As we emphasize time and time again, communities build their own networks because they have to, not because they want to. North Carolina's Fibrant network in Salisbury is no exception and a recent technical headache is a reminder that no network is built without problems developing.
Fortunately, Salisbury's strong reputation for providing great, local customer service is helping as it deals with service interruptions that are the fault of the gear that runs the network.
According to an Emily Ford article in the Salisbury Post, there have been several outages this month. While some outages are attributed to unreliable access gear, the city is still investigating to determine what other factors continue to cause problems. The network currently serves 2,160 subscribers, with 220 of them being commercial customers.
A November 9th Post article on an earlier outage, noted the problem with faulty equipment. A statement from Fibrant General Manager Mike Jury also attributed the outage to a lack of redundancy, which has since been repaired.
While Zhone has been the access gear supplier, Fibrant is now testing Calix equipment. Calix has long been a favored choice among community networks and has a very solid reputation. This is a reminder to communities of the importance of due diligence in choosing vendors -- make sure to talk to other community networks about their experiences with vendors. All equipment is subject to failure, so a key question should be how quickly different vendors respond with solutions to problems.
No matter how much community broadband advocates prepare the community and elected officials for the expected difficulty of building a successful local project, in the midst of the deployment, times are tough.
Competitors will pay less for programming than you do, and in turn play hard ball by lowering rates for customers. Good luck keeping up with technological advances, expansion needs and growth costs; it's a risky proposition for a public entity used to maintaining rather than adapting. Your opportunities will be limited because you can't provide services outside the city limits. You'll be criticized for offering programming such as adult movies, and you'll be told you really should be focusing on your core business: running power, water and wastewater plants.
Terry Huval delivered that message in 2000, long before Lafayette committed to building their community fiber network -- a network that delivers some of the fastest speeds in the nation at the lowest rates and has already delivered hundreds of jobs.
Nonetheless, LUS Fiber is behind the take rate goals they had set in the business plan. The expenses are higher than forecast because Lafayette was unfairly denied entry to a coop that secures lowers rates for television contracts for members. The only discernible reason for rejecting Lafayette is that Cox joined the coop after Lafayette committed to building its network. There is little doubt that Cox was influential in denying Lafayette's application, likely increasing LUS Fiber expenses for offering cable channels by more than 20%.
This is just one of the many ways that the telecommunications market is rigged to benefit incumbents at the expense of all of us -- residents and small businesses alike. We will not have real choices in competition until government policy treats telecom like the essential infrastructure it is.
Mike Stagg, a long time supporter of the network is quoted in the article, challenging LUS Fiber to improve its marketing:
Can they do better? Probably so. Part of it is the fact that, just from a mindset standpoint, LUS is a utility and utilities generally do not compete," Stagg said. "I think that has been an issue that they have had to grapple with and can get better at. I think there was just this perception inside LUS that everybody knew about the service and how good it was. But they didn't. I just don't think they have been aggressive enough as marketers in pushing their service and highlighting the advantages. They have a great price. There are no tricks in it. It's straightforward. You can't live anywhere else in the U.S. and get this kind of bandwidth."
Marketing can be very difficult, particularly for public entities that are not used to revising their approach on a regular basis to quickly fix what goes wrong and improve upon what works. Big companies like Cox will saturate the market with advertising and promotional rates - communities have to find their own ways of responding by capitalizing both on their technical advantages as well as being the local provider with better customer service and non-gimmick pricing.
The theme of the front page story, LUS Fiber at a crossroads, is that some sort of decision needs to be made soon about whether or not to commit to the project or dump it. But nothing in the story itself warrants such a theme. There's nothing in the story that should make any reasonable reader think LUS Fiber is anywhere near failure and plenty of evidence that it is over the hump and is well on its way to success in what is hugely capital intensive business that nobody ever thought would make money in the first years. But more to the point: frankly the choice of whether or not to go forward has already been made: back on July 16th, 2005 when the citizens voted in the new public utility. The community now has the system that the citizens wanted. The discussion is no longer about "whether;" the discussion is now only about how to make sure it succeeds—and having succeeded how to make sure it is run so as to most fully benefit the community. Those are not trivial questions and I don't intend to underplay them. But pretending that there might be a choice, well, it might make a better headline but it doesn't help inform the real project at hand.
We recently evaluated the LUS evaluation and our conclusion has been that while it has not fulfilled all of its high expectations, it has greatly benefited the community already.
