Why Does the US Lag Behind in Fiber?

Fiber optic deployment in the US lags behind many other countries. Current estimates show about only 24% of the US is serviced by fiber. Our Portland, Maine HQ is in a state that is typically ranked in the bottom when it comes to broadband availability. Why are we so behind (except for you, Rhode Island, good on ya!).

Mainers with access to fiber? 1.7%

Our office is in Nice, France’s fifth largest city,  where the province has announced that fiber is now running to 100% of its residents. Not just businesses. These are homes (be they in the foothills of the Alps or in the narrow streets of the old town). It took a few years to accomplish and the reason? A municipal initiative. Towns in the area have contracted with major providers to build the fiber backbone and then, as part of the program, the cities provide private companies access to the infrastructure. It’s a version of the old-school phone line infrastructure in the US.

The primary difference in France is that the ISPs aren’t given a monopoly on the lines. Those fiber runs are deemed to be in the public interest and the bill is footed by local and federal governments (aka the taxpayers). Competition is heady when it comes to the end-user’s service though. Unlike the US, the consumer is offered more choices and providers, as multiple providers service the same area.

A 100MB/down and 100/up connection in Nice is just $22/month. In Portland, that’s a business line and it’s 45x the cost, around $1000/month. France: forty bucks a month will get you a 500MB/down connection. We’ve used it. It’s ridiculous.

While we’re on the subject of France, a quick shoutout to a few of our friends: Herve’s Illia Pasta, Nadim’s Oliviera and Stéphane’s La Cave de (you guessed it) Stéphane.