Big carriers go political to kill local broadband

Major telcos are afraid that locally owned FTTH deployments will cut into their fat profits, so they seek to cripple competitors

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Big Cable is throwing money at local politicians to try to get the anti-municipal-broadband law passed, Mitchell tells me. The Kansas Cable Telecommunications Association (which includes Time Warner, Cox, Comcast, and Eagle) has given $60,000 in campaign contributions recently, and Cox by itself pitched in another $80,000 in 2012, says Mitchell, who works for the ILSR. AT&T contributed $120,000, although Ma Bell may not be working to pass the bill, he adds.

However, AT&T is fighting to stop the second phase of Google's FTTH deployment in Austin. To avoid the heavy expense of digging trenches to connect homes to the fiber network, Google would like to run the fiber over telephone poles. But AT&T, which owns about 20 percent of the poles, argues that because Google isn't a telecommunications company, it has no right to use telecommunications equipment, according to the Austin American-Statesman newspaper.

FTTH is already here
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about municipally owned fiber to the home deployments in Stockholm and Leverett, Mass. But you don't need to go to Sweden or western Massachusetts to see public FTTH in action.

According to the ILSR, there are already 89 communities in the United States with a publicly owned FTTH network reaching most of the population; 74 with publicly owned cable reaching most of the community; 180 communities with a public FTTH network reaching part of the city; and 40 communities in 13 states with a publicly owned network offering speeds of 1Gbps and higher.

A story in the New York Times this week gives an indication of how residents and businesses in Chattanooga, Tenn., are benefiting from that city's publicly owned fiber network. As the Times put it, "For less than $70 a month, consumers enjoy an ultra-high-speed fiber-optic connection that transfers data at one gigabit per second. That is 50 times the average speed for homes in the rest of the country, and just as rapid as service in Hong Kong, which has the fastest Internet in the world."

How much are you paying for your broadband service, and how fast is it? If you're like nearly everyone else in the country, the answer is obvious: You're paying more and getting less. If the carriers are so frightened by the development of public infrastructure, they might consider changing that equation. 

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