LJWorld.com weblogs Town Talk

City considering becoming a bigger player in local broadband market


It is fair to say that there already has been quite a bit of pot-stirring lately when it comes to providers of high-speed Internet service in Lawrence.

First, The World Company (the parent company of this Web site) sells Sunflower Broadband — the longtime, locally owned dominant provider of Internet service in the city — to Knology. Then, Knology sells itself to Colorado-based Wide Open West, which apparently has marketing people who drink a lot of caffeine because it officially goes by the name WOW!. Just to keep you on your toes, though, Knology hasn’t yet changed its name to WOW! here in Lawrence.

Meanwhile, the Internet provider Lawrence Freenet changed its name to Wicked Broadband and has begun expanding its service. (Its marketing people must drink whatever you drink while watching a marathon of the Wizard of Oz, because its tagline is “faster than a flock of flying monkeys.”)

And speaking of flying monkeys, there is Google. (That’s how they get all those search engine results, you know.) The world’s new corporate giant picked Kansas City, Kan., and then Kansas City, Mo., to launch its Google Fiber project, which promises to bring Internet service that is so fast that my wife would be able to deplete the entire inventories of online shopping sites with the single push of a button. The proximity of that project generated chatter in Lawrence about what it needs to do to keep up with the Jones of the broadband world.

Well, it is still a bit early to say that the pot is about to be stirred again — but there is an entity out there that is fiddling with the spoon. You may be surprised who it is: the city of Lawrence.

When it comes to valuable infrastructure, the city these days owns far more than roads, waterlines, parks and such. It also has large amounts of fiber optic cable or underground conduits to accept fiber optic cable.

At their Tuesday evening meeting, city commissioners will be asked to begin advertising for a consultant that can help the city determine how to best leverage its valuable fiber optic holdings.

What that will lead to is still uncertain. But a city staff memo points to a recent initiative in Seattle as an example of what other cities are trying to do with their fiber optic networks. One of the goals in Seattle is to increase competition among service providers.

It will be interesting to see if the city uses its fiber optic network in a way designed to lower the price of broadband services in the city. I don’t even know how the price of broadband services in Lawrence stack up to those in other communities. But I bet you tech companies thinking about moving to this area do.

The city already has been playing that game a bit. The folks at Wicked Broadband — mostly when it was Lawrence Freenet — have used city infrastructure to expand their service in town. The city and Wicked have an agreement that says Wicked will make efforts to provide low-cost Internet service to people who can’t afford it. According to the company’s Web site, 10 percent of a customer’s monthly service fee “helps bring Internet access to low-income households.”

The city has a fiber optic network or conduit that stretches all the way to Tee Pee Junction in North Lawrence to 23rd and Iowa in south Lawrence to the East Hills Business Park in eastern Lawrence and to west of the Sixth Street and South Lawrence Trafficway in west Lawrence.

But the city also wants a consultant to look at all the traffic signals, light poles, water towers and other city-owned structures that could accommodate equipment for wireless Internet service. Does the city have the infrastructure in place to create a wireless Internet cloud over the city? Given that until recently I kept going to The Raven to try to buy this Facebook everybody was talking about, I’m not the guy to ask. But a city-hired consultant is. We’ll get a read on Tuesday about how serious city commissioners are about being tech players in the community.


kuhusker 5 years, 3 months ago

This would be really great - I would pay to have fiber run to my house (I would consider it a home improvement same as pouring a new driveway or buying a swimming pool) but it is crazy that there is no one offering this at any price.

chootspa 5 years, 3 months ago

Expanded broadband infrastructure would be a much better investment than some fancy schmancy rec center out on the west side of town.

Lathrup 5 years, 3 months ago

Well finally an intelligent idea about what to do with all those Millions the city Council just HAVE to spend. Makes perfect sense...scrap the out in the sticks rec center/boondoggle,that few will ever see much less use, and plug in a service a large group of voting citizens can get behind. Naaa makes too much sense and you know who doesn't get richer on it. Never fly....

Joshua Montgomery 5 years, 3 months ago

We here at Wicked Broadband strongly support any and all efforts to expand broadband connectivity here in Lawrence.

Chad - You drink Diet Mountain Dew when you are watching the Wizard of Oz, unless you are on the "Dark Side of the Rainbow" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_Side_of_the_Rainbow

John Hamm 5 years, 3 months ago

Is that why you don't give technical support to "daily" customers?

Liberty275 5 years, 3 months ago

"Dark Side of the Rainbow"

That didn't seem to work as well as advertised. It was an interesting idea though.

workinghard 5 years, 3 months ago

"According to the company’s Web site, 10 percent of a customer’s monthly service fee “helps bring Internet access to low-income households.” " Except they still don't provide service to the area's of Lawrence where the low income people live like North Lawrence and East Lawrence. In some areas you cannot get the basic service, you must have the more expensive advanced service and pay for professional installation. Saying one thing while doing another. Smart move, changing your name so the negetive reviews under Lawrence Freenet don't show up when newcomers to Lawrence research Wicked Broadband.

Laura Wilson 5 years, 3 months ago

So, if the city goes with this are they going to expand their fiber optics to cover the entire town because right now I'm not more than three blocks away from those boundaries. The minute they do and they go for this, bye bye Knology, hello Dish Network and city broadband!

optimist 5 years, 3 months ago

We all assume the city can do it better and/or cheaper--just like the golf course? The city has no business competing against private sector businesses that made investments to bring the technology to the city. There is already competition and likely more to come if the city stays out of it. The city should concentrate on providing the services that only the city can and leave this industry alone. There are plenty of potholes to fix...

kuhusker 5 years, 3 months ago

There's hardly competition in Lawrence, at least in broadband. But, perhaps I am wrong and you can enlighten me - where can I buy a fiber connection to my home? Knology? AT&T?

chootspa 5 years, 3 months ago

Actually, the lack of competition is precisely the problem. Ever been to South Korea? They just downloaded the entire Internet in the time it took to type this. The USA is behind in ultra high speed Internet. Lack of local competition in most markets and issues over zoning approval/ rights of way are the main reasons why.

Currahee 5 years, 3 months ago

Cable monopolies are the reason for stagnant speeds and inflated prices for internet. We were fortunate that Sunflower Broadband was very generous with its speeds and prices. You would really have to pay almost double for the same speed with Comcast and Sunflower was always good about support. Knology... not so much. Anyway I would be all for this... as long as the city agreed to not do some zany deep packet inspection and monitor everything everyone did.

Topple 5 years, 3 months ago

Verizon FiOS has my vote, if we can't get Google Fiber.

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