In a new report, the Institute for Self-Reliance tells us that community broadband, in which local municipalities run their own cable to deliver Internet service to their citizens, is spreading, as you can see in the map above (the interactive version is available here).
This is happening despite the concerted efforts of companies like TimeWarner, Comcast, and AT&T, which have moved aggressively to stop community Internet projects even in places they don't serve because there isn't enough money in it. In 18 states, the telecom companies have used their lobbying muscle to get laws passed making it difficult or outright illegal for municipalities to start their own broadband services, essentially outlawing competition. And since cable service is so monopolistic within geographic areas, that leaves lots of people with one choice -- the local cable company -- for high-speed service. The report tells one story, about Kutztown, the only city in Pennsylvania with a community broadband service:
Kutztown’s Hometown Utilicom is among the oldest FTTH [fiber to the home] networks in the US. In addition to cutting telecom expenses for the City, the network has saved residents more than $1.5 million due to both its lower rates and the lower prices charged by the incumbent cable company in response to competitive pressure. Shortly after the Governor gave Kutztown an award for their network, he signed a bill ensuring no other community would be able to duplicate it. While not an outright prohibition, the bill has made it all but impossible for communities to invest in citywide networks, decreasing broadband competition in the state.
That governor, by the way, was a Democrat, Ed Rendell. But it's Republican legislators who are most receptive to the telecom lobbyists' pitch. You'll be shocked to learn that newly powerful Republican majorities in state legislatures are trying to crush community broadband wherever they can. (h/t Ars Technica)
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