back to article Hate your broadband ISP? Simply tell your city to build one – that'll get the telcos' attention

The answer to getting affordable broadband access to all citizens may lie in more municipal networks funded by local government, according to the OECD. A 91-page report [PDF], drafted by the economics eggheads this month, looks at examples of where local government has introduced new fast networks in eight Western nations, and …

  1. Youngone Silver badge

    Last words

    The last sentence of the article is probably the most telling comment of all: the massively profitable incumbents are refusing to lie down and die, they use their profits to buy the laws they need to keep the playing field tilted in their favour.

    Of course, they also do what my local monopoly did, and get taxpayers to fund the network upgrade they refused to do themselves.


  2. cantankerous swineherd

    digital region more or less did this in s Yorks. buried about 50 million quid (lots of wonga anyhow) and then died. personally I suspect it was BT in the server room with the halon, but am open to the suggestion of uselessness by dr.

    see also

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      personally I suspect it was BT in the server room with the halon +1

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      As I understand it the gov made it a duff effort by subsidising BT to expand their network. There was no point continuing if the gov was gonna shaft the market.

      1. Karl Austin

        Re: Hmm

        Nothing to do with BT and BDUK, it had failed before then.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It was way more....

      It was £106m I recall, then a shedload more to shut it down. It was mis-managed from day one, they had a room full of people who work in the industry tell them they had got it wrong, and they still went and did it wrong and then had to do it right a few years later by which time it was all a massive massive mess. They didn't even have a proper API from the start, it was all excel spreadsheets passed around for orders!

      I could go on for hours about it.

  3. Crazy Operations Guy

    Internet access as a utility

    I think that internet access has gotten to the point where its almost a necessity like electricity and water. In which case, I think municipalities should be taking over more and more, or at least offering an alternative to the commercial ISPs (In the same spirit as being able to hire a taxi, or use one of the public buses).

  4. Nate Amsden

    don't hate my broadband isp

    My broadband isp is city operated(or at least is named after the city and only serves within the city limits). Though I'd rather have comcast, even if I have to pay a bit more (was a comcast customer before moving to this city a few years ago). Looking forward to having comcast again in about a year with much faster business class upload speeds. Current plan claims up to 3Mbit upload, though I don't think I ever see over 2Mbit. Best plan available is up to 5mbit upload but I'd be happy with 10meg.

    For download I don't care my download bandwidth has been find for a decade. I run a dedicated server at a colo(100meg unlimited on a fast multi 10G backbone less than 15ms from home) and when I upload media to it I want it to go faster.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: don't hate my broadband isp

      So in other words you would rather have a competitive broadband market which offers higher speeds.

      Instead you've been stiffed by a local monopoly, where regulators collude with the sole provider, who nobody can leave.

      Welcome to Municipal Broadband.

      1. Swarthy

        Re: Welcome to Municipal Broadband.

        Welcome to almost all broadband in the US (I can't speak for UK/EUR, but the rampant capitalism that has bred this coil seems to be a particular ailment of the US, or at least exemplified therein). This is exactly the thing that the current status quo supports that the municipal broadband (MB) movement is hoping to alleviate. Yes, in the OP's case, the MB is the incumbent monopoly, but in most places in the US, the addition of MB would add a competitor where there is none, or - at best - one.

  5. JeevesMkII

    We all know how this song goes...

    Infrastructure is built at tax payer expense, and run profitably for a few years. Then a class of politicians will come along who have been bought by the right companies who'll decide that somehow providing much needed services to the citizenry is not a business the government should be in. Then the infrastructure will be sold off to private interests for a fraction of its worth, the prices will be jacked up unreasonably and the new operators will be seen whining to Whitehall every year about how beleaguered and in need of subsidies they are.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: We all know how this song goes...

      > "Infrastructure is built at tax payer expense, and run profitably for a few years."

      Yeah, by not counting the investment made by the tax payer. We in the US have a classic example, called Amtrak, which has never shown a profit after many decades of operation. Where auto roads got a half a penny per passenger mile in subsidies (in 2006), Amtrak got 22 cents per mile that same year.

