Sunday, July 06, 2008

It's still working in rural Pennsylvania

Long-time readers will recall our happy fascination with Kutztown, the small town in Pennsylvania that built one of the nation's first municipal fiber-optic networks and later added its own wi-fi network. (See earlier LPF entries on the town: 1, 2, 3)

It is still working in Pennsylvania; quotes from the Carroll County Times:
It’s not sunny every day and money doesn’t sprout from trees in Kutztown, Pa., but for cable and Internet fiends, it may be considered paradise...

Caruso said the FTTH system doesn’t just help the customers using it. He said once the system went online, the competition’s cable TV prices split in half. People out of the service area pay about $53 for cable, but residents who have the choice of Hometown Utilicom or Service Electric Cable TV and Communications pay $25 for cable.

He said upfront cost is an issue for towns looking into a FTTH system, but since Kutztown’s system was activated in 2002, the town has estimated its residents have saved $1.5 million in cable, phone and Internet billing...

Compared to Verizon’s FiOS, which stands for fiber-optic service, Caruso said, “We’re not similar to them; they’re similar to us.”

He said the backbone of their system could have a gigabit of broadband for upload and downloads, which could be a real possibility in the future.
The nice thing about the Kutztown example is that its very existence quietly explodes the myths that opponents of municipal fiber networks would have you believe. To wit:
  1. You don't need fiber; you don't really want it. (Kutztown, it turns out, knew what it was doing.)
  2. Fiber is too hard for the dim locals (Little Kutztown's tech guy does fine, thanks)
  3. The municipality will never get a good product. (Kutztown's population, which has put the local cable and internet product in every other house in the city, apparently thinks otherwise.)
  4. It's not feasible in all those little rural places (Kutztown's pop: 5,000)
  5. They'll never keep up with the tech. (Kutztown launched in '96 and is still ahead of the private competition...by a lightyear. And they launched wifi when it came along. Take that, Verizon.)
  6. The government version will cost more. (Kutztown still offers basic cable for 18 dollars a month.)
  7. It'll cost the citizen's money. (Kutztown has used zero tax dollars and estimates are that the citizens of the little town have saved 1.5 million in cable and phone fees since the launch.)
  8. Incumbent FUD; they say: Fiber isn't really future proof, who knows what new tech will come along next year? (Kutztown has kept up with the demand for the last decade without rearchitecting its network—which is more than you can say for its private competition—and, as the article notes, it will be able to scale up to gigabit speeds without changing a lick of the fiber itself.)
Me, I'm looking forward to January...

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