Policy Documents

No. 100 Municipally Owned Broadband Networks: A Critical Evaluation

Joseph L. Bast –
November 1, 2002

For the past two years, city officials from the Tri-Cities have been discussing ways to improve telecommunications services – telephone and cable as well as Internet access. The major providers of these services – AT&T and SBC Ameritech – have been slow to make the three main types of broadband access – DSL, cable modem, and fiber optic – available in the communities. City officials express concern that this delay is discouraging businesses from moving to the area or expanding, discourages telecommuters from buying homes in the area, and deprives residents of high-quality services available in other communities.

Other cities around the country are experiencing disappointment as financial, legal, and regulatory problems have slowed the roll-out of broadband services nationwide. Unlike most cities, however, the Tri-Cities own and operate their own electric utilities. This means they have personnel and assets that could be used to reduce the cost and risk associated with building and maintaining a municipally owned broadband system. James Volk, an alderman from Batavia, summarizes the possibility: