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Minnesota Wants to be a Broadband Backwater
Thanks, CenturyLink!
by Karl Bode 12:30PM Wednesday Mar 07 2012
Over the last ten years, dozens of States have passed bills literally written by incumbent ISPs, banning or restricting the rights of local communities to wire themselves with broadband -- even if the local ISP won't. More recently such efforts have been just as obnoxious but more watered down, simply bogging communities down in rules and restrictions designed to "level the playing field" (read: make it impossible for them to succeed).

Not too coincidentally, most of the ISPs involved in passing these laws have lagged on next-generation upgrades (Time Warner Cable, AT&T, CenturyLink), while ISPs that have been heavily re-investing in their networks and last mile speeds (Comcast, Verizon) are no longer involved in these kinds of efforts.

Minnesota is the latest state that has decided to try and pass such a law, but they're not being subtle about it. HF 2695 is an outright ban on community broadband that strips communities in the state of their right to determine what's best for their own infrastructure. The Minnesota Cable Communications Association (MCCA) denies they're behind the bill:
quote:
MCCA is denying they are behind this bill. Given how blunt the bill is, I'm inclined to take them at their word. I would expect a bill by MCCA to be more strategic, refusing to admit they wanted to revoke all authority outright. Nonetheless, this bill is still a giant gift to the incumbent cable operators in the state. Much of Minnesota lacks access to next generation broadband networks -- the kind of networks needed for economic development and maintaining a high quality of life. Minnesota law already discourages communities from building their own next-generation networks but they still have the authority to choose.
That leaves CenturyLink, who has lobbied for similar bills in the Carolinas, as the likely lobbying culprit. Mediacom has also been busy trying to kill several public initiatives to improve broadband in the state, including a fiber to the home effort in Lake County. As is usually the case, opponents of government involvement proclaim these bills "level the playing field," when what they really are is protectionist regulation designed to keep markets uncompetitive, service slow, and prices unreasonably high.

The Ookla Net Index notes the average Minnesota Qwest (now CenturyLink) customer sees 6.63 Mbps. With so little competition that they aren't really being pressed to upgrade aging infrastructure or compete on price, there's little doubt why companies like CenturyLink or Mediacom don't want anybody (government, private industry, or otherwise) shaking up the status quo.

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zipjay

join:2003-03-11
South Williamson, KY

why...

why do we have mayors, city ordnance, etc again?
all that aside, what happens if they just do it anyway and make the service?

cdru
Go Colts
Premium,MVM
join:2003-05-14
Fort Wayne, IN
kudos:7

Re: why...

said by zipjay:

all that aside, what happens if they just do it anyway and make the service?

It says they can't use taxes or issue debt (bonds). It would face legal challenges if they tried to tax it from citizens as there will always be someone who doesn't want it. And no one would buy bonds that are legally questionable as there would be doubt as to if/when they would be paid back.

The only way that I could see that it could be done is if a city or town collected funds in advance, which isn't going to happen.
biochemistry
Premium
join:2003-05-09
92361

Re: why...

That's why you have the people vote on it. Lots of people don't want their taxes spent on stadiums and arenas yet simple majority votes make it happen anyway.
google2

join:2004-02-04
South Beloit, IL

Favre?

Why are you still using a pic of Favre for Minnesota news? Couldn't find a pic of Fran Tarkenton?

DC DSL
There's a reason I'm Command.
Premium
join:2000-07-30
Washington, DC
kudos:2

1 recommendation

Re: Favre?

said by google2:

Why are you still using a pic of Favre for Minnesota news? Couldn't find a pic of Fran Tarkenton?

Why not Mary Tyler Moore, playfully throwing her hat in the air? Or, more appropos to the cluelessness of Minnesota's legislators regarding broadband, a photo of Rose Nyland?
--
"Dance like the photo isn't being tagged; love like you've never been unfriended; and tweet like nobody is following."

rit56

join:2000-12-01
New York, NY

Re: Favre?

Harmon Killebrew!!!
25139889

join:2011-10-25
Toledo, OH

2 recommendations

Broke or not broke

Karl-

Would you rather see these towns become bankrupted and rittled with debt do to trying to run their own networks? That is what would happen and people on this website could careless. Because why? We want 1gig/1gig internet for FREE and its a RIGHT. Right? Oh of course.