Sometimes we have to remember why Lafayette built this network. Once again, John reminds us:
What's disappointing is the claim that the system is rudderless, that it lacks clear goals. That's just silly. Of course it has a clear purpose and one that its leaders clearly honor:LUS Fiber is a public utility and its purpose is to put an essential service under the control of the community, to provide a first rate example of the service, and to provide it as cheaply as it is possible. That is i's fundamental purpose and I submit that there is no question but that it is meeting that standard. LUS Fiber is, for every service, cheaper than the private alternative. It is available to each and every citizen of the city; something no private provider would promise. The services are high quality—the video and phone services are at least as good as the former monopolies and the internet is unarguably not only cheaper but better.
Rosenbalm [President of BVU, which operates a muni fiber network in southwest Virginia] said LUS Fiber's struggles as a new business venture were likely multiplied by the fact that the system launched during the worst economic time in recent memory. Although Lafayette did not feel the effects of the recession as strongly as other parts of the country, there was an impact that may have led to some potential customers opting not to change, or that affected price points.
"You've been through, arguably, the second-worst economic time in the history of this country," Rosenbalm said. "They came into the business at a tough time, and the early years are hard within themselves. They just have to keep pushing though, and I think their growth from here on will be far more than it has been already."
These networks are very hard to build -- especially in the first 3-4 years. While it is important to ask tough questions and ensure the project is on track to meet community expectations, it is also important to take a broad view of the network's impact. The network has lowered prices, created jobs, improved access to education, and many second, third, and fourth order effects.
LUS should take a hard look at its business processes to make sure it is sufficiently nimble to operate against an opponent unafraid of fighting dirty.
But it should also make sure that someone is telling the LUS story. Where are the charts showing community savings as a result of more competition? Who is shouting out the success stories? Who is calculating how much more money stays in Cajun Country because it goes to Lafayette Utilities rather than Cox Communications?
This isn't just LUS's responsibility -- after all, it is a community network.
In the place where “Texas history lives,” the City of Granbury followed a fellow Texas city in delivering a Tropos wifi system that covers all 10 square miles of the city. Less than a decade ago, Granbury had no functional IT department and after hurdles with a private public partnership, established a functional and successful publicly-owned wireless network. Initially created to support city functions and mobile police, the network is available to the public, elevating the rural town outside of Fort Worth to the mobile age.
When Granbury hired IT Director Tony Tull in 2003, the technology capabilities of the city were dire: no staff, a budget of $6,000, and only two buildings with access. Tull quickly brought city and council officials on-board to his ambitious technology plan to deploy wireless WAN to all city buildings in partnership with their existing ISP, Texas-based Frontier Broadband (now acquired by KeyOn). The initial needs were to equip city personnel with mobile access which focused on police officers, firefighters, and city inspectors.
Other goals included general public and tourist broadband access, reading utility meters, perform live web casts, and connect to nearby governmental networks. After the City received a Homeland Security grant, $70,000 was earmarked to outfit over 10 police vehicles with wireless laptops. In 2004 Tull attended the Public Technology Institute’s National Summit for Local Governments in Corpus Christi where he reviewed the city’s 147 square mile wireless network by Tropos. Convinced the technology was right, Granbury deployed a test run of 40 routers across half the city and eventually 100 more to cover the roughly 10 square miles.
The initial returns on investment came eight months after launch when the police department returned $78,000 in budgeted police salary overtime. The department later reduced its 2005 budget by $100,000. The City has also saved time and money with the network reading digital meters, assisting building inspectors and providing cheaper connections to municipal buildings. The total start-up costs were $325,000 which included acquisition costs, infrastructure, and the Tropos price of $68,000 for each square mile of the network. City departments continue to streamline with the system and since 2007 public users have been accessing the network for $5.95 daily or $19.95 monthly. Signal repeaters are available to boost signals in homes.
Unfortunately, Granbury’s private partner did not respond to network performance problems as quickly as the city would have liked. In March 2007, the city bought the 10-square-mile network for $225,000 to maintain more control over its performance. The Granbury wireless network is now live with the city managing it and selling service to the public. “Be careful how you pick your partners,” Tull said. “Things that are a problem for you may not be a problem for the provider.”
Like officials of many cities who invest in infrastructure, Tull sees the network additionally for its important impact on every citizen and the social or indirect benefits that come back to the city and to the citizens.
