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Power Companies Offering Cable (TV, Net) Service 195

MankyD writes "CNN is running an interesting story about a power company offering cheap cable and broadband internet to its customers. What's even better is that they aren't looking to make a profit, just break even on the venture. They estimate that they've saved their customers $32 million. Furthermore, it's available in a rural area where the telecomms don't offer service anyways."
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Power Companies Offering Cable (TV, Net) Service

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  • by IgD ( 232964 )
    Does anyone have contact information? Where can I sign up!!!
  • cool.... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by the_2nd_coming ( 444906 ) on Sunday February 02, 2003 @06:47PM (#5212100) Homepage
    now there is a reason to move back to the calbe TV and internet access.

    I am trying to get my township here to open up the cable market....Time Warner is gouging us...for basic cable and internet I pay 84 wifes friend who lives near by in another town has 2 cable companies to choose from and pays $79 for digital calbe, free HBO that comes with the digital cable, more basic channels, and internet access. I looked tha the company website...for whay I have with Time Warner, my wife's friend would pay $54.
    • Re:cool.... (Score:3, Informative)

      by Peterus7 ( 607982 )
      I live in Tacoma, WA, and we have had something similar to the public broadband for quite a while. It's very nice, and I'm glad to see it spreading. I think broadband should be available to all, and perhaps they should ammend the constitution to make it one of the basic rights...
      • Re:cool.... (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Moonwick ( 6444 )
        If this is a troll, it's a finely crafted one. Congrats.

        If you're serious... well, thanks for cheapening the Bill of Rights, and everything else this country stands for.
    • Re:cool.... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Daniel Quinlan ( 153105 ) on Sunday February 02, 2003 @07:37PM (#5212310) Homepage
      Time Warner is gouging us...for basic cable and internet I pay 84 bucks

      That sounds like a good deal to me, actually, if you have some sort of broadband connection.

      Also, in many markets, even if you only have one cable company (like in my area), you still have the option of going to DirecTV [] or another satellite TV provider. I decided to completely avoid my cable company, I get both TiVo and satellite for $45 a month. My DSL line costs me about $50 a month. I'm actually paying more than you, although I suspect I have more channels, more features (see below), etc. (No HBO, though.) I believe I can also get some sort of cable internet now, but I'm more likely to switch DSL providers to get a better deal there.

      Anyway, my point is that there is some competition, even though there might be somewhat more competition in some places. "Gouging" seems like an excessive characterization considering what you are paying.

      I should also note that I can record two channels at once and watch recorded material at the same time with "DirecTiVo" and I get local channels too, but that's fairly old news. I doubt I'd even be interested in a second cable company unless they could match those features.

      • can't get it many old trees....and it is gouging when Comcast and WOW offer the same package I have for $15 less(comcast) and $30 less (WOW).
      • >Time Warner is gouging us...for basic cable and internet I pay 84 bucks

        That sounds like a good deal to me, actually, if you have some sort of broadband connection.

        Good deal?! My God, man, I'm paying 64 bucks Canadian for basic cable and broadband internet. If you figure that works out to around 42 dollars US, he's paying twice what I am for exactly the same service. Time Warner is fucking him sideways at that price.
    • Re:cool.... (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Yeah you should move into your wife's friend is she (hope female) is hot. Cheap internet and 'entertainment'. :p
  • by Autonymous Toaster ( 646656 ) on Sunday February 02, 2003 @06:48PM (#5212105) Homepage
    I was somewhat disappointed that the article doesn't describe a broadband network over existing power lines - that would really be something! But it is about using lines that were already in place for power-use monitoring, which is nearly as good.

    In particular, anything that provides additional connection options for small appliances with embedded operating systems is always welcome. In this specific case there are some protocol issues concerning communication with Glasgow residents of that type - a difficult (for outsiders) "accent" if you will, but one day it will be possible to exchange the latest news and information on toast (just as an example) with one's peers. That will be a good day.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      With cheaper broadband coming out it will almost certainly cause a huge rush of AOL advertising ploys and of course wretched MSN advertisements. AOL will most certainly drop its BYOA fees to 10 a month so they can continue to sign people up for their quarterly numbers and MSN will continue to preach their parental controls which by the way are easily circumvented.

