Time Warner Cable, Windstream, Comcast, and AT&T are among the companies that have gotten involved in the push in various states to outlaw the spread of publicly funded high-speed Internet access, reports the Wall Street Journal.
But mayors and county boards have pushed back.
In Georgia, Arkansas-based Windstream is leading a charge for a bill that would outlaw new public broadband service in census tracts where a private company offers some kind of broadband.
The Georgia House on Thursday vote down the effort by Windstream to limit local governments’ ability to create their own broadband networks. House Bill 282 failed 70-94 with a bipartisan coalition of Democrats and rural Republicans who argued that private telecoms have failed to build reliable networks.
The Institute for Local Self-Reliance recently compiled this map of all the communities in the country that control their own access to the Internet, reports The Atlantic Cities. About 340 communities have publicly owned fiber-optic or cable networks, serving either all or parts of town. In these places, those residents and businesses served don’t have to spar with telecom giants like AT&T and Comcast. They get their Internet instead – like many communities do their electric utility – straight from the city.
The red states have passed laws restricting the ability of local communities to build their own networks (primarily with the pressure of telecom lobbyists). States like Texas have almost no municipal broadband.
“The interesting thing about the map is how few big cities are on it,” says Christopher Mitchell, who directs the Telecommunications as Commons Initiative at the institute. In fact, the largest city on this map is Chattanooga, where a two-year-old citywide fiber network serves about 170,000 households. The next biggest city is Lafayette, Louisiana, home to about 120,000 people.
For the most part, big cities have been better served by telecom giants than many smaller communities. Big cities haven’t been forced to build their own networks in the way some rural mountain towns have.
Now, however, with the growth of small cells, the need for ubiquitous fiber is becoming an essential infrastructure. Cities may be in the catbird seat. They have the rights of way and can provide “equal access” to competing companies who would otherwise have to build largely duplicated networks.
RF over fiber can eliminate the on-site basestation. Radio over Fiber is much cheaper to build, run and maintain and more flexible.
In addition, the FCC has allocated unlicensed spectrum for White Spaces, 3.5 GHz and expanded the 5 GHz band. White spaces can deliver broadband to rural users while 3.5GHz and 5 GHz can deliver dense urban coverage over a block or two.
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