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Portland, Home to Historic Open Access Battles, is Bringing Municipal Dark Fiber to Light

Drew Clark



BROADBAND BREAKFAST INSIGHT: Susan Crawford is once again bringing history to life with this blast-from-the-past story of how "net neutrality" owes some of its roots to a 20-year-old fight in Portland. Today, however, the city is bringing open access battles into the 21st Century. (We wrote about Lake Oswego here in October 2015.) And here's the punch line: When open-access are prevalent, fears about net neutrality become obsolete.

Portland is Again Blazing Trails for Open Internet Access, from Wired by Susan Crawford.

Editor's Note: Key segments are below:

Today, Portland and its region are poised to be Ground Zero for resolving the real issues behind public concern over “net neutrality”—the stagnant, uncompetitive, hopelessly outclassed state of internet access in America. Portland is taking seriously the idea of a publicly overseen dark-fiber network over which private providers could compete to offer cheap, ubiquitous internet access.

Fast forward to today. A grassroots group called Municipal Broadband PDX is agitating for construction of a publicly owned open-access fiber network across the region. The city of Portland has contributed funds for a feasibility study and Multnomah County is on board with the idea. Hillsboro, less than 20 minutes away from Portland, is already building its own network. Citizen advisory committees will play a crucial role in the Portland region when it comes to planning for publicly overseen dark fiber, just as they did 20 years ago. There are many questions that need to be answered, including how much a dark fiber network would cost to build, how long it would take to be rolled out, where the money would come from to build it, and how a reasonable, nondiscriminatory leasing regime would work. If the project goes forward, it will be one of the largest public fiber efforts in the country.

History does not repeat itself, but it rhymes, as many people think Mark Twain said. Dark fiber, leased at reasonable rates to multiple private sector ISPs, would create the abundant, competitive, cheap internet access Portland has dreamt of for decades. And having it in place is the actual answer to "net neutrality" worries: Where there is abundant access and competition, no one company can pick and choose winners and losers or charge its customers outrageous rates for second-class services. That's what's in Portland's DNA.

Source: Portland Is Again Blazing Trails for Open Internet Access | WIRED


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