      Not related to article: For you posters who are speaking of the astronauts. Yes it is a tragedy, it is very sad. Yet, you come here and say our priorities are screwed up? Obviously you visit this page and are aware about how to post here. So are you that heartless as to come here and insult us when you should be reflecting on current events?
    • by Anonymous Coward
      I actually just spoke to power company technology representatives about this 2 days ago. They said that the technology is not yet ready, as the line noise from the electricity limits the distance the internet signal can carry unamplified, plus power equipment like transformers add even more noise and obstruction to the internet signal. Adding amplifiers and other equipment to solve these problems drives the cost up to the point of making it unviable in a competitive marketplace. Maybe someday internet over power lines will happen, but not today apparently.
  • by TWX_the_Linux_Zealot ( 227666 ) on Sunday February 02, 2003 @06:48PM (#5212108) Journal
    Farmers are experiencing problems keeping their pigs penned up. Apparently entire pens are simply floating out into the open air, with no discernable cause. One farmer, who requested to remain anonymous, speculated that some of the new recommendations for pig feed could be to blame, but other than a little different diet, he couldn't find any reason that his pigs should be flying.
  • My house gets electricity and all the essentials, but no cable and no DSL. My options for internet have always been satellite and wireless. I opt for wireless only because it pings better. Both services generally suck and are subject to many downages and bottlenecks.

    If our power company offered us cable internet service I'd be in an eternal bliss, because I could drop my horrible provider. I hope this idea spreads.
    • who is you wireless provider? We run a wISP in the Fort worth Texas area and have better than 99% uptime for 95% of our users. If you let me know who it is I may be able to get help for you through the wISP trade groups. Wireless should have uptimes BETTER than wired if properly installed and supported.
      • I live in southeastern Kansas, my provider is called Nautilus. The service has improved over the months, but its all around terrible. Each user is crammed onto a single IP, too. Hundreds of people on the same IP. When some kid gets himself IP banned from a popular service, the entire ISP's customer base suffers.

        I've reported them to the BBB and haven't gotten many results. Is it so much to ask for a stable connection and my own IP?
  • Just wondering... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Darwin X ( 645470 ) on Sunday February 02, 2003 @06:49PM (#5212113) Homepage
    Any slashdotters subscribe to this service at all? I'd love to hear some real world stories from the community.
    • Re:Just wondering... (Score:5, Informative)

      by bombarde ( 640594 ) on Sunday February 02, 2003 @07:35PM (#5212304)
      A dozen miles south of Boston, Braintree Electric has been providing power to my town for 100 years and started offering cable TV and high speed internet a few years ago. It's a town owned utility with a reputation for service reliability and low rates. service has been excellent; it's easy to get the right person on the phone if you need to fix something, and you can go over and yell at them in person should the need ever arise -- it has not. AT&T Broadband is also available in town, and I don't know anyone who still uses it.
    • "slashdot" and "real world"?

      Excuse me? :)

  • by Anonymous Coward
    All over-charges, made up late fees FOR AUTOMATIC CHECKING ACCOUNT WITHDRAWL (If YOU are late getting money from my account that I have you permission to access on a monthly basis, how is it MY fault??), rude phone calls, etc will be forgiven if you do something like this.

    Your friendly customer.

    Anonymous Coward
  • and shaft the local telcos. They been rippin' me off for too loong now.
  • This is not new... (Score:5, Informative)

    by joeboo ( 5182 ) on Sunday February 02, 2003 @06:51PM (#5212123) Homepage
    The company that I work for, Cedar Falls Utilities [] was a 3 service utility (gas, water, and electric) that started to provide communications services (cable tv, high speed data, and dedicated facilities) in 1997. Broadband Bob has a report from Jan of 1997 here [].
    • I live next door to Cedar Falls, but not in their service area. High speed Internet was introduced there first. After a referendum to allow fund a study to allow competition was turned down in my town, my bill went up by $10/month. It appears that competition is working well.
  • Sneaky (Score:5, Funny)

    by teslatug ( 543527 ) on Sunday February 02, 2003 @07:01PM (#5212168)
    Yes, but what we didn't tell them is that their power consumption increased one hundred-fold...mauhahahaha
  • Nothing new here.... (Score:5, Informative)

    by DMaster0 ( 26135 ) on Sunday February 02, 2003 @07:06PM (#5212185)
    unless you're stuck in a massive metro area where it's unprofitable to replace and/or add fiber lines in the entire city.

