Opinion: Does the End of Net Neutrality Signal the Start of Public Internet

Companies are already selling overpriced Internet services with terrible performance and awful customer satisfaction ratings. The end of net neutrality as the rule of the land may exacerbate the problems that plague companies like Comcast. A lack of stable systems, a quilt of poorly deployed technologies, and the hell on earth it is to deal with the company’s technical nightmare (think MySQL database being used for all equipment monitoring) can be easily glossed over by simply forcing certain customers to pay more.

The end of net neutrality could become the equivalent of ObamaCare in the Trump era. It is a chance for another industry to gauge the private sector and the individual under the guise of open markets. The idea of an entirely open market itself was brushed aside by Adam Smith by the way.

In the midst of this nightmare, Longmont is providing a model for public broadband service at low prices. Despite the FCC ruling, the city’s NextLight broadband utility promises no tiered payment plans. Businesses, organizations, and even your local school will rejoice in this type of service. That is, of course, if you are lucky enough to live in Longmont.

NextLight is the type of service that provides impact and reduces the pressure Adam Smith referred to when disavowing companies such as the East India Company, claiming they could never really be a private venture. That is something that should be noticed in today’s world where services are increasingly produced by fewer and fewer companies whose increasing size makes Karl Marx look like a prophet.

Is this experiment profitable? The customer gets 1 gigabyte of download speeds for $45 per month. How, when a similar service costs over $100 per month from a competitor is this profitable? How can a $40.3 million dollar project ever pay off for poorer communities? How can the service be of quality? How can cities without the infrastructure Longmont had afford such a project?

The current project is funding at only 17 percent over the estimated cost. While small municipalities like Longmont do not post cost estimates, there is also the fact that in three to four years of operation, there have been no cost increases and no extra funding granted by taxation. The cost overrun is also relatively small for a public works project. In the same period, I personally have seen my internet services for 10mbs download speeds that rarely deliver their promised performance from Comcast go from $80 to $116 per month. Comcast does not even have the add-on features that $45 per month NextLight serves. Even Century Link offers incredibly slower services for $10 more dollars per month. Only Charter compares.

When it comes to poor communities, voting is more powerful at a local level. However, dealing with the misfortunes of rural and poor communities is an enormous problem in this country. Still, another source for funding may be technology companies themselves. Google and Facebook have already shown interest in divorcing the middle man from the process of getting their services to the consumer. Instead of balloons and airplanes, why not invest in public projects prior to the development of space delivered quantum communications.

It is also important to remember that, like many commonplace public projects, the middle class, Longmont at the beginning of NextLight, and rich, Longmont now due to the Californication of the Colorado Front Range, are often the jumping off point for all communities. Construction costs come down with demand, neighboring communities benefit, and knowledge is shared regarding operations.

As for the quality end. Longmont’s NextLight just beat out Google Fiber. The city is ranked third for customer service and Internet service. While a terrible argument, if you dislike your provider, you the taxpayer could literally fire them by voting.

Of more interesting note, municipalities are more likely to spur innovation as well in the search for better service at less cost. Denver based LayerTV just partnered with NextLight. Apparently, public Internet can actually increase competition.

So, will the end of net neutrality spur a public movement to reopen the Internet as an endless frontier of experimentation and cost savings compared to unregulated Internet? The future will tell.

Do you know the best part about NextLight? No unscheduled maintenance. It almost seems like Comcast violates other FCC rules regarding throttling and content provision already.