Community Broadband Bits 7 - Mary Beth Henry of Portland, Oregon

For the 7th Community Broadband Bits podcast, we talk with Mary Beth Henry from Portland, Oregon. Mary Beth is the Director of the Portland Office for Community Technology and Mt Hood Cable Regulatory Commission, as well as a past president of NATOA.

Our discussion covers the long struggle to ensure local businesses and residents had a real choice in broadband providers in Portland. We start with how the famous "Brand X" Supreme Court decision came into being. But after Portland lost that case (indeed, after all of America lost due to that decision) it continued to push for smart telecommunications policies to benefit the community.

Now Portland has its own network serving public entities (IRNE - the Integrated Regional Network Enterprise) and the public is discussing what it can do to get beyond the CenturyLink and Comcast duopoly. Below, we have embedded videos that Portland produced as part or Portland's Broadband Strategic Plan. You can find more documents and information about Portland's approach here.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show - please e-mail us or leave a comment below. Also, feel free to suggest other guests, topics, or questions you want us to address.

This show is 18 minutes long and can be played below on this page or subscribe via iTunes or via the tool of your choice using this feed. Search for us in iTunes and leave a positive comment!

Listen to previous episodes here.

Thanks to Fit and the Conniptions for the music, licensed using Creative Commons.

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Public Service Commissioner Calls Mississippi Gov "Coin-Operated"

We have watched in growing horror as AT&T and other telco lobbyists have gone from state to state gutting telecommunications oversight. In several states, you no longer have an absolute right to a telephone - the companies can refuse to serve you if they so choose.

We tip our hat to Phil Dampier at Stop the Cap, who alerted us to this story. AT&T convinced Mississippi legislators to remove consumer protections for telecommunications.

Northern District Mississippi Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley is unhappy with a new state law that will strip oversight over AT&T. Presley plans to personally file suit in Hinds County Circuit Court against the law, calling it unconstitutional.

“It violates the state constitution,” Presley said of the bill during an interview with the Daily Journal. “There’s no doubt AT&T is the biggest in the state, and this bill will allow them to raise rates without any oversight at all.”

House Bill 825 strips away rate regulation of Mississippi landline service and removes the oversight powers the PSC formerly had to request financial data and statistics dealing with service outages and consumer complaints. The law also permits AT&T to abandon rural Mississippi landline customers at will.

As we've seen elsewhere (as in California), AT&T worked with ALEC to push this through - though Rep Beckett (R-Bruce) doesn't think AT&T will raise its rates or abandon parts of the state. Time will tell - but Beckett won't be the one to suffer when the inevitable occurs. Thanks to AT&T and ALEC, he already got his.

Why "Who Invented the Internet" Matters

For those who missed it, a Wall Street Journal op-ed ignited a geektroversy by claiming the federal government did not invent the Internet. First, some history. Then an explanation of why we should care.

A guy named Crovitz kicked off the fight with his poorly researched op-ed:

It's an urban legend that the government launched the Internet. The myth is that the Pentagon created the Internet to keep its communications lines up even in a nuclear strike.

Well, he was right about the nuclear strike bit. But the federal government played several important roles in the creation of the Internet, which truly was created by the efforts of many people, companies, and institutions.

As evidence for his argument, Crovitz cites Dealers of Lightning by Michael Hiltzik. Unfortunately, Hiltzik disputed Crovitz's understanding of it:

And while I'm gratified in a sense that he cites my book about Xerox PARC, "Dealers of Lightning," to support his case, it's my duty to point out that he's wrong. My book bolsters, not contradicts, the argument that the Internet had its roots in the ARPANet, a government project.

...

But Crovitz confuses AN internet with THE Internet. Taylor was citing a technical definition of "internet" in his statement. But I know Bob Taylor, Bob Taylor is a friend of mine, and I think I can say without fear of contradiction that he fully endorses the idea as a point of personal pride that the government-funded ARPANet was very much the precursor of the Internet as we know it today. Nor was ARPA's support "modest," as Crovitz contends. It was full-throated and total. Bob Taylor was the single most important figure in the history of the Internet, and he holds that stature because of his government role.

CNET talked to Vint Cerf about the Crovitz claims. In reaction to a Crovitz claim that the government didn't understand the value of TCP/IP but the private sector did, Vint said:

I would happily fertilize my tomatoes with Crovitz' assertion.

