.5Mbit/sec connection.)
On its face, a fiber district also doesn't require a city hall, but maybe that's what it takes to fend off predators like Comcast. Of course you're right that some areas would like to attract any provider at all, but that's FCC's fault for the constant delays and roadblocks it imposes on WISPs.
1. Massachusetts got rid of county government in Western Mass in the late 1990s. There are some quasi-county offices like the sheriff and a regional cooperative to handle some planning and permitting but everything else is handled at the town or state level. More info here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_counties_in_Massachuse...
2. Town meeting, an annual event where everyone has a chance to speak and vote, is deeply ingrained in civic life. Its the last vestige of direct democracy and a good way to end a long winter. Every dollar that the town will spend for the year is voted on and any resident can speak on any item (warrant article) presented.
I live one town to the east of the town in the article btw and I was able to speak and help vote down a warrant article at the last town meeting to add town regulations for WISPs.
Yes. I have zero complaints about sonic. They deliver reliable service at a reasonable price (cheaper than Comcast's intro pricing here), and have stellar customer service and punctual install techs. They also have a history of receiving all 5 stars on EFF's yearly "Who Has Your Back" report .
There is no way. Highly reliable internet access can only be achieved via multiple independent ISPs including independent last miles. And if high reliability is not important, competition is still the only way to make ISPs care enough for customers not to switch ISPs.
In all countries which are known for having best internet experience the ISP don't own the last mile.
ISPs own their own last mile almost everywhere. What you may be thinking of is unbundling, where an ISP may be required to let other ISPs use their last-mile facilities at regulated rates. That is a minority rule as well.
Most broadband providers in South Korea own their own facilities: http://www.itu.int/ITU-D/ict/cs/korea/material/CS_Kor.pdf (see Table 5.2).
Norway didn't start unbundling fiber until 2014, but was near the top of the charts in broadband performance long before that. (And it still doesn't impose price regulation on the unbundled fiber.)
Sweden is an exception where, in Stockholm, there as a municipally-owned ISP that provides dark fiber.
Hong Kong had unbundling, then got rid of it in 2004.
In New Zealand (similar population and area to Oregon) a mixed private & public UFB project is well under way that cost the public about $1 billion. As of March 2018, the original fibre rollout is 89% complete, with fibre available to 1,300,914 households and businesses, of which 550,314 (42.3%) have connected. I think there are approximately 1.6 million households and 0.6 million business premises in NZ.
Getting connected is slow (the public company Chorus that manages connections is crappy) but there is plenty of choice of service (ISP) and good reliability once connected.
Looking at https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fiber_to_the_premises_by_cou... shows plenty of countries with private ISPs doing far worse than NZ.
Australia is also rolling out a similar multi-billion project - Australia is about the same size as continental US with 1/10th the population.
ISPs can own the last mile. All you need is extensive competiton.
I went from paying $100(4M/250GB) to $50(20M/500G) to $30(50M/UL) to the current $15 (100M/UL). The prices decreased as more players entered the market. Of course, India doesn’t have excellent internet infrastructure available nationally but you really don’t need public ownership of last mile to make a difference. Just don’t let the ISPs form any kind of a cartel.
1. Low level of regulation (i.e. lawlessness) so small ISPs can just string cables in the air without any licensing
2. Relatively young infrastructure
Both of those aren't true for most developed countries. And even if it's not (Russia isn't), at some point market dynamics inevitably lead to monopoly. Most local competing ISPs are forced out of the market recently by state-sponsored mega-ISP that controls uplinks and finally went for last mile, too. As you can guess, the quality went down, while the prices went up.
You can't cheat the market forces unless you eliminate the market. Physical fiber is an amazing moat, there is no way how upstart ISPs can be price-competitive while duplicating an already existing network.
Nobody asks “why does Germany and France have such terrible internet options?”
2) Now, for fun, let's integrate the price dimension to this report. Yes I have better (maybe 1.5 to 2 times as fast) Internet than my parents who are in Europe, but I also pay 3 times what they pay for it.
I can buy a Chevrolet Spark for $14K. Top speed is listed at 110mph. Here's a list of cars that can go 200mph https://www.automobilemag.com/news/all-cars-that-go-200-mph/. Find me a new one for $28K.
