If you want to know anything about community networks, Chris Mitchell at the Institute for Local Self Reliance is the person to ask. He has written a new report (Twin Cities Broadband No Match For Community Network). In it he looks at broadband service in the Twin Cities (Minneapolis and St Paul) where service is primarily offered through commercial providers and compares it to service in Monticello, Minnesota, with its municipal FTTH network. He has found that…
The most recent data shows that Monticello’s community owned network offers much faster connections at lower prices than the private sector operators in the Twin Cities.
The ILSR report also found that, “every $1 for Monticello FiberNet offers 0.33/0.33 Mbps (download, upload), compared to 0.28/0.05 from Comcast, 0.16/0.02 from Qwest, and 0.10/0.03 from USIW Wi-Fi.”
As you can see the greatest difference is seen in the upload speeds. Fiber provides synchronous connectivity and the report explains why that’s important; video chat was one example.
I was particularly interested in how the ILSR numbers would compare pricing after reading the recent SBA report that indicated that on the average rural businesses pay more for broadband than urban counterparts. Looking at the numbers isn’t necessarily comparing apples to apples. The SBA reported that businesses “pay an average of $110 per month for Internet service, though most pay between $50 and $99 per month”. I learned from Connected Nation (at the Minnesota Broadband Advisory Task Force) that the average dialup monthly fee in Minnesota is $31.81 Home broadband monthly fee $46.36. The ILSR numbers are the most meaningful in that the averages provided by the others don’t specify speeds – but they’re still apples to oranges.
The quick answer is that it appears as if generally rural access is more expensive – but that doesn’t need to be the case – as demonstrated by Monticello. Communities who are interested in pursuing municipally-directed network might make talking to Monticello one of their first steps. Monticello has been very generous with information on their strategy and deployment.