Nicely done. Vint discussed another way the federal government aided in developing the Internet via the National Science Foundation:

NSF Logo

The NSF got very involved in 1985 and this led to the design and implementation and subsequent expansion of the NSFNET that became a major backbone for academic access to the Internet. NSF also sponsored more than a dozen intermediate level regional networks. By 1986, router companies such as Cisco and Proteon were selling to academia and the military and to USG-sponsored networking users. By 1989, three commercial Internet service providers were in operation: UUNET, PSINET, and CERFNET.

Let's move into the Why This Matters portion of the story. Michael Moyer at Scientific American writes:

In truth, no private company would have been capable of developing a project like the Internet, which required years of R&D efforts spread out over scores of far-flung agencies, and which began to take off only after decades of investment. Visionary infrastructure projects such as this are part of what has allowed our economy to grow so much in the past century. Today’s op-ed is just one sad indicator of how we seem to be losing our appetite for this kind of ambition.

At the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, we strongly believe in both a robust private sector and a strong public sector. They should balance each other. The Internet came about as a result of innovations in the private sector as well as a variety of programs that were only possible due to the public sector (government and educational institutions).

But the Wall Street Journal editorial page and a variety of other anti-government groups prefer to pretend that everything good comes from the private sector and the public sector does nothing but provide anecdotes about mismanagement.

And because a few massive corporations stand to gain greatly from this faulty perception, there is an unending stream of dubious assertions that minimize the important role of the public sector while over-emphasizing benefits from large corporations. Crovitz will not lose any popularity despite this prominent error-filled commentary. His kind never do. (Check out the Inside Job documentary for an explanation of how the big banks achieved similar ends by corrupting economics departments at prominent universities.)

Inside Job cover

The cable and telco lobbyists in state houses around the country say whatever they want because they don't have to worry about credibility. They get their power from living in the capital and making campaign contributions. There is no analog for the rest of us; Comcast's subscribers have no lobby working for them. Indeed, the public sector is supposed to represent our interests but state public utility commissions and the Federal Communications Commission are unfortuately subject to "regulatory capture," where they begin seeing their mission as helping the corporations rather than the public.

So why does it matter who invented the Internet? Because if we allow big corporations to write the history, we won't get the next big innovation. Big corporations abhor risk (almost as much as they hate competition - which is wasteful overinvestment according to Wall Street).

America works best with a balance between the public and the private. But that balance has been disrupted -- as is obvious when one considers that 19 states have limited or revoked local authority to build essential infrastructure, even as the private sector has failed to do it.

Our history is important and it is beyond time we started learning from it. Electrification, which relied on local governments, cooperatives, and private sector companies, would be a good start.

Update: Read this excellent explanation of how the Internet was invented.

Television Ad Revenue for Small Networks

When communities are trying to figure out how to pay for networks, they sometimes fail to explore some logical places. A recent article on Telecompetitor gives us an estimate for revenues from inserting ads in cable television programming.

Before the economic downturn, a typical small video service provider could expect between $1.25 and $2.00 a month per subscriber in ad revenues, noted Walter P. Staniszewski, president of Prime Media Productions – a company that sells advertising for small video service provider clients. Since the downturn, the numbers are more like $1.00 to $1.50.

The article focuses on the windfall cable operators are seeing due to all the money being spent by big-money interests in anticipation of the election in November.

However, the smallest networks may not want to commit to ad-insertion until they are reaching thousands of homes, according to the Telecompetitor source:

“If you study the cable industry, even the big guys didn’t have their own sales force until they developed some real scale,” said Staniszewski. He cautioned operators with systems with fewer than 5,000 or 6,000 subscribers against hiring their own sales force.

Utah State Auditor Reviews UTOPIA, Ignores State Role in Handicapping Network

Just this week, the Office of the Legislative Auditor General of the State of Utah released a report to the Utah Legislature on UTOPIA. The report, titled A Performance Audit of the Utah Telecommunications Open Infrastructure Agency rehashes prior criticisms of UTOPIA and tells the abridged story of the Auditor's understanding of UTOPIA's financial troubles.

While one can accept the report as truthful, it certainly is not comprehensive. Jesse Harris, of FreeUTOPIA notes that leaving out certain pieces of information taint the presumed impartiality of the report. From Jesse:

The Legislative Auditor General has published an audit of UTOPIA, and, as expected, it drags a fair amount of ancient history back into the spotlight.  The report concludes that additional accountability will alleviate the problems that UTOPIA has experienced, but it missed the mark on a number of points.