      That is typical of government run services. They stink when they start and stink worse every year thereafter.

      1. Steve Todd

        Re: We all know how this song goes...

        The rail network in the US of A is optimised for freight. Because of that subsidies per passenger mile aren't relevant as they aren't really interested in that as a performance measure.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: We all know how this song goes...

          Amtrak has to lease track and seems to have to wait on freight trains.

          Some snark here

      2. David Nash

        Re: We all know how this song goes...

        I know nothing about Amtrak but it seems fairly clear to me that railways are a public service, rarely make much profit and should be run in that way rather than attempting to make one. Trying to profit from rail transport means huge fares for passengers and/or subsidies from government, because running a railway costs a fortune but is beneficial for the country as a whole.

      3. Swarthy

        Re: We all know how this song goes...

        Ah, Amtrak.. all of the speed of driving, combined with the inconvenience and cost of flying. Verily, the worst of both worlds.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: We all know how this song goes...

          Apparently you haven't taken Amtrak in the NE of the USA. Faster and better than driving, none of the inconvenience of flying, takes you city centre to city centre.

          It is the same cost of flying if you take Accela, but you can work and eat on the train so its productive time, rather than being crammed in a tube unable to open your laptop as on a plane.

          1. Swarthy

            Re: We all know how this song goes...

            But try taking Amtrak anywhere outside of New England. Or, just look at the booking prices/travel times/available times.

            Your position is akin to saying that ComCast is a worthwhile company because they have good service and price in Kansas City.

            1. Gordon 10
              Thumb Down

              Re: We all know how this song goes...

              I presume he meant North East - not New England. Suspected geography fail.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: We all know how this song goes...

                Those two terms are more or less the same thing.

          2. Sgt_Oddball

            Re: We all know how this song goes...

            I second that having had a very pleasent journey from Vancouver to Seattle. More leg room, no pad downs and cheaper than the air fare.

  6. Dr Stephen Jones

    Taxpayers subsidizing hipsters?

    Great idea. What could possibly go wrong?

  7. Gene Cash Silver badge

    What this story misses completely...

    is the fact that Tennessee tried really hard to block Chattanooga:

    until the FCC stepped in:

    and still Tennessee kept trying:

    Search for "municipal broadband illegal tennessee" on Google...

    El Reg should have done a teensy little bit of value add there to reflect that the story in TN wasn't as simple as it appears in this story. It wasn't just "oh Chattanooga figured it'd build itself a network one day because the telco wouldn't" - there was an actual fight where the telcos greased the state legislature's pockets pretty heavily.

  8. This post has been deleted by its author

  9. James 51

    All there is in my area is different flavours of BT. It's fast enough and not too expensive (though a few years ago it was slower than my phone) but I'd be willing to pay money to get a better modem/router with my contract (currently EE). I can get 20mbit/s but struggle to use that 1/4 of that wirelessly when me and the Mrs. are trying to do something at the same time.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      but I'd be willing to pay money to get a better modem/router with my contract

      Crap modem/routers are the norm, because they're built to the lowest possible price for "free" issue. In many cases you can switch the device to modem only mode, in which case you're free to buy a good quality home router. But don't be surprised if a good one is rather more expensive than you might think (like £100+), although it'd be light years better than the integrated devices ISPs dish out.

      And if the EE modem/router is so rubbish that you can't run in modem only mode, then you can buy OEM modems that should work with the correct settings. For FTTC connections you'd need a VDSL modem, for perhaps £80, and your high quality home router would be in addition.

      All depends on how much you want to spend improving your wifi connections.

      1. James 51

        It would be nice if she in doors could watch streaming to the TV and I could play on-line streaming from my xbox to my laptop. Bonus if I can keep them if we switch to another network.

        Amazon and ebuyer keep having what seems like good routers on sale. Guess I'll check the modem only thing and then take the plunge.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Amazon and ebuyer keep having what seems like good routers on sale

          Don't just rely on their user reviews, its staggering how easily pleased many people are. Consider something off (eg) the PC Pro A list, so long as it combines good test results and good user reviews.

