Municipal broadband: Using today’s technology to support your community’s future:

Amidst the ups and downs of the COVID-19 pandemic, one thing that remains constant is your community’s need to stay connected. But stay-at-home, work-from-home and learn-from-home measures have highlighted a glaring gap in the availability and distribution of reliable, high-speed internet networks, and many citizens and businesses are still unable to access the online resources needed to maintain a sense of normalcy.

As we move into the third year of the pandemic, addressing that gap in resources is critical for local governments and communities to prosper. Fiber and wireless broadband investment and ownership by municipalities, utilities, electrical co-ops and tribal governments is the solution. With access to fiber broadband, everyone from residents and visitors / tourists to government entities can benefit from the ability to telework, access online education, offer and access online services, use telehealth, take advantage of economic opportunities and stay connected.

Municipal broadband is internet provided to residents and businesses by their local government, instead of by for-profit companies. With internet access now being a necessity for everything from hybrid work to school to entertainment, many see it as a basic utility like water, and therefore, something their local government should provide. In doing so, governments can increase the number of people and businesses with affordable access to the internet.

To provide internet as a service provided by municipalities, electrical co-ops, utilities, and tribes, governments must build their own broadband infrastructure with fiber-optic cable. Fiber-optic internet is the most reliable and most secure internet option in the industry with network speeds of up to 10 gigabits per second (Gbps), or 10,000 megabits per second (Mbps), for residential areas and up to 100 Gbps, or 100,000 Mbps, for businesses. These speeds are significantly higher than the traditional copper, ethernet or DSL cables or satellites still used by many private internet companies today.

The: FCC’s threshold: for “high-speed broadband” is download speeds of up to 25 Mbps and upload speeds of up to 3 Mbps. However, these speeds are not accessible to every American due to a lack of broadband infrastructure and / or high cost. Over 17 percent of Americans, or: 57.23 million people:, live in rural areas, many of which lack broadband infrastructure. Accessing the internet via satellite is one of the only options available in those areas, but it can be slow-moving, and it is not always affordable. For example, in the United States, the: average monthly cost: of satellite internet service is $ 86.33, whereas the average monthly cost of fiber internet service is $ 63.78.

To take it one step further, let: compare the internet price and speed: of satellite internet from a private company versus fiber internet provided by a municipality, utility, electrical co-op or tribal government. A: common satellite internet company lists one of their most affordable packages as 12 Mbps for $ 30, which equates to $ 2.50 per Mbps and is 13 Mbps slower: than the FCC’s threshold for fast internet. With fiber internet, your $ 30 could get you 100 Mbps, which equates to $ 0.30 per Mbps and is 75 Mbps faster: than the FCC’s threshold. The difference in price and speed is similarly dramatic when comparing fiber internet to DSL, ethernet or cable. Not to mention, fiber-optic speeds do not decrease as network demand increases, and signal strength does not degrade as quickly over distance as satellite, DSL, ethernet or copper cable does.

Benefits of municipal broadband:

Municipal broadband offers many other benefits to your community apart from giving everyone an equal opportunity to internet access that’s fast and affordable. It also helps to:

  • Keep taxpayer money local;
  • Future-proof your infrastructure by creating the flexibility to deliver additional services and keep up with customer demand;
  • Reduce the cost of internet to residents and businesses;
  • Create faster internet speeds with greater bandwidth and simultaneous upload and download speeds.

But those are just the broad strokes. Individuals, businesses and government entities have a lot more to gain.

Municipal broadband can increase public safety by providing faster, more reliable internet to police departments, fire stations and EMTs. With municipal fiber internet, these entities can connect with each other in an instant, without having to worry about any delay or glitches in information transfer. This allows them to respond to emergencies faster and more efficiently with better organized, readily available data.

Other public safety matters that can be improved with municipal broadband include traffic signal management and traffic flow along major transportation corridors by sending quicker, real-time notifications to local and statewide intelligent transportation systems.

The pandemic proved that businesses must be online to be relevant and survive. The latest: Census Bureau data: shows that in Q3 2021, digital sales accounted for over 20 percent of all gains in retail spending. And while 2021 e-commerce numbers are lower than in 2020, they are still higher than pre-pandemic levels.

Unfortunately, not all small business owners have access to a reliable network to take their business online. Recent surveys by the National Federation of Independent Business and Google found that around 8 percent — about 2-3 million — of US small businesses do not have access to broadband internet. And of those that do, the FCC’s current broadband benchmark speeds may be too slow to meet their internet speed needs, according to a 2021 study by the US Government Accountability Office:. Having faster broadband speeds means businesses can take advantage of ecommerce opportunities, mobile apps and more sophisticated marketing tactics. It also means businesses can improve their website performance in general, which encourages organic growth.

Website functionality is critical to improving website performance, with one of the biggest factors in organic growth being the loading speed of a page. A municipal fiber-optic infrastructure can level the playing field for small businesses, making internet more affordable and ensuring all webpages function at the same speed and with the same reliability.

When local businesses thrive, local governments are able to collect more in sales tax revenue, and the area becomes attractive to other businesses. According to: Governing Magazine:Chattanooga, Tenn.’s municipal broadband network is the fastest in the nation and attracts developers, computer programmers and investors to the once manufacturing-heavy area.

The pandemic made online classes and homework more than a supplement to in-person teaching. It made it the new normal, and it has not gone away even with most schools back in person. Unfortunately, because of high costs and lack of development in some rural areas and underprivileged communities, not every student has internet in their home, causing them to fall behind the rest of their class. Additionally, many students have to share the internet with other household members who are now working from home, putting a strain on already limited bandwidth.

Municipal broadband can help remedy this inequality by creating an infrastructure that gives every household in the community equal access to affordable, reliable and fast fiber-optic internet. This can help every student and teacher from kindergarten to college, including those who are homeschooled.

It can also support the public library system. Municipal broadband is cheaper than private internet services, giving libraries leeway to set up more public-access computer stations and provide more online resources to the public.

Municipal broadband can help give underprivileged communities the boost they need to start thriving. Not only can it improve education access for underprivileged students, but it can also give individuals the opportunity to start their own online businesses or find online jobs.

In addition, most human services agencies and healthcare providers use virtual communication to stay in touch with clients and patients, especially since the beginning of the pandemic. However, according to the: US Department of Health & Human Services:more than one in six people in poverty have: no: internet access. So the clientele many of these agencies were designed for cannot actually access their services. Municipal broadband would give those in poverty and underprivileged communities a better chance at taking advantage of these healthcare and human services. And even if they did not have the tools to access municipal broadband from their homes, they could still take advantage of its benefits at their local library branch.

Municipal broadband funding:

Establishing a municipal fiber internet infrastructure is no small feat, but the federal government has passed several acts that offer local governments funding to do so, including the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act of 2020:the: American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) of 2021: and the bipartisan infrastructure bill of 2021. Within these, local governments have access to competitive grants for broadband infrastructure, adoption and deployment, as well as data, maps and plans. Grant monies are prioritized to unserved areas, underserved areas and anchor institutions like schools, universities, libraries, medical providers, public safety entities, and other community support organizations and agencies.

Magellan (formerly Magellan Advisors) offers turnkey services to help your community take advantage of that government funding through grant development, planning, engineering, implementation and management of the fastest, most technologically advanced fiber-optic networks. With over 400 municipalities that have worked with Magellan, counties and regional organizations have been able to develop broadband networks, enabling smart city applications, enhancing economic development and improving the quality of life for residents.

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