New Municipal Broadband Networks Skyrocket in Post-Pandemic America As Alternative To Private Monopoly Model

Date: 18 Jan 2024 | posted in: MuniNetworks | 0 Facebooktwitterredditmail


For media inquiries, please contact: Sean Gonsalves, Associate Director for Communications for ILSR’s Community Broadband Networks Initiative

[MINNEAPOLIS] – As the new year begins, the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) announced its latest tally of municipal broadband networks, which shows a dramatic surge in the number of communities building publicly-owned, locally controlled high-speed Internet infrastructure over the last three years.

Since January 1, 2021, at least 47 new municipal networks have come online, with dozens of other projects still in the planning or pre-construction phase, which includes the possibility of building 40 new municipal networks in California alone.

Ry Marcattilio, Associate Director for Research with ILSR’s Community Broadband Networks Initiative, said the latest wave of new municipal networks runs the gamut from conduit-only networks like the one in West Des Moines, Iowa, that brought Google Fiber, Mediacom, Lumen and local ISP Mi-Fiber to town to offer residents a choice of broadband providers; institutional networks such as the I-net the city of Alexandria, Va. built to serve local government operations, setting the stage for the city to partner with Ting in providing fiber-to-the-home service citywide; to open-access networks like Yellowstone Fiber in Bozeman, Montana; as well as the massive municipal fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) network under construction in Knoxville, Tenn.

The latter network is already offering service to Knoxville residents and businesses, though it will take seven to 10 years before the Knoxville Utilities Board (KUB) finishes building out the entire KUB Fiber network, passing all 210,000 households in its 688-square-mile service area. Once completed, KUB Fiber will be one of the largest municipal broadband networks in the nation, rivaling its Chattanooga neighbor EPB Fiber and the multi-state footprint of UTOPIA Fiber.

“From the Midwest to the Deep South, East Coast to West, we’ve seen an incredible amount of new energy by cities over the last two years. Dozens of cities, ranging from five thousand and a hundred thousand residents alike, have decided that enough is enough,” said Marcattilio, Associate Director for Research with ILSR’s Community Broadband Networks Initiative.

“Instead of pleading with or giving additional handouts to the monopoly ISPs, they’ve decided to invest in themselves. It’s exciting to see so much happening, especially since we know our numbers are not completely exhaustive as there are no doubt cities building networks that have not yet become active or reported service to the FCC,” Marcatillio added.

The latest ILSR tally does not include the plethora of other community broadband networks, such as member-owned electric cooperatives deploying fiber networks in many hundreds of rural communities across the nation, nor does it include the rising number of Tribal Nations building and operating their own networks to bridge the digital divide in some of the least connected parts of the country.

ILSR last tallied the number of existing municipal networks in 2021. At that time, there were approximately 400 municipal broadband networks serving some 600 communities, with nearly 1 in 3 serving nearly every address in the community. The 47 new municipal networks that have come online since 2021 have now been added to ILSR’s database as an increasing number of local communities look to build publicly owned, locally controlled broadband infrastructure amid growing public demand for choice and competition among Internet service providers (ISPs).

Christopher Mitchell, who has spearheaded ILSR’s effort to track the birth and development of community broadband across the U.S. for the past 16 years as Director of the Community Broadband Networks Initiative, said: “The monopoly cable and telephone companies frequently claim that there are no problems with broadband in the U.S., even as millions of students cannot access the Internet from their homes, whether in rural or urban areas. These cities remind us of the work that has to be done to make sure everyone can take advantage of modern technologies.”

Here are a few snapshots of new municipal broadband networks that have been lit up for service over the last three years:

Sherburne, NY (Sherburne Connect)

One of four municipalities in New York State splitting $10 million from the state’s initial ConnectALL municipal grant program, the Village of Sherburne (est. pop. 1,300) – along with three other municipalities (the towns of Nichols, Diana, and Pitcairn) – were awarded the funds to build municipal-owned fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) networks.

In Sherburne, the village’s municipal utility, Sherburne Electric, worked with the New York Power Authority (NYPA) to extend NYPA’s existing middle-mile fiber network to bring last-mile fiber service to the village’s 1,800 homes and businesses. The open-access network, known as Sherburne Connect, offers residents two different ISPs from which to choose: Fybercom and FiberSpark. Both offer a symmetrical 100 Megabits per second (Mbps) service for $10/month or symmetrical gig speed service for between $30 and $45/month. With village residents now getting service, the testimonials are beginning to pour in, with one couple saying the network has “brought us to the 21st Century,” giving them “affordable access to high-speed Internet.”

Waterloo, Iowa (Waterloo Fiber)

Construction of the Waterloo Fiber network began last summer with a groundbreaking ceremony hosted by Waterloo Mayor Quentin Hart. A year ago, the city was putting the finishing touches on a plan to spend $115 million to build a fiber network that passes all 67,695 Waterloo residents after locals approved the city issuing general obligation bonds to fund the start of the three-phase construction project.

After nearly two decades of planning, Waterloo officials recently launched their first limited fiber trial. With plans to connect its first commercial customers in February, the project is on target to deploy affordable fiber service at speeds of up to 10 gigabits per second (Gbps) citywide by 2026. Competing against the likes of CenturyLink and MediaCom, Waterloo Fiber is offering residential subscribers symmetrical 100 Mbps service for $30/month, 300 Mbps service for $50/month, symmetrical 1 Gbps service for $70 a month, or symmetrical 10 Gbps service for $110 a month. Business subscribers have the option of symmetrical 300 Mbps service for $110 a month, symmetrical 1 Gbps for $250, or symmetrical 10 Gbps for $290 a month.

Central Vermont Communication Union District (CV Fiber)

The Central Vermont CUD, one of the state’s 10 Communication Union Districts established to provide telecommunication service to most towns across the Granite State, connected its first fiber-to-the-home subscriber in October 2023 in the town of Calais. Construction crews have now built out the network into East Montpelier and Worcester, now moving on to Woodbury and Middlesex before expanding into the other 14 towns in CVFiber’s service area.

In late 2022, CVFiber broke ground on an ambitious plan to build a 1,200-mile fiber-optic network to bring affordable gigabit broadband access to 6,000 rural Vermont addresses deemed underserved by commercial broadband providers. Total network construction is expected to cost $60 million, $27 million of which is being paid for by federal grants made possible by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). The remaining cost is expected to be funded by network revenue, loans, and future grant opportunities. CVFiber offers subscribers symmetrical 100 Mbps service for $79 a month, symmetrical 500 Mbps service for $99 a month, symmetrical gigabit service for $129 a month, and symmetrical 2 Gbps service for $199 a month.

About the Institute for Local Self-Reliance:

The Institute for Local Self-Reliance has a vision of thriving, equitable communities. We are a national research and advocacy organization that partners with allies across the country to build an American economy driven by local priorities and accountable to people and the planet. The Community Broadband Networks Initiative is a program of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance that works with a diverse group of allies, partners, and local communities on policies to improve local Internet access. Through the initiative, we also research and document what communities nationwide are doing to improve access to high-quality broadband at


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Sean Gonsalves

Sean Gonsalves is a a senior reporter, editor and researcher for ILSR’s Community Broadband Networks Initiative. Sean was a longtime former reporter, columnist, and news editor with the Cape Cod Times. He is also a former nationally syndicated columnist in 22 newspapers, including the Oakland Tribune, Kansas City Star and Seattle Post-Intelligencer. His work has also appeared in the Boston Globe, USA Today, the Washington Post and the International Herald-Tribune.