After A Decade Of Waiting For Verizon, Town Builds Itself Gigabit Fiber For $75 Per Month

from techdirt

Like many broadband black holes, Western Massachusetts has spent years asking regional duopolies for broadband. Towns like Leverett, Mass. literally took to hanging signs around town begging Verizon to install even the slowest DSL. Of course Verizon not only refused to install Western Massachusetts, they froze deployment of effectively all FiOS fiber upgrades, leaving a large number of towns and cities (including Boston, Baltimore, Alexandria, Buffalo) without next-gen broadband — or in some cases broadband at all. 

But, unlike many areas, Western Massachusetts decided to do something about it. In 2012 Leverett voters approved borrowing $3.6 million — or roughly $1,900 per resident — to deliver fiber to 800 premises. The initiative would be part of the Massachusetts Broadband Institute’s MassBroadband 123 “middle mile” network, a stimulus-funded project that spent the last few years running 1,200 miles of fiber-optic network connecting 123 communties. That project feeds the town of Leverett’s new, community owned ISP LeverettNet, giving a town that once didn’t have DSL gigabit speeds for $75 a month:

More here.

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8 Responses to After A Decade Of Waiting For Verizon, Town Builds Itself Gigabit Fiber For $75 Per Month

  1. Spencer Ross January 18, 2016 at 5:15 pm #

    A broadband network is essential to a town or city’s economic development. This article describes the benefits that came from installing a gigabit fiber that provides residents a powerful connection for only $75 a month. The article also raises the question of whether or not a broadband municipality for consumers without access to satisfactory broadband networks is justified. The article also explains the struggles that other people are having with creating a similar broadband municipality in their town.

    Many towns in rural areas are not provided with a broadband network by telecommunication companies. Having access to some type of broadband network is absolutely necessary for local businesses as well as residents. Without this medium of information the residents of a town are at a disadvantage, in turn they will experience a halt in economic growth. Residents in such towns believe that a municipal fiber-optic cable supporting a gigabit network connection should be able to be run by a town and paid for by its residents. The cost per household of a gigabit network when it is provided by a town is slightly higher than the cost of the same network being provided by different telecommunication companies.

    After doing research on this issue I found many other towns where a municipal broadband network was a better option than the alternative. One specific place this occurs is Chattanooga, Tennessee, where they have installed a fiber that supports a gigabit network. Surprisingly enough, access to this network service costs residents only $70 a month. In this same town residents have the option of getting a 105 mbps connection for $115 a month from Comcast, or an 18 mbps connection for $61 a month from AT&T (http://www.publicintegrity.org). In case you aren’t familiar with how fast a gigabit network is in terms of megabytes per second, a gigabit network can theoretically process data at about 125 megabytes each second. If we crunch the numbers we can calculate how much you are paying for every megabyte of network capacity. Comcast’s plan costs $1.09 per megabyte, while AT&T’s costs $3.39. The Electric Power Board of Chattanooga offers a plan that costs only $0.59 per megabyte of network capacity. The municipal broadband network is clearly distinguished in terms of the bang for your buck. Not only is it the best priced for its network strength, but it also has the highest network strength capability than any telecommunications company in the area. You can find more statistics and information on broadband municipality networks by reading a detailed article on PublicIntegrity.org called “How big telecom smothers city-run broadband”.

    There has been much debate between Telecommunication companies and residents of the state whether or not network services should be allowed to be provided by the state. AT&T Chief Executive Officer Randall Stephenson said at a U.S. Senate hearing in June, 2015 that “The idea of private capital competing with taxpayer-provided capital just feels inconsistent to us with what a free-market system looks like” (publicintegrity.org). However, since there are many rural locations where telecommunication companies do not offer their services because of the lack of return on their investment, residents and companies agree that it is acceptable for a broadband network municipality to be introduced in those areas.

