Earlier this week I was walking from my house (in St Paul) to my coffee shop (also in St Paul) and noticed a huge spool labelled Corning being unrolled. Score! And the folks unrolling the spool assured me that yes – fiber was coming!
Today I learned a little more about better broadband in my ‘hood. According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, St Paul is upgrading their account with Comcast…
The city of St. Paul will pay Comcast more than $2 million to upgrade the data network connecting more than 100 public buildings to high-speed fiber optic cable.
Since 1998, St. Paul has received network service for free from Comcast as part of a larger agreement that allowed the company to provide cable TV to its residents.
But the network was too slow for transmitting surveillance video to the Police Department or providing decent Internet service to library patrons, said Tarek Tomes, the city’s chief information officer.
“We’re paying zero for a service that really doesn’t meet anyone’s needs,” he said.
Under the deal signed this week, the city also will pay Comcast more than $400,000 a year to provide network service over those connections.
That’s a nice upgrade for Comcast. The same article alludes to a project that had been in the works in Ramsey County a few years ago. Ramsey was going to hire someone to build a fiber network for/with them. The builders were going to build in enough strands of fiber to offer FTTH services to residents. I was pretty excited at that prospect – but it fell through.
I’m sorry that similar options don’t seem to be coming up with Comcast. I was just rereading notes from the February Minnesota Broadband Task Force. Several local government representatives spoke about how they work together with public and private partners to create a network that works for everyone – government, school, residents and businesses. Dakota County is a standout in terms of investing in infrastructure that saves money (they went from $700,000 to $15,000 bills by building their own) and they are now parlaying that into a way to entice better service for residents. Heck why can’t we be more like them?
The Minneapolis Star Tribune article also notes that the Mayor of St Paul (Chris Coleman) and a top lobbyist at Comcast (Emmett Coleman) are brothers. So you’d think that great uses of the network would come up at Sunday family dinners. As a Ramsey County resident, I’d love to see that relationship help St Paul come up with some innovative solutions.
Back at home, I’m still waiting to see who is stringing fiber. With any luck I’ll be getting a fiber option soon.
My frustration is minor compared to residents of rural areas. I have choices. Population density is high in my town; it means I can see into my neighbors’ windows but also a business case can be made to bring broadband to my neighborhood. Local government buildings, schools, libraries are assets that a community has to offer to a provider. Innovative thinking (as seen in Dakota County) can help serve public and private needs. And I don’t necessarily mean a municipal network – but a partnership that extends beyond buyer-seller.