Actually - since the utility was owned by the city - the decision was based on a popular referendum, which sailed through. Needless to say that the established telcos and cable providers fought tooth and nail to kill the referendum.
The interesting thing was that Swisscom (the largest telco and ex-federal monopolist) argued that fiber is not necessary and too costly.
After EWZ (the utility) started construction the private providers went into hyperventilation mode and started their own construction. Later the networks merged into one fiber network.
The network is managed, and I think wisely so, in a way that EWZ grants equal access to private ISPs which then compete for customers. They don't act as an ISP.
While in the first step construction was in the most dense areas of the city the network is now extended to the entire city. Extension was also accepted by popular referendum.
Would construction not have been started by a government owned utility (well, that's us the citizens - we don't necessarily see government as the enemy) we could be sure to wait an additional 10 years until private entities would have deemed it profitable enough to step in.
This is the model I see as ideal and it always baffles me why it's so rarely mentioned as an option. Make the fiber network a public grid like roads, water, sewer, power. Then sell access to private companies to deal with the connectivity, services (TV/VoIP) and support. I'd say the technology is mature enough that we don't need competition to pick what kind of network works best anymore.
edit: Rephrased: I don't understand why the cities would give so much free stuff to Google for them to set up their fiber network instead of just... setting up their own fiber network that's then actually owned by the public.
In either case they're "picking winners". They also "know" that Comcast, Time Warner, etc "know what they're doing", and we've all seen how that turned out. At least if they're the one commissioning it, they have any kind of power to fix things when they go wrong.
And Google has terrible /nonexistant customer service Ernestine the operator would be a major improvement in customer service for google.
Google has zero experience in both building/running/maintaining physical telco plant.
The Customer Service is an issue, but I think their innovative approach to CS could be one of the biggest benefits, throwing brains at problems as opposed to more clueless people answering phones seems like a good thing. Infact, on this note, analysing vast amounts of data for trends and problems is exactly the sort of thing Google is amazing at.. and most faults with internet service can be identified, and remotely resolved, in this very manner.
- Setting up billing and payments
- Altering billing payments
- Adjusting for outages
- Scheduling repair vans
- Scheduling installation
- Answering clueless customer questions
Now I completely understand how Google may just defer much of those types of issues to a central website but I know plenty of people that refuse to use a service because of lacking telephone support. Google might be happy going that way but I wouldn't pretend it is good CS.
Theres the whole "oles and poles" aspect and providing power to the cabs and the plant to name but two diferences.
and in Google datacentres they don't care of a blade or a rack drops off but in this case thats x subs that have just lost service.
Sure AT&T knows what they are doing. However they have a very clear track record of over charging and under delivering.
Isn't Google providing the actual capital to pay workers in trucks to dig holes and string fiber? It looks to me like the "free stuff" falls almost entirely into the category of the expedited cutting of red tape.
You have to remember that there is a level of politics with all of this too. A municipal network may benefit the public, but who is going to pay lobbyists and lawyers to beat back AT&T's efforts to stop it? Whereas in the case of Google Fiber the 'who' is clearly Google.
I agree that this is 100% the best way to do it - currently here, internet is delivered over a decaying copper network owned by privatised monopoly that is openly hostile to open access, who also competes in the retail space. So the new model should be so much better and encourage so much more competition.
We're just hoping that the opposition government (which are likely to come into power in September) will have enough pressure from voters and industry to not put in their awful policy which stops the fibre to the premises rollout and installs fibre to the node instead (costing almost as much, and offering a maximum of 50Mb/s instead of the 1Gb/s that the current plan will provide).
But the thing is, as much as I'm absolutely for a similar model to this, the technology is not mature enough that we know how to make it work best. BT OpenReach is struggling to provide the same speeds as Virgin. They claim to be able to offer up to 100Mbps, or 150Mbps in some regions, but my provider which packages BT OpenReach fibre access does not advertise more than 80Mbps and often advises to expect less (I was told to expect no more than 66Mbps based on distance from the cabinet because despite BT OpenReach's claims, they very rarely manage to meet it. Meanwhile Virgin reportedly have no problems reaching 100Mbps.
