In Answer: Community-Led Broadband Can End Internet Problems and Eliminate the Need for Subsidies – Duluth News Tribune | Panda Anku

Lindsay Mark Lewis of the Progressive Policy Institute claimed in an August 10 column in the News Tribune that the government has no place to build or operate broadband networks.

His information was out of date.

In fact, many municipalities only get the internet service they need through the involvement of local government.

The private sector, on which communities are expected to rely, has controlled broadband from the start. Residents and businesses have waited years for Internet Service Providers to provide the reliable, affordable, and fast Internet service they need. In communities like Duluth and others across the state, people are fed up with the wait.

While I understand the pressures Internet Service Providers (ISPs) face to make a quick profit, the needs of investors don’t always align with the needs of communities. If broadband is designed, built and operated as the infrastructure vital to a community’s existence, it will solve decades of internet problems.

There are good reasons for the government to consider ownership.

Fiber optic networks don’t have to be complex and expensive to operate, as Lewis pointed out. I have successfully operated municipal networks for more than 12 years with an uptime of 99.995%. The operation of these networks costs little.

Fiber itself is cheap. Prices have dropped so much in recent years that it is affordable for residential service.

If you plan and build the network as critical infrastructure and not for a quick return on investment, you automatically get a reliable and fast network. Trenching and directional drilling are the most expensive parts of a project. These costs are the same whether you build infrastructure that lasts 50 or 10 years. If you do it right once, it pays off.

Networks can meet the business needs of ISPs and their communities. It’s not either/or.

An almost immediate response to any new approach is, “But ISPs won’t like it.” Incumbents often resist offering customers choice because it means their geographic dominance could end in the region. On the other hand, an established ISP with poor infrastructure quickly understands that this new approach is more profitable than maintaining its own infrastructure. It is possible to meet an ISP’s need for near-instantaneous return on investment and complete control over its Internet Office technology and operations, while ensuring there is no shared equipment or outside interference.

At the same time, the community not only gains choice, competition, and improved internet service, but also more reliable and safer city operations and utilities. A private network supports SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) systems, traffic management, fire brigade, police and other critical services.

Cities do not have to operate networks or become ISPs.

Lewis pointed to the municipal network’s financial failures as evidence that the government should not be involved. If he had dug deeper to understand the whys and hows of failure and success, he might have come up with technical and financial models that work. Our experts did it.

City, county and community leaders aren’t broadband experts, but they are under pressure to solve their communities’ internet problems. And now that there is so much public money available, local leaders can take control. It’s important that these leaders have the data, detail and understanding they need to make safe, informed decisions when managing the investment of public funds. Our process eliminates as much political and financial risk as possible by empowering elected officials with go/no-go decisions.

Handing cash to ISPs without taking steps to ensure accountability and the efficient use of money is a recipe for political and financial failure. This old approach has left communities with internet problems even after public investment.

Billions of dollars in public investment haven’t solved our internet problems. At best, the old approach kicked the can out into the street and made it someone else’s problem. While another approach is, well, different, it’s really quite simple:

  • Know exactly what infrastructure is already in place in your community. Know its condition, capacity and who owns it. Don’t rely on inaccurate broadband maps or speed tests.
  • Plan the upgrade in a way that makes sense for the community. Look for ways to combine excavation projects, such as B. Installing fiber optic infrastructure during a water/wastewater project or road improvements.
  • Understand the business and technical needs of ISPs.
  • Welcome ISPs to serve residents and businesses.
  • And get an agreement with at least one ISP before breaking ground.

It is possible to make a community’s Internet service nearly “future-proof” and end the need for ongoing government subsidies. Approach the challenges from a community perspective, and you can have reliable, affordable, and fast internet service for decades to come.
Kyle Moorhead is the founder and CEO of Hometown Fiber in Maple Grove, Minnesota.

Kyle Moorhead

Leave a Comment