Op-eds and Articles

Wall Street Journal: A Disconnect on Municipal Broadband

By / 2.10.2015

Should city governments get into the Internet service business, competing with the likes of Verizon, AT&T and Comcast for the right to pipe the Web into your living room or office? President Obama thinks so. He visited Cedar Falls, Iowa, on Jan. 14 to laud the city’s publicly owned utility, which offers residents fiber-optic Internet. He urged other municipalities to follow its example.

“Today, tens of millions of Americans have only one choice for that next-generation broadband, so they’re pretty much at the whim of whatever Internet provider is around,” Mr. Obama said. “And what happens when there’s no competition? You’re stuck on hold. You’re watching the loading icon spin. You’re waiting, and waiting, and waiting. And meanwhile, you’re wondering why your rates keep on getting jacked up when the service doesn’t seem to improve.”

Government-owned networks, the White House claims, can bring healthy competition to Internet service, increasing speeds and lowering prices. Mr. Obama even included a line about this in his recent State of the Union address, saying he intended to “help folks build the fastest networks.” Unfortunately for the president, his premise—that our current broadband is slow, costly and inaccessible to many Americans—simply does not check out.

Internet speeds in the U.S. are among the fastest in the world. More than 90% of American households are now served by connections capable of neck-snapping speeds of 100 megabits per second. (Streaming a movie from Netflix on the “ultra high-definition” setting requires a connection of only 25 megabits per second.) Many consumers choose to pay lower fees for slower service. Still, if individual U.S. states were ranked by average broadband speed alongside countries from across the globe, we would hold 12 of the top 20 spots.

Continue reading at The Wall Street Journal.