Tuesday, January 13, 2015

You want HOW MUCH for Fiber?

An item from the City of Ammon Newsletter for Fall/Winter 2014:

On December 15th Silver Star Communications officially announced the availability of gigabit service to Ammon businesses and residents through the use of the City’s fiber optic network. We are pleased to support Silver Star in their delivery of these next generation services and continue to actively pursue further development of this essential infrastructure for the benefit of our businesses and residents.

Now how cool is that? Gigabit fiber optic internet service. For residents! And Silver Star Communications, out of Jackson, Wyoming, has it all locked up. Oh, the competition’s got to be screaming! And what timing: Our 20 MB service with Centurylink is set to increase in price this month to a burdensome $70 a month. Time to hit the phones and find out how much this service is going to cost us.

Got a quote via email last night from the folks at Silver Star: To deliver this essential infrastructure to our house is going to cost us from between $20,000 to $25,000 just for the fiber alone, forgetting the monthly service costs, because apparently this essential infrastructure is nowhere near our house.

Sticker shock.

So I wrote back to the folks at Silver Star, saying thank you for the quote, but that their price – even if I found 20 to 25 neighbors who also want gigabit internet service to help defray the cost as they suggested in their quote – was a bit out of my price range.

Reading further on the city’s fiber optic network at the city’s website, I find little information on the extent of the city’s network. There are hints that residents could agree to a bond to extend services to every house, but no hint that such a bond is in the works or has been attempted in the past. The city suggests gigabit internet service could be brought to residents via a bond for about $15 a month. (But therein lies the conundrum: WHAT?! Make ME pay for a service that I DON’T WANT TO USE?! Preposterous. So it ain’t gonna happen.

Which is a shame because broadband internet service in Idaho is generally poor in quality. The 20 MG service we have from Centurylink is acceptable, but I have a hard time telling any difference between it and the 5 MB service we had from them a while back. While there are more than one company offering broadband service in the area, there is no real competition: Prices tend to vary only a few pennies difference. Getting a service offering a gigabit connection in town sounded too good to be true – and, alas, that is the case.

And now I’m sending this little note to the City of Ammon. While I applaud the city’s efforts to bring fiber optic internet to its residents and businesses, I suggest that perhaps the city is overselling its ability to provide this essential infrastructure to residents and businesses at this time and should dial back future rhetoric on the matter, or at least provide additional detail on the extent of the city’s “fiber optic network” so as not to get residents’ hopes up and waste Silver Star’s time.

To be fair, even before I got to send this to the city, they went me an email (Apparently Silver Star forwarded my little screed to them on to the city). They were apologetic about the situation -- but I reiterated to them all I knew was what was printed in the city newsletter, and that it's unfortunate the details of the city not having fiber everywhere was left out. I'd much rather, I told them, invest the $20,000 to $25,000 in solar power at the house, rather than in a fiber connection. Hoping, however, they continue to work on the system and expand it in the future. Without the sticker shock.

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