Power To The People

Broadband service via either Cable or DSL is spreading around the world. However, there are many places where it is just not available. One of them is the Ruby Ranch neighborhood in Summit County, Colorado. Rather than wait until broadband service would be available — which could be years — the residents decided to take the matter into their own handsand formed the Ruby Ranch Internet Cooperative Association.

According to their web site, the Coop was founded in 2001 because no one offered DSL or cable modem Internet access in their neighborhood, and because the voice telephone service was of such poor quality that it was not possible to get modem connections faster than about 26K bits per second. Qwest (Q) and AT&T (T) Broadband both operated in the area but with only 40 homes and no nearby major markets, the investment to set up broadband service was not in the cards. So the residents of Ruby Ranch petitioned the FCC and convinced the Colorado Public Utility Commission that they should be able to install a DSLAM — a breadbox sized piece of electronics that enables DSL to be delivered in a neighborhood — themselves and connect it to the copper wiring of the phone company. On top of that, the PUC said that they should pay only the wholesale price for the privilege to operate it on the phone company network. A dozen or so neighbors bought the DSLAM for approximately $5,000. With the addition of modems, routers, and various other components (some of which they bought on eBay), the Ruby Ranch folks were able to build their own broadband service. The Coop now offers DSL service to all homes in the Ruby Ranch neighborhood. Their industriousness means they don’t have to wait until the next decade to be "always on". Similar efforts are underway in other remote areas using WiFi. No longer is the "last mile" holding back the availability of high speed Internet service. Power to the People!
Thanks to Tim Sweeney, John Hammond, Robert Moskowitz and Bob Scott for making me aware of this wonderful story.