The growth of municipal broadband networks

Leo Bicknell bicknell at
Fri Mar 25 15:11:04 CDT 2011

In a message written on Fri, Mar 25, 2011 at 08:31:21AM -1000, Paul Graydon wrote:
> I'm curious how the feeling is on NANOG about shifting such provision 
> towards municipal instead of corporations?  I guess a rough summary of 
> the competing views I've heard so far are:

If you look at the services going into most homes, what you find
are monopolies.  Some are government run, some are regulated
monopolies, and there are now lots of hybrid models.

The funamental issue is that it is not cost effective to anyone
(governments, corporations, or citizens) to build multiple gas,
water, sewer, electrical, telephone or television distribution
systems to every home.  Remember that when these services were
invisioned and first deployed telephone and television did not

It is only in very recent times that we have been able to overlay
Internet on both cable and television, and to have television
competition via satellite.

To that end, I think the US would be much better off with fiber to
the home on a single distribution infrastructure.  That could be
owned and operated by the municipality (like the water system) or
owned and operated by a corporation granted an exclusive right to
service an area (think telephone, at least pre CLEC).

Where you immediately run into a snag is the next layer up.  Should
the government provide IP services, if the fiber is government
owned?  Should private companies be required to offer competitors
access to provide IP services if the fiber is privately owned?
There's a lot of space inside these questions for different models,
and I think there are at least a half dozen in play in different

Having looked around the world I personally believe most communities
would be best served if the government provided layer-1 distribution,
possibly with some layer 2 switching, but then allowed any commercial
entity to come in and offer layer 3 services.  For simplicity of
argument I like people to envision the local government fiber agency
(like your water authority) dropping off a 1 port fiber 4 port
copper switch in your basement.  On that device they can create a
layer 2 VLAN/VPN/Tunnel from any of the copper ports to any provider
in the town CO.  You could buy video from one, voice from one, and
internet from another, on three different ports.  You could buy
everything from one provider.

The actual deployments are a bit more complex, but I actually think
if in new construction we could drop telephone and coax in the
neighborhoods, and deploy fiber to the home it would be cheaper to
construct, cheaper to operate in the long term, and would end up
giving consumers a lot more choice.  It is for all those reasons I
expect any established business to be firmly against it.

       Leo Bicknell - bicknell at - CCIE 3440
        PGP keys at
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