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The Internet Government

Tacoma Goes All In To Support Municipal Fiber 90

Peterus7 writes: The Tacoma city council just voted unanimously to invest and upgrade their Click! fiber network as a municipal ISP, which likely means gigabit speeds. This decision was made in light of a proposal from Wave Broadband, which wanted to lease the municipal fiber backbone for 40 years initially, then 5. This vote came after the Tacoma Public Utility board passed both resolutions, to lease and go all in as a city run ISP. Now that the proposal has gone through to allow the city to sell service as an ISP, Tacoma will be added to the growing number of cities with municipal fiber.
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Tacoma Goes All In To Support Municipal Fiber

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  • Sounds awesome. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TsuruchiBrian ( 2731979 ) on Thursday December 17, 2015 @11:25PM (#51141455)
    I wish more cities would do this. It never made sense to me why we would allow private companies own the telecommunications infrastructure. Sure you get the benefit of not having to pay for the installation (through taxes), but then the customers are stuck dealing with a for-profit monopoly. It just seems like a giveaway to a a private sector entity whose interests don't totally align with the those of the public.
    • This is sort of a weird scenario. We already had the fiber in the ground (It was supposed to support smart meters, internet was an afterthought), so it was a struggle to figure out what to do with it. Most other cities would have to install it fresh, which would cost hundreds of millions. We got lucky.
    • by EzInKy ( 115248 )

      Free markets are all about competition, and the very definition of compete is "to strive to outdo another". Aligning the interests of competitors (such as providers and consumers) is anti-competitive.

      • Re:Sounds awesome. (Score:4, Interesting)

        by silas_moeckel ( 234313 ) <silas@@@dsminc-corp...com> on Friday December 18, 2015 @09:14AM (#51142611) Homepage

        Proper municipal fiber can give you more competition. Unlike copper you can nearly trivially have multiple ISP's on a single strand via cheap CWDM. So Muni fiber can be primarily be a last mile network with ISP's only needing to connect at the CO. Since this drastically lowers the cost to enter a market a single fiber plant can support a nearly unlimited number of ISP's. If the Muni also puts in a L2 network it can get even cheaper to get entry. IPv6 routing makes it very easy to support multiple ISP's maybe a town one without internet access that gets people to the school's library town hall etc. Layer VoIP on top of this and you quickly can move local calls to the muni network and build a 911 system on top. Suddenly you have a working video calling system.

        • I like your line of thought here.
          • Lots of fiber in the ground tends to be useful, it's not a little bit of bandwidth it's a whole lot. What happens when school systems have a very fast interconnect that is also low latency and reliable? Maybe the consolidate things at the main office or the high school. Tech like VDI separates the display/input from the computing and storage. Bandwidth or more exactly the lack of/cost/reliability/latency keeps a lot of systems in house, lots of fiber gets rid of those issues now a business with a local

      • by Jawnn ( 445279 )

        Free markets are all about competition, and the very definition of compete is "to strive to outdo another". Aligning the interests of competitors (such as providers and consumers) is anti-competitive.

        To bad that utilities (water, power, telecom) have never, in the history of the world, seen a "free market". All that Randian bullshit might have made sense then.

    • by Kjella ( 173770 )

      I'm old enough to remember our state monopolist here in Norway, Televerket (1855-1995, now privatized as Telenor AS). They were the expensive, pay-per-minute giant who was slow as molasses to innovate because there was very little choice, cable always had a very limited roll-out here. We paid them tons of money for 64 kbps ISDN, which was after all faster than dial-up but when I finally got ADSL I got 16x the speed (1024 kbps vs 64 kbps) for 1/3rd the monthly cost and flat rate. As late as 2008 I was stuck

      • And yet there is also the Swedish example where in many/most cities the municipality has a fiber network, but that network is then usable by any ISP on equal terms. Most people then buy their connection from the ISPs that in turn use the last mile and backbone services of the municipal network.

