Also, no company wants taxpayer-funded alternatives to their product. Its impossible to effectively compete with a public entity that can tap tax revenue. That angle doesn't really add anything to the article.
1. That public internet would suck because all public projects suck (and cite examples).
2. That private companies wouldn't be able to compete with public ones.
They cannot both be true. If the public offering was as bad as you claim, private companies could compete (e.g. on quality).
So which is it? Either public companies suck and therefore private companies would be able to compete (by virtue of them sucking less presumably) OR public companies don't suck and the private companies wouldn't be able to compete.
Your whole post reads like one of those propaganda pieces put out by the far right, interest groups, or think tanks. Just generic "all public services are terrible" then switch it up into "it is unfair that companies have to compete with taxes!"
One could take the logic in your post and use it to literally argue that all public entities ever should be closed and privatised. Even things like cops, fire services, and so on could be hit by that logic. There's no limits.
The current telecom oligopoly is bad, but a government-run monopoly is the one thing that could be worse. Now, public money going to build last-mile fiber which is then leased to competing ISPs to create a functioning marketplace (neither corporate oligopoly nor government monopoly, but a true economics-textbook 'free market') sounds like something that could be a good use of public money & power.
Unless those private companies are legally prohibited from competing, or are prohibited from practically competing by things like red tape or fees for constructing infrastructure.
Just as with the private sector, you'll be able to find public initiatives that aren't reaching their goals, or are outright failures. Should they not be permitted to compete against the private sector when the private sector chooses not to serve a certain unprofitable market segment? If you're that good at providing services, why as a private business are you worried about competing with an "incompetent" (as you may argue) public sector initiative?
Full Disclosure: I fully support municipal broadband, and want a stake driven through Comcast's heart.
For varying definitions of 'very well.' Public services are good at delivering a minimum level of service to everyone. Everyone will get water and sewer service. That water might not be particularly clean, and the sewers might dump untreated sewage into the environment, but everyone will get it. The problem for you in this narrative is that you're the yuppie who would be happy to have a higher water bill in order to have cleaner rivers: you're not going to get your way.
Chattanooga was able to piggy-back this on the fiber network put in place for smart grid. What happens in 10 years when that network becomes obsolete? Your neighbors will have to vote to fund upgrades. Will they do that? 60% of people who have access to FiOS do not subscribe. When those same people vote on whether to raise their utility bill to fund upgrades, do you think you'll be happy with the result?
You sound unhappy with Comcast, but the fact is that they pump enormous amounts of capital into their network, while municipalities are famous for letting their infrastructure rot.
I'm not opposed to public services. The question is: will municipal internet be more like NYC's transit system, or more like the ones everywhere else?
 The U.S. Society for Civil Engineers estimates we're $3.6 trillion behind on infrastructure maintenance. http://www.infrastructurereportcard.org
Who he worked for previously doesn't really change the fact that he has pointed out repeatedly that Google Fiber is getting breaks to only build out to rich neighborhoods vs. Comcast having to build out to an entire city, even sections of town which will lose them money.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but Comcast's profitability is over $1 billion a year.
Should my electric company be able to profit at that level? Because they're much more reliable than Comcast, and they're a regulated monopoly that needs to report to the PUC (Public Utilities Commission).
Have we determined yet if Internet access is a utility such as phone service, electricity, water, and natural gas service? If it is, isn't it time last-mile delivery is regulated as such? (Which leaves Comcast in a precarious position as a last-mile provider)
Also, I'm not unhappy with Comcast because of my service. I'm unhappy because of their efforts to prevent municipal broadband. They are the Koch Brothers of the Internet, and are attempting to squeeze whomever they can for access only they provide in a great deal of markets to a tool that is the foundation of the 21st century.
TL;DR Regulate last mile delivery as a utility, politely ask rent-seekers like Comcast to leave.
I don't think the "internet = electricity" analogies are very good. The regulated part of the electric monopoly (e.g. ComEd in Illinois) just has to maintain wires built decades ago. If internet infrastructure were the sort of thing we could bury in the ground for 50 years and forget about, that might work. But stuff that was state of the art in the 1990's is obsolete now. There is no public infrastructure that turns over that fast.
