Can municipal broadband networks bridge the digital divide?

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Local governments may be able to provide better Internet access than telecommunications companies.

18 percent of students lack Reliable high speed internet at home. President Joseph R. Biden proposes to narrow the digital divide that exist for poor and rural Americans by funding municipal broadband networks across the United States to To allow every American to connect to the high-speed Internet.

The White House announcement its intention to allocate $ 65 billion from the President’s bipartisan infrastructure framework to broadband financing for reduce prices and increase Internet speeds across America. Instead of subsidizing for-profit telecommunications companies, President Biden prioritize municipal broadband networks that could better support underserved communities. Municipal broadband networks provide internet services, similar to for-profit companies such as Verizon, but are controlled by local governments, meaning there is often less pressure to make money and more money. incentives to to serve hard to reach individuals.

Some Republicans have suggested that broadband should be excluded from any public infrastructure proposal, as it is not similar to conventional infrastructure spending, such as building roads or bridges. US Senator Marsha blackburn (R-Tenn.), For example, a argued that putting all Americans in line is not a valid goal if it increases the national debt.

Four Republican Senators, led by the US Senator Shelley Moore Captain (RW.Va.), have offers a significant increase in broadband funding, demonstrating the willingness of some Republicans to extend Internet access to more Americans.

But lawmakers disagree on how to allocate money to increase broadband access. Republicans favor subsidize existing for-profit networks, while Democrats prefer expansion municipal broadband networks.

Encourage large telecommunications companies to develop in poor or rural areas is a challenge. Historically, the government had to to offer grants to extend broadband to rural communities. Even the president of the main trade association in the broadband industry recognized that municipal broadband networks provide better services to poor or rural communities because municipalities are less concerned with maximizing profits.

Municipal broadband networks, however, are not Reserve for unprofitable rural areas.

The city government of Chattanooga, Tennessee, operates a municipal high-speed network that makes high-speed Internet available to all 180,000 inhabitants and receives a top mark for Internet speed, value and reliability. Since the creation of the network, Internet prices have never increases. During the pandemic, the government has provided free broadband access to 30,000 children with no data limit.

The government plans to offer 10 years of free broadband access to low-income households, which is only possible because the government’s broadband network hit all the city. For-profit businesses cannot to offer comparable offers because extending business networks to every household is not profitable.

Not all municipal broadband expansions to have success. Numerous municipal broadband networks to fail because of the high costs. During the pandemic, state and local government budgets have tumbled and many cities have reduced their budgets to take account of declining tax revenues.

Broadband infrastructure projects require municipalities going into debt because huge upfront costs and often unsuccessful projects lead costly litigation and unreliable service. A recent to study, endorsed by the leading trade association for the broadband industry, found that since private companies tend to spend more efficiently on broadband infrastructure than local governments, subsidizing private companies rather than municipalities can be helpful. more profitable.

The professional association of the broadband industry has argued against allowing municipal broadband networks in most situations, and 17 states to forbid municipalities to provide broadband access completely. Earlier this year, the U.S. representative Billy Long (R-Mo.) offers a bill that would ban all municipal broadband networks across the country.

However, funding for municipal broadband networks is to win bipartite support.

Republican Governor of Arkansas Asa hutchinson recently signed a Invoice allow local state governments to build municipal broadband networks if the municipality the partners with experienced broadband providers. Representative of the United States Anna eshoo (D-California) a introduced a bill that would remove all obstacles that local governments face in creating municipal broadband networks.

The promoters of municipal broadband networks Argue High speed internet is a utility, not a luxury.

Many digital advocates to consider Chattanooga’s municipal broadband network is a success. Funded with both a substantial loan and a federal grant, the city’s network has grown up to more than 120,000 subscribers, more than four times the number of customers required for the service to reach long-term equilibrium. The project has provided nearly 10,000 jobs and Free $ 2.6 billion in “community benefits” over the past decade. Improved Internet service has enabled the city to rename as an “innovation center”, first some startups based in New York and San Francisco to relocate to Chattanooga.

Today, Chattanooga is a leading city for remote working, and because of its strong municipal broadband network, one of its neighbors, Knoxville, has approved the development of its own municipal broadband network in part to prevent businesses from leaving the city. But the future of municipal broadband access depends on the outcome of President Biden’s proposal.


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