US City allows users to switch Broadband Providers in Seconds. Can it happen here?

By June 26th, 2016 AT 5:47 PM

Imagine turning on your broadband router or just plugging in the cable to the ethernet port, browsing to a login page and selecting a service provider there. Yes, this is exactly what is available for residents of City of Ammon, Idaho, United States. The city uses what is known as Open Access Virtual Infrastructure (OAVI) model that makes the actual infrastructure available to the end user through the use of virtualization, rather than the infrastructure’s service(s).

The infrastructure approach is somewhat similar to MVNO model but in the case of MVNOs, the infrastructure is generally provided by another full-fledged telco and the VNO pays regulatory charges and also the operator maintaining the infra. Selection_011

How did it start?

It all began about seven years ago when the city government, suffering from horrible upload speeds, wanted a dedicated 100Mbps circuit between City Hall and the Public Works building, less than a mile apart. Qwest (now CenturyLink) didn’t want the project, while Cable One offered to do it for a start-up fee of $80,000 plus $1,000 a month.

But city officials soon figured out that they could do the initial project themselves for just $22,000 and that they could also bring Internet access to government buildings and businesses, improving the city’s ability to compete in a high-tech world in a fiscally responsible manner. [Ars Technica]

Key Features of the City’s OAVI Model

  1. OAVI supports net neutrality as the infrastructure owner is providing infrastructure to all users without discrimination rather than network service(s).
  2. OAVI enables Innovation as the barrier(s) to virtual infrastructure ownership are eliminated. In a true OAVI model, there is no distinction between providers and subscribers, as all users on the infrastructure have equal access to the infrastructure through virtualization.
  3. Within the municipal framework, utility infrastructure build costs are paid by the property owners desiring the utility service. This could be done via a standard municipal bond process which requires the support of the property owners who will receive the utility service.


The network is future-proof too as it is capable of providing Internet, IPTV and VoIP services. All of this efforts has now resulted in healthy competition among the providers using the fiber network. They are happy about it too.

CEO Jared Stowell of Fybercom, another ISP using Ammon’s network, doesn’t mind the competition enabled by the open access model. “We like the competition,” he said. “It keeps us on top of the game so we can continue to provide a superior product and no one gets lackadaisical.”

Can we have OAVI Model in India?

The Digital India initiative aims to provide broadband access to everyone at reasonable costs. A frontrunner here is the AP Government which will be providing 15 Mbps speeds at just Rs. 149 per month for home users.


We believe the Ammon city model can be easily replicated by schemes such as the AP Government’s FiberNet scheme paving the way for private providers to offer value added services and encourage healthy competition. In the case of Ammon city, they could break even in just three years and reportedly has no debts related to the fiber construction.

Another lucrative proposition would be to open up BSNL’s wired network for the use of local private players. BSNL’s wired network spanning all over the country is underutilized at its best, thanks to exorbitantly priced broadband plans and sub-standard customer support. Opening up that network to local private players might make some room for competition along with quality service.

What do you think about the ability to switch providers in seconds or having access to multiple service providers with just one fiber to your home? Let us know via comments or tweet to me @gischethans.

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ColoradoShivang Singh (SS)S GopalAnkurSukumar Patel Recent comment authors
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This is no doubt an innovative & sustainable method of broadband infrastructure development. In fact it might even be a dream come true for many people. However it will be difficult to replicate this in India. Corruption, bureaucracy & the lackadaisical attitude of government officials will be the cause. Look at what happened to BharatNet. Lakhs of crores are squandered while no one gets any benefit. Besides the kind of tacit agreements which operators have with the government here, it will be next to impossible to do anything for the public good. In fact, this is a very rare case… Read more »

S Gopal
S Gopal

Substandard service provided by Comcast Xfinity is not just limited to comparatively pathetic speeds but horrible customer service (even our BSNL MTNL duos appear as gems in comparison) where there are many reports of over billing, wrongfully breach of data caps (albeit the data caps are quite huge in comparison to our miser data caps), unwillingness to terminate service even after email and call centre requests are made (akin to complaints about Tikona), violating net neutrality principles such as the case where NetFlix had to bring to the FCC (the American TRAI) notice about how streaming through Xfinity’s app meant… Read more »


As a matter of fact, Comcast’s service is good. Not exceptionally superb but not pathetic either as you portray. Almost everyone I know in the US uses it & no one actually has had any problem with them. I, too, found their performance to be awesome. 150 Mbps consistent speeds with no buffering on NetFlix. Yes they charge an arm & a leg due to their monopoly but that’s pretty much it. Somewhat like airtel with their ridiculous pricing & consumer unfriendly policies but the service is definitely above average. That’s the ground reality. Much of the hate about Comcast… Read more »

S Gopal
S Gopal

The irony is that Comcast can charge because of the huge market share it possesses, while Airtel does so without being any where near the monopoly level of Comcast, after all, BSNL and MTNL remain market leaders as their reach is still wider even in the metropolitan cities where Airtel is operational, though agreed the speed and stability of BSNL-MTNL is not on par with Airtel Broadband, the flip side of stretching out way to thin. In my experience Stateside (New England areas, New York, DC and Mid-west) I found Verizon FiOS to be the best followed by AT&T UVesrseComcast… Read more »


Those days are mostly gone when BSNL’s coverage was unchallenged. Except for some circles like KL, OR BSNL doesn’t really have the top notch coverage anymore. Others are giving the same or even better level of service. Signal fluctuation is fairly common on BSNL in the midst of cities. Sometimes even bank OTPs fail to arrive on time leading to failed online transactions.

Shivang Singh (SS)
Shivang Singh (SS)

And in 3rd tier towns where we atleast have BSNL broadband or 3G, they are reliant on ultra expensive dial up or satellite internet. If lucky, you get cable. If you are looking for wireless data, the only option is Verizon or AT&T 3G or 4G and they are expensive. US does have awesome intenet but its not everywhere (as you said) and remember that USA is very big country, this is expected but India does more for its rural areas when broadband is concerned (and that is also the reason why BSNL profits tanks on providing broadband in rural… Read more »


Part of the reason why rural India has somewhat better connectivity than rural US has more to do with the demographics. US is a huge country with a small population. In rural areas the population density may be too low to justify laying new cables or setting up mobile towers. Hence the reliance on satellite internet & the reluctance to upgrade from dial-up. And compare that to the population density here even in rural areas. So there is atleast some incentive for BSNL to provide 3G or broadband even if it ultimately results in losses in long term.

S Gopal
S Gopal

MTNL is possibly already operating an open access scheme in Commonwealth Games Village, Delhi. Through this scheme in collaboration with Radius Infratel, MTNL provides fax and ftth/broadband services, Airtel provides ftth/broadband services, intercom facility amongst the various apartment dwellers. They have labelled it as NANO (Neutral Access Network Operations).

When MTNL could implement this scheme six years ago in 2010, it shows that although they may appear to be from the jurassic age of technology and usually do live up to it, however, they have the potential to implement new ideas too.

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