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Is Municipal Broadband The Next Public Utility?

Municipal Broadband is broadband internet services provided by local governments to residents in their area. No two municipal broadband offerings are the same, but the most common example is completely free public Wi-Fi spots (not the kind where you have to be a subscriber to a particular provider to gain access).

Will It Be The Next Public Utility?

The short answer is no, municipal broadband will not be the next public utility. As laws and regulations stand right now, it’s nearly impossible for municipal broadband to be commonplace throughout the United States.

Twenty-six states have some sort of ban or restrictions against the operation of municipal broadband. Most of them have been lobbied for by large internet providers who have a vested interest in municipal broadband not popping up in the middle of their service areas. Some towns and cities have tried to fight back, against these bans or restrictions. Others are conducting studies to see how municipal broadband can be brought to their city or town in a way that is cost effective and beneficial for everyone.

Municipal Broadband That Exists Right Now

Maybe you’ve never even heard of municipal broadband. It’s likely most people have not since it’s not all that common, especially if you live in a state that is opposed to it coming to fruition.

Here are some cities that have municipal broadband available to its residents right now:

          NextLight Internet in Longmont, CO

          Highland Communication Services in Highland, IL

          Ammon Fiber in Ammon, ID

          LUS Fiber in Lafayette, LA

          Sebewaing Light & Water in Sebewaing, MI

          FiberNet in Monticello, MN

          SandyNet in Sandy, OR

          Xfinity internet essentials plans in Philadelphia, PA

          Bristol Tennessee Essential Services in Bristol, TN

          Morristown Utility Systems in Morristown, TN

          PES Energize in Pulaski, TN

Internet plans from these municipal broadband services cost around the same as any other internet provider available in those areas.

Why Should Local Governments Consider Municipal Broadband?

If local governments can support it, why shouldn’t they launch their own municipal broadband? Local governments should consider it especially when that town or city is living in an area that’s currently underserved by the existing internet providers serving them. Most people believe that local governments should be able to build their own networks if the existing service they serve is not existent, not good enough or too expensive for its residents. If internet providers will not take the initiative to provide better internet to their customers, then it should be up to the government to do something about it. Municipal broadband is only one option when it comes to solving the lack of service.

Why Shouldn’t Local Governments Consider Municipal Broadband?

An argument against local governments establishing their own municipal broadband services is the large upfront costs and inevitable push back from internet giants servicing their towns and cities. The cost and time to construct and install the infrastructure required to lift these projects off the ground is immense. Internet providers like Comcast Xfinity and Verizon have taken a hard stance against municipal broadband and have lobbied so hard against it that the city Philadelphia, PA backed down and partnered with Xfinity for a low cost internet solution instead.

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