Municipal Broadband Networks: A Work in Progress

April 2019

In an increasingly global and connected world, access to the internet has quickly become crucial for many Americans. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) writes that the internet provides “…access to numerous employment, education, entertainment, and healthcare opportunities” (2018 Broadband Deployment Report, 2018). Considering its importance, it’s surprising that there are remarkably large areas across the country lacking high-speed broadband capability. One recent FCC study found that “about 41% of Americans living on tribal lands lack broadband access” (2016 Broadband Progress Report, 2016). This issue is not limited to tribal lands. The Pew Research Center found that 58% of rural Americans report that reliable internet service “is a problem in their communities” (Anderson, 2018). Overall, a staggering 7% of the country lacks access to high-speed broadband internet and 30% of the country has only one high-speed internet service provider (ISP) in their area (“Fixed Broadband Deployment,” 2017). The issue can only be solved when two questions are answered: (1) How can unserved rural areas of the country gain access to high-speed broadband internet, and (2) How can ISP monopolies be challenged? This paper will explore how local governments are capable of providing access to high-speed broadband internet to local, rural, communities through municipal broadband networks. By using current networks as a basis for analysis, this paper will also offer insight into some best practices that local leaders can adopt.