        Now granted much of the reason why they built those networks was in response to Telias behavior of not wanting to play nice. (Their previous monopoly)

      • Or the phone network in India, where you couldn't get service without bribing the technicians, and they periodically disconnected you in order to extort another bribe out of you for service. Apparently it provided a pretty nice supplement to their income. Yes, there is something to be said for economic competition as a factor driving better customer service.
    • Of course, that answer could be applied to so many things: gasoline, clothing, cars, computers, food....

      What I think a more comprehensive understanding of economics would offer is that without the incentive of competition to reduce pricing (and particularly to innovate as a way to reduce costs), state monopolies on anything (even if genuinely well-intentioned) quickly become bloated, inefficient monstrosities.

      • None of those other things require massive amounts of eminent domain in order to produce. Which means it's possible for a free market and true competition.
    • by dywolf ( 2673597 )

      just wait a few minutes and some of our /. libertarian pseudointellectuals will be by to tell how you this is the worst thing, government cant be trust to do it right, the market is better, etc etc, all while ignoring the growing number of cities that have done it already (successfully), let alone that the reason this happens in the first place is due to cities compensating for market failures.

    • Sure you get the benefit of not having to pay for the installation (through taxes), but then the customers are stuck dealing with a for-profit monopoly.

      What "monopoly"? Most cities already have multiple for-profit wired broadband providers, and even more wireless providers. Tacoma has at least five broadband providers according to the National Broadband Map (http://www.broadbandmap.gov/number-of-providers). That's in addition to wireless.

      It just seems like a giveaway to a a private sector entity whose int

      • Simply put, 20 Mbps for $30/month is a much better deal for most people than 1 Gbps for $70/month.

        Then they can get DSL, Cable (maybe), Satellite, MiFi, Cellular, or whatever they call internet over power lines. 1Gbps would be fiber only.

        • Then they can get DSL, Cable (maybe), Satellite, MiFi, Cellular, or whatever they call internet over power lines. 1Gbps would be fiber only.

          Exactly, they can, from existing commercial providers. So, what justification is there for municipal fiber? Municipal fiber is like government subsidizing the purchase of Porsche sports cars with tax dollars.

          • Well the point being that either you let Comcast/att/cable vision/etc have a monopoly in a city so they can recoup their capital expenses in laying fiber and then you are locked into them basically forever, or you let the city do it and then you get to choose which ISP you want.

            Letting the city do it (in theory) will be much cheaper since they aren't looking for a 200% profit on the cost of laying fiber. The city will do it at cost. Then the ISPs need to be competitive because the cost to entry for serving

            • Comcast is a publicly traded corporation; if they had a 200% profit margin, everybody would buy their stock. In fact, Comcast's profit margin is around 10%.

              Your argument is also self-contradictory, because if a company can make a 200% profit margin with a monopoly, there is obviously no need to grant it a monopoly.

              And the city can't do it much cheaper at all. In fact, municipal fiber in places like Chattanooga has a higher cost than commercial wired Internet access; the only reason the sticker price is lowe

              • I didn't say Comcast had a 200% profit margin on everything. Their cable services only accounts for 16% of their revenue, and the physical cable laying accounts for a small portion of that.

                The rest of what you say is just niave, backwards and assumptions you pull out of a backwards model of how things actually work.

                • I didn't say Comcast had a 200% profit margin on everything. Their cable services only accounts for 16% of their revenue, and the physical cable laying accounts for a small portion of that.

                  I'm sorry, I tried to make the most sense out of your muddled statement of "a 200% profit on the cost of laying fiber", giving you the benefit of the doubt. What you literally said is simply wrong: the "profit on the cost of laying fiber" by itself is, of course, zero or negative, since "laying fiber" is not an activity t

      • by whit3 ( 318913 )

        Sure you get the benefit of not having to pay for the installation (through taxes), but then the customers are stuck dealing with a for-profit monopoly.