    “How big telecom smothers city-run broadband” – by Allan Holmes

    http://www.publicintegrity.org/2014/08/28/15404/how-big-telecom-smothers-city-run-broadband

  2. Bruce Knops January 20, 2016 at 11:49 am #

    What I enjoy about this article is that a community did not like something, so they went and did something about it rather than sitting there helplessly asking for help. I am sure that some people didn’t put much effort into making this seemingly small change, but I’m sure that many people dedicated many hours to making this system come to life. Now to my reading this article I thought big deal they don’t have internet, but that really is a big deal in today’s world. We have become so reliant on the internet and technology that I personally could not imagine living without it. It really boggles my mind that in this country, in 2016, that there are still that many people that are not even given the opportunity to use this revolutionary technology. Yes, of course there are bigger things in the world that may have greater significance than a couple hundred people in Massachusetts getting internet connection, but to those people it is a major disadvantage to not be given the access to such technology.
    Furthermore, I find it very discouraging that our government is trying to prevent communities from going out and getting their own internet access. If the people want to have access to the internet and the internet providers are not willing to provide service for them because they don’t see enough dollar signs, I believe that these communities have the right to provide the services that they are being refused for themselves. These providers are trying to monopolize the markets by getting these laws passed that are mentioned at the end of the article. And as for presidential candidate Marco Rubio speaking out against these public solutions, I wonder why he would be saying that. According to OpenSecrets.org, as of November 16th 2015, senator Rubio has received a total of $267,000 from Communications and electronics companies, making that the 5th highest contribution from any sector towards his presidential campaign (Opensecrets, https://www.opensecrets.org/politicians/industries.php?cycle=2016&cid=N00030612&type=I&newmem=N).
    These companies are not donating to any politician’s campaign because they like them as a politician and want them to do right by the country. These big businesses are making investments in these candidates, they aren’t donating. And like any investment they expect to see a return on that investment, typically in policy that would benefit their company or industry. This policy proposal is a perfect example of this type of corruption in our system. The government is taking away our right to create competition for these big businesses in the tele-communications industry. I do realize that Rubio is not the only candidate guilty of such actions and in fact every single candidate, with the exception of Donald Trump is taking money from outside businesses. This practice has just become part of the game, because no candidate can win without having money behind them to campaign with.
    The most frustrating part of this article to me is the denial of service from the internet providers. The providers are choosing not to serve these places because they are rural areas which would require a lot of material and labor to extend their lines to but there are not many residence there so they would not make much money from these areas. To me that is okay, if they don’t think they are going to make money and it’s not worth it fine, the providers don’t have to provide for these area. But, the government then decides in the future block the introduction of town or county run facilities that will provide for these areas. I understand that the providers are afraid that the government will take over the industry and could drive prices down, but if the providers are denying service, I believe that these people have the right to do something about it and create an alternative in this situation. While I understand the fear of government run services, I believe that everyone should be given equal access to the internet as it is such an important aspect of life today.

    Works Cited:

    “Sen. Marco Rubio.” Opensecrets RSS. OpenSecrets.org, 16 Nov. 2015. Web. 20 Jan. 2016. https://www.opensecrets.org/politicians/industries.php?cycle=2016&cid=N00030612&type=I&.newmem=N

  3. William Farlie January 23, 2016 at 11:46 pm #

    The situation as it stands with the United States’ internet service providers (ISPs from here on out) is one that is slimy at best and absolutely cutthroat at worst. To call the business practices of companies such as Verizon, AT&T, Optimum, etc. deplorable is giving them too much credit, but to call said business practices harmful to the country as a whole would be absolutely spot on – let me explain why.

    Starting at the most basic level and working our way up we will begin with the topic of customer service/customer satisfaction. In insurance law there is a term known as, “reasonable expectation doctrine”, which states, ” the reasonable expectations of applicants and intended beneficiaries will be honored” (source). To put it that in laymen’s terms the doctrine means that the provisions of a contract will be interpreted according to how a reasonable person (who is not trained in law) would expect, hence the name “reasonable expectation.” Now I will freely admit that I am certainly not a lawyer and have no legal training so this is as far as I’ll be going with the legality of reasonable expectation however the reason I brought it up was to have a frame of reference going forward.

    Borrowing from the idea of reasonable expectations, I believe that we as consumers have the right to reasonable expectations of service from companies, especially companies such as ISPs which provide a service. But unfortunately what Americans have been contending with as of late is nothing short of ridiculous. Over the past few years many ISPs, particularly the larger ones, have been jacking up their prices for the same exact service whilst their own backend costs are actually declining (http://techcrunch.com/2011/07/29/your-isp-is-screwing-you-as-your-service-costs-go-up-their-backbone-costs-go-down/).

