How two cities brought fiber to the home when the carriers couldn't

Think government can't provide cheap, efficient, high-speed connectivity? Two very different locales show it can

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A New England town connects its residents and businesses to a state backbone
ISPs and carriers like population density, so as a town with a population of just about 2,000 in a rural area about 90 miles west of Boston, Leverett didn't qualify for their investment. As a result, Leverett has little in the way of high-speed Internet. Cellphone service is spotty, and even landline calls over Verizon's poorly maintained copper lines are low-quality, says Crawford.

Rather than wait for another carrier to step in, Leverett -- the kind of New England community that still has town meetings -- decided to act on its own.

The town funded LeverettNet, a FTTH network operated by the public Municipal Light Plant utility; MLP operates independently of Leverett's political infrastructure and is required by state law to charge subscribers no more than the cost of providing service. The town will contract with third parties to operate the network and handle billing.

The network will connect every household in Leverett, though individual homeowners don't have to subscribe if they don't want the service. The design and deployment cost is being covered by a $3.6 million municipal bond. Town Administrator Marjorie McGinnis tells me she expects the network to be operational by this time next year.

Fortunately for Leverett, it only needs to build the network within the town, to each house and business (what the industry calls the "last mile"). To access the Internet, it will connect to MassBroadband 123, a publicly funded "middle mile" fiber network recently built to connect towns (but not individual homes and businesses) in Massachusetts. It's worth noting that the "middle mile" was built with $40 million of state funding, plus another $45 million in federal money under the now-expired American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009 that Republicans hated so much.

The cost to users for 1Gbps connection -- including Internet access and phone service, state and local taxes, access fees, network operation fees, and maintenance fees -- is $61.30 per household per month. Or it would be; the town has decided to instead provide a variety of prices based on speed, some higher and some lower than the 1Gbps charge, rather than provide a single-tier service to all. Still, chances are that you pay $100 per month for the same set of services and fees -- and get a comparatively measly 3Mbps, 6Mbps, maybe 10Mbps.

You may think that government has no role in providing bandwidth, but look at what's happening in Stockholm and Leverett and think again.

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This article, "How two cities brought fiber to the home when the carriers couldn't," was originally published by InfoWorld.com. Read more of Bill Snyder's Tech's Bottom Line blog and follow the latest technology business developments at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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