Maybe you should write how these towns actually do end up not making anything; and the problems they face trying to get into the market. And how bonds paid for BY the TAX PAYERS actually foot these bills and that even some 90year old couple has to pay for the services.

Simba7
I Void Warranties

join:2003-03-24
Billings, MT

Re: Broke or not broke

Bullsh*t.

Maybe you should check into a small town called Powell, WY. They're doing quite well without issues and operates an impressive FTTP network.

Who says we need a gig to each house? Heck, most people would be happy just to have anything over 10mbps that is stable.
--
Bresnan 30M/5M | CenturyLink 5M/896K
MyWS[PnmIIX3@3.3G,8G RAM,500G+1.5T+2T HDDs,Win7]
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elefante72

join:2010-12-03
East Amherst, NY

Re: Broke or not broke

Well we need to clarify how an infrastructure bond is used as a debt instrument, just like at a big corporation and this is a bond where the full value is to be recouped by revenue (Internet service) NOT taxes. I watched a thingy on how some small town in Texas took out some huge bond to build a jail w/ no capacity need, because some consultant conned them into thinking otherwise..Bad investment. My town issued a $20m bond to build a new football stadium..Bad investment. I can go on on how tax money is squandered, and to build a utility --which this really is -- publically funded with an expectation of return for the taxpayers is a GOOD investment.

In the case of a muni bond they issue the debt instrument and sell it on the open market (I have LOTS of these because they are tax advantaged BTW) and there is a reasonable interest depending upon the risk level. I would say a cooperative has a reasonable risk profile. If the bond defaults the town rating takes a beating, however the taxpayers are not the ones hurting it is the PRIVATE investors who took the risk in the first place to fund the endeavor. So don't watch too much Michael Moore, he will twist the reality of how the world works.

Now do I believe a township can do it on their own, no... they will need to join w/ the local business community and COC interests to make this successful because in such a venture business customer need could be gauged up front and charged at a higher rate and on board. While they are at it, they could sprinkle in whitespace wifi for residents w/ say a roaming agreement for free around town with unlimited browsing. REINVIGORATE downtown, crappy idea huh?

So I sit back looking at my Verizon BILLS (FIOS/phones) lapping over $250/month and while I appreciate VZ investing in FTTP many are not nearly as lucky, and for rural america (look up REA) the citizens in the span of 3-4 years had middle america lit up in the form of community/regional electrical cooperatives, so just look at the past. If these corporate bills keep passing, maybe cooperatives are in order again. Look at Green Bay...

Now this same verizon has paywalls ALL over the place stopping my family from accessing their services seemlessly so they can monetize each and every nickel. It would be SO easy for a community to innovate because its already there today, the incumbents have no reason to and I live in a highly competitive area. BTW - This could also reinvigorate local news and media also, which say a big corporation could care less.

The level playing field is crap because these mega-corporations have serious tax advantages, federal government sponsored monopolies (spectrum auctions), and access to cheap capital to make the barrier of entry for a community/small business to even get started almost impossible. Oh you innovate, they will sue you.

Take a look at how VZ and T pay taxes and then you may see how the playing field IS NOT LEVEL.

So electricity in the 30's is fibre in 2012, and if you are not connected at 10Mbit without filtering you are in the dark ages.

kontos
xyzzy

join:2001-10-04
West Henrietta, NY
said by Simba7:

Bullsh*t.

Maybe you should check into a small town called Powell, WY. They're doing quite well without issues and operates an impressive FTTP network.

If it is such a slam-dunk easy way to make money, why don't you go issue some private debt and start digging?

Oh, wait -- you have to pay more interest on private bonds, don't you. Oh, don't forget about the sales tax on the supplies you buy, too. Did your Ditch Witch break? Maybe you could borrow one from the guys at the DPW for a couple of days. Gas is getting expensive now, too bad you can't get in on the county gasoline contract.

Simba7
I Void Warranties

join:2003-03-24
Billings, MT

Re: Broke or not broke

Where did I say it was? It's more of a benefit to the local community than an easy way to get rich.

