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Network World - Municipal broadband is becoming a contentious issue in the race to establish ubiquitous high-speed Internet throughout the United States.
Last year, the FCC called on every state in the U.S. to reach 1-Gig internet speeds in at least one community by 2015. That challenge came after Google introduced its Fiber program to Kansas City, Kan., where gigabit speeds are available at the same cost most other ISPs charge for much slower services.
However, incumbent ISPs across the country have pushed back against these efforts. Shortly after the FCC’s challenge, Irene Esteves, chief financial officer for Time Warner Cable, said that gigabit speeds are not necessary for most of its customers, and that the company saw little demand for it.
Regardless of whether that was true, cable lobbyists at the same time took legal measures to prevent municipalities from providing high-speed Internet to their residents. Legislation prohibiting the development of municipal broadband networks has already been passed in 20 states, and efforts continue to bring these bills up for consideration in new ones.
A recent debate in Kansas is a sign that these efforts are becoming more aggressive. After a bill reportedly written and introduced by the Kansas Cable and Telecommunications Association (KCTA), a cable lobbying organization consisting of incumbent ISPs, was referred to the state senate’s Committee on Commerce in late January, the outcry of municipal broadband supporters in the state prompted the committee to postpone hearings on the bill so legislators could “tweak” the language. The bill’s vague language essentially meant that ISPs could choose not to serve areas that received even the faintest satellite connectivity, but could sue municipalities in those areas if they chose to provide high-speed Internet services in the area.
+ ALSO ON NETWORK WORLD Google's Gigabit Internet: Not coming to a neighborhood near you +
Some communities throughout the country have been ahead of the curve, establishing their own high-speed services, the benefits of which reach the education, healthcare, and local economy, as well as consumers looking to stream high-quality video in their living rooms.
Here are 10 municipalities that have brought their communities gigabit Internet speeds.
We highlighted the network in Chanute in this recent article about the city’s role in opposing a state Senate bill that would prohibit municipal broadband networks.
The broadband network in Chattanooga has received its share of publicity, from being dubbed “Gig City” to earning press from the Washington Post and The New York Times. The Post article tells the story of how the city became an ISP – the city’s electric provider saw a need for technology improvements to monitor equipment out in the field, but learned that incumbent ISPs weren’t scheduled to upgrade the local broadband for years. So the electric utility launched EPB Fiber Optics, eventually offering gigabit-speed Internet services to all business and consumers in the area.