        2. Roland6 Silver badge

          @James 51 - Whilst this is a problem better suited to the EE Community ( ), I suggest your problem is probably more about WiFi usage than anything wrong with the Brightbox2 modem/router itself (even though it does have a number of irritations that EE doesn't seem able to resolve...). Suspect you are being throttled by the limitations of 802.11 on 2.5 GHz when handling multiple streams and the router will readily drop down from dual channel 'N' to single channel 'G' when there are neighbouring WiFi networks.

          Recommend using fixed Ethernet connections - may involve powerline adaptors, for TV, Console and printer and trying to distribute other devices across both 2.5 and 5 GHz networks and use Farproc WiFi Analyzer to help you select appropriate channels to configure into your router (this is more important for the highly used 2.5GHz band than for the 5GHz band).

      2. Juan Inamillion

        Exactly what I've done with our Virgin Media account. Fed up with the very poor range and constant dropouts I changed it to modem mode and attached a very nice TP-Link wireless 802.11ac router (great value at about £70).

        Result? Full speed throughout the house and no drop outs in 6 months.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Not the case with Time Warner in the US. Can't rename or change security on the wireless router, nor can you bridge to a real wireless hub. Everything resets itself back to factory within an hour or so.

        Would make more of a fuss about it if we weren't moving in the spring so I'll live with the poor hardware rather than try to fight with their horrible "tech" support

  10. xj650t

    Not worth the bother

    Over here in Blighty our local "cities" can't fix the potholes, collect the "trash" more than once a month, provide social care for those less able to look after themselves, so why the fuck would I ask them to dig up the roads and provide better broadband than the stinking 2.5Mbs I get at the moment?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not worth the bother

      In the UK we wouldn't want local government to do the planning, spec, digging, investment, or operation because they know nothing about these, but (speaking as somebody working in an infrastructure based industry) co-operation and support of local government is vital.

      If you don't have that strong co-operation, you don't get the permissions quickly to dig up roads and interfere with traffic, you struggle to get permission to use council owned land, you have problems getting agreement to site cabinets etc etc. All of which dramatically increases time to completion and cost, and they in turn harm the economics.

      There's also a difference between what they say (all councils will say they support fast broadband or other infrastructure improvements) and what they do - the ideal council pledges its functional support, the politicians tell the planning & highways officials to pull their finger out, and then they help make it happen. As a general rule, the cooperation in this respect is best in shire counties and second tier cities and towns. Go places like London, Manchester, Birmingham or Glasgow, and the bureaucratic treacle is so thick that making anything happen is a nightmare.

  11. Mr Dogshit

    Oh yeah

    This really works well in Kingston-upon-Hull. Not.

  12. Gavin Jamie

    In Swindon

    ... the council have a plan to put 4G in the areas where broadband is poor. This is some rural areas and rather more places in modern housing estates that were built rather far from the nearest exchange.

    According to the MP the latter areas now have companies wanting to lay fibre there, although he would suggest that this is a complete co-incidence despite BT and Virgin sitting on their hands for many years.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward - A Community Network

    It is a "community network". Basically the same thing as described in the article except that instead of asking politicians or whoever else to build a network, interested parties just do it themselves in the spirit of FOSS (Free and Open Source Software). originated in rural Catalonia, out of frustration with the lack of progress in getting broadband (in some cases, even telephone service) to the small villages and farms in the mountains. There is nothing stopping people from connecting nodes anywhere in the world though, and it is not limited to low population areas. There is for example a substantial density of nodes in Barcelona.

    Note that, even though connected to the internet via a number of gateways, this is a completely separate, independent network, which uses its own channels, both wireless and fibre optic (owned by some of the private and institutional participants, or dark fibre loaned by other operators).

  14. David_H

    Do it yourself....

    BT twice refused to update us under the Northants CC funding scheme despite 3 years of campaigning (including talking to the BT Area Manager on multiple occasions) by myself on behalf of the local cluster of villages.

