Municipal Broadband: History's Guide

I/S: A Journal of Law and Policy, Vol. 9, p. 21, 2013

39 Pages Posted: 1 Jan 2012 Last revised: 24 Dec 2013

See all articles by Eric Null

Eric Null

Open Technology Institute

Date Written: October 9, 2012


Over the past decade, an amazing trend has taken hold across the country — municipalities have begun providing their own Internet access. Many areas of the United States, rural areas especially, are being left without privately provided Internet access, and therefore must do something to prevent being left behind as the Internet increasingly becomes the means by which society communicates, participates, and influences. But, not every municipality should provide such a network. Many are served by private providers. The factual circumstances change from city to city. Therefore, municipalities considering their own network should look to case studies to gain important insight into this endeavor. This article intends to provide a glimpse into the world of municipal broadband.

This article will detail the stories of five municipal networks and elicits lessons to be learned from them. First, three success stories will be discussed: Bristol, Va., Corpus Christi, Tex., and Santa Monica, Cal. A discussion of the failures in Philadelphia, Pa., and St. Cloud, Fla, will follow. From these discussions, lessons regarding business models and growth of the network can be gleaned. Both are important to understand fully when determining whether to pursue a municipal broadband network, and both can cause the demise of the network if not handled carefully. After reading these case studies and giving the issues discussed herein full attention, municipalities hopefully will not make the same mistakes as their predecessors.

Keywords: municipal broadband, internet access provider, ISP, competition, business model, network, municipalities, public network, public ownership of network, municipal wireless, municipal wi-fi, infrastructure, broadband buildout

Suggested Citation

Null, Eric, Municipal Broadband: History's Guide (October 9, 2012). I/S: A Journal of Law and Policy, Vol. 9, p. 21, 2013, Available at SSRN: or

Eric Null (Contact Author)

Open Technology Institute ( email )

1899 L St., N.W., Suite 400
Washington, CA 20036
United States

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