Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Another year, another U.S. "broadband" conference & same conclusion: Great need for fiber infrastructure -- but no funding

Mayor Murray: Municipal broadband too costly; public-private deal is way to go | The Seattle Times: The best way to expand Internet access in Seattle is through public-private partnerships, (Seattle) Mayor Ed Murray said at a regional broadband conference Monday. The mayor reiterated the position he formed after a city-commissioned study released last summer showed it would cost between $480 million and $665 million to build out a municipal-broadband network across the city. That price tag is less than previously estimated, but the mayor said it was still too much to be feasible.
“When I came into office, I was very excited about the possibility of municipal broadband until the study came back and indicated it would be literally the largest tax increase in Seattle,” Murray said Monday at the conference, co-hosted by the nonprofit Next Century Cities and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

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And so it goes across the United States as it has at these "broadband" confabs for the past decade like a never ending season of Seinfeld reruns. Municipalities can't ante up their own dollars to build telecommunications infrastructure, particularly with so many other needs such as transportation infrastructure, public buildings and skyrocketing employee pension obligations all competing for big bucks. Don't look to the states either. They're dealing with similar financial challenges on a larger scale in the slow economic recovery in the years since the 2008 recession. Billions of dollars are needed to fund America's long overdue replacement of its legacy metallic telecom infrastructure with fiber -- now a generation late. Only the federal government can step up with that level of funding. But don't expect much from the current federal government as the Seattle Times story reports:

The federal government did finance about 230 broadband projects nationwide through the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Those funds are now spent, but municipalities can apply for smaller grants through other federal agencies, said Lawrence E. Strickling,assistant secretary of commerce for communications and information.
Strickling said Monday the federal government helps municipalities by providing guides to funding and other technical expertise.

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