    As a country we need to come together and break up these ISP monopolies for the betterment of our citizens.

  4. Andrew DeLaCruz January 25, 2016 at 11:38 am #

    The internet has become a huge part of our everyday lives. Whether it is for business, school, or shopping, or leisure activities, the internet provides a platform for it all. Broadband connection is essential to connecting people to the world around them. This leads individuals to learning and prospering further, creating a better economic environment. In this article we find that incumbent broadband providers are ignoring gaps, no matter how large or small, in their availability. This would mean that small towns such as Holyoke, Massachusetts are left without the internet connection provided by companies such as Verizon, AT&T, or Comcast.
    Like many other rural towns without broadband networks are doing, Holyoke, Massachusetts, has taken it upon themselves to provide broadband to the townspeople. by building a broadband municipality, it gives the people opportunity to stay connected and for local businesses to grow. Broadband connection is essential in these small towns for local advertisements, news, and information blast. Without this necessary medium of connection, the economic growth of the community would slow, leaving residences bound to higher cost around the community.
    In terms of affordability for the average consumer, Colombus Telephone Company(CTC), based out of Cherokee County, Kansas, has provided customers with low rates on a case-to-case basis. With the county located in a broadband network gap by major providers, they decided upon the building of a municipality broadband network that stretched throughout the county. The network connected the three main cities, Colombus, Galena, and Baxter Springs, alongside acquiring Parcom LLC, a leading provider of Verizon Fiber optics. Given that rates were up to 75% less than that offered by Verizon, CTC set forth an expansion effort to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. http://www.muninetworks.org/
    With such success seen from these local entities, The Community Broadband Act (https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/senate-bill/240 ), is a bill under review in congress that would prevent federal government from banning municipal broadband providers to local or commercial customers. This would provide any community the safety of right to provide themselves with the broadband connection offered from any incumbent provider, by their own town and at their own cost. By using the townspeople’s money, the tax incentive of running a municipal broadband network is enough to outweigh the out of pocket cost. This initiative would also enable more jobs in the community and would provide a less crowded broadband network for the people. This stir in the industry of Telecommunications could have outstanding economic impact. If these municipal broadband networks continue to grow in popularity and demand, they could create a needed competition with major telecommunication providers. However, with many major network companies not providing service to begin with in these rural areas, the municipal broadband networks may just suffice the rural need. Nonetheless, broadband connection is necessary to all communities and will add to economic growth, both micro and macro-economically.

  5. Stephanie Nwaiwu January 29, 2016 at 4:04 pm #

    Waiting around can be costly. There’s no fun in it either. When you are a small town, with few resources, something as simple as broadband, dial-up, etc can mean a lot. I take for granted every day the ability I have to hop on the internet whenever and wherever I want. I can do this because I live close to a major city, as well as the fact the city I live in is not rural and has relatively, many people in it. But for Leverett, Massachusetts, they had no sort of broadband internet connection at all. They asked Verizon to install ANY type of DSL in the town and in response, Verizon froze all FiOS upgrades, leaving many cities without broadband or upgraded broadband.

    Why would Verizon do this? While Leverett may not be a big city, they are customers none the less. This is a classic case of customer service. Although they might not be Verizon customers per se, they are still assets that could help Verizon on their quest to being the biggest provider in the United States. But then the question could also be asked, how much is it to install a FiOS or broadband connection? Maybe that is why, Verizon refused to install anything. The price of installing and maintaining a broadband connection in such a small city may outweigh the revenue received. The question can also be asked, why did Verizon terminate this relationship so sharply? Why did they not try and work with the citizens of the city and try and make something work?

    Leverett took things into their own hands and developed a way to create their own broadband network. Without the help of Verizon or another cable company, and with the approval of the whole town, they were able to bring broadband to their previously disconnected town. The town voted to use 3.6 million, or $1,900 from each resident. First off, this is great. Why can’t this type of democracy be seen in the government and all over America? Working together to address a problem. Also, not letting this be a roadblock and not giving up on having broadband is something the American government needs to take into consideration. Often we let the lack of this or the lack of that prevent us from moving forward, that has lead us into random strife, etc. After securing funds for this project, they appointed the Massachusetts Broadband Institute to run the MassBroadBand 123 “middle mile” network, which would run 1,200 miles of fiber optic to 123 communities. With their new broadband network they pay $75 a month for ne broadband speed.

