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The FCC wants to let cities build their own broadband. House Republicans disagree. - Vox


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Is it a good idea for governments to run broadband networks?

Some people, especially conservatives, don't think so. They argue that governments aren't tech-savvy enough to keep their broadband networks on the cutting edge. And they also claim that it's unfair for the government to use taxpayer funds to compete with the private sector. Unsurprisingly, this argument is heartily endorsed by incumbent telecommunications companies, which have lobbied and litigated aggressively to discourage municipalities from getting into the broadband business.

But supporters point out that in many towns, especially in rural areas, it's the private sector that's failed to keep up with the times. Some cities have gotten new fiber optic networks from companies such as Google or Verizon. But in other areas, the local phone and cable companies haven't made significant improvements in years, and have no plans to do so any time soon. Municipal broadband boosters argue that the only way for towns in this situation to get high-speed internet service is to build it themselves.

Still, municipal networks come with significant financial risks. Building them costs millions of dollars. Generally, the plan is for subscription fees to cover the costs. But if the project comes in over budget, or customer demand falls short of expectations, taxpayers could be forced to cover the difference.

Either we have to rely on telcos, cable companies, or governments. No good answer.

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