Muni Fiber and Politics

Miles Fidelman mfidelman at
Wed Jul 23 15:24:01 UTC 2014

Steven Saner wrote:
> In the US, in midwest rural areas at least, you see do quite a few
> cooperatives in the realm of things like power distribution. It isn't
> quite the same as neighbors getting together to build a network, but it
> has some of the same elements. I live outside of the city and I am a
> member of a rural electric cooperative. Compared to when I was in the
> city on the local regulated monopoly grid, my rates are lower, the
> number of outages are fewer and the overall quality of service is
> better. I don't know if that is necessarily a common experience, but it
> is mine. It seems to me that in rural areas a cooperative framework
> could be ideal for networks as well.

Funny story.  There are a huge number of independent telcos in Iowa.  
The reason: early on, farmers discovered that you could turn pairs of 
barbed wired strands into party lines.  Things developed from there.
> Now, it is tempting to suggest that the electric cooperative should take
> on the project. After all they have a network of electric poles, it
> doesn't seem that it would be that hard to hang fiber on them. However,
> I fear that it would be enough outside of the management's wheelhouse
> that it could end badly. Would probably need a completely separate
> management team to do it right.

Don't kid yourselves - they ARE involved in telecom.  Take a look at:

Electric utilities are neck deep in telecom - what with SCADA and smart 
grid stuff to worry about.  It's just that other than Boston Edison, 
which spawned RCN, it's the munis and coops that are the only ones going 
into retail telecom - essentially driven by the same motivations that 
created them in the first place ("the big guys aren't showing to provide 
<x> - we need to do it ourselves"). Electric utilities have a leg up, in 
that they have poles, trucks, people, billing, and everyone in town is a 
customer - telecom is an easy step.

Looked at another way - municipal utilities are just coops writ large 
(or coops are munis write small) - either way its about user/community 
ownership and control of local infrastructure. Smaller communities seem 
to favor coops, larger ones seem to favor municipal utlities.

Miles Fidelman

In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice.
In practice, there is.   .... Yogi Berra

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