It is well known that people in the US pay more and get worse internet services than people in most other developed countries. Why? Because the major internet companies have pretty much carved up the country into regions that are dominated by one or a couple of companies, thus killing competition, and the government regulators have let them do it. But some communities are going their own way, such as the small town of Charlemont, Massachusetts that has just 1300 residents and covers an area of 26 square miles.
Comcast offered to bring cable Internet to up to 96 percent of households in Charlemont in exchange for the town paying $462,123 plus interest toward infrastructure costs over 15 years. But Charlemont residents rejected the Comcast offer in a vote at a special town meeting Thursday.
“The Comcast proposal would have saved the town about $1 million, but it would not be a town-owned broadband network,” the Greenfield Recorder reported Friday. “The defeated measure means that Charlemont will likely go forward with a $1.4 million municipal town network, as was approved by annual town meeting voters in 2015.”
Town officials estimate that building a municipal fiber network reaching 100 percent of homes would cost $1,466,972 plus interest over 20 years.
An increase in property taxes would cover the construction cost. But the town would also bring in revenue from selling broadband service and potentially break even, making the project less expensive than Comcast’s offer.
“With 59 percent of households taking broadband service, the tax hike would be 29 cents [per $1,000 of assessed home value], similar to that for Comcast,” a Recorder article last month said. “But if 72 percent or more of households subscribe to the municipal-owned network, there is no tax impact, because subscriber fees would pay for it.”
More municipalities should follow this model though you can be sure that the big cable companies will fight it all the way. Because the major feature of capitalism in the US is that the big companies hate competition and hate public ownership of important services even more.