While many countries continue to roll out faster and cheaper broadband, the U.S. remains locked in simply how to define broadband. For all our claims of technological superiority, our country is falling behind. So how did Monticello, Minn, a town of less than 12,000, get some of the fastest and cheapest internet service in the country?
They tried to build it themselves.
In 2007, Monticello tried to build its own fiber-optic network recognizing that no business was going to using city bonds to fund the project. The local teleco, TDS Telecommunications, sued. And it sued over and over again up to the Minnesota Supreme Court claiming the town could only use bond money for specific reasons, like building utilities. The courts ruled the internet is a utility and the town could build its own.
Now TDS has launched 50Mbps fiber service to every home costing a fair $49.95.
TDS originally claimed it did not believe there was demand for faster speeds until after the town passed its referendum, but that does not explain why the company sued to the city rather than compete with its lead in the market. But as we’re seeing around the country, lack of competition among internet service providers is costing Americans money for poor service.
Lafeyette, Louisiana launched its own fiber optic network and states they have saved their citizens $3 million because local cable provider Cox has not raised its prices even while raising them everywhere else.
Hopefully these examples will be a call to arms for local governments to recognize that their local cable and telecommunications provider is unlikely to improve their service (they’ve had more than a decade) even though prices keep rising. These companies have had monopolies on their areas, and the lack of competition is costing us money while the rest of the world speeds past us.
The U.S. ranks 20th in the world for broadband penetration and pays higher prices for slower speeds.