Give Public Internet a Chance

Municipalities are being thwarted by a growing number of state laws, pushed by powerful telecom interests, that make launching public networks all but impossible, said Susan P. Crawford at Bloomberg.com.

They’re at it again. Just as big utilities once tried to stymie efforts to electrify rural America, large telecom companies today are out to block cities across the country from building public networks for affordable high-speed Internet. A century ago, most rural communities were either ignored or gouged by major electricity providers. These communities fought for the right to form their own electric utilities, recognizing that “cheap, plentiful electricity was essential to economic development.”

Today, 2,000 municipalities provide their own power, and many cities want to do the same with high-speed fiber-optic service, which only 8 percent of Americans have at home. But they’re being thwarted by a growing number of state laws, pushed by powerful telecom interests, that make launching public networks all but impossible. Major private providers like AT&T and Verizon don’t want any competition, yet they have “ceased the expansion of next-generation fiber installations” across the country. “Congress needs to intervene” to pre-empt misguided state laws that are preventing citizens from making “their own choices about their communications networks.”

- As seen in The Week
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