        What "monopoly"? Most cities already have multiple for-profit wired broadband providers, and even more wireless providers. Tacoma has at least five broadband providers according to the National Broadband Map

        Tacoma has history of licensing providers with contractual obligation to include internet service, and getting the full buildout of everything excep

        • I'd guess. Tacoma knows what they're doing. Geeks and intellectuals like it, because they have a vision of the future. I'm with them.

          Of course, they know what they are doing: they are gentrifying Tacoma, making it more attractive for well-off upper middle class folks, and making it less attractive for blue collar and lower class folks. That's all good and well; the people of Tacoma can be as classist, racist, and discriminatory as they like for all I care.

          What isn't OK is to pretend that their political cho

      • When government hands out monopolies, that is indeed not in the interest of the public, which is why government shouldn't do that.

        What do you call it when the government cuts deals with certain companies to allow them to dig tranches through an entire city, using eminent domain when necessary

        How exactly is a competitor supposed to compete? The only real way is to be another huge company with the same amount of influence to buy the government's support.

        Municipal broadband forces everybody to subsidize a product that only some people want to have.

        Not necessarily. This would only be true if the municipal broadband was running at a loss. As long as it's possible for the municipal broadband to be profitable, then the city can eit

        • What do you call it when the government cuts deals with certain companies to allow them to dig tranches through an entire city, using eminent domain when necessary

          Governments don't need "eminent domain" to put in cable; they already own the streets and usually already have conduit in the ground, so that cables simply need to be pulled.

          What do you call it when the government cuts deals with certain companies to allow them to dig tranches through an entire city, using eminent domain when necessary

          Even if your

          • Governments don't need "eminent domain" to put in cable; they already own the streets and usually already have conduit in the ground, so that cables simply need to be pulled.

            I'm not saying every length of cable required eminent domain. But many did. And even in the cases where we only put the cables in already (previously eminent domained) public property, it's not as if everyone is allowed to dig up the street to put their cables in.

            Even if your incorrect model of how cable gets into the ground were true, government didn't have to "cut deals", they could auction the right to put cable into the ground off. And, in fact, they could auction it off multiple times.

            And what exactly are you auctioning? The right to dig up the street and put your cables in the ground permanently? Only temporary? What happens when there is a dispute? Do the cables need to be ripped out of the ground? At whose expense? Fo

            • And what exactly are you auctioning? The right to dig up the street and put your cables in the ground permanently? Only temporary? What happens when there is a dispute? Do the cables need to be ripped out of the ground? At whose expense?

              You tell me. You said that right now "government cuts deals with certain companies to allow them to dig tranches through an entire city, using eminent domain when necessary". Whether that's true or not, and whatever the conditions may be, replace "cutting deals" with "auctio

              • You tell me. You said that right now "government cuts deals with certain companies to allow them to dig tranches through an entire city, using eminent domain when necessary". Whether that's true or not, and whatever the conditions may be, replace "cutting deals" with "auctioning off". There is rarely any reason for government to "cut deals" instead of making those deals available through public auction.

                It's weird that on the one hand you don;t think the government can do anything right, but somehow you think the auctioning process would be free of mismanagement. Wouldn't the corrupt government just do a no bid contract to their cronies?

                Europe went from all public to mostly private telecom infrastructure, and telecom service improved tremendously.

                Infrastructure is infrastructure. The ownership of the infrastructure that makes it public or private. I don't doubt that newer infrastructure would be better than older infrastructure regardless of whether it's public/private status changed.

                Roads, actually, would benefit tremendously from privatization.

                Yeah, I'm sure it would reall

                • It's weird that on the one hand you don;t think the government can do anything right,

                  I think there are lots of things government can do quite well, like fight wars, prosecute murder, and guarantee freedom of speech. What it can't do right is run a business or run the economy or protect people from their own follies.

                  but somehow you think the auctioning process would be free of mismanagement. Wouldn't the corrupt government just do a no bid contract to their cronies?