The Audit Scope and Objectives are spelled out in the beginning as:

Members of the Utah Legislature asked for an audit of UTOPIA so residents of UTOPIA member cities might know how the organization has used its funds. Legislators also asked for a review the organization’s general management practices. To address their concerns, we developed an audit plan to review the following areas:

  • The size and use of UTOPIA’s debt financing
  • The causes leading to UTOPIA’s current financial 
condition
  • UTOPIA’s management and board governance practices

While there are many bar graphs, pie charts, and dollar signs in the report and it seems to meet the scope and objectives, financial information alone does not explain UTOPIA's troubles. The first place to look is close to home.

From the beginning, UTOPIA has had to overcome difficult odds in a hostile legislative environment. As we note on our Community Broadband Map, the State of Utah effectively requires that community networks function as wholesale-only. The mandate puts them at a significant financial disadvantage from the beginning, severely limiting the amount of revenue they can collect early in the life of the network.

Another state law prevents community networks from bonding for more than 50% of the cost of the network. The only choice, thanks to the Utah Legislature, was to plan on using revenue from the early phase to complete further expansion of the network. The 50% rule, combined with the wholesale-only requirement prevents the robust expansion needed to breath life into a new network. Auditor staff failed to examine the effects of these two laws taken together.

The auditors gloss over efforts by the incumbents to deliberately disrupt UTOPIA. For instance, Qwest dedicated its significant might to preventing UTOPIA to access poles that it had a right to use. From the audit:

After eighteen months, UTOPIA and Qwest finally resolved their dispute over access rights. By that time, however, UTOPIA staff report that the agency’s construction contractors had moved on to other locations and the financial resources had been committed elsewhere. As a result, the financing was no longer available to complete the partially built neighborhoods. The result is a patchwork of service with some neighborhoods receiving services and with other, adjacent neighborhoods without service. 

UTOPIA Logo

It should read, "Qwest was able to delay UTOPIA's rollout by 18 months by forcing an unnecessary court proceeding. During that time, UTOPIA had little choice but to strand some of its investment and move on to areas where Qwest could not use legal tactics delay UTOPIA." The audit uses neutral language to avoid the important question of why they had a dispute to resolve -- it was because Qwest was using dirty tricks to bleed UTOPIA dry. And it worked.

There is no separation between pre-2008 and present UTOPIA. There are many examples of what hindsight can label as bad management decisions, but not enough examples of the implemented fixes. The report casually mentions a few - "stranded assets" being recovered and connected and efforts to better market the service to increase subscription rates. The Auditor could have and should have included more instances of remedial management action to give an up-to-date picture for the state legislature.

The Auditor's four recommendations revolve around management policy, practice, and greater accountability. Accountbility is always a good thing, but adopting those recommendations may or may not improve UTOPIA's financial health.

The report should have also included a recommendation to the Utah State Legislature - to remove state barriers and let local communities decide for themselves if they need, want, and can invest in broadband. Perhaps if UTOPIA was not restricted from day one, this report would not exist today.

In all, the report only considers part of the reasons for UTOPIA's struggles. There is no balancing discussion of the benefits UTOPIA has brought to its communities in return for the public money they have had to spend on the network. Those connected to the network have access to some of the fastest connections in the nation at very competitive prices. Residents and businesses can choose among more providers than literally 99% of America

None of this excuses the prior management of UTOPIA, which indeed made many mistakes. But to focus only on those mistakes only explains a piece of how UTOPIA arrived in such a deep financial hole.

Mediacom Continues Obstructing Rural Broadband Rollout in Lake County Minnesota

Of all the broadband stimulus projects, the Lake County FTTH network in Minnesota has been one of the most embattled in the nation (possibly only behind AT&T's attacks on South Carolina projects).

Mediacom has pulled out all the stops, including filing complaints with the Inspector General that included dubious allegations at best and then complaining after the Inspector General investigated and found nothing worth following up on.

What we have here is a company that wants to block a project that will deliver essential infrastructure to thousands of people who are presently lacking access. Why? Because part of that project will overlap with an outdated and overpriced Mediacom cable network that prefers its subscribers to have no choice in providers.