“Is subscription sales the only way our municipality is going to see a return on our $500,000? Not really. We see other benefits. Police on the street longer because they can do their reports from the cars rather than the squad room. More information to our firefighters before they make scene on a possible structure fire. AMR project. Tourist access to city wide internet. These are all hard dollar and soft dollar returns that are real.”
Chattanooga, with the nation's fastest citywide broadband network, offers lessons to many other communities who have built or are building their own networks. Chattanooga is regarded as one of the most successful muni networks in terms of a smooth operation with good advertising and a great back office approach.
They are documenting (with video) the stories of both residents and businesses that have switched to their services from incumbents like AT&T and Comcast (two of the most powerful companies in the US). Below, we include two of our favorites in the series.
This should be an extremely effective form of advertising for community networks -- harnessing the enthusiasm and local attributes of the network. Making these videos available on sharing sites like Vimeo or YouTube allows supporters to embed them in their blogs and share with friends and family.
Quite frankly, these testimonials are not hard to do (hire a local videographer that has experience with lighting and recording good sound) and should be one of the first approaches used by community networks to spread the word. If local thought leaders and small business owners can participate, so much the better.
After more than a year of expecting Citibank to file suit against Burlington, they finally did. Burlington Telecom, a muni FTTH network, now illustrates the worst case scenario for muni broadband. After the founder of the network left following disagreements with the Mayor, the Mayor's Administration ran the network into the ground (leading us to recently publish the report "Learning from Burlington Telecom: Some Lessons for Community Networks."
Burlington had financed its network with a municipal capital lease, rather than the more commonly used revenue bonds, meaning that the actual network secures the loan. In this arrangement, the network is technically owned by the lender (Citi) and Burlington leased it. So when Burlington decided to stop paying the lease for the network, it became Citi's problem.
And Citi had a lot of problems due to the games massive banks were playing having killed the economy. BT became just one more non-performing asset. They did nothing while the City continued to run the network without making lease payments. Now Citi is suing for the world (this is how these things work) but it isn't clear that Citi can actually get what it demands (the State has a say in whether the network simply gets shut down, which Citi is presently asking for). And if the network did get shut down, Citi would be in a worse position to recover any of its losses because the value of the network is far greater than the sum of its parts.
State law says that losses from a public telecom venture cannot be carried by taxpayers, which is where we return to an interesting document prepared by the Mayor's Administration. As reported by Blurt:
In its lawsuit, Citibank notes that a letter written by attorney Joe McNeil on behalf of Burlington "expressly warranted to Citibank that at least 40 percent of Burlington's revenues were derived from sources other than taxpayers' funds and would be available to fund payments to Citibank, and further, that Burlington had the financial resources and ability to make all payments to Citibank for the full term of the agreement."
I read that document last year and remember being fairly surprised as it appeared to be incorrect from my non-lawyer reading of the law. This is just another case in which the Mayor's Administration played too fast and loose with essential infrastructure.
We have watched in dismay as Burlington Telecom transitioned over the past four years from a model community network to the worst case scenario. This situation proves only that community networks can suffer from bad management in some of the many ways private telecom companies can suffer from bad management (resulting in anything from bankruptcy to prison).
Communities can learn lessons from Burlington's situation -- chief among them that transparency is important. As with other public enterprise funds, the operation should be regularly audited and oversight must be in place to catch errors early, when corrections are easier and less costly.
Unfortunately, Burlington Telecom is in a very bad position presently. The actions of the Mayor's Administration made that position worse than it could have been. Time will tell if it can be saved. Given its important positive contributions to the city (millions of dollars in community savings, increased economic development), the City would benefit from its continued operation.
Christopher Mitchell - Institute for Local Self-Reliance
In little more than a year, Burlington Telecom went from being a hopeful star of the community fiber network movement to an albatross around its neck. The controversies surrounding it have encouraged cable and telephone companies to use it as Exhibit A in their case against communities going into the telecommunications business. However, most of those criticizing Burlington Telecom have very little understanding of what went wrong and how it happened. Examining what actually happened helps to explain how these problems may be avoided, as the vast majority of existing community networks have already done.
In 2007, ILSR issued a case study on Burlington Telecom. The report argued that Burlington Telecom was a model for how communities could build their own next‐generation fiber‐to-the‐home broadband networks.
This report revisits and updates that report, analyzes Burlington Telecom’s situation (for better and for worse), and extracts useful lessons for other communities pursuing community fiber networks.
