back to article Small American town rejects Comcast – while ISP reps take issue with your El Reg vultures

Just how much do you hate Comcast? Enough to spend $1m of your own money to escape its clutches? That was the question facing the small town of Charlemont, Massachusetts, which boasts just 1,300 residents and which, back in 2015, decided it wanted to install its own municipal broadband fiber network. Fast forward three years …

  1. JohnFen Silver badge

    Good for Charlemont!

    Here's hoping that more and more communities will do the same. It may cost a bit more in the near term, but the longer term savings, both in money and in freedom, will make it worthwhile.

    I understand WISPA's response, but I think they're being a bit naive. The federal money will be going to the telecom giants at the expense of existing small providers regardless of how "broadband" is defined. The FCC will ensure that.

    1. joed

      Re: Good for Charlemont!

      As much as I'd like to stick it to Comcast (and since all I can do is to limit my spend, I've done so), as much I dislike the tendency of (local) governments to levy taxes for things that are not exactly necessity (yep, broadband is nice to have but not really necessity). Here neither Comcast should get 400k$ nor the town should spend 1.4m$ out of someone's else pocket. All that should be done is to truly open the market instead of the usual granting concession to one big player (like Comcast). If someone likes to live off the grid (where nobody in their right mind would run data link) it is his/her choice but he/she can't have it both ways at the expense of the crowded quarters inhabitants (which had to compromise elsewhere to have easy access to "civilization"). And the percentage of voting public here indicates that either few was aware of the vote, had no time to go to pols (and soon will have less as the extra tax will have to paid and earned somehow) or is just disillusioned that their vote mattered (one way or another) - all of this possibilities are troubling but the norm for US.

      Probably not in line with sentiment of the forum but I've grown tired of paying for pipe dreams (even these promising shiny new tech) while even the basic needs are barely take care of. Unfortunately this is not limited to government and it gets nearly impossible to avoid this inflation of obligations.

      1. Martin an gof Silver badge

        Re: Good for Charlemont!

        All that should be done is to truly open the market

        That's perfectly fine where there are plenty of customers to compete for, but 1,300 customers is never going to support two or more completely commercial offerings. Neither does the town in question sound as if it is full of people who have chosen to live off grid. Internet access is becoming one of life's essentials as much as it pains me to say that.

        Sometimes, 'social' taxes and subsidy is the only fair way. Do you, for example, resent your taxes being given to schools and colleges, to educate children who couldn't afford to pay for their own education?

        Or perhaps more difficult, is it right that the council pays for my children to get to school by bus, when if we lived a bit closer they could walk?

        Your attitude is often summed up here in the UK with reference to Michael Hesseltine, a minister in Thatcher's government of the 1980s. In relation specifically to looking for work, he advised jobseekers living in areas devastated by the Tories' policies towards the coal, steel, shipbuilding and other heavy industries by telling them to do as his father had done and 'get on [your] bike'.

        It's a phrase now trotted out to cover many other things, and it betrays a tylical right-leaning I'm-alright-jack attitude that, incixdentally, I don't think was Heseltine's intention.

        Taking your attitude to its logical conclusion, everyone who doesn't want to live 'off grid' should conglomerate in urban centres. This would be bad enough in the UK, but in the US the potential effects could be truly awful. Would you, for example, bother to spend taxpayer money to set up polling stations in small isolated communities, or would you tell people that if they want to have a vote they must travel (or move) to the nearest large population centre?

        M.

        1. Fred Dibnah

          Re: On your bike

          It was the odious Norman Tebbit who made the comment, not the slightly less odious Michael Hestletine. But your point still stands.

          1. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

            Re: On your bike

            "It was the odious Norman Tebbit who made the comment, not the slightly less odious Michael Hestletine."