I can buy a $90 printer for 27 pages per minute: https://www.amazon.com/Dell-E310DW-Wireless-Monochrome-Print...
I can find a 50 page per minute at >$500, but none less on a quick search.
Here's one of the cheapest modern processors I can find: https://www.amazon.com/Intel-BX80677G3930-Celeron-Desktop-Pr...
Go find me a 5.4ghz processor for $70.
People in France or Germany have access to literally 12 different providers. Everywhere. Granted, it looks like the overall speed is below the US's according to the report, but prices are so much lower (my parents probably pay in the order of $10$/mo for their TV/Internet package) and access is way more homogenous.
I suspect that US results are vastly skewed by hyper-connected areas vs huge parts of the country where Internet is total garbage.
70-75% of France and German broadband connections are DSL, versus 22% in the U.S. The copper networks are mostly depreciated, and copper-loop unbundling has created a lot of competition. But that's also why internet in those countries is so slow. According to Akamai, just 18% of French broadband connections are above 15 mbps, versus 48% of U.S. connections. Copper is also a complete dead-end, technology wise.
Cable in those countries is not super cheap. Kabel Deutschland's gigabit service has a non-promo price of 69.99 euro ($80): https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=de&u=https:/.... Comcast's non-promo pricing is $105, which is a bit more expensive in nominal terms, but cheaper as a percentage of net adjusted disposable income (which is 33% higher in the U.S. than in Germany).
You also need to account for differences in labor costs. Broadband isn't like an iPhone, where it's the same product made in China whether you buy it in the U.S. or in Germany. It's a service, like a hotel stay or restaurant meal. Labor to build, maintain, operate, and support the network is a huge part of the cost of broadband, and skilled labor is significantly more expensive in the U.S. than in Germany or France. That's one of the things that makes pricing comparisons between the U.S. and say Romania completely specious. You can buy a 2-ride subway ticket in Bucharest for $1.22--that doesn't tell you anything about what's a reasonable price for a subway ticket in D.C. The $10/month cost for gigabit fiber in Romania is equivalent to $80/month in the U.S.
Since all applicable taxes are included in the €70 Kabel Deutschland price.
My total bill for internet service is approximately $110. Of that $110 total, approximately $1.50 is tax/fee.
These were literally the first three things I could think of, but I'm sure we could braistorm many more items where the price of a product or service that is twice as good along some axis costs more than twice as much.
It is therefore not a strong argument to say, "Now, for fun, let's integrate the price dimension to this report. Yes I have better (maybe 1.5 to 2 times as fast) Internet than my parents who are in Europe, but I also pay 3 times what they pay for it. "
So I have two questions.
1: I read the original parent comment's second point as indicating that a 2x in performance for >2x price as something that should be seen negatively. Do you disagree with this intepretation? Why?
2: My argument was not clearly stated, so I will first state it here. It is unreasonable to expect that performance/quality and price correlate linearly with a coefficient of 1. I offered examples of other disparate products where performance/quality do not double for an exact double price, and in fact doubling performance is associated with much more than doubling price. With the point that we should not expect double performance = double price, it seems that anyone positing that this should be the case for a specific product bears the burden of proof. The question is this: do you think that I am wrong and that we should expect in general to see double performance for double price?
Expansion on my position that the default should not be an expectation of "double performance for double cost": Diminishing returns are common in many optimization tasks. If we see diminishing returns, we should expect prices to more than double for a doubling of performance in general.
Additional point on pricing of broadband. A cousin commenter observed that most of the broadband in the countries in question is DSL rather than cable. If we see two different technologies in play, one able to double the performance of the other, it seems exceptionally unreasonable to expect such linear scaling of price.
"Yes..., but" is a form of sentence that indicates disagreement. This was in response to a comment indicating that the US has faster internet than most large European nations.
The commenter's first argument was about Norway and Sweden, which were held up as examples of good internet countries.
I do not think it is is unfavorable to interpret the post as saying attempting to diminish the advantage posited in their parent (with the Akamai link). Please let me know if you disagree with this interpretation.
In their argument they said that the speed is 1.5x-2x, but the price is 3x. Again, "yes, but" is typically a form of disagreement. The "yes" portion grants a specific fact, and the "but" is intended to diminish the importance. Let me know if this is too unfavorable.