In preparation for this report, ILSR examined many documents, including those available due to the investigation of Vermont’s Department of Public Service. We interviewed many people from Burlington, including former BT employees, citizens active around the project, and City Council members. We discussed Burlington’s situation with a number of others intimately involved in community broadband networks around the country and posed questions directly to a representative of BT.
We occasionally see big cable and phone companies getting creative in their efforts to shut down community networks. In socially conservative communities, restrictions on providing adult content is a common approach.
Bear in mind that no one is forced to see this content or even a scrambled channel (as was common in the "old" days). Community networks allow each family to decide for themselves what content is appropriate -- to the extent community networks differ from private providers in this regard, they provide more tools to filter out content that some may find inappropriate.
The latter is essential reading for those new to understanding how any legislature works. And anyone building a network that will compete with big companies like AT&T, Cox, Time Warner Cable, et al. had better know how legislatures work because those companies live in the Leg. Their competitive advantage lies in lobbyists, not providing superior telecom services.
Apparently, the Legislators pushing this bill (on behalf of Cox - there is no other rational explanation) first claimed it was about banning the use of state credit cards from buying adult content (or services) when officials were traveling… but John notes that is already prohibited.
Legislators defending Lafayette (and all the citizens of Louisiana who have suffered enough at the hands of AT&T and Cox) sought a compromise that would have ensured a "level playing field" for adult content by applying the law to all providers equally. This killed the bill. But John wonders if there was something more at play:
Extra Credit: Decide whether the real point of this exercise was purely PR — was it never intended to pass, only to try and lay on LUS (again--this ploy fizzled badly during the fiber fight) the onus of selling "porn?" Or was the hope to impose another long, embarrassing and distracting lawsuit on Lafayette? (This worked pretty well during the fiber fight.)
Community networks and defenders, be prepared for similar fights at a legislature near you.
The word from Wisconsin is mostly good. A deal has been struck that will spare WiscNet, though it will be studied for two years and then could be killed. But a fair, open study will allow WiscNet to clearly demonstrate its value -- WiscNet thrives in the light while AT&T thrives at secretive, last minute measures to gut its competitors.
Additionally, the stimulus grants appear to be safe. The Legislature apparently will not require them to be returned long after the recipients had begun implementing them. But again, there is some bad news in that UW Extension will be restricted from receiving federal grants in the future to build the networks otherwise unavailable to schools and libraries. So that is disappointing. Returning those funds would have cost a few communities $27.7 million over just 5 years.
However, nothing is settled until the Legislature fully votes on it (today and Thursday) and the Governor signs the bill. AT&T lobbyists don't get paid to create fair compromises and surely aren't finished scheming. So make sure you have made your thoughts on this matter known to your elected officials. The Rootstrikes make it easy. Don't forget to tell the Governor too -- the line-item veto is a powerful tool.
Some more details have emerged regarding the damage to local budgets that would occur if the Leg requires the stimulus awards to be returned, in the Superior schools, for instance:
"We would pay about five times more for the internet access than we already pay through Wiscnet," said Nordgren [Associate Vice Chancellor of UW Superior].
The Superior School District said they would also lose money, because they have already invested $300,000 in anticipation of the project.
"We utilized the funding from this broadband grant in order to purchase and update our website that was archaic," said Janna Stevens, Superintendent at the Superior School District.
Finally, we strongly oppose JFC’s decisions to dismantle WisNet and to reject $37 million in federal dollars for promoting broadband service in rural Wisconsin. Many libraries and city halls around the state save taxpayers’ dollars by using WisNet as their Internet provider. This change benefits private Internet service providers at an additional cost to taxpayers. At a time when both the Administration and the Legislature are preaching government frugality, it doesn’t make sense to take away some of the very tools local governments use to reduce spending. We urge the Legislature to reverse these JFC amendments.
If there is one lesson we can take away from this fight, it is the need to build strong networks that can quickly respond to the tricks companies like AT&T can do in their power-center: state capitals and DC. This provision was obviously intended to benefit AT&T and a few other companies at the expense of all Wisconsin, particularly its schools and libraries. But WiscNet and defenders responded quickly and powerfully to the attack. And when they did respond, they did so with various arguments, including the cost to libraries and schools. If you can't tell a legislator how it impacts a budget somewhere, you probably aren't being heard.
