Tales of the Sausage Factory

The UK Broadband Infrastructure And the Debate We Should Be Having.

This article from the London Times is useful both for its substance and for what it says about the sorry state of the debate in the U.S. While the U.K. has much higher available penetration and speed than the U.S., it is considered rather pokey and slow for Europe. As the article observes, the problem is that private companies don’t want to invest in upgrades of infrastructure.

More below . . .

Read More »

Posted in Series of Tubes, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , , , | 4 Comments (Comments closed)

Tales of the Sausage Factory

Muniwifi and the Minneapolis Bridge Disaster

While the telco/cable lobbying war to make muniwifi illegal has died out (as demonstrated by the most recent defeat for the telco/cable lobbyists in North Carolina), the debate on the actual merits of munibroadband lives on. And it’s a good debate to have. States, cities and local governments should consider their projects carefully. What works in St. Cloud, Florida or Philadelphia will not necessarily work elsewhere. And, with all the possible goals of a muni system (service to residents, service to muicipalities, public safety, digital inclusion, enhance local media, economic stimulus), it is a sound idea to have figured out your benchmarks for success in advance.

Unsurprisingly, those generally opposed to government providing services (particularly where such services are available or could be available from private companies) have spent much time and effort arguing that municipal broadband projects usually end as costly failures. These analysis generally use the standard economic criteria of a for-profit business. i.e., Does the network pay for itself over expected time?

That’s an important question, particularly if a government has made this a goal of buiding the network or if you are a private business looking at a public/private partnership. But governments often make investments in infrastructure or provide services on a residential or subscription basis for other reasons. Here in DC, for example, no one pretends that the City will directly make back the hundreds of millions of dollars spent to attract a professional baseball team. This cost gets justified on the grounds that it will revitalize the Anacostia waterfront area, serve as a source of civic pride, and offer additional benefits that justify the cost.

Which brings us to the performance of Minneapolis muniwifi network in the recent bridge collapse diaster. The presence of the network proved an enormous boon to public safety and the citizens of Minneapolis. Because the city had deployed the network for residential service, it was there when they needed it for public safety. That’s difficult to capture in a balance sheet, but there’s no doubt you’re damn glad to have it when you need it.

Of course, local governments can always build public safety muni networks. And many do. But multiple use networks (like the Minneapolis one) are a good way to fund such networks, make sure they get fully deployed, and make sure they stay upgraded and operational. A town reluctant to spend money on public safety communications (and many are) may feel better if the public safety network will also provide low-cost connectivity to poorer neighborhoods. Alternatively, a town might feel better about providing residential services at a possible financial loss if they look on the network as also providing critical infrastructure for emergencies.

At the end of the day, every local or state government looking at municipal broadband needs to do a careful evaluation and figure out what it wants and how it will pay for it. The business case is an important piece of that, especially if local governments promise their citizens the network will end up paying for itself with subscriber fees. But the tragedy in Minneapolis provides an important reminder that local governments have other measures of success besides turning a profit.

Stay tuned . . . .

Posted in Spectrum, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments (Comments closed)

My Thoughts Exactly

Quasi-muni wireless for Colorado Springs?

This front page article in today’s Colorado Springs Gazette discusses a proposal for a private company to provide wireless throughout the city. There would be a user fee; it would not be a free service.

This would not be a “Muni wireless” of the kind favored by many of us Wetmechanics, but still, given my recent experiences with Adelphia, (see Wetmachine article below this one (including comments)), I might tend to favor it, on the theory that anything is better than having to rely on the local cable monopoly. Colorado Springs is generally a very conservative town, despite having liberal pockets here and there, and I don’t think a muni wireless would have much chance of passage.

Yesterday’s Gazette carried another front page article about (outrageous?) bonuses paid by the municipal utility company, and the tenor of comments on the Gazette’s website indicates a quasi-religious belief in the virtues of private companies relative to municipalities. And religion is very strong in Colorado Springs.

I would be interested in Harold Feld’s analysis of the proposal for Colorado Springs, and in your comments too-also, even if you are not Harold.

Posted in General, My Thoughts Exactly | Also tagged , , , , | 2 Comments (Comments closed)

Tales of the Sausage Factory

Stevens Bill III– The Bad Stuff (Munibroadband)

The Stevens Bill contains a section called “Municipal Broadband” (Title V) and calls itself the “Community Broadband Act of 2006.” Given that that McCain and Lautenberg introduced a pro-munibroadband bill in 2005 called “The Community Boradband Act of 2005,” and that the House overwhelmingly adopted language identical to the McCain-Lautenberg language in COPE, you might think that I would put Title V in the “Good Parts” section.

GOTCHA! That clever Senator Stevens, who apparently has confused the definition of “competition” and “cartel” (Hey, they both begin with “C”! He’s old! Give the man a break!), has tricked you! Like predators in nature that camoflage themselves to look like pretty flowers before they SPRING UPON THEIR HELPLESS PREY AND DEVOUR THEM, The Stevens “Community Broadband Act” will allow local governments to give gobs of money to private companies, but will not allow local governments to do something as outrageous as compete with private companies.

Impressed? Amazed? Astounded? Well see below . . . .

Read More »

Posted in Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment (Comments closed)
  • Connect With Us

    Follow Wetmachine on Twitter!

Username
Password

If you do not have an account: Register