Tucows Hopes To Kickstart U.S. Broadband Competition One Town At A Time

from the baby-steps dept

Last month I noted how longtime domain registrar Tucows had decided to try and kick-start stagnant broadband competition by buying a small Virginia ISP by the name of Blue Ridge InternetWorks (BRI). Operating under the Ting brand name, the company said the goal was to bring a “shockingly human experience and fair, honest pricing” to a fixed-line residential broadband market all-too-often dominated by just one or two giant, apathetic players. Ting promised to offer 1 Gbps speeds at a sub-$100 price point, while at the same time promising to respect net neutrality.

Fast forward a month and Tucows/Ting have announced the company has struck another deal, this time to operate a municipal broadband network being built in Westminster, Maryland. Westminster began construction on the network last October with plans to serve roughly 9,000 homes and 500 businesses. I’ve confirmed with Ting that unlike many initiatives (including Google Fiber, who initially paid lip service to the idea then backtracked), this effort will be an open network, meaning additional ISPs will be able to come in and compete with Ting over the city owned-infrastructure.

In a blog post, Ting notes that like a growing number of U.S. communities, Westminster simply got tired of waiting for better services from a regional duopoly with no incentive to improve. Westminster City Council President put it this way:

“We want to blow this thing up, and we want disruptive services at disruptive pricing,” Robert Wack, Westminster’s city council president, told me. “We’ve got Comcast and its usual suite of services, Verizon DSL, with its patchy service areas, and dish and satellite services. Nobody is happy with any of it, and none of it has the capacity we need to take this city into the future.”

Again, if the the United States broadband market is going to evolve beyond stale monopolies and duopolies, it’s certainly not going to be a product of Congress or the incumbent ISPs politicians are beholden to — it’s going to have to happen from the roots up, a handful of towns at a time. Regardless of the small scale of such efforts, as we’ve seen with Google Fiber, these builds at least open up a dialogue about the lack of competitive options, and inspire cities to demand more than the slow, over-priced, and badly supported services we’ve grown accustomed to.

The first step in allowing that to happen is to start eliminating the miserable, protectionist laws written and lobbied for by incumbent ISPs in nearly two-dozen states nationwide. Under the pretense of concern for the taxpayer, ISPs like Comcast, AT&T, CenturyLink and Time Warner Cable have been allowed to write laws that either restrict or outright ban community broadband improvements (or in some cases even public/private partnerships), even in neighborhoods these companies refuse to upgrade. Ting joins Westminster as part of a slow-but-growing movement to stop whining and actually do something about it.

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Companies: ting, tucows

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Comments on “Tucows Hopes To Kickstart U.S. Broadband Competition One Town At A Time”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Love

I have had the same feelings about Tucows. Ting however is still awesome. Around a year ago I tried the Ting Cell Service. I can tell you there is a reason they are #1 on Consumer Reports’ list. It has been a pleasure (word not normally associated with cell service providers) and I hope they bring decent Internet to my town. There is one ISP choice here that used to be good, but they are now instituting caps with overage fees. I remember ISPs that did limits back in the dial-up days, none of them are still in business.

ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re: Re: Love

Ting however is still awesome.

I second this. They are awesome. Now if only they could get a network other than Sprint to reside on, they would be even more awesome. They have the best customer support team ever (they sit on the phone and work with you until the problem is fixed instead of tossing you back and forth like a volleyball in a volleyball game.

I use them for both Ting and Hover, and have had no problems with either (though I’d love to see them implement DNSSEC, but there always has to be something to hope for.) If they implemented 100mbps in my area at the same rate that my cable company is charging, I’d switch in a heartbeat (100mbps is twice what my current provider is providing for $80+/mo.) Sweeten the pot with 1 gbps at the same rate and I’d offer to help run the cable and have tea and cookies ready to go for the workers.

Anonymous Coward says:

Telcos have some major downgrading in profit due to the way they have treated their customers as cash cows. None have been particularly concerned over customer service and complaints being the only game in town.

Google fiber cities are discovering that suddenly big telcos can treat them different. Funny how it is restricted to just those cities they are willing to change for isn’t it?

Running around trying to find out how bad it is going to effect their income by polling residences door to door? I hope they drop every major telco as a reaction to these years of cash mining that have occurred.

It’s long overdue some competition to force these telcos into that uncomfortable place they are unfamiliar with. Long overdue.

Anonymous Coward says:

Am I the only one that despises Tucows, not so much by the company, but the damn registry resellers that they let in… You could also say this about a lot of others on the ICANN registry but one bad apple and all that. Thankfully, it’s in the books now to list exactly who is reselling, so hopefully that will limit the damage caused by others.

All props to giving everyone right of way to build out a network in their town. Maryland is very poorly serviced outside of the DC/Baltimore metro, so I’m happy to see some improvement in this area.

anjurk says:


So they are saying that comcast infrastructure is virtually non existent and that by removing restraints anyone can use that infrastructure to provide fairly priced and non discriminatory Internet to everyone.

If it is found that a third rate isp has better infrastructure in the country than the biggest comcast network surely comcast becomes a small player in the country and essentially their mantra that they are the biggest becomes a lie, well other than being the largest billing company with no network to support those that are paying for access/

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