Rural broadband development in Massachussetts and Minnesota

Last week the PBS NewsHour broadcast a 10-minute story on the struggles of rural and small-town Internet users trying to get reasonable broadband services in their region. The problem is familiar even to suburban residents here in Dublin, Ohio — carriers look down their noses at developing high-speed broadband services in areas when the projected profits are not high enough to please Wall Street investors (who invariably prefer obscene profits over the comfortable profits of utility operators).

The solution? Develop local and regional broadband services that serve multiple towns and counties and do it without carrier ownership (though carriers do connect these players to the broader Internet upstream). Examples cited include much of western Massachussetts and a farm-focused organization based in rural Minnesota.

While Dublin isn’t exactly rural (anymore), the broadband situation described sounds very familiar: lack of competition, insufficient speed, and inadequate infrastructure investment by the big carriers whenever they sense less-than-stellar profits. Broadband solutions are not flowing from Wall Street, so community investment — in limited partnership with carriers — appears to be the only way to ensure economic growth through resident retention, improved education, increased property values, and more.

Ammon, Idaho can show Dublin how it’s done

As Dublin thinks about how it can build and/or encourage a next-generation small business and residential broadband service, we should consider what’s been happening in a small town out west, as reported in the attached 20-minute video.

Ammon, Idaho has built out a municipal broadband platform the carriers refused to build, claiming it was unprofitable. Instead, the city built their own fiber network initially for safety, security, and other community services, but then expanded, bringing businesses and carriers to the table once the fiber build-out was mostly in place.

Financially, technically, and culturally it made a huge difference. In fact, Ammon is now growing faster than their neighboring city, which lacks fiber broadband. And fiscal conservatives (which are the vast majority of voters in rural western towns like Ammon) have supported the moves for economic growth reasons and because carriers can still participate in providing services to business and residential customers.

In fact, carriers now have faster access to customers at lower cost and compete on services and price. As noted in the video piece, having the city build out broadband for carrier access is similar to having the city build out roads for use by FedEx, UPS, and other package carriers.

Be sure to watch the video. What if this were Dublin? What if DubLink were just the beginning and the next wave is to follow the Ammon model? What if customers could switch carriers at any time? What if high speeds were based on municipal fiber? What if broadband access and performance were no longer an issue for any home in the City?

For additional information:

Broadband links 2016-06-26

news-icon-2Here are the latest broadband-related stories from around the web, with a little contextual commentary. Links are posted regularly to our Twitter account (@DublinBroadband) if you’d like a real-time feed.

Columbus Business First interviews CIO Doug McCollough on broadband discussions

Even before we had a chance to start posting in earnest here at dublinbroadband.org, Carrie Ghose was on the case, chatting with City of Dublin CIO Doug McCollough about the recent meetings discussing resident desires for more and better broadband options for residents and small businesses across the city. The May 9 posting got some good quotes from McCollough and took note of the potentially politically-charged atmosphere related to broadband right in the headline: “Dublin wants better broadband for residents — short of an ‘act of war’ on carriers”.

Good job by the City in getting out in front of the story and making it clear to carriers that the City means them no harm — despite what a few residents have already voiced in the meetings to date and what might come out of future discussions (there’s definitely a wide spectrum of opinion).

This web site was even linked toward the bottom of the article. So we’re famous now? 😉

Hopefully Ghose and crew will keep tabs on the discussion in the months to come. We’re all just getting started.