                  An "auction" means an "auction", not a "no

                  • I think there are lots of things government can do quite well, like fight wars, prosecute murder, and guarantee freedom of speech. What it can't do right is run a business or run the economy or protect people from their own follies.

                    I'm not saying that the government is guaranteed to do an amazing job. I am saying that it's impossible for a private company to provide high speed internet without government collusion. So you're getting the government involved no matter what. Given that it's the cities resources that need to be used (i.e. land, roads, sewers, conduit, etc) to create the broadband infrastructure, I would prefer that the city retain ownership of these assets rather than trying to save a little money by letting the teleco

                    • I am saying that it's impossible for a private company to provide high speed internet without government collusion.

                      That's obviously false: for many years, my Internet access went over wireless point-to-point, and for many more years entirely over private lines.

                      Given that it's the cities resources that need to be used (i.e. land, roads, sewers, conduit, etc) to create the broadband infrastructure, I would prefer that the city retain ownership of these assets rather than trying to save a little money by letti

                    • That's obviously false: for many years, my Internet access went over wireless point-to-point, and for many more years entirely over private lines.

                      I am not sure if you are aware, but the internet is a global network. It's not just the part in your house.

                      That's a non-sequitur.

                      It's not a non-sequitur (something that doesn;t follow), because it is the actual claim I am making

                      Ah, so you are advocating handouts to a special interest group, you just refer to that group as "the people" to obscure that fact.

                      WTF are you talking about? I am specifically advocating *not* handing over our infrastructure to anyone.

                      Giving free broadband aligns with the interests of "the people who use broadband". It just doesn't align with the interests of a lot of other people.

                      Who the fuck said anything about it needing to be free? If you recall, I specifically talked about the having the revenue equal the cost to make it self sustaining.

                      Private ownership of roads doesn't mean individual ownership. Most roads would be owned by associations similar to HOAs.

                      1. I don't see how that makes it be

                    • I am not sure if you are aware, but the internet is a global network. It's not just the part in your house.

                      Which is why I said "Internet access", because that's what we're talking about. I'm not sure you are aware of it, but words have meanings, and "Internet access" means something different from "Internet".

                      Ah, so you are advocating handouts to a special interest group, you just refer to that group as "the people" to obscure that fact.

                      WTF are you talking about? I am specifically advocating *not* handing ov

                    • Given that it's the cities resources that need to be used (i.e. land, roads, sewers, conduit, etc) to create the broadband infrastructure, I would prefer that the city retain ownership of these assets rather than trying to save a little money by letting the telecoms own this otherwise public good.

                      That's a non-sequitur.

                      It's not a non-sequitur (something that doesn;t follow), because it is the actual claim I am making

                      Well, if that's your "actual claim", I agree completely: you clearly prefer that. You may als

                    • Well, if that's your "actual claim", I agree completely: you clearly prefer that. You may also prefer to have your balls ritualistically shaved by Vilma. But, guess what, it's not the job of government to cater to your preferences. If you want Vilma to ritualistically shave your testicles, that's between you and Vilma, and don't come running to government if you don't like Vilma's prices or conditions.

                      Obviously my claim is not merely that I prefer it, but that it would be better that way (which is why I'd prefer it). But thanks for bringing up this irrelevant technicality, and not answering any of the other points I brought up.

                      As for the nature of roads as "public goods" and the implications, have a look here: https://mises.org/library/publ [mises.org]... [mises.org]

                      I find it quite ironic that you are trying to direct me to mises.org when I am already a libertarian.

                      It is not that I think public goods come with no problems. It's that I think the privatizing those goods comes with even worse problems.

                      You said you think the government is good a

                    • Which is why I said "Internet access", because that's what we're talking about. I'm not sure you are aware of it, but words have meanings, and "Internet access" means something different from "Internet".

                      Then sure I am all for private internet access (i.e. private citizens accessing the internet from their private residences).

                      Broadband users are a "special interest group". Whether you realize it or not, public ownership of broadband infrastructure intrinsically amounts to a handout to this group; if it didn't, public ownership would be unnecessary in the first place because private companies would already be providing the same service at the same or lower cost.

