A recent study conducted by the Reviews.com Broadband Research Team about municipal broadband found a growing number of U.S. residents are excited about the prospect of internet service as a utility. As interest in public broadband increases, it will be interesting to follow along with potential increases in pressure placed on local politicians to push for public internet. If the below findings are any indication, it seems likely there will be an exponential increase in broadband as a public utility over the next decade.
Of the 1,008 U.S. residents surveyed:
- 40.2% of consumers said they would consider immediately switching to municipal broadband if it was made available in their city.
- 10.9% of consumers said they would definitely make the switch, 29.3% said they would at least try it out.
- 59.8% said they prefer their current provider.
- Among age groups, younger people were relatively more averse to municipal broadband than those older — 34.8% of people under 45 were averse, while 46.2% of people over 55 years old were not.
- Large cities saw a majority of the population interested in municipal broadband. California, specifically the San Francisco Bay Area, saw the majority of people (56.3%) suggesting they’d be interested.
- More rural areas were slightly more averse to municipal broadband, with respondents in various states with lower populations suggesting by a notable majority that they would not consider municipal service.
The idea that perhaps cities should provide internet service for their residents as a utility isn’t a new concept. The debate has been in place for decades and will likely continue to be for the foreseeable future.
Anytime a major city attempts to push municipal broadband, there is pushback from major ISPs who view the expansion of the internet as a utility as a threat to their businesses. In fact, ISPs have spent over $1.2 billion between 1998 and 2018 lobbying in Congress.
Despite this, the concept of internet service as a public good continues to gain steam, as this is the highest we have seen numbers surrounding a willingness to switch to municipal service. It seems likely that over time as connection to the internet becomes as valuable as water or electrical service that more local municipalities will make sure their residents have such access. A common solution as of now is a model of cities directly working to provide a hybrid version of municipal broadband through cooperatives.
- The municipal broadband survey ran April 9–14, 2021.
- The survey collected 1,008 responses from residents evenly distributed across the United States.
- Sample method: representative.