Recall that this is a part of the nation where a single fiber cut previously cut off all communications for 12 hours. Police could not run plates, no business could call outside the North Shore or run credit cards, ATMs were useless, 9-11 ceased functioning, and US Customs and Border Protection needed to use Canadian communications.

Minnesota Public Radio ran a solid article that explained the need for real broadband up there. It starts by talking about a local business, Granite Gear, that has suffered from the lack of proper access. (The rest of the quotes in this article come from that article.)

"The upload speeds that we have available to us here, are such that our art director frequently comes in at night and does that, when no one else is tying up the Internet bandwidth," Johnson said.

To help businesses like Granite Gear and solve the internet woes of northeast Minnesota residents, Lake County began stringing fiber Tuesday in Two Harbors, which is on Lake Superior's North Shore.

Granite Gear Logo

It is worth remembering that the FCC and others consider companies like Granite Gear to be served. Local and federal policymakers have largely failed to recognize the importance of fast, affordable, and reliable access to the Internet. Instead, they pretend that DSL or a cable network is sufficient.

But Mediacom is claiming that the presence of a modern network will kill its business (which I doubt).

Larson said the project can't succeed without taking the majority of Mediacom's customers.

...

Larson said Mediacom has invested a lot of money in its network in Lake County, but didn't cite a specific figure. He also said the company is planning to launch a newer, much faster cable Internet service.

But Lake County Commissioner Paul Bergman said Mediacom has not improved or expanded its service, and could have itself applied for stimulus funds.

Sure, Mediacom has invested a lot of money to build its network. And it has taken far more money out of the community by taking advantage of its monopoly (because so few companies want to overbuild in rural areas, not because of any government grant of authority).

The important policy question is how society should balance the interests of Mediacom on one side, and the interests an entire county of residents and businesses (plus part of a neighboring county) on the other side. Not only is this a matter of essential infrastructure, Mediacom had plenty of opportunities to apply for funds itself or to work with the local government.

It didn't. Mediacom has neither the interest nor the capacity to build a next-generation network for the community. And in reading the article, the only voice of opposition to this rural investment is from Mediacom. Everything we have seen suggests overwhelming support from local businesses and residents.

"One of the things that I hear at class reunions is 'I'd love to move back home if I had a job,' " Bergman said. "Well here we bring in a whole new avenue where people, their headquarters might be in Minneapolis or Hong Kong, they could still work out of their house on a shore of a lake here in Lake County."

Even without Mediacom fighting it every step of the way, Lake County would have a tough road. It is frustrating to watch Mediacom use its significant power to make it even harder to build essential infrastructure in rural America.

Longmont Fiber Ring Set for Expansion, Local Service

Over the past few years, we provided continuing coverage as Longmont, Colorado, considered, and eventually approved, a referendum (two actually) to authorize the municipality to offer broadband services to local businesses and residents. The City installed the fiber as part of its electricity utility infrastructure long ago but Qwest then pushed a law through the state legislature limiting how it could be used. After two referendums and an expensive Comcast astroturf campaign, the residents supported Ballot Measure 2A in November, 2011. The City can now use the fiber network to spur economic development.

Longmont Power and Communications (LPC) recently held two meetings to field responses from the residents and local businesses. Results of the meetings, and an online survey, keep the community informed and will help decide several key elements to the roll-out plan. Scott Rochat of the TimesCall.com, reported on the July 16th meeting, focused on resident reaction. Longmont has some distinct advantages, that Jordan shared:

"We are unique in what we already have in place and what we can do with what we have in place," [Vince] Jordan, [LPC Telecom Manager] told a crowd of 43 at the Longmont Civic Center on Monday.

What's in place is an 18-mile fiber-optic loop that the city can now offer services on, thanks to a 2011 ballot issue. About 1,280 businesses sit within 500 feet of the fiber network; at least 1,100 homes already have the conduit and junction box that would let them join.

The meeting and the survey indicate a strong desire have the network up and functioning ASAP. From the article:

 An online survey at ci.longmont.co.us/lpc/tc/index.htm (which so far has gotten about 152 responses) found that given the choice, 63 percent wanted citywide service "immediately," while 21 percent said they'd settle for whenever the city could get it done.

The proportions were similar at Monday's meeting: 57 percent for immediately, 17 percent for whenever it could be done, and another 17 percent for a two-year timespan.

"My feeling is, get it done, whatever it takes," said one man who voted for "whenever it can be done."