            Michael Heseltine (note spelling) was the one who actually campaigned for money to be spent up North the way that the people there thought best. He also tried to stop the rather dubious sell out of Westlands and he caused the collapse of the Matrix Churchill trial where elements in the Civil Service were covertly encouraging arms for Iraq and then wanted to hide when an SIS officer found out what was happening and the faeces hit the impeller.

            He also wanted the classics educated dead wood at the DTI replaced by people who had significant industry experience and STEM qualifications.

            Over the top? Agreed. But one of the few politicians for whom I have considerable respect.

            Tebbit? Since his wife was so seriously hurt in the IRA attempt to kill Thatcher it's hard not to feel sorry for him. But the pre-Brighton Tebbit was pretty despicable, so let's call that one odious. The present one is simply sad and irrelevant.

            1. Martin an gof Silver badge

              Re: On your bike

              "It was the odious Norman Tebbit who made the comment, not the slightly less odious Michael Hestletine."

              Michael Heseltine (note spelling) was the one who actually campaigned for money to be spent up North the way that the people there thought best.

              Yes, point taken, sorry to both of you. I am a (grudging) admirer of Heseltine, and knew it wasn't he! In my defence, I was in a rush this morning and shouldn't really have been on El Reg at all :-)

              M.

        2. Mongrel

          Re: Good for Charlemont!

          All that should be done is to truly open the market

          Why is the response to a failed free market solution to try it again? Especially when the big Cable companies have got their own little meat-puppet regulating for them

          1. jelabarre59 Silver badge

            Re: Good for Charlemont!

            Why is the response to a failed free market solution to try it again? Especially when the big Cable companies have got their own little meat-puppet regulating for them

            The problem is there never *was* a free-market when it comes to the cable companies. Other than a handful of small locations, cable providers had been given monopoly power to provide service to a community. The appropriate solution, way back in the late 70's/early 80's would have been to grant cable provisioning to at minimum *two* companies for any given area. *THEN* you would have seen competition building up.

            Of course, by now those smaller providers would likely have been sucked up into just Speculum and Crapcast by now, but even then there would be *some* level of choice. (I remember in 1982 when we had McLean Cable for our provider, Mr. McLean himself had been the salesperson visiting households and signing people up. Then the cable service ended up being sucked up by progressively bigger and bigger companies).

        3. Flywheel Silver badge

          Re: Good for Charlemont!

          Neither does the town in question sound as if it is full of people who have chosen to live off grid. Internet access is becoming one of life's essentials as much as it pains me to say that

          It's a chicken and egg situation. If there was fast broadband out there, it could help regenerate the community by incentivising people to work there. The housing would be cheaper in that area so young starter families working in tech-heavy companies might just want to move out of the expensive but not-too-distant cities.

        4. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

          Re: Good for Charlemont!

          Sometimes, 'social' taxes and subsidy is the only fair way. Do you, for example, resent your taxes being given to schools and colleges, to educate children who couldn't afford to pay for their own education?

          Or perhaps more difficult, is it right that the council pays for my children to get to school by bus, when if we lived a bit closer they could walk?

          I'm not convinced that "fairness" is the right criterion here. Properly educating the next generation is probably the best investment any country can make in its future, so using taxes to pay for schools is to a large degree a "free market" approach, an investment with expected good future returns. It's why I'm completely opposed to the idea of tuition fees, or forcing 50% of people to go to university. Far better for taxes to fund appropriate training, be it academic or vocational.

          The bus question, though, is simpler. If you've chosen to live beyond walking distance of a school, why should the other ratepayers have to pay to get your kids there? You take them, or pay for the bus (or buy them a bike, which is how I got to school). Obviously there are corner cases, such as when a school closes, but those are not common.

          living in areas devastated by the Tories' policies towards the coal, steel, shipbuilding and other heavy industries by telling them to do as his father had done and 'get on [your] bike'

          As noted by a previous comment, that was Tebbit, not Heseltine, I can't see Heseltine being so blunt, but even so it isn't unreasonable advice. Those industries couldn't continue as they were in the light of worldwide changes, the tories simply brought down the axe early rather than let them crash & have to pick up the pieces. Times change, and people have to be prepared to adapt, they cannot simply wait for "someone else" to hand out a solution. Take today's IT industry, where the move to cloud is killing traditional on-premises companies. I know plenty of people who had to get on that bike & look for a job elsewhere, or in a different industry. The days when people expected to farm the same field all their life are long gone.

