Tim Schoechle: Muni could pave way to high-speed fiber broadbandPublished on: Tuesday, July 18, 2017
Lately, I am hearing the question, “how is it that Longmont gets state-of-the-art, citywide (one gigabit symmetrical) municipal fiber broadband service (for $49 per month), while Boulder does not?” The answer is that Longmont owns its own electricity utility and Boulder does not.
With control of the wires and poles and the installation and support infrastructure, the Longmont electricity muni was able to add optical fiber to their grid relatively cheaply, and they were able to finance it with revenue bonds guaranteed by the electricity income stream.
Boulder would have to deal with Xcel to use any of the wires and poles and would need to raise maybe $140 million to put in a system. So, the city staff has been spinning its wheels trying to get some “public/private partnership” to pay for i t— while still retaining some control of the system. Not surprisingly, no one will step up to finance Boulder’s fiber. Investors want the same kind of private monopoly we are trying to get out of with our electricity service.
Longmont’s municipal fiber system is just out of the box, but they have already exceeded their most optimistic subscription goals, and businesses are already enjoying the economic boost of really fast internet service, including those that want to work from home or maybe operate their own web servers. In Longmont, internet is considered a basic “public utility” — like water, sewer, streets and electricity — as is the case in most developed countries. Meanwhile Boulder internet users struggle with mediocre privatized internet access that is a hundred times slower and controlled by a corporate duopoly with a business model based on maintaining high prices and scarcity — as is the case throughout the United States.
Maybe folks in Boulder that want high-speed fiber access like Longmont would be smart to vote to support the Boulder muni. Otherwise they will likely be waiting a long time.
This Guest Opinion originally appeared in the Daily Camera.