Monday, October 01, 2007

Broadband St. Paul

I just posted my complaint about how bad the internet is in the US - and then I find out that just last week the city of St. Paul declared its goal to be “America’s Most Connected City” with fiber coming out of every mailbox. And they want it to be at least partially publicly owned. They did this in a report entitled, "The Broadband Advisort Committee Report on the Future of Broadband in Saint Paul." (PDF) It is a bit dense at 63 pages, so here is the Pioneer Press's piece on the proposal.

Of course Qwest and Comcast, the only two broadband providers avaliable in the city, oppose the idea. Monopolies are always opposed to the idea.

The Cities argument is that right now, Qwest and Comcast control the entire game. If you have Comcast cable you get them defacto as your service provider. With Qwest's DSL at least you get to chose your service provider, but they will always be the underlying pipe that data goes through. What St Paul wants to do is lay a fiber network that private service providers will then use to provide internet access. I am all for it. Fiber is a far better investment in infrastructure than wireless (sorry Minneapolis) and is something that will not be pushed out of date quickly. Fiber is coming through the private sector in the east cost through Verison, but I have not heard of any one talking about it here and why would they? Qwest has their DSL game going and get to charge $50 a month for it. So does Comcast. Why spend the time to lay fiber when you have customers who can't leave?

So I say go for it! Where business fails government should be prepared step in. Especially when it is a visionary proposal like this.


dwatland said...

They did this in Windom, MN. Qwest bypassed them so they laid fiber cable and have lots of options, including their own phone and cable operations. Suddenly, after this decision, Qwest came knocking on doors in Windom. Here is some info on that:

christopher said...

The plan actually calls for the city to own the fiber network entirely. As you note, this solves the monopoly problem. Another issue with Qwest is that they are petitioning the FCC so they do not have to offer access to other DSL companies on their network at the same rates... which will mean Qwest is effectively the only company offering DSL.

I have been watching St. Paul closely and desperately hope this plan works (I also live in St. Paul). I just wrote a case study about the fiber network in Burlington, Vermont.

Chris Schommer said...

Thanks for visiting Christopher! I listened to you on future tense and read your article. Very interesting. How did you get involved in this issue?