Since the "but" is intended to diminish the value of the double speed, we must infer that the expectation is that the price should be less than triple for double performance. There's not a lot of wiggle room here. We can bargain on fractions between double price and triple price. Let me know if you'd like to bargain on these fractions.
Additionally, the form of the argument is "performance is double, but price is more than double". It is not such a large stretch as you seem to be implying that the expectation in the sentence is that price and performance are proportional. Let me know if I'm off or misinterpreting you here.
Again, my argument is of two parts.
One, that we should expect in the general case that, due to the widespread phenomenon of diminishing returns, doublings of performance are associated with prices that are much more than double.
Two, that since this is the general case, the burden falls on the one expecting prices and performance to be so linear to show that we are in a special case.
Note: I would make this argument for any value between double and triple price, so feel free to haggle on those fractions.
You'll note I am not make analogies, unless you choose to interpret my quite explicit argument most unfavorably. I am arguing that there is a general case and that the general case predicts what the parent has "yes, but"ed. With this argument I am asking for a justification that we are in a special case. The valid counterarguments seem to me thus:
1. Present good evidence we are in a special case.
2. Argue that the general case is not a superlinear relationship between quality/performance and price.
I am open to other counterarguments, of course, as I would hate to push you into a path of argumentation which you do not support.
Of course, if you'd like to continue critiquing the form of arguments, rather than their content, it would become more difficult to trust in your good faith. There are so few teachers arrant these days.
Nothing in the OP's comment can be inferred to be a denial of diminishing returns: if there is "wiggle room", then you should give them the benefit of the doubt. Also, there's no inherent reason to expect that the cost of bandwidth would be anything close to linear. The cost to the ISP does not necessarily increase due to the provisioned speed of a modem, and the used bandwidth is in most senses unmetered. Also, for what it's worth, whether the OP feels like they're getting a good deal is more-or-less independent of the actual mathematics at hand.
There is every reason to believe that bandwidth is a special case: the cost to either the customer or the ISP is not linear with either usage or provisioned speed. However, since the parent's argument is not inconsistent with the concept of diminishing returns, it does not seem valid to arrive at that inconsistency by inference, when other more charitable interpretations exist.
P.S. I'm afraid I don't understand your use of the word "arrant".
For that to be true, then there is an implicit argument that the price should be lower. Either this argument is there, or the parent is simply complaining. I don't see much other possibility.
Again, I am not arguing by analogy but offering a general case, movement against which must be justified.
As was mentioned in a cousin post, and as I mentioned, there are different technologies in play: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18668662
With this, why should one expect that the cost for ~2x speed on cable should have any relation to ~x speed on DSL.
As for your argument on bandwidth, you seem to treat it as unlimited. It is absolutely a scarce resource and often overprovisioned. The network gear of any ISP only supports so much throughput. It is not an uncommon experience on cable to see drops in throughput at peak hours. Price and artificial bandwidth restrictions for individual modems (your package level) are the tools to handle such congestion and scarcity.
Regarding arrant, I mistyped errant, a reference to knights-errant.
Bandwidth is not unlimited, but the point seems irrelevant: costs do not scale linearly, in any sense, for any participant. It does not cost the ISP more or less if my modem is provisioned for 10 or 100 Mbps. It may or may not cost them more money if that bandwidth is actually used, but very few individuals have any large impact on their ISP's operating costs. The aggregate utilization does affect this, but the marginal operating cost per customer is much closer to "fixed/negligible" than "linear in proportion to usage". Correspondingly, customers are not billed based on usage (in the normal case).
The implicit argument is certainly that the price should be lower, but they did not argue a linear price relationship. There is no reason to believe their argument would be invalidated if that were the case, but they did not.
The marginal cost of provisioning me 100Mbps is therefore not limited to the cost of the hardware and setup, but is the opportunity cost of reserving bandwidth for my use. They may not lease this reserve to anyone else. This cost is reflected in the price.
Additionally, we can observe that ISPs tend to grow. Even in a fixed area, they will upgrade hardware over time to increase total available bandwidth. This is driven by demand by existing customers for more bandwidth and new customers. This hardware is very expensive to provision. In fact, I expect that going from total bandwidth x to 2x likely costs more than twice as much as x. I would also argue that it likely costs at least thrice as much.
