Municipal broadband networks, where internet is offered by local governments and public utilities, have picked up steam in the past couple of years. Since January 2021, at least 47 new municipal networks have come online, bringing the total number of community-owned networks in the U.S. to approximately 447, according to the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR).
ILSR is a nonprofit organization that provides technical assistance to communities about local solutions in areas such as banking, broadband and energy. It also runs a program called the Community Broadband Networks Initiative, which works with communities on policies to improve local internet access.
“From the Midwest to the Deep South, East Coast to West, we’ve seen an incredible amount of new energy by cities over the last two years,” said Ry Marcattilio, associate director for research with the Community Broadband Networks Initiative, in a statement. “Dozens of cities, ranging from five thousand and a hundred thousand residents alike, have decided that enough is enough.”
ILSR noted its latest municipal broadband tally does not include member-owned electric cooperatives (which are growing rapidly across the country), nor the increased number of tribal-owned broadband networks.
The organization highlighted some of the states where municipal networks are taking shape.
New York state has four municipal broadband providers (the Village of Sherburne and the towns of Nichols, Diana and Pitcairn) that have split $10 million from the state’s ConnectALL municipal grant program.
In Sherburne’s case, the local utility partnered with New York Power Authority (NYPA) to construct an open access network known as Sherburne Connect. The network offers Sherburne’s 1,800 homes and businesses two different ISPs to choose from, Fybercom and FiberSpark.
Both providers offer symmetrical 100 Mbps service for $10 per month and symmetrical gig service for between $30 and $45 per month.
In Vermont, local broadband is bolstered by communications union districts (CUDs), municipalities mostly made up of volunteers from the towns involved.
Ten CUDs currently exist in Vermont and they provide broadband coverage for over three-quarters of the state. The Central Vermont CUD, which offers service as CVFiber, is undertaking a $60 million project to build a 1,200-mile fiber network that will eventually connect 6,000 rural Vermont addresses.
CVFiber in October connected its first customers in Calais and this week it announced it’s expanding into East Montpelier and Worcester. Broadband tiers range from symmetrical 100 Mbps ($79/month), 500-meg ($99/month), to 1-gig ($129/month) and 2-gig ($199/month) speeds.
The city of Waterloo, Iowa began construction last summer on a $115 million fiber network that aims to deliver speeds of up to 10 Gbps citywide by 2026 – covering more than 67,000 residents.
Waterloo in December launched a limited pilot program for its service, with plans to connect its first commercial customers in February. Plans for residential customers range from symmetrical 100 Mbps for $30 per month, 300-meg ($50/month), 1 Gbps ($70/month) all the way up to 10-gig for $110 per month.
Business subscribers will have access to symmetrical 300-meg ($110/month), 1-gig ($250/month) and 10 Gbps ($290/month).
Other municipal broadband networks
Marcatillio added, “It’s exciting to see so much happening, especially since we know our numbers are not completely exhaustive as there are no doubt cities building networks that have not yet become active or reported service to the FCC.”