Damn. Everyone really doesn't give a sh*t about the economy, huh?
biochemistry
Premium
join:2003-05-09
92361
Can I take a wild guess that where you live, there is more than dialup internet available?

notwired

@charter.com
Nobody said it would be 'free'. Is your municipal water and sewer free?
No, it was built with OMG NO TAXPAYER MONEY!!!! And it improved the quality of life in your municipality I'm sure. Same thing with broadband. Unless these Telecom/Cable behemoths are prodded they will be happy to give everyone 1.5 mbps "broadband" and continue to cash the checks they receive from their customers. If they would put as much effort into actually improving their networks as they do fighting these muni efforts, they wouldn't have to worry about the municipal competition at all.
kaila

join:2000-10-11
Lincolnshire, IL
Then maybe grandma needs to realize how much her grandkids will benefit. I'm guessing you are against community investment of any kind, right? If the preferred path of private development doesn't happen, then what?

Broadband has become a major way for communities to compete with their neighbors and beyond, and is part of what makes a city, village, etc, vibrant and attractive.

And there are major municipal broadband success's out there, including some that had to spend a lot of time, effort, $, battling sock-puppet org's, and resistive incumbents up front.
--
Jeff Howe
Jeff's Blog - »www.ostjournal.net
gorehound

join:2009-06-19
Portland, ME
Bullkrap !!!
These Bills are just an assault on US Citizens except for Rich Telecoms.They pay off their voices in Washington and the Consumer gets the shaft.

88615298
Premium
join:2004-07-28
West Tenness
said by 25139889:

Karl-

Would you rather see these towns become bankrupted and rittled with debt do to trying to run their own networks? That is what would happen and people on this website could careless. Because why? We want 1gig/1gig internet for FREE and its a RIGHT. Right? Oh of course.

Maybe you should write how these towns actually do end up not making anything; and the problems they face trying to get into the market. And how bonds paid for BY the TAX PAYERS actually foot these bills and that even some 90year old couple has to pay for the services.

Who said the internet would be FREE? Is you water FREE? Is your electricity FREE? Is your garbage pick up FREE? No.

As far as the 90 year olds. They will soon be dead so who cares. I'm sure their parents were against their taxes paying for that new fangled electricity and asphalt roads for them dang horseless carriages.

rawgerz
The hell was that?
Premium
join:2004-10-03
Grove City, PA

Re: Broke or not broke

Or the interstate system

cdru
Go Colts
Premium,MVM
join:2003-05-14
Fort Wayne, IN
kudos:7

1 recommendation

said by 25139889:

Would you rather see these towns become bankrupted and rittled with debt do to trying to run their own networks?

Isn't that for the town's citizens and leaders to decide the financial viability? Not someone at the state level who knows nothing of the details nor even would give them a chance to consider and/or vote?

That is what would happen and people on this website could careless. Because why? We want 1gig/1gig internet for FREE and its a RIGHT. Right? Oh of course.

There are numerous examples of cities that have successfully implemented systems. There are also that have failed. But again, you're not even giving the chance.

Maybe you should write how these towns actually do end up not making anything;

Nor should they. My town delivers our water and sewer service and is self supporting through rates and the issuing of bonds. The revenue that they raise should support the service but not make a profit. And it's as such.

Oddly enough, the city also has it's own power power plant that operated from the early 20th century until the mid 60s, originally started as there wasn't a commercial operator to supply power at the time. Indiana-Michigan Power (I&M), now part of AEP, later came in and decided to operate their distribution system side by side on many of the same poles. In the mid 70s, the city shut down their system and leased their power infrastructure to I&M for 35 years allowing I&M to use the infrastructure but had to maintain it all and the city owned any improvements, transformers, etc after paying original cost at the end of the lease. The city and AEP just recently concluded that lease and AEP outright purchasing the assets for about $40m.

The above is exactly how things should work. The needs of the area were not being served by a commercial entity. The city successfully stepped in an provided that service for years until the situation changed in which case the city providing the service was no longer needed and successfully leased and/or sold the assets allowing the city to profit and/or recoup their investment.

and the problems they face trying to get into the market.

What market? There is no market. That's why the cities are trying to develop the systems.

And how bonds paid for BY the TAX PAYERS actually foot these bills and that even some 90year old couple has to pay for the services.

That 90 year old couple if they own property pays for schools, but they don't have kids that attend them. They pay for parks, zoos, and green spaces, but don't walk around in them. They pay for roads and stoplights and street signs, but may not drive. They pay for long term community development, but will probably not live to see the effects of things currently being discussed.

And even if the a private company came in and wired up the town, ultimately it's everyone that pays one way or another in the end.
Kearnstd
Space Elf
Premium
join:2002-01-22
Mullica Hill, NJ
kudos:1

1 recommendation

Re: Broke or not broke

said by cdru:

Isn't that for the town's citizens and leaders to decide the financial viability? Not someone at the state level who knows nothing of the details nor even would give them a chance to consider and/or vote?