Products of high fixed cost and finite supply will never be sold at marginal cost (or at least not for anything approaching profit). They will approach marginal cost as N increases (where N is the size of the finite supply).
Another way we can think of a customer leasing bandwidth is that they are purchasing a share of that large and expensive network equipment.
I posit that these are valid ways to look at it. The first, because there is not infinite bandwidth, ISPs must price it like the scarce good it is - prices are how we address scarcity. The second, because ISPs must not price their service as if they are never making another network upgrade.
Again, I am willing to haggle on the cost of 2x performance. I would make all of these arguments for any value under 3x price, as I mentioned above, which is clearly stated in the original parent. There is no need to stick to a strict linear interpretation, and I have said as much more than once now.
We're talking about average internet performance in a nation. This entire thread was kicked off by a comment about Akamai indicating the US as a whole has faster broadband than e.g. Germany.
The cost to wire up the US with an average speed of 2x that of Germany is absolutely an influencing factor in the cost of bandwidth to a consumer. We are talking about performance, not widgets. To double the performance of a nation's network from p to 2p, it is not unreasonable to expect that the cost is greater than double or greater than 3x the cost of performance p.
But, if you want to proceed from an analysis of marginal cost, we can do that as well. ISPs do not fit the model you are using.
Marginal cost for something like an ISP is not a single number. There may be 10,000 consumers with a marginal cost near 0. Then customer 10,001 may have a marginal cost that is "install a new backhaul to the network backbone and extra 10G or 100G routing equipment to serve your neighborhood". Obviously customer 10,001 doesn't get stuck with a bill of $100Ks to be added to the network.
You are attempting to pigeonhole an ISP into a model that assumes a single, flat fixed cost and (effectively) unlimited production of a good at a low marginal cost. That is not the industry we are in.
The fixed costs of an ISP are a stepwise function, not a constant. You cannot model an ISP effectively with an assumption of constant fixed costs.
All other things being equal, the marginal cost of a given customer is <cost of new network equipment or major network upgrade> / N, where N is the number of customers that can be served before the ISP has to install new routing hardware, or in the unhappy path lay new wire.
Now, it is obvious that I have simplified things above. ISPs do not build infra for N customers, then wait for customer N+1 to build out the infra for the next N customers. ISPs invest in their infra in long planning cycles. They cannot effectively build out in this manner in response to a single customer.
Thus, for years at a time, the supply of bandwidth is effectively fixed. With a fixed supply of bandwidth, they can only lease so much. We have agreed that the reservation amount per bandwidth leased is not relevant. The model you want to look at has a vertical supply curve.
Finally, the theory that says consumer price should be the producer's marginal cost is predicated on the assumption that barriers to entry are low. This is not at all the case in ISPs. There is lots of expensive hardware, and there is a significant amount of technical expertise required. Thus, we cannot apply the standard econ 101 model, because we have violated its assumptions.
We'll have the same situation we do with police departments where they're basically impossible to punish for wrongdoing because you're just punishing taxpayers by proxy.
Water is usually municipally owned but it's intentionally subsidized to the point where even poor people can afford it with relative ease so I'm not sure it makes sense to compare it to internet because presumably internet would need to be approximately pay for itself.
I do like the town's propose internet speeds and conditions compared to comcast but look at the extra money listed in the article. nearly a million had already been spend to map out the deployment and it will be another million and a half over twenty years to roll it out. throw in that any project past a few years will see the costs explode and this will mean that many will never see their new internet any time soon.
plus finally, it will be interesting what protections are built into the system that prevent the government from tracking the habits of the residents using the service.
so an entity with no financial obligation outside its jurisdiction with unlimited taxation powers and grants is able to out provide a private company, this is not news. when you have more money at your disposal you can make bigger promises the difference is they do not have to deliver as you have no legal recourse when they don't
> throw in that any project past a few years will see the costs explode and this will mean that many will never see their new internet any time soon.
> it will be interesting what protections are built into the system that prevent the government from tracking the habits of the residents using the service.
The same protections you'd get from any other provider.
