In January, we released our new census of municipal networks in the United States for 2024, and the significant growth that we've seen over the last two years as more and more cities commit to building Internet infrastructure to add new tools for their local government, incentivize new economic development, and improve connectivity for households. The trend has not gone unnoticed by the monopoly players and their allies, and a new short documentary by Light Reading does a great job of outlining the stakes for local governments, residents stuck on poor connections, and the incumbents as the wave of municipal networks grows.
Los Angeles becomes first city in the nation to define digital discrimination at the local level in the wake of the new rules issued by the Federal Communications Commission to prevent digital discrimination. Other cities from Oakland to Cleveland are also leveraging the new FCC rules for local action.
As the new year begins, the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) announced today its latest tally of municipal broadband networks which shows a dramatic surge in the number of communities building publicly-owned, locally controlled high-speed Internet infrastructure over the last three years. Since January 1, 2021, at least 47 new municipal networks have come online with dozens of other projects still in the planning or pre-construction phase, which includes the possibility of building 40 new municipal networks in California alone.
A looming new bill by Republican Kentucky State Senator Gex Williams could undermine decades of broadband progress made in the state’s capital city by a popular locally-owned utility, Frankfort Plant Board (FPB). Home to 28,000 Kentuckians, locals and utility officials are incensed at the bill, which they believe will unnecessarily result in higher rates, fewer jobs, and less broadband competition overall. Williams is circulating a bill in the Kentucky state legislature that, if passed, would force FPB to sell its broadband division to a private-sector company and subject it to more stringent oversight requirements.
As we approached the new year, and after more than a decade of criticism, the FCC finally moved to tackle the agency’s long-dated definition of broadband with an eye on nudging the industry toward faster broadband deployments. But many industry watchers say the belated reform inquiry arrives late and long after other agencies have filled the void left by a lack of FCC leadership.
The Knoxville Utility Board (KUB) says it has completed the first phase of what will be the nation's largest municipal broadband deployment, bringing affordable fiber access to more than 50,000 premises in this city of 192,000 – many for the very first time. All told, the $702 million project aims to deliver affordable fiber to 210,000 households across KUB’s 688-square-mile service area, taking between seven and ten years to complete.