Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Fiber is good for real estate

Municipal Broadband Networks has a very interesting article on their website, "FTTH Adding Value to Apartments and Condos, Studies Show". The second paragraph will raise a few eyebrows:
"Several studies have established that fiber raises the value of single family homes by $5,000 - $6,000 on a home valued at $300,000. A July 2014 survey, commissioned by Broadband Communities magazine and conducted by RVA LLC indicates that similar results influence MDUs. Clearly, access to FTTH adds measurable value to real estate." 
We have confirmed that fiber to the home can raise home values. We are now learning that fiber to the home adds value to multi-dwelling units (MDU), too. The investment in fiber pays for itself early, too. Fiber to the apartment reduces vacancy rates, reduces advertising costs and increases the rents that an apartment will fetch. Fiber is now a must have utility, just like water, power and gas.

Fiber also means gigabit access to the internet wherever it is deployed. But you wouldn't know it by talking to Centurylink, Comcast, Time-Warner, Verizon or ATT (let's call them the telcos). They will tell us that most people don't want a gig network to their home and worse, they wouldn't know what to do with it if they had it. Oddly, that doesn't explain why more than 450 communities have installed municipal broadband, the majority of them including fiber in their networks. 40 of those networks offer gigabit access to the internet.

For two decades, we have showered the telcos with tax breaks, subsidies and a favorable business environment to encourage them to build a world class network for our citizens. What we got in return was an enormous betrayal of public trust. They took the money and the goodwill and turned it into dividends for their shareholders and bonuses for their executives. They laid off employees. They did just about everything they could to avoid building better networks.

During that time, communities large and small pleaded with the telcos to build better networks, but the telcos snubbed many of them, leaving them with DSL at 3-4mbs or no service at all. Cable and telephone companies alike cherry-picked their communities while enjoying a secured and protected monopoly with their franchise agreements with their respective cities. They talked about the wonders of a free market without really participating in one.

So when communities around the country began to marshal their resources towards building their own networks, the telcos, working with organizations like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), lobbied the states to pass model legislation to hobble or prohibit municipal broadband altogether. They were successful in more than 20 states so far, and the effort is not going to stop anytime soon. That is how the telcos said "Thank you".

Fiber to the home is the 21st century utility. Fiber to the home will empower people to be a part of a world-wide community, to pick and choose where they want to live and work, to get the education they so desperately need, to get access to medical care in remote locations, to get the services we can't even dream of yet on a gigabit network.

The electrification of the United States started with community cooperatives to connect every house and business to power. So it is with community broadband, to connect a thin strand of fiber to every house and business. Electric power added value to every home and business. Fiber to the premises, every single address, will also add value to the home or business. Fiber is good for real estate.

So when you see the fight over net neutrality or Title II reclassification or the right to choose the provider for internet access to be a local municipality, know that the fight is about the telcos wishing to deny Americans the power and the freedom that high speed internet access provides. There can be no other way to interpret legacy incumbent internet service providers actions and intentions.

If management at the telcos are unhappy because municipal broadband offered gigabit access first, they should remember that we gave them every chance to do it and they did not do what we asked. Now it is time for American citizens to rise up against the legacy incumbent internet service providers and build their own networks. These new networks will be fashioned rightly as public utilities rather than private monopolies and they will remind the telcos that the customer is always right.
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