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After Beating Cable Lobby, Colorado City Moves Ahead With Muni Broadband (arstechnica.com) 198

Last night, the city council in Fort Collins, Colorado, voted to move ahead with a municipal fiber broadband network providing gigabit speeds, two months after the cable industry failed to stop the project. Ars Technica reports: Last night's city council vote came after residents of Fort Collins approved a ballot question that authorized the city to build a broadband network. The ballot question, passed in November, didn't guarantee that the network would be built because city council approval was still required, but that hurdle is now cleared. Residents approved the ballot question despite an anti-municipal broadband lobbying campaign backed by groups funded by Comcast and CenturyLink. The Fort Collins City Council voted 7-0 to approve the broadband-related measures, a city government spokesperson confirmed to Ars today.

While the Federal Communications Commission has voted to eliminate the nation's net neutrality rules, the municipal broadband network will be neutral and without data caps. "The network will deliver a 'net-neutral' competitive unfettered data offering that does not impose caps or usage limits on one use of data over another (i.e., does not limit streaming or charge rates based on type of use)," a new planning document says. "All application providers (data, voice, video, cloud services) are equally able to provide their services, and consumers' access to advanced data opens up the marketplace." The city will also be developing policies to protect consumers' privacy. The city intends to provide gigabit service for $70 a month or less and a cheaper Internet tier.

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After Beating Cable Lobby, Colorado City Moves Ahead With Muni Broadband

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 03, 2018 @08:26PM (#55859353)

    I live in Longmont, about 40 minutes south of Ft. Collins, and we have had fibre internet through the city for over a year. 1 GB speeds up/down and only $49/Month. Forever. It's on our utility bill. When they went live everyone left comcast and centurylink in droves, and I hope it happens over and over.

    • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

      by sdinfoserv ( 1793266 )
      What's happened to your property & sales taxes?
      • by Areyoukiddingme ( 1289470 ) on Wednesday January 03, 2018 @08:46PM (#55859453)

        What's happened to your property & sales taxes?

        Property tax in Longmont, CO is unchanged since 1991. [longmontcolorado.gov] Sales taxes went up from a total of 8.26% to 8.515% [longmontcolorado.gov] effective January 1, 2018, after a ballot measure approving it was voted on by the residents in November. History data does not seem to be readily available.

        There's some complaining that property tax assessments have risen sharply in recent years in Boulder County, where Longmont is, but that's county-wide, in both incorporated and unincorporated areas.

      • Longmont is a bit of an unusual example (I live there too) because the city already operates an electricity utility as a quasi-governmental business.

        The fiber is built out and run by Longmont Power & Communications, and so the current design makes it hard for the city to secretly bail out the broadband service if it's failing. Certainly they could push up electric rates to cover it, and I believe the city is guaranteeing the $40M bond issue that funded the construction but I don't think they have an opp

    • The City of Olympia tried to do the same thing and built "ClickNet". That system loses almost $10M per year.
    • I live in Longmont, about 40 minutes south of Ft. Collins, and we have had fibre internet through the city for over a year. 1 GB speeds up/down and only $49/Month. Forever. It's on our utility bill. When they went live everyone left comcast and centurylink in droves, and I hope it happens over and over.

      The sun is shining... the birds are singing... Wow, you really made my day there. Let's hope the trend continues.

      I'd expect Comcast to try federal legislation next.

  • Doesn't matter (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sdinfoserv ( 1793266 ) on Wednesday January 03, 2018 @08:32PM (#55859377) Homepage
    Muni-Broadband is just the last mile of pipe. If Netflix or Youtube traverses any one of the cabal members upstream infrastructure (which is highly likely), the traffic can/will be degraded or throttled.
    As much as I detest these companies, I don't believe it is the role of local government to compete with private business using public tax dollars and staff with life long benefits again paid by citizens.
    • Re:Doesn't matter (Score:5, Insightful)

      by PoopJuggler ( 688445 ) on Wednesday January 03, 2018 @08:34PM (#55859393)
      You mean like the police and fire departments?
      • You mean like the police and fire departments?

        Privatized police are problematic, but there are privately run fire departments.

        If you don't pay your bill, they let your house burn down.

        • by Ichijo ( 607641 )

          Why can't they bill you like the paramedics do?

          • because these fire departments (usually rural) are basically a kind of like insurance, they couldn't operate if people only paid when their house was on fire.

            (They will go in and rescue people who are trapped inside, but yeah.. if you don't pay in, they will stand by and make sure the fire doesn't spread, and that there are no human lives at risk)

            • by Ichijo ( 607641 )

              because these fire departments (usually rural) are basically a kind of like insurance, they couldn't operate if people only paid when their house was on fire.

