City Utilities, Springfield's (MO) city-owned electric utility, recently announced plans to expand its fiber optic network to every home in the city and lease excess fiber—on a nonexclusive basis—to the internet service provider (ISP) CenturyLink. CenturyLink, in turn, will offer high-speed fiber broadband services citywide and pay for marketing and customer service costs.
Municipal broadband networks can have a positive impact on their communities. Municipal networks, often managed and operated fully or partially by local governments, exhibit a high level of responsiveness to consumer needs and lower prices than larger internet service providers such as AT&T and Comcast.
Conventional wisdom says a town with less than 200 people wouldn’t have the resources to establish and maintain high-speed Internet for its residents. But Mount Washington, located in Berkshire County (MA) contradicted such wisdom in Nov 2017 when it activated its municipal fiber broadband service. From one angle, the case of Mount Washington is a miracle.
Nearly half of Americans do not have an internet connection that meets minimum broadband speeds. Moreover, a staggering number of poor people of color do not have home internet access of any kind. And, across the board, Americans are charged some of the highest prices for internet service in the developed world. These are all symptoms of a much larger, structural problem: the corporate capture of the pipes, wires, and other infrastructure that powers the internet.
Frustrated with limited deployments, high prices and slow speeds, some municipalities have decided to take matters into their own hands, installing community networks through muni-fiber. Some cities are installing a conduit system with dark fiber, which gives them the choice to lease to broadband providers or switch to a municipal network in the future. A low-cost, low-risk option, the system allows ISPs to place and maintain their own fiber-optic cables. The city manages the asset leasing and creates an open platform for local provider competition.
The $226.8 million investment American electric power and telecommunications company EPB launched in 2009 on fiber optic technology has helped to transform EPB and Chattanooga (TN). By boasting the fastest citywide internet service in the Western Hemisphere with Gig service in 2010 and 10 Gig service by 2015, EPB secured Chattanooga's claim as "the Gig City" and has helped anchor the Innovation District, with many businesses developed or drawn to Chattanooga by the fast internet links. High-speed connections from EPB helped attract and grow such online startups as the moving service Bellhop
Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) vetoed a bill which would have directed the state to study whether a state-owned and operated internet service would be feasible in New York. Gov Cuomo said it was “well-intentioned” but that it would be too expensive to complete. Still, Gov Cuomo suggested that he isn’t opposed to the idea of municipal broadband. The governor said in Dec 2019 that he and lawmakers might revisit the idea of a feasibility study on municipal broadband in early 2020.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) quietly vetoed A.2037, which passed the state Assembly 120-26 during the last legislative session. The legislation was sponsored in the Assembly by Aileen Gunther (D-Monticello) and would have required the state Public Service Commission to study the feasibility of a municipal broadband program in New York state. Assemblyman Andrew Goodell (R-Jamestown) was among the 26 votes against the study. On the floor of the Assembly, Assemblyman Goodell said the study is premature in the wake of Gov.
High-speed internet service must be treated as the new electricity — a public utility that everyone deserves as a basic human right. The internet as we know it was developed by taxpayer-funded research, using taxpayer-funded grants in taxpayer-funded labs.
Municipal broadband networks, an idea that some in the cable business believe looks a lot better on paper than in practice, may be on the verge of a breakthrough.