    In the end we had to get 30% of the premises in the 4 villages to sign up to secure the services of a commercial company and now have a symmetrical 1000Mbps service from Gigaclear.

    Most people take the (bandwidth limited to 55Mbps, but otherwise unfettered) symmetrical '50Mbps' service + IP telephone and pay about the same as before with BT.

    It was a lot of hard work - mostly talking to people to allay fears over change and educate them on the options - over a year or so. But boy, has it been worth it!

    If a commercial company can install the entire FTTP infrastructure from scratch, why can’t BT with government funding even achieve FTTC?

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Do it yourself....

      Re: Northants CC scheme

      Looks like your experience is simpler to mine (I'm further east than you). BDUK and the Northants CC quango are classic case of how not to do a municipal deployment...

      Congratulations on persisting with Superfast Northants...

      >If a commercial company can install the entire FTTP infrastructure from scratch, why can’t BT with government funding even achieve FTTC?

      I suspect part of the cost (other than the usual big company overheads) is due to FTTC largely being an ungrade of existing much extended Victorian star topology metal-based infrastructure. Starting from scratch, you look at the terrain as it is today and plan accordingly.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Council builds network paid for by citizens.

    Council sells network.

    Councillors get nice fat juicy payout.

    I see no problem here. It's like building a tram system for a private company with taxpayer money while claiming you can't afford it before getting slapped down for trying to introduce a congestion charge to pay for the extension and then building it anyway proving conclusively that you are a bunch of liars.

    Is there no level of government that isn't corrupt?

    1. captain veg Silver badge


      > Councillors get nice fat juicy payout

      In which western democracy does that happen? I think you are confusing local government and private equity funds.


      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Eh?


        I think you are confusing local government with honest law abiding citizens and while we are on the subject of council fraud I suggest you search your own council through a proxy as I found out recently my council are a bit trigger happy about removing links from google under the right to be forgotten.

  16. Pseudonymous Diehard


    In the UK has been crap since they originally deployed ADSL and transparent proxying (seriously ISPs, turn that shit off, the days of dial up are gone).

    That said, the state of things in South Africa is far worse than any country I've ever been to. They still have data capped tariffs for everything and its mindbogglingly expensive.

    The best country EVER for broadband that I have visited was Thailand. I managed to get a 300Mbps connection on Koh Jum. Look for it on Google Maps. Seriously....300Mbps.

    It's a friggin' tiny island in the middle of sweet nowhere, I had to get there on a crappy fishing boat...and they still managed that broadband speed.

    In fact, everywhere I went in Thailand had great wifi and mobile signal. I had at least 3G everywhere I went...and I went to some remote places.

    Oddly the worst place for wifi in Thailand was Pantip Plaza (if you're a true geek and haven't been, go, now. Amazing place if you spend a decent amount of time there and wade through the piles of fakes and knock offs). Even the knocks off are brilliant...and the knock offs of the knock offs. The typos man.

    "Meats by Dre" was my personal favourite.

    Anyways, I've gone on a tangent.

    I live 10 miles out of London, and I can't even dream of speeds like they had in Koh Jum. I wouldn't dare, BT might charge me for it.

    300Mbps. ON AN ISLAND!!!

    Excuse me while I take a quick trip to the angry dome. I need to cool off.

  17. leexgx

    Google fiber

    google seems to be getting around the cable monopoly in USA by each states giving them their own category for broadband/internet/leased line (or just calling them a leased line as that is what google is installing effectively as they don't provide cable tv or phone)

    in the UK its more do you have a silly amount of money and will people pay 2-3x the price of normal broadband and have a 250GB cap on a 1gb connection

    BT is the only company that can do it i the UK and still be profitable after 10 years

    as they are doing FTTC/VDSL first then G.Fast (on the pole or street level) and FTTP where needed (talking 5-10 years before FTTP is an easily orderable service and affordable

  18. Commswonk

    Commswonk's Golden Rule

    It doesn't matter how fast your down/upload speeds are, it's never enough.

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