Taxpayer-Funded Networks – all that bad?

I saw an article fretting about taxpayer-funded broadband projects in Texas Monitor. It cites a “study” by the Taxpayer Protection Alliance Foundation that purports to show a wide swath of “failed taxpayer-funded networks”.

A little research on the site led me to realize that it’s not first-rate work – outdated, incorrect information – so I left the following comment on the Texas Monitor site:

I decided to check the “Broadband Boondoggles” site to see what information they provide. First off, the copyright date on the site’s footer says 2017 – are they even updating it?

More specifically, I found that they disparage the local ECFiber.net project (in VT) of which I have personal knowledge. They state that as of January 2015 ECFiber has spent $9M to connect 1,200 subscribers (“an astounding $7,500 per customer.”)

Well, that may be true – as of that date. If they had bothered to follow up with ECFiber’s progress (https://www.ecfiber.net/history/) they would have learned:

  • As of January 2018 they have connected over 2000 customers (cost per subscriber is now roughly half that reported number)
  • They’re hampered by the pole “make ready” process by the incumbent monopoly carriers who are slow to respond. They could connect subscribers faster if the carriers would follow their legal make-ready obligations.
  • ECFiber is a private community effort, entirely funded with grants and private equity/loans, so I’m curious how they could even have filed a FOIA request.
  • They’ve now raised $23M capital (from the private markets), to reach 20,000 subscribers.
  • This gives a system-wide average cost of $1,150/subscriber – a very attractive cost.

I’m sure there are false starts and overruns for many municipal projects, but if this outdated information is typical of the remainder of the TPAF site, then I would be reluctant to accept any of its conclusions without doing my own research.

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