Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Municipal Networks

Monticello, Minnesota may soon begin building a fiber network to every home and business within its municipality soon. The Minnesota Supreme Court sided with Monticello after incumbent Bridgewater Telephone Co., a subsidiary of TDS Telecommunications of Madison WI, appealed two lower court rulings. (I would suggest the comments be read after the story as well).

Monticello passed, with a majority vote ~70%, to finance $26 million and build the fiber network within in the municipality. The Monticello network creates positive and negative consequences.

Fiber network in a town that has previously been bypassed
Connections to every home, not just business or "better neighborhoods"
Possible lower prices (speculation at this point)
A network that is more attentive to the people of the municipality

Financial obligation of the municipality towards the network
Overbuilding network, not every house or business may want services
As the article mentions, alienation of private investment in the municipality (speculation as well)
"Government" control over the network

Like any large investment there are negative and positive consequences. Burlington Telecom (Vermont) conducted a similar project several years ago. That entity seems to be doing well. However a quick glance at their Internet speeds/price structure is troublesome. Though it is hard to compare my cable ISP in Wisconsin to a fiber ISP in Vermont.

No matter the outcome of the Monticello fiber network, the project can provide further information for othre municipalities bypassed by incumbent service providers. The municipal model could even lead to such things as Internet service being moved into the utility sector, which I have advocated for quite some time.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Ireland, ISPs, and 3-strikes

The Irish Recorded Music Association is after ISPs in Ireland to utilize a 3-strikes policy for illegal file sharing in a legal action. If you recall the largest ISP in Ireland, Ericom, settled with the Association earlier this year by agreeing to implement a 3-strikes policy. The Association for its part was to pursue the implementation of the same 3-strikes policy at the other ISPs in Ireland.

This past week the Association filed paperwork against BT Ireland and UPC Communications Ireland.


Why only go after two of the ISPs? If Ericom is not fully supporting the 3-strike policy, why not take Ericom back to court as well. For that matter why not take on all ISPs in Ireland?

Why is the music industry acting alone? In the US it seems the RIAA and the MPAA are conjoined twins...As I know nothing of Irish law, I can only speculate and think the strategy that the Irish Recorded Music Association is undertaking is odd.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Copyright case ends

It appears that the hope that a new trial for Jammie Thomas-Rasset to lessen the fines for file sharing have been squashed. After the second trial, the jury fined Jammie Thomas-Rasset $1.92 million. Divide that among the 24 songs she shared and that is an astounding $80,000 a piece.

Unfortunately I have not had access to the trial or materials presented at the trial(s). However, there is already buzz that the fines are too harsh and a change in copyright law is needed. I am sure an appeal will be made in the near future. How does one, not wealthy already, come up with that sort of money?

Hopefully wiser minds will prevail and discover that the penalties prescribed by US copyright law are grossly out of proportion to the crime.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Pew Internet Survey

The Pew Internet and American Life Project has released their 2009 Home Broadband Adoption Report. This is always an interesting report, especially that Pew has been conducting this research for multiple years. Overall broadband penetration to households has increased to 63%. Which falls in line with the results of a Strategy Analytics' report mentioned at ArsTechnica.

Important figures from the Pew report show those with lower incomes are continuing to adopt broadband Internet access. For household incomes of $20,000 or less the figures jumped from 25% in 2008 to 35% in 2009. For households with an income between $20,000 and $30,000 the number went from 42% in 2008 to 53% in 2009.

On another note, it appears that the cost of broadband Internet access has increased. Areas with little to no competition have higher prices than locations with multiple access providers. Additionally, the Pew report finds that subscribers are paying more for premium services, those services that offer higher speeds for extra money over the basic fee.

One last point, which is hard to do since there are many interesting pieces of information in these reports. It looks as though African-Americans are for a second year in a row behind in broadband Internet access adoption. It might be time to investigate the reasons for this slow adoption rate.

I would suggest anyone interested in broadband Internet access in the US to read these reports from the Pew Internet and American Life Project. The reports are full of information and tidbits.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Broadband Internet Access as a Utility

In the past few days there was a renewed push to include broadband Internet access in the list of utilities. Included in most current lists are: electricity, water, sewer, telephone, steam, and natural gas. The perceived importance of broadband Internet access has been echoed by both politicians and academia for some time. (See Prof. Frieden) One need only look at the MuniWiFi projects around the US, or the efforts of local communities to develop fiber networks in their communities.

Recently British Prime Minister Gordon Brown made the comparison that Internet access is as important as access to other utilities (Thanks to Blandin for posting about this). The US included quite a bit of monetary support to increase broadband penetration and access in the US this past February in the stimulus bill. Many times President Obama has signaled that broadband Internet access is essential to the future of the US.

Why not make Internet access a necessity like other utilities? The rhetoric and the mentality are present in many individuals, groups, and communities across the country. Just as other services such as water, electricity, and telephone were included in the list of utilities, so should Internet access.

Of course there is a catch to providing Internet access. Devices are needed to utilize Internet access. Fortunately some relatively inexpensive computers have become available. In cases that these inexpensive computers are out of the means of citizens, a scheme similar to the DTV coupon program should be created.