Sad thing is even with voting, the corps would still challenge it and tie it up on court because for some reason our legal system allows people with enough money to challenge the will of the citizens.
--
[65 Arcanist]Filan(High Elf) Zone: Broadband Reports
biochemistry
Premium
join:2003-05-09
92361
90 year old couples already are forced to pay for tons of services they don't want as are 25 year olds. Minnesota is forcing tons of people to pay for stadiums that a much smaller number of taxpayers will ever use.
themagicone

join:2003-08-13
Osseo, MN

I'm fine with my access but give me competitiveness.

I have access to fast enough and stable enough connection to be happy. But my problem is there is a serious lack of competition in my area. I'm right in a first ring suburb and I only have access to Comcast. Qwest/Century link don't serve my little area at all. Not to say their isn't any connections/fiber available. Most of the major trunk lines for the metro run 1 block from me and they are laying more every other week almost.
Tier1Fiber

join:2011-08-29
Los Angeles, CA

Re: I'm fine with my access but give me competitiveness.

What is your address? I can see if we service your area. We are a global Tier 1 fiber-optic ISP.
biochemistry
Premium
join:2003-05-09
92361
I'm trying to care about your plight, but there are millions of Americans like myself that can't get dsl or cable.

cdru
Go Colts
Premium,MVM
join:2003-05-14
Fort Wayne, IN
kudos:7

Schools too?

quote:
(b) Notwithstanding sections 123A.21, 123B.61 to 123B.63, 125B.26, and 475.58, subdivision 1, no school district or service cooperative may use state revenues, tax revenues raised within its jurisdiction, or issue debt to construct, acquire, own, or operate, in whole or in part, a system to deliver broadband service.
(c) For the purposes of this section, "broadband service" means a service that allows subscribers to access information from the Internet by means of a physical, terrestrial, nonmobile, or fixed wireless technology.

Wouldn't these clauses prevent public schools and universities from wiring their buildings in the future? Or wiring new buildings?

kontos
xyzzy

join:2001-10-04
West Henrietta, NY

Re: Schools too?

They can wire the buildings, but they can't offer the service to "subscribers." Sounds to me like they can provide access, they just can't charge for it.

cdru
Go Colts
Premium,MVM
join:2003-05-14
Fort Wayne, IN
kudos:7

Re: Schools too?

said by kontos:

They can wire the buildings, but they can't offer the service to "subscribers." Sounds to me like they can provide access, they just can't charge for it.

I don't know how wiring a building would not be considered part of "construct", "own", or "operate" in section (b). Section (c) makes no mention of monetary charges.

But going with your logic, a city could roll out all the infrastructure and pay for it with bonds, then lease the infrastructure to a co op or some other non-governmental agency. The city wouldn't be paying for or providing a broadband service any more then a telephone pole owner pays for or provides power or phone service.

Alternate loophole: find two localities of equal size that want broadband access. Each raises tax revenues but pays for the opposite municipality's bill. Tax revenues weren't raise within its jurisdiction, they were raised in another. Yeah I know, I'm reaching.

kontos
xyzzy

join:2001-10-04
West Henrietta, NY

Re: Schools too?

said by cdru:

said by kontos:

They can wire the buildings, but they can't offer the service to "subscribers." Sounds to me like they can provide access, they just can't charge for it.

I don't know how wiring a building would not be considered part of "construct", "own", or "operate" in section (b). Section (c) makes no mention of monetary charges.

Umm. I was focusing on the word SUBSCRIBERS. That would be an odd thing to call the teachers/students/staff at a school or university.

In your first scenario, I think the argument could be that the co-op could be called a subscriber (with re-sale rights) and run into problems.

cdru
Go Colts
Premium,MVM
join:2003-05-14
Fort Wayne, IN
kudos:7

Re: Schools too?

said by kontos:

Umm. I was focusing on the word SUBSCRIBERS. That would be an odd thing to call the teachers/students/staff at a school or university.

Both universities I went too had a technology fee that paid for internet, computer rooms, software, etc. I'd have to look around to see about my kids elementary school fee statement, but I thought I saw a similar fee there.

In your first scenario, I think the argument could be that the co-op could be called a subscriber (with re-sale rights) and run into problems.

