Cable operator prices are high; profits are high; bandwidth fees are coming; there is no community control of services and options; commitments are unfulfilled; privacy is abused. Over the past 30+ years, federal law has systematically stripped away local government regulatory authority over cable and telephone franchisees. What can we do?
We propose to establish a community-owned broadband (TV, Internet, phone) utility in Syracuse, comprising a state-of-the-art fiber to the home (FTTH) 100Mb/s–1Gb/s network, which is less expensive than copper to build and to service.
We further propose extending the service with city-wide wireless access, using WiFi or related technologies. This will be an inexpensive addition since we own the network and rights-of-way.
Public ownership will provide us full community control of prices, service options, service policies, infrastructure planning, and preferences. This eliminates having to fight big corporations and lobby state or federal government to get fair service in the public interest.
Public ownership will also allow the city and county to dramatically reduce costs by consolidating their various communications (phone and data, police, fire, 911, remote meter reading, traffic light switching, etc.) needs into one simplified and easier to manage and adapt in-house system.
Public broadband service is not new. Hundreds of cities in the U.S. have it, and we can learn a lot from their experiences. In fact, public ownership has been encouraged by the FCC for more than 35 years. Dozens of cities have already built high-speed all fiber-optic networks.
Financing can be obtained by issuing municipal revenue bonds, which is also the method used by privately-owned utilities. Cable service is a very profitable enterprise, so bonding is no issue. We should also pursue available government grants, including federal broadband stimulus grants. These could lower the build-out cost, facilitate universal access, lower subscription prices, and increase the revenue available for PEG channels support, public access studio(s), and local origination programming support.
A low-cost very high-speed FTTH network would provide multiple unique opportunities for Syracuse: much lower prices; high PEG channel funding; new venues for public involvement and journalism; public schools offering new educational services and experiences; local healthcare providers exploring and developing telemedicine applications; universities studying social interaction and transformation in a communication rich community; low-cost broadband as local economic development tool; and tremendous national media exposure as a modern high-tech and progressive city as it pursues the first large-city publicly-owned FTTH network. Please visit us at http://syracusebroadband.org.