          In terms of living "off grid", I think it's also important to make a distinction between "essential" internet and "nice to have" internet. Just as we don't all live beside a motorway, we don't all need GBit/s fibre. For those parts of daily life where the internet is becoming indispensable even 1Mbit/s is adequate. I get 3Mbit/s at home, I can't stream HD video or do intensive gaming, but I can easily do my tax return & check my bank statement.

          I don't expect my local village to build an opera house, or a shopping mall, just to get nice-to-have "mod cons", if I wanted those it would be up to me to move to a city. I do expect at least electricity and clean water, and pay (probably more than in nearby cities) to have both. It's my choice to live where I do, and I've chosen the trade-offs that work for me.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Good for Charlemont!

            The bus question, though, is simpler. If you've chosen to live beyond walking distance of a school, why should the other ratepayers have to pay to get your kids there? You take them, or pay for the bus (or buy them a bike, which is how I got to school). Obviously there are corner cases, such as when a school closes, but those are not common.

            https://www.tes.com/news/one-third-london-pupils-dont-get-first-choice-secondary

            One third of pupils in London didn't get their first choice school this year. Many of those children will have been allocated a school beyond walking distance. It's hardly a 'corner case'.

          2. Adelio

            Re: Good for Charlemont!

            The thing to remeber is it is not that easy to "move" to a better location.

            Either you have deep ties to that area. kids are already at school etc or it is just very hard to move

            Property prices in the new area (If you Own a house) may be more expensive)

            If you are private renting then the same applies, if you are in a council house then it's ok as long as you do not mind the 10 year waiting list.

            1. JohnFen Silver badge

              Re: Good for Charlemont!

              "Either you have deep ties to that area. kids are already at school etc or it is just very hard to move"

              Not to mention that moving is a very expensive thing to do, very often beyond the reach of the poor.

          3. Someone Else Silver badge

            @Phil O'Sophical -- Re: Good for Charlemont!

            Times change, and people have to be prepared to adapt, they cannot simply wait for "someone else" to hand out a solution.

            Sorry, Phil. I'm not in that business, and those who would wait for me would have a long wait, indeed!

            And if I were in that business, they probably wouldn't like my solution, anyway....

        5. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Good for Charlemont!

          No one to live out in the sticks to grow your food, no one to live out in the sticks to raise your meat, no one to live out in the sticks to provide or supply your electricity, perfect world

      2. LDS Silver badge

        "All that should be done is to truly open the market "

        You fail to understand how often the actual market thinks.

        I live in a town with a population density of 1 359/km2, between two main cities 40km apart (already cabled), and from telcos perspective it's a "market failure" area. The market was open, but no one wanted to invest there. Even the ex-monopolist, which still own the network, refused to bring even FTTC. The best you can get is a 20/1 ADSL (one company offers wireless up to 100/30, but many are dissatisfied by the service, especially in peak hours).

        Why? Because it's mostly detached houses - not really "off the grid", just a huge suburban area with many industrial sites also, thereby somewhat more expensive to cable, albeit this is one one of the wealthiest areas in Europe, so customers should't be lacking. The idea of a ROI which takes some years more to repay the investment makes beancounters mad. They wish they could only cable skyscrapers... it took a state intervention to start covering these areas.

        Market does not always work to benefit the most - in many situations it works just to benefit a few, especially when left wholly unregulated, or badly regulated.

        1. oiseau Silver badge
          WTF?

