Thurmont residents could be on the verge of getting a new internet provider — the town — as local leaders are trying to make high-speed internet available to everyone in the community.

The Thurmont Internet Commission made a presentation to the Thurmont Board of Commissioners and Mayor John Kinnaird Tuesday night, outlining a multi-step proposal for municipal-wide internet service. The plan is still in its basic stages and has not been voted on. 

The Internet Commission was created last year by Thurmont resident Elliot Jones, who had read about other small municipalities in the country — such as Fairlawn, Ohio — creating a fiber network for their residents. He was inspired to bring the possibility to Thurmont, a town where many residents still use slow DSL or satellites, or have no internet at all. 

"A lot of our residences only have access to DSL and the speeds they're getting on DSL are abysmal," Jones said. "They're getting seven megabits or they're paying for 15 and only getting seven. They’re still paying $30-$50 a month and not getting what they're paying for."

Currently, most Thurmont residents use Comcast internet or a Verizon DSL. A survey conducted by the Thurmont Internet Commission found that most Thurmont residents using Comcast were only receiving speeds up to half as fast as what they were paying for. A resident might pay for the download speed of 100 megabits per second, but only see speeds of 50 megabits per second, for example. And some homes can't access Comcast because they are too remote. 

A municipality-wide internet system would allow every resident the chance to be connected to high-speed internet, priced lower than Comcast. 

Dan Kosek, Internet Commission member and the founder of VentusRF in Frederick, explained that to start, Thurmont could offer wireless broadband service to residents, with large antennae installed on the town's three water towers. One tower's antenna would probably be installed first, with the next two coming in the following months. Then, residents would be able to purchase internet access from the town of Thurmont itself at varying price points for different speeds. 

The goal would be to eventually run fiber, which creates a more stable and faster connection, to individual houses in Thurmont. Kosek said a mix of fiber and wireless broadband could be used to cover the whole town, some of which might be hard to connect with fiber due to lack of telephone wires or because of rough terrain.

"So that's why we're looking at a hybrid model because Thurmont's topography and just how far some of the homes are from right of ways are ... that's being considered," Jones said. "And also because of the logistical problem of having to dig underneath existing right of ways."

While Jones said he finds his internet service in town to be OK, he said the lack of competition makes him wary about Comcast's increasing prices.

"If I'm in a my-way or the highway situation, I don't feel comfortable with that as a consumer or a resident," he said.

The internet connection that Thurmont would initially use to set up its towers would be from a 10 gigabit pipe from Comcast that the company is not currently using. These commercial services are considered separate from their individual XFinity services. Thurmont would then be responsible for managing the internet and connecting each participating house — not Comcast. 

The commissioners and Mayor Kinnaird said they were hopeful about the plans and would be discussing them again in the future. Jones anticipates lots of follow-up questions and more presentations before moving forward with an official proposal. 

"We are here to support the mayor and board in investigating this as an option for the town and we'll support them for as long as that takes," he said.

Follow Erika Riley on Twitter: @ej_riley

(12) comments

DickD

https://www.fastcompany.com/90432191/telecoms-wield-enormous-power-over-the-internet-but-cities-are-fighting-backTHE EFFORT IS UNDERWAYGovernors in six states—Hawaii, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont—have already signed executive orders enforcing net neutrality by prohibiting state agencies from doing business with internet service providers that limit customers’ online access. Four states have passed their own laws requiring internet companies to treat all online content equally: California, Oregon, Washington, and Vermont. A New Hampshire bill is in the works.More than 100 mayors representing both large urban centers such as San Francisco and small cities such as Edmond, Oklahoma, have pledged not to sign contracts with internet service providers that violate net neutrality.These mayors are leveraging the lucrative contracts that their municipalities have with internet providers to wire public schools, libraries, and local government buildings to pressure these companies into observing net neutrality throughout the city.The emerging patchwork of local- and state-level net neutrality legislation could help ensure that millions of Americans have access to an open internet. However, people living outside of these enclaves will still be vulnerable to the whims of for-profit internet service providers. In our new book, After Net Neutrality: A New Deal for the Digital Age, we argue that the best way to protect the public interest is to remove internet service from the commercial market and treat broadband as a public utility.CORPORATIONS FOCUS ON PROFITSBroadband giants have spent millions of dollars lobbying against federal open internet regulations since 2006. Industry-backed efforts even included funding a network of far-right online trolls to spam the FCC’s website with anti-net neutrality propaganda. These companies continue to want the power to manipulate online traffic, such as charging users and content providers like Netflix to access each other—even though both are already paying for connections to the internet."

