The Monticello, Minnesota city council approved a measure last night that chose US-based Gigabit Squared, a municipal broadband provider to improve a locsl municipal broadband network that will compete with local private sector providers. The company is tasked with undetaking a six month long review of the city’s existing network and look for ways to make it more profitable and efficient.
The network – FiberNet Monticello, provides bundled TV, phone and internet service similar to bundles offered by private sector providers like Comcast or Cablevision. The city is looking for ways to improve cost efficiency and service, during its contract period, Gigabit will provide city officials with recommendations to meet those goal and manage the network on a temporary basis. The city will then decide whether to retain the company beyond that period to provide services.
The network was originally created through a bond issue and now has 1700 subscribers including over 100 businesses. The city is also looking at refinancing the original bond issue. Local press coverage notes that tax payers are not on the hook if the network fails, but it would add fuel to criticisms that the municipal network is a case of government overreach.
As CivSource reported earlier this year, municipal networks like FiberNet are under attack from private sector broadband providers who say that municipal backed networks make for unfair competition. Despite a move by state government to support a statewide network expansion a bill was put up to block municpalities from offering services like FiberNet.
Not all providers are created equal however, Gigabit Squared is specifically focused on helping municipalities deliver broadband services. The Ohio-based company has worked on a variety of municipal projects throughout the country and is also part of the Gig.U project which seeks to leverage university high speed networks to foster local economic development and increase broadband access. The company and the concept seems to be picking up steam – it just raised $200 million in funding for its work with Gig.U.
Leverett, Massachusetts also passed a $3.6 million bond issue last week to launch its own municipal fiber network by a whopping margin of 462-90 in favor. The vote drew big turn out – with 39% of residents voting on the single issue ballot.