10 cities that provide 1-Gig internet services

Municipal broadband faces its challenges, but it is growing nonetheless.

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.

Chanute, Kan.

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.

Chattanooga, Tenn.

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.

Last year, EPB Fiber Optics reduced its cost for gigabit broadband from $300 per month to $70, putting it in line with Google Fiber’s low-cost offering. The city’s electric utility has also rolled out the technology, as it initially intended, to help reduce costs for field maintenance.

Santa Monica, Calif.

If Chattanooga wasn’t impressive, Santa Monica is. Through a city initiative called Santa Monica City Net, the city offers businesses Internet speeds up to 10 gigabits per second, achieved through the city’s connection to 160 ISPs through data centers in Los Angeles. If 10 gigabit/second seems unnecessary, the city also offers 1Gbps and 500Mbps services.

Lafayette, La.

LUS Fiber, Louisiana’s only municipal fiber-to-the-home company, offers 1Gbps speeds, albeit for a relatively expensive $999.95 per month. However, it does offer a broad selection of services at different rates. The $199.95 monthly deal for 100Mbps service is also available.

Lafayette’s gigabit offering is an impressive feat considering the legal battles LUS Fiber endured after its inception. Although no laws prohibited municipal broadband at the time, incumbent cable companies challenged LUS Fiber and called for regulation over a government-run ISP. In the end, LUS Fiber came to fruition through a special election in 2005, earning 62% of the vote. However, on account of even more legal disputes over the formation of LUS Fiber, the city was not able to begin construction of its network until 2008.

Burlington, Vt.

The city’s municipal broadband company, Burlington Telecom, has had its fair share of controversy, including a $33.5 million lawsuit with CitiBank and the loss of $17 million in public funds that BT failed to pay back.

Controversy aside, BT in November 2012 rolled out a residential gigabit Internet offering for just $149.99 per month for those willing to sign a 12-month contract, and $199.99 per month for a month-to-month agreement.

Tullahoma, Tenn.

LighTUBe, the telecommunications branch of the Tullahoma Utilities Board (TUB), announced its gigabit Internet offering in May 2013. The upgrade appears to have been aimed at businesses primarily – the city offered free upgrades to gigabit Internet for existing customers that were already using its 300Mbps service.

LighTUBe’s website does not list gigabit Internet among its service offerings, and a May 2013 article at MuniNetworks.com says the city would choose new business customers for its gigabit service “on a case-by-case basis.”

Bristol, Tenn.

High-speed municipal broadband is quite popular in Tennessee. In November 2012, BTES, the electric and telecommunications utility in Bristol, announced a partnership with Alcatel-Lucent, which would provide the equipment for Bristol’s 1Gbps speed offering. The BTES website does list 1-gig internet among its offerings, but does not specify how much it costs.

Cedar Falls, Iowa

2013 was a big year for Cedar Falls Utilities. After increasing the upload speeds on its most popular residential services earlier in the year for no additional cost, the city’s municipal telecom announced gigabit offerings in May, according to MuniNetworks.com. Enterprise customers that were already subscribed to the city’s highest-speed connection were upgraded at no cost. New business customers in the city are charged $950 per month for gigabit speeds, while residential customers in Cedar Falls pay $265.

Russellville, Ken.

A town of just 7,000 people, Russellville was the first in Kentucky to provide gigabit Internet. EPB Smartnet, the municipal provider, places a large price tag on its gigabit service, however, offering it to businesses only for $1,499.95 per month. In a community that small, such a high rate might be necessary in order to make the project financially viable. Enterprise customers can also sign up for 100Mbps download and 50Mbps upload speeds for just $179.95 per month.

Wilson, N.C.

Here, the city’s municipal provider offers a surprisingly inexpensive gigabit Internet package – 1Gbps for just $149.95. That appears to be a discount for Greenlight customers, as an April 2013 article at FierceTelecom claims Greenlight previously offered 100Mbps service for $155 per month.

The gigabit announcement also appears to have come in response to North Carolina legislation, backed by incumbent ISPs Time Warner Cable and CenturyLink, that limited Greenlight’s ability to reach out to neighboring towns, and prohibited any new municipal broadband networks, according to FierceTelecom.  

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

The 10 most powerful companies in enterprise networking 2022