    We had this in another town in Kentucky (Murray, which is probably on par with Glasgow) and were the 2nd town in the US (Canada being one large rural area seemed to have a lot more broadband at the time) back in late 1996, early 1997.

    The only notable thing, is that as this sort of thing gets widespread, cable companies will have to either add more value to the service (free PPV perhaps, or more digital channels) or price it cheaper. Competition is a wonderful thing. I paid $25/month for a cablemodem capable of 512k down/256k up in a city that had competing cable tv, internet and even local/longdistance telephone service. The existing cable company (Charter) had to drastically reduce prices, hurry out their digital tier services, and price them competitively, as in the course of a summer the Electric Company had started offering a cable package with 10 more channels than the Cable Company, for around 12 bucks a month, compared to the cable company's 25. They're still fighting and the person who will end up winning, is the consumer.

    My cable bill in Kentucky was 55/month. This included digital cable and a cable modem. Now I move to a large city, and I'm paying 50/month just for DSL, cable was just as expensive, and I can't afford the digital cable at all, as that's another 50/month. Things were much different in a small town with two providers, and they're doing very well, and I have hope that the idea will catch on everywhere else eventually and the cable monopoly will get bumped aside in favor of fair prices and better service.
    • by joeboo ( 5182 ) on Sunday February 02, 2003 @07:20PM (#5212239) Homepage
      Let me preface this by saying that I work for the local muni.

      Mediacom, who is the local competitor to our local municipal cable/data product is trying to get the law changed in Iowa to prevent the formation of new Communications utilities and severly limit the ability of the already formed utilities to do business. The link to the legislation is here [].

      In Iowa, like most states, there are open meetings and open records laws. Mediacom has, in the past, requested and received all of our financial data including customer counts, contracts with providers, etc. We, on the other hand, can not ask them for any of that information which results in an unlevel playing field.

      Our product costs less because we don't have to pay off stock holders and the like. All that we have to pay off is our municipal bonds that were floated on the creation of the utility.
    • Wait a minute. Are you saying that your cable company is actually having to compete with someone? My cable company, phone company, and the satellitte providers all seem to enjoy working together to maximize their profits. Where's my fibre to my door for cheap?
    • The only notable thing, is that as this sort of thing gets widespread, cable companies will have to either add more value to the service (
      free PPV perhaps, or more digital channels) or price it cheaper.

      Great idea! We can call it...penny picher video.

  • by Boss, Pointy Haired ( 537010 ) on Sunday February 02, 2003 @07:07PM (#5212191)
    because I don't want ntl: [] meddlin' with electricity. They're dangerous enough in charge of a cable system.

    (UK in-joke, sorry)
  • by Sophrosyne ( 630428 ) on Sunday February 02, 2003 @07:11PM (#5212203) Homepage
    I Love new technology, and I think its great that power companies are making the most efficient use of their technologies.
    My issue is putting all your eggs in one basket... A few years back when there was a giant ice storm in Quebec, we were reminded of how dependant people have become on electricity. Now lets just say that using the power grid to access information becomes popular- power grids are already very central to survival in the modern age.
    if something happens to the grid you're not going to have power, so it wont matter if you can access the net; slowly the infastructure can be repaired and the chances of taking out all power lines at once is very slim. On the other hand if you were to take out a couple power stations you could disrupt the flow of information, as well as disrupt the lives of people for a considerable amount of time. It would be much harder to replace a power plant than wires and transformers.
    • by Senior Frac ( 110715 ) on Sunday February 02, 2003 @07:54PM (#5212369) Homepage

      My issue is putting all your eggs in one basket... A few years back when there was a giant ice storm in Quebec, we were reminded of how dependant people have become on electricity. Now lets just say that using the power grid to access information becomes popular- power grids are already very central to survival in the modern age.

      Gosh. You're right! Since they're line sharing internet access and power, if the power goes out, they won't be able to access the internet either!

      Oh... wait...

