Municipal Fiber–3 examples


In June of 2015, Heather Kerrigan shared the following:


Over the course of 10 years, Seattle has studied the possibility of creating a municipal-run broadband network seven times, most recently this year. Although it was determined in June that the cost would be lower than expected (somewhere in the range of $463 million to $630 million), city officials again rejected the idea, citing barriers including the need to get 43% of residents to subscribe at $75 per month to break even, something that Comcast or CenturyLink, the two current Internet providers in the city, could easily undercut.

Not every U.S. resident is forced into using a private sector company for Internet service. According to the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, there are more than 450 communities across the country running broadband networks as public utilities (of course, there are also 19 states that have barriers in place to discourage or prevent the establishment of such networks).

The Obama administration has pushed for more equitable access to the Internet through municipal-owned broadband. In January, the president announced a set of grants aimed at funding networks in underserved areas, and he also encouraged the FCC to address the state laws that are preventing these networks from being established.

Among the 450+ municipal broadband systems, there are a number of success stories that interested cities could lean on. These include lowering Internet costs for residents, encouraging economic development, and improving overall telecom services. Success has not come without debate over cost, necessity, and impact, and there are also examples of broadband networks that are operating in deep debt that haven’t realized their anticipated impact.

Here, we highlight a few of the cities that are making broadband work for them.

Chattanooga, Tennessee was the first major city to offer residents access to what is known as a “gig,” the fastest residential Internet connection available. There, municipal broadband service began because of a desire to upgrade the city’s electric grid to a state-of-the-art fiber optics system. During the planning process, it was determined that such a system could be used to deliver Internet and telephone services. Despite attempts by private ISP to discourage its establishment, city officials and residents strongly supported developing a Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network that would reach everyone in the community, even at a cost of more than $300 million. Thanks to federal stimulus funding, $111 million of the total cost came from federal grants. Once the broadband network was in place, the city did not undercut the current Internet providers. Instead, it has completed with its ultra-fast speed. The municipal network has around a 40% market share, even though its rates are higher than those offered by the private sector companies operating in Chattanooga. The gig offering has helped to attract new business to a city that used to rely heavily on manufacturing.

Rural Bristol, Virginia was another early adopter of a FTTH network. Bristol Virginia Utilities (BVU) launched OptiNet in 2003, and service was first connected to schools and businesses, before being expanded into residential areas. Today, OptiNet has been cited as the reason many businesses remain in Bristol. Over its first five years of existence, it is estimated that the network resulted in $10 million in savings for Bristol’s government and its residents, and brought in millions in increased economic development. Further, the network’s prices have remained stable, it operates in the black, and new services are consistently being offered to subscribers. To encourage economic development outside of its borders, the network is offered to surrounding regions in southwestern Virginia.

Cedar Falls, Iowa began offering municipal Internet service citywide via an Ethernet network back in 1997. In 2013, the city began offering ultra-fast gig service, to the tune of $265 per month per residential subscriber (the cheapest package runs around $30 per month). The public utility offering the service believes residents pay approximately $200 less per year by getting Internet service through them instead of a major private sector company. The city also believes that it has managed to increase the number of jobs available and attract additional investment through new business opportunities made possible by its gig network.


Rural Broadband–A necessity in today’s world

Rural Broadband is a hot topic and many municipalities and counties are joining together across the Nation to provide such services.  Here are some great examples:

When a community invests in a municipal broadband network, it often does so because it hopes to reap economic benefits from the network. Many people and organizations have explored the positive relationship between municipal Internet networks and economic development, including a White House report published in January 2015. Municipal networks create jobs by ensuring businesses have fast, affordable, and reliable Internet access; the old DSL and cable networks just don’t cut it. These networks improve the productivity of existing businesses and attract new businesses to communities, allow individuals to work from home more effectively, support advanced healthcare and security systems, strengthen local housing markets, and represent long term social investments in the form of better-connected schools and libraries. They also create millions of dollars in savings that can be reinvested into local economies.

“Upgrading to higher speed broadband lets consumers use the Internet in new ways, increases the productivity of American individuals and businesses, and drives innovation throughout the digital ecosystem.” – Executive Office of President Obama

When municipalities choose to deploy fiber networks, they introduce Internet services into the community that are not only significantly faster than DSL and cable, but more reliable. With more reliable fiber connections, businesses and individuals are far less likely to experience temporary blackouts that can halt productivity in vexing and expensive ways. And because these networks are locally-owned and operated, business owners do not have to spend hours on the phone with an absentee Internet Service Provider like AT&T in the (albeit unlikely) event of a problem.

We at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance have catalogued numerous examples of economic development achievements that have occurred as a result of local governments deploying a municipal broadband network. Below, you can find a wide range of articles, studies, anecdotes, and other resources that speak to the economic successes enabled by municipal networks, organized by topic:

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Municipal networks create jobs:

Morristown FiberNET

Look no further than Morristown, Tennessee, for an example of job creation thanks to municipal fiber. The city took advantage of its local electrical utility, Morristown Utility Systems, to provide gigabit speeds, and businesses jumped at the opportunity. In 2013, Oddello Industries, a furniture manufacturer, brought 228 jobs to the community after investing in a $4.4 million site expansion in Morristown. More recently, a call center looking to relocate to the city was wowed by the municipal utility’s offer to install fiber for free because the city valued the future economic benefits the call center would bring to Morristown over the cost of the fiber installation. 

