Community Broadband Internet

Background

Frustration with sluggish, expensive, or unavailable broadband has prompted a growing number of communities to seek out other options. Almost 100 cities and towns in the US have launched their own fiber-to-the-home networks, considered by many experts to be the fastest and most reliable way to access the Internet.

The result: Municipalities such as Chattanooga, Tennessee; Bristol, Virginia; and Lafayette, Louisiana now offer Internet speeds of up to 10 gigabits per second, or about 1,000 times faster than today’s average broadband speeds. And a gigabit network is a critical component of Chattanooga’s innovation district (see Chapter 9, Livable Communities—Innovation Districts). But the benefits go beyond providing residents with affordable high-speed connectivity. Many of these projects have created jobs and public savings. Their success and the expansion of this growing movement reflect the strong incentives that communities have to improve their communications infrastructure.

Of course, major investments are a challenge for any community, and high-speed networks are no different. These projects require millions of dollars and years of planning to complete. The major commercial Internet providers present another challenge. They oppose local government involvement and have persuaded 20 states to adopt restrictions that prevent or discourage cities or towns from owning or operating high-speed networks.

Community Broadband Internet: Policy

Ensuring access

In this policy: FederalLocalState

Federal policymakers should preempt state laws that seek to thwart community broadband networks.

Policymakers should ensure that all communities maintain the right to own, operate, or deploy their own broadband network and services and that those networks can expand to new areas.

Local policymakers should ensure that everyone has access to affordable, fast, and reliable broadband.