rwaesche

High speed internet from an entity that still doesn't have an online billing and payment system?

DickD

rw, what makes you say that? I get a bill from the Town for all of my water and sewage use. Now if you are out in the country, you may have a well and septic tank, but the money is in the cities.

rwaesche

Hi DickD. I get a bill, too - paper through the mail and it gets paid with a paper check. Yes I can pay my paper bill with a credit card, but only with a 'convenience fee' hooked onto it. This is 2021. I should be able to opt out of paper, establish an online account, and pay online without a fee. My bill won't get lost in the mail, I won't have to call the Town Office to see what I owe them, and the Town won't have to wait to receive, process and deposit my paper check. I know it's not a perfect apples-apples metaphor but I believe I'm in the right orchard. It just struck me as odd that they're taking on a complex project like high speed internet when they have been historically reluctant to adopt simple internet based business practices. Thanks Dick D for letting me clarify.

DickD

In Middletown, you can pay your bill at the bank or take it to the Municipal Office - still a check, but no mail. Frederick water bill can be paid by registering and having the amount automatically deducted from your bank account.

rogy

Interesting. Why exactly would Comcast agree to connect the Town of Thurmont's government to their pipe as a direct competitor to it's own oligopolistic enterprise? It makes no sense, unless... Comcast KNOWS that the numbers won't really work without expensive taxpayer-funded subsidies and that eventually they'll simply take over all of those expensive home connections that the town paid for in their failed attempt (including those that used to belong to Verizon). If that's the case that wireless option sounds a WHOLE LOT less risky when the numbers finally do fail to work. Or perhaps the way to do this right is to invite (entice?) some private ISPs into the town who actually know what they're doing and let them compete on price and quality with Comcast and Verizon. Lawmakers are good at making laws but not much else. They should stick with what they know and let the experts provide the high-tech goods and services.

Crab0721

It only says that Comcast is going to be hooked up to the antenna. Then VentusRF will provide the cables and Internet services that you can get from the town. I think that it may work but it might take some time

DickD

You make some good points. Rogy.  There are some concerns, they are: 

  - Who maintains the connection and shoot trouble if there is a cable break or

equipment failure.   

- While Comcast is cutting it's own throat, it is better than having someone else come in and lose all revenues.   

- The town residents are probably complaining about costs, are as others elsewhere in the County.   

- FIOS cable, which Verizon uses is one of the best, except they have failed to expand their FIOS outside of Frederick City.   

- The real question is not whether Thurmont will install and make available a cable

network.  The question is how many other communities will do the same - some others in the County are considering it.   

- There are connectors that will give you connection to TV right now, over the air.    - 

Are they going to supply only internet?  Comcast currently offers TV and land-line

phone services too.       Internet and TV takes the most bandwidth. a voice band

filtered off of the cable to provide Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) costs almost

nothing to provide.  One small box that will last for years.   

-  What price are the citizens willing to pay?   Will they all sign up? 

-  Are there other competitors willing to give the same service at good quality and

maintenance?Other questions remain, but you are going to see changes.  Right

now 5G is rolling out, it will do most of what Comcast currently does.  The

question, how long will we have to wait?

public-redux

Socialism!!!

newspostreader

How is it socialism?

C.D.Reid

Agreed, NPR, and I'd be curious to read public's response.......

DickD

OMG, does that mean I have to put in a well and septic tank? And just today they plowed and salted my street. Can we fire them? Lol

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