              Not even if they charged the full cost of fire response to the homeowner? That doesn't make sense..

        • by mwvdlee ( 775178 )

          How about if you do pay the bill, but letting the house burn down is cheaper than puting the fire out and paying the fine for breach of contract?

          • by tepples ( 727027 )

            In a properly written contract, "the fine for breach of contract" is the insured value of the house. Intentionally allowing it to burn would allow your house insurer to collect from the nonfeasant private fire department for what amounts to arson.

    • Re:Doesn't matter (Score:4, Insightful)

      by mrun4982 ( 3875585 ) on Wednesday January 03, 2018 @08:51PM (#55859475)
      It's the government's job to step in and provide a solution if the monopolies refuse. Myself and lots of people I know have municipal run gigabit internet and you won't find someone disappointed with it. It's the best service I've ever had and yes, it is very fast. Large games, big updates, etc download orders of magnitude faster than on ordinary broadband.
      • Re:Doesn't matter (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Thursday January 04, 2018 @04:16AM (#55860971) Homepage

        It's the government's job to step in and provide a solution if the monopolies refuse.

        That's the weakest argument you could use. As a general rule of thumb if the market - that is, the users - aren't willing to pay for the service that service should not exist. Otherwise you'd approve of every public, subsidized boondoggle sucking money out of general taxes. Most public services replace or compete private services, like if there was no public fire department or waterworks I'd probably have a private fire department and some sort of well association and you have mixed markets like public/private transport.

        The government should step in where there's market failure, usually because it's unfeasible for anyone else to service you and you're being gouged. Like if you don't like your local grocery store could you go to a different one. But if you can't get out of your driveway without being subject to a toll road's prices and terms you don't have a real choice. If the rest of the city district is connected to one sewer system nobody's laying down pipes for a different one. Or a second set of rails and railway stops.

        Is the ISP market that bad? Potentially yes. Potentially no, like you got many kinds of networks with huge benefits of scale where there'll never be many competitors like say physical cell phone networks, with leased access you can have many names but it'll all come down to at most 3-4 different sets of infrastructure. That doesn't mean it's a market that is so limited the government has to step in. It's the kind of market you can keep competition open if you regulate it well, but if you don't it'll decent into monopoly abuse.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      This city council V O T E D to pursue this. You as a citizen are entitled to your opinion and so too are the folks from Fort Collins.

      I am lucky enough to live in a city with municipal fiber. It was expensive, took forever to build out, but now that is has been done for a few years it is making money like gangbusters, is fast, is cheap and has been so successful that is about to expand into neighboring towns because they are begging for it to do so.

      I have no data caps and a fully symmetrical 100Mbps connec

    • by Ichijo ( 607641 )

      As much as I detest these companies, I don't believe it is the role of local government to compete with private business using public tax dollars and staff with life long benefits again paid by citizens.

      So the roads should be privatized and tolled?

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      All the gov is doing is clearing an equal path for capitalism.
      A local network ends with a wide selection of very different private sector ISP.
      Want an ISP for a hobby? Select one with the services needed.
      Want a new POTS? A digital network has that covered.
      Want a fast service thats not consumer junk? A few ISP can support that within a new price range.
      The big pipe just brings more ISP to more of the city.
      Stop the monopoly of one private company as the provider and network and let in many new ISP
    • This really depends on how it's done, it's it's done right like say Amsterdam the city is not competing. It's building only the shared infrastructure. ISP's fill in the actual transit. Now adding in CWDM and IPv6 suddenly you can easily handle multiple providers on a single fiber and get sensible routing. The muni can even be a provider of last resort, for example, giving access to city services but not internet access Netflix can colo a box with them and provide streaming.

    • by gurps_npc ( 621217 ) on Wednesday January 03, 2018 @09:35PM (#55859689) Homepage

      There are certain things that private corporations should not do. Except for the most ardent libertarians, the army is a prime example.

      Another is the road system. It is stupid to let a bunch of companies build toll roads. Why? Because 1) everybody needs them. 2) Once a minimum quality level is reached, there is little difference, aside from how much you use it. 3) It is to everyone's benefit that the road system goes everywhere, not just the most high traffic areas. 4) There is minimal innovation, we know how to build this, it isn't hard, there really isn't anything to compete on except for price and capacity. 5) It makes no sense to build multiple road systems side by side - doing so would take up excess space with minimal advantages.

