fiberopticThe municipal broadband debate often centers on the role municipal governments should play in delivering broadband to its citizens. Many municipals are entering the broadband access business by building and operating their own networks.

Others are building public-private partnerships and inviting private broadband access providers to work in concert with them for better broadband. Danbury, Connecticut is adding an interesting twist to this debate, by suggesting a public-private municipal broadband service should lead to free broadband service.

The concept, according to a Danbury News Times report (by way of DSLReports.com), would have a private broadband service provider build and operate a broadband network that offers a minimum 20 Mbps service. The service would be offered for $15/month for five years, then drop to $5/month for an additional five years. The service would then become free.

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The idea is this approach would pay for the network and the eventual ‘free’ access will prevent a digital divide, as well as bring economic development to the region. At least that’s how Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton sees it.

“After five years, because the infrastructure will be built out, it will go down to $5 a month, and then five years after that the rate should go down to zero,” Boughton is quoted in the Danbury News Times report. “It will be self-sustaining with new enrollees.”

The Connecticut city is conducting a phone survey of its citizens to gauge interest. Boughton says that at least 50% of the city’s 50,000 residents need to support the concept for it to work.

Municipal Broadband Debate
Interesting concept. Although it’s difficult for me to understand why any private broadband access provider would want to build a network and only have the CapEx and OpEx costs recovered (assuming the model that Boughton outlined would even work), with no potential for profit.

That seems a little naïve. If a municipal government wanted to do that on their own, maybe. But therein lies the debate. Should they even try? Should a municipality like Danbury take the risk of spending the tens of millions of dollars it would take to build a network, hoping that at least half its citizens will subscribe to it? Let the debate continue…

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2 thoughts on “Municipal Broadband Debate: Should Broadband be Free?

  1. This is just silly. Municipals offer water, electricity and other utilities – is any of it free? No. Politicians love to use broadband as a political football.

  2. No wonder Connecticut is in such bad financial shape. I guess some carrier is going to give them access to the Internet backbone for free and that the network (inside and outside) will never need maintenance or upgrade.

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