Open Access Idaho Broadband Network Lets Customers Switch To A New ISP In Seconds

from the what-competition-actually-looks-like dept

In 2009, the FCC funded a Harvard study that concluded (pdf) that open access policies (letting multiple ISPs come in and compete over a central, core network) resulted in lower broadband prices and better service. Of course when the FCC released its flimsy, politically timid “National Broadband Plan” back in 2010, this realization (not to mention an honest accounting of the sector’s limited competition) was nowhere to be found. Since then, “open access” has become somewhat of a dirty word in telecom, and even companies like Google Fiber — which originally promised to adhere to the concept on its own network before quietly backpedaling — are eager to pretend the idea doesn’t exist.

That’s not the case for Ammon, Idaho however, where a small municipal broadband ISP is building a core broadband network that’s not only embracing open access, but is developing tools that will let customers easily switch between ISPs in seconds. Even different customers in the same home can select different ISPs depending on their needs:

“Residents will get a gateway provided by the city. When they hook it up and try to surf the Web, they will be taken to the portal where they can select an ISP?very much like using the Internet in a hotel. From that point, residents will scan the available Internet offers, purchase one, and get hooked up immediately. They could even buy two different Internet services, which might be useful for a family where a parent works at home and wants a single broadband line for a home office and a second broadband service for the rest of the home.”

While only a 12 home trial at the moment, the city of Ammon is beginning expansion to 200 homes, with plans to reach all 4,500 homes and apartment buildings in time. Like most municipal broadband networks, the Ammon network was forged in the wake of resident annoyance at apathetic area incumbents CenturyLink and Cable One. Also like most municipal broadband communities, Ammon is relatively conservative, once again putting to bed the useful ISP-backed myth that municipal broadband is a partisan, political issue:

“Ammon is “a very conservative community,” so creating a fiber network instead of relying solely on the private sector is not something city officials were about to do lightly, Mayor Dana Kirkham said in the video. But city officials soon figured out that they could do the initial project themselves for just $22,000 and that they could also bring Internet access to government buildings and businesses, improving the city’s ability to compete in a high-tech world in a fiscally responsible manner.”

Again though, open access in most areas of the country is treated like the bubonic plague. Why? Most large scale open access proposals often involve some form of local public/private partnership to ensure even coverage of what’s becoming a necessary utility to lower ROI areas. The end result is any ISP lobbyists’ worst nightmare: an informed, motivated public with the backing of local governments working together to improve broadband competition, instead of the current paradigm of regulatory capture resulting in government ignoring the public to maintain the duopoly status quo.

And while Ammon’s approach is unlikely to be adopted on any scale here in the States, it’s an interesting look at what could have been if the country wasn’t quite so beholden to telecom industry campaign contributions.

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Comments on “Open Access Idaho Broadband Network Lets Customers Switch To A New ISP In Seconds”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Ominous

Oh dear! It’s a race against the clock. Can our intrepid City Heroes reach all the homes in time? Tune in next week.

Nope, the way Karl said it was correct. They first start with 12, then 200, and then at some point in the future, they will get to all 4500. “In time” is some nebulous future point when all of the houses will be wired. They are just performing a little expectation management, “we’ll get to your house in time.” Whether that “in time” is tomorrow or sometime next century, remains to be seen.

NeghVar (profile) says:

South Korea

South Korea has used this concept for many years. This is why South Korea has constantly received the title of top broadband providing country in the world. The cable/fiber network is independently owned, operated, and maintained independent from service providers. A variety of ISP, offering different services, provide residents and businesses with a gateway to the network. This provides greater competition, lower prices, and better performance. A market which big teleco sees as a virus which must be destroyed at any cost.

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