      All of these same arguments except the last apply to the internet just as much as it does to car roads. There is one other difference - a state run ISP would be tempted to censor. But the same does not apply to a CITY run ISP, or even a county run ISP.

      Basically, private business have ZERO business competing with local government tax dollars on this. They have NO benefit to anyone except themselves and the people they bribed to get monopolies.

      Which is the real problem here - you are so upset with the government owned monopolies that you are ignoring the major disadvantages of the government SOLD monopolies.

      Corporations are great and wonderful in their place. But they have severe limitations and frankly, running an ISP is a bad idea.

      If a corporation can not compete with a local, municipal run ISP, then it has no business existing. They are not owed a business, they must EARN it.

      • There is one other difference - a state run ISP would be tempted to censor. But the same does not apply to a CITY run ISP, or even a county run ISP.

        The city and county are elements of "the state" -- government. If a "state run ISP" is tempted to censor, so would a city run ISP. My God, you mean you can see child porn using the Wapakanko City internet system? That should be BLOCKED! And SPAM! They should block all spam!

        Which is the real problem here - you are so upset with the government owned monopolies that you are ignoring the major disadvantages of the government SOLD monopolies.

        There are no "government sold" ISP monopolies. There are simply too many ISPs already operating to make such a claim seriously.

        If a corporation can not compete with a local, municipal run ISP, then it has no business existing.

        A corporation cannot compete against a government run ISP for many reasons, at least not on a even footing. T

        • by thestuckmud ( 955767 ) on Wednesday January 03, 2018 @11:32PM (#55860181)

          I'll point out, if you read the actual proceeding, the city isn't actually going ahead with building the fiber internet, they're going ahead with the studies and plans. The final approval still requires a public vote in November of 2018. There are very few details in what the council approved.

          I am delighted to say you misread the proceedings. Rather than having to wait until Nov, 2018, the City Council approved Ordinance No. 011, 2018, which authorizes "the City Electric Utility to begin implementing its provision of broadband facilities and services and to receive and expend the General Fund loan through the Light and Power Fund."

          Regarding your other arguments:

          First, Fort Collins has pledged to uphold net neutrality as an ISP. Municipal efforts like this on are the best solution currently suggested by net neutrality advocates in response to the FCC's new approach to regulation. In response to the FCC, Comcast has withdrawn their promise to provide net neutrality in their services.

          Second, we can argue whether Comcast is a de facto mopnopoly or a de jure monopoly in Fort Collins, but whatever name you choose way, Comcast has exclusive access to the cable through which they provide internet and they are my only choice if I want a broadband connection at my house in this city.

          The notion that Comcast cannot compete is ludicrous. Their profits are too high for them to leave town, as evidenced by the $900,000 ($55 per vote) they (along with Centurylink) spent trying to influence the municipal broadband election. They will continue to offer cable, internet, telephone, security, and other services, with all the advantages of a major content producing conglomerate.

          Finally, you ask why many government distrusting slashdotters are willing to take their chances with Fort Collins' city government? I can only speak for myself, and the reasons are twofold: First this is a case of trust governement or trust a company that has already proven itself duplicitous. But more importantly, the city government here in Fort Collins does a darned good job of governing and has earned my trust.

          • The notion that Comcast cannot compete is ludicrous. Their profits are too high for them to leave town, as evidenced by the $900,000 ($55 per vote) they (along with Centurylink) spent trying to influence the municipal broadband election. They will continue to offer cable, internet, telephone, security, and other services, with all the advantages of a major content producing conglomerate.

            Ah yes the advntages. You'll get some crappy, glitchy, content poor streaming service, an overpriced landline that you nev

          • I am delighted to say you misread the proceedings.

            In the summary, a "new planning document" that is dated Jan. 9, 2018 -- five days from now -- contains a clear outline of remaining steps. Wait a minute! Why the FUCK is the summary pointing to a BOULDER planning document when the story is about Fort Collins? Wow. I missed that. Fine. The rest of the points are still valid.

            First, Fort Collins has pledged to uphold net neutrality as an ISP.

            That's nice. I've heard governments pledge to do all kinds of things. It's naive to trust "pledges" when the courts have jurisdiction over those pledges, as well as the city council who c

            • No, we have no possible argument about whether Comcast as an ISP is a monopoly of any kind. If you actually look at the situation, you'll find 8 different ISPs [highspeedinternet.com] that serve Fort Collins.

              And if you actually lived in Fort Collins you'd know your choices are limited to Comcast or CenturyLink so bravo - you're right. It's a duopoly, not a monopoly.

              I've contacted some of those other companies. They just said they can't or won't serve any of the addresses in FoCo where I've ever lived.