                      That would be the case if there were a functional free market and effective competition in broadband, which there isn't. If Time Warner wants to jack up their prices to $200/month, it's not like I can just switch to a better alternative.

                      I was illustrating that the interests of broadband users and the interests of all persons that government represents are different. You argued that an act is good because it "aligns with the interests of the people". Well, the act of giving free broadband to broadband uses would be an example of something that "aligns with" the interests of broadband users, but it doesn't "align with" the interests of the entirety of all "the people" represented by government.

                      I am not sure why you keep failing to realize that I am not advocating free municipal broadband. Just like I am not advocating free water, electricit

                    • Then sure I am all for private internet access (i.e. private citizens accessing the internet from their private residences).

                      I'm sorry you are so unfamiliar with the terminology; your "i.e." is the wrong definition.

                      I am not sure why you keep failing to realize that I am not advocating free municipal broadband. Just like I am not advocating free water, electricity and gas.

                      I do realize that. I'm pointing out that I consider your premise that something should be done because it "aligns with the interests of the

                    • Obviously my claim is not merely that I prefer it, but that it would be better that way (which is why I'd prefer it). But thanks for bringing up this irrelevant technicality, and not answering any of the other points I brought up.

                      I was merely being sarcastic. You write a whole bunch of vague bullshit, and when people take you literally, you complain that they are hung up on technicalities, and when they try to respond to what you probably mean, you complain that they are changing your words.

                      I find it quite

    • Sure you get the benefit of not having to pay for the installation (through taxes)...

      Actually, that is rarely the case. While individuals may end up paying less in taxes, they're still paying. Most of such installations are subsidized by tax breaks or use portions of already existing public infrastructure.

  • by UPZ ( 947916 )
    WOOOOOO fucking HOOOOO!!!

    Seriously, that's such great news to see a city adapt municipal broadband. So far it had only been small towns like Wilson NC or Chattanooga TN. It is a big commitment when done right it's great for the residents of that town/city.
    • by fnj ( 64210 )

      So far it had only been small towns like Wilson NC or Chattanooga TN

      50,000 and 170,000 are not "small towns". Wilson was a town in 1849 - 50,000 might be a large town today - except it is an incorporated city. Chattanooga is a city by any measure - being an incorporated city makes it a slam dunk.

      The place I live - 2,000 - is a smallish town.

    • Re:Woooo (Score:4, Informative)

      by darkain ( 749283 ) on Friday December 18, 2015 @12:13AM (#51141585) Homepage

      We've had this municipal fiber network here in Tacoma since the 90's though. The major issue at hand was that the city had proposed to lease it out to another company, and now it looks as though they won't be doing it. http://www.usmayors.org/bestpr... [usmayors.org]

  • by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Thursday December 17, 2015 @11:30PM (#51141471)
    if the Republican's take the Whitehouse. AFAIK all of the candidates oppose Municipal Broadband. Certainly all the serious contenders do. Whatever other complaints I have against Hilary (and there are many) that's not one of them...
    • by fnj ( 64210 )

      if the Republican's take the Whitehouse.

      What the hell does the US Presidency have to say about the issue? It is certain states which have legislated against cities and towns exercising their natural right to provide broadband as a municipal service.

      • that's at issue, it's the possibility that laws will be passed banning municipal broadband. Ted Cruz has already said he favors such laws, though to be fair he's a fringe candidate. The Republican lead House/Senate have toyed with such laws but right now it would almost certainly see a Presidential Veto. It's very likely that a Republican President wouldn't veto a law. That's why the Prez election matters. There's a whole lot of nasty stuff that's been held back by gridlock these last 8 years. A Republican
      • by dywolf ( 2673597 )

        majority in both houses + presidency = pass any damn fool law they want

  • Wow (Score:3, Interesting)

    by darkain ( 749283 ) on Thursday December 17, 2015 @11:43PM (#51141509) Homepage

    Wow, I just think it is awesome to see my local news here on /. for a change! I've been a Click customer since pretty much when they started in the '90s, have had plenty of ups and downs with them over the years, but glad that they've at least put pressure into competition in our local market that otherwise would just be Comcast. Yes, we have Centurylink too, but they honestly will only serve my location with 4mbps service, which in this day in age is just utter bullshit. So thank you Click for being the second pillar against Comcast here in Tacoma!

