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What Are The Advantages And Disadvantages Of Municipal Fiber Networks?

Wade Anderson - Jun 26, 2019 11:00:00 AM

What Are The Pros And Cons Of Municipal Fiber Networks (featured image)

Municipal fiber networks have both advantages and disadvantages.

On one hand, municipal networks are an effective solution for delivering high-speed public broadband services in areas with limited ISP coverage. On the other hand, building and managing a fiber network independently can be very challenging.

As an operator, you need a balanced perspective on municipal networks so that you can best serve your government clients.

The Advantages of Municipal Fiber Networks

One of the main reasons why communities invest in municipal networks is that they “level the playing field” for subscribers.

Through municipal networks, communities create competitive marketplaces in which consumers have a choice over who provides their broadband services. With the right network design, local governments can encourage participation from multiple service providers, thereby incentivizing them to innovate and price fairly.

As a result, residents often have access to high-speed internet at a lower cost than they would otherwise. In many communities with publicly available internet, the “digital divide” is less prominent as households have equitable access to quality broadband.

Municipal networks also help promote community-wide economic development. With widespread access to fast internet, businesses are able to participate in the global economy and leverage next-generation technologies much more easily.

Another major benefit of municipal networks is that local governments can closely monitor the services provided by participating ISPs. Consequently, these ISPs can be held accountable to certain performance standards and ensure that community members get the services they deserve.

The Disadvantages of Municipal Fiber Networks

On the downside, municipal networks can be very complex to manage. In smaller communities, it can be hard to find personnel with expertise in taking big fiber development projects from start to finish.

This is especially true for municipal networks that lease capacity to several ISPs simultaneously. The more stakeholders there are, the more challenging the network is to maintain for all who are involved.

In addition, the upfront and ongoing costs of deploying a municipal network can be significant. Taxpayer dollars are at stake, which can be scary in communities with limited experience running profitable fiber networks. Local governments need to be prepared for extended periods of time with little cash flow and carefully project their financials over the long term.

Without the right incentives in place, internet service providers may also be hesitant to participate in open access networks. If population density is too low, competition is too intense, or wholesale pricing for cable capacity is too high, ISPs won’t see the value in providing services over municipal networks. Close collaboration is necessary to ensure that everyone can benefit from a municipal network launch.

Because local governments oversee municipal networks, some residents and businesses carry privacy concerns. There is a degree of monitoring that must exist in order for communities to evaluate whether or not their networks are fulfilling their original purposes. This public oversight may be too much of a deterrent in certain parts of the country.

Understanding the Pros and Cons of Municipal Networks

When it comes to fiber network deployment, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Municipal networks can be extremely effective in areas where leaders have fiber network management experience and private ISP coverage is lacking.  

With OSPInsight, managing municipal fiber networks is much easier. Click here to learn more about how our cloud-based platform can help you manage public, high-speed broadband for your community.

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