Tuesday, May 27, 2008

WSJ: About 60 municipal fiber projects deployed in last decade

According to The Wall Street Journal, about 60 U.S. towns and small cities including Bristol, Va.; Barnsville, Minn.; and Sallisaw, Okla., have built state-of-the-art fiber networks and an additional two dozen municipalities, including Chattanooga and Clarksville, Tenn., have launched or are considering similar initiatives.
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The newspaper notes the projects have revived policy debates similar to those of more than seven decades ago when local governments opted to build out their own electrical distribution infrastructures to serve areas large private sector providers neglected.

The Nashville Tennessean, which carried and supplemented the WSJ story, reports Clarksville's Department of Electricity is building some 860 miles of fiber cable to offer TV service, broadband Internet and phone, and will start to sign up customers this year. Meanwhile, Columbia Power & Water Systems offers from 1Mbs to 7Mbs of broadband Internet speeds for residential customers at prices ranging from $29.95 to $52.95 per month.

The public providers complain the private providers are moving too slowly. They're willing to take on more risk than the private sector, and that risk is real for poorly planned and executed government run fiber systems as recent events with Utah's UTOPIA and IProvo systems illustrate. IProvo's financial problems have prompted the Provo City Council to consider selling off that city's system; a vote on the transaction is set for this week.

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