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Municipal Broadband: “A Long And Hazardous Journey”

October 31, 2017

municipal broadbandThe news site Law360 recently examined state and local efforts to spur rural broadband development, including the proliferation of taxpayer-financed municipal broadband networks.

Reporter Kelcee Griffis found that, in general, city broadband projects are struggling. She cited Greenfield, Mass.’s government network, which became subject to “a corruption probe just months after it began offering internet service to residents.” The Greenfield City Council asked for a state-run investigation because its members were worried that “the utility’s leader had improperly used city credit cards and checks to make personal purchases.” 

Greenfield continues to build its network despite the concerns, however. (Click here to read the Coalition for the New Economy’s reporting on Greenfield.)

Griffis also delves into KentuckyWired, a state-owned system with which readers of this blog are familiar. As Griffis explains, “Th[is] planned network, which promised service to the state’s most rural counties, is lagging behind schedule and hemorrhaging funds as some state lawmakers threaten to ax it …”

Griffis concluded, “A city that decides to launch its own municipal broadband utility is often in for a long and hazardous journey.”

It’s for these reasons, according to Griffiths, that state lawmakers in Michigan recently introduced legislation that would stop cities from using taxpayer dollars or government-backed loans to compete with private sector providers. The sponsor of that bill, state Rep. Michele Hoitenga, said cities shouldn’t be able to spend taxpayer dollars on municipal systems if consumers already are served by the private sector. At the very least, Rep. Hoitenga said, citizens should get to vote on whether city revenues are used to compete against the private sector.