      • by Blue Stone ( 582566 ) on Sunday February 02, 2003 @08:51PM (#5212611) Homepage Journal
        That's why it's imperative we develop a new information delivery device that runs on gas.
      • This reminds me, a few years ago we had an ice storm that knocked the utility electricity off for a week. I was very amussed to see the local tv station broadcasting a 'If you do not have power please call us at..' line on the bottom of the screen. Lots of people without power obviously are watching tv.

        I've been working on moving my computers towards more energy effecient technology and using alternatie energy to offset the utilty bill. It's amazing how your utility bill drops if you do something as simple as move your lan to solar/wind power. It also makes your network more stable as it isn't often you have outages of public utilities, sunlight, and wind all at once.
    • by oGMo ( 379 )
      On the other hand if you were to take out a couple power stations you could disrupt the flow of information, as well as disrupt the lives of people for a considerable amount of time. It would be much harder to replace a power plant than wires and transformers.

      It's good you considered this, but given this is being used for last-mile internet (as opposed to actual infrastructure, such as backbones), this isn't really an issue. Besides, if you disrupt power, you're going to take out most people's ability to access the network anyway.

      Those who have backup power (and need it) ought to have concern for this, of course. They will probably not be using this as a solution anyway. (Probably should not.)

  • if that line doesn't make you skeptical, I don't know what does. Is the power company trying to earn itself some Karma, or else these poor rural folk might use the OTHER available power company? Hmmmmm, call me a skeptic.

    Also, they say ~$45 gets them cable TV and fast Inet access, which is 'half the national average', well, that's exactly what I pay here in the metro Detroit, MI area for both as well for basic cable package plus thier 1.5 Mb cable modem servise (Wide Open West provided). My other option was Comcast, but Wide Open West blows thier doors off in pricing, and I like thier channels better.

    • half the national

      You undermined your very point by noting that Wide Open West (apparently a very good local deal for you) "blows thier[sic] doors off in pricing" compared to Comcast, but in most of the nation national carriers like Comcast are the only choice, so the power company is probably correct.

    • if that line doesn't make you skeptical, I don't know what does. Is the power company trying to earn itself some Karma, or else these poor rural folk might use the OTHER available power company? Hmmmmm, call me a skeptic.

      automag this is because the power company has a natural monopoly over the industry and is thus controlled by the government to ensure that they aren't gouging the customers. The reason that this type of monopoly is allowed to exist is the simple fact that you don't want to have 20 sets of power lines for different companies in one location. I am forced to think back to my economics classes where we were shown pictures of New York City with hundreds of different phone lines going down the streets and across the buildings.

      but this article isn't directed at poor rural folk that only have one choice in everything. this is directed at small towns that could benefit from a little competition.

    • It's the municipality that's providing the services. They don't have to show a profit, if the locals want it that way.
  • I'm sure the cable companies will be suing soon enough over the power company "infringing on the cable company's government supported monopoly."
  • When I first read the title I assumed they were delevering the service over the powerlines themselves. This was of great intrest to me as I live 20 miles from the nearest [small] town. From the article they push the content over the usage monitoring lines. Alas, no broadband for this country folk.
  • by Ajaxamander ( 646536 ) on Sunday February 02, 2003 @07:25PM (#5212257) Homepage
    This sounds incredibly cool, especially since I'm the one who pays both the Cable and the Electric bills at my college rental, however, at least in our area (University of Michigan) our power is from a huge Detroit conglomerate, DTE Energy, and even getting our electricity taken care when we moved in was more than they could handle. The previous tennants had defaulted 2+ months in a row, and the power company handed us a bill for $414, while a technician went to turn off the juice. Frankly, I would love to pay less for our internet, but I don't trust the power company further than I can spit.
  • I read somewhere that this technology (net over power lines not this one specifically) offers an adapater that you plug your current "broadband modem" into.

    does anyone know if an ADSL modem will work with this? :)
  • by Anonymous Coward
    A friend of mine in Braintree had digital cable and internet access from for IIRC ~$50/month total.

    3 miles down the road (and not in Beld's area :-( ) I pay ~$90/month for Basic Cable (Analog) and internet access from mediaone/attbi/comcast.