          Re: "All that should be done is to truly open the market "

          Market does not always never work to benefit the most - in many situations it works just to benefit a few, especially when left wholly unregulated, or badly regulated.

          Market never works to benefit the most - it always works just to benefit a few, especially when left unregulated, which is exactly what these fellows who work the market want.

          If there's anything the last 150+ years of capitalism have shown us it's that there is no invisible hand at work and there never has been: it's always been the very visible hand of corporations, vested interests in bed with goverments and regulators and - of course - corporate greed along with an absolute lack of business ethics.

          A.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: "All that should be done is to truly open the market "

            With you until you said "there is no invisible hand at work".

            There are MANY invisible hands at work within and without the corps.

            You can't poor cement unless you first etc etc etc applies to everything in life but

            until you hold office, have signing power or open up a business you won't know and even

            then may choose to live in you bubble and pay your "fees" and let them move us all

            forward to their beat.

          2. Mongrel

            Re: "All that should be done is to truly open the market "

            If there's anything the last 150+ years of capitalism have shown us it's that there is no invisible hand at work and there never has been: it's always been the very visible hand of corporations, vested interests in bed with goverments and regulators and - of course - corporate greed along with an absolute lack of business ethics.

            There is an invisible hand, and it's giving you the finger

          3. MonkeyCee Silver badge

            Re: "All that should be done is to truly open the market "

            " it's that there is no invisible hand at work and there never has been"

            The point that Smith was trying to make is that the market has various naturally stabilising forces. That attempting to completely regulate markets result in more distortions.

            Much of what is claimed as a market economy these days is closer to cronyism. The established players increase the barriers to entry, alternatives are blocked through legal rather than market processes, and usually there is a massive form of subsidies that obscure how much everyone is actually paying for things.

            Most classical economists not only make sense, not just for their time, but also for the current time. What bothers me is that (even on economics courses) people do not read the original material, but take summeries of it and manage to miss out the relevant details.

            Smith argues for regulation and enforcement a LOT. In fact, he considers that making things "a level playing field" to be a pre-requisite, and that without it, all his other assumptions are incorrect. He mentions it so often, that it's bloody clear when someone is using some selected arguments from his works, since they don't mention regulation once.

            Marx has similar issues, albeit with proper cult status. The difference between Marx's writings (dense but essentially free market) and Marxism is vast. Marx differentiates between contributing capital (generally physical stuff, goods, factories etc) and financial capital. The problem with financial is that all it needs is to reproduce itself, and it is of no consequence what the side effects are.

            It should also be noted that the invisible hand and "to each what they need and from each what they can give" is essentially the same theoretically pure system of supply and demand. In application it's always the messy little details that matter.

            1. MachDiamond Silver badge

              Re: "All that should be done is to truly open the market "

              The utilities market is a sanctioned monopoly so it has to be regulated to prevent abuse. If it were a truly free market, you could choose between several broadband suppliers. If that happened, there would be as many wires on the poles as one sees in photos of third world countries or there would be some sort of open trench every 10 meters as repairs and new installations were being done. You may be able to elect where you buy your power, but you don't have a choice on who delivers it. Water? One choice. Sewer? do you really want 10 companies installing their own sewer network and processing plants in your town. There would be so many pipes in the road that paving might not be needed or possible. If one or a few went out of business, what does the town do with the unused infrastructure? Who do you call if there is an issue with the abandoned pipes?

      3. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Good for Charlemont!

        I went to school with someone from Charlemont. It's a *very* small town, and I'm not sure it's even on Comcast/Xfinity's radar. The population density is low, there's not a lot of money there, and the profit margins would be pretty thin, I suspect. Not worth Comcast's attention, which is why they don't have good (or any) internet.

        You can bet that Town Meeting had a lot of debate before the town decided to build their own network. And good on them for deciding to do it. It's really no different than building roads or sewers. And now that POTS service is being abandoned because it's no longer profitable, Internet is really the communications system of the future.

