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Geoff Daily

App-Rising.com covers the development and adoption of broadband applications, the deployment of and need for broadband networks, and the demands placed on policy to adapt to the revolutionary opportunities made possible by the Internet.

App-Rising.com is written by Geoff Daily, a DC-based technology journalist, broadband activist, marketing consultant, and Internet entrepreneur.

App-Rising.com is supported in part by AT&T;, however all views and opinions expressed herein are solely my own.

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June 19, 2008 10:02 AM

VidChat: Debating Municipal Broadband with Christopher Mitchell

I'm proud to introduce App-Rising.com's latest VidChat. This time I sat down with Christopher Mitchell, director of the Telecommunications as Commons project for the Institute for Local Self Reliance.

In this episode we dive into some of the challenges, misconceptions, and opportunities of municipal broadband, and in particular fiber. Watch on for what I hope you will find to be a fascinating discussion.

Now for the followup:

- Here's the website for the Institute.

- I highly recommend checking out this report Christopher wrote and released back in January about municipal fiber and wireless options. It provides a wealth of information.

- When Chris made the point that "owners make decisions" when it comes to network deployment, management, etc. I think he really hit on something important. However we decide to best pursue our fiber future, we can't forget that whoever owns the pipes controls the pipes.

- That said, when he commented on how cities have limited power to regulate these networks, I found myself somewhat torn. On the one hand this is certainly not a good thing when it comes to allowing communities to determine their own future and what's best for them. On the other, I know there are advantages to elevating some of the levers of government to the state and federal level as otherwise network operators will be forced to reinvent the wheel with each individual community, which isn't necessarily a bad thing unless it adds inefficiency into the system that slows down deployment and investment.

- When it comes to the size of the investment needed for fiber, I loved Chris's observation that the billion dollars that Minneapolis is putting into building a light rail system is probably enough money to wire the whole city. That's proof positive that it's not that we can't afford fiber, it's that we aren't willing to make it a priority.

- Another worthwhile observation Chris makes when questioned about government's ability to drive innovation moving forward is that if you have a full fiber network in place, innovation will happen.

- Love that he hit on the point that anyone who's convinced themselves that wireless is a long-term replacement for fiber is probably kidding themselves.

- It was interesting to hear his passion against what he sees as the misinformation being disseminated against muni-broadband. I will say, the general sense out there is that muni-broadband is an extremely risky venture that has led many communities to failure. And to be quite frank, there are more muni-builds I can think of that have some doubts about their success than there are those that jump out as unqualified successes. But even still I agree with Chris that the FTTH Council's numbers are startling. I think just about any network operator would kill for takerates above 50% within one to four years of deployment. So they obviously must be doing something right.

In the end, I'm still in the same position I was going into this call.

I worry about the expense, complexity, and ramifications of municipal broadband on the overall marketplace, especially as it relates to private operators.

But at the same time I don't see any way we're going to be able to wire the entire country with fiber without some involvement of government dollars.

And I can't see how we can stand in the way of any community willing to make the significant investment in upgrading their infrastructure and their future.

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Comments (2)

Wow, I really move around alot. Sorry for making folks seasick.

I find the concern about innovation interesting. We currently have a system that discourages innovation and is killing our ability to compete with other advanced nations. So some communities have stepped up to build state-of-the-art networks and we are concerned that somehow we will be worse off?

The only people who are worse off under this situation is the companies that are refusing to build the infrastructure we need and are instead milking their last-generation systems.

Posted by christopher mitchell on June 20, 2008 9:52 AM

We in Seattle see the future in fiber to the home with a complementary wireless component for mobility. Unfortunately, Seattle lacks the compettive market dynamics that would ultimately result in FTTP. We have therefore decided to wade into this space to see what can be done to hasten the arrival of FTTP to Seattle.
We see a future that is not just about triple play services. It has more to do with using the underlying connectivity of the network to create solutions for issues affecting our community. We want a platform for collaboration and experimentation.

Posted by Tony Perez on June 23, 2008 3:27 PM

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