Without competition, there'd be little incentive for BT OpenReach to try to resolve the issues limiting their bandwidth. As it is, it matters so much that they keep misleadingly claiming they can deliver more (and many ISPs echo their claims).
I'd argue that while it is important to have a "baseline" provider that is required to offer 100% equal access, it is still important to provide wider access. There's really little reason not to require that every time a cable duct is put down to the local cabinet, that extra strands of fibre are laid down, for example, so other operators can rent dark fibre and install their own equipment. Or that cabinets be made big enough to accommodate some extra equipment for a small number of additional providers (and put similar access requirements on these providers, given that space in the cabinets will still be at a premium).
Today in the UK, other providers can put equipment in BT's exchanges, but apart from the densest city cores there's no practical way for them to provide connections to the end-user premises other than for Virgin (which is only in that situation because they merged UK's last two large cable providers who each had spent many years gobbling up smaller operators, often at bargain prices as competition got fierce, and had already written off most of the cost of building out the physical infrastructure).
It isn't necessary to have 10 providers all operating their own equipment and their own fibre, but there's little practical reason not to make space for at least 2-3 providers all the way to the local telco cabinets (even if not immediately), and allow the subscribers connection to be reconnected to the equipment of any of these based on the subscribers wishes.
Because cities don't have the first clue about running a fiber network. As is the case with most of the other stuff they get involved in.
But we are blessed compared to the rest of the country.
Our genius federal government built the infrastructure first and then created a private monopoly who owns all of it. The worst of both worlds. The funny thing is they bought with all the money an US provider and are now the underdog over there.
And of course vast amounts of capital was expended in building a cable network all the operators of which got into financial trouble and effectively got brought out of bankruptcy which is how virgin got its current network on the cheap.
Just some facts of pre-privatisation: it typically took 6-12 months for bit to install a landline when it was state owned. Now: 0-4 weeks. Not to mention how much cheaper it is £4.99 for a broadband line?! It's insane!
BT only bother upgrading areas to fibre where they've got competition from Virgin Media, so people tend to either have the choice between two 100mbps fibre providers or none at all. The disparity in broadband speeds is growing rapidly, because the areas not served by Virgin Media tend to be those furthest from BT's exchanges and hence having the slowest ADSL speeds.
I'm not normally one to advocate government intervention, but the situation seems absolutely absurd.
And you can have government intervention, but much of the US's woes are the result of that intervention. US municipalities created all these monopolies in exchange for the guarantee that they would serve everyone and not just the most profitable people, and unsurprisingly those monopolies don't have much incentive to keep up with the latest in technology. But that's precisely the bargain all those municipalities made! There is no free lunch here.
For example, if AT&T is convinced they are capable of providing a speedy 1 Gbps network, when Google announced they were going to Kansas City last year, AT&T could have decided to go to Austin and improve their service in the area.
However, this is not how it's playing out at all. Instead of choosing another densely populated area (only 2 cities in the US have this type of network, so there's plenty to choose from), they select (or signal) they will go only to where the competition is, and that is pretty absurd IMHO (not from a gaming theory perspective though).
Either way, Google's strategy in this case is flawless, and regardless of what other network providers do, it signals to the consumers that the technology is available and at reasonable costs. Therefore, it will start creating the push for network upgrades in cities where Google never intended to go in the first place at all, which is what this is all about. Having a fast and reliable network available to as many users as possible serves Google's interests (incidentally the consumers needs too), and that's what they are pushing for.
Regarding AT&T, they are signaling being willing to bring to the ground any business models relying on such upgrades, which as relevant as it could be to Comcast or Verizon, it's meaningless to Google as these investments are literally sunk money to defend their traditional business model.
In the same way they already defended in the past for other entrenched markets which could undermine their advertising business model, such as: Android (mobile market, avoiding iOS powerful position) or Chrome (internet browsers and default search provider settings).
You present a false dichotomy between libertarianism and plutocracy. The US is exceptionally bad at market regulation by developed-world standards, largely because of how politics in the US is funded. The obvious counter-example is South Korea, where the government are providing billions of usd in funding to ensure universal service of high-speed broadband. That's no free lunch either, but the costs of a digital divide can't be ignored.