  6. Breanna Ciberey February 2, 2016 at 5:49 pm #

    Being born and raised in a community where Verizon has been a household name and used by all of my family for a majority of my life, it is interesting to consider that there are towns nationwide that do not have the same ease of access to internet and phone as I do. What was surprising to me is has refused its services in such large towns like Boston and Baltimore. To me, that is confusing since one would think that they could generate a lot of revenue in these large of cities. With that said, it is very impressive that people have taken the initiative to bring DSL at an affordable price to the homes and businesses in Western Massachusetts. They have joined together to create a business that addresses a evident need in their community, allowing them to drop prices just above large companies in the market such as Google. This has proved to be a popular option for many residents in the area as they have had an 81% uptake rate.

    Another positive to the creation of this business in their community, is that this company is now lowering their prices, when its consumers are doing the opposite and many are raising prices. Since the state needed to take out an investment to create this service for residents, it had an impact on taxes, originally predicting a $300 a year increase. However, recently this original estimate of tax increase has been lowered, only raising taxes by $219 a year. This was interesting to read, especially because the company has decided to now pair their internet service with phone service as well. However, after careful interpretation of their financials, I assume that after an in depth analysis of their financials, they were able to eliminate costs or lower them accordingly, to allow the tax burden to not be as heavy on Massachusetts residents.

    This article to me was very inspiring to see a large group of people come together to address an issue at hand. Not only is this a positive story of showing the strength a community has when it works together, but it also can inspire rising entrepreneurs who have run into roadblocks recently, to show that although it may not easy to make a change, it sure is possible. Instead of sitting back and saying “Oh well! No broadband in our area!”, they decided to take a stand and make a change. Since companies like Verizon, refused to bring their services to their locations, they decided to make the services themselves.

  7. Greg Tibok February 7, 2016 at 11:56 pm #

    This article and what the folks of this small town in Western Massachusetts chose to do is a great reminder of just how far we have evolved in terms of broadband need and consumption over the past 10-20 years. Prior to it being the norm for residential customer to have such an insatiable desire to be connected to laptops, ipads, and smartphones a conversation such as this would not have even been taking place.

    Having started my career in telecom I can remember when speeds at the residential and business class where only about 5-10% percent of what is considered adequate now. Many businesses in the past may have been able to survive on DSL like speeds but now with ever changing programs and demands the “need for speed” continues to grow at such a rapid pace that many individuals can not even keep up.

    It Is really nice to see how a community even as small as Leverett banded together to not settle for failed promises by the primary telco providers and chose to take matter into their own hands. One of the issues though that was touched upon in the article is the fact in twenty states this would not even be allowed due to laws that have been established to prevent the exact same thing from happening. Many municipalities and pockets of our area in NJ suffer due to lack of build out by the LEC carrier Verizon and their failure to continue to build out fiber. I recently read an article in which 16 municipalities are filing petitions with the BPU against Verizon and their lack of build-out.

    http://www.nj.com/gloucester-county/index.ssf/2015/12/nj_officials_believe_theyll_prevail_in_verizon_bat.html

    What appears to be clear and apparent here is that in the near future if not now, before you buy your next house or before you choose where to set-up your new business, check what kind of broadband is available.

  8. Derrik J. February 9, 2016 at 8:03 pm #

    This article reminded me on a quote that was mentioned by Diana Ross which was “you can’t just sit there and wait for people to give you that golden dream. You’ve got to get out there and make it happen for yourself.” Although the establishment of an Internet broadband in Western Massachusetts seemed impossible to get done.

    With the lack of help from big major companies such as Verizon Fios, At&t, and Comcast the small town in 2012 decided on a approval of borrowing $3.6 million to deliver fiber to 800 different locations. At about $1,900 per resident this was very costly but knew what they wanted and went for it. This is a high priority for many because many of things are done through the Internet.
    Leverett tried to get outside sources to help with this task at hand and created what they wanted. Even though this might of been an financial disturbance too many in the future outcomes it will be worth it. I look at this small town and see a lot of perservance with putting up signs to attract the need they had for Internet.

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