You didn't respond to my point about politicizing investment decisions. Utility investment decisions are intensely political, and voters don't care about better technology, they just want cheap rates. Its a huge battle for most utilities to raise the money they need to upgrade the network, or even just maintain it properly. If you think Comcast is slow to upgrade its network, what do you make of utility companies that are operating coal plants that are literally a century old? The fact that public utility regulation has left us $3.6 trillion underfunded is totally ignored by proponents of municipal internet service.
Electric utilities cover large areas. You use Excelon as an example, who delivers my power in Northern Illinois. As you say "..[they] just has to maintain wires built decades ago." It's not just wires. Its transmission facilities all the way from 700kVa down to the 120V step down in your neighborhood, even to your service entrance.
Internet access is no different. You trench fiber in the ground, you drop equipment cabinets on the curb, and you pull your plant to your CO for interconnection to your routing/switching gear (although sometimes this gear is distributed across the plant instead of at the CO; depends on size/network topology).
My municipality or coop not upgrading fast enough or providing the service I want? I argue I have more leverage in that case as a share/stakeholder. With Comcast, they're out for the shareholder, not me.
As I've said elsewhere, almost all other utilities have functioned well in a regulatory, profit-restricted environment. Why not last-mile packet delivery?
As for utilities having functioned well: you keep ignoring the $3.6 trillion U.S. Society of Civil Engineers number.
Not only do I believe I have a better shot as a voter, I believe I'll have more control over the service I receive.
"In fact, Comcast and TWC’s Internet service businesses were the only two businesses in the United States to score below a 60 on the ACSI’s 100-point scale. What’s most amazing is that both Comcast and TWC have even lower customer satisfaction ratings than United Airlines, which has a notoriously bad reputation in an industry that, due in part to government security requirements, is known for delivering a miserable experience."
Again, the proof is in the pudding. We have underinvested in our infrastructure to the tune of $3.6 trillion. Our bridges are crumbling, our transit systems haven't been expanded in decades, our sewer systems are polluting the environment because nobody wants to spend the money to bring them in compliance with environmental laws, and yet you posit that public utilities work "very well" and assert that they should get involved in an area where technology moves 10x as fast as the areas in which they already lag behind. I just don't see how you get from point A to point B here.
Let's not forget the big elephant in the room too. The states haee no money. When Illinois is deciding between defaulting on its debt and giving a haircut to public employee pensions, where do you think spending money keeping up with telecom infrastructure upgrades is going to fall in the list of priorities?
It's funny that you use this as a point of comparison. The NYC subway system began as three competing private companies.
Long story short: They went broke, and were acquired by the city in 1940 (and then later by the state, which now has authority over the MTA).
While they were originally constructed as private subway systems, I firmly believe that it would be impossible for NYC to function the way it does now if its public transit system were privately run.
That's not to say I'm a fan of the way the MTA is regulated. I follow this issue closely and have a lot of opinions on the matter. There are a number of ways in which the state government cripples it. But it's still significantly better than it would be if the Interborough Rapid Transit were still running the numbered lines.
Not quite as simple as that, the city had been deeply involved for decades prior to them finally taken over completely, and the city effort was itself deeply indebted.
Anyway, I'm pretty sure the GP emphasized the MTA as a (rare) example of public infrastructure that's actually run to the high standard we'd want our internet infrastructure to be run at.
I wouldn't have much confidence if my place of residence (Oakland CA) set up muni broadband, for example, although I'd like to be proved wrong. Large parts of the city government are painfully inefficient.
The scale of the problem isn't clear, but I would argue that the economic calculation problem is certainly an inherent problem with publicly funded services.
Agreed. This is solved with complete transparency and independent oversight.
Do they really though? Road infrastructure (especially bridges) is widely recognized to be really bad in the USA. It's hard to say how well police work without comparing it to something else, but just based on the US prison population I would say that police don't work well. Fire and maintenance services might work reasonably well, but I bet both are shockingly expensive.
This is due to Republicans in Congress blocking an increase on the gas tax, currently at ~18 cents/gallon of gas since 1993.