Faison’s amendment was designed to open the door to someone — anyone – to bring broadband into rural areas of the state. While Time Warner Cable, AT&T, and CenturyLink dawdle, large numbers of rural residents simply go without any broadband service. Faison’s amendment was simple and reasonable — if at least half of an area is not served with 4/1Mbps service, provisions should be made to allow local communities, if they wish, to establish service themselves to get the job done.
Last week, when Faison’s amendment appeared to be headed for incorporation into the bill, industry lobbyists blanched and fled the room, raising vocal objections and demanding a week timeout before a vote was taken. After winning their reprieve, they managed to get the Republican majority in line to throw rural North Carolina under the bus, uniformly opposing Faison’s amendment. Two Democrats, one representing the city where Time Warner Cable’s regional division is headquartered, joined them.
In its place, they substituted a new amendment which defined broadband in the state of North Carolina as any service occasionally capable of achieving 768kbps downstream and 200kbps upstream. That represents “well-served” among these industry-friendly legislators.
This came after an excellent exposé showing Representatives annoyed to be asked why they are pushing Time Warner Cable's bill (to the detriment of every other business and citizen of North Carolina) after taking large contributions from telecommunications companies.
Others have taken notice as well - see this political cartoon depicting Rep Avila condemning North Carolina to a future of slow DSL and crappy Time Warner Cable services.
This whole bill is a travesty. Those pushing the bill have lied time and time again, saying they will hold the existing networks harmless and would not push legislation that will hurt them. In private, they have done the opposite, refusing to language would actually exempt the existing networks. These people, Representatives Avila, Howard, and Speaker Tillis are too busy "palling around" with Time Warner Cable lobbyists to give a damn what happens to existing muni networks. This Legislation changes the rules, threatening the ability of networks like Fibrant and Wilson to succeed and pay off the debt from networks built according to the rules. See the testimony of Salisbury's mayor (first to testify) in the video below.
They passed it out of the Public Utility Committee after promising it would be "fixed" to not threaten the existing networks before it went through Finance. Not only did they lie, that committee hearing was ended abruptly on a sham voice vote when many committee members had serious questions about the bill.
The overwhelmingly number of public testifiers about the bill opposed it in the Finance Committee. But there was clearly some behind-the-scenes deal at work, a slap in the face to the public process and idea of public testimony. The Representatives voting for the bill don't know the difference between dial-up, DSL, cable, or fiber-optics. They only know what Time Warner Cable and CenturyLink lobbyists have told them.
The bill will almost certainly pass out of the House today and on to the Senate. We cannot stress enough how important it is for people to contact their Representatives about this legislation. Grotesquely named front groups like "Americans for Prosperity" are making calls to support this bill emphatically because municipal broadband "needs to be stopped" (according to their public testimony). This is one of several groups that takes massive funding from big private companies to support any legislation that furthers the agenda of the power companies, to the detriment of most businesses and citizens.
After the hearing, Salisbury officials gathered in Warren’s office and said the most compelling comments may have come from Vance Holloman, deputy treasurer for the State and Local Government Finance Division of the N.C. Department of State Treasurer.
Holloman warned the bill would compromise the ability of cities with broadband networks to repay their debt. If the cities default on their bonds, it would have far-reaching effects, he said.
Default also “would have a detrimental impact on the ability of other units to issue debt,” including counties and schools, Holloman said.
As it stands, the bill's threat to existing networks has been watered down but continues to create a higher burden for publicly owned networks than for privately owned networks.
STOP reading for a second. What would happen in your state if powerful private companies lobbied this hard to kill community networks? Have you created strong relationships with legislators? Local leaders and organizations that can pass resolutions opposing such an effort? Editorial boards for important news sources? We need to build these relationships BEFORE we are targeted by an industry that can quickly buy the legislation it wants. (See actual resolutions passed by Raleigh, Asheville, and Rockingham County.) And now, back to North Carolina…
Claims that this bill allows communities to continue building networks are akin to saying that anyone can run in the 100 yard dash, even if Time Warner Cable sponsors the event and gets to choose who gets to use both their legs and who can only use one. What could be wrong with that?
Regional politicians meanwhile are breathlessly defending criticism that they've been paid to pass the bill by incumbent ISPs, despite the fact they're precisely parroting company talking points. None of them can really answer why community rights should be stripped when they move to overcome market failure -- deploying upgraded infrastructure nobody else will due to a lack of serious competition. The bill now goes to the House floor, where locals involved in the fight tell us Time Warner Cable has the votes. The NC Senate will start driving their companion bill (S87) immediately, and it appears they also have the votes.