              I look forward to the day when my internet is run the way my electric utility is run - efficiently and reasonably priced just the way Fort Collins Utilities is run.

              Actually, I do know one person whose ISP is one

        • Why is it that many slashdotters hold an inherent distrust of government, unless it is making promises to give you something you think should be cheap?

          See that's where you have it all wrong. Comcast, AT&T, et al have shown that they cannot be trusted. I've got no problem with any of the big ISPs if they weren't being fucktards with Internet access. No, it's not that we run to the government because we see cheap. It's that we run from the big ISPs because they've fucked shit up, just happens that some local governments tend to be in the general vicinity of "away from" who we're running from. You think we're looking around going, "where's the gover

          • See that's where you have it all wrong. Comcast, AT&T, et al have shown that they cannot be trusted.

            They haven't shown that to me, and I don't accept the argument that they are no longer promising something they don't need to promise means they're going to do the opposite. But that's a personal decision.

            Also irrelevant. The question is not whether to trust Comcast, but trusting government. "Government" is the one that spies on our phone calls, can't manage NN regulation, and a host of other things. Civil forfeiture which charges objects with criminal violations and then confiscates them, while the gover

            • Let me focus in on something you got there...

              Or any of a large number of other things that they would do were it not for the courts to stop some of it

              So I'm going to go with this idea that you believe in legal recourse. If not then just skip the rest of this, we're just not going to go anywhere.

              So the question remains: who do people who exhibit a complete distrust of the government suddenly accept promises at face value from the same government?

              The thing is this. There have been at least three dozen cases but here's one for you 600 F.3d 642 [eff.org] that have established that there is not a legal recourse for network traffic manipulation without the following things. The FCC must approve of what those rules are for network traffic, which they did in 2007. The FCC m

        • And if a city blocked access then it would be extremely easy to sue for restricting free speech (which a corporation can do, but a government cannot).

          A lot of slashdotters have an inherent distrust of all government universally because they've drink the libertarian koolaid. Sure, you may have a political opinion that you are entitled to, but the citizens of this city voted and decided on a different approach. Democracy means that sometimes you lose.

          The hypocrisy is that some of these people who are oppose

          • And if a city blocked access then it would be extremely easy to sue for restricting free speech (which a corporation can do, but a government cannot).

            Wow. Yes, after someone has sued to get religious sites blocked, someone else can sue to get them back. Will you step up and sue to get access back to CP sites when they are blocked as "illegal"? Hey, pedophile, why do you want access to kiddy porn? And don't even start trying to claim that commercial speech can't be blocked. Commercial speech has all kinds of limits.

            but the citizens of this city voted and decided on a different approach.

            This changes nothing about the issues. The tyranny of the masses is still tyranny even though everyone voted for it. The protections you see

            • You seem very fuzzy about the First Amendment. Discriminating against sites on the basis of religion is unconstitutional.

              You really don't seem to have arguments. Apparently, it's legal for the city to do this. You haven't told us why it shouldn't be. You just seem to dislike municipal broadband on the basis that "gubmnt bad".

      • Another is the road system. It is stupid to let a bunch of companies build toll roads.

        Oh, it won't be a bunch of companies, it'll be one that happens to have ties to Trump [thehill.com].

    • Who do you buy your water from?
    • The citizens are in favor of this. I know this may not agree with your personal views, but this is how democracy works.

    • by Sloppy ( 14984 )

      As much as I detest these companies, I don't believe it is the role of local government to compete with private business using public tax dollars and staff with life long benefits again paid by citizens.

      If you're outraged by this, wait until you learn the city owns City Hall, the courthouse, and fire stations, instead of renting them all from private companies. They even have employees (instead of contractors) who mop the floors. It's scandalous!

    • by Shotgun ( 30919 )

      Muni-Broadband is just the last mile of pipe. If Netflix or Youtube traverses any one of the cabal members upstream infrastructure (which is highly likely), the traffic can/will be degraded or throttled.

      That is handled by the CDN. It wouldn't take many servers at all to cache all of Netflix's movies.

  • by roc97007 ( 608802 ) on Wednesday January 03, 2018 @08:57PM (#55859503) Journal

    Wow, I haven't seen the bright side in eliminating net neutrality until just this moment. Once it's eliminated, Comcast will inevitably go back to data capping and throttling their competition, (because, hey, money) and people will have even more reason to go with municipal fiber instead. And of course, to keep up profits, Comcast will respond with even more draconian measures, which will cause even more people to quit. This will be very entertaining.

