Word comes by way of the San Francisco Bay Guardian that the city’s Department of Telecommunications and Information Services (DTIS) has hired Columbia Telecommunications Corp. (CTC), a Maryland-based municipal broadband consultant group to explore the feasibility of a municipal wholesale fiber optic network. This comes while the DTIS is already negotiating a private-public partnership with Google and EarthLink for a citywide wireless system, which, under terms of the contract, will include a free service component. Municipal fiber is an idea that just won’t die. No matter how many times it fails, there are groups who believe that a city-owned system can deliver better service less expensively than commercial service providers. Let alone that in less than one year, the private sector has a better track record than any municipality in getting cheap, even free, wireless service to more people in larger areas. Google already offers free broadband wireless in Mountain View, Calif. EarthLink serves Anaheim and will launch service next year in Philadelphia. Back in the Bay Area, MetroFi offers free wireless broadband service in Sunnyvale and Cupertino, plus has an agreement to serve Foster City. Meanwhile, the two erstwhile showcases for municipal ownership, Chaska, Minn., and St. Cloud, Fla., have had nothing but cost overruns and dissatisfied users.
Steven Titch served as a policy analyst at Reason Foundation from 2004 to 2013.