Also, the municipal deployment was approved in 2015, this was rejecting Comcast's offer to become a monopoly provider with inferior technology to head that off.
Because they don't realize that Parks and Rec is a show about a fictional utopia where government is capable of doing things and isn't all a bunch of fiefdoms trying to burn through money less the money be allocated to a different fiefdom.
Like seriously, once you see how that sausage is made you'll never want to eat it. There's good people in government but that doesn't mean it's possible for them to accomplish good things in government.
Internet access, like a lot of "free market" items in the USA are really a "capture" market. You grab your share and then get the government to keep out competitors.
Comcast lobbies the government, sues competitors and hogs taxpayer money to remain in power.
In my town and I'm assuming most, whoever laid the lines, gets the monopoly. Maybe Comcast could have gone around and buried new lines, but it would have been too cost prohibitive, so they waited for this company to finally die (people would switch to DirectTV and AT&T DSL), and now everyone in town can get actual high speed internet and television.
This is the biggest problem I have with cable companies, they go into a town, lock it up, and don't innovate.
But I also understand wanting to protect your investment of 10s-100s of millions of dollars in a town, expecting to earn it back over 30+ years.
Also, Verizon is really the only provider that extends into the more rural areas listed, and I doubt they would want to cut into their mobile profits with the rates required to compete with wired access.
1. Why would the town pay Comcast for Comcast to wire up the town, when Comcast would then turn around and charge residents? It seems like if Comcast wants to provide customers, they should make the investment, no?
2. If Verizon DSL is in town, how is there a monopoly? Would Comcast wiring the town prevent another provider from also wiring the town (in whole or in part)?
A franchise agreement typically involves Comcast paying the municipality. 5% of gross revenues is standard.
> 2. If Verizon DSL is in town, how is there a monopoly? Would Comcast wiring the town prevent another provider from also wiring the town (in whole or in part)?
No. Exclusive franchises are illegal under federal law. However, most municipalities do not have ISPs clamoring to build. For example, there was a lot of press coverage when Baltimore renewed its "exclusive" franchise with Comcast. Of course it's not exclusive--it's just that nobody else has ever asked to build a network in Baltimore:
> “We’ve, in fact, asked other cable operators if they’re interested in coming into the city and, so far, nobody else is,” says Minda Goldberg, a chief solicitor in the city’s Law Department.
 E.g. the county where I live: https://www.aacounty.org/departments/oit/forms-and-publicati... (Section 6.1).
apples and oranges. Sure technically they are both provide "internet", but this day in age DSL speeds are just plain unacceptable. You might as well make the argument that residents don't have to go with Comcast, they can get AOL.
So I approached my town and offered to travel the US (on my dime) and interview those who had set up cable, to write a report so that my town could use best practices (including how to fight off the cable companies as they try to elect different officials - a standard strategy.) But my town was completely uninterested. It turned out that Comcast had paid money to fund a city department, and that same group made cable related decisions. So they didn't want to rock the boat that was paying them good salaries (to people with absolutely no skills beyond knowing somebody who got them the job.)
If it's done it needs to be done by, say, million+ cities. Where is this small town going to the money to pay each time someone complains or a cable is cut?
Agreed though, it's a nice drive, and a nice area of the country to visit!
Westfield Gas and Electric has been Westfield's municipal power company for as long as I can remember, and I've heard few complaints about their management. This is not their first time providing Internet service, as they used to run a dialup ISP back in the day.
The concern about future upgrades is kind of ridiculous in context - the Verizon infrastructure here is still at the bare minimum, with no hope of ever being upgraded. I have no doubt that when the gigabit infrastructure is finally looking outdated and slow, Verizon will be sitting there offering the same "high speed" 3Mbit. That is, if they haven't convinced the feds to allow them to sell the copper for scrap.
The service itself is a lone single mode fiber, with a GPON terminal. Installation planning was done by a WG&E employee who even showed up in a bucket truck. Installation was in two parts - one entire contractor to direct bury a flexible conduit with the length of fiber, and a second contractor to complete installation on both sides of the burial. My speed tests show basically full gigabit up/down.
(Also, comments by new accounts start off dead now?! I made a throwaway because I'd rather not state my explicit location as part of my main profile)