The global Internet includes tens of thousands of switches interconnected by fiber optic lines often operating at 100 billion bits per second (gbps). Fiber will go much faster; copper will never get there. As speeds increase the “last mile” will inevitably become fiber optic as well, replacing ancient twisted-pair and coaxial copper lines. The only questions are who will be doing it, and when.
The conditions that forced Northwest Connect into existence – thousands not connected to broadband services, no competition in broadband services, no timely upgrades in our region – grew from the 1996 Telecommunications Act. The Act exchanged universal service as a mandate for monopoly telecom services for competition in the telecom marketplace. For our region it has not worked out well. For us the Act has made universal service and real competition only possible through municipal ownership of new broadband networks.