June 23, 2005

Wall Street Journal profiles Granbury, TX fight against SBC

The front page of today's Wall Street Journal contains a profile of Granbury's municipal broadband initiative, interviewing IT Directory Tony Tull.

The article explains how Granbury wasn't getting good service

Granbury is only about 35 miles southwest of Fort Worth, and people who move into town often are surprised to find they can't get cheap, high-speed Web access. In 2001, San Antonio-based SBC installed some high-speed connections, but the company still hasn't rolled out its network to the entire town. According to SBC, only about 20% of the town is wired with digital subscriber lines, or DSL, the technology SBC uses for high-speed Internet service. In Texas, lines serving 25% of SBC customers haven't been upgraded.

It also explains the details of the public-private partnership between Granbury and private ISP Frontier Communications. Frontier Communications fronted the money for the equipment and its installation, and provides ongoing network management and technical support.

The company installed antennas using equipment from Motorola Inc. on a water tower and on a city-owned radio tower in the local cemetery, providing high-speed access to city hall, two firehouses, a wastewater treatment plant and the local airport.
Last November, Frontier started equipping the entire city with Wi-Fi equipment from Tropos Networks Inc., an equipment maker that specializes in citywide wireless networks. Intel was an early Tropos investor. Among Mr. Tull's goals was providing Web access to police cars so officers could check records on the road. He and Frontier later expanded the plans to offer paid, high-speed wireless Web access to residents and businesses, with customers paying Frontier.
So far, roughly 60% of the city is covered, according to Mike Timmins, a co-owner of Frontier. Frontier paid for the equipment and its installation, but the city now is talking with Frontier about purchasing the entire Tropos network -- as well as additional equipment to cover the rest of town -- at a total cost of about $300,000.
Frontier will continue to manage the network and provide technical support. Out of the regular monthly charges of about $19.95 that subscribers pay to Frontier, the city will collect $3 per subscriber each month to recoup the cost of the equipment. "The entire capital outlay is shared," Mr. Tull says.

The phone company's propoganda focuses on the evils of "government going into business", but in practice, private enterprises install the equipment and deliver the service.

The WSJ article also points out that the telephone companies receive $5 billion in federal subsidies (for Universal Service Funds grants). That's not counting the state-level USF subsidy, which in Texas accounts for $583 million.

This highlights the hypocrisy of the complaints against government involvement -- clearly, government involvement is good, so long as it goes into the pockets of the phone companies!

Posted by alevin at June 23, 2005 08:51 AM