    If that's not bad enough, Beld supplied him with a cable box that had spdif output for decent surround sound (apparantly ATTBI supply a shitty box with analogue stereo output only), and his internet download speeds rocked... consistently ~2.5Mb/s

    You know, I'm not *too* pissed off about my internet service at the moment. Mediaone/Attbi have been ok, both from the point of view of performance and reliability. They've also been reasonably friendly wrt running a web server. Yes it'd be nice if it were a bit cheaper, but it's not outrageous. Now Comcast are due to take over, I'm worried about their restrictive AUP, $45/month to be a web consumer is too much..but I digress.

    What *really* hacks me off is the $45/month for basic cable - considering that nearly all of the channels are commercial-supported, and the amount of commercials seems to increase every month. It's outrageous.
    • by joeboo ( 5182 ) on Sunday February 02, 2003 @08:01PM (#5212402) Homepage
      Basic cable channels (usually the off-air channels) are not necessarily free.

      Local broadcasters have 2 methods that they can use to get their signals on your cable system. They can elect for a Must Carry (you have to carry them per FCC regulations) or a contract. The Must Carry is free. A contract of any sort is going to involve dollars.

      We are currently in renegotiations with the local NBC and ABC affiliates. The ABC affiliate wants us to pay $0.25 per subscriber per month to carry their signal. The NBC affiliate wants us to carry their signal, roll out their HDTV signal in 30 days, still provide a channel for their weather broadcasts, advertising swaps, and what the cable industry calls Most Favored Nation (i.e. they get paid what the highest local affiliate charges us to carry their local signal - in our case $0.25 per sub per month).

      HDTV alone is going to cost us about $10k a channel to add (the reason is that the UHF channel spectrum that the off-air broadcasts use is not directly transportable on a cable system without wastng channel space. The UHF channels don't match up directly with the cable channels). So, we have to either take their off air channel, upconvert it, and sell a box to the subscriber to get it. Or, we can waste channel space, and a normal HDTV ready TV would be able to watch the signal.

      That, and the ABC contract says that if we roll out HDTV for any other local broadcaster, then we have to roll theirs out too.

      Basic cable is something that cable companies are required by the FCC to carry. It isn't always as cheap as you might think.

  • by jedinite ( 33877 ) <> on Sunday February 02, 2003 @07:39PM (#5212317) Homepage
    I live in Kansas City, and just about a month ago I got connected to this type of service, thanks to a local company called Everest [] that is owned by local utility company Aquila [].

    Things that make this service fantastic:

    1) Price. No question. I consolodated my monthly phone bill (~$25) plus my monthly cable bill (~$75 for digital + two premium tiers) plus my high-speed internet bill (I was paying $125 for business-class DSL which was the only service provider with a static IP in my area) down to ~$100/month (in a single bill) to a single company

    2) Services available. For $100/month I get 1.5 MB (256 kbps upstream) cable with a single static IP, digital cable with two premium tiers (I selected HBO and Skinimax), plus local phone service with $.10/minute long distance. Everest just released a new feature I'm interested in but haven't yet taken the plunge - integrated PVR service. For an extra $20/month you can get an upgraded box with 40gb HDD and Tivo-style PVR service.

    3) Customer service. You can call their support number 24x7 and its answered immediately by a real person. Level-2 tech support people who know what they're doing.

    4) Let me ditch a few companies I'm happy not to do business with: Time Warner Cable and Southwestern Bell (SBC).

    All great stuff, in my opinion. This type of competition is just what these markets need, in my opinion... especially the cable TV market.
  • by wilpig ( 515764 ) on Sunday February 02, 2003 @07:44PM (#5212333) Homepage
    There are many of these systems in place today, not only are they offering cable tv and internet but phone service as well. Glasgow was the model town for motorola to try out some of the new technology. Murray, KY was their next stop and they have come along way in the last two years since the initial install was made. Here is a link to the hardware used. l.asp?ProductID=211

    I pay about $20 a month for phone service with callerid, call waiting, etc. Another $27 for extended basic cable which is about 70 channels and then $19 for internet access. If I were to go with the competeing companies in town I would be paying $40 a month for cable an additional $40 for cable modem service through them, *ahem* charter *ahem* overpriced *ahem*, plus a phone line and long distance through bellsouth, at least $30 before caller id, call waiting, etc. Did I mention because of this we only pay $0.07 a minute for long distance.