    • Re:Wow (Score:4, Interesting)

      by darkain ( 749283 ) on Thursday December 17, 2015 @11:45PM (#51141517) Homepage

      The only downside right now, unless the proposal has changed, is that it isn't symmetrical gigabit. It isn't even fiber to the home. They want to implement 1000/100mbps DOCSIS. For those of us that want to push as much content as we pull, this is still something I hope they improve upon in their proposal before implementation.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        > 1000/100mbps DOCSIS.

        That's much faster than the average locally, so it's still a big win. I have ISDN at home in Seattle. I live about 30 miles from the edge of Tacoma. As far as I know, none of my friends have faster than 1.5 Mbps DSL at home. At work, we have nearly twenty developers that share a single T1. Here in Seattle, we'd kill for 1 Gbps down.

    • by Vokkyt ( 739289 )

      I was only in Tacoma for the last 4 years or so, but I want to concur that Click had fantastic service from the sign up to the discontinuation. The only problem I ever had was what appeared to be occasional DNS hiccups, but their customer support line was quick to get general messages up when such a thing was happening. When I moved closer to my work where Click didn't provide service, I was really disappointed.

  • Is it a secret? Or is it just too fucking hard to add what state this particular city of Tacoma is in?

    • its Washington State.
    • Is it a secret? Or is it just too fucking hard to add what state this particular city of Tacoma is in?

      While accommodations for those not familiar with the United States is something I certainly agree with, Tacoma is definitely one of the better known cities among the crowd here, and it took you longer to write that than to look up the state info. For anyone interested, it's located in the Northwestern region, Washington (State, not DC). Can't say I've lived there, but Seattle was a beautiful city, cool with lots of rain. I'd expect Tacoma to share at least some of those features, although I've certainly ope

      • The Internet would run faster if Slashdot editors put a little more effort into finding information out for us.

      • While accommodations for those not familiar with the United States is something I certainly agree with, Tacoma is definitely one of the better known cities among the crowd here,

        Bullshit. I live 30 miles north of Tacoma and I couldn't tell if it was in WA state or not. Even the article itself doesn't have the name "Washington" in it.

        There are at least 5 or 6 cities named Tacoma in the US, it wouldn't have been that hard to insert the letters "WA" after the first reference. But perhaps I expect too much from the slashdot editors.

  • Very cool news indeed. Let the momentum build... Comcast and Verizon can fight all they want but some places will thwart their dark grip on consumer broadband. Take that Brian Roberts, and shove those javascript insertions and torrent blocks up your seat.

  • The argument against this approach is that it disadvantages those in rural areas. If cities are allowed to cherry pick their residents in an easily reachable area for broadband, those 20 miles away from a telephone exchange will have to pay more than if the costs are averaged across them. Whilst there is a case for making subsidies to such deprived communities explicit - as the UK is doing - it IS more elegant to hide it.

    Which is not to say I think the municipal ISP is a bad thing - but I do think we nee
    • by jabuzz ( 182671 )

      Except the worlds fastest rural broadband which is basically a brand new FTTH build out located in the UK never got any of that public subsidy and is run as a community benefit society

      http://b4rn.org.uk/ [b4rn.org.uk]

    • If cities are allowed to cherry pick their residents in an easily reachable area for broadband, those 20 miles away from a telephone exchange will have to pay more than if the costs are averaged across them.

      Funny, that is exactly what the commercial ISPs do. If their complaint is that a municipal fiber network can do that, what exactly is their complaint?

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