Could municipal broadband give city economic boost?

By Patrick Anderson
PBN Staff Writer

Like innovation districts and farm-to-table restaurants, municipal broadband networks are trending. More

To continue reading this article, please do one of the following.


Could municipal broadband give city economic boost?

By Patrick Anderson
PBN Staff Writer

Posted 7/28/14

Like innovation districts and farm-to-table restaurants, municipal broadband networks are trending.

From Chattanooga, Tenn.’s publicly owned gigabit fiberoptic network to Google Fiber in Provo, Utah, schemes to provide a faster alternative to traditional Internet service providers have proliferated across the country.

For communities like Chattanooga, the motivation is economic development and a way to market the city to entrepreneurs. Elsewhere, civic considerations such as expanding Internet access in low-income neighborhoods or maintaining net neutrality play a larger role.

For others, a perceived failure of near-monopoly incumbent Internet providers to offer service as fast or as cheap as they could is reason enough to introduce government competition.

Now discussions about building a municipal fiber optic network are moving to Providence.

Democratic mayoral candidate Jorge Elorza, a former housing court judge, has proposed building one in the city to help stimulate business, innovation and the local knowledge economy.

“We have already missed the last technology boom that [Cambridge, Mass.,] has benefited from, and we cannot afford to be behind the curve and miss out again,” Elorza said in a phone interview. “A number of other cities have created broadband networks. Right now citywide broadband is bold, but in truth, in 15 to 20 years it will be standard. We have to invest now.” To set his plan in motion, Elorza will need to be elected, and he’ll also need to work out the details of his plan.

Municipal fiber networks come in a variety of shapes and sizes and rely on different business models.

Chattanooga’s network was built by its publicly owned electric utility, which happened to be replacing its transmission lines with new fiber optics and decided to add data to the mix. The resulting gigabit television and Internet service for residential and commercial customers remains run by that publicly owned utility.

In Provo, the city built the network, then sold it to Google Fiber, which runs it along with others in Kansas City, Mo., and Austin, Texas.

Elorza said he is most intrigued by a public-private plan in North Carolina, where six cities and three universities solicited bids from private companies to build and run a fiber network for them. AT&T was chosen and is in the process of building out the network.

Next Page
PBN Hosted

Join PBN and two panels of successful female executives, business owners and entrepreneurs as we delve into what women should do to advance their careers, and become leaders in the corporate world and their own enterprises.
  • Book of Lists Party
    Save the date - January 15, 2015 for PBN's Book of Lists Party at the Providence ...
  • Best Places to Work
    Enrollment is now open for the 7th annual Best Places to Work program. Winners w ...
Purchase Data
Book of Lists
Book of Lists cover
PBN's annual Book of Lists has been an essential resource for the local business community for almost 30 years. The Book of Lists features a wealth of company rankings from a variety of fields and industries, including banking, health care, real estate, law, hospitality, education, not-for-profits, technology and many more.
Data icons
Data can be purchased as single lists, in either Excel or PDF format; the entire database of the published book, in Excel format; or a printed copy of the Book of Lists.
  • Purchase an e-File of a single list
  • Purchase an e-File of the entire Book of Lists database
  • Purchase a printed copy of the Book of Lists
    Latest News