Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Vermonters declare independence from telco/cable duopoly

The Wall Street Journal today features an initiative by 22 central Vermont towns to take their telecommunications destiny into their own hands instead of relying on a telco/cable duopoly that cannot meet their needs.

They're doing so with a public/private partnership to deploy 1,400 miles of aerial fiber-optic lines to provide high-speed Internet access, phone and video. The project is to be financed through a capital lease, with the towns raising money from investors to build the network, then leasing it back from the investors over 23 years.

Tim Nulty, the project's consultant to the towns, told the WSJ he originally wanted loan guarantees as part of the recently enacted federal economic stimulus package but is now looking into grant funding under the legislation, which allocated $7.2 for broadband built out.

While this project involves a sparsely populated rural area, I expect other more densely populated areas will also form municipal and cooperative fiber ventures as it becomes more apparent that locals must take responsibility for getting fiber over the last mile and cannot continue as they have for years in vain to expect telcos and cable companies to provide it -- particularly when it's not in their business plans.

The article also contains a desperate comment by a telco flak to keep the telco's outmoded copper-delivered DSL relevant -- which due to DSL's notorious technical limitations can't easily serve areas like rural New England -- amid the growing realization that its future prospects are severely limited in the era of fiber.

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