    Now many people are seeing this as a very bad deal because the power company is supposed to be non-profit because they have a natural monopoly over the services. Well it doesn't have to be, the way our community handled this is that the electric company issued bonds to the community to pay for the project. In essence the community owns the service, anyone that has a problem with the service are invited to public meetings held about every six months. But the one thing you have to keep in mind is that with your local power company hosting all of your services you also have all your hard earned money going right back into your own community. Sure our previous service was based here but the profit leaves the area and goes to where ever their home office is.

    What ever you do if you hear that your local electric company is considering this goto their board meeting and hear them out. It will come to a vote eventually and your vote could be the one to make it happen for you as well.
  • A few random points that poped in my head after reading this:
    1) The telecom companies may have a point in their claims that it's anti-competitive. I mean, no private company would go into business with the goal of "breaking even". How is this much different from a monopoly selling their products at cost to drive out competition?
    2) That being said, the power companies have great potential in the telecom business if, as mentioned in the article, cable/internet could be offered over power cables. The network in the article is run over power-monitoring wires, and i'm not sure how widespread this type of wire is... Cable (and broadband interenet to a lesser extent) are so widespread now, that it may not be a bad idea to offer them as city-sponsored commodities, like power, and hopefully even run them over power lines.
    3) This is going AGAINST the trend of privatization of publicly owned ventures. That means that the only reason that this is cheaper is that the prices set by cable/telecom companies are inflated. This could lead to a huge drop in cable/internet prices... and the telecoms are trying to fight this through legal means. Fighting a new distribution model through courts - **AA anyone?
    • The reason for antitrust laws is that monopolies always end up gauging the consumer, and only have low prices to drive a particular compwtitor away.

      As long as there is no gouging going on and the city does not attempt to buy out of the competing avenues of access (such as cable, telephone wires) i do not really see a problem.

  • Manassas VA, mentioned in the linked article has been in various stages of testing this for almost a year now. They were chosen I believe because they had the physical requirements and the city government actually administors the power in the city so no power company was directly involved in the process. I was able to find a blurb [] in cache from the local newspaper and a press release [] but nothing much more, They same company providing the technology is also interested [] in VOIP. I would assume the other utilities were not happy with the competition or the percieved unfair advantage and are going with the legality card. Manassas was providing the internet access to select residents willing to beta test but I think that has since stopped, maybe the legal issues were to murky for the city to continue that program.
  • by quakeroatz ( 242632 ) on Sunday February 02, 2003 @07:51PM (#5212358) Journal
    The big brother argument (municipalities cannot control digital content) by private telcos is pure drivel. If big brother (CIA, NSA, FBI, etc.) really wants to monitor your usage they'll walk into your ISP with a carnivore system and log your activity.

    Everyone knows how cheap fiber and net access REALLY are... Cents per gig.. or pehaps fractions of cents. Consumer net access is currently overpriced, overhyped and slow. If local Hydro can provide cheap, fast internet to everyone with power, let them!
  • i like this section (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 02, 2003 @07:52PM (#5212360)
    " Among its contentions: Municipal telecoms hurt a town's tax base and may violate the First Amendment by placing the distribution of media content under government ownership. "

    Violate First Amendment by placing distribution of content under government ownership? Aren't libraries city-owned?

    Its sad how hard business owners will try to keep hold of their profits rather than doing what's right for society..
  • Click! Network [] has been doing this for several years. It's a subsidiary of the local power company, which pulled fibre into most of the city (Tacoma's claim is that they're the most wired city in the country) in an attempt to draw some of the dotcom business away from nearby Seattle.

    It's basically city-subsidized bandwidth. I got 2048x256 Mbit cable for $25/month, and later bumped it up to 4096x512 (basically uncapped) for $80. When I had to move up to Seattle for work reasons, this was one of the hardest things to give up (since I'm now paying the same price for 768x384 DSL - granted, Speakeasy [] encourages their customers to run web servers, etc, and I get 2 static IP's).

    For businesses, Click! offers extremely competetive rates on connections up to an OC-48, and you can get one just about anywhere in the city. They're also expanding (slowly) into nearby cities, too (Tacoma has had a lot of internal neighborhoods become incorporated, so it's unfortunately not like they're expanding very far).

