Christopher Mitchell on Municipal Broadband

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Vidchat conversation by Geoff Daily.



"Christopher Mitchell, director of the Telecommunications as Commons project for the Institute for Local Self Reliance.

In this episode we dive into some of the challenges, misconceptions, and opportunities of municipal broadband, and in particular fiber.

Summary of main points by Geoff Daily:

- When Chris made the point that "owners make decisions" when it comes to network deployment, management, etc. I think he really hit on something important. However we decide to best pursue our fiber future, we can't forget that whoever owns the pipes controls the pipes.

- That said, when he commented on how cities have limited power to regulate these networks, I found myself somewhat torn. On the one hand this is certainly not a good thing when it comes to allowing communities to determine their own future and what's best for them. On the other, I know there are advantages to elevating some of the levers of government to the state and federal level as otherwise network operators will be forced to reinvent the wheel with each individual community, which isn't necessarily a bad thing unless it adds inefficiency into the system that slows down deployment and investment.

- When it comes to the size of the investment needed for fiber, I loved Chris's observation that the billion dollars that Minneapolis is putting into building a light rail system is probably enough money to wire the whole city. That's proof positive that it's not that we can't afford fiber, it's that we aren't willing to make it a priority.

- Another worthwhile observation Chris makes when questioned about government's ability to drive innovation moving forward is that if you have a full fiber network in place, innovation will happen.

- Love that he hit on the point that anyone who's convinced themselves that wireless is a long-term replacement for fiber is probably kidding themselves.

- It was interesting to hear his passion against what he sees as the misinformation being disseminated against muni-broadband. I will say, the general sense out there is that muni-broadband is an extremely risky venture that has led many communities to failure. And to be quite frank, there are more muni-builds I can think of that have some doubts about their success than there are those that jump out as unqualified successes. But even still I agree with Chris that the FTTH Council's numbers are startling. I think just about any network operator would kill for takerates above 50% within one to four years of deployment. So they obviously must be doing something right." (

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