"If there was more competition in the market, people could vote with their wallets," EFF activist April Glaser says, adding that in many U.S. cities, customers only have one or two service providers to choose from. At most, they have four: Comcast, AT&T, Verizon, and Charter Communications.
San Francisco might be the exception. With more than 100 miles of city-owned fiber optic cable coursing below the streets, the city could create its own robust broadband system, Glaser says — one that would provide a viable alternative to the Big Four. The EFF views municipal fiber the way progressives view public power. If the latter can extricate us from PG&E, the former can free us up from Comcast.
Whether that's feasible is still an open question. In 2011, the city's Department of Technology reported that much of that cable was "dark," or unused, since the department typically installs 312 strands of backbone cable for each new extension, even though city agencies only use about 12 of them. At the time, Department of Technology officials wanted to lease out the excess for up to $200 per month, per mile — or $1.8 million annual revenue. They ultimately made good on those plans, spokesman Ron Vinson says, leasing fiber to entities like UCSF, and using some municipal bandwidth to supply free wifi to Market Street and to 32 parks.
But, Vinson says, providing a local network connection for every San Francisco home is a fiber-optic pipe dream.
"I don't know if we're gonna be able to do something like public power," he says, adding that such a network would require the city to dig up big stretches of sidewalk, then set up the kind of customer service infrastructure that takes big companies 10 years to build.
More @ SFWeekly