  • But generally, private companies say municipal telecoms create unfair competition because they have no need to make profits or pay off debts quickly, have preferential access to digging streets and other "rights of way" and are owned by cities that have regulatory power over the industry.
    Knee-jerk reaction to this is that for-profit private companies are jealous and greedy. I thought that's why companies decide to merge or buy out one another. /me shrugs. I thought we were living in the land of capitalism -- guess I was wrong.
    • Listening to the telecom giants whining about "unfair competition" makes me want to retch.

      This, from companies who do everything in their power to screw their competitors and customers. Advertise high-speed, always-on internet service, but don't make guarantees as to the speed or the uptime. Grudgingly provide their infrastructure to their competitors as mandated by law, but give preferential treatment to their own services and relentlessly play the blame game when the problems lie in their network. It's pathetically laughable to hear them preaching about how the playing field must be leveled.

  • This is great on paper, but the future implications are there for the company to make money off of the service. There will be a point where the company could make a profit right now, and as costs go down then they will grow ever closer to turning around this 'break-even' enterprise to a profit making division of it's company.

    The rules of business are not being ignored, it's an investment for the future.
    • Not only that, but when the power franchises come up for renewal with the local municipalities, providing "at cost" broadband service will give them a leg up over compeating bids and help them expand into other markets.
    • Even though you didn't explicitly asy that this was a bad thing, I get the idea that's what you were inferring.

      And to that, I say who cares? Should we be angry that a company wants to *gasp!* make a profit? The people who have this available to them should be grateful that they can get it at a reduced price.
  • Electric Cooperatives (EMCs - an outgrowth of the rural electrication act passed mid-early last century designed to get electricity to areas utilities wouldn't service since they couldn't get the desired return on their investment) have been providing utility service to their areas for years, and have branched out into telco, gas, and internet access quite a while ago. Despite what some people think, they really do provide services at non-profit pricing to their customers (who, as part of a cooperative, are also the owners). City utilities often offer similar service/pricing models, they they are not co-ops since the city owns them, not the customers.

    One interetsing point, not in the article, is how many "Rural" co-ops are no longer rural, since many are now suburbs of major metropolitan areas, such as the EMCs surrounding Atlanta GA; areas taht private companies would gladly serve, if the EMC would only go away. That won't happen, given the political clout of the customers.

    If you really want more info, visit:
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I work at, and we provide the net connection to a local Utility, they have finished laying all the fiber and such. In under a year we have a little over 800 customers for the highspeed cable, and this is in a town of 2500 homes... The utility is now putting in the phone modules in their ICUs, so the telephones will be going over their fiber too. Screw qwest, and screw mediacom!! Hell yea.
  • I was just out visiting in Provo, Utah and they are just starting to roll this out. The power company, Provo Power, is owned by the city (and Provo has well over 100,000 residents, unlike many of the other cities that are doing this.) (Check it out at [])

    The thing that is really nice about this is that a very large percentage of Provo is populated by students. Brigham Young University (30,000+ students) is in Provo and Utah Valley State College (~25,000 students) is 5 minutes down the road in neighboring Orem. They're actually going around and putting fibre into entire apartment and condo buildings. If that isn't great enough for college students, they're going to be running everything (power, phone, cable, internet) and all at a very nice price. There's several different options for cable and internet, depending on your requirements, and they are all nicely priced.

    One cool thing I read is that if you live in Provo and have a business there as well, you'll be able to connect to your business online at something like 50 Mbps.

    There's all sorts of cool things about doing this. I can't wait to get back to school!
  • ... except for that California state law that you can't operate a utility company unless you are totally screwed up. :-/
  • Japan (Score:2, Interesting)

    by BJH ( 11355 )
    Tokyo Denryoku, the country's largest power supplier, currently offers 100Mbps fiber connections for home use in the Tokyo area for around $US50 a month.
  • by John Hasler ( 414242 ) on Sunday February 02, 2003 @10:11PM (#5212867) Homepage
    It's a local government, not a company. And a town of 14,000 is not rural.
  • If this could happen in Australia i would be a very happy chappy. At the moment Telstra own all the telecommunications infrastructure, Telstra control what happens on it. If telstra refuses to roll out DSL to a particular area (either due to cost, or the fact that alot of the population is on pair gain / RIM) ... it doesn't happen. (They can also charge what they like, but that's a different story).
    They try to force people into buying their more expensive and less convenient one-way satellite services. ugh.

