RealTime IT News

High-Speed Competition Arrives in Oregon

Internet Ventures Inc. this week announced that its PerkiNet affiliate has begun delivering residential broadband Internet access over Ashland Fiber Network, a locally-owned cable network in Ashland, Ore.

The City of Ashland decided to develop and install the cable network as a telecommunications infrastructure in July 1998. Initially, the ambitious plan was designed to interconnect the Electric Department with other institutions, including educational, and health-care facilities.

The result of Ashland's efforts has produced a cutting-edge broadband platform that will provide local citizens advanced data, video, and voice services.

Infostructure, an IVI affiliate, is the first of five ISPs that will be competing for Internet customers over the Ashland Fiber Network. Ironically, IVI was denied carriage by cable systems incumbent Charter Communications in Ashland, and other Northwest cities.

Don Janke, IVI president, said that cable access consumers are best served by competition in the marketplace, even if a locality has to build the delivery system.

"While the Federal Communications Commission continues to wait for marketplace solutions, the City of Ashland is proving that, like all monopolies, cable will not change its ways absent government action," Janke said.

IVI petitioned the FCC to enforce its "leased access" petition for access to proprietary cable systems last fall. The FCC has not ruled on the petition, but Janke said he expected that the federal regulators would deny the order.

"The tragedy is that were the FCC to enforce leased access requirements upon cable operators regarding ISPs, cities would not have to spend taxpayer money for municipal overbuilds in order to bring the benefits of competition to their residents," Janke said.

Ashland budgeted $5 million for the construction of the fiber optics ring and distribution system. The city projects it will make about $587,046 a year by providing the populace with advanced cable communication services and will save more than $800,000 in utilities in about 10-years.

ISPs utilizing the Ashland network pay the city a flat rate of $15 per subscriber. Infostructure charges $33 for monthly broadband access. The fee includes a rented cable modem, five e-mail accounts, and technical support. The same service is available for $25 each month if a subscriber purchases a cable modem, rather than renting.