Municipal and State Networks for Internet Access Getting More Attention

One trend you always can count on when any former-monopoly market is opened to competition is that many new niches develop. In the telecom business, that meant the development of firms selling mostly to smaller businesses or enterprises; metro fiber wholesalers; data center operators and affinity mobile services companies. Some firms sell managed services; others Wi-Fi hotspot service.

But regional optical fiber networks also have developed, and some emerging networks are operated as public-private partnerships or municipal cooperatives. In a growing number of cases, towns themselves are opting to sell internet access directly to citizens.  

The KentuckyWired project (also known as Kentucky I-Way in eastern Kentucky) is building a network backbone costing $350 million over the next 30 years and plans to lease capacity to retail service providers.

The Massachusetts WiredWest program is a cooperative formed by 32 towns to build a wide area network and local fiber-to-home networks delivering local internet access in each of the towns.

Communities must get at least 40 percent of households in their area to commit to purchasing internet access service, making a $49 deposit that is reimbursed as a credit against the first bill.

The cost to build the network in the 32 towns is an estimated $79 million. The state is contributing up to 40 percent of the funds, but the towns must provide the rest.  A 55 percent vote in a town meeting is needed to approve borrowing the funds each town must contribute.

Retail internet access of 100 Mbps costs $79 a month. Gigabit service costs $109 a month.

WiredWest also sells phone service for $25 a month and also plans to sell entertainment video services.
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