Monday, August 22, 2005

News from the Iowa Front

"Opportunity Iowa" has been engaging in an effort to tie together its towns and cities in a regional alliance that would, together, give them the economic basis for developing a fiber-optic network. They are inspired, at least in part, by the example of Cedar Falls, a city which built its municipally-owned network years ago and offered advanced services over its then state of the art hybrid fiber-coax network long before the local cable company got around to it. If this sounds vaguely familiar that may be because Cedar Fall's experience was the subject of a keynote address at Lafayette Coming Together's breakfast event during the referendum campaign.

Iowa recently turned back an attempt to outlaw municipal systems but a bitter political battle rages on, a report from the Chicago Tribute claims. The most interesting parts to the author were the reports on the success of muni broadband networks to grow, attract, and enable the startup of new businesses.

Bits from the story:

"Municipalities from Lafayette, La., to Philadelphia are moving to provide residents with broadband connections, while in others, such as Geneva, Batavia and St. Charles, voters rejected the idea. The initiatives, which proponents say boost local economic development opportunities, are spurring intense battles across the nation with cable and phone companies, which believe the competition is unfair.

Municipalities like Cedar Falls jumped into action a decade ago, when community leaders perceived that information infrastructure would be vital to economic success in the new century. They decided that if left to market forces, small hamlets would be among the last to get connected to the information superhighway.

...the Mudd Group, makes TV commercials, video e-mails and Web site content that it ships to TV stations and customers around the country over communications connections as fast as anything available in Chicago or Los Angeles.

"Many TV commercials once made in California now come from Canada because it's cheap," Mudd said. "In Iowa, we can make them even cheaper."

The Mudd Group uses high-speed optical fiber lines supplied by the Cedar Falls Utility, a municipal operation that offered affordable high-speed data connections years before the local cable TV operator or phone company made such services available.

And that's only one inspiring example from the story. Give it a look; its worth the the free registration.

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