The bill will next be in the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has information on the members for those who want to contact them about the bill.
Say what you will about TWC buying politicians to pass legislation to kill their competition, there is an entirely different reason to watch the video below of North Carolina's House Finance Committee in action yesterday: Chair Howard barely knows what is going on at any given time and what proper procedure is. Pretty fascinating, especially as she is the one who stars in the video above, unable to explain why there is no ethical issue with her railroading bills through the House sponsored by those who financed her campaign.
At about the the 1:01:00 mark, Representative Ross notes the Legislature recently (several years ago) voted to heavily deregulate private telcos and cablecos so they would not have to invest in rural areas. At that time, she feared this would happen - they would not only fail to invest in rural North Carolina, but would lobby to prevent anyone else from doing it also. Kudos. Another Representative read a note from a constituent who said a relative in rural Kenya had better access to broadband than did the rural North Carolina resident.
Just how does the largest citywide community fiber network in the country deal with the thousands of people that want to subscribe? It is a daunting task, but the Times Free Press has an answer: a carefully scripted process.
Chattanooga's Electric Power Board (EPB) largely contracts with a company for the labor to do the installs:
Adesta is responsible for 80 percent of EPB's fiber-to-the-home installations, according to Lansford, project manager for Adesta. EPB itself performs the remaining 20 percent, as well as trouble calls.
Beginning in June 2009, Adesta ramped up from a one-man office to more than 120 locally hired technicians, and now performs an average of 500 installations per week, or about 100 every day, he said.
At the end of October, when the article was written, Adesta had hired some 123 technicians - more than twice as many as they originally expected to need. Perhaps the largest advantage of contracting with a company like Adesta for connecting subscribers is the company's ability to quickly hire more technicians as demand increases. Civil service rules for hiring can hamper hiring when all installs are done in-house. EPB directly employes some thirty installers.
Chattanooga closely supervises the training and quality of work from the contracted technicians. Perhaps the biggest downside to hiring outside contractors for this work is the potential for technicians not being invested in the satisfaction of the customer or rushing from install to install to maximize their income. In Chattanooga, they expect technicians to do two installs per day to avoid encouraging shortcuts.
In talking with an employee of another muni fiber network, he was amazed at the efficiency of Chattanooga's backoffice processes. The Times Free Press was also impressed:
From a control room in EPB, Abed manages every call that goes out, and knows the location of EPB and Adesta trucks at all times. A computer assigns work based on efficiency, and trouble calls are automatically routed to the nearest available unit.
Even in Chattanooga, which has had more of a smooth roll-out than most, getting into apartment buildings (MDU) is difficult:
In addition to servicing homes and businesses, EPB and Adesta have begun rolling out service to apartments as well, he said, addressing a key hole in their service. The reason for the delay, he said, is that installers have to negotiate with the property owners to make the changes to their property before they can offer the service to renters.
As we see in community network after community network, the EPB installers go out of their way to help subscribers with great customer service:
"I was blown away," he said. "I had a DVD player that wasn't playing through the TV, and they even spent 10 or 15 minutes trying to hook that up. That wasn't part of their job description."
But what customers really want, Lansford said, aside from a trouble-free installation and uninterrupted, speedy service, is a yard sign that tells neighbors, "We've got it!"
Looking at the results of customer satisfaction surveys provided by EPB, they are making a great impression on subscribers. Consider this: 97% of respondents either somewhat agreed or strongly agreed that "The technician(s) who installed my EPB Fiber Optics services arrived in the expected timeframe." That isn't your ordinary cable or telephone company!
The worst level of satisfaction was the mere 93% who somewhat agreed or strongly agreed that "The technician(s) provided me with sufficient instructions I need to use my services." EPB has already reacted to those numbers by increasing the methods subscribers can use to learn about their services. For instance, EPB is making instructional videos and not only putting them on the Internet, but also on Video-on-demand. I have long argued video-on-demand is a key tool for starting to teach people about the technology they use on a daily basis.
Communities aspiring to have a world class network should pay attention to Chattanooga's approach.
The US's broadband infrastructure would make a former Soviet bloc country blush. Rural areas are often stuck with slow dial-up or expensive satellite Internet service. Even urban centers lack better high-speed service options, as the increasing deregulation of the telecommunications industry has helped prop up monopolies - which then have no incentive to improve broadband speed or lower costs.