Saturday, May 06, 2006

Fiber-to-the-Home in Rural Georgia

Add to your list of forward-thinking telephone companies Wilkes Telephone and Electric. According to a story in the Lincoln County Journal they're in the midst of a two stage fiber to the home buildout (see also accompanying brag ad). Never heard of 'em? That's because they serve three counties in extremely rural Northeast Georgia. Fiber to the Home (FTTH) is apparently not too expensive to be deployed by small locally-owned telecos.

It's also not too expensive in rural Louisiana: FTTH is being deployed by locally owned telephone businesses in East Ascension, Kaplan, and Cameron. In Louisiana, as in the nation as a whole, up-to-date telecom infrastructure is being spearheaded by locally concerned and invested business and municipalities. It it the big international companies that are dragging their heels and holding out their hand for public subsidies.

You would have thought that it'd be the big boy Bells (AT&T, Verizon, BellSouth et al.) that would have the technical capacity and the financial resources to roll out FTTH. After all they've been telling small towns and cities all over the country that they're the only ones competent to do it--and that it was too technically difficult and expensive for those little communities. At the state and national level the tune was a little different: the big Bell phone companies have been promising fiber for at least two decades in return for federal deregulation and massive state-level subsidization. Neither produced the promised fiber-optic based last mile networks and the lack of any follow-up on those promises by either legislators or the press is a major national scandal. The question of how much to trust these guys is especially relevant as we gear up nationally and in Louisiana to pass "cable" franchise laws that will strip local communities of the right to control contracts that lease public rights-of-way to telecom companies.

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