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Slowly but surely, city governments are realizing just how bad it can be for their residents when one TV provider has the exclusive right to provide cable TV services. In Spokane, Washington, Comcast is the exclusive provider for cable TV services
and believes that it should no longer have to follow federal price regulations.
Comcast filed a request with the FCC in November, requesting that it be released from rules capping the price of basic cable service in Spokane, Spokane Valley, Airway Heights, Liberty Lake and Millwood. Each of those cities gave Comcast a franchise allowing it to be the sole cable TV provider within city limits. But Spokane
(pdf) and Airway Heights
(pdf) officials have filed a formal petition opposing the request.
Federal law says that cable companies that serve at least 85 percent of customers in a franchise area who pay for either cable or satellite TV must abide by a set of rules affecting price and service.
Comcast’s filing argues satellite TV now makes up more than 15 percent in those four cities, so Comcast should no longer have follow federal rate rules. In Spokane, Comcast says 15.8 percent of paid TV subscribers are using satellite service; in Spokane Valley, that number is 20.3 percent.
The effort by the cable industry to pass legislating hamstringing local community broadband builds and voting rights is officially dead. The bill received significant national attention (something Cox blamed on misinformation
) in large part because it could have also hampered Google Fiber's expansion and operation.
The United States' largest community broadband effort is Utah's UTOPIA, which has been under assault by large incumbent ISPs like Qwest
(now CenturyLink) since before the first customer was even connected. UTOPIA has for much of a decade successfully fended off both these ISPs and a good deal of managerial incompetence on their own part, and is on the cusp of securing a significant cash boost
from an Australian investment firm.
The FCC today voted unanimously to begin conducting voluntary trials to ensure a relatively smooth and reasonable transition away from the PSTN and copper networks. The push for such trials began in earnest after Verizon refused to repair the DSL and copper POTS lines of hurricane Sandy victims, instead forcing them to instead use an inferior wireless-based product
known as VoiceLink, which doesn't work with alarm systems, has numerous glitches, and doesn't provide data connectivity.
New York State says they're shelling out around $14.5 million to help connect more rural segments of the state to broadband. According to a statement by Governor Cuomo
, the money will be doled out to nine different projects, who collectively will lay roughly 614 miles of new fiber, in turn assisting the delivery of broadband to an additional 29,000 households and 2,000 businesses. Most of the projects focus on the Southern Tier and North Country portion of the state. "As the State works to grow the Upstate economy, these nine projects will provide the support necessary to attract and retain businesses and help create jobs for the region," insists Cuomo's office.
According to Government Technology Review
, the city of Los Angeles is expected next year to launch a plan that would bring 1 Gbps speeds to every home, business and government building within city limits. The city has yet to select a vendor for the $3 billion to $5 billion fiber network build, which is part of a broader IT plan to modernize the city's infrastructure. The plan certainly won't be a big hit with Time Warner Cable, with whom the city has had a somewhat contentious relationship since their messy 2007 takeover of Adelphia
Despite best efforts by Charter Communications to scuttle the effort (including telling locals that a coax network is more reliable than fiber to the home
), 62 percent of Opelika, Alabama's 27,000 residents voted back in 2010 to build a fiber to the home network after being dissatisfied with the services offered by local incumbents.
This week the $42 million network (funded via revenue warrants and loans) is finally gearing up for operations. The Opelika city council has approved service rates
, which are now posted to the Opelika Power website
In addition to triple play bundles ranging from $100 to $155, the following broadband tiers are being offered:
•OPS Lite Essential - 10/5: $34.95
•OPS Lite Choice - 30/15: $44.95
•OPS Lite Ultra - 50/25: $64.95
•OPS Lite Speed - 100/50: $99.95
•OPS Lite Speed Plus - 300/300: $249.95
•OPS Lite Speed GIG - 1000/1000: $499.95
The city notes that any of their asymmetrical offerings will be made symmetrical if customers bundle the tier with additional services.
