& cplSiteName &

If Not Muni Networks, Then What?

Carol Wilson
7/28/2014
50%
50%

The latest round of municipal network battles has quickly escalated to the federal level, with FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler promising to challenge state laws prohibiting muni networks and Republicans in Congress trying to prevent his agency from interfering with state laws. (See Muni Utilities Take Gigabit Fight to FCC.)

This looks for the world like the latest chapter in what has been a decade-long battle between incumbent carriers and the cities, towns and rural areas they serve. But it's not.

A few things have changed since the first few rounds of the muni network wars.

First, many of these areas have seen what gigabit broadband services can do, courtesy of the broadband stimulus-funded buildouts, state projects, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) 's own gigabit challenge, Google Fiber Inc. and more. They've seen what EPB Fiber Optics of Chattanooga, Tenn., accomplished and they've also seen commercial service providers, led by AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), make gigabit promises as well. (See Chattanooga Rocks 1-Gig FTTH Service, Power Companies Promise Gigabit Broadband, Google Fiber Shifts Into High Gear).


For ongoing updates on Gigabit Cities and the municipal network debate, visit Light Reading's Broadband/FTTx content channel.


But for under-served communities, watching gigabit speeds reach places such as Austin, Tex. -- an area already flowing over with tech business -- is a little like watching the circus train pass through town but never stop.

The second significant change has been in the US economy, which continues to flounder somewhat, due largely to major long-term job trends that haven't yet been addressed. Communities that once counted on manufacturing, for instance, are still seeking similar well-paying jobs for those who aren't college educated. The pervasive availability of goods and services online, layered on top of the rise of massive chain stores, has made it hard to impossible for local retail to survive. Other industries –- publishing/printing, for example –- have been dramatically impacted by the rise of the Internet as well.

At the same time, the rise of cloud computing and data storage/analytics has prompted competition for data centers and other similar facilities. Financial services, healthcare, education, retail, and many more industries are dependent on the availability not just of high-speed data, but of gigabit speeds.

And finally, the technology itself and some of the painful experiences of the past have led to a smarter approach to building fiber-optic networks to support these gigabit speeds. The common argument a decade ago was that cities didn't know how to run networks, but the experiences in Chattanooga and Bristol, Va., among others, has laid that thinking to rest.

When Rep. Martha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) launched the amendment to a House bill to keep the FCC from challenging state laws against muni networks, she waged the expected argument that states' rights shouldn't be violated, but she also mentioned the "vibrant communications marketplace" that didn't need interference from the feds. (See The Municipal Menace?.)

I'm wondering if the communities seeking help from EPB or Wilson Energy's Greenlight in North Carolina consider themselves to be part of a "vibrant communications marketplace." If incumbents are going to continue working to handicap those that would build gigabit networks where they don't yet exist, they need to think about what their answers to those under-served communities will be.

The need for gigabit networks is only going to increase. Simply trying to stalemate municipal efforts isn't going to change that. I personally think that's why Wheeler sees the need to engage the FCC in this process. Whether that's the right approach –- or even if the Commission has that authority –- I don't know.

But waiting for incumbents to get around to upgrading ageing copper networks in many areas seems a strategy already doomed to failure. These companies exist to make money, and if they could have done that building gigabit networks in smaller cities and towns, it would have happened by now. So if not a muni-backed network, then what?

— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading

(14)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
Page 1 / 2   >   >>
mhhf1ve
50%
50%
mhhf1ve,
User Rank: Light Sabre
8/6/2014 | 6:53:37 PM
Wireless balloons will save us...
Muni builds haven't had a great track record so far, but that's not a prediction of how they might perform in the future. Still, it may be up to Google and Facebook to try to disrupt the telcom monopolies. Perhaps wireless broadband delivered by drones will actually become practical (if the FAA allows commercial use of drones..).
Mitch Wagner
50%
50%
Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
7/31/2014 | 3:31:50 PM
Blackburn
Great blog post, Carol. 