        1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

          Re: Munis gonna muni..

          It's really no different than building roads or sewers. And now that POTS service is being abandoned because it's no longer profitable, Internet is really the communications system of the future.

          That's where munis may also have some handy advantages. Rural broadband rollout is basically a civil engineering challenge. The tech side is pretty simple and cheap compared to construction. If the municipality owns the roads, sewers etc, then it has an ability to combine public works on those with provision of ducting for fibre. That could be in/under the road, or verge if wayleaves cover those. And it may have space in muni buildings to install head-end infrastructure. So basically a small incremental cost vs trying to cover the whole civils costs for an ISP.

          There may be some additional bonuses, like not ripping up the muni's own infrastructure during hedge trimming or road surfacing as well..

          Downside is the muni would need to pay to support the services it's providing, which would increase depending on how complicated they try to make it. Providing an xDSL solution would mean sourcing modems, building out as Ethernet could reduce the need for NIDs and supporting CPE. Done smartly, it could potentially save money by rolling existing, seperate muni Internet costs into a single, self-provided service.

      4. JohnFen Silver badge

        Re: Good for Charlemont!

        "I dislike the tendency of (local) governments to levy taxes for things that are not exactly necessity"

        That's fine, you can dislike it as you don't live in that community. In my view, this is a community deciding how they are going to approach this issue, and they've decided what works best for them. More power to them!

        That some people outside the community may have a philosophical issue with their decision isn't terribly important.

      5. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Good for Charlemont!

        Well, let's see if Charlemont gets to build their own ISP. I hope they do, I really do, but Comcast has a very clo$e rela$ionShip with the Ma$$achu$ett$ $tate government which has a habit of passing laws that protect those relation$hip$.

        I used to live in Massachusetts. If I had to chose whether to do business with the State of Massachusetts or Russia, I'd go with Russia because relatively speaking, Russia is more honest..

      6. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Good for Charlemont!

        "All that should be done is to truly open the market"

        Comcast may have been the only company that would bid on installing a fibre network in a town with a limited potential subscriber pool.

        Internet has mostly taken the place of home phone service, TV and other information services. Don't forget shopping as more and more stores close their doors. It's not a luxury any more for those living in the modern world. You can easily do without FB, Twitter, Instagram, etc but it's much harder to cut the cord for TV and phone (for those that don't believe every child should have a mobile from 3 years up. )

    2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: Good for Charlemont!

      I would not be so sure.

      The issue with small town municipal broadband is that the political will of today is not necessarily here tomorrow.

      Who will maintain it? Who will upgrade it in a few years time? And then upgrade it again in a few years more? Will the will to be Comcast-free be there in 2 elections time?

      Do we like it or not, some things like this require "minimum critical mass". The days of mom and pop ISPs are long gone. So are the days of municipal broadband for towns with less than at least 100k population. 10k is just too small. It will survive in the long run only if it manages to cooperate with a few neighbours.

      1. JohnFen Silver badge

        Re: Good for Charlemont!

        "The days of mom and pop ISPs are long gone."

        To the extent this is true, it's not because of "critical mass" issues. It's because of the market manipulation on the part of the major telecoms and cable companies.

        1. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: Good for Charlemont!

          "The days of mom and pop ISPs are long gone."

          Yeeeees, but. The mom and pop ISPs were mostly dialup operations where the major infrastructure was with the telco to connect the user via modem to the ISP's connection point.

          In the early days you used to get a couple of email address and space for your own website. That was a big support issue and I haven't seen anything like it for ages. Your ISP connects you to the internet and installs a big pipe to your wallet and that it. There are still support issues, but not very many. With a good supervisory system, the operator is aware of issues well before the calls start lighting up the board. A small community might be better at providing their own community based support to help people with issues that aren't technical glitches on the local loop saving a bunch of money in overseas calls to India.

          The Net Neutrality angle is good to consider too.