Broadband is an increasingly vital infrastructure, arguably as important as roads or mains water. The national economy is increasingly dependent on the ubiquitous availability of fast internet connections. We should take seriously the social responsibility to provide and maintain that infrastructure.
Even if you have no interest in the internet, stuff like that has to hurt your house price.
We finally got 3MB DSL last year.
Internet connectivity is geographically bounded, and to be disruptive, you need to cover most areas. This is quite unlike other disruptive technology that e.g. Apple have produced, which isn't constrained by geography.
If Google Fiber never comes to your state/county/city, you'll have just as crappy and expensive service as you had before - the existing providers will try to squeeze out as much as possible - which they can continue to do until there's competition in that geographic area
We have a microwave link on the church tower to cover the village here. It really shouldn't be left up to the locals to manage their own network.
Most telcos will work on the basis of recouping this after X number of years, but can only do so because they have deep pockets. Putting fiber into west london is a no brainer, putting fiber into a village with ~300 residents , half of whom are over 65; not so much.
Actually, that's probably a no brainer as well. A village of 300 can't cost _that_ much, and improving network connectivity to a small town means that town becomes more attractive to the people who will be inheriting and buying the homes once the 65-year olds shuffle off this mortal coil.
Also, don't knock seniors. My 77-year old father blogs daily and my 71-year old mother spends a lot of her time playing with her new iPad mini. They live in a small town with new fiber.
The problem is that it's the opposite (at least in the USA) - state and national governments are lobbied by the telecom/cable industry to pass laws prohibiting local initiatives, so local governments have to give massive subsidies or concessions in order to get anything.
It's a poor replacement for fibre to the cabinet.
Their base-line internet service is roughly five times faster than my base-line internet service (from AT&T) in Chicago.
Both businesses and consumers NEED good quality infrastructure at an affordable price. Essentially the country's economic growth directly depends on it.
To accomplish that the government should control all fibre, all phone lines, and all cell towers. It should then re-sell access to these things to ISPs/telephone companies.
With this in place you might still buy your cable from Virgin and your mobile phone service from Orange, but Virgin and Orange would be renting space on the government's infrastructure to accomplish it.
Similar to the Network Rail model but less terrible.
People seems to forget just how badly state run services typically are, even compared to AT&T and the like..
We've had nationalisation and it was a complete shambles. BT had no interest whatsoever in providing Broadband until Telewest came along. You couldn't even buy your own phone or answering machine until 1982 - before then, only a BT engineer was allowed to connect equipment to their network.
The straightforward solution is simply to offer a grant or tax credit to any company that provides the first high-speed connection to a house. Progressively increase the subsidy over a number of months or years to create a Dutch auction between BT, Virgin and whoever else throws their hat in the ring. This would progressively push up the LTV of customers relative to the cost of acquisition, creating the maximum number of connections at the minimum cost to the treasury.
In practice a conservative government will end up selling off and privatizing the company. Subsequent governments will still act like they own it though, because that one company now controls 99% of the country's infrastructure. The share price will then stagnate forever.
Kinda damned if you do and damned if you don't.
True, I have no need for fast speeds; 20 Mbs is more than enough for me.
I live in a small town in a very rural part of the country and there's no hope of cable ever reaching us.. but we got Infinity 2 FTTC last year FWIW. I think the council threw grant money at BT though ;-)
The only tools at your disposal is some kind of subsidy or legislate them into eating the costs of laying down infrastructure in less profitable areas.
"AT&T just admitted that they'll offer better service if there's real competition, so how do we make sure there's real competition?"
AT&T and the others have been claiming for years that they are doing the best they can and raking in huge profits; this kind of abrupt turnaround just shows what a lie that was.
What Google got (at least in KC) that AT&T wants is no franchies fee (typically cable companies and fiber providers pay the town a percentage of their revenue for the right run lines), no pole-attach fees, and cheap/easy permitting.
The impressive thing that Google has accomplished is not delivering Gig to the home. It is convincing cities, in a budget crisis economy, that the mere presence of gig is important enough to not only give up a traditional revenue stream (franchise fee) but also to give up cost recovery charges like pole-attach and permit fees. Apparently they still have a 5% fee in Olathe, but I'd bet they have other concessions that make up for it.
