broadband fiber municipal broadband
July 2, 2005 6:19 PM   Subscribe

As dial-up internet access begins to fade, a fight is happening over the right of municipalities to install and run their own broadband Internet access networks. Various think tanks like the market oriented Heartland Institute and the community oriented Institute for Local Self Reliance have chimed in on the debate. Last week the Supreme Court ruled that cable companies do not have to provide "open access" to rival Internet providers. And down in Lafayette Louisiana, where the community will soon vote on whether to install a municipal Fiber to Home Network, some of the citizens decided to inject some humor into the issue by holding a film festival.
posted by thedailygrowl (13 comments total)
I'm all for municipal wifi and broadband, but I really don't want the government be able to keep track of my internet usage. Not that I trust private corporations either, I just distrust the government a little bit more. It just seems a bit big brother to me.
posted by gyc at 6:52 PM on July 2, 2005

I would guess if it's a liberal community, like Alameda in the San Francisco Bay Area which has its own community cable and broadband, you're much better off with the government.

If it's Lafayette, maybe going with the Fortune 500 company will give you more protection.
posted by joedharma at 7:07 PM on July 2, 2005

in Japan nearly every household has access to a broadband connection of 26 Mbps for about $22 per month.

I was impressed by SBC's 1.5 Mbps for $15/mo. (though I have sworn off dealing with the bastards after dealing with their incompetent DSL service & their public threats of even poorer service if their deregulated competitive advantages were threatened) — let's hope it really does herald a change. But Japan's deal puts our market to shame — even factoring out the population density, that's just cheap bandwidth!
posted by Zurishaddai at 7:29 PM on July 2, 2005

I am with gyc. I do not trust the government with that info. Corporations are driven by profit. They may sell my stuff to marketers who will target me with ads, but they are less likely to create a political profile to be used against me or whatever sorts of devious uses the government might have. I frankly have little to hide, but that is not the point. I am still in favor of allowing cities to provide this benefit.

I understand the argument that it might ultimately leave a weaker system as the companies will be more motivated to implement nice features to garner sales, which frankly would benefit me. Nevertheless, I like the idea of getting access to the widest spectrum of the population. If a city wants to do this no one should stop them. To compete, perhaps the private companies will have to offer even more than they otherwise would.
posted by caddis at 7:32 PM on July 2, 2005

The Portland City Council jut voted this week to authorize the Bureau of Technology Services to issue a Request for Proposals seeking a company to build a municipal wireless network here. As currently envisioned, it would pwoer City functions, and include a "walled garden" of sites (governmental, tourist, and social services, it sounds like) available through the wireless network for free, with any other access beyond that "walled garden" being for a fee.
posted by theonetruebix at 8:23 PM on July 2, 2005

There's been a huge storm brewing in Iowa for the past year or so over this very issue. I've been watching it closely. The telecom companies (notably Mediacom and Qwest) have been fighting it strongly, forming their own grassroots organizations in many communities to smear what has become known as Opportunity Iowa. Frankly, for most people, they're faced with choosing from one provider (if you can call that choice). I'm all for anything that might breakdown monopolies, even if it involves the government. I might not use municipal service, but if it means that the private companies need to lower rates and offer better service, sign me up.
posted by panoptican at 8:36 PM on July 2, 2005

This is an ideological battle driven - at its deeper roots - by the religious right's opposition to government.

So, through the lens of the religious supremacist right's ideological spectacles, local government WiFi = "creeping socialism"
posted by troutfishing at 1:50 AM on July 3, 2005

the religious right's opposition to government

Other than telling us how to live, think, marry, pray, vote, invest, educate our children and, now, die, I think the Republicans have done a fine job of getting government out of our personal lives.
posted by joedharma at 2:13 AM on July 3, 2005

Scooped. In my own hometown. The vote is coming up soon here in Lafayette, and there are letters to the editor about it nearly every day. On one side, we've got one of the only municipally-owned utility systems left, I think, which gives us power cheaper than just about anywhere else. In my old apartment, my electric bill was about $50 a month. I'd gotten as low as $25 a month. On the other side, we have the warm hearts at Cox Cable and Bellsouth.

I attended a "Town Hall" meeting sponsored by Cox and Bellsouth a couple of months ago. They had a panel of experts who took apart the city's plan to build a fiber network, until someone stood up and asked where their funding came from. Cough, choke, splutter. I had never actually seen one of these paid-for academics in real life. I don't remember the third guy, but the other two were embarrassed academic and unrepentant smoldering ideologue, respectively.

I'm astonished privacy has come up. Yes, the creeping socialism thing has come up, but hasn't made much headway here.
Right now, if you want broadband, you have only Bellsouth and DSL, or Cox cable. Both the same price ($50 a month on top of their other services which you must purchase). I'm looking forward to the fiber.
posted by atchafalaya at 7:40 AM on July 3, 2005

I do not trust the government with that info. Corporations are driven by profit.

Well, if you really think profit-driven entities will protect information about you better... But there's another point you should consider - namely, that governments are bound by the First Amendment to support access to all political/religious viewpoints if they provide any. Corporations are not bound by that little rule. From the Institute for Local Self Reliance link:

Corporations Can Move Easily From Control to Censorship

...The federal government has ruled that cable and phone companies do not have to share their high-speed networks with competitors at any price; companies have the final say on who may use their networks, what kind of information they will transmit, and what kind of information they will refuse to transmit. is technically possible for private companies to censor the Internet and control the content available to customers. They can force consumers to access the Internet through their sign-in page, as AOL does even for their always-on DSL services. This gives them the opportunity to filter your information through their advertisements and selected news items.

That's the game right there, for me.
posted by mediareport at 7:44 AM on July 3, 2005

Nice post, btw, thedailygrowl. Thanks.
posted by mediareport at 7:44 AM on July 3, 2005

Teasingly, I live about five minutes away from the semi-fully wifi'ed up Upper Street, London, UK.
posted by Drexen at 9:06 AM on July 3, 2005

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