Up Sucker Creek

Up Sucker Creek
Photo Courtesy of the Lake Oswego Library

Monday, January 4, 2016

Behind the pitch for broadband

Three Cheers for Cheap, Municipal Broadband in 
Lake Oswego!  
How does one argue with idiots?  Let me try.

New service will bring gigabit Internet speeds to every Lake Oswego household.
Did you ever think about HOW this was going to happen?  No?  After the euphoria fades, there is the practical matter of how to get all this fiber to every homes,
up hills, down hills, all around the town - covering 10.68 square miles of land area.  A contractor can't dig up and repair all of the streets to put in new wire and be cost effective.  The only option is to put the wires above ground.  This runs counter to our city codes regarding placement of new utilities.  Even if the city gets to ignore the codes, it is a bad idea.  There is a reason for under-grounding utilities, and this project would push  progress back to pre-1960s development standards.  Has anyone calculated the repair and upkeep of poles and transmission wires over time?

READ: If Power Lines Fall, Why Don't They Go Underground?  NPR. 2/1/2012

Municipal broadband will be better and significantly cheaper than existing commercial internet options.  
Commercial service would be cheaper too if some of the administrative and personnel costs were borne by the consumer.  A city-owner broadband service would require six NEW city employees.  This will cost each household $10/month whether or not they use the Internet service, and users will pay that also, just not as part of their internet utility bill.  Here is what Scott Lazenby is suggesting:  People who buy the new service would pay more than they thought, and would be subsidized by the rest of the city since there would be a need to grow his administration at city hall.  It's a shell game of a deal, and if a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Lake Oswego needs a gigabit internet system, and a survey will show this.
Wants or needs?  Depending upon how survey questions are phrased, and especially if the public does not know all of the facts (risks and real expense to everyone), respondents may be answering the questions as if the question is only what they want not need, and not what they would have the city do in the real world.  Fantasy is so much easier to say yes to than reality.

What is need?  Unlike small towns in isolated regions, the Portland Metro area has multiple options of internet providers.  Some already offer gig service.  Some offer slower service at lower prices and higher prices for faster speeds, with other providers offer a variety of plans in between.  Faster?

Read:  The National Broadband Map

Lake Oswego only needs 35% of city residents to subscribe to make a new system self-sustainable.
We already know that this isn't true no matter whow many people subscribe. (Read above.)  But City Manager, Scott Lazenby, is quoted in the Lake Oswego Review as saying they might be able to get by with 30% at first.  It sounds like it is he who really wants this and will adjust his own estimates to make it work.  Plus, comparing the Lake Oswego market to Sandy's is not reasonable.  A reasonable manager would get a qualified consultant to do a market study on the feasibility of such a huge undertaking.  To date, I have not heard of such a study.  (Is there one?)  Lazenby is asking the Council to approve the project with only a shaky survey to guide them.

There is every reason to believe that LO could wind up becoming another Provo, Utah.  And Provo, is not the only city to have waded into this swamp and is now paying dearly for their foolishness.  These cities listened to the snake oil salesman, choosing fantasy over common sense.

Read: Google Paying $1 for $39 Million For Fiber Service in Utah, Huffington Post, 6/19/2013

Even when citizens have expressed no desire for it, approving municipal broadband demonstrates
According to the LO Review, this is the logic of Councilor Joe Buck.  I wonder if he would feel the same if the City Manager came to the Council with a plan to build a municipal restaurant where great meals could be had for a very low, sustainable price?  A restranteur  would provide the service  (at a profit to him), and the city would lease it - residents would pay only half the retail.  Competing with private, for-profit businesses is not the role of the city and is not a core service.  As other cities have learned, it may not even be doable.

It is not very cool to pile on costs to live in a city where people can't afford to live now.  Contrary to some peoples' beliefs,  (some in City Hall)  everyone is LO is not rich nor can they afford everything City Hall or the Council dreams up. The utility costs we have now are crushing.  Even if they could, it is not the City's right to spend our hard-earned money for us on discretionary stuff the city doesn't need.  Approving non-essential projects that aren't needed isn't leadership - it is self-indulgent folly.

Read: Survey to gauge public'sinterest in city-owned fiber network, Lake Oswego Review, 12/31/2015

A municipal broadband service will interfere with the free market, but public ownership of goods and services is best for the common good.
Actually, this is not something anyone (except Jeff Gudman) is talking about, but this is the philosophy The City Manager and City Council are buying into with discussion of a city-owned internet service. Capitalism,  competition, responds to the demands of the consumer.  After a contract is signed, what does the end consumer have to say?

This isn't capitalism.  Let's call it Command Economics.  What happens when "profit" estimates aren't what they should be?  If customers decide the municipal option isn't what they want, they will still  have to pay for the failed system.  Remember when Mayor Studabaker tried to get the city out of the LOT Water Partnership contract?  A breach of contract suit would have buried the city in more debt.  Once an agreement is signed for a broadband service, there is no way out that doesn't cost a fortune.  This is not a risk the City Council should take for something that is not necessary.  Has anyone learned from past mistakes?


Tuesday, January 26, the City Council will study the issue of a publicly-owned fiber network.  Will they get all the facts they need to make an educated decision?  Don't wait.  Let the City Council know what you think NOW! 

The Review said everyone on the council except Jeff Gudman wanted to go forward with the survey and a possible city broadband service.  Six others need persuading that the reason no one is clambering for new services, and are not engaged with the City Concil because we assume things will go along the same as they are unless there is a crisis or need for a change?.mmonly a handful follow city politics to discern what is going on before the $#*++  hits the fan.   Most citizens do not want much from the city - just for essential municipal services to work.

"Restraint in the face of temptation is a virtue."
-- Up Sucker Creek


  1. Right on target. Fiber optic is a fool's errand for the City. None of the survey questions seen so far let the respondent know that they will wind up with TWO providers - one for internet and another for content (like TV) and other services.
    Comcast just raised my internet to 250 (one fourth of gig) for free. Comcast is already providing gig service in some places and says they will do it everywhere. Comcasst heard the footsteps pf Google and decided to react. A competitor like Comcast will squash the City like a bug.
    Lazenby thinks this is Sandy; it isn't. There was only DSL in Sandy when they put in fiber optic 10 years ago. It was brilliant then; it is stupid now in L.O.

  2. I see city staff have done a classic bait and switch move on city council and played them like a fiddle. Convince city council they need to be a muni isp through an rfp process and when they have chosen that option then change the model to a private one where the city is now funding a private start-up company, Will council care or question the integrity of city staff, probably not...