As a Public Utility, Very-High-Speed Internet Service Coming to Lancaster City This Year

This post in a nutshell: Internet service 50 times faster than Comcast’s basic service is coming to Lancaster city starting later this year. It will be cheaper than Comcast, too, because it will be offered through the city as a public utility.

In my post last August, I argued strongly that Lancaster’s mayor, Rick Gray, was wrong to publicly endorse the proposed merger of Comcast with Time Warner. I went on record with that criticism in LNP and started a petition calling for city council to oppose the merger.  (As an update, Comcast just yesterday said they feel “optimistic” that federal regulators will allow the merger.)

In the public reaction to the mayor’s public support of Comcast, I was just one voice among many calling on Lancaster city not only to stop catering to Comcast but in fact to compete with Comcast by offering very-high-speed Internet service to Lancaster city residents as a public utility.

As reported by LNP’s Dan Nephin today, Lancaster city is going to step up and do just that. What’s more, it turns out that these plans and negotiations have been in the works for years, behind closed doors until Verizon decided if it would block such plans. (The city administrator, Patrick Hopkins, tells me in a Facebook comment that the work began in 2006.) Verizon has decided it will not.

So, while I was joining others in calling for public broadband in Lancaster, city leaders had already had something big in the works for years. They just couldn’t say anything about it publicly.

I’m writing this from my home, where we subscribe to Comcast’s most basic Internet service. Comcast’s own tool reports that my download speed is 3.6 megabits per second (Mbps).

The capacity of the public Internet service to be offered within Lancaster city later this year is planned to be 300 Mbps, thanks to new infrastructure of roughly “a thousand strand miles” of fiber-optic cable.

Free WiFi hotspots will be set up in parks and other public areas all over the city, and residents and businesses will be able to subscribe to the service. Prices haven’t been set yet, but Nephin reports Gray saying the city is “very confident that it’s going to be a lot lower than what you’re paying now for home Internet service.” At the very least, as residents, we’ll be able to get a lot more speed for our dollar.

This plan looks to be a huge win for the city’s budget. The installation of fiber-optic cable and transmitters will cost around $500,000 over the next twenty years. The city will save at least half that amount in the first year alone, because it will no longer have to pay a third party for Internet service and because it will allow remote monitoring of water meters throughout the city.

Verizon Opted Out

The reason Lancaster city is allowed under Pennsylvania law to roll out this Internet service is that Verizon chose to give up its state-guaranteed right of first refusal on creating such a network in the city. (Verizon’s lobbying of the state government earlier this century led the state government to sell out and guarantee Verizon it could have “dibs” on creating this kind of network anywhere in the state where it is the primary telecom provider.) Verizon just informed the city of its decision in a letter on February 12.

City leadership was staying mum on this subject until hearing that final decision from Verizon, so it turns out these plans were in the works even as Mayor Gray was coming under criticism for his support of Comcast last year. In my view, rolling out this plan is of much greater significance than signing a letter supporting Comcast’s merger — it’s a good act far outweighing a lapse in judgment.

A Great Thing for Lancaster

This plan is terrific for Lancaster city, its residents, and its businesses. I’m confident that people and businesses will move to Lancaster city simply for the really fast, affordable Internet connection. The service will save our city money that it desperately needs in order to maintain infrastructure and provide necessary public services. Businesses in the city will save money, too, while also increasing their capacity and productivity with a faster Internet connection.

And hey, in the near future, if a pipe bursts in my house while I’m out of town, the city may even catch it, because they’ll be monitoring for abnormalities in daily water meter readings.

Huge thanks and congratulations on this forward-thinking initiative go to Mayor Gray, city council, Patrick Hopkins, Charlotte Katzenmoyer, and others involved.

Mayor Gray Publicly Endorses Creation of Comcast/Time Warner Super-Monopoly

Mayor Rick Gray Supports a Merger of Comcast and Time Warner

While some mayors are making it a priority to provide high-speed wireless Internet access to all or to court alternative broadband providers like Google to bring truly high-speed broadband Internet to their communities, Lancaster city mayor Rick Gray is throwing his support behind two mega-corporations his constituents truly and justly hate. (For starters, the companies are incredibly powerful proponents of killing the freedom of the Internet by ending Net neutrality.) Let me introduce them by way of a recent report from the American Consumer Satisfaction Index:

High prices, slow data transmission and unreliable service drag consumer satisfaction to record lows, as customers have few alternatives beyond the largest Internet service providers. Customer satisfaction with ISPs drops 3.1% to 63%, the lowest score in the Index.  … Customers rate Comcast  and Time Warner Cable even lower for Internet service than for their TV service. In both industries, the two providers have the weakest customer satisfaction.

And yet, on Thursday, Mayor Gray joined fifty-one other city mayors to sign a letter which, in my paraphrase, says, “Go, corporate oligarchy, go!” and in actuality spews a load of corporate double-speak that our mayor should be deeply ashamed to have put his name to. You can read the letter for yourself (pdf).