Marsha Blackburn has done the voters of her state a favor by announcing that she's a conservative in name only, and in fact she's bought and paid for by lobbyists. 
briandnewby
50%
50%
briandnewby,
User Rank: Light Sabre
7/30/2014 | 3:01:56 PM
Re: The Muni Trap
It's complicated, further, but the fact that pure wireless spectrum is an FCC thing.  I was on a city council 10 years ago looking at muni wi-fi, and cellular data service is much more affordable and common now.  Cutting the cord was a bit of a pipe dream then and now, from a phone perspective, it's very common.

There are taxation issues and city revenue impacts related to these changes as well.  Plus, on the cable side, constant disruption to citizens with road construction (even if paid by the vendor) takes an initial toll on citizen satisfaction and, quite likely, another toll on needed road repairs down the road.

All told, as nutty as it sounds, it's almost an area, really, municipal governments should exit.
kq4ym
50%
50%
kq4ym,
User Rank: Light Sabre
7/29/2014 | 1:26:56 PM
Re: The Muni Trap
Yep, it's going to be hard going to get both sides of the issue pulling for the best of both world's. State's right advocates don't want Federal involvement, but there's going to have to be some compromise made to get the ball rolling smoother than it has in past years. It's not going to be easy to do battle with the companies with well paid lobbyists on their sides.
mendyk
50%
50%
mendyk,
User Rank: Light Sabre
7/29/2014 | 9:36:23 AM
Re: Digital divide revisited
That's only because we focus on the really important issues, like telling people whom they can marry and how they manage their reproductive systems. Snide comment aside, it is hard to imagine telecom or broadband regulations being a deciding factor in any election. Still, when rules and regs are decrepit and corrupt, it usually doesn't take much collective effort to get them changed. But it does take effort.
brookseven
50%
50%
brookseven,
User Rank: Light Sabre
7/28/2014 | 8:06:03 PM
Re: Digital divide revisited
I wonder if the cities that it got into a mulit-city, multi-state JV that it would trigger the FCC.

seven

PS - Kbode...I think what we have seen so far is the first to fiber wins.  And you are right, once the fiber is in it is software to upgrade a lot of bandwidth.
fgoldstein
100%
0%
fgoldstein,
User Rank: Light Sabre
7/28/2014 | 6:49:45 PM
Re: The Muni Trap
Amen to Karl on multiple points.  The "gigabit" part is sizzle, not steak.  But if you have FTTH, the higher burst speed costs next to nothing.  On cable, DOCSIS 3.1 might give more downstream speed, but you can't get more than bupkis upstream (same as today) unless US sysems move to a higher split frequency.  This will never happen; the MSOs will move to fiber first (and they're in no hurry).

The muni question is tricky.  Some systems work; a well-planned and well-managed system can do okay if the incumbent competition isn't strong.  And that's where munis do best.  Overbuilds are hard to make work whether muni or not.  State laws to ban muni networks are utterly corrupt and terrible policy.  On the other hand I am not sure if the FCC or the feds in general have the authority to change it; wasn't there a previous case noting that a municipality is a creation of the state and thus its powers are only what the state gives it?

The real trouble with Tom's proposal is that it perpetates the fallacy that overbuiders are a substittue for common carriage at the physical layer.  The wire on the poles was pulled as a utility and should stay that way, available to any information service provider, not vertically integrated.  Powell's excuse was that "facilities-based competition" would do the job.  Except for a handful of munis and Google, that didn't happen, nor did the new technology he pretended would help (BPL, the equally plausible Roddenberry subspace communications, etc.) do the job. So rather than do his job, Tom's offering the false hope of muni overbuilds as the competitor to keep the incumbents in check. And he knows it won't.  I call his bluff.
KBode
100%
0%
KBode,
User Rank: Light Sabre
7/28/2014 | 6:18:03 PM
Re: The Muni Trap
I agree that the obsession over 1 Gbps is a little silly, but it's more an ideal -- and the discussion isn't really whether YOU (or anybody else) thinks city builds are a good idea, and it's more about letting states decide that for themselves. The other issue at play is the problem with letting entrenched duopolies write the nation's telecom laws. That can't just be run over and past while telling towns and cities what they should or shouldn't do.

