City Wifi: Fast, Cheap, and No You Can’t Have It

Source: Josh Harkinson, Mother Jones, January 22, 2015

…At least 19 states have passed laws limiting municipal and community broadband projects, typically at the behest of big internet service providers and their trade groups. The legislation ranges from outright bans to laws that limit public broadband to small towns or places where there’s no other high-speed service available. The Federal Communications Commission may soon invalidate these laws, but not if Republicans in Congress can stop it. In July, GOP Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee inserted into an appropriations bill an amendment that would strip the FCC of its authority over state municipal broadband regulations. Some Republicans have branded municipal broadband as a form of socialism, because it uses public funds to compete with the private sector. They also say that local governments aren’t tech-savvy enough to build and maintain their own networks. …

….Although Blackburn doesn’t talk much about it, the Tennessee town of Chattanooga just so happens to host the nation’s largest and most successful municipal broadband network. Chattanooga’s power utility (and now internet provider) offers internet service to 160,000 households at speeds up to 1 gigabit per second—10 to 100 times faster than what’s available in most of the country—at a mere $70 a month…..