$30 a year phone service

Community leaders are often concerned about whether or not their citizens and businesses would actually use a community broadband system, with some justification--we do not have a lot of good data on community broadband projects. In the last couple of weeks, I have had conversations with leaders in two different communities who were concerned that too few citizens used the Internet to make the investment worthwhile.

But the thing to remember with Open Service Provider Networks (OSPN) is that the community is offering much more than Internet access. An OSPN network typically offers a wide variety of services, including telephony, TV programming, computer backups, home and business security monitoring, telemedicine, telehealth, online gaming, desktop computer management, and much more. So you do not have to "sell" people on the Internet at all. Even if you have a resident who loudly proclaims that they do not have a computer and have never been on the Internet, they are still likely to be a customer if you have an OSPN system in the community.


Take a look at VoIP telephone provider Skype's plans to offer unlimited calling to any telephone in the U.S. for $30/year. That is not a typo. If you bring Skype in as a provider on your OSPN system, you are not selling broadband at all. You are giving residents and businesses an opportunity to cut their phone bills by as much as 90%!

Given that service option, how many people would say, as you hook up the community fiber to their home, "I'm very happy paying ten times more for phone service, and am not interested in saving money?" If your community has high unemployment and/or a large elderly population on fixed incomes, saving several hundred dollars per year on their phone bills can be very significant. It frees up that money for other needs, and some of that money will be spent at businesses in the community, rather than typically being mailed out of state to a large telecom firm.

Selling only "broadband," or just Internet access, is not only old fashioned, it is not financially viable over the long term. We know better now, and the future for communities is to build digital roadways that offer citizens and businesses not just Internet access but a whole array of IP-enabled services that save them time, money, or both.

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