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MADISON- A cheaper, faster internet could hit the Madison market in the next couple of years, if the Federal Communications Commission follow’s President Obama’s advice to address laws forbidding local governments from building their own service, Mayor Paul Soglin said during a Wednesday news conference.
“I don't know if it's going to be a city unity. I don't know if it's going to be a partnership with the private sector. I don't know if the city, the school district, the university, MATC are going to come together. All of these are possibilities. All of them need to be explored,” Soglin said.
That exploration focuses on expanding the existing network of high speed fiber optic internet lines, known as the Municipal Unified Fiber Network or MUFN, already located in public buildings like the Meadowood library, which the city's already built over the last five years.
“It would mean within a year or two there could be fiber optic service to the home. Which no company does now in Madison,” UW Telecommunications Professor Barry Orton said.
The city currently contracts two companies, including SupraNet Communications on Madison’s west side, to build the MUFN network.
“Fiber to the home is the dream of many of us,” SupraNet President Bryan Chan said. “That's an exciting possibility. But it is very expensive to build fiber into any building. Including homes.”
Chan defines that expense as $5,000 to $10,000 per home. Soglin says he knows that will be part of a bigger, coming conversation.
“It’s a new discussion. It’s going to take a couple months to digest all this. And then we have to figure out what we want to do. But it’s an exciting new opportunity.”
The low-income pilot program the mayor’s team had been studying is now off the table because Soglin says the prospect of what is coming could eventually benefit many more people.
The city council has the final funding approval if Madison is going to get into the internet business.
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