This Iowa Town Is Building An Open Access Fiber Broadband Network. Google Fiber Is Its First Customer
from the open-access-ftw dept
West Des Moines, Iowa this week announced that it would be building a massive, open access fiber network. The city is one of roughly 750 towns and cities that, frustrated by high prices, limited competition, and patchy availability of US broadband, have decided to instead build their own networks. Well, assuming that AT&T and Comcast haven’t bribed your state officials to pass laws banning such efforts yet.
West Des Moines’ new network will be funded by taxable General Obligation bonds with low interest rates. It’s too early to note what kind of speeds and prices will be on offer, but the city’s announcement indicates that Google Fiber will be one of its first customers:
“We couldn?t be more pleased to work with an outstanding company like Google Fiber to help make this happen,? Gaer said. ?Now more than ever, reliable high-speed internet is critical. It?s amazing that in just four years, West Des Moines is well on its way to achieving the WDM 2036 Plan goal of finding an innovative way to provide access to broadband for all our residents and businesses.”
It’s semi-ironic given that before Google Fiber launched, Google insisted its own network would be open access — before immediately conducting a 180 on the decision. According to the Des Moines Register, Google Fiber would pay the city $2.25 per month for each household that connects to the network, up to a maximum of $4.5 million over 20 years. Construction of the network begins this fall, and is estimated to last around two and a half years. When completed, West Des Moines will have better broadband than many tech-centric areas like Seattle or Silicon Valley.
In 2009, the FCC funded a Harvard study that concluded (pdf) that open access broadband networks (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.
Such networks have driven notable broadband success in countries like Sweden. But here in America, both US political parties, awash in campaign cash from Comcast, AT&T, Verizon, and others, have spent decades ignoring this data to instead embrace a singular telecom policy: kissing AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast’s collective ass. The result: the US remains mediocre in nearly every broadband metric that matters, and probably spends more time and resources denying this factual reality than actually addressing the problem.
Community broadband isn’t some one size fits all panacea. But such options are a helpful niche solution that not only result in better connectivity, but drive incumbents to try a little bit harder, an alien concept in a country where regulatory capture and a lack of competition have been the norm for the better part of thirty years.
Instead of acknowledging this reality, telecom incumbents like AT&T, and the think tankers, lobbyists, regulators, lawmakers, consultants, and academics paid to love them, have spent years attempting to demonize community broadband, insisting such efforts are a guaranteed taxpayer boondoggle, an ominous threat to free speech, and a long list of other bullshit claims. Many of these same folks can’t even acknowledge that US broadband isn’t competitive, and most love ignoring the fact that these towns and cities wouldn’t be considering the option if the private sector hadn’t failed them, repeatedly.
There remains a rather singular solution to incumbent ISPs and their dollar per holler allies who falsely deem such efforts to be wasteful or unfair: start offering better, faster, cheaper service. If you’re unwilling to do that, get the fuck out of the way.