Fast, affordable Internet access for all.
The Institute for Local Self Reliance Community Broadband Networks Initiative has long recognized that telecommunications infrastructure is essential to the health and vitality of a community. We believe building community broadband networks – ones that are directly accountable to the communities they serve – can often be a more effective and empowering path to creating digital equity rather than solely relying on the whims of distant monopolies.
CommunityNets.org is dedicated to helping communities get the service they need while documenting the birth and development of community broadband networks, including both successes and challenges.
We favor local community leaders pursuing local control of high-speed Internet infrastructure through public ownership, cooperative models, and other nonprofit models. However, we strive to keep an eyes-wide-open perspective, being as transparent and honest as we know how in our reporting and analyses. Failed community networks do not help residents or local businesses. For that reason, we aim to educate and help communities understand when and where these investments make sense.
The Community Broadband Networks team has long helped media reporters, among others, understand the complex economics, technology, history, politics, law, and more of this space. We are available for background and on-the-record interviews.
What you should know:
What are Community Broadband/Municipal Broadband Networks?
A community broadband network, we define, as a publicly-owned, locally-controlled broadband network, which can include public-private partnerships. The most common kinds of community networks are municipal networks and cooperatives.
How many Community Broadband Networks are there currently in the United States?
As of 2022, there are more than 1000 localities across the nation with a community broadband network -- of which more than 600 are served by some form of municipal broadband network with many hundreds more by networks built and operated by electric or telephone cooperatives. You can find our most up-to-date map on where these networks are located here.
Our search bar will help you find numerous news stories, reports, analyses, fact sheets, policy-briefs, and additional resources that cover most of these networks, new networks that are in various planning or building stages, and a variety of insight on the evolving landscape of broadband policy and politics.
What is the “digital divide?”
The “digital divide” is a term meant to describe the separation between the digital-haves and have-nots, as it relates to broadband access. In other words, how many residents in the United States have reliable (and affordable) access to broadband and how many do not?
The true answer: no one knows exactly. Based on the FCC data, which is notoriously inaccurate and almost certainly over-counts how many Americans have access to broadband, 19 million Americans do not have access to broadband, though we believe that number is closer to what other observers estimate ranging from 27 million to as high as 42 million.
In any case, we believe that number should be close to zero.
How many states have legal barriers that target community broadband projects?
Why do states preempt community broadband networks?
Two words: monopoly power. State preemption laws that either erect barriers or outright outlaw community broadband networks are laws pushed by the big telecom providers to protect their regional monopolies. The broadband market is not very competitive. At least 49.7 million Americans only have access to broadband from one of the seven largest cable and telephone companies, while at least 83.3 million Americans can only access broadband through a single provider. Of course, when you are the only ball-game in town, these companies don’t have much incentive to upgrade existing networks, improve service, or offer more affordable subscriptions.
We believe that states that help community broadband networks flourish – particularly with the building of open-access networks – are also helping to create more competitive market conditions for broadband subscribers.