About

Citizens for Heights Municipal Broadband

Building a Net Neutral, Revenue Neutral Community ISP

Introduction

We are a group of citizens discussing the implementation of a Cleveland Heights Municipal Broadband ISP (CHMB for the purpose of this document). Municipal broadband initiatives are trending nationwide. Reasons for this are many, but are largely in response to monopolistic, poor options currently provided by for-profit, private Internet Service Providers. Unpopular features such as low speeds, data caps, bandwidth throttling, high cost, and active lobbying by these ISPs against Net Neutrality have catalyzed Cleveland Heights community activism. This group is crafting a proposal that would create a new municipal utility, a Cleveland Heights Municipal Broadband ISP that is service and cost competitive, revenue neutral, and net neutral.

Objectives:

  • Provide Economic Development incentives (increase home value, attract new homeowners, attract new commercial enterprises).
  • Commit to the philosophy of Net Neutrality.
  • Provide up to 1Gbps dedicated fiber Internet to Cleveland Heights homes and businesses with no bandwidth monitoring, discriminatory throttling, data harvesting, or data caps.
  • Link civic assets to ROI
  • Provide free WiFi in public spaces.
  • LMI considerations

Risks:

  • Estimated $1500 per household startup costs to install a new fiber infrastructure to the entire city: 15,000 homes @ $1500/home = $22.5 Million startup capital.
  • Failure could mean a small tax increase (many years from now) to pay back bond.
  • Can we guarantee net neutrality?
  • Traditional ISPs in the area (Spectrum, ATT) will fight.
  • Federal and state laws are malleable on this subject. FCC/Administration (currently) and ISP Lobbyists are very unfavorable to net neutrality and this type of public competition.

What would the Cleveland Heights Municipal Broadband ISP offer?

  • Provide economic development and business considerations
  • Net neutral by foundation.
  • Municipally-owned fiber connectivity to 100% of Cleveland Heights, including residents, businesses, schools, libraries, city hall, police station.
  • 1Gbps dedicated fiber Internet at competitive rates (~$70/month).
  • Lower tier subscriptions (30Mbps/$30)
  • No price increase, ever.
  • Link civic assets to ROI: After revenues pay back the bond, profits will be distributed back to city services (schools, police, libraries, for example).
  • Home value increase.
  • Free public WiFi.
  • Economic development incentives.
  • No data caps.
  • No data harvesting.
  • No bandwidth discrimination.
  • Subscription models to ensure access for low-income households.
  • Emergency services.
  • Point of sale services.
  • LMI opportunities.

Action Items:

  • Develop an all-or-nothing plan for entire city. We discussed starting small by piloting in new developments like Flannery and Collins or distinct business districts (SID partnerships, for instance), but believe this to be an easy route for high expenses, mal-adoption, and ultimate failure.
  • Investigate bonds as an option for initial startup capital. Do not seek private partnerships for initial funding. We do not want to be beholden to private stakeholders.
  • Seek wisdom from those responsible in cities which have implemented: Minneapolis, Fairlawn, Fort Collins, etc.
  • Marketing: Develop concise pitch for citizen-to-citizen marketing.
  • Community Organizing! Meet in two weeks, inviting more CH citizens into the room.

What would a Cleveland Heights Municipal Broadband ISP physically look like?

The CHMB ISP would be a revenue neutral, municipally-run utility functioning as a last-mile Tier-3 ISP. As a result, CHMB provides new competition to the Tier-3 ISPs currently servicing Cleveland Heights: Spectrum, ATT, and WOW. CHMB would:

  • Purchase Internet transit, peering, and CDN from Tier 1/Tier 2 backbone providers (Level 3/ATT/Cogent/etc).
  • Purchase, install, and maintain last-mile fiber to 100% of Cleveland Heights, backhaul infrastructure, and the trunk between transit provider.
  • Staff, equip, and operate a 24/7/365 Point(s) of Presence (POP) and a Network Operations Center (NOC).