While we've discussed repeatedly why WiFi might be the wrong technology
for municipal networks, that doesn't mean the idea of municipal networks is a bad thing. While there have been some reports claiming that municipal networks never work, they've generally been written by astroturfing groups
, who cherry pick their information, and often are flat out wrong. A number of the cases they cite as failures, turned out to actually be success stories
. In general, though, as with any bit of government intervention, there are plenty of ways for governments to screw things up, and they often do. However, if you set it up right, a muni-broadband offering can actually be a very, very good thing. The key is recognizing two things. First, there isn't a competitive market in most of these places. Second, that's often because of the natural monopoly issue. It's simply inefficient to have every new competitor rip up a city to place their own network infrastructure in the ground. As with the highway system, sometimes it just makes sense to work out a deal to get a single top-notch fiber network in the ground
and let everyone compete on it. You get true competition, which leads to better services, and you get much faster broadband.
While not many places have yet adopted this type of system, there is increasing evidence that (unlike many of the muni-WiFi efforts), muni-fiber efforts are turning out to be a big boost for local economies. We've already discussed how muni-fiber in Oregon helped bring Google to town
(and plenty of new jobs), and now Broadband Reports runs through a number of other examples
of muni-fiber installations boosting the local economy by attracting new companies and increasing jobs. While many of us are naturally averse to government involvement in things, it does seem like, when the market has failed to create competitive situations (sometimes because of dumb government involvement
that tilted the initial playing fields, it can help if a well thought-out plan creates the infrastructure that others can compete on.