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More On Madison’s Municipal Broadband Debacle

December 6, 2017

municipal broadbandTwo weeks ago, the Coalition for the New Economy discussed Madison, Wis.’s failed municipal broadband pilot project. Government Technology published a deeper look into the network the same day.

The magazine explained why Madison’s experiment failed. Their research indicates the city really had no idea what it would take to execute construction of the small network. Madison and its contractors ran into difficulties negotiating with homeowners, “getting equipment to lay the backbone of the system,” and gaining “right of entry to extend fiber cable to the buildings” since some of the designated locations already had exclusive agreements with other providers.

The city’s contractor, ResTech, says the speed bumps were “unexpected,” but they really show the city didn’t do its research. Madison’s Chief Information Officer Paul Kronberger explained the city didn’t anticipate the problem because its only experience providing fiber broadband was in its own facilities. Kornberger admitted, “I don’t think it ever occurred to us” to look into right of entry agreements.

According to Government Technology, Madison has spent $556,000 to connect 19 subscribers to the internet. That’s more than $29,000 per home. Originally the city estimated the network would serve 1,083 apartments.

The pilot program is scheduled to conclude at the end of 2019. ResTech president Bryan Schenker noted that “part of what” the city was “trying to assess” is “the demand and … barriers to bringing this service.” Kronberger said, “A pilot program is a learning experience.”

Based on Government Technology’s report, the city should have learned that it’s time to get out of this business. Unfortunately, the magazine also reported “the city continues to pursue the broader fiber-to-premises initiative” with the goal of providing service to the entire city. The city has spent $107,500 on a feasibility analysis from Kensington, Md.-based Columbia Telecommunications Corp., which “and is now funding a $189,000 implementation plan by the same company that should be completed in late 2017 or early 2018.”