Municipal broadband for Cambridge?

Oh, please please please let it happen.  We did notice a question about our internet service on our last resident survey so it got us thinking about it again.

As some of you may have noticed, Kelly and I have had repeated issues with the quality of our Internet service here in Cambridge over the years.  It is something that both of us care deeply about as both of us have worked in IT and both of us are everyday users of the Internet for personal and business purposes.  But considering that we live in what I would consider the technology capital of the East Coast, the quality and quantity of Internet service providers is terrible, frankly. Cambridge considers itself a major center for innovation and it certainly is, but it is also somewhat ridiculous that for many people Internet connectivity is both expensive and unreliable.

I discovered recently that there is somewhat of a movement to get municipal internet service here in Cambridge, and I am all for it.  I am tired of having a limited range of choices for slow or intermittent service for a lot of money.  So when I read this editorial over at the CCTV website I sighed and said “thank God”.  Maybe the city will step in where Verizon and Comcast have utterly failed. Apparently Saul Tennenbaum over there is a big fan of the idea of Cambridge being its own internet service provider in the manner of Chattanooga, Tennessee or Leverett here in rural Massachusetts.  It is absurd that so many companies have what is essentially a monopoly or an oligopoly in so many markets across the U.S. and charge high rates for slow service.  And it is even more absurd that so many of them refuse to spend any money to improve the service, and yet don’t want anyone else to provide the service either.  This is why so many places are making the choice to build their own network.  I waited for years for Verizon to bring FiOS to my neighborhood before I finally discovered that they have absolutely no intention to do so, possibly ever, certainly not anytime soon.  And although Comcast has better internet service around here than Verizon, believe me that is a low bar to step over.  As Kelly would say, “a taller-than-Mickey-Rooney contest”.  And Comcast isn’t exactly known for the quality of their customer service at any rate.

So in summary, there are only a few choices for internet around here, and those companies are pretty indifferent about providing improvements to their service, despite the fact that their prices keep going up.  And to me, the idea that “we won’t help you, and we won’t let anyone else help you, and we don’t even want you helping yourselves either” is one of the most offensive things to come out of all this mess.  I can’t believe anyone would have the gall to call it a free market. And other companies are doing similar things in regards to net neutrality, internet availability, and wireless.  Many companies have fought the idea of cities setting up free wireless.  And in the news today, Marriott Hotels was fined well over half a million dollars for deliberately jamming Wi-Fi signals in an attempt to force convention-goers to pay up to $1,000 for Internet access.  Gosh, and you wonder why I might be a little anti-corporate at times?   Good Lord.

-Geoff

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