Also keep in mind, when citing how many failures there are, that most of these efforts face lawsuits and endless public relations assaults immediately out of the gate by deep-pocketed companies. Not exactly the best way to launch oneself into a new initiative...
KC-Kiwi
50%
50%
KC-Kiwi,
User Rank: Light Beer
7/28/2014 | 6:16:47 PM
Re: The Muni Trap
Your statement regarding Google Fiber availability, "where "1Gig" systems are available (in a few select areas of Kansas City...", implies that there is tokenism or cherry picking in Google's offering. If you consult the information at fiber.google.com you will see that there are significant areas of Kansas City, MO (pop 464,310) and Kansas City KS (pop 147,268) that can get Google Fiber now. Deployment is ongoing in many other Kansas City metro areas, as detailed by the interactive map at the previously mentioned Google Fiber site.

 

I find that facts are compelling when presented in a.... well, factual way. Wouldn't you agree?
Carol Wilson
100%
0%
Carol Wilson,
User Rank: Blogger
7/28/2014 | 6:08:06 PM
Re: Digital divide revisited
Dennis,

Unfortunately, most of the state laws were passed with little fanfare and little voter awareness. 
Page 1 / 2   >   >>
More Blogs from Rewired
Don't worry, they say, the code will work it out. There's apparently nothing open source can't tackle.
Level 3 finds enterprise security managers who believe firewalls can save them are getting some nasty surprises.
At one moment in Denver this week, the three largest US operators were very agreeable to the idea of open sourcing APIs to make business easier.
AT&T's former security guru is taking his expertise to a much broader audience – and this time he's giving it away.
Security is a looming issue as IoT devices prove to be easily invaded, but is the broadband industry prepared to act?
Light Reading’s Upskill U is a FREE, interactive, online educational resource that delivers must-have education on themes that relate to the overall business transformation taking place in the communications industry.
NEXT COURSE
Friday, September 30, 1:00PM EDT
Gigabit & the Great Migration
Robert Howald, Vice President, Network Architecture, Comcast
UPCOMING COURSE SCHEDULE
Wednesday, October 5, 1:00PM EDT
Gigabit & Smart Cities
Joe Kochan, COO & Co-Founder, US Ignite
Friday, October 7, 1:00PM EDT
Gigabit & DOCSIS 3.1
Ty Pearman, Director, Access Architecture, Comcast
Wednesday, October 19, 1:00PM EDT
Securing a Virtual World
Rita Marty, Executive Director, Mobility and Cloud Security, Chief Security Office, AT&T
in association with:
From The Founder
Light Reading today starts a new voyage as part of a larger Enterprise.
Flash Poll
Live Streaming Video
Charting the CSP's Future
Six different communications service providers join to debate their visions of the future CSP, following a landmark presentation from AT&T on its massive virtualization efforts and a look back on where the telecom industry has been and where it's going from two industry veterans.
LRTV Custom TV
Flexible Deployment Approaches for the Gigabit Services Evolution

9|29|16   |     |   (0) comments


For many operators, the gigabit evolution begins with the shift from DOCSIS 3.0 to DOCSIS 3.1. But that move represents a change not only in the protocol itself, but in the approach to architecting their entire DOCSIS delivery chain -- from the headend to the outside plant and home gateway components.

Jonathan Ruff, senior director of global technical ...

LRTV Interviews
Level 3 VP: Enterprises Need More for Less

9|29|16   |   05:27   |   (0) comments


Andrew Dugan, Level 3 group vice president of global technology and IT, says enterprises need more bandwidth and they need it faster and with greater security, but they want to spend less, if possible. They are looking to carriers to reduce their network complexity and help protect them from cyberattacks as well.
LRTV Interviews
CenturyLink: SDN/NFV Pose New Interconnection Possibilities

9|28|16   |   04:37   |   (0) comments


Network operators should develop new APIs and business processes for reselling virtual assets to each other, says CenturyLink's Bill Walker. That will enable them to build digital business portfolios that help them avoid becoming commodity transport providers.
LRTV Interviews
Level 3: Overcoming Terror of Being Supplier, Integrator & Developer

9|28|16   |     |   (0) comments


At Light Reading's NFV & Carrier SDN event in Denver, Travis Ewert of Level 3 Communications said there is terror in becoming supplier, integrator and developer, but it can be overcome and be cost effective.
LRTV Custom TV
Introducing IoT World News