I want to be very clear that putting more power in the hands of Comcast and Time Warner is a terrible idea for Lancaster city, especially for its citizens and its businesses. I call on Lancaster city council to pass a resolution that makes this argument — in clear opposition to Mayor Gray — against a merger of these two corporate monopolies into a single super-monopoly.

If you agree with me, please sign the petition, share this blog post, and comment below.

Mayor Rick Gray Supports a Merger of Comcast and Time Warner

Here’s the Military Gear the Defense Department Has Sent to Lancaster County Police

The New York Times is disclosing what military equipment has been given to state and local law enforcement agencies through the United States Defense Department. Here’s what law enforcement agencies in Lancaster County received.

The Times reported in June:

During the Obama administration, according to Pentagon data, police departments have received tens of thousands of machine guns; nearly 200,000 ammunition magazines; thousands of pieces of camouflage and night-vision equipment; and hundreds of silencers, armored cars and aircraft.

Thanks to data acquired and disclosed by the Times on Github, I am able to report that no less than $11,000 worth of that military equipment has been sent to Lancaster County since 2008, including thirteen of those machine guns and 196 of the magazines. (None of the armored vehicles or aircraft yet.)

A full accounting of what has been received by agencies in Lancaster County, PA is below the photo gallery.

NSN (National Stock Number) Item Name Qty Acquisition
1005-00-073-9421 RIFLE, 5.56 MILLIMETER 1 $499.00 9/17/2008
1005-00-073-9421 RIFLE, 5.56 MILLIMETER 1 $499.00 9/17/2008
1005-00-073-9421 RIFLE, 5.56 MILLIMETER 1 $499.00 9/17/2008
1005-00-073-9421 RIFLE, 5.56 MILLIMETER 1 $499.00 9/17/2008
1005-00-073-9421 RIFLE, 5.56 MILLIMETER 1 $499.00 9/17/2008
1005-00-856-6885 RIFLE, 5.56 MILLIMETER 1 $120.00 10/29/2010
1005-00-856-6885 RIFLE, 5.56 MILLIMETER 1 $120.00 10/29/2010
1005-00-856-6885 RIFLE, 5.56 MILLIMETER 1 $120.00 10/29/2010
1005-00-856-6885 RIFLE, 5.56 MILLIMETER 1 $120.00 10/29/2010
1005-00-856-6885 RIFLE, 5.56 MILLIMETER 1 $120.00 2/26/2013
1005-00-856-6885 RIFLE, 5.56 MILLIMETER 1 $120.00 2/26/2013
1005-00-856-6885 RIFLE, 5.56 MILLIMETER 1 $120.00 2/26/2013
1005-00-856-6885 RIFLE, 5.56 MILLIMETER 1 $120.00 2/26/2013
1005-00-921-5004 MAGAZINE, CARTRIDGE 196 $9.31 2/21/2013
1240-01-411-1265 SIGHT, REFLEX 3 $328.00 2/21/2013
3413-01-428-6623 DRILLING MACHINE, UPRIGHT 1 $3,993.32 4/30/2012
5120-00-293-1439 VISE, MACHINIST’S 2 $422.41 3/15/2012
5180-00-357-7770 TOOL KIT, REPAIRMAN’S 1 $2,012.00 4/4/2012
5820-01-512-3227 RECEIVER-TRANSMITTER, RADIO 6 $329.15 9/24/2013
6545-00-656-1094 FIRST AID KIT, GENERAL PURPOSE 6 $87.29 7/5/2012
6545-00-656-1094 FIRST AID KIT, GENERAL PURPOSE 6 $87.29 7/12/2012
7110-DS-SAF-E000 5 DRAWER SAFE 3 $800.00 4/20/2012
8415-01-461-8341 SHIRT, COLD WEATHER 10 $60.45 4/20/2012
8415-01-461-8356 SHIRT, COLD WEATHER 25 $60.45 4/20/2012
8415-01-530-2157 ELBOW, PAD 25 $11.79 4/20/2012
8415-99-359-9160 MASK, SAFETY, ALL TEMPERATURES 30 $21.25 9/24/2013
8465-01-328-8268 GOGGLES, SUN, WIND AND DUST 25 $23.81 3/15/2012
8465-01-393-6515 MAT, SLEEPING, SELF-INFLATING 10 $44.39 4/20/2012
8465-01-505-4762 DRINKING SYSTEM 24 $36.79 4/13/2012
8465-01-524-7226 SUSTAINMENT POUCH 6 $15.58 4/4/2012
8465-01-524-7226 SUSTAINMENT POUCH 25 $15.58 4/4/2012
8465-01-525-0577 FIGHTING LOAD CARRIER 13 $43.75 3/15/2012
8465-01-525-0606 POUCH, M4 TWO MAGAZINE 25 $5.44 3/27/2012