This week's municipal versus incumbent carrier network fight is taking place in Opelika, Ala., a town where residents today will either give their approval to build or not build their own municipal fiber-based broadband network.
Similar to other municipal broadband ventures, the Opelika network will be built through a combination of $33 million in revenue bonds and a piece of a core fiber ring from the local electric utility. And yes, Opelika's broadband plan is facing opposition from what else but the local cable operator, Charter, and a community group called the "Concerned Citizens of Opelika" that wants to stop the plan altogether.
Jack Mazzola, a member of the Concerned Citizens of Opelika," said that the broadband plan goes against the role of the U.S. government, which is to "ensure justice-not cable TV." Mazzola added that the "referendum represents everything going wrong with our nation today, and it is an opportunity for us to stop, here at home, something that is so fundamentally opposed to the principles this country was founded on."
Although there are a number of well-documented cases where municipal broadband projects have struggled to make a profit, the drive to build these networks tend to be in areas where incumbent carriers have made minimal, if any, effort to provide high speed broadband services.
What's most interesting here is Charter's stance that their HFC network, which would also include fiber, is more resilient than an all-fiber last mile network. "This delivery system keeps the cost down for residential customers while supplying direct fiber optic connections to businesses requiring the maximum bandwidth available nationally," said Skip James, government relations director for Charter Communications. "If a coaxial cable is damaged by traffic accidents or excavation procedures, it can be repaired rather quickly, whereas a damaged fiber optic cable will take hours or days to repair, depending on the scenario."
However, the reality as pointed out in a Broadband DSL Reports post, cable networks are also prone to network outages caused by fiber cuts and Charter's argument is nothing than a way to confuse consumers that don't know the difference between a Fiber to the Home (FTTH) and Hybrid Fiber Coax (HFC).
To be fair, telcos that have not taken the full FTTH plunge (AT&T and Qwest) are just as culpable for the last mile fiber confusion. Qwest, for example, claims they have a fast fiber optic network, when what they have is a hybrid copper/fiber network whose speed is still at the mercy of how far the customer resides from the remote terminal (RT) cabinet to be eligible to get the VDSL2 Fiber to the Node (FTTN)-based service.
- Broadband DSL Reports gives its take
Opelika smart-grid telecom company plan no slam dunk
Despite spotty history, Alabama city considers own cable TV system
North Carolina fights anti-municipal broadband bill