Consider the rapid response of a locally-owned and operated network when the local Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) in rural Mitchell County, N.C. recently needed an Internet link on a mountaintop tower to test and operate its emergency service. Utilizing the local Mountain Area Information Network (MAIN), the ARES volunteers had a secure network connection the same day of their request. “We would still be waiting for an answer” from the non-local phone company, said ARES volunteer Bob Rodgers.
The Economist Profiles Bristol Virginia Utilites Network
In a recent issue, the Economist profiled BVU - the first municipally-owned triple-play fiber-to-the-home network in the U.S. Evidently, the Economist thinks Bristol an unlikely spot to find a full fiber-to-the-home network, but some of the best networks in the U.S. are in these unlikely spots because they are built by communities who have realized the private sector will not build the needed infrastructure.
And this infrastructure has brought many jobs to the region:
And the fibre brought jobs. In 2007 both Northrop Grumman, a big American defence contractor, and CGI, an international IT consultancy, said they would hire between them 700 technicians, consultants and call-operators at offices in nearby Lebanon, Virginia, part of BVU’s fibre backbone. Both cited the area’s universities and low cost of living, but neither would have come without BVU’s investment, which Northrop calls absolutely critical.
The article asks a common question but answers it exceedingly well:
Should cities be in the business of providing fast internet access? It depends on whether the internet is an investment or a product. BVU could not afford to maintain its fibre backbone without selling the internet to consumers. And it could not build a subscriber base without offering cable television and a telephone line as well; households these days expect a single price for all three services.
Most communities would rather not have to get involved with selling services like cable television, but such services are generally a necessity to cash-flow the network. So, as they did before with electricity, they do what they must to keep the community strong and competitive.