Small map of Longmont Fiber

We spoke with Jordan, who mentioned a similar enthusiasm from the business community. On Friday, July 20th, LPC held a meeting to hear comments from potential business customers. Jordan said talks with local business leaders continue to uncover "more need, desire, and want for higher and higher broadband in the commercial sector." Tony Kindelspire of the TimesCall.com covered the meeting (reprinted here on TMCNet.com):

Nearly 1,300 Longmont businesses are within 500 feet of the city's existing fiber-optic lines, and they likely would be some of the first customers to lease that fiber, once Longmont Power & Communications gets the go-ahead from the City Council to begin leasing it.

The plan, currently being developed, should be presented to the City Council in August.

Jordan let us know that residents and businesses can take the online survey until August 10th, at which time the results will be tallied and posted online. Interim results will be posted within the next day or two.

"This is an exciting time," said Jordan, "Folks are very keen to move as quickly as the City can move."

Slate Commentary: Want to Pay Less and Get More?

Today, Slate published an opinion piece by me and Sascha Meinrath from the Open Technology Institute at New America Foundation talking about the important role of community broadband in solving the nation's broadband problem.

A snippet:

In the meantime, local communities are taking matters into their own hands and have created remarkable citywide fiber-to-the-home broadband networks. Many offer services directly to residents, providing a much-needed alternative to the cable and telephone companies. And by creating meaningful consumer choice among competitors, these networks are driving lower prices—spurring new investment and creating new jobs—and keeping more money circulating in the local economy.

Community Broadband Bits 6 - Cheryl Leanza of Progressive States Network

Our sixth episode of the Community Broadband Bits podcast features a discussion with Cheryl Leanza, broadband consultant with Progressive States Network. Cheryl has been very active in legislative battles at the state level, where she has helped to defend the public against anti-consumer deregulation led by AT&T, CenturyLink, and cable lobbyists.

We touched on the effort in Georgia to revoke local authority as well as once again noting the bad bills in North Carolina in 2011 and South Carolina in 2012.

We also spent time talking about the state-by-state effort to kill consumer protections, including the basic right to have a wireline telephone in your home.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show - please e-mail us or leave a comment below. Also, feel free to suggest other guests, topics, or questions you want us to address.

This show is 14 minutes long and can be played below on this page or subscribe via iTunes or via the tool of your choice using this feed. Search for us in iTunes and leave a positive comment!

Listen to previous episodes here.

Thanks to Fit and the Conniptions for the music, licensed using Creative Commons.

The Economics of the Google Gigabit

In the excitement around Google's unveiling of the $70 gigabit broadband connection in Kansas City, some may be wondering how it is that Google can offer a gigabit for moderately more than what most of us pay for far slower cable broadband connections.

On one side of the equation is the fact that big cable companies (Time Warner Cable, Comcast, etc.) have long been ripping off consumers by pricing their services far above cost -- something they can easily do because they face so little competition. But the more interesting side of the equation is how Google can make its gigabit price so low.

Recall that Chattanooga made major waves with its gigabit service, priced then at the rock-bottom rate of $350/month. A gigabit is not available in many communities and where it is available, the price is often over $10,000 per month. We published an in-depth case study of their approach a few months ago.

But, as Milo Medin -- the head of the Google Fiber project -- is fond of saying, "No one moves bits cheaper than Google." Google has built an incredible worldwide fiber optic network. Let's call this lessons 1 and 2.

Lesson 1: Google built its own network. It isn't leasing connections or services from big telecommunications companies. Building your own network gives you more control -- both of technology and pricing.

Lesson 2: Google uses fiber-optics. These connections are reliable and have the highest capacity of any communications medium. The homes in Kansas City are connected via fiber whereas Time Warner Cable, CenturyLink, and others continue to rely on last-generation technologies because they are delaying investment in modern technology to boost their profits.

EPB Installs Fiber Cables in Chattanooga

Others have already followed these lessons but are not able to offer their gig for such a low prices. To understand why, let's start with some basics. I'm hypothetically starting Anytown Fiber Net in my neighborhood and I want to offer a gig. Whenever any of my Anytown subscribers want to transfer files amongst themselves, the operating cost to me approaches zero because (aside from the capital costs of building the network), the cost of transfering those files is basically the electricity it takes to pulse lasers over the fiber and keep the fans on the routers humming.