  • Our economic development fact sheet outlines several of the job creation opportunities that have resulted from municipal networks.
  • In 2012, Spirit Aerosystems opened up a new manufacturing facility in Chanute, Kansas, creating 150 jobs that require high quality broadband Internet.
  • In Lebanon, Virginia, defense contractor Northrup Grumman and IT consultant CGI announced the creation of 700 jobs paying twice the median wage.
  • HomeServe, a home repair company, expanded its call center to 140 employees because of Chattanooga, Tennessee’s robust municipal broadband infrastructure; in Chattanooga, HomeServe employees could get faster residential service than executives had in the company’s Miami headquarters.
  • In 2015, Hardide Coatings, a surface coating manufacturer located in Henry County, Virginia, that relies on the municipal broadband provider MiNet, added 29 high-paying jobs to the local economy.

“You can’t grow jobs with slow Internet.” – Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Mayor of Baltimore


Municipal networks attract new businesses:

Mount Vernon Logo

The city of Mount Vernon, Washington has two things in common with our country’s first president, but unlike George, it boasts an impressive municipal broadband network that has attracted high-tech businesses. For example, a digital legal firm, Blank Law, relocated from Seattle to Mount Vernon in order to take advantage of faster speeds offered by the city’s municipal broadband network. While high-speed Internet was not the only reason Blank Law cited for choosing Mount Vernon over other towns (other reasons include quality of life and free parking), it played a significant role. Fiber is rarely the sole reason for a relocation, but it can often be a deciding factor.

“It’s almost a feeling of disbelief when we tell companies today we can provide a gig to your business and to your house…These companies want to go where they can see the gig service.” – Marshall Ramsey, President of the Morristown, Tennessee Chamber of Commerce


Municipal networks serve existing businesses and keep critical jobs in town:

WindomNet Logo

The small Minnesota town of Windom nearly entered crisis mode when Fortune Trucking, a local company that employed 47 people in a town of 4,600, announced that slow Internet speeds might force it to leave town. Although the company’s headquarters were located a mile outside of the Windom’s jurisdiction, community members successfully lobbied to bring municipal fiber to Fortune, saving those jobs and stabilizing the local economy. 

“Municipal broadband can be a powerful lever against the digital divide that condemns people to the isolation and reduced economic opportunities experienced by many of our low-income, disabled, and people of color community members” – Kshama Sawant, Seattle City Councilmember

  • In this Podcast, Chris speaks with Curtis Dean of Iowa Municipal Utilities about the prevalence of municipal networks in that state, focusing in on economic development results starting at 11:10. Dean highlights Hansen’s Clothing, a high-end men’s clothing manufacturer in Spencer, Iowa that expanded its online business exponentially when it connected to the municipal broadband network.


Working from home

Photo courtesy of Rob Alinder through Flickr Creative Commons 

Municipal networks support home-based productivity:


Danville Utilities Logo

Municipal networks advance healthcare, education, and research:


Teachers are encouraged to connect with the Missouri Department of Conservation!

Teachers can connect with conservation through FREE MDC teacher portal

Gain easy access to conservation education ideas, Discover Nature Schools-classroom materials, and grant opportunities. 

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) encourages teachers to get connected with conservation-education by using its new Discover Nature Schools (DNS) teacher portal. MDC created the website portal to provide teachers a technology tool to connect with both teachers and MDC staff on conservation-education ideas, interactive learning activities, and easy access to classroom materials and grant opportunities.

The new portal is available to Missouri teachers who participate or have an interest in MDC’s Discover Nature Schools program. The DNS program began in 2007 and provides instructional materials for teachers and students from pre-K through high school about Missouri’s native plants, animals, and habitats and connects them with nature. It also provides grant funding for classroom supplies and field trips in nature. There are more than 1,600 Missouri schools that take part in the program. Learn more about the DNS program at

“The teacher portal enhances our ability to provide relevant nature-based education materials to teachers in an efficient and convenient manner,” MDC Education Coordinator Steven Juhlin said.  “Additionally, we are also looking forward to using the portal to streamline the grant process for participating schools and teachers. “

MDC’s new DNS teacher portal provides teachers opportunities to:

  • Download free instructional materials,
  • Access grant applications,
  • Request class sets of student books and science notebooks,
  • Order education posters and MDC publications,
  • Register for free teacher workshops, and
  • Post questions and ideas to the educational bulletin board for teacher collaboration.

Teachers can learn more about, access, and use the DNS teacher portal at

EPA Releases Green Infrastructure in Parks

*EPA Releases Green Infrastructure in Parks: A Guide to Collaboration, Funding, and Community Engagement

EPA recently released a document titled Green Infrastructure in Parks: A Playbook for Collaboration, Funding, and Community Engagement. The playbook is intended to encourage partnerships between park agencies and stormwater agencies and provide a roadmap for creating them. By building strong partnerships, agencies can improve park lands and access to parks, better manage stormwater, increase community resiliency to changing weather patterns, and provide funding to implement and maintain park enhancements that benefit the community.

The guide is designed to provide a stepwise approach for building relationships with potential partners, and includes information on how to identify and engage partners, build relationships, involve the community, leverage funding opportunities, and identify green infrastructure opportunities.