Two southern cities today persuaded the Federal Communications Commission to recognize their right to build their own publicly owned Internet networks where existing providers had refused to invest in modern connections. The 3-2 FCC vote removes barriers for municipal networks in Chattanooga, Tennessee and Wilson, North Carolina, to extend their high-quality Internet service to nearby areas.
The FCC decision sets an historic precedent for towns working to offer municipal broadband networks in twenty states that have enacted limits or bans on local governments building, owning, or even partnering to give local businesses and residents a choice in high speed Internet access. Three-quarters of Americans currently have either no broadband or no choice of their Internet provider.
Said Christopher Mitchell, Director of Community Broadband Networks at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance:
“Cable companies lost their bet that millions spent on lobbying to stifle competition was a wiser investment than extending high-quality Internet to our nation’s entrepreneurs, students and rural families.
“Preventing big Internet Service Providers from unfairly discriminating against content online is a victory, but allowing communities to be the owners and stewards of their own broadband networks is a watershed moment that will serve as a check against the worst abuses of the cable monopoly for decades to come.”
Christopher Mitchell, the Director of Community Broadband Networks at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, has traveled to over 20 states and spoken with over 100 community groups looking to provide high-quality Internet for their residents. He has also advised members of the FCC on related telecommunications issues in the lead-up to the decision.
For interviews around the FCC decision, please contact Rebecca Toews at 612-808-0689 or rebecca@ILSR.org, or Christina DiPasquale at 202.716.1953 or at email@example.com. To view a map tracking local government investments in wired telecommunications networks and state laws that discourage such approaches, please visit: http://www.muninetworks.org/communitymap.
Municipal broadband networks (munis):
- Create thousands of new private sector jobs. A collaborative muni effort in Georgiabetween five towns, is credited with bringing over 6,000 new jobs to the region by building and sustaining their network. The muni in Springfield, MO convinced online travel company Expedia to move to the town and has 900 local jobs because their network allowed the company to stay and expand.
- Protect consumers by offering competitive pricing. During the period of 2007-08, Time Warner Cable increased rates up to 40 percent in some of the areas in Raleigh, NC, while not increasing rates in nearby Wilson—which has a strong muni. Chattanooga’s muni grew from a basic connection of 15 Mbps, when it was first founded, to 100 Mbps today–without raising prices once. The slowest connection available in Chattanooga from the utility is 10 times faster than the average American connection.
- Provide higher speed Internet that allows for increased business activity. The largest employers in Wilson, NC rely on the municipal broadband network for their transactions. The muni in Springfield, MO, attracted John Deere Remanufacturedand the McLane Company to the area.
- Do not rely on taxpayer financing, like large private telephone companies. Most municipal networks are financed through methods that do not involve raising taxes: revenue bonds, interdepartmental loans and savings created by ending expensive leased services. Dakota County in MN has saved $10 million over 10-15 yearsby building their own network and ending leases. Over $2 million in revenues from the Thomasville, GA network contributed to the town’s ability to eliminate its local fire tax.
- Receive broad support from voters, regardless of party affiliation. Roughly 3 out of 4 cities with citywide munis reliably vote Republicanand polling shows that 2 out of 3 Republicans, Independents, and Democrats prefer that decisions about how to best expand their Internet access be made by local governments.
- Foster the strength of local businesses. Politically conservative communities in Chanute, KS, and Lafayette, LA, have munis that are working on the deployment of fiber networks to encourage economic development by allowing businesses to market themselves and compete online in the global marketplace. Lafayette has added over 1,000 tech jobsin 2014 alone.
- Expand educational opportunities. The muni in Longmont, CO, is now providing 10 times the bandwidththat their school district previously received from a private provider at an annual savings of $100,000. Munis in Carroll County, MD, and Chanute, KS, have both allowed schools they service to offer new distance learning classes in multiple locations via video streaming. The city of Rockport, ME, partnered with a nonprofit college to bring students upload speeds 200 times faster than Time Warner Cable’s package for the area.