WHAT IS MUNICIPAL BROADBAND?
Municipal broadband is a city owned network that connects residences and business of Cambridge, operated in the best interests of the City and its citizens.
WOULD A MUNICIPAL NETWORK BE A FIBER OPTIC NETWORK?
Yes. Nobody builds new networks using copper cables of the type Comcast uses for much of Cambridge. Any newly built network would be fiber-based.
WOULD THE CITY HAVE TO CREATE AN "INTERNET DEPARTMENT” FOR A MUNICIPAL NETWORK?
To build the network, the City would employ experienced consultants and contractors. While the City could operate the network, it's more likely it would negotiate with one or more Internet Service Providers (ISP) to provide services on the City-owned network.
WOULD A MUNICIPAL NETWORK RESPECT NETWORK NEUTRALITY?
The City could, as part of its contract with an ISP require the network to treat all web sites identically.
WOULD A MUNICIPAL NETWORK RESPECT ITS CUSTOMER'S PRIVACY?
Yes. That, too, would be a contractual requirement of any ISP.
WOULD MUNICIPAL BROADBAND BE ANY BETTER THAN CURRENT OPTIONS?
A new network would (because of its use of fiber optic connections) be more reliable and faster than current options. More importantly, as a city utility, it would be operated in the best interests of Cambridge residents. A municipal network would keep revenue local--funding Cambridge priorities rather than corporate priorities.
HOW MUCH WOULD IT COST?
The City Manager's Broadband Task Force estimated that a new network would require the same investment as a school, around $180 million dollars. Unlike a school, subscription fees could finance this investment.
HOW WOULD A MUNICIPAL NETWORK PROVIDE ACCESS TO THOSE WITHOUT THE ABILITY TO PAY?
Currently, low income residents have a single choice: Comcast's Internet Essentials program. Internet Essentials is a terrible offering that provides third rate service. A municipal network could offer discounted access for a much better level of service, subsidizing those who cannot afford full price. This would enable the city to provide a permanent and sustainable way to help address digital equity in Cambridge.
WON'T WIRELESS TECHNOLOGIES MAKE THIS NETWORK OBSOLETE?
No, a fiber optic network, once built, can be easily upgraded with better and faster connections. Wireless technology that can compete with a fiber optic network does not exist, despite all the marketing hype around 5G.
HAVE OTHER CITIES ACCOMPLISHED THIS?
Yes! Chattanooga, Tennessee provides 1 gigabit-per-second Internet service to their entire community, as does Cedar Falls, Iowa.
These cities found that they were unable to rely on private Internet Service Providers and built out their own public networks. Residents are benefiting from faster service at lower prices. The cities themselves often see additional benefits derived from smarter public utilities. Chattanooga's electricity utility estimates it saves a million dollars a year thanks to their fiberoptic network.