I would like to address the issue of government run Internet provisioning as the Custer County Economic Development Corporation advocates. Because the issue is complex and I don’t want to chase rabbits, I will limit my concerns in this letter.
First, we need to define broadband. In 2015, the FCC changed the requirement for Internet speeds to be considered broadband from 4 Megabits per second download speed and 1 Mbps upload to 25 Mbps down and 3 Mbps up. That meant millions who had fast enough Internet speeds suddenly did not have “broadband”. The decision was completely arbitrary and capricious and was not based on any science.
Recently (under a new administration) the FCC is proposing broadband standards be changed. If the Republican proposal goes forward, speed requirements will be reduced to 10 Mbps down and 1 Mbps up. If Democrats have their way, the standard will be raised to 100 Mbps. So if the Republican standard is adopted, Custer County already has well over 70% coverage. If the Democrat standard is adopted, the new towers being planned will not increase “broadband” availability.
And the truth is that what speeds you need are dependent on how you use the Internet. Many people are perfectly happy with DSL speeds of 1.44 Mbps and can stream video and music to their heart’s content. I have worked at several businesses where the available bandwidth for all 50 or 100 employees is 7 Mbps. Do not be fooled by the hype. Netflix recommends 5 Mbps download speed to stream high definition video. My current plan is 24 Mbps download. What magical benefit will I derive by increasing my bandwidth by another megabit?
Then there is the issue of the difference between a private company and a public utility. The subscribers to Secom can certainly enlighten you about the difference. Make no mistake; Secom has a public utility mindset as bad as or worse than the phone company’s mindset. To provide some examples, when the provider was DD Wireless, if you had an issue, you would talk to someone intimately familiar with the locale and equipment. Not so under Secom. If you used Hilltop Wireless, you’d probably talk to Claire.
If maintenance was planned, you would be notified. Apparently, the technology is too advanced for Secom so they suggest you follow their Twitter feed to find out if you will have internet the next day. I have complained often enough that I now get a phone call, but most customers don’t receive any advance notice. And, regarding maintenance, no private company would dream of taking all their customers down for an entire day. What we in the industry do is schedule maintenance for as short a window as we can and for a time that has the least impact. Ask Hilltop Wireless when they do maintenance and just like DD Wireless, it is the middle of the night and for short times. And they do notify their customers in advance.
And Finally, Colorado law requires that municipalities hold a referendum before providing cable, telecommunications, or broadband service, unless the community is unserved. Our community is not unserved, we have several providers and yet we have not seen a ballot issue addressing whether taxpayer funding should go to providing either broadband or telecommunications.