Make any company seeking such guarantees put up a $1 Billion bond that will be forfeit if they don't complete in a few years and watch AT&T back down.
And for pete's sake stop giving tax deferments on the FRONT END. If a company claims they are going to make jobs or supply a service do not give them the tax break until that actually happens.
I believe google recently said they could build out most of the major population centers in the US for 11 Billion, so that gives you some context for a single city out of the top 100 metros.
So the amount should be what it costs to build the network for the location.
The US is actually two separate but interlinked networks.
On the one hand, residential service is 3rd world in most areas. On the other hand, I would argue that the US has the only first world broadband economy, which is our commercial network. The real networks in the US are very fast, 100gigabit fast at the core, but they slow down when you get to residences. Between Datacenters, the Internet is really amazing.
On the resi side, there was a Bush memo that reclassified resi service as "information services" instead of "Telecommunications services" so they gave up the ability to enforce common carriage which is the term for sharing the last mile access.
In short, that is European bias when talking about our business networks, but quite right when referring to our residential networks.
It's a lot more complicated than this, but that's the gist of US broadband. You can't nationalize it because that's socialism and you can't force companies to build networks because that's fascist, so the telcos only build where there's competition: the datacenter.
Edited to add link.
I can't help but think that European data centers have core internet of 100Gb as well. Following up on that Stockholm company, http://www.netnod.se/bahnhof-becomes-first-netnod-100-gbps-c... says "Netnod is one out of only four Internet Exchanges in the world that offers 100 GE services." Elsewhere, euNetworks Group Ltd says "The new 100G capability is available between the key cities of Frankfurt, London, Amsterdam and Paris, and also between Dusseldorf, Hamburg, Dublin, and Manchester. " (These are from last year.)
It's therefore hard for me to believe "that the US has the only first world broadband economy" given that many other non-US cities have 100 Gbit service.
I also think it's a bit disingenuous to split a country into its first-world and third-worlds parts. A third-world country can have parts which are very first-world. I think an aspect of being first-world is that private people also have access to good services. In Stockholm, for example, 100 Mbit residential fiber is about $60/month.
Contrast that with Datacenters where 10gigabit links are common. Sure Europe has 100gigabit core networks, but the US, in terms of aggregate capacity, dwarfs Europe.
But the point is about the difference between our residential and our commercial networks, which are completely separate from a regulatory perspective. We treat residential bandwidth like its cannon fodder for telcos, which is decidedly not first-world.
You make great points but I still think mine are valid.
I can get 3G cell coverage -- sometimes.
My street does have cable television, they just refuse to service the area with internet access. My country has an exclusivity agreement with this cable provider, so no other providers can come into the area.
The sickening factor for me is the fact that I live practically on the county line. I can SEE houses with time warner service from the end of my driveway. They just can't go that extra half mile.
Crazy. So, basically, I end up paying $50/mo for 1down/.3 up. That's with lots of packet loss, too.
The flyers did it. The a cable company had everyone hooked up in less than 6 weeks. They had previously told the county that geography made this impossible while reupping their exclusivity contract.
I see this over and over, and I don't understand WHY a local government would ever do this. What do they get out of these exclusivity deals?
Meanwhile in my old town in Sweden, the city-owned power company built a supplier-neutral fiber network to promote competition (and a price war).
It probably helped that Grant County has several hydro dams in it and sells power all over the place... I assume the PUD was pretty well-funded in this effort.
Short-term available money, e.g. to fund urgent renovation, pay back overdue loans or fund federally mandated services. The latter is popular in Germany, the federal government forces availability of services like child daycare paid by regional authorities, but the federal government doesn't have to foot the bill.
Hell, the majority of US phone / cable wire was already paid by taxpayers over the course of a hundred years, local governments just did short term gains for long term screwing by selling them off to big telecos.
Is there a way to create some local network with people who have access in that half mile? Then you can share the bandwidth accessible from their location.
There is a company here that does fiber to place of business for either corporations or schools. Unfortunately, it will cost me about $5000 to get everything set up (having the cable run, etc.) and about $120/mo for 10/10.