> It's hard to say how well police work without comparing it to something else, but just based on the US prison population I would say that police don't work well.
I'm not a huge fan of police myself, but I believe this problem to be with laws enacted by legislative bodies. I believe you'll see less arrests as drug arrests drop due to decriminalization/legalization of recreational drugs across the US.
> Fire and maintenance services might work reasonably well, but I bet both are shockingly extremely expensive.
Citation? My property tax bill for my municipality (~75K people) shows public safety costing ~$48 million/year and highways and streets cost ~$14 million/year. I don't believe those costs to be out of line for the amount of people covered.
Is it, though? Only 60% - 65% of the gas tax is spent on roads and highways  . Not to mention (possibly ultimately justified, but still relevant) drivers of extra cost like the Davis-Bacon Act.
Your demagoguery does not hold up to the fact that Democrats recently held a majority in both houses of congress.
Your argument fails to take into account that, due to the filibuster, legislation can be blocked by one party (with no support from the other party) so long as the opposing party doesn't have both a majority in the House and a filibuster-proof supermajority in the Senate.
If it's not such a good idea then perhaps it was only done as a publicity stunt, and that would explain why it hasn't come up again.
I don't know that I care much one way or the other. But saying "Democrats haven't voted it down" is actually different than "Democrats have made it a priority"
But the Dems do get campaign contributions from Oil & Gas companies. Only at 20% of the rate of folks in the GOP but it's not as though it's a 99/1 split.
Maybe so, but that's not the point. I'm just challenging the claim that government (which includes Republicans) effectively performs those tasks.
A semi-rural department with three fire engines, ambulance, brush trucks, serving an area of 7,000 people and approximately ~1,000 calls a year does so with expenditure of ~$1M for those 7,000 residents.
What's the breakdown of your calls? Car accidents? Health problems?
There is a lot of talk in the thread about public vs private - regardless of ideology - EPB is an incredibly run public utility (as least as a customer)
As far as business users go, they could drop their prices a little, but overall - they are top notch.
Meanwhile, in much of the developed world, people are shocked when a train is a minute late.
Take public schools, for example. It is often said that public schools are "underfunded." Yet Washington DC schools spend almost 3x the national average per student and has abysmal results.
Also, there are better ways to look at how to fund these. For example, having municipalities own the wiring only, and let ISPs pay to have access to the homes (similar to how telecom or power systems work now, e.g. different charge for distribution). I would love more choices of providers, honestly, and with fiber, there are better options for managing traffic at the neighborhood and local level.
 http://www.norwichpublicutilities.com and http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/04/business/the-troubling-con... (the section re: Norwich is about halfway down)
Saw this elsewhere today. Speedtest result from Chattanooga:
Every private corporation that ever took a tax abatement, subsidy, or other government incentive is also "taxpayer funded."
Wow. Just wow. You do know that Atlanta privatized its water, right? The private company, United Water, failed to deliver on it's contract. The city took over water duties again after finding fraudulent billing and lower water quality delivered by United Water. Since the city took over in 2004, they've reduced sewage overflows by 97-99%.
That's a really terrible example to use for your argument.
You can view it as simply as, developing a single distribution network and subscribing to Comcast/AT&T/etc at your discretion over that common distribution network saves everyone money, because the city has only one distribution network rather than several cable networks, DSL, satellite, etc. It additionally could encourage competition among service providers, as incumbents would not need to develop their own distribution network.
Also, the existing infrastructure was built with tax money and heavy tax breaks as well. Local governments won't really be at an advantage for having those levers to pull.
However, let's ask that same question about "privately" owned Internet. To have an actual market, there must be more than a single provider. Which means the overwhelming majority of places have been stuck at DSL for over a decade!
If the solution comes from the private sector, the public sector, or rainbow unicorn fairies is a secondary concern. But the current system is clearly not the answer, which is why I can't read about the home Internet options available to people in most of the world (with a few other exceptions like Canada and Australia) without nearly breaking down and crying.
That might not prove true for a lot of entities though, but EPB is great. They're likely one of the few well run power companies though, I've heard lots of horror stories elsewhere.