Why is Internet in my town/city so bad?
Most of the US has a “duopoly” system where the majority of consumers have access to only two options: one cable provider and one DSL provider.
This is because most houses in the US market have been hooked up for cable TV and phone service at some point over the last half century or so. These existing wired connections were adapted to deliver digital data, making it necessary to add a dedicated fiber connection to each and every house.
Since these TV/phone wire networks are privately owned, the private companies that provider service over them have no obligation to share that network with other companies. For this reason, most houses only have one option for cable and one option for DSL. If they’re lucky, they may have a fiber provider like Fios or Google Fiber in their area as well. However, fiber providers are a relatively new addition to the Internet market.
Data Caps and streaming: why people are mad
Data caps are increasingly being used by ISPs to provide “usage-based billing.” Consumers see this as a method of discouraging streaming services like Netflix. ISPs say it’s a necessary change since the huge glut of video traffic has made network management difficult.
Some providers use them — others don’t. Providers that don’t use them are generally preferred by cord cutters. Most providers cap their plans at around 1 TB, which is much more than the average customer every uses. This may change in the future however thanks to 4K (extremely high definition) video streaming, VR, and other new bandwidth-heavy techs.
We maintain a regularly-updated list of ISPs with data caps.
Municipal Broadband: what is it and should we have it?
Municipal broadband is a term for publicly-owned Internet built out as a utility by towns and cities. This is commonly done as part of “smart grid” infrastructure upgrades. Cities like Chattanooga are often held up as examples of this setup, which can cost lots of taxpayer money but also draw tech industry to depressed areas.
The Institute for Local Self-Reliance maintains an online database of existing municipal broadband networks.
There is a fiber line in our street. Why can’t we use it?
Even when it was regulated as a “Title II” utility, Internet networks are still privately owned. In some cases, the government will have fiber lines to connect government buildings, libraries, and etc. Building out residential service from such lines is complex and expensive.
What is “Dark Fiber?”
Dark fiber is the term for fiber that is in the ground but not currently being used. Since the cost of installing fiber lines both locally and nationally is mostly in the digging and construction, most fiber providers (and cities when publicly-owned) lay much, much more cabling than they actually need. This fiber is “dark” because it isn’t lit up with data, which is transmitted as light (laser diodes) in fiber cables.
How can I find out who owns dark fiber in my town/city?
There is not currently a public database of fiber line locations, since most of them are private and companies don’t want to make their networks entirely known to competitors.
There are some companies that aggregate this data and will help you find lines in your area as a service, such as FiberLocator. You can also contact your local government offices to request “dig info” kept on file for determining where you can and can’t dig due to power/fiber/cable/etc lines in the ground.