There's another fiber company in the next county over that says they plan on expanding into the area later this year. I don't know how serious they are, but they offer 50/50, 100/100, and are working on building out gigabit service.
That would be nice.
I'll end up heading back to California eventually.
Am I missing something?
in canada, the taxpayers built the network, then a corrupt government signed it over to a private cartel so they could charge rent.
it sounds like you're making some kind of Ayn Rand free market allusion. free markets dont apply when Dagne Taggart owns the government and closes all barriers to entry so that her railroads will never have meaningful competition.
In San Francisco we have a TON of small wireless ISPs fulfilling the needs of the companies that do business here, without using the last mile telco access.
I'm not living in a dystopian Ayn Rand reality; I'm suggesting an alternative method of delivery, one which is not subject to the same regulatory hurdles.
Of course you can't go and jack into BT's network and undercut them, but you can probably build a WISP without running afoul of the law.
Please correct me if I'm mistaken :).
I was referring to cellular networks and wired networks.
I'm guessing the hurdle is still legal/political. I'm gonna look into this, thanks for the insight
Basically it's an Analog Telephone Adapter and a Fixed Wireless receiver built into one, so for a very small price you can deliver bandwidth+telephony to your users.
Cellular and Wired are completely fubarr'd, that's why Africa bypassed them.
I used 195 GB in January, for example.
So I'm stuck on Verizon. They have jacked the rates up from $25 in 2004 to $40 today for the exact same (nonexistent) service. No other options in the area. At least they don't put bandwidth caps on their DSL service. Yet.
If that happens, I'm moving to Kansas City or Austin. I'll take a plane and go door to door at startups or tech companies to find work from a hotel room. My college had crap internet too, but back home it is so bad it is like the dark ages.
It's not a sick joke, it's San Franciscan :/. I sometimes feel like we work in a city that's all things at once: tech bastion, hipster haven, and a home to a generation of hippies. There's a lot of culture and there's a part of it that hates ugly things and a part of it that hates technology and every time someone wants to build some cool tech like city wide wifi, this is the inevitable result.
I don't think WiMax was meant to solve the problems to which people have applied it. If you look at WiMax actual range, it's quite good, but the advertised range is at least double (hence all of the big ClearWire lawsuits).
I don't think setting up city wide wifi is unreasonable with present technology. I think it's an entirely attainable goal, the things that hold it back are bureaucracy and the same individuals who hold back things like project lightspeed.
But my broad point in response to your comment is that the benefit of saturating san francisco with AP's are manifold, whereas the costs and risks are minimal.
I definitely don't think it's expensive compared to the benefits. Personally, if I'm pipe dreaming, I'd rather have ubiquitous 1gigabit fiber, which google pegged at 11Billion for almost all of the US to be covered.
Maybe it wouldn't be profitable if they had to deal with extortionate landlords, but on the other hand it'd seem likely you'd find a sufficient number of building owners that'd be happy to allow space for cheap or nothing in order to ensure great access.
These fools should be banned off into an Amish-like community.
Verizon has every incentive to move efforts to broadband wireless.
It's clear now that AT&T is making a political statement instead of announcing a premeditated expansion plan. Regardless, this seems like one of the worst possible ways to draw attention to purported "special incentives" that the city of Austin is granting Google. There is a large chance that AT&T won't come through on the plan at all--and when all this has blown over, AT&T is much more likely to be remembered for reneging on their plan than for being a proponent of fair regulatory laws.
Sounds more like AT&T is expecting to make a deal with Google to resell bandwidth off Google's own fiber after Google puts up all the initial expense to lay it. That would indeed give them "exactly the same terms and conditions as Google."
I"ve heard this a lot - I'd love to see some objective background information on this.
In this cyber week in Congress, I wish our loyal representatives would pay more attention to this instead of focusing on taking away our rights or ramming another CISPA/SOPA down our throats.
"Information set forth in this press release contains financial estimates and other forward-looking statements that are subject to risks and uncertainties, and actual results might differ materially. "
Of course, that assumes that Google is rolling out fiber to the most profitable cities first, which might not be a valid assumption.