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Past Project

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.

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

Publications 06

Wednesday, Jan 10, 2018

Community-Owned Fiber Networks: Value Leaders in America

Pricing Review Shows They Provide Least-Expensive Local "Broadband"

Our examination of advertised prices shows that community-owned fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) networks in the United States generally charge less for entry-level broadband service than… More

Monday, Feb 6, 2017

Citizens Take Charge: Concord, Massachusetts, Builds a Fiber Network

In this case study, the authors describe the municipal smart grid and fiber-to-the-home Internet access project in the town of Concord, Massachusetts, and quantify early paybacks… More

Monday, Feb 6, 2017

Smart Grid Paybacks: The Chattanooga Example

After building a fiber optic network throughout its service territory, the city-owned electric utility in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in 2010 became the first U.S. company to offer… More

Wednesday, Apr 20, 2016

WiredWest: a Cooperative of Municipalities Forms to Build a Fiber Optic Network

Western Massachusetts Towns Create a New Model for Last-Mile Connectivity, but a State Agency Delays Approval and Funding

A new case study from the Berkman Center's Municipal Fiber Initiative profiles a group of Western Massachusetts towns who have created a new model for last-mile connectivity. More

Thursday, Apr 14, 2016

Maximizing K-12 Fiber Connectivity Through E-Rate: An Overview

An evaluation of self-construction, dark fiber, and lit fiber options for school districts following recent enhancements to E-rate

This new toolkit provides school system leaders the guidance to understand and leverage the federal E-rate program, which provides up to $3.9 billion annually to subsidize the… More

Wednesday, Jul 8, 2015

Holyoke: A Massachusetts Municipal Light Plant Seizes Internet Access Business Opportunities

Holyoke Gas & Electric’s telecom division provides high-speed Internet access to local businesses and public agencies, bringing in revenue and profits while aiding in local… More


News 02

Wednesday, Jul 15, 2015

Radio Berkman 223: Fiber City

What happens when municipal utilities and companies compete to provide local Internet services? Find out on this week's podcast. More

Wednesday, Jan 21, 2015

Municipal broadband offers hope for lagging US internet

No one disputes the importance of affordable access to high-speed internet for economic growth in the 21st century. The United States has seen consistent and rapid growth in its… More


Events 01

Apr 25, 2017 @ 10:00 AM

Meeting 21st Century Municipal Internet Access Needs

Perspectives from Boston City Hall and Brookline on City and Regional Infrastructure Planning

Hosted by Responsive Communities, a project of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University. More


People 05

Team