Chattanooga, Tenn., Makes Economic Case for Municipal Broadband


According to a 10-year study, the municipally owned broadband utility of Chattanooga, Tenn., has brought about economic benefits in the billions. The research could play an important role in future political debates.


As of 2020, 22 states including Montana have laws that deter or even prohibit local governments and communities from establishing their own networks, according to the group Broadband Now. They’re in large part the result of lobbying from commercial providers who argue the laws are necessary to prevent unfair competition. Siefer says they continue to restrict communities from connecting everyone in need.  


Montana state laws only allow municipalities to offer broadband services if there are no other private companies offering broadband within the municipality’s jurisdiction, or if the municipality can offer “advanced services” that are not available from incumbents. For municipalities that are currently offering broadband service, local authorities must alert their subscribers if a private company decides to enter the market. The law also states that the municipality “may chose” to discontinue their own service within 180 days of the arrival of a private company, though it’s unclear whether the municipality must discontinue service.

Montana’s mostly rural landscape and lack of connectivity means that these rules effectively only come into play in urban areas where private telecom companies are operating. And yet, there are no municipal broadband services available in Montana, save for a “community fiber network,” in Bozeman.

To Bridge the Digital Divide, Cities Tap Their Own Infrastructure

The challenges of virtual school have pushed some cities to try new ideas for expanding internet access.

America Needs More Open-Access, Middle-Mile Broadband Networks – Montana Law Stands In the Way of Progress

“If we build it, will they come?” The report claims the answer is “yes” based on evidence in several states, including Virginia, Nevada, Massachusetts, Illinois and Washington.

Why only “Broadband” – Why not “Gigabit Fiber” for Montana?  Let’s build for the future. Digital Town Squares Drive Economic Development

Gigabit internet is the next generation of broadband internet service which is typically delivered over fiber optic lines and provides speeds of 1,000Mbps, which is also referred to as “1 Gbps” or “Gigabit” internet.


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