Google Fiber is pretty clearly having a positive impact on ISP
and municipal broadband pricing alike. On the heels of news that Utah's Utopia would start offering 1 Gbps fiber connections for $65
(down from $300), Chattanooga's EPB Fiber is offering a similar price drop.
Over the years several communities have gotten upset
about the AT&T VRAD cabinets required to deliver the company's U-Verse FTTN/VDSL service. In some areas, complaints involved anger of AT&T ignoring easement rights or childhood traffic dangers, while in other markets the complaints have been aesthetic or property-value driven.
Snubbed by Verizon FiOS and Google Fiber, last week I noted how the city of Baltimore had simply hired a consultant
to examine building the kind of broadband networks private industry has refused to. Curiously it's that hiring of a consultant (not the fact that nobody wants to upgrade Baltimore) that has angered Maryland Senator Catherine Pugh, who penned a rant in the Baltimore Sun
claiming that such a move is "destructive" because broadband there is already so damn good:
"Broadband is an extremely competitive market â” more so than it ever has been.
Baltimore has complained for years
about being one of the cities excluded from Verizon's FiOS builds (including Boston, Buffalo, Alexandria, and a slew of smaller northeast cities). The country also felt snubbed by Google Fiber, who has so far focused on outside of the Northeast. With nobody in the private sector willing to give the city next-generation speeds, the city is now taking things into their own hands
, and is hiring a consultant to explore expanding the city's fiber network to help improve competition and quality of service.
Despite quite a few bumps along the way, UTOPIA remains the nation's largest municipal fiber to the home open access network. One of the ISPs that service Utah residents on that network, XMission, has sent out a notice to UTOPIA subscribers informing them they'll be upgraded from symmetrical 50 Mbps speeds -- to symmetrical 100 Mbps speed -- at no additional cost. story continues..
As I've been discussing a lot lately
(because it's the most important issue facing the broadband sector right now), both AT&T and Verizon are in the process of gutting regulations that require they continue offering copper landlines -- and by proxy DSL -- to tens of millions of Americans. Both companies insist that they're simply interested in "modernizing regulations" and ushering us into an "all IP age." In reality, both companies simply want to exit the fixed-line market in areas they're unwilling to upgrade.
Last week we noted that Georgia lawmakers shot down
a law proposed by Windstream and AT&T that would have made it illegal
for a town to wire itself with broadband in a zip code if just one person in that area had 3 Mbps service. Consumer groups like Public Knowledge are of course cheering the defeat
. "The defeat of this bill shows that the state-level agenda pushed by AT&T, which manages to be both deregulatory (for AT&T) and regulatory (in passing laws preventing others from entering the market) at the same time, can be defeated when policymakers can see its consequences," says Public Knowledge's John Bergmayer. While the win is heartening, it's important to remember that carriers will try again; it took Time Warner Cable five years and four different bills to pass anti-community broadband laws in North Carolina
Georgia's absurd anti-community broadband bill
is of course only the latest in a decade long effort by incumbent ISPs to ban communities from wiring themselves -- even if the local operator refuses to. The Wall Street Journal
notes that with the recent passage of similar rules in North and South Carolina, 19 states now have laws in place -- all of them written by incumbent ISPs -- either banning or greatly hindering community broadband improvement efforts.
Municipal broadband provider Burlington Telecom is turning up the speeds significantly for users in select regions of Vermont. According to local ads being run by the company
, they're launching two new fast service tiers to their lineup starting December 1.
by iansltx 09:32AM Monday Sep 17 2012 story continues..
Chattanooga, Tennessee's power-utility-turned-FTTH-provider see (our user reviews
) a few days ago shook up their speeds, potentially in anticipation of Comcast bringing their own improved cable speeds (and Metro Ethernet To The Home...more on that in a later article) to the market. The upgrade, which roughly coincides with Hackanooga
, a hackathon centered on finding uses for gigabit FTTH speeds, is the second in EPB's history and puts EPB's speed-price ratio somewhere between Google Fiber and everyone else in the US.
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