Next week (Feb 24) North St Paul is having a special vote on an $18.5 million bond to build a fiber-optic network to provide high-speed Internet, telephone and cable services as a utility in North St. Paul.
On Feb 18, 2009 Pat Anderson from the Minnesota Free Market Institute wrote is to say that building fiber does not make financial sense since most municipal fiber networks fail and alludes to philosophical issues with government providing services that commercial entities provide.
On Feb 19, 2009, Christopher Mitchell from the Institute for Local Self Reliance countered by pointing out that the FTTH Council maintains a list of successful FTTH networks and points out that some of the failures that Anderson mentions have resulted in saved local job and encouraged increased economic investment.
I think the issue of municipal networks is going to get a lot more local attention in the next few months. Perhaps cities were stalled while people watched what happened in Monticello – but as that saga continues into extra innings I think communities that are unhappy with their broadband access are stepping up.
If I were a broadband provider, I think my best defense against municipal networks might be providing the best service I could. Because as a consumer and citizen, I’m voting no to municipal networks if I’m happy with what I’ve got; I’m voting yes if I’m frustrated.