Advantages of WiredWest’s Regional Broadband Solution
Towns are now being confronted with a range of different possibilities. Here are some considerations:
Unlike landline telephone service, internet service is not regulated. There is no mandate to provide internet service to all residents, no minimum standards, and no price controls. Some of the options now being considered would leave towns completely dependent on a single private company that would own the broadband infrastructure. Even if the initial deal looks good, down the road towns would have no recourse if companies hike up the rates, refuse service to new homes, or allow the quality of service to decline. With WiredWest’s current plan, towns would own their own network except for some fiber and equipment used to link the networks. WiredWest is governed by the towns and would make decisions about who operates the network and at what price.
Managing a network is not an easy task. Hiring and coordinating vendors for operations and maintenance is a big job as can be seen from Leverett’s overview of their institutional, contractual and financial arrangements . WiredWest would consolidate these tasks and manage the networks as a whole, relieving towns of this burden.
A town operating a network individually would have complete control, however it is not a cost effective solution. Buying bandwidth in small increments and conscripting various services individually drives the price up. Through a combination of cost averaging, consolidation of services, and economy of scale, WiredWest should be able to provide the most cost effective solution for participating towns. This is especially true for sparsely populated towns where the savings can be up to $30/mo – the difference between being sustainable or not. Towns considering private partners need to be wary of surcharges levied on the town or subscribers to cover the private partner’s borrowing costs that would probably be larger than tax increases needed to cover debt service to pay for a town owned network.
Though the MB123 Middle mile was originally conceived to be a fault tolerant ring topology network, that is not what was finally built. Many towns are on “spurs,” meaning that a single line break could render whole towns out of service for extended periods of time. WiredWest will advise towns how to design their networks in coordination with other towns to create a true, fault tolerant “ring” configuration that would prevent any town from losing service due to a single break.
Spreading various types of risk across the whole region reduces it for each town. For example, some towns may be quicker than others to get their take rate up to a level that meets expenses. Also, a freak accident that causes expensive repairs might be devastating to an individual town, but could be absorbed by the larger region.
To accomplish all this,
we need to design and build our networks in a way that allows sharing of bandwidth and operation. MBI’s professional staff understands this well and is willing to build such a network if policy allows. Currently, one item in MBI’s Last Mile Policy that we would like MBI’s cooperation with is that MBI currently requires towns to individually connect and utilize the MB123 Middle Mile unless it deems an exception is warranted. This negates the cost, reliability, and operational efficiency advantages of a regional network. Towns should have the ability to shop for the best option for the source of their bandwidth and to share bandwidth through a regional connection rather than be required to connect individually.