Fighting the internet monopolies

It is well known that people in the US pay more and get worse internet services than people in most other developed countries. Why? Because the major internet companies have pretty much carved up the country into regions that are dominated by one or a couple of companies, thus killing competition, and the government regulators have let them do it. But some communities are going their own way, such as the small town of Charlemont, Massachusetts that has just 1300 residents and covers an area of 26 square miles.

Comcast offered to bring cable Internet to up to 96 percent of households in Charlemont in exchange for the town paying $462,123 plus interest toward infrastructure costs over 15 years. But Charlemont residents rejected the Comcast offer in a vote at a special town meeting Thursday.

“The Comcast proposal would have saved the town about $1 million, but it would not be a town-owned broadband network,” the Greenfield Recorder reported Friday. “The defeated measure means that Charlemont will likely go forward with a $1.4 million municipal town network, as was approved by annual town meeting voters in 2015.”

Town officials estimate that building a municipal fiber network reaching 100 percent of homes would cost $1,466,972 plus interest over 20 years.

An increase in property taxes would cover the construction cost. But the town would also bring in revenue from selling broadband service and potentially break even, making the project less expensive than Comcast’s offer.

“With 59 percent of households taking broadband service, the tax hike would be 29 cents [per $1,000 of assessed home value], similar to that for Comcast,” a Recorder article last month said. “But if 72 percent or more of households subscribe to the municipal-owned network, there is no tax impact, because subscriber fees would pay for it.”

More municipalities should follow this model though you can be sure that the big cable companies will fight it all the way. Because the major feature of capitalism in the US is that the big companies hate competition and hate public ownership of important services even more.


  1. says

    In some jurisdictions, the big communications companies are sponsoring legislation that says municipalities can’t offer broadband. And guess what? Legislators that have taken money from big telco are going along with it.

    To those who feel that regulation or public services are less efficient than capitalist competition, I say “come live in fucking Verizon country.” Out here 10mbit with a 30gig monthly cap costs $250/month.

  2. Sam N says

    Yeah, I’ve come to the unfortunate conclusion that the public, in aggregate, are a bunch of Fing morons.

  3. johnson catman says

    Marcus @1:
    North Carolina is one of those states that the ISPs have bought the republican legislators. The town of Wilson constructed its own internet service, and when they tried to expand their service to a nearby community, the ISPs sued based on the repressive law and won. Neither the ISPs nor the republican legislators have any shame. It is all about lining their pockets.

  4. Curt Sampson says

    Holy crap that’s expensive, Marcus. I was just bemoaning the other day that I’m still stuck on 100 Mbps fiber (and actually more like 80-90 Mbps, because the fiber terminates on the first floor of my building and is brought to my apartment via VDSL) rather than the standard 1 Gbps most homes get these days. But at least I pay only about ¥6500 (USD 60) for it, including a static IP address.

    A 30 GB cap is ridiculous; that would barely have downloaded a triple-A video game three years ago, and is about half a game today. I have no idea if I have a cap (if I do, they don’t tell me), but I’d guess I easily do a couple hundred GB or more in some months.

    Anyway, yeah, the basic problem in the U.S. is lack of competition. Rather ironic that in far more “socialist” Japan pretty much everyone throughout the country (except perhaps in the remotest areas) has relatively cheap fiber local loops and a choice of a couple of dozen ISPs at the other end of the loop.

  5. tenine says

    Here in my town of Chattanooga, Tennessee the local power board has installed a fiber optic network for it’s smart grid. Piggybacked on that is a home fiber service that can deliver up to 10 gig service to the home. How a government entity in Tennessee got away with it I’m not sure. Even my inner city apartment complex has been so connected. So we now have the option of comcast, AT&T, and epb.

  6. fentex says

    To those who feel that regulation or public services are less efficient than capitalist competition, I say “come live in fucking Verizon country.” Out here 10mbit with a 30gig monthly cap costs $250/month.

    Friends tell me it’s standard to get 1Gb unlimited fibre in Japan for ~USD$30 a month.

    In New Zealand urban places can get 100Mb unlilmited fibre for ~USD$64 a month (far flung rural locations have obvious problems with such infrastructure).

  7. Johnny Vector says

    Government services are inefficient and much more expensive than services provided through the free market, and therefore we must not allow them to exist or they’ll put the private providers out of business. Because, uh, logic?

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