Santa Fe, New Mexico is the latest city to support its own municipal broadband infrastructure. The city is launching a million dollar effort to build out its own fiber optic infrastructure with the goal of increasing both broadband access and competition among broadband providers.
Santa Fe has slower broadband than large surrounding cities like Albuquerque, which undermines local economic development, and frustrates residents according to city officials who have recently faced backlash from broadband providers. Incumbent providers in Santa Fe say they may consider litigation and that the project won’t drive up speeds. We’ve seen this movie before in municipalities where officials take action when providers fail to provide adequate services.
CenturyLink and Comcast are the major players in Santa Fe, with CenturyLink owning most of the fiber, so even other internet service providers have to run on CenturyLink’s system. City officials leading the project told the Santa Fe New Mexican that they consider the existing system “unregulated and uncompetitive”. The new fiber optic network would be independent and give those other providers a shot at bringing their service to town without paying CenturyLink a toll.
Santa Fe has opted to go with a local provider for the project work – Cyber Mesa — which both CenturyLink and Comcast say is unfair. According to the New Mexican CenturyLink told the city not to waste its money trying to support a local free market during the bid process, and now claims that the bid process wasn’t open enough.
We imagine a bill in the New Mexico statehouse to ban municipal networks is forthcoming as the existing playbook would dictate. Watch this space.