9|27|16   |   01:43   |   (0) comments


Self-driving cars, medical sensors, smart cities... and refrigerators. In order to address the huge scope of IoT, KNect365 has created a unique online community that will help businesses to understand and monetize the opportunities that live within the IoT market. We look forward to welcoming you to IoT World News -- your gateway to a better connected future.
LRTV Interviews
AT&T: Reusable Functions Next NFV Key

9|27|16   |   06:03   |   (0) comments


The next generation of NFV has to break functions down into reusable software chunks, making everything much more cloud-like.
LRTV Interviews
Masergy on Security: Attackers Gaining Upper Hand

9|27|16   |   5:10   |   (2) comments


At Light Reading's NFV & Carrier SDN event in Denver, Ray Watson, vice president of Global Technology at Masergy, says that because of the growth in virtualization, the threat landscape is shifting in favor of the attackers. As a result, service providers need to think beyond just defending the perimeter and take a more holistic approach to security.
LRTV Interviews
Verizon Takes Next Step on Biz Virtualization Journey

9|26|16   |   4:38   |   (2) comments


At September's NFV & Carrier SDN event in Denver, Light Reading sat down with Victoria Lonker, director of Product and New Business Innovation at Verizon, to chat about where the carrier is with delivering virtualized services to business customers.
LRTV Interviews
Global Services: The $40B Face-Off

9|26|16   |   05:53   |   (1) comment


More service providers than ever before are battling it out to win a slice of what is now a $40 billion global communications services pie, explains Ovum Principal Analyst David Molony.
LRTV Documentaries
MEC Congress: The Key Takeaways

9|22|16   |   03:25   |   (3) comments


Three key takeaways from the Mobile Edge Computing (MEC) Congress in Munich, Germany.
Wagner’s Ring
Time to Shut Up About 'Dumb Pipes'

9|22|16   |     |   (19) comments


Service providers can't compete with OTT players. It just isn't in their DNA. Instead, service providers need to embrace what they're good at -- providing reliable, secure connectivity.
Wagner’s Ring
Keeping Your Tech Career Going After 50

9|21|16   |     |   (13) comments


How do you keep your career moving forward when you're past the half-century mark?
Upcoming Live Events
November 3, 2016, The Montcalm Marble Arch, London
November 30, 2016, The Westin Times Square, New York City
December 1, 2016, The Westin Times Square, New York, NY
December 6-8, 2016, The Westin Excelsior, Rome
May 16-17, 2017, Austin Convention Center, Austin, TX
All Upcoming Live Events
Infographics
Hot Topics
WiCipedia: The Women Helping Women Edition
Eryn Leavens, Special Features & Copy Editor, 9/23/2016
Eurobites: Telefónica Taps Juniper for Network Security
Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, 9/26/2016
Open Source Getting on My Nerves
Carol Wilson, Editor-at-large, 9/26/2016
Powell Kills the Cable Show
Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 9/29/2016
Telstra Sees Quadrupled Data Capacity by 2020
Carol Wilson, Editor-at-large, 9/28/2016
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
Light Reading CEO Steve Saunders and UXP Systems CEO Gemini Waghmare discuss the strategic importance of digital identity for operators in the midst of transformation.
Join us for an in-depth interview between Steve Saunders of Light Reading and Alexis Black Bjorlin of Intel as they discuss the release of the company's Silicon Photonics platform, its performance, long-term prospects, customer expectations and much more.
Animals with Phones
There's Nothing Like Missing a Full Minute of Pokémon Go Click Here
Live Digital Audio

A vital part of increasing the number of women in comms is transforming the ways companies can support and empower women. While progressive company policies that support both men and women in achieving work-life balance are a step in the right direction, creating a company culture that supports those policies can at times be more challenging.

During this show, we'll talk to Lynn Comp, Senior Director of Industry and Sales Enabling (ISE) in the Network Platforms Group at Intel, about why those challenges exist and how companies can overcome them. She'll provide insight into how Intel has worked to create a culture that supports work-life balance, and provide steps and guidance for other companies wishing to do the same. We will also leave plenty of time to get your questions answered live on the air.