Lesson 3: Local traffic on the network is essentially free. A local gigabit is no big deal on a fiber network. (Hat tip to Lafayette Utilities System for being the first to offer local 100Mbps traffic for free.)

We start talking about real operating costs when Anytown users want to connect to networks that are not on the Anytown network. When a user wants to watch a video on YouTube or download a patch from Microsoft, I need to interconnect with other networks that can get me there. For a small player like me, that means paying for transit. I pay Level 3 or some other major national network operator so my user can send a request to YouTube over the Level 3 network.

The arrangement between me and Level 3 is interesting. I don't pay per bit that my customers use. Instead, I "commit" to a specific capacity. The higher the capacity, the lower my per bit charge. So if I commit to 500Mbps, I may be paying $7 for each Mbps but if I commit to 2000Mbps, I may pay $5 for each Mbps (these numbers are totally invented, not unlike how actual contracts seem to be made). But the interesting part is how it is measured and its implications.

My committed rate determines my cost but not necessarily what I have access to. Let's say I commit to a 500Mbps connection to Level 3 for $7/Mbps. I have to pay for the amount of Mbps that corresponds to 95% of my peak demand. The cost comes down to how high the peaks are, not how many bits are transferred over the course of the month. So if my peak was 550 Mbps, then I have to pay for (550 * .95) * $7, or $3,657.50

On the other hand, if I allowed the combined usage of my users to hit a far higher peak, say 1,000 Mbps, my cost would be $6,650 and I would be kicking myself for not upping my committed rate. Fortunately, I can control the peak with my routers, allowing me some control (at the cost of alienating my users who will see worse performance individually).

YouTube Logo

Another thing I can do is "peer" with others. For instance, if Anytown Net can get Google to connect directly to us, traffic to Google sites (ahem, YouTube) becomes free (as Google likely wouldn't charge because it wants to encourage everyone to use its services). This is why the Open Connect Netflix announcement is so important.

Allowing users to hit popular sites without increasing the peak bandwidth saves real money. In fact, a sizable community fiber network reported to me that peering with a major source of video traffic dropped their monthly costs by tens of thousands of dollars. This brings us to Lesson 4.

Lesson 4: Scale matters. Big time. Everyone wants to interconnect with large networks and large sources of content. The larger Anytown Net is, the more others will be interested in connecting with me.

Google probably has the most favorable peering agreements with others because they all want cheap access to YouTube and the various other Google services. And Google can peer with others anywhere - they probably have a presence at every major interconnection location (to learn more about those fascinating places, read Tubes by Andrew Blum -- buy it through your local bookstore, not Amazon).

What all of this means is that Google doesn't really have to worry about the cost of its peak because it already has advantageous relationships with the networks hosting the traffic that Google doesn't already have local to it.

Let's go back to Anytown Net. If I offered a gigabit to my users, I would be exposing myself to a major peak in the evenings as most used that connection concurrently. As we now know, the cost to Anytown Net has much less to do with how much is transferred than to a few times when a lot of people happen to all be using a lot of their capacity at the same time.

At present, there are a few other entities that have the kind of scale and relationships that could also do what Google is doing. They have names like Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Verizon, and AT&T. But they have little reason to invest because most of us are locked in to them. My neighborhood has one high speed Internet option - Comcast. We have a cheaper, slower DSL alternative from CenturyLink. This is why communities are increasingly building their own networks and policymakers need to pay attention the Looming Monopoly.

Google Fiber Graphic

These are the economics of Google's gig and an explanation of why it will be so hard to duplicate -- with one proviso. Dane Jasper of the incredible Sonic.net actually beat Google to the $70/gig. And I have no idea how he does it. If U.S. telecommunications policy were not so tilted in favor of the biggest corporations, perhaps we would see more successful local ISPs that subscribers actually liked.

And let's not forget, though Google is offering a clearly superior product, Time Warner Cable is cutting its prices and locking customers into long-term contracts. It remains to be seen if this project will even be profitable for Google, though it is clearly already creating benefits for Kansas City as a whole.

Though Google has a stated intention of demonstrating how this can be done so others can do it also, the lesson may be there very few can duplicate the full gig availability. But they can do what Chattanooga, Lafayette, and many others have done - build some of the best networks in the nation that are still accountable to the community.

To learn more about the economics of networks, I strongly recommend this roundtable discussion:

Photo of fiber deployment courtesy of Chattanooga EPB