          1. DougS Silver badge

            Broadband IS a necessity in 2019

            At least in the US and other rich countries. Banks are dumping the "touchtone tellers" because everyone goes online, and ATMs can only perform a limited set of functions. You think a town of 1300 people has a local branch for everyone's bank? Or any bank at all? Who wants to drive 20 minutes to the next town that has a branch just to check their mortgage balance, or order more checks?

            That's just one example out of dozens people could come up with. Is it POSSIBLE to live without broadband? Sure. It is also possible to live without electricity, and most would consider it a necessity today. There were probably a lot of people claiming it isn't a necessity who were against rural electrification back in the day, because OMG they paid one or two percent more on their bills to help fund something they didn't use.

            If everyone had this attitude, there would be no public schools (why should I pay to educate YOUR kids?) and no public roads (why should I pay to build roads in places I don't drive?) or a military (why should I pay to fight wars I don't agree with?) I suppose some hardcore libertarians read that and say "right on" but that isn't the world most of us want to live in.

          2. Jellied Eel Silver badge

            Re: Good for Charlemont!

            Yeeeees, but. The mom and pop ISPs were mostly dialup operations where the major infrastructure was with the telco to connect the user via modem to the ISP's connection point.

            I blame the Internet! So the US has had a Universal Service Obligation, a charge added to people's phone bills to subsidise the cost of telephony provision. That allowed some mom and pop providers to collect that subsidy and become service providers. FCC decides who contributes, and USAC collects & disburses the billions.

            The Net Neutrality angle is good to consider too.

            As the orange one would say, bigly! Problem with USO is times change, and canny operators lobby the FCC for exemptions. So unless the FCC can get the rules changed, USO contributions shrink as consumers shift services away from those that carry a USO charge. Sell VoiP, you should pay USO. Give it away, and you don't.

            And the real elephant in the room is content. Basic Internet, ie browsing. email and voice don't require much more than a basic 2Mbps DSL connection. But throw streaming video into the mix and you start wanting 10Mbps+. Yet there's no USO contribution from content providers, even though they're the ones driving up bandwidth requirements, and thus cost.

            Hence why content companies have/are spending millions lobbying for net 'neutrality'.. Especially if that means they aren't then expected to pay a percentage of their revenues into a USO fund.. Which USAC can then (mis)manage & fund improved (or even basic) rural broadband.

    3. Andrew Moore Silver badge

      Re: Good for Charlemont!

      Agreed- good for them. But I would be extremely wary of sabotage; Comcast are not going to want this project to run smoothly.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Good for Charlemont!

        When I was raising interest for FTTP for our local group of 4 Parishes, BT offered 2 years of free internet access to the residents of the largest village to try and stop me getting a critical mass signed up. I ended up going door-to-door reminding people that the 4 villages had been at the top of both of the county wide demand surveys and that BT were still refusing to upgrade us using the government supplied money.

        The hate for BT was strong and we now have FTTP.

        1. Morat

          Re: Good for Charlemont!

          Good for you! BT are cynical in their treatment of rural areas. Their favorite tactic is to keep communities dangling while they wait for government subsidy to pay for the investment. This helps BT freeze out locally organised internet access until the money tree is given a good shake above BT's coffers.

          The fastest way to get your exchange upgraded is to install a wireless alternative, BT _really_ hate it when customers start turning away from Line Rental aka BT's Internet Tax

  2. thomas k

    "up to 95 per cent"

    So, up to 65% ... during non-peak hours.

    1. MiguelC Silver badge

      Re: "up to 95 per cent"

      1 household out of 1000 also falls in that range...

  3. The Other Carl

    Democracy at its best!

    Here in Colorado, towns are regularly voting down the internet monopolies and taxing themselves to get fast, reliable, neutral services. Longmont's done it, building out great services to serve even the populations that the Evil Empire has ignored. Fort Collins is next, and more cities have voted it in.