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      The past NN rules kept a few regional monopoly brands in total power as only they could legally and federally prove they could support new federal NN "rules".
      NN was cost of entry legal cover for protecting a network monopoly using a term the average person would think was a consumer protection.

      With the federal power of demanding NN compliance reduced new competitive ISP finally have the ability to expand all over the USA.

      Expect to see monopoly telco brands fight back with epic astroturfing https://en.w [wikipedia.org]
    • by dryeo ( 100693 )

      You don't think there will be a Federal law stopping this if Comcast has any say? I understand quite a few States have been talked into banning municipal internet and the Federal government can rightly claim interstate commerce.

      • Yes, I think I said elsewhere, Comcast's next step is probably lobbying for a federal law banning municipal internet. I think the argument should be made that in this day and age, that's like a federal law banning municipal water.

        I didn't say that Comcast would lose, (although I hope they do) only that this would be entertaining.

  • Cox just started metering internet (coincidentally right after the change in Administration... but anyway). Assuming he watches the same amount of Hulu/Netflix as he does TV the savings might be about $15-$25/mo. That accounts for all the extra fees you pay to use your internet connection. Meanwhile Comcast had admitted in their SEC filing that it costs them $9/mo to offer internet and I can't imagine Cox is that far off.

    We should just nationalize the Internet. The government can already regulate speech
    • . The government can already regulate speech on it so it's not like we're losing anything,

      More importantly, if the government censors the Internet, people get up in arms. If Comcast does it, half those people will say "they can do whatever, nah-nah, private corporation"

    • How much Netflix/Hulu can anybody watch? I mean there is so little left on these services that I would be interested in. I have Netflix DVD and I can look at my queue and see what is available to stream. Typically less than 10 percent of it is on the streaming service (most of that is Netflix originated content).

      Honestly I think I can find just as much worthwhile content for free at the public library or on YouTube than I can with Netflix or Hulu. Its only going to get worse as the licensing agreements expi

    • , it's not like those mega corps care about free speech.

      You mean all those pro-NN companies like Twitter, Facebook, Google, etc.

  • Please explain "Net Neutrality" and specify how a municipal network replaces the protections lost with the repeal of the 2015 Net Neutrality regulations...

    Too many people use the label "Net Neutrality" as a catch-all for anything and everything they don't like about their ISP - i've seen Net Neutrality held up as the solution for expensive monthly costs, slow speed, ensuring streaming data all treated equally, low infrastructure investments, slow pace of innovation, etc.

    It's a serious question - I'm looking

    • Please explain "Net Neutrality"

      NN means ISPs don't get to pick winners and losers based on packet header and payload "subject to reasonable network management"

      and specify how a municipal network replaces the protections lost with the repeal of the 2015 Net Neutrality regulations...

      Muni networks restore competition by removing barriers for last mile access. You don't like your ISP blocking your traffic? Do they charge too much? Don't appreciate per gigabyte overage fees? Your in luck because there are now many providers for you as the customer to select from. With a functioning local market for access the monopolistic bullshit tends to evaporate on it's

      • Those 2015 regulations were not "Net Neutrality" but an attempt to classify ISPs under Title 2. What makes that classification anything like the Net Neutrality you speak of and why is Title 2 the solution? Net Neutrality is only necessary if you have a monopoly which ISPs do not have. Title 2 assumes service over one physical line but does not address 2 physical lines competing (DSL and cable compete which the FCC says most US households have "broadband" for). Competition is the answer and I am not sure how

  • Some of us in Littleton/highlands ranch area are talking about doing this. U make it easier to accomplish.
  • All of these municipalities are actual ISP's rather than just last mile. What they need to be doing is subcontracting to VPN type ISP's. The last thing needed is for cities to be fielding law suits and subpoenas. It should be perfectly opaque to them.

    • Some do it right, it's glass to central points, CDWM/DWDM mapping database, and some space cental in the CO's. They can still stand up their own network with or without transit, for access to schools government emergency services and the like that ISP's might overlay on.

      So done right big ISP's would provide their own gear and just optically connect. Smaller ISP's might reuse the L2 network of the muni to get going and feel out a market till it makes sense to put in L2 gear of their own. This is right way

  • Well, it worked for me.
    Here in Brazil, the ISP situation is not all that different from the US.
    What finally got me out of crappy cable and dsl service was a state wide private public partnership that is now offering fiber in most major cities in my state.
    We are not in the same net neutrality ending situation as the US is, but suffice to say that general ISP services are plenty crap.
    And in general brazilian politics and the public sector in general is as shitty as they come, but for some reason fiber Interne

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