Over at Google they have an article which describes the prospect of owning your own Internet connection and what it might take to do it. They also discuss an experiment going on up in Canada, in which 400 homeowners will be able to purchase thier own Internet connection. In the Google article it states:
It may sound strange, and it’s certainly not what we’re used to. Today we have a “carrier-centered” model; phone and cable companies spend billions to build, operate, and own the “last-mile” connection — the copper, cable, or fiber wires that come into your house. Individual consumers then pay for particular services, like phone service or Internet access.
In turn, we tend to think about broadband deployment in carrier-centric ways. If we want to see super-fast fiber connections rolled out to consumers, the main question appears to be whether carriers have appropriate incentives to invest.
But there’s no law of nature that says this is the only possible model. Many businesses, governments, universities, and other entities already own their own fiber connections, rather than leasing access to lines. It may also be possible to find ways for consumers to purchase their own last-mile strands of fiber.
Here, as anywhere, there would be certain advantages that come with ownership over renting. No one necessarily needs to own skis or a car, but many of us do. If you owned your own fiber, you’d be able to connect it to a service provider of your own choosing. Over time, you might save money, and it could make your house more valuable to have a fiber “tail.”
The main challenges with this model are economic, rather than technical. Most importantly, ownership has to be made appealing and affordable to consumers. The construction company is using conservative estimates that only 10% of homeowners will sign up and there will be a per-customer cost of $2700. If you assume 50% take-up, then the per-customer cost drops to $1100. Both figures might seem like a lot, but people pay for a variety of improvements to their home — like remodeled kitchens, or a deck — that also cost large sums.
This model faces other significant obstacles as well and it may only be possible in certain circumstances, if it’s practical at all. But the only way to really figure that out is to experiment. Cable television started out as CATV — community antenna television, an experiment by individual entrepreneurs and rural towns to deliver broadcast signals across longer distances. The Internet started as an experiment in the research community before becoming the worldwide network we know today.
So the real challenge that I see, is anyone going to want to do this? Are home owners going to fork out $2700 or more to have their own connection? Is it worth it?
What do you think?