consultants are sandburs

Saturday, May 03, 2014

Progressive Towns in Anoka County should note that with government centers already "fiber-connected," an opportunity for 21st Century community owned and operated broadband exists. An opportunity that might attract tech business, and good jobs.
These two thumbnail images are sequential screen captures from a most enlightening map page; here; with this "about" page, and that website's homepage given as the caption of the first thumbnail.

Please click each image to enlarge and read it. That should motivate readers to explore the entire site, and its links.

Ramsey where I live, for example, is considering a possible data center use for its former city hall on Nowthen Blvd, across from the school.

Within the covenants, conditions and restrictions of any future contract that way, there is the opportunity for the City to condition approvals on, among other things, bandwidth allocation to the city together with flooring/connection of a part of the onsite server capacity for linking to the government network, but to be dedicated toward providing community owned broadband services to businesses and individual subscribers, (be it fiber-to-the-home or some lesser scaled project that still would encompass cost-effective high-bandwidth service). It could  - buzzword here - create a synergy. (Notice at least I did not say "catalyze a synergy" so cut me some slack.)

I expect our City Administration is aware of such a possibility and would not let it go by without due diligence. To dismiss the opportunity without a research and grant-chasing effort would be unfortunate, as well as impermissible gross negligence.

Our staff people are not grossly negligent, the research will be done, and a decision made in accord with regular decision making processes will result.

If it's a decision some like, others dislike, that is inherent to any government action.

Ramsey's charter does provide for municipal ownership of utilities, and that is not in fact limited to electricity and gas. For example, there already in Ramsey is a Storm Water Utility that provides services for which fees are imposed. Community broadband would be nothing new in terms of municipal powers, while certainly the technological leap would be innovative; "forward thinking government," to say the least. (Unlike Ramsey's Storm Water Utility service where all subscribe as fee payers, this would be an optional service but as with electricity, over time, optional low-cost high-bandwidth internet access will evolve to become a necessity.)

CAVEAT: Things are never without risks, costs, and benefits. Part of researching the possibilities is to try to forecast where a balance might be, were a major civic step taken. That makes for an informed go/no go decision. MinnPost has a recent and fairly comprehensive report mainly considering Minnesota's rural broadband availability problem, with this mid-article excerpt:

Monticello 'poster child' for financial concerns

Municipal systems have not come about seamlessly, occasionally missing revenue targets and threatening the municipalities’ ability to pay back their bondholders.

The telecom industry points to a network established in Monticello, where officials built a network to compete with the city’s two dominant private carriers. After the new network got off the ground in 2009, a price war ensued. While that brought down prices for consumers, the city couldn’t compete with private providers as well as it expected, and it’s currently facing a lawsuit from bondholders who lost money investing in the project.

Minnesota Telecom Alliance president Brent Christensen called Monticello “the poster child for what goes on” when local governments try competing with private enterprise.

Yes, Monticello has had a rocky time of things, early delay-oriented litigation against the municipal effort being a part of that story, but the key there is that the muni service was met by mean-spirited price cutting by the private sector operations that held oligopoly or monopoly pricing power elsewhere, so that they could price gouge one or several captive markets and price below cost to squeeze Monticello.

That such action resulted is not a surprise, and any other Minnesota municipality has to anticipate possible problems. (Coincidentally the introduction of muni competition did benefit Monticello service consumers via lowered pricing from muni service competitors, once the "privateers" assumed Rockefeller-Standard Oil practices to teach a lesson to upstarts.)

Wrapping up -- The opening paragraph's Community Broadband links and images reference ILSR tie, this homepage. See also, e.g., this page, beginning:

ILSR Congratulates Chattanooga for Fastest Broadband Network in United States
Updated on Sep 14, 2010

Minneapolis, MN – The Electric Power Board (EPB) of Chattanooga, Tennessee, has announced a citywide 1 gigabit per second (1 Gbps) broadband tier, by far the fastest citywide broadband tier available in the U.S. By the end of the year, 170,000 households and businesses in the region will have access to the fastest speeds available – at affordable rates.

Christopher Mitchell, the Director of the Telecommunications as Commons Initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR), recently visited Chattanooga to tour and discuss their community-owned fiber network.

Mitchell put the announcement in perspective, “Earlier this year, Google announced they were going to build a 1 Gbps network and several of the largest telecom companies in the country laughed at them, saying it was too difficult. Almost one year later, Chattanooga has built such a network before Google decided with whom to partner.”

The network will leave no one behind; even the most rural areas served by EPB will have access to the same speeds as those in the city. Entrepreneurs in rural Tennessee will pay far less for far greater speeds than even those in Silicon Valley.

Much as industry insiders wish to belittle the Monticello squeeze as "poster child" for don't do it let for-profit dominate and exploit; the Chattanooga experience has been the "poster child" for don't listen to the nay-sayers, it works. (Those mean old self-serving industry nattering nabobs of negativism, what do they know? Hat tip to Spiro for the terminology.)

One can do a host of web searches, and if there is an information problem at all, it is one of a glut of resources so that careful attention and focus is required to not become mired among endless trees, without ever seeing "the forest" itself.

E.g., this specific Google, or this more generic one.

Other links:

More could be listed. Readers are invited to search on their own.

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