May 18, 2008

Cities Startup Broadband Efforts

Christopher Rhoads:

Internet traffic is growing faster than at any time since the boom of the late-1990s. Places like Chattanooga are trying hard not to get stuck in the slow lane.

Some 60 towns and small cities, including Bristol, Va., Barnsville, Minn., and Sallisaw, Okla., have built state-of-the-art fiber networks, capable of speeds many times faster than most existing connections from cable and telecom companies. An additional two dozen municipalities, including Chattanooga, have launched or are considering similar initiatives.

The efforts highlight a battle over Internet policy in the U.S. Once the undisputed leader in the technological revolution, the U.S. now lags a growing number of countries in the speed, cost and availability of high-speed Internet. While cable and telecom companies are spending billions to upgrade their service, they're focusing their efforts mostly on larger U.S. cities for now.

Smaller ones such as Chattanooga say they need to fill the vacuum themselves or risk falling further behind and losing highly-paid jobs. Chattanooga's city-owned electric utility began offering ultrafast Internet service to downtown business customers five years ago. Now it plans to roll out a fiber network to deliver TV, high-speed Internet and phone service to some 170,000 customers. The city has no choice but to foot the bill itself for a high-speed network -- expected to cost $230 million -- if it wants to remain competitive in today's global economy, says Harold DePriest, the utility's chief executive officer.

Madison's pitiful broadband infrastructure could certainly use a shot in the arm.

Posted by jez at May 18, 2008 10:30 PM | Subscribe to this site via RSS:
Posted to Broadband | Business | Politics | Technology