    If utilities would take it upon themselves to provide where telstra doesn't, imagine the profits they could make, even at a modest markup, like another poster mentioned!

    (On a side note, i'd love to become involved with a project such as this ... but again, different story)
  • Naturally, I get all pumped about this idea, thinking who I know in my town to start asking about this, then low and behold I see the next-to-last section:

    officials in Abilene, Texas, asked the Federal Communications Commission to let them wire their own broadband network despite a 1995 Texas law banning municipal telecoms.

    But the FCC agreed with phone and cable companies ... The agency declined to overrule Texas.

    Which just happens to be where I live. Of course; an exciting new broadband prospect pops up, and I live in town center of the test case that prevents it.

    Just my luck.
  • AOL/TW is offering 10 kilowatt-hours of free AC power down their cable TV lines for 45 days.
  • What is Nebraska going to court for? The article didn't say anything besides stating that they had a problem with it (??) for some reason.
  • by sporktoast ( 246027 ) on Monday February 03, 2003 @12:48AM (#5213387) Homepage

    This (AP) article on is exactly the sort that could benefit from being on the web. As it is, it is not much more than an electronic reprint of a newspaper-style article. The only "improvements" made are that it is heavy on cruft, what with the ads, partner tie-ins, subscription offers etc..

    There's a little generic warning and associated icon at the bottom: "All external sites will open in a new browser. does not endorse external sites." That might be helpful if it referred to a practice that was actually being used somewhere on the page. But the only "external" links seem to be to affiliates and advertisers. I guess the old media paranoia about letting us get away is still pretty strongly in effect.

    Sorry, that's enough *vague* bitching. Here are some specifics:

    What I really want to complain about is that there quite a few interesting details that were merely summarized, and not further explored; and that there were any number of jumping off points that could have been made active.

    How about at least a link to the American Public Power Association [], or one of the utilitis mentioned as an example? Or better yet, fill in some of those details. Which eleven states prohibit public power companies from offereing teleco services, or force them to charge artificially high rates. (If I live in one, I want to start writing letters!) How about a list (with links, maybe?) of the "511 publicly owned utilities now provide telecom services" mentioned in the "fact box"?

    So much potential in this web medium is still wasted. Most news stories on the web just look like a slightly slicker and more colorful version of 1994, back when "old media" "didn't get it".

  • Among its contentions: Municipal telecoms hurt a town's tax base and may violate the First Amendment by placing the distribution of media content under government ownership.


    "You are destroying the tax base! I mean, instead of us getting the money and you, the governemnt, getting a percentage in taxes, you get it all! That is not good economics for the government!"

    Does that make any sense?

    In addition, how much tax base does a huge corporation like BellSouth or AOL/TW really create in a small town like Glasgow?

    Also, I am guessing that the residents of Glasgow have the opportunity to get cable or at least satellite television from elsewhere, meaning that the government provides media distribution, but only as one of many choices.

    As a resident of Kentucky, I am glad to see things like this going on in the state.
  • That rural areas are still way lacking in broadband access goes without saying.

    However, their cable TV service usually sucks, too. People are getting reamed like you wouldn't believe. Prices *are not* any lower than in the big cities. They're about the same, for about a third to half as much stuff. So it's really a lot more expensive for what you do get.

    The biggest problem is that you don't get a full, 24hr feed of most of the channels. Things like CNBC, USA, and even the regular on-air "big 4" networks are only on during prime time, then switch to infomercials and religious crap the rest of the time. The local cable company makes more money this way. The upshot is that you don't actually get half the stuff you got cable for to begin with.

    Furthermore, that fifty bucks a month for basic-plus service (everything but premium movie channels) is a much bigger portion of the household budget in places where $8/hr is considered good job.

    Finally, these places have virtually *no* public access programming, which can be a vital community resource.
  • if for no other reason than the simple fact that I hate Verizon and Time Warner. My electric company on the other hand has always been on my good side.

FORTRAN is the language of Powerful Computers. -- Steven Feiner