    There is no limit to how much people can detest Comcast. Truly one of the worst companies in ANY industry.

    1. deive

      Re: Democracy at its best!

      Yeah hopefully more will reject the crappy large monopolistic companies, just don't tell those who have voted for it that this is called socialism...

      1. A.P. Veening

        Socialism

        "just don't tell those who have voted for it that this is called socialism..."

        The same goes for labour unions and those are both pretty popular and unseemly influential.

        1. Joe W

          Re: Socialism

          Well, there is quite a long, sliding scale between the extremes. So, rolling out your own broadband and levying some extra taxes to pay for the infrastructure can make sense. The infrastructure then is actually owned by the town. Sure, with the responsibilities that come with it, but it is better than paying another party to install it, but having no say in how, where and when - and then being charged for the disservice. Just don't give the network away to some soon to be privatised company...

      2. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Democracy at its best!

        ...don't tell those who have voted for it that this is called socialism...

        One man's "socialism" is another man's "States' Rights" or "local initiative".

        To be fair, it's not socialism, because the residents are going to be paying monthly ISP bills. It's just that they won't be paying them to Comcast.

        Shrewsbury (the one in Massachusetts) built their own cable system (at least 20) years ago, it's still going strong and they offer higher speeds at lower cost than Comcast. Perhaps because they don't have to pay outrageous executive "performance bonuses"?

      3. Geoffrey W Silver badge

        Re: Democracy at its best!

        RE: "...this is called socialism..."

        No, "This is COMMUNISM!!!" Or so quite a few commenters have said in other fora, then stood back aghast that we are not all horrified at the prospect and running as fast as possible into Comcast's loving capitalist arms. People can be very silly.

      4. JohnFen Silver badge

        Re: Democracy at its best!

        "this is called socialism"

        Not really. It shares some aspects with socialism, but is a far cry from actual socialism.

      5. Jaybus

        Re: Democracy at its best!

        "just don't tell those who have voted for it that this is called socialism."

        By the definition of socialism, yes. The municipal government will own, or at least heavily regulate, the production (ie. the network infrastructure and service). Nevertheless, many people that deem themselves socialist here in the US would not consider this socialist at all, as everyone who uses the service will be paying the same monthly fee and there is no provision to subsidize the monthly fee. You could tell them that this was socialism until you were blue in the face and they wouldn't believe you.

  4. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    "and the town would be able to switch vendors in the event of poor service or lower cost"

    Which is admirable.

    Until you try to do it.

    People of Charlemont.

    You'd better make sure that the operators document everything they have and change.

    Architecture, settings, box locations, all current and default passwords etc.

    Otherwise when you try to exercise choice it'll be "Sorry, we don't have to tell you that, and we won't."

  5. Luiz Abdala

    If we had that here...

    Internet became a necessity. The most basic form of personal ID, taxes, paying bills, even if you go do them in a public building... are run on computers. Just like phones, water, gas and electricity.

    This town did the right thing and made them public, and added taxes to cover their cost. Some of those services won't even function anymore without web access here in Brazil, let alone in the US.

    You can do your taxes online, but if dont have a PC and go to the town hall to do it... someone will input that data in a PC for you. Commendable.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wanna watch the world burn?

    In the red corner we've got the telco lobbyists who have the FCC by the short ones. Sure, most of the commissioners have been appointed by republicans, but do you honestly think that matters? Real allegiance is to consulting $ post-retirement. But the republicans think they control these people.

    In the blue corner we've got the free enterprise system and small firms that might have a place in the world if the table were not quite as slanted.

    Referee? Poor bastards who have to pay for the system - voluntarily or otherwise.

    Want to make the world burn? Phrase Claremont's decision in terms of "states rights". Partially true; we can debate the proper scope of the interstate commerce clause on the FCC's power over a small local market. But the phrase "states rights" has a very interesting effect on a vocal part of the republican base. Something about "fed bad" and "Confederacy! Fsck yeah!!"

