How in the USA they are fighting for public broadband Internet with telecom monopolists – we discuss the situation

According to the Federal Communications Commission, a connection consider broadband from 25 Mbit/s with upstream from 3 Mbit/s. The standard was introduced in 2015, and last year tried raise the bar to 100 and 20 Mbit/s. However, the initiative stayed in words – not all providers are able to provide such opportunities. And if you update the standards, broadband Internet will only 29% of Americans, not 97% as of now.

Photo: Mika Baumeister /

Photo: Mika Baumeister /

Another problem with broadband is geographic accessibility. BroadbandNow Research showed, that in 2021, 42 million Americans do not have access to high-speed internet—about 13% of the mostly rural population. You can also seethat in most counties less than 15% of residents had a broadband connection.

One of the reasons why Americans don’t connect broadband Internet is a high price. Among countries from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the United States takes second place in terms of Internet prices. Americans pay providers twice as much compared to residents of other developed countries, such as Germany, Finland and Japan. This is due to the fact that the US telecom market divide few large companies, and low competition leads to poor customer service and high prices. The monopolization of the Internet services market is confirmed survey The Verge, according to which half of respondents can turn to only one provider.

What kind of public networks

Local authorities see the problem and are helping citizens gain access to fast and cheap Internet, so they are designing public broadband networks without monopolists. Study The Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University confirms that prices at the municipal level are lower and the quality of communication is higher.

Such networks can be implemented in different ways. Some municipalities use an open access model, where several private telecom companies can take general infrastructure for rent and provide their services. Another scheme is a gradual expansion of the network, as in Santa Monica (City Net), when first of all to broadband Internet connect public organizations like schools and are completing infrastructure for other facilities.

However, large providers oppose public networks and promote laws that ban or restrict their use. For 2023 such bans act in 16 states out of 50. Local authorities do not stop fighting and sometimes achieve success – after 18 years in the state of Colorado completely canceled ban on building your own networks, which was previously circumvented using referendums.

Thanks to this, by 2027, all homes in the state can be connected to fast, inexpensive Internet. This will be provided by local providers such as NextLight in Longmont – he was recognized the best in 2023 according to PCmag readers.

Photo: Discover Savsat /

Photo: Discover Savsat /

Telecom companies confront municipalities not only at the legislative level, but also enter into legal disputes. Thus, after the launch of a public network in the city of Chattanooga, large telecoms in the region – AT&T and Comcast – tried it thwart the city by filing four lawsuits against them and launching an advertising campaign against connecting to the public network. But these attempts were unsuccessful, and now 180 thousand subscribers in the states of Tennessee and Georgia connected to Chattanooga infrastructure.

Another incident occurred in Bountiful (Utah). Local authorities deployed a public network using an open access model for $48 million. Against this with a petition spoke Utah Taxpayers Association, whose members were associated with telecom giants. But the petition did not receive the required number of signatures, and Bountiful authorities were still able to conclude contract with provider UTOPIA Fiber to build public infrastructure.

Opinions in the community

According to Sheen Hollister, editor of The Verge, the main thing let on the way to affordable and fast Internet – lobbying. The journalist points out the connection between politicians and giants like AT&T and Comcast, which can be traced back to 2002, when lawalmost deprived municipalities are able to compete with federal telecom companies. For example, in Virginia it is still prohibited build public network, if connecting to it will cost less than a private provider.

Americans agree with the fact that the level of competition among telecom companies is now low, which is why users receive slow Internet at a high price. At the same time, the presence of a broadband connection plays a big role in the development of cities – it increases ratings and attracts specialists, especially from the IT sector, for whom the speed and stability of the connection is fundamentally important. This opinion is confirmed by PC Magazine, which in 2021 named With a public network, Chattanooga is one of the best cities for remote work.

What will happen next

During the active phase of the pandemic, when everyone went online, American users faced problems due to slow and unstable connections. Educational services, food delivery, and telemedicine were often unavailable. Even at the University of Chicago identified relationship: people without access to the Internet were more likely to get sick (including with tragic outcomes) because they could not see a doctor or order medications on time.

In search of an alternative to large providers, many have switched to public networks and are now perform for their development. After the pandemic, it is more difficult for monopolists to influence public opinion, but they still have leverage to promote their interests at the legislative level. Time will tell whether public broadband networks can defeat the telecom monopoly and provide Americans with faster, cheaper internet.

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