The city wouldn't be providing the internet access. They would only be providing the means to shuffle bits around. It would be up to the co-op ISP to connect one end to the house, and another end to some upstream ISP. Think what telcos call dry loops.
Kearnstd
Space Elf
Premium
join:2002-01-22
Mullica Hill, NJ
kudos:1

Re: Schools too?

Slip fiber into road reconstruction efforts, if one is already digging the place up whats an extra hole really.
--
[65 Arcanist]Filan(High Elf) Zone: Broadband Reports

Dave651

@qwest.net

Freedom or Tyranny

I'm totally for community fiber if private entities can not provide the service. When the community is demanding more bandwidth at lower costs, why not community fiber? Monticello Minnesota did it so let freedom ring! Why would government cause their populace to be limited? I suggest people to approach their lawmakers about this situation and educate the dangers of local monopolies. Freedom or tyranny.

Sources: »arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news···-win.ars

»arstechnica.com/old/content/2008···care.ars
elray

join:2000-12-16
Santa Monica, CA

Re: Freedom or Tyranny

Thanks, I'll keep my freedom to choose how I spend my own money, not have the government tax me to subsidize my neighbor's broadband desires.

••••
Chubbysumo

join:2009-12-01
Superior, WI

Just emailed my rep

told him to get this bill killed. I also posted on some community action forums for MN, and hopefully will rouse the troops. This makes 2 attempts for this in the last 2 years, and this bill is outright stupid.
tmc8080

join:2004-04-24
Brooklyn, NY
Reviews:
·ooma
·Optimum Online
·Verizon FiOS

get mad, then MOVE!

there are reasons people live where they do..
the resources they have (or don't) have acces to including competitive broadband are staying or leaving factors for some people (not all, as a given) so, if your mad.. MOVE! when enough people leave the municipality that will light a fire under the community to make it a priority.

if I can take the stereotype thing a bit further.. if your black and you don't want to live the bigotted south, you move north... if you dont' want to live in these places, you have a choice, even if it costs $5 a gallon to get somewhere, at least you still can.
Os

join:2011-01-26
US
Reviews:
·Comcast

Big Government

Isn't it funny how the so-called "small government" crowd worried about the free market are the ones most angry about community fiber projects?

If these are such terrible projects, then why not give them every chance to fail? Wouldn't that prove that private investment works?

Don't let them fool you into thinking they care about a level playing field, they're corporate shills, nothing more, nothing less.

When you send them letters, ask how much money CenturyLink paid them.

cork1958
Cork
Premium
join:2000-02-26

Re: Big Government

said by Os:

Isn't it funny how the so-called "small government" crowd worried about the free market are the ones most angry about community fiber projects?

If these are such terrible projects, then why not give them every chance to fail? Wouldn't that prove that private investment works?

Don't let them fool you into thinking they care about a level playing field, they're corporate shills, nothing more, nothing less.

When you send them letters, ask how much money CenturyLink paid them.

"If these are such terrible projects, then why not give them every chance to fail? Wouldn't that prove that private investment works?"

I knew some one had to have the sense to say this!! Better add that if they were to fail, no part of the government is going to bail them out though.
--
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»www.mozilla.org/projects/seamonkey/

Kommie
Premium
join:2003-05-13
united state
kudos:3

Socialism

Community Broadband/Government Broadband is a form of Socialism. Americans are bread to fear socialism even if its for their own good.
Kearnstd
Space Elf
Premium
join:2002-01-22
Mullica Hill, NJ
kudos:1

Here is how to handle this..

make laws that state the already in place ISPs must be wired to be capable of FTTH or full DOCSIS3 speeds to 100% of the town at normal market prices to legally be allowed to challenge community broadband efforts.
--
[65 Arcanist]Filan(High Elf) Zone: Broadband Reports

IowaCowboy
Iowa native
Premium
join:2010-10-16
Springfield, MA
kudos:1
Reviews:
·Verizon Broadban..
·Comcast

An even better idea

An even better idea would be to include a sunset clause in such bills that would set deadlines for broadband deployment by private companies or the bill sunsets and cities are free to wire themselves.

Here in Massachusetts, we have a referendum process in which the people can gather signatures and if they gather enough signatures, can put the issue on the ballot and allow the citizens approve or veto a bill. This process cannot be used on state appropriations or anything that affects the power of the courts. Maine also has a similar referendum process.

Such bills would never survive a referendum in Maine or Massachusetts considering the political climate in those states.