    That rather puts the FCC commissioners in an interesting position. Popcorn?

    1. JohnFen Silver badge

      Re: Wanna watch the world burn?

      "Want to make the world burn? Phrase Claremont's decision in terms of "states rights"."

      I don't think so. "State's rights", much like "small government", aren't actually things that are valued by most of the people using those terms. They're just rhetoric used to further other things they want. Just look at how fast those ideals are dropped when they result in outcomes that the advocates dislike.

  7. Christoph Silver badge

    "Comcast executives are going to be having crisis meetings over this one."

    What's the problem? They will simply order their congresscritters to pass laws making it illegal for the municipalities to compete with them.

    1. Spanners Silver badge
      WTF?

      @Christoph

      I thought they already had such laws.

      1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: @Christoph

        This is Massachusetts. We tend to frown upon laws like that. Comcast/Xfinity have a hard row to hoe around here, because we have several towns which are making town-owned utilities work just fine, thank you.

        https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/wnj9k5/22-towns-in-massachusetts-are-building-their-own-gigabit-fiber-network

  8. IGnatius T Foobar !

    Simple solution works everywhere

    A simple solution that would work literally *everywhere* would be to have municipalities separate the providers of last-mile wiring from the providers of services on those wires. Everything then becomes neutral by nature ... unbundled elements taken to its logical conclusion. Any provider that wants to offer service simply establishes a presence in the carrier-neutral central office, and immediately has access to all of the town's subscribers.

    1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Re: Simple solution works everywhere

      Any provider that wants to offer service simply establishes a presence in the carrier-neutral central office, and immediately has access to all of the town's subscribers.

      That might work for access to POTS, ie basic telephony. Problem with delivering Internet services is the distance. Telephone lines & services can work over a couple of kilometers, high speed broadband, much less so.

      The problem the US has (along with other countries) is simple geography. Towns may have a minimum lot size, so populations are more spread out and the cost of cabling is higher. Regulations may allow CO access, but often don't for branch exchanges where you'd need to place active kit. Or you'd need to get permits to build street cabs, power those and cable to end points.

      Munis could help themselves by local ordinances that mandate duct provision and sharing for new developments, but that doesn't help existing. Adding full or microducting is a marginal additional cost on new roads, but a lot more expensive to do stand-alone, especially if there's costs for traffic management thrown in.

  9. sisk Silver badge

    We've got Congressmen (mine is one of them, and this is a very rural state) who would make what Charlemont did illegal on the grounds that "local governments shouldn't be competing with businesses".

    For my opinion on the matter, I'll just state that I have not only voted against him repeatedly for the last 20 years, but I'm firmly convinced that the fact that he keeps getting re-elected is proof that no one around here actually pays attention to what he's doing. It's not just this issue. The man consistently works against the best interests of his constituents in favor of aiding big businesses from other states.

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      The nice thing about muni utilities is there is generally a way to vote on what they are doing either directly or by elected posts on a supervisory board or for council members that will have some say. Unless you and your like minded neighbors own a big block of stock in your power company, your complaints are no more than the meows from a kitten in a box. In many places in the US, you aren't even allowed to have them roll up their power lines and go off grid. There are laws that require you to be connected to utilities such as power, water and sewer if they are at your property. It's my goal to keep getting more and more off of outside utilities as I can. Unfortunately, the lowest tier water billing is still 10x what I use each month and they condem the house if anybody lives in it and isn't getting water from the city. I a starting to power more things from solar. Those old Prius batteries are a good deal and I can't wait until ex-EV Li batteries aren't as dear. I picked my house partly because the roof faces south and there isn't a bunch of gabling and chimneys in the way. I planted a bunch of Mulberry trees on the west side that are nice and bushy during the summer and drop all of their leaves in the winter to help shade and sun the house properly.

      A co-op ISP in town would be so much better than what we have.

  10. Triumphantape

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