If you’re connected to Wi-Fi while reading this article, you might be interested in testing your internet speed, which you can do with a simple online search to check your download speed.
The highest median download speed in the United States is in Minnesota, with 100 megabytes per second, which is great for all work and entertainment uses. However, while high-density states such as New Jersey, New York, or Washington D.C are high, those states with more rural communities suffer from much lower internet speed: Mississippi, Vermont, Wyoming, and Alaska all rate the lowest in the U.S with less than 40 Mbps median speed.
Some have argued that improving not just speed but also connectivity across the country is through municipal broadband initiatives.
This comes at a time when Joe Biden’s infrastructure programs release $65 billion to bolster broadband throughout the country, with local communities under the impression they’re best served to create municipal services instead of relying on private enterprise to assure connectivity.
If having broadband run by your local council sounds nightmarish enough in theory, then there is evidence to underline the inefficiency of such endeavors: A study from the Phoenix Center found that, on average, prices are 13% percent lower in cities that don’t have municipal broadband connectivity.
According to a report from the University of Pennsylvania, of the 20 municipal broadband projects in the U.S. they studied, only two earned enough to cover their project costs during the useful life of the networks, with the other 18 being absolute failures. Consumers end up footing the bill for the failed vanity projects when municipal authorities have raked up debt to cover the costs of their failed endeavor.
According to the Taxpayers Protection Alliance, there are more than 450 taxpayer-funded and government-owned internet service providers, many of which end up being expensive, failed experiments that do not help bridge the digital divide.
Some have argued that municipal broadband ensures that low-income consumers get access to what has become an essential information and communication tool. Still, those consumers already have access to support systems: the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) and the FCC’s Lifeline already subsidize the costs of monthly high-speed internet. On top of that, private providers also have provisions for supporting low-income households with connectivity.
As federal and local spending programs seek to “increase access” all they really do is increase costs by specializing in providing low-quality services at high prices through a municipal network, oftentimes prioritizing areas that have multiple private providers instead of focusing on unserved communities.
Instead, policymakers should look to reduce red tape on private service providers to get high-level connectivity into the homes of consumers. When the Federal Communications Commission released a study in 2018, we discovered that there are over 700 laws and statutes that pull providers back when connecting homes across the country, including complicated rules for setting up shop, expensive permit fees or slow approval processes.
We need to do more to ensure high-speed connectivity in the United States, but having your local government do it just won’t cut it.
This article was first published by Newsmax.
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