Municipal Fiber Initiative

Like roads and electric grids more than a century ago, fiber optic networks are essential infrastructure for businesses, schools, government offices, and homes.  But should your town, city, or municipal electric utility directly build them?

Policy support for community networks has never been stronger. With high speed Internet access still patchy in the United States, President Obama has endorsed such networks to foster competition and improve service levels. And the U.S. Federal Communications Commission recently issued an order pre-empting laws in Tennessee and North Carolina that restrict community networks.

But at the level of Town Hall, the task is challenging and the costs daunting, as explained here.  But data demands continue to grow. And while returns on capital and operating expenses can be hard to project, the many long-term economic and community benefits of fiber-optic networks often make them worth the investment.

Led by David Talbot, our team is conducting research to help municipal governments understand this topic and learn from one another. Our first report described the municipal network run by the city electric utility in Holyoke, Massachusetts. It found that the network was saving the city $300,000 per year, aiding economic development, and providing increasing revenue back to the utility, including $500,000 in net income over the past decade.

This project is sponsored by a grant from the Open Society Foundations. 

Last updated

3 Oct 2016